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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone have a review for Virgin Island Sailing School on St. Thomas? My friends and I are looking to go in September. Any suggestions on the best month to go will be appreciated. Just worried about hurricane season
 

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Freedom 39
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Having lived here over 9yrs and never heard of them I went to the website. A few things, first as Sailingfool pointed out, the first photo you see on their website is a guy tailing a self tailing winch with an override. They are open from November to July 31st, not in September as you mentioned. September is a really dicey time to come sailing in this area anyway. It is the height of hurricane season. Even if a hurricane or tropical storm doesn't get you, there will almost guaranteed be a few days of rainy weather. It is just the nature of the weather patterns around here in September. Lows roll off of Africa every three days or so and bring cruddy weather for them. They talk about how their Hanse was voted the best charter boat of the VIs and then in the small print it says in St Croix. I didn't know there were any J-24s left on St Thomas. Almost all of them have been converted to IC24s. I wonder where there Hanse was on the podium at. I've never seen it in any of the local races... They may be great, I don't know. They may be the only ASA based school in the USVIs, I don't know. I do know there are many ASA based schools that are widely recognized that are based in the US and come down here to teach classes in the winter time.
Best month to come down is tough to say, November wouldn't be bad. You'd be here before the crowds come in, the temperature is a bit cooler than the summer and the chance of bad weather is pretty slim. Good luck.
 

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I have a review...worst vacation ever!

To say that it was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. It was by far one of the worst vacations that I have ever experienced.

First, the descriptions of the boat, the sailing experience and the “school”, as presented on the website, is very deceptive. The website states that each cabin has a bathroom with a shower. The “shower” was the sink’s faucet that pulls out. I could live with the fact that it was a faucet if we had hot water. However, not once during the entire trip did we ever have any hot water in which to bathe.

The website also states that the boat has air conditioning. It does not. Since we were living on the water and Mother Nature provided us with a natural tropical breeze, the necessity of air conditioning was minimal. Unfortunately for my crewmates and myself, there were three nights during which we were awaken by a deluge. Because of the necessity of sleeping with our hatches open, we were drenched by this sudden rain. We all had to quickly close our hatches and then sleep in the sweltering heat because there was no air conditioning.

The website states, either directly or through an insinuation, that you have five boats, they have one. The website states, that they have six captains, they have one. The website states that we will start out learning on a smaller boat, we did not do this until day 4, which is completely illogical. The website states that, if the winds are favorable, we will sail to Anegada, yet we were told that it would be impossible to sail there because it was too far. The website states that are the only US Virgin Island ASA certified sailing school, not true, there is another. In addition, such a certification ensures that a uniformed instruction and standard will be applied, yet there was no set curriculum and no requirement that even the basic skills were learned by each of the students.

Notwithstanding the misrepresentations of the amenities of the boat, the condition of the boat was well below any acceptable standard. It was dirty and cluttered. The Captain had her papers, junk and clutter all over the desk area and items were stuffed in a haphazard manner in each of the cabinets. The sink and cleaning sponge were so dirty and moldy smelling that I was constantly pouring soap over everything to try and clean the area. The refrigerator was overwhelmed with old, bad food. The grill looked like it had not been cleaned in months, if ever! The hatches in two of the bathrooms were broken to the extent that they were “sealed” with duct tape and the main window in the galley could be completely pushed out and was not properly sealed. Finally, the cups, plates, towels and linens looked as though they came from Goodwill with nothing matching. We were each given one bath towel and one hand towel and we were never allowed to use any additional towels. In fact, one time when I grabbed an extra towel to use after snorkeling, I was questioned by the Captain (in a very rude tone), “don’t you have your own towel?”

The Captain could only be described as rude. I could not believe it when a fellow crewmate one morning simply asked her a question about schedule for the day and she snapped at him and said, “can’t I finish my breakfast first”! Unacceptable. Especially since she was always the last person to get up and we had to fend for ourselves every morning.

I do not know if the Captain was suppose to adhere to a specific schedule and if she was to ensure that costs are reduced but it was obvious that things were done, or not done, because of expenses. On the first day, she requested that we pay for her meals and drinks whenever we went ashore. I can certainly afford to pay for a few extra meals but this request was not only unexpected, it was improper. Such a requirement should have been addressed by the company prior to our arrival. On the first day of sailing (Sunday) we went directly to St. John and moored at some out of the way location, which was nowhere near any place where we could go ashore for shopping, exploring or eating. We moored at approximately noon and never left for the remainder of the day! The majority of our sailing time that day was wasted. She did not want to go to Tortola that day (although it was listed on the website that we would be going there that day) because it would cost too much money to check into customs on a Sunday rather than a Monday. This type of day was not unusual. There were three afternoon/evenings, where we moored at some out of the way location in which we had no opportunity to go ashore. Perhaps it is not unusual to end the day at some remote location and spend the evening relaxing after a full day of sailing. I could accept this, if we actually put in a full day of sailing!

The lack of sailing experience is my biggest complaint of the entire trip. After six days I was given the opportunity to drive, not sail, the catamaran twice and I worked the rudder of the small boat once for approximately five to ten minutes. I helped with tacking many times but that was the extent of my sailing experience. I would say that during the whole trip, we motored about as much as we actually sailed the boat. After six days aboard the boat, I am still not qualified, at any level, to sail a boat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Joi,

Unfortunately, we went with this company too. You completely hit the nail on the head and described our experience with them. Although we had a different Captain that was interested in teaching us to sail and did try to make up for the terrible condition of the boat.
When we arrived the Captain was not expecting us, and was waiting for a different couple. When we boarded the boat we found dirty dishes and the nastiest sponge in the sink. And the counter top sticky. There was left over spoiled food in the fridge. The grill was dirty and had bits of leftover fish on it. We went ahead and shopped for the three of us and as we were about to depart the dock, another couple and one other man showed up. This threw the itinerary off and we had to provision again and adjust for a full boat. We had been told that we would be the only ones on this trip...wrong! Our head was very smelly and the captain tried to fix it. The heat was terrible and trying to sleep in between opening and closing the hatch during rain was exhausting. The transmission was not working and my husband had to help make repairs. One of the men cut his finger, we located the boat's first aid kit, but it was useless. Thank goodness I brought a little first aid kit with me. There were no flashlights on board and the EPIRP was well past it's inspection date. Many things did not work properly. Our bedding smelled and there were not enough towels. If it hadn't been for the Captain the trip would have been far worse.
 

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Just found out about this opportunity yesterday and wanted to throw it out there as a possibility....

The 2015 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta starts March 5 and runs through the 8th. According to their website (link below) and a few reviews there are many "charter" spots available for people from skill level 0 to advanced. The way it works is a "captain" charters a boat (many appear to 60 to 70 foot Volvo Ocean Racers) and you purchase a spot as crew. Training time is included. This probably won't get you your ASA 101 certification, but it would sure be a fun way to experience sailing and it sounds like the cost would be very minimal.

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
 

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This school sounds pretty dubious, but there were a couple of criticisms that may just be piling on.

First, unless you get into some pretty large boats, all showers aboard are from the sink faucet, pulled up and mounted on the wall.

Second, air conditioning is generally considered a super-luxury and infrequently used away from the dock anyway, even when one has it. You have to run a generator, which isn't a great idea when sleeping. Rain at night is an occupational hazard on all boats.

Lastly, I've never heard of anyone learning to sail on a cruising catamaran. Was this truly a class, with an expected ASA certificate at the end, or just a captained charter?

Not defending the school, they sound like bums.
 

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Freedom 39
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Just found out about this opportunity yesterday and wanted to throw it out there as a possibility....

The 2015 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta starts March 5 and runs through the 8th. According to their website (link below) and a few reviews there are many "charter" spots available for people from skill level 0 to advanced. The way it works is a "captain" charters a boat (many appear to 60 to 70 foot Volvo Ocean Racers) and you purchase a spot as crew. Training time is included. This probably won't get you your ASA 101 certification, but it would sure be a fun way to experience sailing and it sounds like the cost would be very minimal.

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Generally you will be railmeat along for the ride. They may let you take the helm for a minute before racing and get your photo taken at the wheel. It would still be a thrill zipping along at those speeds!!
 

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Freedom 39
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This school sounds pretty dubious, but there were a couple of criticisms that may just be piling on.

First, unless you get into some pretty large boats, all showers aboard are from the sink faucet, pulled up and mounted on the wall.

Second, air conditioning is generally considered a super-luxury and infrequently used away from the dock anyway, even when one has it. You have to run a generator, which isn't a great idea when sleeping. Rain at night is an occupational hazard on all boats.

Lastly, I've never heard of anyone learning to sail on a cruising catamaran. Was this truly a class, with an expected ASA certificate at the end, or just a captained charter?

Not defending the school, they sound like bums.
Depending on the vessel and what one is paying to be on it, if it is advertised with gen and AC then it is not unreasonable to expect it to run sometimes. If you've spent any time in the aft cabin of a cat, laying on top of or beside a hot motor, you know the ventilation is pretty poor. I know very few boats that are locally chartered with a generator and AC that do not run them most of the night when it's hot or rainy. Someday you will have to come on down and explain to the 1000s of people running their factory installed generators at night why it's not a good idea.;)

I absolutely agree with your comments about boat shower setups in smaller boats. Nothing out of the norm there at all. Not having hot water is pretty strange in this day and age considering the boats from the schools website.

As for the itinerary, that can somewhat be weather dependent. When the marketing guy is throwing the brochure together he doesn't know if the wind will be blowing east 30 with 12' seas. He is going to showcase sapphire blue water and cloudless skies. He also may not know if the boat and capt can legally enter into the BVI. Are the students crew or are they passengers????

I ran into a female capt teaching ASA classes 101-10? in the BVI on a cat a few weeks ago. It seemed like she was teaching through some school on her personal vessel. I sure do not disagree with you that teaching some basic sailing skills to beginners on a cat wouldn't be the optimal choice. No immediate feedback from trimming or the helm.

I hate to paint an entire school with a negative broad brush because I've met so many captains and students that have come out of the same place. The captains really make the class. There are some great ones out there along with some barely functional drunks. Most of these schools don't let you know who the instructor will be ahead of time which is very unfortunate.
 

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Petunia - I think we probably had the same sponge that you had! :)

Minnewaska and FarCry - I agree, I think that my expectations were a bit high but everything that I expected was specifically advertised on their website. Having no experience at all and also basing my expectations on a catamaran sailing vacation that a friend of mine took in the Greek Islands, I thought what was advertised was what I should expect. Plus, it did cost quite a few pennies (almost $3000!).

I chose that school (to be clear it is called Virgin Island Sailing School and NOT Virgin Island Sailing Academy - I don't want people to get this mixed-up), because they said that they are ASA certified AND because they listed five boats and six captains. I figured with that much of an investment, the company had to be reputable and they would take pride in what they do. They have one boat and one captain (and an absentee owner who says that he is one of the captains but he lives in California). I sent a very long detailed email to the owner because I wanted him to understand the condition of the boat. I know most owners are very proud of their boats and they want to keep them in tip top shape (and clean!). He replied with "we are not a cruise" and what is listed on the website is "irrelevant". Then why list it? He never once addressed the fact that I never truly sailed the boat.
 

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Sailing fool - I guess I'm a bit confused with your comment. The original post asked about the school and I gave my detailed review. Stating that it was horrible is considered a vendetta? I see that your original post way back in June is critical as well (although it is just a comment about a picture).

I searched and searched for comments on this school, good and bad, before I booked with them and found nothing. I thought that was a good thing. Apparently it was not a correct assumption. I spent a great deal of money on that vacation and I think people have the right to read about my experience and make up their own minds whether they want to book with them or not. Several years ago I booked a "learn to surf" vacation in Costa Rica. I came back with a broken rib, bruises, cuts and bites and it was the BEST vacation I ever had. Seriously, it was so much fun. I had no problem posting my positive experience on that website and have recommended it over and over to people. Simply because I don't constantly post on a forum does not make me a person with a "vendetta".
 

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.. Simply because I don't constantly post on a forum does not make me a person with a "vendetta".
Sorry if you take offense, but not posting "constantly" is somewhat different than never having posted at all, ever... you sort of show up add to this tread and restart another long-dormant duplicate thread. Seems like a vendetta to me, maybe with cause...

I have no dog in this fight.
 

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This school sounds pretty dubious, but there were a couple of criticisms that may just be piling on.

First, unless you get into some pretty large boats, all showers aboard are from the sink faucet, pulled up and mounted on the wall.

Second, air conditioning is generally considered a super-luxury and infrequently used away from the dock anyway, even when one has it. You have to run a generator, which isn't a great idea when sleeping. Rain at night is an occupational hazard on all boats.

Lastly, I've never heard of anyone learning to sail on a cruising catamaran. Was this truly a class, with an expected ASA certificate at the end, or just a captained charter?

Not defending the school, they sound like bums.
I have to agree with this. Sounds like they were expecting a cruse with maid service. It does sound like a shady school, and the boat sounds to have been dirty, but I certainly would not expect to have AC, and you certainly can't blame them for the rain. Yes boats have small heads and they can stink a bit if not used correctly, and it may well have been the previous guest who did not use it correctly. Thing is they often swap out the captains with each cruse, so they likely arrived to a dirty boat. They should have a cleaning crew between guests though but obviously they did not. If you noticed the nasty sponge, why not just pick one up when provisioning? You should not have to but hey it is just a couple of bucks and at some point you have to realize you are going to have to take things into you own hands. Thing is with these kinds of charters you are expected to participate in things like daily chores unless otherwise noted, normally including cooking, cleaning and other duties. Sounds like your expectations were a bit high, or they did not explain things enough. Unless you have a 2 person crew you are unlikely to have much in the way of service as they are there to safely get the boat around, and teach sailing not there as servants, cooks or maids. The boat should have been clean, and cleaning supplies should be provided. Yes the heads are small, and you get a hand shower, and there is not much hot water on a sailboat. Welcome to the fun! It is not a hotel, and that is part of the charm. Think of it as going native. It is a step up from camping, but not a huge one!

As to not being able to sail, that is unreasonable. Most of the time they are set up so you can kind of do what you want. If you want to handle the boat they let you, if you want to hang out on the deck sunning that fine as well. Sounds like you had a bum of a captain for sure. It they are saying they are ASA certified and you are paying for a class, such as 101, 102... then the course material should be provided and gone over. There normally is a test at the end and you get certification if you pass. If you don't specifically sign up for a class then don't expect it just because it is an offering.

I am surprised that the owner did not seem to care if the boat was in bad shape. Some are that way, more like slum lords than good land lords. They just want income from the boat. Sounds like perhaps they are burned out or just not making the money they expected to.

Wonder if they were one of the many who come here and think they are going to get to retire early by running a charter boat? ;-)
 

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I have a review...worst vacation ever!

Below is the email I wrote to Joi (Joy) on Jan. 7 2015. It is in response to Joi's email to me on Jan 5 about being unhappy with her sailing school experience. Instead of responding to this email she posted on Sailnet instead.
To be honest and accurate ,everything in this post is unedited in anyway. And I will let the public decide. Cheers, Capt Scott

Dear Joy,
I do my best to make my sailing school an enjoyable experience for all.
I understand the responsibility you took for the first few things you mentioned.
On the shower, there is one in each head. It pulls directly up from the sink (as is common in most boats and motorhomes). I'm sure if you would have mentioned it to Capt Genevieve that would not be on your list.
Joy… I just read the rest of your letter. I understand some of your complaints as Capt. Genevieve informed me at the end of the trip she was struggling through with the Chikungunya virus, it is akin to dengue or malaria. More info at the cdc.gov website under chikungunya/symptoms.
The fact that she carried on with the class was astonishing to me. The two other people I knew who came down with this didn't get out of bed for a week!
We are in the business of giving people a cruising experience (on a small sailboat, not a cruise liner). Had to "fend for yourself" when getting up in the morning? Of Course! Additional concerns about such things as dishes not matching hints that this trip may have been ill-conceived or simply too many things were assumed to be different than what they were. As far as how many boat are part of VI Sailing School and how many I own or lease or whatever is irrelevant. BUT, as I said in the beginning of this letter, if you are sincerely wanting to finish the course, would like to be on a more luxurious boat, (though you will still hear the generator running if the A/C is on) and with a different instructor please let me know. We may be able to accommodate you.
Cheers,
Capt Scott

From: Joy Ewertz
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2015 5:25 PM
To: Scott D
Subject: Sailing School
Captain Scott:
I am writing to you to provide you with a detailed account of my recent vacation through your Virgin Island Sailing School. To say that it was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. It was by far one of the worst vacations that I have ever experienced.
To be fair, I will accept some responsibility, namely, 1) I did not read all of the sailing books prior to the trip. I did read most of the first book but because I do not retain by simply reading, I felt that reading all of the books prior to the trip would not be helpful. I was wrong; 2) I am a small person (5'0" tall and 100 pounds) and I was intimidated by the size of the boat; and 3) by the end of the trip, I did not feel that I was anywhere close to being prepared for the third level (104 Certification) and I simply stopped participating. However, the placement of responsibilities for the majority of the issues falls squarely on you and/or your captain
 

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I have a review...worst vacation ever!

Below is the email I wrote to Joi (Joy) on Jan. 7 2015. It is in response to Joi's email to me on Jan 5 about being unhappy with her sailing school experience. Instead of responding to this email she posted on Sailnet instead.
To be honest and accurate ,everything in this post is unedited in anyway. And I will let the public decide. Cheers, Capt Scott

Dear Joy,
I do my best to make my sailing school an enjoyable experience for all.
I understand the responsibility you took for the first few things you mentioned.
On the shower, there is one in each head. It pulls directly up from the sink (as is common in most boats and motorhomes). I'm sure if you would have mentioned it to Capt Genevieve that would not be on your list.
Joy… I just read the rest of your letter. I understand some of your complaints as Capt. Genevieve informed me at the end of the trip she was struggling through with the Chikungunya virus, it is akin to dengue or malaria. More info at the cdc.gov website under chikungunya/symptoms.
The fact that she carried on with the class was astonishing to me. The two other people I knew who came down with this didn't get out of bed for a week!
We are in the business of giving people a cruising experience (on a small sailboat, not a cruise liner). Had to "fend for yourself" when getting up in the morning? Of Course! Additional concerns about such things as dishes not matching hints that this trip may have been ill-conceived or simply too many things were assumed to be different than what they were. As far as how many boat are part of VI Sailing School and how many I own or lease or whatever is irrelevant. BUT, as I said in the beginning of this letter, if you are sincerely wanting to finish the course, would like to be on a more luxurious boat, (though you will still hear the generator running if the A/C is on) and with a different instructor please let me know. We may be able to accommodate you.
Cheers,
Capt Scott

From: Joy Ewertz
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2015 5:25 PM
To: Scott D
Subject: Sailing School
Captain Scott:
I am writing to you to provide you with a detailed account of my recent vacation through your Virgin Island Sailing School. To say that it was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. It was by far one of the worst vacations that I have ever experienced.
To be fair, I will accept some responsibility, namely, 1) I did not read all of the sailing books prior to the trip. I did read most of the first book but because I do not retain by simply reading, I felt that reading all of the books prior to the trip would not be helpful. I was wrong; 2) I am a small person (5'0" tall and 100 pounds) and I was intimidated by the size of the boat; and 3) by the end of the trip, I did not feel that I was anywhere close to being prepared for the third level (104 Certification) and I simply stopped participating. However, the placement of responsibilities for the majority of the issues falls squarely on you and/or your captain
So you are saying that struggling through having a contagious virus, and inviting guests to share a small space with them is a good thing? I don't get that. Mosquito goes from the captain/teacher then to guest. Kind of like the idiots having measles parties thinking somehow it is better than vaccinations.
 

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As the co-owner of Virgin Island Sailing School I can say with certainty that the photograph of the override should never have appeared on the website. Alas, our photographer and web artist is not a sailor and we’ve been too busy to have him replace it. So good on you guys for spotting that one!

Joy, oh Joy, what can we say? As Captain Scott responded to you and your concerns immediately (and offered another chance to certify on an upgraded boat) and you still felt the need to flame us here one has to wonder. To your concerns: Captain Genevieve who taught this class is one of the kindest, most pleasant and professional ASA instructor’s out there. The week she took this class she was stricken with Chikungunya after setting sail. It is not contageous but transmitted through mosquito bites. I remain astonished that she carried on with the class. This disease usually paralyzes a person for at least a week. It’s not unlike Dengue Fever in that respect. It’s unfortunate that you mistook her illness for ill will toward you. That must have been painful.

Part of the experience of the sailing school is that by day 3 the students have pretty much taken over and the Captain is there for instruction and support, so YES, students do fend for themselves in preparing meals, etc.

If there were used sponges and opened food (which could have been the Captain’s personal food) that is in no way acceptable and I have communicated to all of our captain’s that these items are to be tossed and refreshed before each class. I was on the boat last week and was impressed by the ample amount of new beach towels and bath/hand towels so I can’t really address that not having been with you.

Yes, as some have pointed out, on a sailboat the showers (hot and cold) are pulled up from the sink faucet.

There are indeed several boats that teach ASA classes under Virgin Island Sailing School that are owned and maintained by their own Captain’s. Silver Lining is just one.

We remain terribly sorry that you had a negative experience and stand by our offer to take you out again on another boat if you like. There are also a number of luxury captained yacht charters in the area that may be a better fit for you. One of my favorites is Voyage Yacht Charters out of Soper's Hole, Tortola. All the best to you!
 

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So you are saying that struggling through having a contagious virus, and inviting guests to share a small space with them is a good thing? I don't get that. Mosquito goes from the captain/teacher then to guest. Kind of like the idiots having measles parties thinking somehow it is better than vaccinations.
Being new here I am not yet allowed to post links, but if you visit the WHO or CDC sites you will see that chikungunya is only transmitted through mosquito bites. The captain had no symptoms until after setting sail. I, for on, cannot fathom the strength she had to teach...a far better sailor than I!
 
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