Just wanted to post a warning. Do NOT book with Virgin Island Sailing School (not to be confused with Virgin Island Sailing Academy). This school lists Capt. Scott D as the Captain (he is not, he lives in California).
To say that my vacation with this company 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.