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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We're considering a charter for next spring (probably mid-March), and we're trying to decide where to go. We've done the BVI, which we liked, but it was a little crowded for our taste. We've also done the SVI, which we liked, and it was deserted only a few months after Maria. I'd love to get thoughts, recommendations, pros and cons for other destinations in the region. Thanks - in advance - for your help.

Dail
 

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If you are going to bareboat for a short period, the answers are limited. It's hard to find one that will allow you to go wherever you like.

We've enjoyed the BVI, because it's a no brainer. We sail our own boat for all forms of passage and conditions. On a winter get away vacation, the BVI takes zero stress. I've even sailed in a gale there, with zero stress. Further, everything is so close, we don't decide the next move, until we're having coffee in the morning. I love the freedom.

Our standard is to be easily ready by about 9am, so getting somewhere before the crowds is usually easy. If you're a late riser, that can be challenging for the more popular coves/anchorages.

There are certainly other options, particularly if you're willing to charter with crew. Often, they'll let you do the sailing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the comments, Minne. We're definitely bareboating, and we didn't really have a difficult time finding moorings during our last visit. We got shut out of a couple of places, but, as you know, there are always other places not very far away in that area.
 

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Failed to mention, if you bareboat from St Thomas and then cruise over and clear in/out of BVI (which is much easier than one might imagine) you get the opportunity for cruising the bays around St John on your way to/from, most of which are gorgeous and desolate. We love them. Not much of a fan of STT, but we just grab our boat and go. I suppose, theoretically, one could still bareboat from BVI and then clear in/out of the US, but something tells me that's more complicated. I haven't done it that way.
 

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If you want solitude and something different, Belize should definitely be on the top of your list. 3-4 boats in an overnight anchorage is considered crowded indeed. Yes, you will have to provision in advance (though local produce, vegies especially, is a delight) as shore dining is limited to resorts and hotels, here and there. Holding is poor in most places, second anchor is a must in a blow. However, the nature is spectacular, solitude is a bliss, and the night sky is out of this world (at least for us, city folks). Navigation can be a bit challenging (most charts are outdated, to say the least), good light is a must in some areas, especially if you draw deep. However, the overall experience is out this world: underwater world is breathtaking, nature is unspoiled (for the most part), local folks are nice and very helpful, and . . . you only live once.
 

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I've done the BVI and like them for the low stress easy sailing that Minne points out. ( it's a vacation) . I haven't been yet, but if I were to do another Charter, I would probably consider the Abacos. I believe that they're still re-building after Dorian which was slowed by Covid, so Tourist cash is probably very welcome.
 

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We've been around too long and done too much of it. BVI's get boring after a dozen trips and the same old beach bars. We never really got sick of the Grenadines after perhaps another dozen trips....start in St Lucia, go one way Grenada, best for wind direction. Do 10-14 days to see it all leisurely. It's a sailing trip, in and out of countries, and interesting people to meet. Treat everyone you meet with respect and you'll have a good trip. Big water between islands, modulated by calm in the lees. One nice reach especially if you do it one way. Who doesn't love a long reach with interesting stops. We did Belize once. I'm not a cat guy, for me that feels like sailing your dock, but it's sure comfortable living. It's interesting inside the barrier reef, mangrove islands, great snorkeling etc. but I saw it as more of a tour than a sailing trip, but I don't like cats...you might love em. Get used to thinking of 10 feet as deep. If you like to fish, some of the most cooperative bone fish I've ever seen. Depends what you are looking for.
 

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BVI's get boring after a dozen trips and the same old beach bars.
I get that, but have a cure. We invite another couple to come that has never been. Half the time, they can sail, half can’t. Even the sailing couples probably wouldn’t have done it alone. Their joy is a real advantage, like watching your kids open Christmas presents.

On the other hand, getting out of the depths of a northeast winter, even to a familiar beach bar, has never felt disappointing here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Their joy is a real advantage, like watching your kids open Christmas presents.
I completely agree with this. I love sailing for sailing's sake. I also love sharing it with others. Sometimes I get a little jaded, and I forget how much fun it is for people who don't do it every weekend. We've always taken others with us on our charters, and they usually aren't sailors. They always love it, and - as you said - any Caribbean location is awesome compared to February in New England.
 

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Not to put a damper on things, but nowadays one must consider COVID restrictions. Some countries are still requiring people to quarantine for some period of time, so if you are planning to travel from one country to another you need to keep that in mind.
 

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BVI could clamp shut at any moment. See BVI News If you keep reading, the pols are all about themselves and most of what gets done in the BVI is "show." They only reopened in the last few weeks. In April, there were ZERO boats between Cane Garden, West End and White Bay JVD when I could count as many as 50 in Magens Bay below the house on STT. Foxy's is around a point and out of view. But no movement on the water for nearly a year. We left on April 15th to go snowbirding (and get 2 boats done to get back to the USVI) and BVI was still closed. As to cruising, I like to wander over to Dewey, down to Esperanza. St. Thomas Island has some secret spots, especially a few protected coves on the North side. Not sure what the deal is with charters out of St. Thomas and the ability to go Spanish Virgins, but Moorings now has a base at Yacht Haven Grande and there's a MILLION friggin' cats around. And you always have CYOA and Skip's Island Packets at Island Yacht Charters in Red Hook. I could entertain myself (and always did) by just hanging between PR and the USVI. Love the PR people, not the same reception in the BVI. It's changed. Even knowing people and making my first trip over in the 90's. My last passport . . . hundreds of BVI stamps. It was what we did on weekends in the "good old days." But I miss going up to Anegada to visit the Soares family at Neptune's Treasure.
 

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I’m currently looking to book our winter ‘22 bareboat. Friends of our want to come along, with their grown children. Started getting serious and seriously wondering what the BVI may be like this winter. Crap shoot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I’m currently looking to book our winter ‘22 bareboat. Friends of our want to come along, with their grown children. Started getting serious and seriously wondering what the BVI may be like this winter. Crap shoot.
I'm with you on the concern. We are planning to start in STT, but we're still debating which way to turn from there. I wasn't that worried about Covid and the BVI, but VIEXILE got me thinking about it more carefully. It's all a leap of faith at this point. I've never bothered with travel insurance... but this might be the time to add it to my plans.
 

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Yes, total crapshoot. The upshot observations over the years seems to be that the "upper class" (politically connected) make their money from the "offshore" banking system and governmental largesse and tourism is left for the masses. With some just making out very well on . . . other pursuits. I can tell you, though, unequivocally, that the U.S. Feds can get at the banking system in the BVI. I've seen them say to a defendant ". . . and you have $X0,000.00 in an account on Tortola. So tell us what we want to know." So much for hiding money in an offshore account.

You have to be careful over there. There is no respite from overbearing agency officials. What they say goes. Period. Argue, question and it gets worse. Even the lady at VG Customs who closes the blind behind the glass at exactly 4:30 PM (or whatever time - even lunch) even if there's a line of people standing there with their passports, money and all their paperwork to clear in. Hopefully that has changed. I've got dozens of friends who will no longer cross the line to the BVI.

Now, that's NOT to say you wouldn't have a delightful charter in the BVI. Eyes wide open, avoid BVI marine patrol, avoid "problems." Go to Anegada. Good people. Tourist hotspots are problematic.
 

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I've never bothered with travel insurance... but this might be the time to add it to my plans.
I don’t know the details of every policy, but I doubt one would pay off on a USVI charter, because the BVI blocked entry, or perhaps just made entry very difficult. The USVI charter companies restricted travel to USVI islands, when they were open but BVI was not. I like St John, but couldn’t spend a week, unless all I wanted was solitude. Even if a BVI charter, they may only require extended quarantines and not actually close. Still suspect they don’t pay.

VIexile makes some very good points and is a great local source of info. However, I think he/she would admit to being very down on the BVI in general.

My wife has been going to STT, STJ and BVI, since the 70s and has ample stories of how it’s changed. But I still think it’s a great winter getaway and she does too.
 

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Only "down" on the bullcrap. They arrested U.S. citizens this past winter who sailed into Drake's Channel and were tacking "over the line." Off to be guests of Her Royal Majesty up in Bhalsam Gut. Boat seized, massive fine, nowhere near land next East of St. John. Big fine. Great view, small cells. No windows. No clothes. So yeah, certain things about the BVI over the years have seriously tarnished - the ripped off $5,000 dinghy and engine (seized by government-couldn't "find" it after) the Marine Patrol running over some friends at night (accident, incompetence) and a girl getting over 100 stitches in her face.
The "comments" sections in BVInews and BVIPlatinum can tell you a lot about how much they want you to just bring your money, give it to them and leave. It's pretty sad. I've got friends all over the BVI. Moorings moved a base over to the USVI and they're booming. 25 years ago - even 15 years ago no issues. Until they started "deciding" where the "line" is. Fishing, sailing, or simply waiting for the ferry to clear at WE Tola. Arrested. Jailed. Fined. Boats seized. Never would happen on the U.S. side, and they know it. One old guy just dragging a rapala behind his Trawler driving to JVD for the weekend. No fish. He had to pay $56,000 after over 4 months in prison. In the BVI, the "law" is what they say it is, whether they are right or not. Yeah. "Down."
 

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Yes, hate to have to agree but the Bvi's are now very difficult because the authorities are quite against having visitors.

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You're all convincing me that the BVI could shut down again this winter. So, what would I do with a couple of 20 somethings aboard, if confined to the USVIs? We can swing on the hook in Maho Bay for days and love it, but they'd understandably get bored out of their minds. Cruz Bay is not great, in our opinion.
 

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My pre teen grand daughters say they want to go sailing... but of course they are bored. The boat is a sort of play house for them... and they have their phones to play with... But I see no interest in the actual sailing.
 
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