Sailing the British Virgin Islands


To see photos of boat and crew, click on image above.

Filling a long-standing desire, we charted a bare boat (no crew) in the British Virgin Islands from April 16th to 30th. The boat was a 41’ sloop named Spontane. She was 36’ at the waterline and had three staterooms and two heads.

Three of us, Don Higgins and Lynn and George sailed for both weeks. Bret and Lori Stateham sailed the first week, and Peg Higgins, and Scott and Shirley Blackburn the second.

 We chartered a Moorings yacht, the largest and best-known charterer in the industry, and used an agent, Sailing Vacations, who had been recommended to us by others. Sailing Vacations did a good job of giving us comparison pricing and helping us get through our first charter. I do not know if we need an agent next time, but I definitely recommend it to other first time chatterers. Sailing Vacations held our hand. so to speak, and kept us from making some possible mistakes.

Our boat was fairly new and in good condition.She was rigged with a fully battened main and self furling Genoa. We had good wind most days and at one point had her up to 8 knots over the bottom on a reefed mainsail and with the Genoa only partially deployed. Eight knots is very close to the maximum hull speed for a displacement type hull of 36’ at the waterline.

 Everyone on board had regular duties, in addition to which, crew members pitched in when any activity needed more than one set of hands. One of the duties that worked well for us was that of Purser. Each week, one person kept track of all out of pocket expenses plus provisions and SCUBA tank rental. At the end of each week, the Purser ran sub totals for each person and the grand total. They calculated the per person cost, then gave an accounting. Those who were under spent reimbursed those who were over spent.

 Through the trip nearly everyone took a turn at the helm. We sailed easy most of the time, not pushing ourselves or the boat. We only had the gunwales in the water and water over the bow once when Don, Lynn and George chased down and sailed in a small squall on Easter Sunday.

 Our float plan included three dives per week but we cut back to two. The first week, we were unable to fill tanks at Peter Island because their compressor was down. The second week, we took this and other experiences into account and changed the float plan resulting in an easier pace and only two dives.

In the middle of the second week, we met Bill and Liz Knobloch on Virgin Gorda. They were next-door neighbors when we lived in Leucadia, California and have a vacation home on the island. It added a very pleasant extra dimension to our trip when they had us up for cocktails and to enjoy the view.

Since we had a change in crew in the second week, and because the Wreck of the Rhone is the most noted dive spot in BVI, we dived there twice. We also dove the Indians the first week and the Chimney at the Dogs the second week. We never had more than three divers gearing up at any time, but still gearing up to dive was a hassle in the limited space of the cockpit.

 The islands are lovely and the weather generally fair with occasional small squalls. There were rain showers most nights, causing us to get out of our berths and close the hatches. Our boat had small electric fans in the staterooms and main cabin that really helped keep it from becoming too stuffy when the hatches were closed.

Stateroom is a pretty grand name for the individual cabins. The forward cabin had a small bench, some hanging and shelf stowage and reasonable overhead room. The forward most head could only be reached through the forward cabin and was reasonable in size. The two aft staterooms were cramped and the berth was tucked back under the cockpit so going to bed entailed a bit of acrobatics to get one’s feet aft and one’s head at the open end near the door. Exiting the berth almost required crawling out onto the floor and then standing up. The aft head was less roomy than the forward head.

The galley and main salon were adequate for 6 people to eat, but more than one person working in the galley was tough. The boat had electric refrigeration, which was a definite blessing.

We provisioned through the Ample Hamper with acceptable results.

The first week was more crowded with other boats than was the second. Easter weekend was extremely busy. There were big, fast, diesel sport fishers with Puerto Rican registry everywhere. The VHF was busy with chatter on every channel and moorings were at a premium.

We did not activate the cell phone on the boat, which was a mistake. VHF is pretty much a line of site tool; the islands are very hilly blocking the signal to many locations. If we charter in BVI again, we will activate the phone.

We have traveled extensively and must say we were surprised at the sullen attitude demonstrated by most locals in the service industries. Usually if we encountered a friendly, courteous person on the dock or in a restaurant or hotel, we learned they were from elsewhere in the Caribbean such as Jamaica or St Kitts.

Our favorite local food was roti. It is chicken curry (or vegetable) wrapped in soft, flaky flat bread. It reminded us of some of the dishes we used to eat in Singapore.

On balance, it was a wonderful vacation and a complete success for our first charter. Our favorite spots to visit were Gorda Sound and the Bight. Bret and Lori met Walter Cronkite while having an after dinner drink at the Willie T in the Bight. We did not visit Anegada or Jost Van Dyke, but they will be in the float plan next time.

Hall of fame and shame - Duties Week 1 & 2




Skipper George He published this page, what do you expect him to say?
Yacht Master Lynn She who must be obeyed as well as Trip Food Officer (TFO). As always, incomparable
Dinghy Coxswain
Week 1: Bret
Week 2: Scott
Duties 1. Don't lose the Dinghy. 2. Don't wrap the dinghy painter in the prop. 3. Make the dinghy go where and when needed. In Scott's case this should include getting into the right dinghy, not falling down in the dinghy, and not falling out of the dinghy into the water.
Week 1: Lori
Week 2: Shirley
Make sure the boat is secure when unoccupied. Keep the $$ even
Director of Dive Operations Don Plan and control dives. Manage logistics related to diving, i.e. arrange for tanks, fills, equipment, etc.
Look Out Week 2: Peg Spot Channel Markers, other marine traffic, and reefs. (Keep the boat off the ground).

Good boat, good wind, good food, good friends, what a great vacation.