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Old 08-04-2015, 14:45   #1
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BVI vs St. Maarten

So, three of my friends and I are looking to charter a bareboat w/ a captain next January. We're trying to decide between Tortola and St. Maarten. Three of us are young (early 30s) professionals, the fourth is a famous musician. This will be a boys' trip, so we won't be interested in romantic anchorages and strolling the beach. We will want to fish, dive/snorkel, swim, hike, eat, drink, repeat. We're looking to charter a 50 ft monohull for 7 nights.

None of us has done a charter, and only one of us has been to the Caribbean, so we have a lot to learn about the entire process. For my sailing experience, I own a Catalina 22 that I've sailed a total of 60 days in fresh water lakes over the last three seasons. I'm hoping that after this charter, I will be able to captain a bareboat the next time we take a trip, but I accept that maybe two trips w/ a skipper would make sense, as well.

So, for those of you with experience, would you recommend BVI or St. Maarten? Cost is a lesser consideration, we want to maximize our time on the trip. Thanks!
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Old 08-04-2015, 15:00   #2
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

I have sailed both places. They are both fantastic. For your requirements, I slightly recommend BVI, for the following reasons:
1) BVI has more bars of the "fun" kind. Pirate Ship, Foxys, etc.
2) BVI features better (and easier to find) snorkel spots.
3) There is less time spent sailing in BVI (assuming you also go to St Barts or Anguilla while visiting St. Maarten).
4) BVI feels a little more "party-ish".

Other notes:
1) Hiking is probably equivalent in both places. Longer hikes in St. Maarten, more hikes in BVI.
2) I think the high-end food is better on the French side of St Maarten than almost anywhere else, including the BVI. For mid-range food, they are equivalent.
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Old 08-04-2015, 15:12   #3
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

Check WAY in advance about fishing in the BVI. It is prohibited without a license. And just about impossible to get.

And +1 on Whomda comments. Been both places many times.
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Old 08-04-2015, 16:11   #4
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

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Originally Posted by mikefp60 View Post
Check WAY in advance about fishing in the BVI. It is prohibited without a license. And just about impossible to get.

And +1 on Whomda comments. Been both places many times.
We had no problem getting a fishing permit a couple years ago, have things changes in the last couple years? Usually whatever outfit you are renting fishing gear from will take care of it for you - for a fee of course. Just set it up (the gear and the license) a few weeks before you get down there. I have heard it can be tough to get a permit on your own though. Also, don't try fishing from a boat without a permit. If you get caught the fines are pretty significant from what I've read.

You can scroll to the bottom of this page for a little information on how to get a permit: Fishing Rentals & Permits Tortola BVI
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Old 08-04-2015, 16:39   #5
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

This was link posted in a BVI forum today. http://bvinews.com/new/fishing-licen...d-at-ministry/

I used to get fishing licenses via email in a matter of hours. This year I gave up after weeks of waiting and mishandling by the BVI government.


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Old 08-04-2015, 17:04   #6
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

I would suggest the BVI. It is much more protected to correspond with your experience. I've had some pretty "sporty" conditions in St. Martin. Especially on the windward side of the island coming out of Oyster Pond.

BVI is a great place to start.

Get prequalified based on your experience. You may not have enough for a 50' mono.
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Old 08-04-2015, 18:26   #7
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

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Originally Posted by Rubikoop View Post
This was link posted in a BVI forum today. Fishing license no longer being processed at ministry

I used to get fishing licenses via email in a matter of hours. This year I gave up after weeks of waiting and mishandling by the BVI government.


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Good to know - thanks! Maybe the change in policy is causing some processing issues. Wonder if going through a rental outfit would provide better results. Maybe they are "in the loop" where us non-belongers are put on the backburner. I'm going to give it a try for our upcoming June trip but I'll keep my expectations in check.
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Old 08-04-2015, 19:51   #8
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

Fishing is fine in st Martin, but BVIs is the better cruising destination for the first time.
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Old 09-04-2015, 06:49   #9
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

Love 'em both but hands down its got to be the BVI for your first charter ... you can't do any better for your first taste of sailing the islands 😃
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Old 09-04-2015, 07:23   #10
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

I've chartered in both several times and second the points Whomda made. Overall, I'd pick the VIs for your stated desires.
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Old 09-04-2015, 07:23   #11
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

Having cruised both locations numerous times, I agree with the other posters that BVI may be more to your liking for a first trip. In January, it will be quite crowded in the BVI as well as SXM, more likely more so in the BVI. The ratio of charter boats to "owner cruiser" boats will be much higher in the BVI, if that makes any difference to you.

That said, if your famous musician friend has a famous musician's budget, you may find St. Barth's to be irre$i$tible. Otherwise, big rollers can be found on Peter Island and the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI.

As for fishing, what did you have in mind? Leaping billfish? - mahi mahi or wahoo for the diner plate? - or anything that will bite? After sorting out the license requirements in the BVI, be aware that unless you get out to DEEP water in either location you won't be seeing any billfish and seldomly any mahi or wahoo. But deep water isn't far, especially to the south of BVI and SXM. And by the time you get deep enough south of BVI you might be safe from BVI fishing restrictions - check on this first. Just look for the depths on the charts and start fishing at the deep drop off. You may get lucky in water < 200 feet and pick up a mackeral or rainbow runner (both decent eating) but most of what you'll get is 'cuda and Little Tunny which can be fun to catch, but not for eating for discerning palates. Cuda is actually very tasty, but risky to eat due to the potential for ciguatera. Any more we rarely fish in water < 500 feet deep unless we have quests aboard who would be thrilled to catch anything. And whether your crewed charter has decent fishing equipment is a whole 'nuther matter.....

Dave
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Old 09-04-2015, 08:48   #12
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

I have been to and sailed at both. I would probably suggest the BVI for what you are looking for - with the exception of the fishing.
- BVI has more "fun spots" but you can also find some quieter areas
- the downside of the BVI is that you may sometimes feel you are following the "Moorings/Sunsail Herd" from location to location.
- In St. Maarten, there is the added hassle of clearing in and clearing out (customs/immigration) as you have French, Dutch, and English territories to deal with.


If you are planning to do future bareboatchaters, you should think about doing some ASA (or similar) courses.

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Old 09-04-2015, 09:00   #13
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

Greetings Hyperfind,
Don't often post as I'm typically just a "lurker," not having a boat at this time.
Was curious however - you mentioned chartering a "50' monohull;" is there any reason why you wouldn't / aren't considering a multihull (i.e. catamaran)? Seems like there would be more room & privacy, a more stable platform, and access to shallower bays and beaches than with a monohull.
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Old 09-04-2015, 09:09   #14
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

Haven't been to St. Maarten, but BVIs three times. If I can sail it, YOU can! Took my first trip there on a Mahe 36 with a captain, got my 104 and 114 on board during the week. On my next trip, I got a 2-hour checkout on a Lagoon 45 and off I went as captain! I don't have much experience, but the BVI seas are calm, never out of sight of land, lots of party places if you want that, and several get-away-from-it-all spots too.
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Old 09-04-2015, 09:31   #15
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Re: BVI vs St. Maarten

BVIs. Do a catamaran. We have sailed both and had a great time (well - of course we did!!) There are famous people at both locations so your buddy will be fine. The VIs are so used to Kenny and Sir Richard roaming around they probably won't notice him. Make sure to take your time at the helm - that is what it is all about!
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