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Old 25-08-2019, 18:50   #1
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First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

Hi All,

Having chartered mostly San Francisco Bay Area and Eastern Mediterranean , it will be a first for me to Bareboat Charter a 35-40feet vessel in the Caribbean. Martinique and BVI are the locations we are considering. We plan to sail in last week of November , what would be the pros and cons of each location for an 8 day itenary? In addition to myself as skipper I will have one more person who does not have much sailing experience and Caribbean will be a new area for both of us.

Please kindly share thoughts and advice on these two different sailing venues. We probably want to have more relaxation and fewer 18+ knots closehauled sessions or big weather.
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Old 25-08-2019, 18:55   #2
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

Do you speak French?
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Old 25-08-2019, 19:46   #3
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

Enough to get by.
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Old 25-08-2019, 19:58   #4
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

Easier sailing in the BVI's with a distinct Jimmy Buffet atmosphere. Martinique and the windwards in general will be a bit more challenging sailing and far better food.
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Old 25-08-2019, 20:01   #5
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

thank you, when we say challenging would it be heavier seas with more swell and knots, or storms or anchorages? . If you can kindly compare and contrast the sailing experiences and anchorages I would appreciate
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Old 25-08-2019, 20:21   #6
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

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Originally Posted by sck5 View Post
Easier sailing in the BVI's with a distinct Jimmy Buffet atmosphere. Martinique and the windwards in general will be a bit more challenging sailing and far better food.
This post is a good 2 sentence summary. If you charter in Martinique, it depends in length of charter, but you could go to 5 or 6 different countries, all with somewhat different cultures. Some are great food islands, all are beautiful natural features with awesome hiking. Sailing will likely include some close haul sailing between islands, although reaching both directions to and from the charter base could happen. Waves between islands will usually be in the 5 to 10 foot range. Sailing between islands will generally take all of the daylight each day. Most charter companies dont allow night sailing. You'll probably be able to anchor most nights and wont have to deal with crowded anchorages at most places. Generally navigation is easy, not too many hazards to avoid.

In the VIs you would have to seek out anything cultural. Hiking isnt very popular with most charterers there, although there are some hikes you can find, especially if you go to USVIs and spend some time on St John. You'll probably plan a series of moorings each night only 2 hours or so. You'll likely only stay "within" the islands and only see wind chop up to 2 or 3 feet. You'll be needing to watch for lots of navigational hazards in a relatively crowded environment, the worst of which is other boats. You'll need to get to mooring fields early to get one of the spots before they all fill up for the day. Your cultural experience will mostly consist of drinking with European and american tourists. Diving locations are great, but crowded. Food will mostly be pub food, with a general caribbean flair, unless you seek out some local spots, which will require some walking or a bus or car ride.

Just comes down to the kind of vacation you want. More sailing time and more challenging sailing, less crowds, more hiking and food, go to the windwards. Easier sailing, big parties, and a handful of cool but very crowded destinations, go to the VIs.

Btw, I think USVI charters are usually a little cheaper? Chartering on St Thomas means you'll probably add a half dozen hours of upwind sailing, but you're there for a short term charter, so you could just motor up the channel on day one and then sail the remainder of the week slowly back down, stopping at different spots. If you charter in BVI, you would still lose almost that same amount of time getting to your charter base either by hopper flight or ferry, plus whatever layover.
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Old 25-08-2019, 23:15   #7
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

thank you for the post jrau. If we stick to leeawrd section of Martinique would there be enough coves around Martinique that would fill a 7 day journey without getting too much exposure to big swell ? also what would the passage between Dominiqua and Martinique look like ?
any recommendations on vharter companies in Martinique?
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Old 26-08-2019, 04:18   #8
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

Hello
How are your anchoring skills?
For a first time, yes Martinique will be challenging.
BVI's are much easier to sail and this might make it more relaxing.
If your sailing partner is not experienced Martinique might be a bit too challenging.
Some of the anchorages in Martinique are harder then most in the BVI's
St-PIerre for exemple is a deep water anchorage.

BVI's waters are much calmer.
Yes you can go to Dominica from Martinique but it's customs and Imigrations and $$
Also expect bigger swell. Depending on conditions they will be anywhere from 5 to 10 feet. If the forecast calls for bigger, do not try it. You will be closed haul with the waves coming from your starboard fore. Not pleasant.
BVI's you can sail about the same distances and still be in the BVI's

Martinique has a lot more to offer if you are into visiting the island itself. Rhum factories, Volcano, St-Pierre with was destroyed by the volcano, etc.
BVI's..beach bars and beach bars. Not much else to see on the islands themselves.

In short depend on your skills and confidence BVI's will be much easier then Martinique.
If you want a challenge try Martinique but think of your partner to in this.

Try Ken at Tropical yachts. They are brokers and will find you the best deals.
They actually get me better pricing then if I go direct.
Dream Yacht Charters is the major charter company in Martinique.
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Old 26-08-2019, 07:44   #9
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

And if you do Martinique, remember, the large yellow buoys at St. Anne mark off the area the charter boats can anchor, between there and the shore. Also, if you're a charter boat, you can try and tie off on the large yellow buoys if you don't want to anchor. I say try as we watched a DYC boat try to tie off for 10 or 15 minutes before they gave up. Maybe they didn't give it a good enough effort though.

Fortunate that you speak some French, that's the most frustrating thing for us about the French islands.. not speaking much French is really a problem at the restaurants and many shops. Menus in only French are tough and dual language menus are rare in the villages.

I'd go south to St. Lucia from Martinique rather than north to Dominica if you were looking at doing a bit of a sail.. but really, only a week, there is plenty to see around Martinique and plenty of anchorages to enjoy for that time.
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Old 26-08-2019, 07:56   #10
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

We enjoy chartering out of CYOA on St. Thomas 10 minutes from the airport with no ferry to deal with on arrival and departure day. Nearby Water Island is delightful and St. John is our favorite island in the Caribbean; the National Park has put in a lot of moorings that are well maintained. The BVIs have gotten crowded and expensive, but the Francis Drake Channel makes for great sheltered sailing.

We also enjoy sailing around St. Martin with Anguilla and St. Bart's too.

Cheers, RickG
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Old 26-08-2019, 08:00   #11
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

Not speaking french is imho not a problem anymore. There are so many good translator apps nowadays, with limited offline capabilities. Itís even possible to have full conversations .
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Old 26-08-2019, 09:07   #12
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

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Originally Posted by corsaircpt View Post
thank you for the post jrau. If we stick to leeawrd section of Martinique would there be enough coves around Martinique that would fill a 7 day journey without getting too much exposure to big swell ? also what would the passage between Dominiqua and Martinique look like ?
any recommendations on vharter companies in Martinique?
I was a liveaboard when I was there, so I can't comment on the charter companies in martinique.

All the islands have a calm Lee. They block the trades. Martinique due to its shape doesnt block the trades as much, so you may be able to sail behind it, but you also might be stuck just motoring if you spend 7 days in the lee.

There is definitely 7 days worth of sightseeing to do there.

Going north or south one island would be basically one full day of sailing each direction. You could ask your charter company the current cost of customs at each island, some islands have different prices for charter boats. Both st Lucia and Dominica I thought had beautiful things to see. I found the Pays group in Dominica extremely frustrating and scammy, but found the Roseau area amazing. St Lucia was similar, with lots of scam attempts requiring you to pay attention the entire time. Both are very different to martinique.

You could always plan to go one direction or the other, letting the weather forecast decide your direction.
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Old 26-08-2019, 10:05   #13
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

We have chartered from Punch Crosiere in Martinique and love it! You can sail south to St Lucia and St Vincent or north to Dominica. If you have sailed in SF, the wind won't be a problem for you. The sail between island will be lively, but throw in a reef or two and enjoy! Food in Martinique is good and not expensive. Provisioning is easy, as the grocery store will pick you up and take you back to the dock.
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Old 26-08-2019, 10:48   #14
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

You can visit a lot more anchorages/mooring fields for your time period in the BVI's. Most charters sail in the Drake Passage, which is very sheltered, with chop being the only real issue.

Many of the old anchorages in the French islands have been reduced in area, making them very crowded. Conditions on the lee side of Martinique are normally almost dead close to shore, so many cruisers elect to stay 2 or more miles off the coast if they want to sail. If the mountains are not cloud shrouded, expect some wild gusts in front of canyons.
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Old 26-08-2019, 10:51   #15
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Re: First Caribbean sail, Martinique vs BVI

I'd agree with most of what's been said here, but for the description of PAYS (Portsmouth Area Yacht Services, I beliėve). Look up Eddison (Laville, one of the organizers of it and one of the best people I've met in dozens of trips in the Eastern Caribbean. Look them up on social media and elsewhere. In general Dominica & Martinique are at the top of my list of favorites (with all the other islands from Grenada to Saba high on the list). Spectacular beauty (Mont Pelee...Pitons...waterfalls in Dominica...Les Saintes....Grenadines...). If you like rhum and food, Martinique can't be beat...
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