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Old 31-12-2015, 12:58   #1
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First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Hi all, it was just over a year ago that I began posting here and asking rookie questions about learning to sail and my long sailing term plans. Since then I have done most of the recommendations offered here (short of “buy a boat”). I joined the local racing club and raced this season on a J24 doing most roles (a boat I also was able to skipper with my wife on weekends), I completed the ASA series up to 104 and then transitioned to RYA, where I completed both the Day and Coastal Skipper theory and practical courses. This had me sailing in a wide variety of boats for several weeks in Michigan, Florida and Antigua.

This year of learning culminated this December when I chartered a FP Helia 44 cat in the BVIs. It was not only my first time chartering anywhere, but also the first time when I was the only "skipper" on the boat (aside for the J24) and the most experienced one. I ran the boat with the help of my wife, who had completed ASA up to 103 and sailed with me on the J24. All in all it went extremely well aside for a couple of silly (and some embarrassing mistakes - see below).

We documented the entire trip on our blog bluebuddhaadventures.com

This link takes to the day-to-day account of the trip.

A few highlights include
- The mystery clogged head due to a missing holding tank (Day 2)
- The time we lost steering (Day 3)
- The time I almost hit a reef with the dinghy (Day 5)
- The time the “if you think you need to reef its too late” slogan became reality (Day 7)
- The time I refused to turn on the engines I made the crew endure 5 hours of 30+ tacks against the current and wind (Day 8)
- And the time I docked the cat at a ridiculously narrow spot (like a boss!; Day 9)

I hope some of the newbies and old salts enjoy these reports.

2016 will be even better. We are charting a Bavaria 45 in Grenada in March, a L400 in BVIs in May, and a L450 in the BVI in December. I will also be racing the entire reason in the Great Lakes and hope to do the Tortola to Bermuda passage on a ARC-USA boat, which will be my first real ocean passage experience!

Thank you all for the support during this amazing first year of sailing.

Here is the video of my doing the tricky parking job. The fun starts at 2:10.

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Old 04-01-2016, 15:03   #2
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Enjoyed the video, and can't wait to read about your experience. We just purchased a Helia 44, 2016 that will be leaving the yard in 15 days. I happen to recognize the boat and the base from the video, and this will be where New Lattitudes will be based as well. Great to see you have quite a few adventures lined up.
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Old 04-01-2016, 15:11   #3
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

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Originally Posted by lsymens View Post
Enjoyed the video, and can't wait to read about your experience. We just purchased a Helia 44, 2016 that will be leaving the yard in 15 days. I happen to recognize the boat and the base from the video, and this will be where New Lattitudes will be based as well. Great to see you have quite a few adventures lined up.
Thanks for the note! Congrats on the Helia! I was able to spend some time with Frank from Let it Be before the charter since the Helia (and TMM as based) is on my list of options. Seems he had a wonderful experience with TMM.

I will keep an eye on New Lattitudes on the TMM fleet and maybe I'll get to charter it next season :-). Are you doing the crossing this year or waiting until next fall?

Cheers, Nestor.
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Old 04-01-2016, 16:11   #4
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

They are nice looking boats.
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Old 04-01-2016, 16:23   #5
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Very nice report and some great stories. I guess you are braver than me. That was quite a jump from lake sailing a J24 to taking a 44' cat out for the week and taking it into White Bay. For my first BVI charter my wife and I got a 32' mono and picked up moorings. The second time after getting some experience on a cat with ASA 114, we did get a Leopard 444.
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Old 04-01-2016, 19:17   #6
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

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Originally Posted by Hoosiersailor View Post
Very nice report and some great stories. I guess you are braver than me. That was quite a jump from lake sailing a J24 to taking a 44' cat out for the week and taking it into White Bay. For my first BVI charter my wife and I got a 32' mono and picked up moorings. The second time after getting some experience on a cat with ASA 114, we did get a Leopard 444.
Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the stories!

Yes it was a bit of a jump although racing the J24 was not my only experience. Earlier this (I mean last) year I spent one week as the only skipper-student on an Oceanis 400 during the RYA coastal skipper program, a week on a Dehler 40 doing the RYA day skipper program, and a week doing the same on a Island Spirit 37 Cat while doing ASA 104,114. These all included mostly coastal/ocean sailing in Antigua/Guadalope and some in Florida. The RYA programs I did had an intensive navigation component (I also did the infamous RYA Coastal/Offshore theory program). So I felt pretty comfortable with the navigation, specially because I'm obsessive about doing passages on paper, getting bearings to all waypoints, and checking them against the plotter/gps as I go, etc. I'm probably on the conservative side when it comes to navigation/risk, which I think is a good place to be given my limited experience.

But the 44 was definitely the largest boat I sailed and this was the first time when I was the most "experienced" person on the boat. This was scary but also pretty motivating. By the end I felt the mistakes were all within the expected learning curve and we were pretty safe for the entire trip. I definitely learned a lot and can't wait to do it again in March. Our March trip will be on a mono (bavaria 45 and in Grenada) which will probably bring an entire different set of challenges.

Thanks for reading the blog!
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Old 05-01-2016, 10:42   #7
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

I enjoyed reading through your accounts of the BVI's. I've taken ASA courses, but the only way to really learn (beyond the basics) and become accomplished is to be thrown into challenging situations. It's easy to sail along in a nice breeze, pick up an uncluttered mooring, anchor in a calm 9 ft of water. My learning curve (and resulting confidence) increased 100x when I was stressed into overpowering gusts/squalls, crowded moorings, dragging anchors, sandbar groundings and towing. Once you are faced with these and then figure a way through a challenge, fail then succeed do you become a strong sailor. Us sailors know that the sailing is actually the easiest part...it's everything else you face that is the challenge.

We look forward to your next adventures!
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Old 05-01-2016, 10:47   #8
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

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Originally Posted by KeepInTune View Post
I enjoyed reading through your accounts of the BVI's. I've taken ASA courses, but the only way to really learn (beyond the basics) and become accomplished is to be thrown into challenging situations. It's easy to sail along in a nice breeze, pick up an uncluttered mooring, anchor in a calm 9 ft of water. My learning curve (and resulting confidence) increased 100x when I was stressed into overpowering gusts/squalls, crowded moorings, dragging anchors, sandbar groundings and towing. Once you are faced with these and then figure a way through a challenge, fail then succeed do you become a strong sailor. Us sailors know that the sailing is actually the easiest part...it's everything else you face that is the challenge.

We look forward to your next adventures!
Thanks! I agree 1000%, it is all the little things that come up and you have to solve (as the one in charge) that really increase one's confidence and seamanship!
Thanks for reading the blog!
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Old 05-01-2016, 12:53   #9
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

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Originally Posted by BlueBuddha View Post
Thanks for the note! Congrats on the Helia! I was able to spend some time with Frank from Let it Be before the charter since the Helia (and TMM as based) is on my list of options. Seems he had a wonderful experience with TMM.

I will keep an eye on New Lattitudes on the TMM fleet and maybe I'll get to charter it next season :-). Are you doing the crossing this year or waiting until next fall?

Cheers, Nestor.
I also talked to Frank, I hope our experience is as good as his. New Lattitudes will arrive in Tortola March 2016, and will have all of the holding tanks. I am guessing that is an upgrade? lol
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Old 05-01-2016, 13:59   #10
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Well done BB! Hah, this is classic, well done for sticking with it. Of course the other boats had there engines running. They always do if they're going faster
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Old 05-01-2016, 15:36   #11
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

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Well done BB! Hah, this is classic, well done for sticking with it. Of course the other boats had there engines running. They always do if they're going faster
Attachment 116232
Thanks Monte.

Ha! That is specially true of the L400 that flew by. I am sure she had her engines on! :-)

Where are you guys this winter? Are you still in St Lucia? We'll be in Grenada/Grenadines the first week of March. If you are down there by then we'll stop by!
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Old 05-01-2016, 15:44   #12
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Hey BB, we're currently in Antigua about to enjoy some seclusion and kiting at nonsuch bay. No idea where we are headed yet. The plan changes every other day ☃ oh btw you just sailed past little harbour on the west end of peter island. One of our fave anchorages. Check it out next time, as well as snorkelling the Indians just to the south! BVIs are awesome!
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Old 05-01-2016, 15:57   #13
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

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Hey BB, we're currently in Antigua about to enjoy some seclusion and kiting at nonsuch bay. No idea where we are headed yet. The plan changes every other day ☃ oh btw you just sailed past little harbour on the west end of peter island. One of our fave anchorages. Check it out next time, as well as snorkelling the Indians just to the south! BVIs are awesome!
Ahhh I love Antigua. I will always remember it as "the place I learned to sail", which is not really true but that's where I did my RYA training.

We will check little harbour on Peter next time. We saw it and considered it instead of great harbour for our last night, but I saw that all the boats had a stern anchor towards the rocks. I thought that would be pushing my skills and luck, so we went with the moorings next door instead :-).
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Old 05-01-2016, 19:39   #14
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Yep, you can also anchor out in the middle a bit and swing. Basically that's all you do then reverse up to the nearest tree, rock or the dock and tie a line around.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:30   #15
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Re: First-time Charter in the BVI Report – BlueBuddha is a Skipper!

Buddha:
Any reason you decided to go with a cat for your BVI trip? Interested to hear your reasoning and how you like it (vs mono) with your future boats (charter or purchase).
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