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Old 17-06-2014, 16:27   #1
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Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

Hi all,

Looking to charter in the Caribbean for the first time and trying to choose between these 2 destinations. We are looking to charter a catamaran. I can get a Lagoon 420 in Marsh Harbour for the same price that I can get a Lagoon 38 in Tortola, but I don't want that to be the deciding factor. Where is it more beautiful? Better snorkeling? Better scuba diving? Better sailing? More authentic towns rather than resorts? We'd rather anchor for free, rather than pay for a ball every night.

Where is it more beautiful? Photos on Google Images seem more exotic for Tortola, is that the reality?

Timing: we are going 1st November for 2 weeks, is it gonna be warm and nice? I hope we won't need a wetsuit? Jacket at night? Hopefully not during the say!!?

Thanks!
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Old 17-06-2014, 17:39   #2
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

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Originally Posted by welljim View Post
Hi all,

Looking to charter in the Caribbean for the first time and trying to choose between these 2 destinations. We are looking to charter a catamaran. I can get a Lagoon 420 in Marsh Harbour for the same price that I can get a Lagoon 38 in Tortola, but I don't want that to be the deciding factor.

Where is it more beautiful? BVI

Better snorkeling? BVI

Better scuba diving? BVI

Better sailing? BVI

More authentic towns rather than resorts? Abacos

We'd rather anchor for free, rather than pay for a ball every night. Abacos, though there are opportunities for anchoring vs moorings in BVI if you look for them.

Where is it more beautiful? Photos on Google Images seem more exotic for Tortola, is that the reality? Yes

Timing: we are going 1st November for 2 weeks, is it gonna be warm and nice? Yes in the BVI, "probably" in the Abacos.

I hope we won't need a wetsuit? For snorkeling, a shorty in Abacos, nothing in BVI.

Jacket at night? BVI - nope. Abacos - depends on when the odd front comes through.

Hopefully not during the day!!? Generally, no. .

Thanks!
My opinions in blue.
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Old 17-06-2014, 17:45   #3
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

First the Bahamas are not in the Caribbean. Second it can be cold in Abaco in November. In BVI it's 84 degrees. Snorkeling is better in Abaco but you'll have to go north and not hang around Marsh Harbour. For a first time charter BVI is a much better, nicer winds, easier sailing.
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Old 17-06-2014, 20:29   #4
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

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First the Bahamas are not in the Caribbean ----
LOL. Thanks Rick, I used to try to convince people of that but it never worked so I've given up.
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Old 17-06-2014, 20:36   #5
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

I love the abacos. But the advice you've been given so far is spot on, imho.


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Old 17-06-2014, 22:45   #6
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

I'd add that a one week charter would be enough in the BVI but two weeks will get you to the far north in Abacos. And take pressure off navigating the Whale although a cat probably would't have to worry about that.

The BVI is pretty crowded, Abacos, in most places, isn't.

My advice is try the BVI, then Abacos. There are some great reefs in Abacos but you need very detailed charts to figure out where to anchor and how to dingy to some of them. Feel free to PM me about Abacos and charts. We got good ones (I never, never trust the charter company's charts) and it was well worth it.

I loved Abacos but wouldn't want to sail a keel boat there again.
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Old 18-06-2014, 00:46   #7
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

Thanks a lot everyone, very helpful.

so how far north in Abaco to get better snorkeling than BVI? Up to, say Pensacola Cay, Strangers Cay, Grand Cay? How much better would the snorkeling be compared to BVI, is it worth it?

I'm looking at Navionics, it seems that the west side of Great Abaco is not charted to any usable detail, is that true, or just Navionics playing up?

When around the Abacos, I take it that navigation usually takes place within the shallow area, not past the Bahama shelf to E / NE (if it is even called like that)? Basically we'll be in 3-15 feet of water the entire 2 weeks, navigating around rocks and other hazards, is that right? Does that offer any opportunity to actually sail, or are we going to be motoring most of the time?

What are your favorite places / towns / anchorages in the BVI and Abacos, I can try finding pictures online about places that people loved, to get an idea of how they differ.

I take it that Abacos is cheaper to provision / eat out?

And the killer question? Does Abacos feel like a foreign exotic place, or does it just feel like an extension of Miami!!!????

Many thanks!
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Old 18-06-2014, 04:07   #8
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

Just ask yourself why can I get on larger charter boat in the Abacos for the same price?
Abacos much like Florida, good chance of a cold front in November, Albacos better for motoring than sailing.
Reefs are better for diving in the Abacos but BVI's win out overall in my opinion In fact I would never return to the Abacos but maybe Tortola despite the many boats......much more charming!!
Of course you may get rain in November maybe even a Hurricane.
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Old 18-06-2014, 07:17   #9
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

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Originally Posted by welljim View Post
Thanks a lot everyone, very helpful.

so how far north in Abaco to get better snorkeling than BVI? Up to, say Pensacola Cay, Strangers Cay, Grand Cay? How much better would the snorkeling be compared to BVI, is it worth it?

You have to go north of Green Turtle. The snorkeling in Abaco is much better than BVI

I'm looking at Navionics, it seems that the west side of Great Abaco is not charted to any usable detail, is that true, or just Navionics playing up?

Navionics is crap. Not to be trusted in the Bahamas. Use only Explorer charts.

When around the Abacos, I take it that navigation usually takes place within the shallow area, not past the Bahama shelf to E / NE (if it is even called like that)? Basically we'll be in 3-15 feet of water the entire 2 weeks, navigating around rocks and other hazards, is that right? Does that offer any opportunity to actually sail, or are we going to be motoring most of the time?

Sail all the time. Navigate by the starfish on the bottom. Although shallow depths are not a problem. You can tell the depths from the colour of the water.

What are your favorite places / towns / anchorages in the BVI and Abacos, I can try finding pictures online about places that people loved, to get an idea of how they differ.

I take it that Abacos is cheaper to provision / eat out?

Definitely not. Food (and beer) is much cheaper in BVI. Quality of restaurant food is better too.

And the killer question? Does Abacos feel like a foreign exotic place, or does it just feel like an extension of Miami!!!????

I always say to newbies if you like Miami you'll love Abaco. You will be cruising in the most Americanized part of Bahamian cruising grounds. But there is a unique Bahamian element to it.

Many thanks!
I think Abaco offers a much different experience from BVI if you're looking for a "foreign" place. There will be much more interaction with the locals. You will find the BVI charterworld is essentially English/American.
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Old 18-06-2014, 07:32   #10
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

I don't think you can go wrong. You should eventually go to both places.

You'll enjoy either one you end up going to.
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Old 18-06-2014, 08:04   #11
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

Go with the BVI - for all the reasons given above.

November is nice and warm and the diving there is excellent. No wet suit needed, certainly not a jacket. We have often been on boats with A/C and used it. There's a great dive book - scroll down the following page - Sales Page BVI books

This makes it incredibly easy for experienced divers to dive the sites themselves. I think you'd have a harder time doing the same thing in the Bahamas. Not to mention you don't have to go too far to get the tanks refilled.

Two weeks in the BVI is a great first trip too. You can even head over to St. John in the USVI for a few days.

For more info, I'd recommend checking out Traveltalkonline - a site dedicated to travelling to these destinations. Also take a look at discount charters on Sailonline.com - might be too late to get owners time now, but worth checking out.
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Old 18-06-2014, 08:30   #12
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

We just returned from a 10-day charter in the Abacos after three previous charters in the BVI/USVIs. Both destinations have pros and cons.

For what it's worth, I think the BVIs are more beautiful and the sailing is very straightforward (easy, line of sight navigation to mostly mountainous islands). The nightlife is better, there are more restaurant options and facilities (gas and water). Availability of mooring balls is extensive if/when that's preferred. It was a very easy place for us to start chartering.

We spent our honeymoon in the Abacos 13 years ago so it will always be a special place for us. But this past trip was our first charter (other trips were land-based) so it gave me the chance to have a different experience. I think the Abacos feel more like a small-town (not at all like Miami). We met many locals, watched a Junkanoo parade, and listened to the Cruiser's Net every morning to hear the community news. The water is spectacular, but the land is flat and scrubby. Mooring balls are limited so we anchored almost every night, with not as much access to bars/restaurants.

We've had great snorkeling in both the BVIs and the Abacos. The BVIs have the Indians and caves at Norman Island, Cistern Rock at Cooper, the reef outside of Saba Rock in North Sound. The Abacos have the reef at Sandy Cay (the best snorkeling in the northern Bahamas), Fowl Cay and Johnny's Cay reefs. My husband have dived in both places and rates them pretty equal, aside from the Wreck of the Rhone in the BVIs.

We have been to both the BVIs and the Abacos during November and both were very windy. The daytime temps were comfortable - definitely not too cold - but the BVIs would likely be warmer than the Abacos at that time of year.

You will enjoy either place - we plan to visit both again!

Amy
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Old 21-06-2014, 18:01   #13
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

Navionics is crap. Not to be trusted in the abacos. Use only explorer charts or steve dodges abaco cruising guide.

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Old 21-06-2014, 20:15   #14
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

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Navionics is crap. Not to be trusted in the abacos. Use only explorer charts or steve dodges abaco cruising guide
Navionics is really good actually, we've used it several times in the inside passage which is notorious for challenging navigation, and we've found it impressively accurate and a pleasure to use, certainly more user-friendly than our very expensive chart plotter or our collection of paper charts.

If a Navionics user who understands that it's nothing but "crap", has actually used it in the Abacos or BVI and can offer some details on the completeness of its charts for the particular areas (which might indeed be problematic), that would be very useful information and well appreciated (please include chart version as they are updated regularly).

Generic Navionics haters who want to express how much they dislike technology and all, please refrain from hijacking this thread and start a new one titled appropriately, or join an existing one.

Thanks
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Old 22-06-2014, 15:20   #15
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Re: Marsh Harbour Vs Tortola

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Originally Posted by welljim View Post
Navionics is really good actually, we've used it several times in the inside passage which is notorious for challenging navigation, and we've found it impressively accurate and a pleasure to use, certainly more user-friendly than our very expensive chart plotter or our collection of paper charts.

If a Navionics user who understands that it's nothing but "crap", has actually used it in the Abacos or BVI and can offer some details on the completeness of its charts for the particular areas (which might indeed be problematic), that would be very useful information and well appreciated (please include chart version as they are updated regularly).

Generic Navionics haters who want to express how much they dislike technology and all, please refrain from hijacking this thread and start a new one titled appropriately, or join an existing one.

Thanks
Just search a few threads and you'll see why folks that cruise the Bahamas say Navionics is crap. I have had chartplotters with Navionics for ten years in the Bahamas now and believe me, it's crap. Unfortunately my boat came with a Raymarine chartplotter and they take Navionics chips. I have corresponded extensively with Navionics on this matter, but they have yet to assure me that the errors I pointed out to them have been corrected. In fact I recently used the latest Navionics chip of the Bahamas and it is worse than the one I got ten years ago because they have had to remove proprietary data that they "borrowed".

Again, as far as the Bahamas is concerned, Navionics is crap. If you read the threads you will understand that we are talking about the Bahamas, the subject of your original post. It is not generic Navionics haters, it's a fact that that their Bahamas chip has many serious errors. They refuse to pay for Explorer data which is the best you can get for the Bahamas. Garmin and C-Map use Explorer data. I think that if you intend to sail in the Bahamas you should take kindly to the warning about Navionics chips rather than posting and implying we are " generic Navionics haters". I have no idea how accurate Navionic chips may be in other areas but I do know that as far as the Bahamas goes, Navionics is crap.
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