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Old 11-03-2010, 08:19   #1
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St. Martin to Tortola Bareboat

I have a last-minute offer from VPM-Bestsail to charter a Sun Odyssey 36i for 7 days, one way from St. Martin to Tortola. I was going to just sail around St. Martin/Anguilla/St Barts, but this offer is too good to pass up.

I'd be interested if anyone has thoughts on:

1. VPM Bestsail: anyone charter from them?
2. The passage from St. Martin to Tortola (one day passage, pretty much downwind, right?)
3. Two people on a 36i. Both ASA 101/103, Seamanship, piloting and advanced piloting courses (power squadron). First time sailing in Caribbean, but I have experience coastal sailing in Southern CA. I have Doyle's book.

Thanks

Jerry
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Old 11-03-2010, 08:53   #2
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The crossing between St. Martin and the BVI can be hairy or it can be relatively easy sailing.

Yes, you should have the wind from an aft quarter (anywhere from NE to SE) for the passage. It's about 100 miles, so about 15 hours.

Currents in the Anegada Passage are fluky. They can run N or S as well as W, so you need to watch your navigation. A good place to enter the BVI is thru the Salt Island Passage.

Last time I crossed we had NE winds at 35-40 knots (during a period of Christmas Winds). Just ran under a partially rolled up genoa, which provided good speed and relative comfort in the heavy seas. Usually, though, you won't encounter anything like this. Thundersqualls can be violent, especially in summer, but most pass quickly. Occasionally, they hang around and provide you with lots of entertainment and puckering :-)

Have fun,

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Old 11-03-2010, 12:59   #3
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Thanks for the advice. It looks like I could stop at Virgin Gorda and shave an hour or so off my passage time, then continue on to Tortola the next day. Where would you look to anchor after a long passage?
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Old 11-03-2010, 13:02   #4
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North Sound has numerous mooring fields. If you wish to anchor, try just west of Mosquito Island.
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Old 11-03-2010, 14:08   #5
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I've done the trip 5 or 6 times. We leave St. Maarten either at about 5AM or at dusk and make the trip in about 12 hours. There can be Northerly swells. There is also alot of big boat traffic at night as the cruise ships and tankers make the trip the other way at night. We usually clear in at West End.
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Old 11-03-2010, 14:13   #6
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As a bonus you will have the currents helping you; it's just over 90 miles so if you leave early (first light at 0500) and maintain 7 knots SOG you can do the crossing in daylight (motorsail if required to maintain the 7 knots. I do not think the charterco will allow you to sail at night.
Going the other way (never done this) is probably a lot more challencing (against wind and water).
Virgin Gorda is nice but will not save you a lot of time.
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Old 11-03-2010, 14:23   #7
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I would NOT choose Virgin Gorda as a first stop.

Virgin Gorda is ringed by reefs on the north side, and the passage thru Neckar Is. can be hazardous, especially for newbies. To the south, there are no good closeby entrances from the ocean which are easy to navigate.

Also, the only check-in on Virgin Gorda is at the airport which is not near any overnite anchorages. The Baths are NOT a good overnite anchorage.

Your best bet is either Salt Island Passage or Round Rock Passage. I prefer the former. If you must stop, you could round to the south and stop in one of the bays in Peter Island, but you can't go ashore. Probably better to carry on to Road Town and clear customs and immigration.

It would be good to plan your trip so as to arrive in plenty of daylight.

Bill
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Old 12-03-2010, 04:02   #8
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I usually do the run from St. Martin to the BVI overnight; leaving around 3am-ish for an easy downwind run after getting sufficient sleep. The passage is always fast, but can be uncomfortable due to swell. As mentioned earlier in the thread, don't enter the BVI anywhere except Salt Island or Round Rock (I usually use Round Rock, which also has the advantage of being able to use the lights on Cooper Island if entering at night). I dislike clearing in at Road Town, since getting ashore is a bit of a hassle, but the BVI immigration office on Virgin Gorda is simple to get to (moor or anchor outside of Spanish Town, dinghy in an pull the dinghy up the beach and 50 yards further you have C&I). Don't try to cut between Virgin Gorda and Fallen Jerusalem - I was there two years ago when a French cruising family tried that at night and lost not only their boat but the life of their 2-year old child! Going north of Virgin Gorda and staying south of the Anegada reefs looks easy on the chart, but there is a reason why there are over 300 wrecks off Anegada (see ANEGADA ISLAND, BVI - SHIPWRECKS for a list of some of them).

I've done that trip many times and only on my last one did I have an AIS and was really surprised at the amount of heavy shipping traffic going N/S along that stretch of ocean, AIS showed me their information while my radar hadn't even picked them up and the old Mark-III eyeball systeme didn't even have a chance. In addition, all the cruise ships traverse that passage as well, and they throttle down to 8 - 12 knots so that they stay in international waters longer and can keep the casinos open. I've spent a couple of hours paralleling a cruise ship at about a mile while squalls and thunderstorms came by and reduced visibility and it was rather frightening since in that clutter I'm sure I wasn't visible on their radar.

So it is worthwhile to keep a good lookout on the trip, be it day or night. But it is always an easy downhill run - unlike the trip uphill to St. Martin, which I consider to be among the more uncomfortable passages in the Caribbean.
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Old 12-03-2010, 05:18   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Virgin Gorda is ringed by reefs on the north side, and the passage thru Neckar Is. can be hazardous, especially for newbies.

Bill
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Old 12-03-2010, 10:59   #10
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I can't resist telling our story on the BVI to St. Martin trip. We waited for a good weather shot to go, just a couple of days. We left Spanish Town in a fresh breeze, which layed down when the sun went down. It went dead flat, with no seas at all. We had to motor, which was a concern due to a fuel filter problem. We kept the engine speed around 2000 rpm. There was no moon, but crystal clear night. The stars went from the heavens, to the horizon and reflected on the flat seas so that stars came right to the hull of the boat. It was a night of awe and romance.(wink-wink). A voyage you really didn't want to end, probably the best night sail we ever had.

Next day radioed two boats back in the BVI and told them about the trip. They came the next night and got really beat up.

The biggest concern is the number of ships, but then again, all you have to do is follow them in.
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Old 12-03-2010, 17:36   #11
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You guys are the best! Nothing like first hand knowledge. I plan on leaving at first light as sigmasailor advises. I'm sure the charter co will tell me where they want me to check in. I now feel much more confident about what I'm getting into.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
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Old 06-09-2010, 15:24   #12
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Your experience with VPM?

Hello Jerry Woodward

Did you undertake your trip to BVI with a VPM boat? what was your experience with VPM?

Thanks.
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Old 07-09-2010, 10:33   #13
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Yes, I did a bareboat with VPM and it was great. They are located in Anse Marcel on St Martin, one of the prettiest anchorages in St Martin, IMO. Small operation, personal service. Their website is not very useful, but I negotiated directly with them by email, got a great last minute price on a 2009 Sun Odyssey 36. They wanted it to be one-way to Tortola, so I was able to negotiate an even lower price. We sailed around St Martin/Anguilla/St Barts for most of the week, then departed on an overnight sail to Tortolla on the 5th night. It was a magical, down wind run under a full moon. We did have a problem with the electrical on the boat. There was only one house battery, and I couldn't keep it charged with running the engine. I phoned VPM from St Barts, and they had a guy meet us in Simpson Bay with a new battery. This was nice, because they accomodated us. Simpson Bay is on the opposite side of the island from the Anse Marcel, and that was our intended jumping off point for Tortolla. I picked up their guy from the beach in my dinghy and he installed a new battery and gave us a second spare. That night we left for Tortolla with a fresh battery, however in spite of running the engine periodically, the battery steadily discharged to the point that it was totally dead by the time I entered the BVI (I suspect it was a bad alternator). This didn't bother me too much, because it was the end of our trip, and I had a back-up GPS, paper charts, and hand held VHF to get me through the rest of the day and into Hodges Creek marina on Tortolla. This was my first bareboat charter, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I found the VPM people friendly and responsive. I also liked the personal feel of a small operation. I walked around the Moorings docks in Oyster pond and that is a huge operation by comparison. I am going to charter with VPM again in November. If you go with them, please use my name and tell them that I recommended them.

Pictures of the trip are posted here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceanshots/sets/72157623857552826/show/

and a youtube video:
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Old 07-09-2010, 16:03   #14
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I have recently done the St. Martin to Tortola via the Salt Island Passage then on to Road Town. It was very easy and we did it all in daylight. All downwind and you rocket along. We managed to see some breaching whales in the passage.
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Old 09-09-2010, 14:01   #15
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Gotta love the catamaran in the video, beating to windward flying only the headsail, which is luffing...
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