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Old 09-02-2010, 09:48   #1
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Just Got Back from BVI Course

BVI – Learn to Cruise

My husband and I just returned from the BVIs on Sunday afternoon. We were on a Learn to Cruise course on a Beneteau 39. Although the boat was chartered through Sunsail, the course was arranged through the Ottawa Sailing School which is in our part of the world. We priced other courses and after US to Cdn $ conversion and the advantage of meeting another couple at our home marina, we opted for this course. The instructor is also from around here and affiliated to the school.

Although I don’t like to call it a vacation because that would preclude me from another trip south this year, it was the single most expensive out of country trip we have ever taken (on a per person basis) – after you add everything up. This is in Canadian dollars of course. The boat course was one week long, we went down two days early for a bit of relaxation and stayed overnight in San Juan, Puerto Rico on the way home.

$ 4570.00 for the course ($2285.00 pp)
$ 1746.12 airfare
$ 500.00 cash for spending money – all gone
$ 391.77 two nights Icis Villas in Tortola (breakfast included)
$ 135.62 San Juan hotel
$ 150ish for extra meals on our credit card (I haven’t added up the receipts)

Grand total of $7500 for 10 days in paradise. Paradise was beautiful.

The course costs included some meals. The instructor spent somewhere around $600 USD to provision the boat for five adults over seven days. (That is almost our entire monthly grocery bill at home for three adults and three children). We ate four dinners ashore which were not part of the provisioning and this ate up most of our spending money, along with cab fares. The instructor picked the restaurants as well as the islands we visited so we didn’t have much say in that. He was certainly not a budget cruiser, a cruiser on a budget, saving for his cruising kitty or travelling on his own coin. We visited Anegada where the lobster dinner was $50.00. How could we not have the lobster? Fortunately my husband was a little seasick that day so we shared a plate, most of which I had to finish. Wifely duty.

Three planes to get from Ottawa to Beef Island. Took us all day to get there (0330 hours left house, 2100 hours arrived at hotel). Some people we met said to fly to St Martin then to BVI. Next time.

We did not buy any souvenirs but $60 went to boat booze. I thought we would dinghy to most places but the instructor thought a 5 buck ride in a cab was the way to go. There was only one $5 ride and that was one way per person. Other rides ranged from $10 up per person per way. So the minimum we spent was $20 bucks as a couple each time we went ashore. Frustrating thing was we could see our destination from the mooring. Aside from the Baths and the beach on the North side of Anegada, we could have dinghied and docked.

The experience was great! We’ll have to sit down soon and discuss our next step. Originally, we were planning to charter in the BVI again, on a small boat, just the two of us. Semi-familiar waters. Make all our mistakes without the children. Though given the expense and inconvenience of getting to BVI from Canada, I think we should charter in the Bahamas which is a direct flight. It is rated a Level 1 (easiest) sailing area through Sunsail. And I think we should take the kids. Maybe get a skipper for the first day.

The first few days of the course were a bit surreal. We didn’t know the Instructor or the other couple prior to arriving and although the other couple was great, being on someone else’s itinerary and budget was a bit frustrating for us. I want to experience what cruising is like with my family, at our pace, with our goals. So I say let’s jump in with both feet. Are we ready? The only way we’ll learn is by doing. We’re not reckless, maybe even boringly cautious. And there is a Sailshare program at our marina and we will sign up for this spring and gain some experience over the summer. Atlhough the boats are 22 and 26 foot keelboats with tillers.

On a side note:
We were all shocked at how crammed in the boats were at Wickham’s Cay 2. Cats and monos squeezed into tiny spaces, fenders screeching every time the staff docked another boat and made space where we thought there was none. Through the amazingly clear water at our moorings we could see the slimy green and barnacled underside of our boat clearly. I felt frustrated for the owner when I saw the scrape marks in the veneer on the walls of our cabin and the staining on the cockpit table. It also never crossed my mind that an adult would think that the trampoline on the catamaran was for jumping on, until I saw a man jumping up and down on one, vigorously testing it out. I now see clearly why there is such caution against purchasing boats out of a charter fleet. And although my husband and I treated the boat as we would if it were our own, we were aware that it was kind of a pointless respect.

Anyway, I didn't mean for this to be a long post but I thought I'd share my experience.
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:03   #2
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Thanks for the report. I am headed that way on Sunday.

You mentioned the crowded marinas. How were the anchorages and mooring fields?

The budget figures are very useful.

I am assuming you took a CYA course. You should give the West Coast of Canada a try. Take a Coastal Navigation course in Ottawa and then take in the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound or the Broughtons.

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Old 09-02-2010, 10:13   #3
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Last I knew of you can go into St Thomas and ferry to Tortolla and save a lot on the overpriced plane ride out of San Juan. That smoked lobster dinner on Anegada cost us $75 a person 2 years ago. I love the entire BVI but is seems to me they think that everyone visiting there has limitless funding. Maybe that's all they want to visit there. My next trip will be in my own sailboat out of Corpus Christi. I'll do it my way. Cheers!
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:16   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pappy Chris View Post
... My next trip will be in my own sailboat out of Corpus Christi. I'll do it my way. Cheers!
Great for you! I can't make our numbers work faster no matter how I move the columns around.
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:21   #5
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I can appreciate that.... I'm still in the relocation phase of the plan. My wife isalready in CC and I'm still here in the freezer in Kansas. Uggggg
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:25   #6
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Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
Thanks for the report. I am headed that way on Sunday.

You mentioned the crowded marinas. How were the anchorages and mooring fields?

The budget figures are very useful.

I am assuming you took a CYA course. You should give the West Coast of Canada a try. Take a Coastal Navigation course in Ottawa and then take in the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound or the Broughtons.

Jack
Have a great time!

The instructor was pretty insistent that we get into the mooring field by 1300 to be sure of a ball. Even that early, each day as we arrived, we were picking up one of the last balls. Aside from Leverick Bay (Virgin Gorda) which had most of the balls still free at dusk.

Anchorages were the same. And I am embarassed to admit that we were on a boat that anchored too close to another. I was surprised the instructor insisted there was enough room when I thought we were too close. The catamaran owner we anchored beside shared my opinion. He watched us with a look, upped his own anchor a short time later and left his spot. Then we had enough room. IMHinexperiencedO.

And yes, it was CYA. Coastal Nav is the next course on our list. Thanks for your recommendations.
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Old 10-02-2010, 01:18   #7
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Regarding pricing in the BVI - the locals pay just as much for groceries as do the sailors. But I did find that when it comes food the BVI is at the top end of the scale and the price-quality ratio is generally quite low; while just 80 miles upwind you have St. Martin which has some of the best food and the stores are stocked with high-quality raw materials at good prices!
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:19   #8
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I would look into Florida Yacht Charters in Miami. I use to charter there, and then go over to the Bahamas with very little restrictions. Chartering in the Bahamas may leave you restricted? You type about cost. How was the fun?.......i2f
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:45   #9
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hey, you could spend $ 800 a night in a hotel here for ten days.....and have nothing to show for your $8K when you left but a sunburn.

We did four ASA courses starting in Red Hook, over to Tortola, Normans, etc. in a week on a cat in early December, and the moorings were not crowded at all. You picked the busiest time of the year.

Still had a good time, though, didn't ya.
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Old 15-02-2010, 07:44   #10
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Yes absolutely! We had a good time. Though I am looking forward to doing it on our own.

BVI was beautiful. The sailing was lots of fun. Pretty much what we expected. It was the down time that didn't really meet our expectations. The timelines, the set itinerary, the beaten tourist path.

The timelines were not to maximize sailing. And the itinerary and beaten path were things we tend to avoid.

Happy to have it under our belt. Can we charter on our own now? ??
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Old 15-02-2010, 07:47   #11
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hey, you could spend $ 800 a night in a hotel here for ten days.....and have nothing to show for your $8K when you left but a sunburn.

We did four ASA courses starting in Red Hook, over to Tortola, Normans, etc. in a week on a cat in early December, and the moorings were not crowded at all. You picked the busiest time of the year.

Still had a good time, though, didn't ya.

What company?
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Old 15-02-2010, 08:47   #12
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We went with Fair Winds. I researched the heck out of it, which I tend to do to everything. To excess. Fair Winds was reasonable, and at the time we finally called them for schedule they had a lot of open weeks in November and December. We went with the early December, thinking most people would be otherwise engaged that soon after Thanksgiving and ramping up into the Christmas marketing frenzies.

We sailed, sailed, and sailed some more. By the time we got to the end of the day and were practicing picking up mooring balls, we were ready for Rum thirty. And we didn't just sail in and grab a mooring ball. We would get close enough to tap one with the boat hook, and then our instructor would point at another one fifty yards away and tell us "Good job. NOW go set up for that one." One day there at Little Jost van Dyke we went all the way through anchoring. Then we pulled the anchor and motored down to the next spot and picked up a mooring. So you see, there were plenty moorings to pick from.

Now, one of the reasons we went with Fair Winds was because they were willing to let us reserve the whole boat. It was just the two of us ( yeah, "The Admiral" and me) and the instructor on a Leopard 42. We paid some extra for this, of course, but we had already decided that we wanted to know what it was to run a boat short handed with just the two of us. Impossible of course, as we had the instructor there too. But he laughed when we finally let him take the wheel, which I think was on Thursday. We didn't want six other students on board. Despite the best of intentions, you cannot find out what it's like to run the boat just the two of you if there are six other willing pairs of hands all around you. Besides, they need THEIR time at the wheel, boathook, winches, dinghy etc. this was not going to be our cruising experience, we are limited to four hands and a little dog that would like to be helpful if he but only had opposable thumbs......or so he says.

So we got soaked in it. The first day coming out of Red Hook headed for Maho we tacked 36 times. By the end of day one I knew a whole lot about not letting the sheet run through your fingers. And I mean that. Not just in the abstract:


IF we had a bunch of other students on the boat, what would have happened now? Well, what would have happened is that I would have spent the rest of the week doing something else that didn't involve handling lines or anything that touched burnt fingertips. But it being just the two of us, what actually happened is that I had to keep working the winches, hoisting the main, hauling up the dinghy, hurt fingers and all. Gosh. Just like for real. Nobody to spell me. Do you think I learned THAT lesson? Oh yeah. I didn't do it again, I tell ya.

Another advantage of the December timing was that we got the "Christmas Winds", and learned to sail in 20-30 kts, every day. Doing 11 kts in that 42 footer became our normal day. One reef or two? It's not abstract to us now. It's how we learned.

We were able to jaunt off the beaten path when we wanted. For example, on one windy day we circumnavigated Jost for the heck of it. Way out into the Atlantic, in some attention getting seas, and on the other side there was not a sailboat in sight. Cats handle funny in a large, following sea on a broad reach. Its one thing to read it, another to spend a day in it in the open Atlantic.

So, we feel we got the best experience and learning environment that we could arrange. We had the instructor to ourselves the entire week. We learned, as closely as we could, what it would be like with just the two of us on board for every task from cooking to clearing immigration. yeah, it cost a few extra bucks to have the boat to ourselves, but since the whole purpose of this was to learn how us two old fogeys would do sailing a catamaran without a crew...we felt it was worth every penny.



Only three people on board a boat with two heads means no waiting. SOMEbody's gonna be at the helm ha ha.
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Old 15-02-2010, 12:06   #13
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We have done the BVI charter and had a blast. 2 years later we were deciding if we REALLY wanted to go cruising, so before we "sold the farm" we went on a trip with Western Grace from San Francisco to Cabo. Took 3 weeks and really gave us an idea of what it would be like.
Prices are pretty good, and they do have the cruiser mindset when it come to budgets. HIGHLY recommended!
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Old 15-02-2010, 14:37   #14
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NotJustDreaming,

I don't want to sound like a smart-aleck, but you took a "How to cruise" course and didn't practice piling into the dink, finding a dinghy dock and walking to a nearby restaurant? In the BVIs?

If that is the case, someone owes you guys a bit of a refund/credit towards your next cruise - er - course.

Fair Winds,
Mike
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Old 15-02-2010, 14:56   #15
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We ate three dinners on the boat, and the other four nights we did exactly that. Ran the dinghy in during the daylight. Ate dinner, had a few drinks, and then headed back out into an artificial and low ceiling of anchor lights into the darkness, getting splashed and soaked and trying to figure out where we left the boat. A lot of those things look the same in the dark.

Came home with a good t-shirt collection. Sidney's Peace and Love...Molly's, Willie T....
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