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Old 23-08-2014, 22:35   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 5
Sunsail Bareboat in Belize

I signed on to this forum while looking for information about bareboat chartering in Belize.

We wound up doing a 7 day cruise with Sunsail out of Placencia, Belize the first week of August 2014.

First the good. The boat, a SunSail 44, was very comfortable for 3 or 4 couples though it can sleep 10 friendly people. The AC was nice to have at night. The specs say it can sail as close to the wind as “many a monohul” which is something of an exaggeration, in our experience. We were sailing within the barrier reef of Belize, a beautiful area with excellent snorkeling and a number of small islands. We had a wonderful time.

Once we made a reservation with SunSail for our bareboat cruise in Belize, any semblance of customer service vanished.

This was our first bareboat charter. However, we are experienced blue water sailors, meaning that we have provisioned our boat with the expectation that we would not see a grocery store for at least two months. Our cruise was only 7 days, but we knew there would be no provisions available once we left the dock.

I opted for the “Dine Afloat” provisioning package, which assumes that one will cook 3 dinners on board and eat 3 dinners at resorts we will visit on our cruise.

Turns out that there are very few resorts open in August in the area we would be visiting, which I learned not from SunSail but from a friend who had cruised the area several times. We should have been warned about this issue before we ordered our food.

A lot of critical information is missing from the provisioning lists. The “Dine Afloat” package has a list of general supplies included (dish detergent, olive oil, storage bags, spices, hot sauce, etc) but no information about sizes or quantities. How much dish detergent? I was told “a few ounces” and “14 ounces.” We were given a 12 or 14 ounce bottle, which was more that adequate. What is the size of the bottle of olive oil? I was told 6 ounces, 12 ounces, “a bottle”. We were given two bottles, can’t remember size, about 24 oz each. How much of which spices? I also wanted more detail about portion sizes (especially for meat), type of beef provided for fajitas (ground beef or steak). The boat comes with “a bag of ice”, no indication of the size. When I asked, I was told “a bag of ice.”

There is nothing in writing about whether we can drink water from the water tanks. I was told by my friend who had done a bareboat cruise in Belize as well as somebody at SunSail that we should consider the water in the tanks to be non-potable. I was also told that we can drink water from the water tanks. We bought bottled water for drinking.

I called and emailed, was given various names, phone numbers and emails, some of which were dead ends, and some of which might as well have been dead ends since the person at the other end clearly knew nothing. Once I was told that our reservation number didn’t exist.

At one point I emailed some questions and then waited 13 days for a response. Finally I called and emailed, following which there was a flurry of activity in response. I even got a phone call from a guy who said I could call him with questions. Next time I called him I was told to use the email, the one that took 13 days for a response.

The boat orientation, especially with respect to safety issues, was cursory. There were two fire extinguishers and we found evidence (in the locker with the gas tanks for the stove and BBQ) that there should have been a third. The two emergency life rafts were barely mentioned, as were the life vests.

It was fortunate that we planned to cook dinner our first night on board, while we were in the slip. The stove had no instructions for lighting it. The BBQ could not be lit at all – we had to ask for either long matches or a long igniter. There was no spatula: we were given a spatula for a BBQ. The potholders were so thin we had to double them to avoid burning our hands; one should have been discarded. The knives were appalling: next time somebody will bring sharp knives in a checked bag.

Worst of all was the freezer/refrigerator. The freezer was at about 32 degrees. Hamburger meat, shrimp and lobster were wrapped in plastic that leaked as the food thawed. Milk and cream spoiled. When the odor became too potent, we cleaned it, but the smell remained. Even though we had to throw out some food, we still had enough to eat.

We were supposed to check in with base by radio daily to report our location and to receive daily weather reports, both important because our trip was during hurricane season. Once we got about 20 miles out, we were unable to reach base. One day we got a relay to base for the weather, only to be told that their server was down; evidently nobody thought of making a phone call for a weather report.

Our last night was at anchor just outside the marina. At about 10 PM a squall came through and we dragged anchor, so we had a late-night anchor drill: upped anchor, re-anchored and put out the second anchor. The navigation system includes an anchor alarm, which can be heard only at the steering station, making it essentially useless. The only reason we knew we dragged was because two people were outside at the back of the boat. We had set the anchor in a mud bottom where there shouldn’t have been a problem, no idea why we dragged.

There were other issues: net hammocks would be better than the floor lockers for storing fruits and vegetables. We traveled throughout the tropics with such devices. We threw out a good deal of rotting fruit and vegetables from the lockers. Some extra line (rope) would have been handy. A trip line with float (a plastic bottle will do) for the second anchor makes it easier to raise. A seawater hose would be handy for washing down the anchor chain as it comes up from a muddy bottom.

Would I charter again with SunSail? Maybe. But you can bet I’ll bring decent knives, potholders, a lot more zip lock bags, including two sizes of freezer bags. I’ll examine and drop into sealed bags anything in the freezer that could leak as it thaws.

What I don’t know is whether these sorts of issues are standard for bareboat charters.

saltymum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24-08-2014, 01:38   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Cairns
Boat: Lagoon 470
Posts: 174
Re: Sunsail bareboat in Belize


what I cannot get to match is your statement about being experienced blue water sailors and the things you complain about here. Maybe a crewed charter would help next time???


Oliver L. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27-08-2014, 19:31   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 21
Re: Sunsail Bareboat in Belize


Very detailed debriefing report with excellent tips for the less experienced (meaning me), thank you.
Mattdwyerva is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 28-08-2014, 07:17   #4
Marine Service Provider

Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Clearwater, FL
Posts: 2
Re: Sunsail Bareboat in Belize

Hi All,

Just FYI the below message is now posted in Cruisers Forum as well as Trip Advisor.

“Hi Susan,

Thank you for your feedback and we’re very sorry to hear about the issues you’ve experienced – although we’re glad to hear you found the boat comfortable and enjoyed exploring Belize.

We are sorry that you didn’t have enough information about our provisioning packages. We know this is an area that we can improve in, and are working to make this information clearer on our website. We hope this will address the issues you had when booking provisioning.

We appreciate this was made worse by the fact that it took longer than usual for your queries to be answered. This was a temporary issue caused by a change in our systems – we’re sorry it caused delays to you, the new system will allow us to respond more quickly in future.

In terms of what resorts are open at that time of year, we share the information that is available to us. Some resorts will only stay open if they have reservations and some will still take walk in bookings. Unfortunately this makes it difficult for us to know what will be available.

We agree that it should be made more clear whether water is drinkable or not and will make sure this is clearly communicated to customers. We’ll also make sure our teams are giving enough information in the boat briefings.

We’ve raised all of the issues you mentioned with the local team and will work to make sure we provide a better experience in future and we would like work together with you to discuss this in more detail. If possible could you email me to set up a meeting with our executive team?

Kind regards,
Brittany Weatherby
North and South American Marketing Manager, Sunsail
britski1 is offline   Reply With Quote

bareboat, Belize, sail, belize

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