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
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
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.