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Old 26-06-2020, 06:17   #1
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BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

Hello CF,

Looking for advice on our next charter. Bottom Line Up Front: If anyone has a recommended BVI itinerary that takes us to great snorkeling spots and only 1 or 2 shore excursions I would really appreciate it.

Last year at this time we were in French Polynesia on our first charter and have the itch to go somewhere this winter. I'm looking at the Exumas and BVI's because they're so close and flights are cheap.

Everyone I know who's sailed the Exumas say it's paradise. As I research the locations though I'm finding the distances may be too far for my wife and guests. If it was up to me, I'd sail the whole trip and never leave the boat, but that's a bit much for others. It seems the Exumas will require a lot of early morning departures and 20+ miles trips to the next location. And with only a 7 day trip, getting back up to Nassau requires some really long days. Add some bad weather to the mix and we could really get stuck.

Our trip to Tahiti was amazing but the long passage to and from Bora Bora, with some really sporty conditions, was too much for our guests. And we actually had to leave Bora Bora a day earlier than we wanted because winds were predicted to be 30+knots the next day and we had to get back. I'm trying to avoid this for our next trip.

So this led me to the BVI's. Everyone says great, easy sailing between islands that are nice and close. But when I research BVI's all I find is crowded anchorages with tacky beach bars and annoying tourists.

Is it possible to sail the BVI's and avoid these hot spots? 2 nights ashore for some good food and culture (local, authentic) would be great but the rest of the time we want beautiful anchorages and snorkeling. If my wife can jump off the boat and snorkel around some beautiful coral she'll be happy for hours.

I'm also open to other suggestions for places that are cheap to get to from the East Coast, with relatively easy sailing, and amazing snorkeling.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 26-06-2020, 06:23   #2
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

It's called the Bahamas.
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Old 26-06-2020, 06:45   #3
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

We’ve lived aboard in the Caribbean for four seasons. BVI is T shirt shops and beach bars. Prices for food can be excessive. We have stopped going there for these reasons and difficulties with officialdom. Look into Guadeloupe, Martinique, Antigua, Grenada for charter and diving. These places also have excellent eating options and shore excursion tours. If you primarily want to dive and snorkel then Bonaire is fabulous and has accommodations with dive shops. There may be charters from Curaçao, only 20 miles from Bonaire. The sea front boardwalk at Kralendijk is the best shallow snorkeling we’ve ever experienced. You can charter in Martinique and cruise to Portsmouth harbor in Dominica. Excellent hiking on the national parks trails and dive with Fabian at the PAYS pavilion at Portsmouth. Both Guadeloupe and Martinique have excellent French food and tours with many anchorages and dive sites.
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Old 26-06-2020, 07:02   #4
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

what Nicholson58 said. We found that the further south we went the less Jimmy Buffet it was.
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Old 26-06-2020, 07:09   #5
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

I agree with Nicholson. I was a charter skipper in the BVI's during the last of its heyday and before the hurricane.

It's not got what you're looking for at all anymore - more's the pity - although the sailing is pretty push-button and the distances are short, true.

That's all I'll say since I don't want to get into lamentations about a place I used to love so well...

Hope you have a great "next trip" ,
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Old 26-06-2020, 07:14   #6
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

Last year, we did an 8-day bareboat charter in the BVIs in late February. Yes many places have a bar scene, but you don't have to go there. And there were many locations where one could moor or anchor that were "bar-free". I think we only spent one evening ashore, at Anegada; every other evening we were on our boat, and our mooring was far enough out to be quiet. Ok, one 'pirate' afternoon at the bar in Leverick Bay, too. Arrrr.

Most mooring fields were full by end of day, but it seems that the other cruisers wanted quiet too, so we hardly noticed them. There were 6 of us on our boat... maybe we were the noisy ones.

Snorkelling was pretty good - especially The Caves (Norman Is) and the Rhone wreck - and we saw turtles in one bay, but much of the area's coral was damaged or lost in the hurricanes. Perhaps some of it has come back by now.

I regard the BVIs as the Disneyland of cruising: perfect water and wind, line-of-sight navigation between islands, safe locations with mooring balls, many bars and shops if you want them... and pricy. But you can still spend a fun week with lots of nature, scenery, snorkelling, beach time, and quiet evenings aboard, without the bar scene or shops. It was ideal for us as first-timers; more seasoned Caribbean charterers probably find it ho-hum.

[edit - i didn't mention the sailing! it was great, and if everyone's into it, you can put the pedal down, bury the leeward rail and have a few hours of exhilarating sailing every day. So great.]
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Old 26-06-2020, 08:44   #7
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

There are some amazing spots in the BVI's. Short day sails to each locations. Just stay away from the crowded anchorages. I'm like you, I'd stay on the boat and sail the entire time...
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Old 26-06-2020, 08:51   #8
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

Remember what Buckaroo Banzai said, "No matter where you go, there you are"... There's nothing inherently good or bad about any place, it's up to you to enjoy where you end up. Have a good positive attitude, and anywhere is good. If you don't like beach bars, then don't go to them, there are lots of other options in the BVI (or the Bahamas, and everywhere else too). Just go have fun, and don't sweat the small stuff.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
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Old 26-06-2020, 08:57   #9
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

Yes you can.
I could tell you where but then I’d have to shoot you.
A great thing about cruising is that if you are prepared to do your own research, you can find places not mentioned in the guide books. If you can read a chart, you will find them; if you can’t, you shouldn’t be there.
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Old 26-06-2020, 09:02   #10
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

I was a charter captain and had a sailing school in the BVI. Sailing and swimming is great. Diving OK in a few spots but not great. Easy to stay away from the isolated bar scene.
Comparing Tahiti to other places is like looking for good fishing after experiencing Alaska. You will always be disappointed.
Every place has it assets and liabilities. I think the BVI should be pretty quiet right now.
Nice people. Very safe. Expensive.
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Old 26-06-2020, 09:04   #11
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

I've been chartering in the BVI's as a kid with my folks, and then as an adult with my family. It's tough seeing the changes over the years. It's also tough watching the good folks there stagger after the double hurricanes and now the loss of revenue from loss of tourism from C19. It was heart breaking being down there right after Irma and having folks stop us in the street to actually thank us for being there and spending money.

The Bight on Norman Island welcomes Cruise ship launches and is no longer a lot of fun, but the mooring field is great and the caves etc are still interesting. The Rhone is still a great dive, as is Pelican Island and the Dogs. Anegada still is lower key, Little JVD is still good. Alternate anchorages on Cooper and Peter are good. Just look for the open beach without a mooring field and it's probably fine.

I guess, however, I'm still in love with the place. I love the excitement and fun at Soggys or Foxys. I love eating at a Pussers Restaurant. Not everyone can afford the lifestyle to be free and sailing for long stretches so they "try to cram lost years in 5 or 6 days" (Buffett). Try to be patient and understand the underlying release of joy. If you go there, try not to expect it to be something it's not. Try to enjoy it for the fun and energy and people watching. But if that's not your desire, it's probably not the right destination.
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Old 26-06-2020, 09:30   #12
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

The Abacos in the Bahamas. We have chartered with Cruise Abaco 3 times and sailed our oun boat thru the Abacos and Exumas and the islands down to Grenada. The Abacos is our favorite. You can sail 2 hours or 6 if you want. Great snorkeling and you can always find a nice place for a dinner or drink if you want.
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Old 26-06-2020, 09:36   #13
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

Wife and I lived in French Polynesia for four years (she is French) and we loved it. Then three years ago we moved to Martinique when a job with her government opened up there. We have a sailboat and I moved our boat there and we started to sail around the Caribbean. Unfortunately the Caribbean has in our opinion been ruined by overdevelopment. Much of the issue is unfortunately from the charter industry. Most of these tourist don’t really care much about sailing they just want their vessel to move them from one anchorage to the next. Loud music blasting, cheap rhum, and jet skis zooming around overcrowded anchorages. Your much better off in the eastern Caribbean then around the Virgin Islands. And the BVI’s are about as worse as it comes. Now I know there are some who are not going to agree with me, they are going to tell about finding secluded anchorage’s far away from beach bars blasting music all night and never a boat to be seen. The charter industry has developed to serve the demands of it paying customers and there are strict time restraints of these charters so it’s off to see all of Disneyland in one day so to speak. You might look for a charter taking you to the Grenadines. These islands offer a more authentic atmosphere with hundreds of spots to snorkel around reefs, see lots of sea turtles, catch a few fish while sailing between islands, less crowded anchorages and nice beaches for you to explore. I’m like you and would much rather be underway sailing around the islands then laying on the beach. Companies like Dream Yacht Charters for example offer nice Catamarans and some mono hulls out of Martinique to these islands. You have been to Polynesia, we are going back there...... almost nothing can compare to the South Pacific islands, nothing.....
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Old 26-06-2020, 09:39   #14
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

I'd add another vote for Guadeloupe or Martinique. I've had great charters at both. Your location says Annapolis if that's where you're leaving from a bummer is that the direct cheap flights that Norwegian air used to have from BWI ended so it's a longer trip with transfers to get to those islands from Maryland now.

Another idea to consider is Pureto Rico. We chartered out of there this past Feb and had a good time. Culebrita and Culebra were very nice and relatively quiet. We had a beautiful white sand beach to ourselves for a day at Culebrita. The winds cooperated so we also did sail down to St Croix and had a spectacular dive on the pier in Frederiksted (sea horses!!).

Easy and quick to get to from the US east cost too.
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Old 26-06-2020, 09:50   #15
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Re: BVI's without the tacky bar scene?

Go to Martinique and then the Grenadines.
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