You know we love the BVI but we also love sailing and chartering so we made the tough decision to leave our families, home and friends and head south for the summer where the borders are open (but with strict health protocols) and this is the story of our trip on our classic sailboat "Gwendolyn".
We departed the BVI on a beautiful afternoon tacking up the St.Francis Drake channel, music playing with great excitement for the adventure ahead, we knew this first 24 hrs would be the toughest leg of our journey south, the direct route to St.Vincent would be around 370 miles offshore with a wind angle of about 60 degrees also fighting a west-ward setting current of between 1 and 2 knots, as the performance of the boat was really an unknown to us we decided to take the conservative option of keeping close to land and Island hopping down to give us a chance if anything went wrong with the ship!, what we really did not know was how fast we could sail to windward, 1-2 knots against you is ok if you can sail at 9 knots in a catamaran but if you could only make 3 knots forward and 2 knots sideways that could be a problem!
As the sun set that night we were treated to a huge full moon rising from the east lighting up the sea with a magical platinum hue, in fact we had good light most of the night and light winds from the south-east giving us a fairly easy but slow motor-sail east against wind and current towards St.Martin, its always a tough slog eastwards getting out of the Virgin Islands, I never look forward to the trip, the fastest I have done it is around 9 hours on our old charter boat " Adastra" motoring in very light winds, this leg took us a long 26 hrs of motoring with one reef in the main and the stay-sail sheeted hard in, in the end it was uneventful apart from a small diesel leak from the engine but nothing that was going to stop our trip, a quick vacuum with the wet-vac every 12 hours was enough to keep us moving, what was to become a problem was our fuel tank site and fuel consumption, I had vastly underestimated the consumption on our tiny 29hp Yanmar diesel, it was supposedly 1/3 gall an hour but it turns out we were using more like 3/4 gall per hour, probably caused by the engine working so hard to push our 18 tons of ferro-cement hull through the water.
The land that time forgot
After a reasonable nights rest in the lee of French St, Matin we turned South-South-East and headed for the Windwards, so called as they are generally a windward slog from the Northern Caribbean Islands, we had a good forecast of 12-15 knots from the NE giving us our first sail just off the wind in open ocean on Gwendolyn, she did not disappoint us a beautiful sail down to St.Kitts and Nevis under a clear blue sky with near perfect weather conditions, I realized that to sail in the Ocean on Gwendolyn we would need more wind as we only made 5 knots over the ground fighting 1 knot of Westward setting current but I was happy that we had virtually no water over the deck a completely dry and comfortable ride on our 40 year old concrete sail-boat, we settled into life at 40 degrees angle and managed to cook some of our pre-prepared meals on our ancient "Clarke" paraffin stove.
We were making good progress at around 6 pm I did consider briefly finding a safe anchorage and sleeping close to land for the night but St.Kitts and Nevis Wass closed to recreational traffic and I did not want to get into trouble with the coast-guard so we carried on, motored down the coast of the big Island of St.Kitts and headed out to open sea again due south towards Montserrat.
Montserrat and me have history, I had one of my most frightening experiences at sea when passing the big green Isle many years ago, the volcano had a mini eruption and my boat was covered in volcanic ash, there was very scary lightening all around and I lost all my instrumentation including the ships compass due to the massive upwelling of molten iron and swirling ash around the boat, there was zero visual reference and toxic sulphuric gas for hours on end, it seemed like a never ending nightmare that I could not wake up from similar to sleep paralysis where you are awake but can't move and still dreaming, give me wind, huge seas and any other bad weather than volcanoes and lightening and I am happy but Montserrat and me just don't mix.
There are very strong and strange currents around this Island I am sure Arthur Conan Doyle could have drawn inspiration from the place for "The Lost World" it seems to be impossible to sail past, it just sits there and draws you in, hours go by and you are still looking at the same spot on the Island while the weather deteriorates and the clouds build, " is that lightening" is a question you really don't want to consider or reply to, and right on queue it did not disappoint! it was about 5 am in the morning when the squall hit us, just getting light and just enough time to get the staysail down onto the deck, I felt the tell-tale rush of cold air in-front of the miniature storm, I had my tactics already planned, long keeled heavy displacement boats do well hoved too in a storm, basically you sheet in the main and push the tiller to leeward to stall the boat in a fore-reaching position, this tactic calms the sea and gives the crew a reasonable ride in heavy weather, I just had time to hove-too when the wind hit. Its easy to exaggerate wind speeds in these situations and I have been in hurricanes and the noise is the the key indicator of the strength, I am estimating 50 knots but it could well of been more and the noise was incredible, shaking the rigging down through the deck, for about 2 mins the wind was from the port side then instantly changing to starboard shifting the force from one side to the other, I was amazed how well Gwendolyn coped, she hardly heeled, just sat there and took the full force of the wind and rain, it was our first test of our old boat and she took it well, I knew her design was seaworthy and this episode convinced me all the hard work getting her ready for this trip was worth it!
Finally the sun came up the skies cleared and we started to pull away from the dreaded Island, I surveyed the damage and we sustained a big rip in the mainsail, that would need to be fixed before we got wind again so we put in an extra reef and headed for Guadeloupe, 24 hours with no sleep it was time for Andrea to take over and for me to have a nap!
To be continued.......
I spend hours and hours online searching for deals for you guys, I have been working with our trading partner for the last few months to provide an amazing service for you, now you can search for worldwide deals on our website from the comfort of your own home on your computer, tablet or handheld device!
Simply go to our homepage www.mycaribbeancharters.com and at the top of the page you will find a search engine.
1.Select the type of charter you are looking for, Bareboat or Cabin charter
2.Select the destination from our list of worldwide fleets
3. Select the type of boat, Catamaran or Monohull
4. Select the desired starting date for your charter
You will then be taken to a selection screen where you can find LIVE availability of boats for your chosen region, also displayed will be all the special offers and relevant details, click on the info icon to take you to the full specifications of the boat.
For more info just click the enquire button at the bottom and I will get straight back to you! Is simple and fun to check out all the boats and cost you nothing, I have produced and explainer video below, please take a minute to check it out.
The Grenadines have to be one of my favorite cruising destinations in the world, they are a chain of small islands that lie on a line between the larger islands of Saint Vincent and Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. Nine are inhabited and open to the public (or ten, if the offshore island of Young Island is counted): Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Union Island, Petit St Vincent, Palm Island and Mayreau, each with its own distinctive charm and subtle difference, for sailors that want to experience the real Caribbean this stretched out Island chain has to be on your bucket list.
I first visited the Grenadines nearly 20 years ago, much has changed but also much has stayed the same, on my fist visit to the tiny Island of Mayreau we anchored in 15 feet of crystal clear turquoise water in Saline bay and wandered up the hill to see what we could find, there was no government power on the Island, we found our way to Dennis's hideaway the one must do stop in the cruising guide and met our host sitting at his circular bar, Dennis was a larger than life character, charter skipper, entrepreneur, restauranteur, engineer, you name it Dennis had done it, he had wicked sense of humor and a huge smile for all his visitors, and also an eye for the ladies, especially the blue eyed and blonde ones!
Dennis also had a big heart, a few years later I went back to Mayreau and there was a power station on the Island and power cables running up the hills, Dennis had been instrumental in getting the power to his Island, he had paid for the generator and had helped made sure all the properties were connected to power, his restaurant was prospering and the small village was benefitting from the increased tourism.
Mayeau is one of my all time favorite islands, it has one primary school, 4 restaurants, 30 houses, no police, no lawyers, and 3 justices of the peace, one of whom is Dennis, at the highest point the view from the one Catholic Church there is the best in the Grenadines over looking the Tobago Cays to the East and the rest off the Northern and Southern Grenadines to the North and South, a must do stop on any Grenadines itenary.
If I was to pick the top 5 things to do and places to visit in the Grenadines, I think the list would look something like this, most charters start at the Northern end of the Island chain and head south so I will list in that order.
1. Bequia is a sailors paradise, always welcoming and with a unique charm of its own, you will definitely think about buying a piece of paradise and settling down here as many people have done, from its historic whaling industry to its, Rastafarian fruit market, abundant restaurants and its home grown Turtle sanctuary, Bequia has something for everyone.
2. The Firefly, Mustique Island! If you have one meal ashore during your trio through the Grenadines I recommend you take it at the beautiful Firefly restaurant overlooking Britannia bay.
The restaurant takes its name from the Fireflies that live in the woods surrounding the property, if you walk up after dusk these magical creatures will give you one of natures most amazing light shows, its truly amazing if you have never experienced it, Firefly serves some of the best cocktails I have ever had, you must try one on the terrace watching the sun set behind your yacht in the anchorage below, the service is second to none and the meals are amazing served in a small and intimate setting, if you a are lucky one of the Islands rock star residents might pop in after dinner to play a few tunes on the Piano, this is truly a special place!
3. Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau. Probably the most photographed bay in the Grenadines, this beautiful small but perfectly formed bay will blow you away with its charm and beauty, arrive early to get a good spot and enjoy lunch on the beach at one of the growing number of restaurants there, in the evening walk up to the village and find Dennis hideaway or even better Robert Righteous & de youths seafood restaurant and bar where you will experience real Island music and hospitality.
4. Tobago Cays. Head over from Mayreau through the narrow channel that protects the Tobago Cays and enter one of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world, you can snorkel, dive, kite-surf and swim with the Turtles here, what I like about this marine park is the locals realize that they have a finite resource and protect the surroundings here, park rangers patrol the area and garbage dumping and pumping out of heads is strictly prohibited unlike many other "marine parks" in the Caribbean, you could spend a week at anchor here completely protected from the Ocean a few meters behind the reef, the next stop Africa 4000 miles away.
5. Mopion Sand bank. A tiny Coral and sand Island at the end of a reef nestled between Union Island and Petit Saint Vincent a private Island. A single sun shade marks this tiny beach where the snorkeling is outstanding in a few feet of crystal clear warm water, only accessible by dinghy, bring your packed lunch, a bottle of champagne and your best friends and enjoy a magical spot for a couple of hours, hopefully you will get it to yourselves!
Charter deals in the Grenadines
Chartering in the Grenadines is an all year round destination, the trade winds can get boisterous there and the summer sees much more gentle conditions and at around 12 degrees latitude its just at the bottom fo the hurricane zone.
If you want to join us this summer in the Grenadines I have some amazing special offers for you!
This is probably the best bareboat deal I have seen this year
Caribbean - St Vincent and the Grenadines from 15/08/2020 to 22/08/2020
Boat model: Catamaran - Astrea 42 with watermaker - Super Premier - Bareboat
Boat Information: 2020 | 41 ft | 12 Persons | 4 cabin(s) | 4 bath. | 4 head(s) |$3268
I consider us extremely blessed to be living and working in the Virgin Islands, how many of us can get up every day, enjoy the beautiful scenery, breathe fresh air and go about our business enjoying every minute of our working day?
There is an old hippie saying from the 70's " Do what you love and love what you do and the world will come to you" that really sums up the life of a sailor for me, sailing has been kind to me and looking back I would not have had my life any other way, OK I will never be a millionaire but to me the journey has always been more important than the destination, navigating your way to a new continent under sail is an incredibly rewarding experience, crossing oceans, conquering your fears of the unknown and arriving safely at your destination is worth much more than money to me, for those of you with an adventurous spirit I highly recommend it.
This week we were fortunate enough to take part in the LWEYC Firecracker 500 regatta out of Nanny Cay, Tortola, this race has been going on in the BVI for over 20 years, usually an end of season get together for all the crews working hard throughout the season in the sailing industry, this year it was a little different, obviously turn-out was down, no boats competing from the USVI but we did manage 10 entries and the spirit and comaradare was still there in abundance, we raced around the cans, our boat being a classic gaff rigged cutter was never going to be competitive against the carbon fibre racing trimarans, but we enjoyed our time on the water, friends together, sailing for fun and enjoying the empty waters of the St.Francis Drake channel, a year ago an impossible dream.
We retired at the end of the race, not enough wind to drive our 18 ton boat along but we did make it to the prize giving and Andrea my partner got 2nd prize in the Annual chills cook off competition which was amazing, after that we had a great full moon party at Admirals marine which was awesome, Sunday was a recovery day!
So as I sit in my sailboat wring this blog, watching the Pelicans diving for fish in the channel, feeling the gentle movement of the boat sitting at anchor, the warm breeze of the trade winds lapping at the canvas above me I realize that we are more fortunate than many people at this time, safe in our little BVI cut off from the rest of the world, and I realize that I have never explained the role of a charter yacht broker in the sailing industry so I raise the question “Why use a broker to book your charter, why not just book direct?”
Most people when considering a catamaran charter will make their decision based on, and possibly not necessarily in this order, Price, Service, Quality, Availability and Reputation.
I believe we can help you navigate the vast amount of boats and deals out there and possibly save you some money at the same time.
We specialize in Caribbean bareboat charters, we live in the Islands 12 months of the year, see the boats every day, know the fleets, know the fleet managers and most of the crews that work in the Islands, it’s a small industry, so we believe we have an almost unique insight into what’s going on in the business.
Price! We have real time access to fleet pricing, special offers and availability for over 5800 boats in 61 destinations world wide, we can scan every fleet by location and find the best deal on the best boat instantly without contacting every company, we also get exclusive access to deals from the companies as they want to sell charters so we can pass those deals onto you, it costs you not a penny more than booking direct and can also save you between 10-30% less than booking through the fleet.
I regularly post special offers, I don’t hide the fleets name online some other companies do, I believe in a handshake so if someone finds the deal online and books it direct, I don’t worry, it was not meant to be.
Service! I believe we are great communicators and pride ourselves on our response time whatever the query, whether it’s at the beginning or the end of the deal, we always answer emails or messages unless we are asleep so you will get the answers 7 days a week.
Quality and value for money! Recently we had a charter that booked into a new location as the fleet needed to move boats, our client arrived at the operator and the boat was not ready for charter, it happens and thankfully not often, we jumped in got him an upgrade on a newer boat that was ready and at no extra charge, that would not always happen when booking direct, we used our buying power with the fleet to convince them to upgrade him and I as a client.
Reputation! After 20 years in this industry I know the good people to deal with, the bad companies don’t last long and the good companies do, I know of one fleet in Tortola with a 70% repeat customer business, that’s an amazing number and they do a fantastic job!
So... if you are looking for a bareboat charter give us a shout, it’s cost you nothing, there is zero obligation and we can more than likely find you an amazing deal on a charter with a great company and ultimately it will enable us to continue to live this blessed life we live.
Have great day.......
Back in 2009 I was living and working on the Island of Nevis, a small sister Island to St.Kitts which was separated by a small body of water called the Narrows, I regularly ran day charters between the Islands and had a contract with the Four Seasons in Nevis and the Marriott Hotel group in St.Kitts to take their guests on snorkel and sightseeing tours, it was a dream job for a sailor from the UK, steady trade winds, warm waters and an endless supply of happy hotel guests looking for a sailing adventure, my favorite time was at the end of the day sailing back to my anchorage after a full day trip with some money in my pocket, the sun going down and some cool reggae playing one the boats sound system, life was good.
So one day I hear that the local water-sports company was selling off some old sailing tri-marans as business had become tough after the 2008 financial crash, they were very reasonably priced so I decided to buy all three and make one good one out of all the parts, I looked up the manufacturer on line and the boats were called Windrider, a 17’ three hull design with a center hull two outrigger hulls and a space for the “pilot” with a windscreen that looked like a Spitfire cockpit, the yachts were touted as unsinkable so what could possibly go wrong?…
At weekends or when I did not have a charter I started sailing the Tri in the waters around Nevis, I know the area pretty well by now, I became more and more confident sailing just for fun, sometimes venturing offshore and pushing the little boat to its maximum performance and sometimes beyond, it was a lot of fun and often very wet as the design was really aimed for flat water and not boisterous trade wind conditions, the area I sailed was between two reasonably sized Islands so the current and tides accelerated through the narrow gap and often caused the sea to become quite large and confused with wind over tide situations, this would be exaggerated during Spring tides when the moon was full and the tides at maximum flow.
One Sunday afternoon I decided to go out for a sail, totally impromptu and not telling anyone where I was going, I jumped in the car, drove to the beach, rigged the boat and off I went, it was blowing around 16-17 knots that day, I knew as the waves were just starting to cap and and billow little white bubbles off the surface, it was going to be a great sail, I set off to St.Kitts at a brisk clip the Easterly trades accelerating through the gap between the Islands, I must have been doing close to 7 or 8 knots not really sure it did not matter I was having a blast, whilst sailing I noticed the boats performance starting to drop off a little, I was sailing hard on the wind, tacking back and forth but it seemed one tack was favorable to the other, the boat was a good bit faster on a starboard tack than on a port tack, I did not pay too much attention and carried on sailing, eventually growing tired and about two miles from my anchorage and heading out past the channel I turned back onto a port tack and headed for home, immediately I realized sometime was wrong, the starboard hull was low in the water and the boat was slowing down, and then as if someone had just slowed down time I watched the starboard hull snap off and disappear below the surface, followed by the canoe centre hull that I was sitting in, literally filling with water and sinking beneath me, it took seconds, I was in trouble…
I only had one option and that was to ditch the hull and swim for Booby Island, even at that time I did not think I was really in that much trouble, I should have headed back to St.Kitts but I was not thinking rationally, I could only think of getting home, so I started swimming, it was not easy as the waves were kicking up a bit and I was swallowing some water, every drop was phsically draining me and I could see that it was easy to get into a panic, but I focused on my task in hand and got on with it, all of a sudden I felt a wave of what I can only describe as a complete calmness and serenity pass over me, I knew nobody was going to save me, it was up to me, drown here in the water or swim home, stark reality, nothing else, so I swam, I concentrated on my breathing, sang a song in my head to keep a rhythm and had just one focus, to get home and see my daughter again, that’s the only thing I could think of, seeing her again it kept me going.
I was soon close to Booby Island, the little Rock is named that from the Booby birds that use it to spot for fish, a lonely outcrop covered in guano and surrounded by sharp reefs and rocks, I stopped for a bit, treaded water and decided not to try and land, my thinking was it would be dark in a few hours and nobody would see me there or start searching until the morning, Nevis did not look that far, (it was actually another 1.5 miles to the anchorage) so I decided to carry on, I had got a rhythm, the sea was starting to settle as the afternoon heat from the land moderated the trade winds, I knew I could make it, I had one focus to get to the beach. As soon as I left the safety of the little Island I could feel the pull of the current sweeping my sideways away from my destination, I had to swim at an angle of about 30-40 degrees upwind of my destination to make any good progress, that meant I was going to have to swim further but I never decided to turn back, I had to carry on regardless and get back to land before dark, the thought of swimming in the dark started to scare me, I did not want that, I knew the water was warm enough to stay in indefinitely but what lurked beneath started to play on my mind, fear would unsettle me I had to stay focused on the task in hand, a small airplane flew directly over my head, I stopped swimming and tried to wave but it was hopeless, he could not see me, not even a spec in the ocean, at that point I started to worry again, I swallowed a bit of water, I lost my rhythm and realized this was it, sink or swim so I carried on.
I think it took me about 4 hours in total, I’m not really sure looking back but the sun was setting as I pulled myself up on the beach, I was totally exhausted, physically spent, I could not walk my legs were jelly, as the adrenaline wore off I started to collapse, I knew I could get secondary growing from water in my lungs so I had to be careful, the guys at the beach picked me up and drove me home, I slept for 24hrs.
I have not told many people about this episode nearly everyone the few people I told asked me the same question, did you panic but one person a spiritual guy when I told him about the calmness that swept over me, he was not surprised and said maybe I was a sailor in a previous life that had drowned, who knows but it gave me a strange sort of comfort to hear that as I had been searching for a reason to why I felt so calm, but now its out there and you all know my story, I would love to hear your thoughts.
I consider my self a fairly lucky person, sailing has been good to me, I started sailing at an early age and it has stayed with me so far most of my life, when I have not been working with wood I have been tinkering with boats, sailing has enabled me to do things that most my peers only dreamed of, running away to a Caribbean Island, starting a charter business, traveling to new continents and countries under sail power alone, meeting amazing people that influenced how I lived my life, opening my eyes to new possibilities and adventures and eventually paying me to share my experiences and time with people who are dreaming of following similar footsteps.
Recently I have become increasingly nostalgic about England, especially the Sussex countryside where I grew up, cricket on the green, afternoon tea with and scones, walks in the country, pub lunches with friends, fishing in the rivers and hunting for game in the fields on an early summer morning, but I have grown to realize that you can’t turn back time, nothing stays the same, the planet continues to turn and time does not stand still, the summers have come and gone and the country has changed, the changes are irreversible and we must accept and move on.
Back to the present, the world has changed dramatically in such a short time, one minute we were ticking along running our businesses, living our lives and accepting the world around us, then all of a sudden everything stops, the world as we know it grinds to a halt, time, urgency, routines and normality is flipped on its head, projects we are working on are put on indefinite hold, our future is uncertain and everything slows down, a new routine starts to emerge, time for ourselves, time to reflect, slow down and start to appreciate the world around us, nature, the stars, the wind, the sun rising and setting, the moon stepping through its phases as it waxes fill’s and wanes.
We are anchored at Norman Island, we are on day 18 of the curfew here, maybe its 17 it does not matter, slowly we have settled into a new routine, the urgency has gone, we take time for ourselves, we find time for exercise, to look after our well being, to stretch , to breathe and to enjoy the world around us, we do jobs on the boat, we cook more, we talk, we have fun and we spend time talking about the future, at night we sleep under the stars, we leave the boat open to the elements, the wind blows across the bed at night and we breathe clean air with every breath, we sleep well and wake with the rising sun.
Many times in the past I have overheard older friends discussing the good old days in the BVI, the pioneering spirit of the industry in the early days, the parties, the friendships made, the sailing for fun on a day off, the camaraderie amongst people with the same vision, and somehow that’s been lost in a way, the focus has been commercialized, the Islands have changed, the charter fleets have grown and the anchorages have become crowded at times, once you could have the choice of empty anchorages in the Virgin Islands, to enjoy the nature and the beauty, swim with the Turtles and Rays, watch the sunset with an unobstructed view, you can still do that but it takes a bit more planning, the norm has become rush to the next anchorage by early afternoon to ensure you have a mooring for the night, 100 foot away from your neighbor. All of a sudden and if by magic the clock has suddenly been turned back, the impossible has happened and we have turned back time, the old BVI has re-emerged, we are floating at anchor in Norman Island with a few boats, a bay full of empty Boaty-Balls (pre-paid mooring system) nobody moves, the few boats here have formed a network to help each other out, observing strict social distancing procedures, we exchange intelligence from the various social media sites, we pull together as one small community isolated from the rest of the world, we swim in crystal clear waters, there is no sound of diesels, the Tarpon are here and so are the Turtles and Rays, we hear the birds for what seems the first time, everything is peaceful, so what seems to be impossible has actually happened I have been lucky enough to experience the turning back of time, who would have thought it, to experience the old BVI, as the pioneers would have met it, an impossible dream, in life anything can happen.