Charter company “tricks” with your days at sea

You are thinking that 7 days on the water will be great. That is… Until you get there and go through all their hoops and provision.
Day 1:You board at 5:30pm with some of your provisions, but you don’t have them all
Day 2: You finish provisioning and have a short day of sailing
Day 3-5: You are out sailing and having fun
Day 6: You go to your destination port (often the one you left from)
Day 7: 10am or earlier, you get off

You will want to factor this in to your trip, or negotiate when you are setting up your contract some alternatives.

Sleep aboard the night before your rental
Being able to board in the morning
Late return
One way rental
Number of total days

I know I would want to do anything that kept me sailing and not locked into one port… It is quickly obvious that your charter is not based on 24 hour periods. The charter company does need turn around time and most charters are 7 days, so that is why it is what it is — you might just want to take control of that.

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Long Range Boat Wifi – HowTo Part 2

After visiting the Grenadines for 10 days on the water, I can tell you that “open” wifi is widely available.  In just two of these spots were people with personal devices like Ipads able to connect, and even then it was hit or miss with the oscillation of the sailboat.  With my Wifi setup using an Alfa USB Wireless Network adapter and the USB extender, I was able to find and use open hotspots — sometimes at several miles away at every location except the Tobago Cays (but then again I was busy playing in the water there).

I had my latop in the Salon, then the USB extender cable run out a hatch and up somewhere on the mast tucked away.  It got a little wet a couple of times, but it would be wise to either take it down or find a solution to protect the electronics.  I may even make some of these devices and create a kit that people can buy.  I noticed that there are $300-$3000 boat wifi solutions.  I think you can do it for $50 or less, and maybe $70 or less for a whole boat Wifi solution.

Each of the following is a link to the Wifi hotspots I found at a given location.

A note, there are many pay services available.  Mega, HotHotHotSpot, KC Hot Spot to name a few.  One of them lets you use the internet for free for 5 minutes.

If the security of your data is at all important to you, I would highly suggest a VPN solution especially when you utilize open wifi connections.  All your data is able to be intercepted if you do not.  One such solution is from Golden Frog’s VyprVPN.  This particular company even has applications for IPAD so that every time you hit the internet, it reconnects the VPN.  You can appear as though you are coming from a certain country which also may assist you in getting content from that area.  I found a link to more information on VPNs and a few more options.

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BVI vs Grenadines

If you are doing the research on where you should sail, charter or bareboat in either the BVI or the Grenadines, I will try and provide some differences that might help you decide.

Maybe we can start with similarities? Both places are beautiful, both have lots of wind (depending on seasonal averages) both have lots of places to eat and provision, both places have good places to snorkel and fish, and in both places, you will always be able to see land.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, you will need to do more with customs. We had to go through customs in order to sail South from St Vincent, and then hit it going out (Union), and then going into Grenada (Carriacou). Each one takes around 30 minutes depending on how busy they are. Be mindful of the time and day you are clearing.

The sailboats which are available in the BVI appear to be newer and better maintained. The recent downturn of the economy has limited the amount of new boats in fleets and it seems like the older boats head South.

There are boat boys in St Vincent and the Grenadines (people who come up to your boat as you are entering a bay or just after you stop to sell you things). There are pros and cons to them, but it is a difference. We did have a guy from Trellis bay come over to Marina cay once selling tshirts and bread… The bread was good :)

There is a general feel of safety/security in the BVI, where there is a feel of lawlessness in the Grenadines to a certain extent. Both places know that any negative action towards tourists could cost them a lot of business, so I think that is a motivator against anything going too terribly wrong.

It appeared that there are less people/sailboats sailing around in the grenadines. The highest concentration of sailboats was on the South side of Grenada. The bays there are large and protected and the number of masts is quite impressive.

Coral health appears to be slightly better in the BVI.. The Indians is a pretty neat place to snorkel with lots of schools of fish, turtles, etc. With that said, we saw coral formations that you would never see in the BVI in the Grenadines and you can tell that it used to be unbelievable in the Grenadines with huge coral structures all over the place. I am no expert on coral health, but it appears that it is recovering slowly.

Fishing is different in a few ways. As far as while you are moving/trolling, you are likely to catch a barracuda in either location, and if you are headed to or from Anegada you can catch small tuna, but we haven’t experienced much else in the BVI. In the Grenadines you can hit very deep water and run into Sailfish (we caught a 90 pounder), and besides Blue fin tuna, albacore and other varieties are possible. As far as when you are moored/anchored, we caught all kinds of fish (and released them) in the BVI, and caught pretty much nothing while moored/anchored in the Grenadines.

Navigation is super easy and straight forward in the BVI. It seems like hazards are well marked or out of the way. In the Grenadines, there are Hazards all over the place and they may not be marked well. GPS with charts is required in my opinion. There are certainly hazards in the BVI as we have seen monohulls that ran aground and snapped off their keel just outside of Cane Garden Bay.

In the BVI, you are pretty much protected from large ocean swells by the density of islands, depth, and coral reef in the North East. In the Grenadines we saw 2 to 3 meter swells and one day was forecast for 4 meter swells on the Atlantic side of the islands.

Mooring balls are well maintained and the norm in the BVI, in the Grenadines it is fairly common to have some balls, but expect to anchor half the time. If you prefer balls to anchoring, you should check out the balls (if possible) prior to using. Some of them are in poor repair. They also might work differently than you are used to.. For example, you pull the rope through the top of the buoy at Mystique and The Tobago cays..

To add to the mooring comments, in the BVI you really need to hit your destination bay between 2-3pm to ensure you get a spot. We rolled into our spots sometimes at 5:30pm without an issue in the Grenadines.

Gas prices. It appears that the prices are better in Grenada than on Tortola. My cousin found a website with all the prices on it, and I will put that here when I get the link. We used ten days worth of air conditioning, water making, and motoring and it cost us 900ec. That seemed very reasonable to us.

With all of this said, there are people with much better information and knowledge than I have. We have been in the BVI a few times in December, and just once in the Grenadines in December. Your mileage may vary, but these are my experiences and perceptions.

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Day 12 – On to land – Grenada

Today we were packing up and moving to the hotel. Rafael (captain) has to get the boat to Martinique ASAP, so we are getting off a little early. We moved to the fuel dock, and we were surprised how little fuel we used and how little it cost. Just 900ec. Something seemed wrong here, but I wasn’t complaining. We spent part of the napping. Some folks went into St George and fought it out with the cruise ship folks.
In the evening we went out to Carib Sushi. It was pretty good. I am a sushi snob, and this was a 6 out of 10. Tiger roll was yummy.

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Day 11

Today was kind of a push day. We expected higher winds, but we only had 8 knots. That wouldn’t be enough to get us to Prickly bay on the South side of Grenada, so we motor sailed. We had a lunch stop at the two sisters islands. It was very pretty here. Most of us were hot, so we jumped in. There was a little bit of a go pro jumping contest off the boat which was fun. Lunch was light and we moved on. Eric caught a few fish, one of which that was bit in half by a shark while we reeled it in. The rest of the day was scenic, but overcast. At nearly Sunset, we arrived and docked at Prickly bay. The dock fee was 60us, and included the use of showers. Fyi -This dock is an anchor out with dock lines on the rear and is undergoing repair. they attempted to get us dock power, but it was not proper power and was causing electrical issues, so we went on generator. Our “away team” found us some snacks before the mini market closed at 6, and we cooked up pork chops.
The bar was having bingo that night, so there was an amazing amount of locals at the bar. We talked with a few of them and some of the fellow “yachtees”. We enjoyed the lighted Christmas tree in the harbour.

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Day 10

Day 10 was a light sail over to Hillsborogh on Carriacou. It was fairly windy and Eric caught a fairly large barracuda and let it go. Our captain took nearly 1 hour to clear immigration, meanwhile we walked around and went to the Deli/bakery. We bought out most of the bakery items, and bought a pound of Italian ham. We talked to a very nice worker (owner?) from England. We were on a quest to find some red bull and found “the last 4 cans on the island” at the hardware store across the street. It’s a bit odd here as every store has liquor and some have food. The two grocery stores were across from each other. Both were fairly good sized. One kind of smelled like a litter box..? I would like to spend some more time on this island and in Grenada. The people seem so genuine and welcoming. Our captain moved our sailboat over to sandy island for lunch where a guy was kite surfing.. He was quite good and I took a bunch of pictures. Then I put on my snorkel gear and checked out the situation. I found a very odd/interesting/scary fish down on the bottom. I believe it is a member of the lion fish family. It was turning over shells on the bottom and looking inside for snacks. Other small fish were nearby looking for left overs. Today we decided to go for a fun sail — something that was lacking on our previous 6 days. We headed West NorthWest for about 90 minutes. We caught a few fish including a small tuna which became seviche later in the evening. We took another mooring ball, some people quickly headed to shore to capture A time lapse sunset, and others hung out. Only in the Tobago cays did we not have Internet, and many people checked in this evening while we were waiting for dinner to cook. Our propane stove had been failing us for some time. We changed tanks even though the old one was not empty. It did help, but we didn’t eat until 9:45.

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General feel of the southern Caribbean

After sailing the BVI for a few times, you get used to the feel of things around there. We had an awesome taxi guy on Tortola who was helpful and upfront about costs, and we didn’t ever feel like we were being taken by anyone. We had one guy in the bvi from Trellis come over to Marina Cay to sell us wonderful bread…but From St Vincent and South (to union so far), it seems like everyone is fighting over who gets to take your money, and how much can they get out of you. Coming from a country where “the price is the price” (for the most part) its hard to adjust to negotiation for things. Make sure you find out how much something costs before proceeding.. Which is good advice for anywhere really.. I am not talking about food or gas, it appears to be services.. Some of which you don’t need or didn’t ask for. Extra guys show up to help you take your bags to the boat, some guy is helping you get a mooring, taxis, and the like. It’s similar to the guy who washes your windows at a freeway off ramp in the United States without asking.
But then we arrived in Grenada (and its islands) and there is an amazing difference. No longer is everyone asking you to buy something. It seems so much less like a tourist zone, and more like you are visiting ‘just another country’. It is very beautiful here and I am enjoying it immensely.

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