Friday, December 19, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Learnings and Conclusions

The biggest thing I learned this time was to stow away the mooring lines until you need them every time. Losing a prop was a scary proposition and while I don't think we did too much damage, on a mono hull we would have been forced to moor and anchor via sail, which is not a very safe thing to do. It's a good thing that we charted a Catamaran.

This was my first time using a second tier charter outfit like Conch Charters. Overall, their customer service was nothing short of amazing, better than most tier one outfits like Horizon, Dream Yacht Charters, CYOA or Anacortes Yacht Charters. Balanced against that is the age of a 10-year old Catamaran that's been in heavy use. If, for instance, we'd decided to go to Jost Van Dyke first and then over to St. John (which is a better itinerary since provisions were cheaper there!), the engine trouble we had right at the beginning would have been very costly in terms of time. Having an engine that wouldn't start right at the end of the trip when we were due to return the boat was also disturbing. I'm very glad that I chartered with Conch only after having extensive sailing experience with others, since an engine failure on any of the other trips would have caused me to tear my hair out. Overall, I'd still recommend Conch, since not all their boats had the troubles we had.

The third thing I learned was that the clearing of customs between the BVI and U.S. VI is much less bad that I'd remembered from 2007. That time, I was new to the area, and didn't know which harbors had little traffic and were easy to work with. This time around, I knew to work with Jost Van Dyke and Cruz Bay, and had zero problems, going very fast. On the return, if we'd gone to Virgin Gorda, it would have been easy as well.

Finally, I was concerned about Bowen on the sailboat, but I needn't have been. The boy's a born sailor and loves it. It's inevitable that at the end of every ride at Disney World, I'd ask him if he enjoyed the ride, and he said, "Yes." "Do you want to repeat it?" "No." Sailing has been the one activity where now if I asked him to go sailing, he would say, "Yes." Much have been made in the press and on blogs about the challenges girls have in school and what-not. To my mind, boys have a much tougher time in schools, etc. Boys don't like sitting down for a long time, and frequently have difficulty with an indoor life, yet there's next to no literature about this, and nobody seems to care. On a sailboat, however, Bowen blossomed, taking care of himself better, and in general learning to overcome his fear of water, exploring the Baths, and so forth. I understand better now why some families opt to live on a boat for years at a time, though I have no desire to do so. This style of travel does seem eminently suited for boys, and if you have one you owe it to him to give it a try, provided he's not the type to get sea-sick.

The Virgin Islands is one of the few places on the planet that I'd say are worth repeated visits to. (The other place, of course, is the Alps) This time, I finally saw some of the sights I missed the previous times, though a careful reading of the book indicated a few more than I missed, including the Fallen Jerusalem, which apparently has batholithic structures that rival those of the Baths. Nevertheless, I'd love to explore more of the Caribbean in the future, so am not likely to return for at least a few years. If you've never been there, do go, and do try to do it from a small sailboat rather than opting for a land cruise.

2 days after landing, I would lie in bed and would still feel the rocking experience of sleeping on a sailboat. That's how much I miss it. Recommended!

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