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Author: Jeff Created: 4/6/2008 6:35 AM
News, insight, and opinion to help you find bareboat yacht charter paradise.

If you look at the blog history on the site, you’ll see it’s been some time since my last post. Yeah – I’ve got lots of excuses. Work. Life. You name it. Let’s just say it’s been a busy 6 months or so. Since I do this for fun, it’s been easy to relegate posting to the one of the last things I do (because duty calls) and with a bunch of work to do, I’ve simply focused on that.

No more. I really love the focus of this site (why we launched it in the first place!), what this community is and can be, and it’s time to ramp it up. And, it’s time for some fun.

If you haven’t been watching, there are some exciting developments in Antigua at what used to be called Club Colonna. It’s a great story about good people, working hard, trying to recreate a place that they (and clearly MANY others) love a great deal. Good on ‘em! We’re going to do our best to feature the exciting news from Philip here soon.

In the meantime, stay tuned. Things will be ramping back up here at Charter Island and I’m excited about it. I hope you are too.

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If you plan to do any bareboat charter sailing, you can be certain of at least one thing: you’ll be having to ANCHOR somewhere, sometime during your charter. So, it pays to review your favorite books, notes, and other sources for anchoring tips and techniques before you go. While some trips require you to freshen up your language skills, smart bareboaters will refresh on anchoring before you go. If you end up like me, you’ll be glad you did.

“Drive that boat like a bus”

Where we sail most of the time, anchoring is relatively technical (deep water, rocky islands,kelp,wide tidal ranges) but we have the advantage that there aren’t many people to battle it out with for a nice spot. The area is quite remote and if you show up by 4pm, there will still be a spot in some of the nicest anchorages.

As a result, I have had very little experience with a Med tie approach to anchoring. It just doesn’t happen where we cruise. At all. So, it was an interesting trial by fire while my wife and I had the opportunity to do a Med tie between two large boats, backing our 43 footer into 18 knot trades, with just a couple days experience on the boat.

Fortunately, a fellow bareboater volunteered to ride aboard to offer an extra set of hands to fend off (if trouble reared it’s head) and provide some experienced coaching. I’ll never forget standing on the forward side of the starboard wheel, facing astern, cranking up the reverse to get some speed (to make the rudder/fin keel work a little better), and as my “coach” said, “drive this baby like it’s a bus! Just stick it in there!”

In hindsight, I wonder if he’d already exceeded his daily rum ration? Whatever the case, it worked. Lindsay dropped the hook, on cue, as we backed up to the dock, and we pulled in like we had done it a hundred times before.

However, the moral of the story is this: don’t assume that your normal, local cruising and anchoring experience will provide you with all of the skills and knowledge you need. A little time spent – even on unexpected anchoring-related topics – could really pay off when you need it.

Get your kedge on

A few months before our trip, I just happened to come across an article in a sailing magazine about using a kedge. An auxiliary anchor, it’s useful for limiting the swing of a boat at anchor or also to walk a boat across the anchorage as needed. While I won’t get into the specific details of HOW to do it, using a kedge certainly helped us sleep better while anchored in a windy, poor holding anchorage with limited space with two charter boats flanking us a bit too closely. Dropping the kedge off the port bow and cinching it in help buy us a little comfort through added distance from one boat and the knowledge that we had a second anchor biting to ensure we didn’t drag. This can be especially important on typical bareboats where the anchor tackle has very little chain and mostly rode.

Coincidentally, on the same trip, I saw a skipped charter use a kedge off of Mustique to help get the bow of the boat pointed more directly into the swell rolling through the bay. Sizable and pretty uncomfortable, the winds and current seemed to keep boats almost parallel to the sea swell when made for a rocking, rolling, mooring. Pulling the stern out to point the bow into the oncoming swell with a kedge helped reduce the roll. After spending one night in that swell, I wish we had done the same!

The right attitude goes a long way

closeanchor Finally, there’s more to anchoring than simply dropping the hook in a decent spot. When approaching an anchorage with many boats trying to enjoy the same spot, a little grace and respect for fellow sailors goes a long way. The easiest tip I can offer is remember the “Golden Rule” – anchorage unto others and you would have them anchor unto you! Here’s one of my favorite pics from a charter we once did. It doesn’t even do justice to HOW close they actually were… and were then rude when asked to find a different spot.

The web is full of helpful anchoring tips and fundamentals. Here are just a few:

 

The bottom line is that there’s no need to be intimidated by anchoring during your bareboat charter. However, taking just a little time to review the range of anchoring techniques, approaches, and etiquette before your charter will most likely come in handy.

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This week, I’ll be kicking off a new series here at Charter Island called “Bareboat A to Z”. For folks new to bareboating, this should hopefully be informative and entertaining. For bareboat experts, I hope it provides some handy tips or reminders for your next trip. Regardless, we’ll be covering at least one topic, A to Z, that is closely related to bareboating. I hope you enjoy it and I certainly welcome your comments in the event you think I picked the wrong topic!

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In the July ‘09 issue of SAIL magazine, writer and experienced cruiser Jan Hein contributed a great article called, “Reef Your Bareboat Budget”. I particularly enjoyed that in addition to some nice cost-savings tips for bareboating, it addresses the topic of provisioning. While it’s comforting to show up on an unfamiliar island with your food already procured, our experience has shown that it’s a waste of money and rarely do the provisions match the eating preferences of the crew.

As Jan points out, the majority of the provisions are not really what you’ll want or need:

“We recently met a couple who, at the end of their week’s charter, were left with many unopened items like ketchup, canned vegetables, instant coffee, and sliced cheese. The only things they’d consumed were the fresh food and beer, which is all you really need for a seven-day sail.”

Further, she referenced how provisioning can end up a little bizarre. We’ve had experiences where the provisioning was excessive in some aspects and completely missing in others. Jan adds:

“… another [boat] finished up with a cooler of mismatched remains that included ten packs of hotdogs but not one bun.”

89142930_def9da6325 This is consistent with our experiences and had we known differently, we would have skipped the provisioning and done it all on our own. We’ve found a few things are consistent when it comes to provisioning for a bareboat charter:

  • You’ll pay a lot for rather average food. On virtually every charter we’ve done, we find we get some pretty interesting products that are rather noteworthy. However, a charter base managing it’s inventory of food for provisioning needs to keep economy and stability of food in mind. The result is that you’ll get a bunch of canned products that you might not use. In my opinion, to spend money on average canned food to eat while you enjoy paradise is a bit bizarre. Unless you look at the charter like it’s camping, you’re going to imagine your the trip as an exotic experience. It seems a bit silly to me to grill frozen fish when you can have fresh lobster every night, prepared authentically, for about the same net price as the cost of provisioned goods.
  • Dining out will be much more appealing than you’ll anticipate. When you have 7 days to see 5 islands, 4 snorkeling spots, do a nature hike, do some thrilling sailing, and still be arriving at the evening’s anchorage in time to get a good spot, cooking dinner in a galley 15 degrees (F) warmer than outside seems like too much work. Chances are, you’ll want to go ashore at least half the time for a nice dinner. If you’ve fully provisioned, you’ll have pressure on you to cook the dinner in the reefer or it will ultimately go to waste leaving you paying for twice the dinners you actually consume.
  • DIY provisioning can be fun. Part of what makes chartering remarkable and incredibly memorable is that it’s an adventure. What makes bareboating unique is that you get to see things very few people do. This goes for shopping for your provisions too! So, running across a funky little store, isolated fruit stand, or even a bakery run out of an islander’s home, only enriches the experience. Very few of the meals I’ve had while chartering come from the provisioning (one exception: the Elvita’s hot sauce provisioned by the Moorings at the Canouan base was hot… smokin’ hot. It’s become a reference of extreme AND surprising heat for both my wife and me…). Provisioning on your own is almost certainly a guarantee of some great stories to tell.
  • Decent stores for provisioning exist everywhere. In today’s world, you can find virtually anything you need, anywhere. Even obscure items can be found in many places. As Jan says though, it pays to talk to locals to get some good tips on shopping and avoid the tourist traps: “…whenever possible, gybe around the tourist traps like Tortola’s Soper’s Hole. The grocery store there contains a nice selection, but for some reason nothing has a price on it. After the clerk tallies the bill, you’ll be needing a stiff drink…”
  • Don’t be scared; it’s not hard to figure it out once you arrive. In 2009, with the proliferation of great charter guides, helpful web sites and effective search engines, and the ability for goods to travel more freely and efficiently than ever, you’ll be just fine showing up without food. Charter bases are usually located in populated areas (someone has to work there, right?) so it’s not usually hard to find a nearby store for everything you need or even just the basics. As you travel the islands, you’ll also find other stores with the things you need.

The bottom line: provisioning yourself is completely possible and easy to do. Seem intimidating? Well, stay tuned for“Part 2” where I’ll share some tips on how to reduce the risk of provisioning and help you prepare for your provisioning adventure.

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In addition to my trusty headlamp, a piece of gear I’m hard pressed to do any sailing without is my water tight Otter Box. What in the world is an Otter Box, you ask? Well, they’re small, waterproof, crushproof, and watertight gear containers that actually float too. They come in a wide range of colors and sizes and are ideal for protecting valuable electronics or other stuff in a marine environment. I particularly like the clear covered boxes; they make it very easy to quickly spot what you’re looking for.

Why get an Otter Box and what should you use them for on your next bareboat charter? For starters, saltwater environments are absolutely brutal for electronics and particularly those designed for the relatively dry climates where most people live. I’ve seen some electronics, when exposed to two weeks of sailing in warm, humid environments, get completely corroded.

  • iPods/portable media players: with small hard drives, these things – while remarkably durable – still get a little finicky in hot and humid environments. They’re also prone to getting crushed in duffels. So, the Otter Box protects them nicely.
  • Digital cameras and memory cards: just as with media players, it’s critical to keep these delicate electronic devices safe. Where the box comes in handy for some of these is when you jump in the dinghy for a day trip. You throw a small bag or backpack with your camera in the dinghy and head out. Next thing you know, the breeze picks up and you get a bunch of water splashing over the bow and accumulating in the bottom of of the dinghy. Camera and backpack? Not so dry. Same goes for beach landings or departures in any kind of swell. Keeping your camera in one of these boxes is cheap protection and insurance.
  • First aid/medication: I’ve heard of some folks that throw bandaids, antibiotic ointment to deal with coral abrasions, and other first aid gear into an Otter Box too. This keeps safety items sealed and organized in the event any of those items are needed. The last thing you want to face when trying to grab a bandage for a sliced finger is a package that somehow get soaked or is at least damp with weakened adhesion.
  • Dry foods like spices, etc.: for those culinary artists (i.e. designated charter cook!) that like to pack their own spices, rubs, and other ingredients, it can be nice to pack them in an airtight container that doesn’t leak smells or spills into clothing in the same duffel bag. Otter Boxes work great for this too.

Here’s a tip: for certain electronics, I also throw in a couple of those desiccant packages you get with certain electronics items that will absorb a certain level of moisture. This helps ensure that if you lock in some moisture or humid air (as in the tropics), it will be absorbed quickly to keep items as dry as possible.

Starting around $15US (amazon.com), these tough little items can be handy, smart protection that keeps your gear organized and safe from the marine environment wherever your bareboat charter takes you.

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Let’s face it. Bareboating is more expensive that your average holiday vacation. Savvy sailors can certainly locate good deals by looking for seasonal discount windows and remaining flexible to take advantage of last-minute specials. However, that usually only works for a small fraction of people out there. That means that a bareboat charter is going to hit your wallet.

There’s good news though. With smart budgeting, through understanding the types of fees or expenses you’ll face and by also knowing your options, you can take control of your bareboat charter budget.

Key factors in building (and successfully managing!) your bareboat charter budget include:

  1. The boat and related fees
  2. Provisioning: food, beverages, and other necessities
  3. Skipper and/or crew
  4. Travel expenses and related fees
  5. Resort and/or hotel costs
  6. Additional miscellaneous fees

The “Developing a Charter Budget” provides more details on these costs and how to factor them into your trip plan. If you have questions, please post them in the forum. (free registration required)

If you have a good tip to help others budget their bareboat charter, please share it. Simply register for Charter Island (it’s free) and post your tip here.

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As I’ve mentioned before, a bareboat charter is usually the type of adventure most people want to capture completely, be it in pictures AND video. With today’s digital cameras, it’s pretty easy to find (if you don’t already have one) a compact camera that takes fantastic pictures.

Video, however, can be an entirely different issue. Between today’s latest HD camcorders (which are surprisingly cheap and shoot remarkable video) and SLRs like Canon’s 5D that shoots amazing HD-video in addition to pro-quality SLR photos, what’s a consumer to do? Between the features and wide range of prices, it’s a bit daunting. Further, don’t kid yourself – that cellphone of yours doesn’t take very good video – certainly not the level of quality you will want to share with friends for years to come.

One interesting option is a Flip Ultra Series Camcorder ($113 @ Amazon). I have a Flip and have found it to be a great option because of it’s combination of small size, low relative cost, and extreme ease of use. Further, they have a ton of accessories available and one that’s sure to make sense for your next charter is their “Underwater Case for Flip Ultra”.

For about $30 at Amazon (List price $49.99), you can add a Flip Video Underwater Case for Flip Ultra Camcorders that both allows you to shoot video down to 30 feet under and also protect the camera from salt-spray (or beer spray?) during your trip.

The only drawback I can see is that it only works with the Flip Ultra. I wish they offered a case for the Flip Mino (which I have) or the Mino HD. The Mino is just a wee bit more svelte than the Ultra. However, the Ultra can also run on standard batteries whereas the Mino requires AC-charging via a USB port or optional charger.

It’s worth noting that there are some reviews out there that suggest the underwater case leaks. So, it’s best to test it first before completely committing (i.e. before doing any freediving). Given my experience with camera enclosures, you do get what you pay for. A little time spent tweaking the enclosure, carefully closing the case while watching to make sure the gasket isn’t pinched, and possibly putting some silicone grease on the edges to create a truly water tight seal probably makes sense.

Here’s a sample video created with the Ultra and Underwater case. And, if you’ve had any experience with this add-on, post your comments and experiences below.

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In case you haven’t seen yesterday’s “Radio Silence” posting from Magnus Wheatley on Sailing Anarchy, it certainly paints Sunsail’s premier Caribbean sailing resort in a particularly bad light. According to Magnus:

“I took Harry oversees for the first time in March and took the plunge at Sunsail’s Club Colonna in Antigua. Basically I paid a fortune (sterling is a nightmare against the $) and quite frankly it wasn’t worth it… boats were awful (kicker broke on the Laser first time out), the staff were the most demotivated bunch on planet earth, the place looked like it needed a complete makeover and the only creatures that looked like they were enjoying themselves were the cockroaches that made a nightly appearance from under the wooden cladding on the bar deck. The place is a dump and should be shut down – word of advice: if you’re thinking of booking a Sunsail holiday: “Don’t do it” – keep the credit crunch folding stuff in your pocket and book somewhere decent. No wonder they’ve shut down all their European resorts…”

- from www.sailinganarchy.com

Now, we’re familiar with Magnus and his now defunct blog. We enjoyed some of his posts and disliked others. So, our experience is that we should take this commentary with the good ole “grain of salt” before rushing to judgement. However, we almost stayed at Club Colonna about 4 years ago before ultimately chartering in the Grenadines. (however, there was a little discussion about scuttling the charter altogether in favor of a luxurious stay at Coco Bay…)

At that time, the resort looked pretty nice. But, it would be helpful and interesting for the bareboat community out there to know firsthand: is this report accurate? Have you visited? What’s the latest on Club Colonna in Antigua?

Please post your comments below.

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So I suppose this one ranks high on the nerd meter. Some of you probably think that bareboat chartering is an opportunity to get away from technology. Or, maybe you’ll be visiting the Sweet Pie Bakery on Mustique where you can order a printed copy of your favorite, international daily newspaper which renders a Kindle newspaper subscription unnecessary.

For the rest of us who stare at a heap of books we’ve been trying to read for months, just fretting over the best few to take in order to pack lightly, the Kindle (or now – Kindle 2) could be your new best friend.

For those not familiar with the Kindle 2 (or Kindle 1 for that matter), it is essentially a PDA-like electronic book device. The advantage is that it can hold approximately 1,500 books and magazines. This means that you can pack light and ensure there will be no shortage of reading material during your charter.

A couple notes about the Kindle

  • I was recently turned onto the Kindle by my father-in-law during a recent trip to a remote part of Mexico. Because the device users EVDO service to connect with the Amazon store for ebooks and magazine/news subscriptions, it was effectively out-of-range and unable to update or download new books/subscriptions. This MAY be a problem depending upon where you’ll be chartering if you want your daily dose of The New York Times (or any of the over 260,000 ebooks available for purchase). If you load up ahead of time, it shouldn’t be a problem. I do wish it was equipped with Wi-Fi since free wireless access seems ubiquitous in even the more remote regions for chartering.
  • If you’re reluctant to even consider a device like this because you like to read regular printed pages, think again. Before trying out out, I felt the same way. But, the contrast, white page backgrounds, and overall reading experience make me reconsider. For those that like reading paper vs. laptop screens or LCD monitors, this is much closer to a printed book than you might think.

For a technical review of the Kindle, you can check this out.

Ultimately, this is not a cheap piece of gear but it does offer some really nice capabilities that can make you trip more enjoyable. And, you may even travel lighter, with fewer books, and skip the entire process of deliberating over which books you’re going to take for your next bareboat charter!

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As short-timers on this planet (relative to it’s history), we should all be 100% committed to doing our best to make the planet better than when we fist joined the rat race. It’s somewhat like my philosophy developed over years of crewing on race boats. Somewhere – I’m not sure where – I adopted the mentality that IF someone was footing the bill for me to be able to go racing, the least I could do was make an effort to ensure the boat was in better condition when I left than when I first climbed aboard. Maybe it was some rigging tape covering some exposed ring-dings that might snag a headsail during a tack. Maybe it was helping prep the hull or burnish antifouling paint. A little help to rebuild a winch is the least a crew member can do to contribute. Right or wrong, good or bad, it’s always been my philosophy and I think it’s a good one.

I really feel the same way about chartering. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the most remarkable things while chartering around the world. Whether it was rays breaking the surface or beds of urchins as far as the eye could see in the South Pacific, Orca whales and porpoises dancing across the water in the Pacific Northwest, or the countless fish in a variety of snorkeling spots across the Caribbean, the waters we sail on and the communities we visit while chartering are quite remarkable.

As visitors, we have the explicit responsibility to leave no trace from our visits. Whether it’s handling garbage safely (some islanders do not always do this even when they take money for removing your trash – it often gets thrown behind a building somewhere) or being cautious fueling vessels and watching what gets sent overboard, it all adds up.

However, I think charterers can do more. For instance, I like what Moorings is doing with their electric propulsion system on their Robertson and Caine catamarans. Sure, they still have a diesel generator to charge and run the boat’s systems. But, for large vessels, this at least cuts the number of fossil fuel powerplants in half. This system relies on Glacier Bay’s OSSA propulsion and DC genset and is supposed to reduce emissions and exhaust in the precious ecosystems in which we charter.

[BTW – have you had experience with these catamarans? I’m curious to hear how they actually perform underway. Please share your comments below!]

I think we can do more. Whether it’s encouraging more green chartering efforts or even programs to donate to causes that help protect and improve popular chartering regions, I’m for it. I would also like to hear about programs like this from readers and highlight those that create and foster these efforts.

So, cool ideas or organizations that foster green chartering? Let us know!

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