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Conch Charters Trip Review

The BVI on a Beneteau 332 by Kinga Bekier

Kinga and David


Chartered Beneteau 332 “Eftihia” with Conch Charters, October 1-20 2012


Where, When and How?-Vacation 2012 by Kinga Bekier

 

Up close conch charters trip review


After a few weeks of considering a land based vacation, I’ve decided - this year we are ready to take our sailing experience to the next level! The decision is very exciting, but intimidating at the same time. I have been sailing since high school. Various sailing camps were easily accessible in Poland. Over the years, I progressed to spending three to four months out of a year sailing Mazury Lakes, working with kids as a sailing/windsurfing instructor. Sixteen years had passed since then. Two years ago, I met David, who was eagerly willing to share my dreams. We purchased a 26’Chrysler and enjoyed it on Florida’s west coast. It quickly became obvious that I’m a “sail” girl while David does not mind to motor. During one of our weekend trips, sitting in Pelican Bay, dreaming of longer sailing trips and a bigger boat, we knew we were ready for our next adventure!


Within the next few days, I came across viyachts.com. The main selling point was pretty silly –the proximity to my home in Florida. I looked at the boats, read reviews, and e-mailed Melody regarding the boat availability. She was great and guided us through the entire process (by the way, I never went to their office)! I started planning for ten days, but after seeing Conch Charters prices, we took the boat for twenty days. October was our month of choice-less touristy, almost at the end of hurricane season, and airline/boat prices were unbeatable. Our charter was quickly confirmed, paperwork was easy, and we received our Cruising Guide and maps (including dive map) shortly after. We still had three months to go.


Although not necessary, we joined the ASA (American Sailing Association) and took their ASA 101 and 103 courses. For me, it was so I know what the hell they are talking about in English (sailing vocabulary is different in Polish –trust me…), and to help David stop being a “motor” guy and start sailing. I think that it helped us a lot as a couple and made the whole vacation stress free and more enjoyable.


The time had come and the bags were packed. We departed Fort Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines to St. Thomas in the afternoon of September 30th 2012. After a short taxi ride to town, we found ourselves in Windward Passage Hotel (recommended by Melody) right across the ferry dock. On a late afternoon walking tour of the town, we visited Charlotte Amalie’s Emancipation Park, Fort Christian, 99 Steps, Market Square, and a Lutheran Church. Dinner at the waterfront Greenhouse Restaurant completed the day.


The morning ferry ride to Road Town Tortola was a pleasant experience. The Native Son boat had an open deck on top. We watched the waves, felt the wind, glanced at islands, and blue water.
Around noon, we arrived at Conch Charters and met our buddy for the next twenty days-EFTIHIA- Beneteau 332. Ross did an excellent job with the boat briefing and even though I did not have much to do with diesel engines before, I felt very confident that we could manage all boat systems just fine. Chart briefing and paperwork at the office was simple. The girl efficiently pointed out national park moorings, overnight anchorages, routes, and color coded it for the ease of quick reference reading. She also pointed out areas to avoid, depending on weather and sea conditions. Oh yeah … I guess I should mention - winds are not as light as you may be used to on a small lake or bay, but a heavy keel boat with sufficient draft well makes up for it!

We took our time. We had no place to rush to…. That evening, we shopped for light provisioning at Riteway Market (walking distance from the boat) and headed to town for a quick tour of a bakery and the famous Pusser’s Rum. On our way back, we checked the Conch weather report.

Conch Charters Conch Weather Chart


In the morning, Ross took us off the dock (company policy) and said his final “good bye.” With the wheel in my hands and wind in my hair, we were on our way “out to the sea.” After a short sail, we reached Norman Island. Finding available national park mooring buoy at the Treasure Point was no problem (remember, we are out of season.) We snorkeled the caves for a few hours. The water was warm with great photo opportunities including little shrimp and large long-spined sea urchins. Colorful reef fish welcomed us in the BVI (British Virgin Islands.) We raised the sails and enjoyed the afternoon breeze (well….a bit more than a breeze!) We passed The Bight and Soldier Bay, and picked Benures Bay to drop the anchor. We took a dingy ride to the shore and snorkeled. I named this site Conch City, due to numerous conchs crawling on the bottom.

Snorkeling Conch Charters trip Review
Sailing Conch Charters trip Review

A morning snorkel at The Indians started the day. Despite very breezy weather, we enjoyed this site a lot and marked it as-”dive later.” Schools of bright blue fish, a Hawksbill turtle, and a Peacock flounder were the highlight of our day. Tacking to Peter Island took longer than expected, partially because we were still playing with the boat. We were amazed at how well it took the waves, how it heeled, and the ease of getting rid of the rudder!

 

After looking at the mooring field in Great Harbor, we turned back to the anchorage of Little Harbor. David jumped in the water to check the anchor. Surprisingly, schools of fast moving minnows and at least ten sixty-pound tarpon did not seem to be disturbed by our presence.

 

The morning tack to Salt Island went fast. We arrived at the next National Park, The Wreck of Rhone, snorkeled, and had lunch. Then, we motored to Cooper Island to “use the engine more” and picked a mooring for the night. I snorkeled for hours in the Manchioneel Bay while making movies of turtles feeding in grass and of graceful stingrays.

 

Stingray swimming Conch Charters


The North Swell subsided and Virgin Gorda was okay to visit. The Baths and Devils Bay had a nice walking trail connecting both, leading through huge boulders, crystal clear water, and soft golden sand. After a brisk walk, we ate at the bar and talked with an interesting local man who described house building on the island and local life. Sailing again…..

 

Sailing beneteau conch charters trip review


Our choice for the night was a few hours’ sail away to Marina Cay and Trellis Bay, to visit in the morning for provisioning and fuel (which we hardly used, but might as well get along with water.)


That evening, a local artist, Aragon visited us on his boat full of imprinted shirts, organic bread and bananas (exactly as described in the book!)

 

locals selling jewelry conch charters trip review


Oops - we couldn’t open the fuel tank… but we filled up with water and ice. At 8:30 a.m., David called Conch Charters. Mike arrived quickly, broke two tools with no luck. He went back to the base hoping to find the right size fuel cap, but it was too small. We planned to meet him in a few days in Cane Garden Bay, when he had the right size replacement and we would get there. Lunch at Trellis kitchen was excellent. We savored their signature grilled fish sandwich on grain bread. With full bellies, we sailed to Leverick Bay, where we planned evening ashore.


The next day, I woke up very early, ready to go. We took a short motor to the Saba Rock mooring field for a lazy day. The day was quiet with no other boats, but…we got visitors – a local man showing us proudly the whole boat bottom full of lobster, and a local artist selling her jewelry displayed in colorful baskets.


Locals selling Jewelry Conch Charters


I happily jumped in a dingy with a mask, fins, snorkel, and a photo camera.

cannon conch charters

The girl gave us a better idea where the old cannons were! Eustatia Sound was definitely worth the visit, due to the amazing color of water. We spent the entire day snorkeling and searching for treasure. We found the old cannons encrusted in coral beds, and two huge Eagle rays soared by.

 

We departed Saba Rock at sunrise for a long trip on a light breeze through The Dogs (where we snorkeled,) Great Camanoe Pass (we motored there,) to the private Guana Island, where we anchored for the night.


In the morning, we visited Monkey Point National Park for a windy snorkel. A nice sail took us to Cane Garden Bay, where we met a young man from Conch Charters, who was proud of his recent promotion. He quickly fixed our fuel intake. We enjoyed a meal on shore and did some grocery shopping. The season was definitely starting, evidenced by fuller mooring fields.


Sandy Cay, which looked like a postcard tropical paradise was another lovely national park we visited. That small island located near Jost Van Dyke offered a nice beach and refreshing swim. We moored at Little Harbor for lunch, and then sailed to Sopers Hole Marina. Our vacation was half over!


The next day, we started our diving adventure by renting tanks from Blue Water Divers, located at Sopers Hole. I sailed in very rough water, crazy wind, through the squall, to The Indians. The wind subsided and diving was unbelievable, with peaks, valleys, colorful sponges, and black tree corals.

Coral conch Charters


This evening the marina at West End was full, due to the yearly Interline Regatta. Our next planned stop was Privateer Bay, but somehow we followed Regatta to The Bight for a party at Willie T’s.


October 13th, Tropical Storm Rafael, Virgin Islands…..are we hearing right?

Diving the Rhone

I took a chance to check out Kelly’s Cove for a snorkel before heading back to base. We were welcomed again by Ross, who docked the boat and prepared it for the storm, while we grabbed part of the luggage and went to Casa Maria Hotel (arranged for us by Conch Charters) for the night onshore, awaiting Rafael passing through.


We were glad to get on board next morning. It was blowing hard for the next two days, so we followed a Regatta to Gorda Sound, where we watched a few races. As the wind died down, we settled in Manchioneel Bay as our diving base. With easy access to Sailing, Caribbean Divers on shore, we dove The Rhone, Cistern Point, Painted Walls, etc

 

We’d like to thank Melody and Conch Charters for our unforgettable vacation.

 

Conch Charters Sunset in the BVI


 

Kinga and David
Conch Charters
Beneteau 332


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