The BVI's Baths on Virgin GordaWe’ve bridled our bowline to a mooring ball in Trellis Bay just off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

My friend, Dave Anschuetz, fires up the Force 10 on the pushpit of our chartered Moorings boat, a Beneteau 43.3 named “Teranga.” Down below, my wife tosses a salad while Dave’s wife, Barb, marinates chicken. 

Topside, I survey our surroundings while I concoct my own take on the iconic (and insidious) Painkillers we were drinking like water two nights ago on Jost Van Dyke.

The Other Virgin Islands Trunk BayWe’ve dropped the anchor in the northwest corner of Pillsbury Sound, hard by a channel bisecting two lush islands. Waters rush through the passage, lured by the beauty of St. John, an island that reclines in the afternoon sun like a Renaissance courtesan. 

Our skipper today, Captain Wilson, knows these islands like the back of his hand. He should – he’s boated here almost daily since 2008. “I will take you where you want to go,” he promises. “I will show you what you want to see.” 

I’ve cruised the British Virgin Islands numerous times but I’m just getting my feet wet here. Today’s the perfect introduction. 

One of Eleuthera's white sand beachesI was ruined...completely and utterly ruined. At the young age of 22, my very first trip to the Caribbean was to Eleuthera, which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on earth. It will now be an uphill battle for me to surpass my visit there. 

An opportunity to go to the Bahamas presented itself to me because I spoke French and I was available. I will be forever grateful to my parents for enrolling me in a French Immersion program.

The trip was arranged by Michel Sacco of L’Escale Nautique – Canada’s French-language yachting magazine); the charter was booked through a Quebec-based company, Navtours, so French was a necessity. Needless to say, my French sailing vocabulary was limited so I came prepared with notepad in hand, ready to learn how to sail in French. 

Dominica Sunset

Dominica has been on “the” list for quite some time now and when I actually get to do something on “the” list, my heart skips a beat! 

Although Dominica still remains somewhat off-the-beaten track for boaters, it is located right in the middle of the chain of Caribbean islands and can be easily accessed from Antigua and Guadeloupe to the north or Martinique and St. Lucia to the south. Chartering boats from any of these islands is easy.

 

Antigua Ffryes BeachIt’s just so easy to get to Antigua with direct flights offered by Air Canada and West Jet several days a week in season, Antigua also offers one of the best kick-off points for exploring so many other Caribbean islands…if you have the time and the winds are prevailing in the right direction.
However, don’t get me wrong. There’s lots to do in Antigua and since it’s pretty much a year-round destination, you could customize your charter vacation by planning it around Antigua Sailing Week in late April or the annual carnival in late July.

 

Cuba’s by far the biggest island in the Caribbean. Roughly 1,200 km long x 200 km wide at its widest point with something like 3,700 km of coastline it’s the ideal destination for Canadian boaters, right? Canadians can and do go by boat to Cuba but it’s not always simple. The Cuban government, the American government and the currents in the Straits of Florida complicate passage but don’t let any of those deter you. For those who do cross to the land of sunny Latin skies and the convertible peso, there’s a quite reasonable array of marine facilities and a very warm welcome.


It’s an awkward fact of life for us at Canadian Yachting magazine that while we know the majority of our readers are power boaters, the majority of people who want to write about their cruising experiences are sailors! In addition to that, the greatest attraction seems to be far-off and exotic locations that can be both expensive and challenging to anyone’s skills as a skipper. So, we wanted  to offer the power boater’s perspective too and to remind our readers that some of the most memorable and spectacular scenery is really closer than you’d think.

As exotic and exciting as a bareboat yacht charter sounds (and is) it can still be accessible to the yachting novice because the preparations and details are all clearly spelled out and frequently, are reasonably priced too! For example the Sunsail website explains that yacht sailing is available to all. You don't need any previous experience to start and the cost is comparable to a villa holiday.

As I left Toronto to join our flotilla in Tortola I must admit I had some sympathy, (not much mind you) at having to leave behind the other two Galley Guys, Andy Adams and Greg Nicoll whom both had other commitments. The first leg of the trip took us from Toronto to Miami and then on to St. Thomas  where we were met by Elvis our taxi driver who took us to Red Hook Marina where Captain Camille of Dolphin Water Taxis shuttled us over to Tortola.

Shaun Clare and his wife Anne are members of the Britannia-Rideau squadron. In April 2012 they chartered La Bella Vita, a 42-foot Robertson and Caine Leopard catamaran, and toured the US and British Virgin Islands. They will continue exploring the area in April 2013, and are including Anegada once again on their itinerary. While Anegada is off limits for many charterers, some charter companies may allow their boats to be taken there if the charterer can demonstrate sufficient navigation and sailing experience. Shaun and Anne were required to submit a sailing resumé, which included a transcript of their successfully completed CPS courses.

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