Conch ChartersThe British Virgin Islands is home to Conch Charters, operated for the past 25 years by Cindy Chestnut and Brian Gandey, a young couple from Montreal.

Everybody that I have met that has taken a winter trip to the Caribbean spends at least one moment fantasizing about “cashing it all in” and starting a
business in a tropical paradise. I know because I have done it many times. The British Virgins Islands is one of these special places; beautiful blue water,
swaying palm trees, gentle people and perfect sailing weather almost all year long. In today’s world this is all but impossible with all regulations, quotas,
bureaucracy maturation of the of the local business society in the islands. But 25 years ago the dream was alive and for the taking for Cindy and Brian.

Was it the exotic tropical islands or escaping from the reality of Canadian winters that made these two rookies take a leap of faith to start Conch Charters?  Brian recounts that back in the day when you had a business idea for the BVIs you met with the Governor and Chief Minister and  talked for a while. Then as Brian remembers, “after a few cocktails, they told us the secret to getting tourists down here was yacht chartering, and just like that we were in the yacht chartering business”.



Conch Charters in 1987
At the time chartering was in its infancy and to start the newly formed company, the daring duo purchased two boats: an O’Day 37 centre cockpit an Allmand 31 and found dockage for them on some well used wooden docks just outside of Roadtown.
 
Cindy, who handles most of the advertising and marketing crafted together a small classified ad and placed in Cruising World Magazine and waited. Their first customer was a fireman from New Jersey who was sent out by Conch on December 7th, 1987 on a yacht bearing the Japanese name Nishikazi.  The charterer, who had a wicked sense of humour, called Brian from Cane Garden Bay, Conch’s first call from a boat out on charter, to tell him that he was out sailing a Japanese named boat on Pearl Harbour Day!  Both had a good laugh over that. The charter ended up a great success and he became a regular customer for many years thereafter.
 
Currently Conch Charter operates with approximately 48 yachts, both monohulls and catamarans in Fort Burt Marina that has evolved from wooden pilings to two large concrete docks with an adjacent office. Cindy laughs when she remembers when the original office was in the laundry room of their apartment between the sheets and the towels. The facilities have gotten bigger and better but Cindy and Brian have always worked hard to maintain the feel of a family run business.

Our customers feel and appreciate both our attention and passion for the business as over 60% of our customers are repeat customers. Our staffs of 23 people feels this passion too as several of the staff has been with Conch almost from the beginning.
 

 

Conch Fleet in 1987 Brian and Cindy today 1987

 

As in any business that has been a going concern for 25 years, Conch Charters has had to endure a few bumps in the road so to speak. In 1991 The Gulf War broke out and the world stopped flying, tough situation when your business is on a distant island. Brian remembers that he went to Jost Van Dyke and there was only one boat in all of Great Harbour in February one of the most popular moorings in all the BVIs. It stayed that way until Desert Storm.
 
In 1989 Hurricane Hugo came roaring through the Caribbean. Well before the Weather Channel and satellites “weather guessing” a questionable science. They moved their six boats to Nanny Cay and had one of the “worst nights of my life” said Cindy. The category 5 blasted in with sustained winds of over 155 mph / 250 kilometres. On Tortola every leaf was blown off every tree. Throughout the night their thoughts and fears were such that they invisioned themselves gathering the meagre belongings and heading back to Canada and to start over again. Miraculously, the Conch fleet somehow survived intact.
 
On September 9/ 11 the phones went dead. Nobody wanted to travel and staying home became the new norm. Things seemed somewhat desperate but then the Canadians came and saved our “Canadian bacon” says Brian. Getting through natural disasters, challenging world events and the normal trial of building a business has required great employees, good friends, loyal customers and a little luck. Through it all Cindy says, “We’ve always ended up in the right place at the right time”.
 
Brian and Cindy have prospered over the years and now can taking some time traveling around the world. The business people they are, are always keeping an eye out for a way to improve their business and providing a better experience for their customers. Charter boats are becoming bigger and more cushier and customers have higher expectations for their charter. In keeping with changing requests for what would be considered luxury items,  wi-fi and generators are becoming expected accessories on charter boats. Every boat in the fleet can now be seen in a 360-degree view on their website: www.conchcharters.com.
 
Brian still says that one of the main reasons for Conch Charters success is like the old saying: location, location, location! When he looks out across Sir
Drake Channel to Peter and Cooper Islands it is just as beautiful as it ever was. From Brian and Cindy, “To all of our customers, boat owners, staff and
business associates, we would like to say thank you for the past 25 years, it has been fun”.
 
Now the next time you are in the Caribbean dreaming up some way to “cash it all in”, start a business and drink rum punch all day think of these two
Canadians, Cindy and Brian who made the big escape to islands and made it work.

To book your charter or learn more visit:  www.conchcharters.com


 

Related Articles

Lifestyle

  • Prev
This line-up of Beneteaus can to us from our friends at RCR Yachts in NY State where they are ...
As another harsh Victoria winter came to a close, the deck repair and refinishing continued with ...
The Peterborough Canoe Company was formed in 1892 and began production the following year after ...
On one of the sunny days we had recently, Kyle MacTaggart in Honey Harbour ON fired up the Merc to ...
For all those OnBoard subscribers who have followed along with the maintenance, repairs and ...
We hardly need tell you about the pandemic but it’s worth noting that the marine industry is acting ...
If you’ve been to CORK, you’ve probably seen Tim Irwin. Whether he was organizing volunteers, ...
This brilliant shot comes to us from professional shooter Elle Bruce.  These four sailors are ...
In 2008, Pat and Lynn Lortie said goodbye to their everyday life to pursue their dream; making ...
With old boats every repair seems to uncover something else needing attention.  Removing the ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Building on our last two editions (Sealants, and Fibreglass, respectively), Gelcoat is the next ...
After a successful R2Ak and regatta season in 2019, I felt that Pitoraq was due for a major ...
Pause for a moment and ponder this question. How much is your life and your safety at sea worth? ...
Last edition we talked about sealants to perform tasks like bedding and sealing. Other tasks like ...
Over the winter, a many-thousand pound fiberglass, wood or metal shell is held in position by only ...
Since the late 19th century, a debate has raged on the relative merits of diesel fuel over ...
This bag does more than hold your anchor and rode in one tidy little pile. After you’ve anchored ...
Purchase your copy of the BRAND NEW Ports Georgian Bay 2020 Edition at the Toronto International ...
The boat was put on the hard for this winter and were going to follow along with Graham as he ...
In this part, we’ll delve deeper into the other parts of the boat found below the water line: the ...

Shrink Wrap2020 is a year of change – self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine, and working remotely have become the norm. For many, this has been a bitter pill to swallow. Another bitter pill for boaters is the delay of the season. Provincial laws differ – so terms like ‘essential’ aren’t translating widely across the marine world.

In BC, marinas remain open and fuel is available, sometimes with conditions. In Ontario, marinas, boat launches, yacht clubs and the professionals that service the marine industry aren’t considered essential, unless the service and location allows a person to access their permanent residence only accessible by boat.

Read more about Boating in 2020........................

 

  

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
No wonder this is one of Regal’s best-selling boats; the Regal 33 Express offers amazing ...
The newest member of Beneteau’s Gran Turismo line is the GT 36 and this yacht brings the style and ...
With a philosophy of quality and 'doing things right Ranger Tugs launches the all new R-25 at the ...
The new Beneteau Swift Trawler 41 renews the spirit of the practical seaworthy cruiser. The ...
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. Our Virtual Show will continue to grow so visit frequently and check it out. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

Destinations

  • Prev
If you have four hours to enjoy a fine tour of one of Canada’s most interesting waterways (let’s ...
Boom & Batten Restaurant is suspended over the water adjacent to the Songhees Walkway and ...
Provincial Boat Havens are those special places to drop anchor in British Columbia’s West Coast and ...
NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...

KingstonBy Amy Hogue

Cruise into the city of Kingston, Ontario, and it will quickly become clear that this city and surrounding waterways have something special. Built around the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Kingston is the place to go if you love to explore new waterways, fantastic views, and exceptional boating opportunities.

Sitting at the intersection of three world-class Canadian bodies of water, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal (Cataraqui River from Kingston to Newboro), the water’s influence is deeply woven into Kingston’s culture and history. 

Read more about Kingston...........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
Since its introduction last year, the JBL by Harman Marine BassPro 10" Powered Subwoofer (JBLMBP10) ...
After decades of perusing charts and guidebooks as part of planning a cruise, it was a totally ...
Ever since I was a youngster Jeeps of all kinds have fascinated me. It wasn’t until the mid 70s ...
New from Plastimo, this bi-colour backpack in Tarpaulin 500D will keep contents dry from ship to ...
Being a boater can come with certain space restraints for additional items that may make your ...
Whether you are interested in monitoring your vessel’s systems while underway or remotely from your ...
No wires to install down your mast. Transmit to smartphone/tablet. Works with lots of great ...
Vesper Cortex, the advanced multi-station VHF, AIS, monitor with intuitive touchscreen operation is ...
The Handy One Combo is an all-powerful, hands-free lighting solution. It's tough, reliable, ...
The Nebo FIXR features an easy, portable solution for all your everyday tools.