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Boat Type

Posts: 10
Active Member
Topic starter

Had a question concerning a boat.....We are going to be living on St. Thomas and are thinking of buying a small boat. We were wondering what size boat would be appropriate to travel between the virgin islands and to places like Tortola or Virgin Gorda? We were not sure how the water/weather conditions were out there and if people were able to take sailboats b/w the islands or not.

Posted : January 19, 2007 3:28 pm
Posts: 81
Trusted Member

I've known some people that regularly took a small boat (14' RIB w/ 50HP outboard) between the BVI and St Thomas, most people use something a little larger, a common size of boat for this purpose at the rental yards is 19'.

The weather and sea conditions is usually fine, though sometimes if theres a storm way out there you'll get a big north swell, and 8'-10' waves isn't fun in a little boat (for most people).

Many people people take sailboats (like the entire charter industry), but if you don't have an engine in the sailboat it can be a very long trip and involve a lot of tacking since the BVI is often directly into the wind.

Hope this is somewhat helpfull...


Posted : January 19, 2007 4:58 pm
Posts: 206
Estimable Member

I am afraid small boat is a relative term. It has a lot to do with what you expect. As Dave said on a nice day inter island trips on an open 19 foot center console are easy. Line of sight navigation, calm seas etc. If you want to overnight on a boat from island to island on your boat, then you will be jumping up into the thirty foot range to get something comfortable. If you don't have a lot of boating experience then I would suggest next trip down rent a small power boat for a day with a captain and have them give you the basics do an easy run over to Yost Van Dyke get a feel for what you want. The do a day sail on a thirty foot sailboat so you will know the difference. In either case rent a few boats and ride them before making a purchase because how you use the boat and what your comfort level in operating one will make a big difference in the cost. One thing to consider in the islands is the availability of charter boats both bare and crewed. If you don't think you are going to boat a lot it may make more sense to rent or charter when you need one. I can tell you that maintenance, insurance, payments, storage etc. can add up in a hurry. So if you only plan to boat a few weekends or weeks a year this will be a cheaper alternative.

I started boating twenty years ago in a small open boat to ski and pick up girls and drink some beer, (this worked out OK I met my wife that way), when I was in college. I have since owned four different boats and currently own a thirty foot cruiser. I never dreamed the impact that boating would have on my life. I have been fortunate enough to travel around a large portion of Florida and Alabama coast. I have been to Bimini and back to Miami. I have sailed in Cancun. I have also traveled a large portion of the Ohio River and all of the Kanawha countless times. And last but not least I have done three charters in the US and BVI's we are moving to St Thomas as well in the not to distant future because of these experiences.
Good luck,

Posted : January 19, 2007 7:01 pm
Posts: 532
Honorable Member

We had a 30 ft sailboat with Volvo Penta engine on St X and it was as small as I wanted to make the trip over to St T. Perhaps I am just a weedy coward!
The advice to make sure that you have some kind of power is very good advice. We had a couple of nightmare interisland trips when the captain (definitely not as cute as Jack Sparrow) insisted that even tho. the engine was being worked on, everything would be just A OK!!!!!!
It wasn't - I don't mind tacking, but sideward sailing for hours with no visible forward progress was more than I could take.

Posted : January 19, 2007 10:08 pm
Posts: 859
Prominent Member

Dear mfoster0: Although not a real "boatie" I totally concur with Captain Jay's admonition to get some mileage in these waters before thinking of buying a boat here. If you jump right in you'll be among the oh so many who arrive here, think it would be such a great deal to buy a boat, go ahead and do it - and then end up selling the boat in less than a year after the reality sinks in, the reality being what Captain Jay has pointed out so well.

The cost of maintaining even a relatively simple boat can be considerably more than you might imagine and most of those "jump-in" people I've met over the years finally sell when they figure out that the cost of maintenance, insurance, etc. far outweighs the actual useage they get out of the boat which they purchased, after all, as just a casual runabout plaything to have some fun on over weekends. Follow Captain Jay's advice! Cheers!

Posted : January 20, 2007 1:29 am
Posts: 1428
Noble Member

I'd suggest trying both power boats and sailboats to be sure you (and your significant other if you have one) are in agreement on the type that suits you both the best. Once you know the kind, try a few different sizes and configurations also to save you the headache and financial loss of selling/buying a couple times until you get the right fit. For STT to BVI trips you can likely get by with a smaller boat than if you were living on STX and traveling to STT and Tortola, etc. The crossing from STX is 38 miles and the seas vary. If you think you might want to make the trip south to STX at some point, factor that in. Or if you want to head east to St. Martin or even further down the island chain if you get more adventurous. I'd personally hesitate to head out on long open ocean trips in anything smaller than 50'. Our 65' sailboat made the trip from Seattle through the Panama Canal to STX quite well and in comfort, but is undoubtedly overkill for the kind of sailing you might want to do in the BVI's. I've chartered 35' bare boats out of Tortola for trips around the BVI's and that was about perfect for what we were doing at that time. We could have used a larger water storage quantity, though! If you plan long excursions, find the largest water capacity boat you can come up with or put the $$ into a watermaker. You won't regret it. I definitely wouldn't want to rely on sails alone. Tacking into the wind into a tight harbor or between boats already on their moorings is a recipe for frustration and occasional disaster.

Posted : January 21, 2007 2:40 pm
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