Yacht Warriors

⛵ Exumas vs. BVI: exploring new horizons

Published 3 months ago • 5 min read

Hi Reader,

Reports are in: the BVI is buzzing with activity, reaching its peak around the Easter weekend. As the Yacht Warriors crew gears up for our BVI next adventure next month aboard a Lagoon 51, I’m hopeful the crowds will thin a bit. Meanwhile, I kicked off the provisioning for our journey, stowing away those essential hot sauces that no sailing trip can do without.

Safety update: recent groundings in BVI

A quick note on safety, following recent incidents where two private boats grounded in the BVI:

Oil Nut Bat channel grounding

A monohull was coming back in from the deep water side, and reports are that they just missed the Oil Nut Bay channel and ended up hard on the reef. Thanks to prompt assistance from nearby boats, everyone was safe.

I considered using this channel on our October trip to depart North Sound on our way to pick up the South Drop for some fishing. I opted to keep the stress levels down, avoid the more careful navigation required, and take the long way around the main Gorda Sound channel.

I'm not aware of anything wrong with the channel markers, but be sure to take extra caution if you plan to use the Oil Nut Bay channel. If it's your first time, consider using it on your way out vs your return. It will be easier to identify the channel markers, especially if the winds are up - channel markers can temporarily disappear behind waves in those conditions.

Horseshoe Reef rescue

In a separate incident, a private catamaran hit the rocks southeast of Anegada on Horseshoe Reef, which led to a rescue operation by the US Coast Guard and VISAR.

I don't have details on why the catamaran was in that area, especially in the very early morning hours when the rescue took place. But, I think the takeaway is simple for charter crews. Steer clear of the treacherous reefs and potential unmarked obstacles in the area around Anegada.

Spotlight - are the Exumas a good fit for you?

For those who have mastered the art of sailing in the British Virgin Islands, the allure of uncharted territories beckons. The Exumas, a gem in the Bahamian archipelago, present an exciting new chapter for sailors accustomed to the BVI's charms. This spotlight is dedicated to you, the BVI veteran, seeking to navigate the unique challenges and rewards of the Exumas.

Whether you're craving solitude, adventure, or a test of your sailing prowess, the Exumas offer a captivating journey beyond the familiar.

Navigating logistics for your yacht charter

Bareboat charter fleet

The availability of bareboat charter options significantly contrasts between the BVI and the Exumas. The BVI's more mature charter industry offers a wide range of bareboat and crewed yachts, facilitating easier planning for sailors of all levels.

Conversely, the Exumas cater to a more seasoned audience, with a narrower selection from companies such as Dream Yacht Charter and The Moorings. Prices tend to be higher in the Exumas, and it's been explained to me this is the result of supply and demand dynamics.

Ease of Access and Travel

Many short, direct flights to Nassau, the gateway to the Exumas, make starting your yacht charter adventure straightforward, especially compared to the logistical challenges sometimes posed by travel to the BVI. This accessibility positions the Exumas favorably, though the initial sail from Nassau across the Yellow Bank introduces a thrilling commencement to the Exumas journey that the BVI does not offer.

Provisioning Your Voyage

Provisioning is a streamlined process in the BVI, with numerous services catering to yacht charters. In contrast, the Exumas, while providing a well-stocked grocery store near Palm Cay Marina in Nassau, offer fewer provisioning delivery options, emphasizing a more self-reliant approach to stocking your yacht.

Understanding Cruising Conditions

Sailing Challenges and Rewards

Cruising conditions in the Exumas require a higher level of sailing proficiency, particularly when navigating the shallow, clear waters filled with coral heads. This contrasts with the BVI's deeper waters and well-marked hazards, which offer a more forgiving sailing experience. The dynamic tides and currents in the Exumas add complexity, rewarding careful planners with secluded anchorages and pristine environments.

There are mooring balls in some areas, but plan to anchor at least half of the time. I've found holding to be excellent in ~10 feet of water, and there are many areas where you can avoid the effects of tidal flows.

Don’t be intimidated. I tackled the Exumas on my third bareboat charter. A bit of planning and careful attention are all it takes for a safe and rewarding experience.

Weather Patterns and Sailing Seasons

Both destinations enjoy consistent trade winds, yet the Exumas experience more pronounced seasonal variations. The Exumas' susceptibility to cold fronts in late fall and winter can expose many anchorages to strong west and northerly winds, unlike the BVI's more stable weather patterns. This variability can introduce an element of adventure to sailing in the Exumas, appealing to those who enjoy adapting to changing conditions and testing their skills.

I wrote in more detail about the Exuma cruising conditions in this post.

Tailoring Your Charter Experience

Beach Bars and Social Scenes

While the vibrant beach bars and bustling social scene are hallmarks of the BVI, the Exumas present a more laid-back atmosphere. Staniel Cay stands out as a notable exception, where the iconic Staniel Cay Yacht Club offers a cozy gathering spot for sailors. It's an opportunity to enjoy the local flavor in a setting that's both welcoming and intimate, reflective of the Exumas' overall ambiance. This shift from the BVI's numerous social hubs to the Exumas' selective, serene spots underscores a more tranquil and exclusive sailing experience.

Natural Wonders and Seclusion

The Exumas are famed for their strikingly clear turquoise waters and endless cays of low-lying coral islands. This stark difference from the BVI’s mountainous landscapes and deeper waters offers sailors breathtaking new vistas. The Exumas’ beauty lies in its untouched nature, providing a sense of seclusion and tranquility even during peak seasons. Sailors can find solitude in secluded bays and private beaches, a rare luxury that's becoming increasingly sought after.

Exploring the Marine Environment

The marine environment of the Exumas is teeming with life, offering great snorkeling experiences. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a protected area, is a highlight, offering a chance to explore vibrant coral reefs and encounter diverse marine species in their natural habitat. This contrasts with the more frequented snorkeling spots in the BVI, presenting an opportunity for more intimate encounters with nature.

For BVI veterans, the transition to sailing in the Exumas is not just about encountering new landscapes and waters; it’s about embracing a different pace of life on the water. The Exumas offer a blend of serene beauty, unique challenges, and a quieter, more intimate sailing experience.

As we wrap up this edition, a huge shout-out to all the crews who've recently entrusted their charter plans to us. With 7 cruising guides dispatched this week to bareboat skippers, we're thrilled to be part of your journey. Curious about what some crews thought of their recent Yacht Warriors' experience? Take a look at our Google reviews for some firsthand accounts.

Have a great week!

- Matt Weidert

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