The Practical Side, Please

HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT CHARTERING?Readers want to know: How to get there; when to go; what to pack. I'm not a travel agent—far from it—but I do have some practical experience to share, especially when it comes to the Caribbean.How to get there. San Juan, Puerto Rico, has long been the hub for travel from the U.S. mainland to the islands, and American
Author:
Updated:
Original:

HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT CHARTERING?

Readers want to know: How to get there; when to go; what to pack. I'm not a travel agent—far from it—but I do have some practical experience to share, especially when it comes to the Caribbean.

How to get there. San Juan, Puerto Rico, has long been the hub for travel from the U.S. mainland to the islands, and American Airlines has long dominated air service. There are, however, other airlines and other routes. Here's my strategy:

Check airline Web sites for specials and compare prices, and/or use one of the discount sites (kayak.com, cheaptickets.com, airgorilla.com) to explore airlines, prices, and routes. I've found that on occasion you can do better with the airline sites.

I always look for a nonstop flight from a U.S. city to the island I'm interested in. For example, American offered seasonal direct flights from a selection of U.S. cities to St. Thomas, and happily the city I live in was one of them. The flight from St. Thomas to Boston took 3 hours plus, and I didn't have to hang out in San Juan, waiting for a connection. It isn't clear from aa.com whether this service will be continued.

It's sometimes cheaper or more convenient to fly to St. Thomas even if your destination is Tortola. There are frequent ferries from St. Thomas. There's service via high-speed catamaran from Charlotte Amalie to the ferry dock in Road Town (www.tortolafastferry.com); the regular ferries leave from either downtown or Red Hook (at the east end of St. Thomas) and come in at West End, Tortola.

Working with a travel agent. If you're planning to use frequent-flyer miles, you're obviously on your own. Some of the larger charter companies have in-house agents; They work with you to make sure you can correlate sailing dates with flight availability. They can also help you find a place to stay for one or two nights, even in high season when many hotels have a minimum stay of several days to a week.

I don't usually make specific recommendations, but this one is an exception. Judy Shapiro of Caribbean Travel (800-327-5540) has, over the years, proved that she knows just about everything about traveling to and in the Caribbean; she's found reasonable rates (air and hotel) when none seemed to exist, has found ways for me to get from A to B when the route seemed impossible, and has bulldog tenacity in finding a way to provide what's needed.

When to go. Time of year determines prices, availability, and sailing conditions. Here's a general guide: High season, which includes Christmas-New Year weeks and January through March, is the most expensive in terms of charter rates, airline prices, hotel rates, and so on; it's also the windiest time of year in the Caribbean. Less expensive and less windy is mid-season, April through June; this is the favorite time for many locals as well as charterers. Summer is the time when all charter companies offer special rates, and some of the specials involve extra time—say, 10 days for the price of 7. In my experience the Caribbean can be quite hot in the summer months, though there's always plenty of water to jump into to cool off.

What to bring. You don't need much. I travel with a small backup to hold my camera and tidbits, plus a carry-on bag—and when it's full, that's it. Sailing is an informal pastime, and that's one of its charms. My basic onboard wardrobe includes quick-dry pants and shorts, a couple of bathing suits, and a light rain/wind jacket. If I know we'll be going to a fancy restaurant, I bring something suitable; it's a good idea to check online or in a cruising guide AS TO whether your chosen restaurants haVE dress requirements (coat and tie for men equals dress or dress-up pants for women). Other places will be happy to serve you as you are.

Special gear: I have an assortment of quick-dry clothing that can be washed and worn within an hour or two. A quick-dry, breathable, SPF 30 T-shirt has proved to be not quite breathable, but excellent for providing sun protection while snorkeling (and it dries quickly even when soaked in salt water). If you need to protect your entire body from the sun, or if you get chilly in the water, try one-piece black dive skins; they pack small, and you can stay in the water (or dive in the Caribbean) for hours.

I like to bring my own snorkel gear, mostly because I have a comfortable neoprene strap on the mask (option: bring the neoprene strap and put it on the charter company's mask). I use small swim fins, which fit in my bag, rather than the longer dive fins.

New finds: Finally, there are 3-ounce sizes (carry-on legal) of sunscreen and toothpaste. I'm still looking for 3-ounce containers of shampoo.

Finally, don't miss SAIL's annual Winter Vacation section in the October issue with updated contact information for Bahamas/Caribbean charter companies and much more. And be sure you have a retaining strap for your sunglasses.

Amy Ullrich

Related

FB-BHM-1024

SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked ...read more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Sail.me Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? Sail.me is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to ...read more

VendeePromo

2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which ...read more

valleytrunk3

BVI Chartering in the Pandemic

The week before I flew out to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, I was having a few second thoughts. The islands had broken out of their Covid-enforced tourism hiatus in December, but the conditions of entry seemed a little stringent: a negative Covid test within ...read more

01-LEAD-windfarm

Sailing Amid Offshore Wind Farms

Here in Europe, the general feeling about green energy from offshore wind turbines has moved on after an initial surge of general skepticism. Concerns raised over cost, threats to seabirds, wind interference and the rest have to some extent been answered, and it’s hard to argue ...read more

LunaRossaPrada

VIDEO: Luna Rossa Wins the Prada Cup

The show has gone on despite last week's Covid panic in Auckland, and the "underdog" Italians are victorious. After being bested by INEOS Team UK in the round robin section, they seemed to have an uphill battle ahead of them going into the finals. However, the Italians have been ...read more

FB-BHM-Cuffe-2048x

SAIL Black History Month Series: Paul Cuffe

Paul Cuffe was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, in 1759. His mother was a Native American woman named Ruth Moses, and his father was Kofi Slocum, a formerly enslaved man from the Ashanti Empire, located in modern-day Ghana. They had 10 children including Paul. His ...read more

Ryan-Finn

Point of SAIL: Ryan Finn on Solo-sailing a Proa Round Cape Horn

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with solo-sailor Ryan Finn, a veteran bluewater passagemaker looking to re-create the famed New York-to-San Francisco clipper aboard the 36ft proa, Jzerro. Although Finn was forced to abandon his first attempt ...read more