Matt and Britney Weidert

Matt Weidert

BVI vs Exuma Bareboat Charter: Exploring New Horizons

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 a thrilling new chapter for sailors accustomed to the BVI's charms. This guide is dedicated to you, the BVI veteran, seeking to navigate the unique challenges and rewards of the Exumas.

Here, we dive into essential BVI vs Exuma logistics, detail the cruising conditions, and outline the distinct charter experiences awaiting in these turquoise waters. Whether you're craving solitude, adventure, or a test of your sailing prowess, the Exumas offer a captivating journey beyond the familiar.
Palm Cay, Nassau - gateway to the Exumas

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 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 limited but quality selection from companies such as Dream Yacht Charter and The Moorings. This limited availability can lead to higher prices due to supply and demand dynamics.

Ease of Access and Travel

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: BVI vs Exuma

Provisioning is a streamlined process in the BVI, with numerous services catering to yacht charters. In contrast, the Exumas, while providing essentials near Palm Cay Marina in Nassau, offer fewer provisioning delivery options, emphasizing a more self-reliant approach to stocking your yacht.
Even in calm conditions, opposing tidal flow and trade winds can cause washing machine conditions in the cuts

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.
The most challenging mooring ball we've ever picked up, during a 3 knot tidal flow. At Pirate's Lair in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.

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 unpredictable west and northerly winds, unlike the BVI's more stable weather patterns. This variability introduces an element of adventure to sailing in the Exumas, appealing to those who enjoy adapting to changing conditions.

I wrote in more detail about the Exuma cruising conditions in this post.
Britney and I enjoying an evening ashore at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club a few years ago

Tailoring Your Exuma 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.
Off the beaten path in the Exumas on our most recent trip. Not another boat in sight.

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.
There are often many smaller reefs you can explore right from your anchorage, such as this one you can see off the back of our cat. Here, we speared a couple of lionfish that we made into ceviche.

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.

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