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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection


WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE CRUISING GROUND?
We discuss the popular charter areas and ask for your VOTE
August 2008


We made a name for ourselves as a Caribbean brokerage but we actually book charters in all the popular cruising grounds around the world. If you have visited some of these areas (preferably on charter), we would be interested to hear how you rate them and if you would recommend them to others.

We have written short descriptions on the popular islands in these areas (see below). We hope you find them interesting - there's a whole world out there waiting to be explored!

Using our normal voting system will be misleading, as busy areas like The Virgin Islands will distort the results. We will therefore use a rating system ('A' for best, 'D' for not recommended) and the results will be divided by the number of responses for each area.

You will be voting on the following cruising grounds:
Virgin Islands, Leewards, Grenadines, Western Caribbean, Bahamas / Florida, Western Mediterranean, Croatia, Greek Islands, Turkey, New England, Pacific Islands, New Zealand / Australia and Asia.
You will of course be able to break this down further in the comments field. We will publish the results and comments as they come in.

So take a moment to VOTE. We would love to hear your feedback and if you would like to talk to a bareboat or crewed broker, we would be happy to help you plan your next vacation!

Call us (800 621 7855), email us, or request information via out website.
All photographs taken by Ed Hamilton.

CARIBBEAN

Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands - The most popular charter destination in the world. Steady trade winds from November to June, protected waters, endless number of bays and beaches to explore, fun beach bars, all in a relatively small cruising ground only a few hours from the U.S. Lots of boats in the peak months (but there are lots of anchorages to accommodate them). Bareboat and Crewed. Avoid August through October. Tortola and Virgin Gorda are the larger islands. Jost Van Dyke, Cooper Is., Peter Is., Norman Is. and Anegada are all islands you won't want to miss.
US Virgin Islands
St. Thomas - The USVI are slightly west of The British Virgins and used to be the preferred starting point for crewed yachts. The combination of short sighted US Coast Guard restrictions and improved supplies in The BVI have changed this slightly, but the chance of cheaper flights into St. Thomas and duty free shopping can still make it attractive to start your charter in The USVI. Virtually all charterers do then head into The BVI. St. John is slightly smaller than St. Thomas and much less densely populated, due partly to the 5000 acre national park donated by Lawrence Rockefeller. It has some nice beaches and is a good stop on the way to The BVI.

The Leeward Islands

St. Martin - The starting point for most Leeward Island charters. A busy island experiencing enormous growth. Crowded downtown, but some great beaches. Popular base for megayachts. A week long charter generally includes sleepy Anguilla to the north and bustling St. Barts to the SE, with its French flair and fabulous (but expensive) restaurants.
Bareboats and crewed yachts can sail one way from Antigua to St. Martin, visiting the less travelled islands of Nevis, St. Kitts, Statia and spectacular Saba.
Charters starting from Antigua could also sail north to Barbuda (for complete solitude), or south to French Guadeloupe and on to Dominica.

The Grenadines

The Grenadines - Easier access, more stable summer weather and a desire for new cruising grounds have made this area more popular in recent years. The prettiest islands lie between St. Vincent and Carriacou, so most charterers fly into St. Vincent or Canouan, but some, particularly Europeans, fly into Martinique or St. Lucia and sail south. It is possible to charter one way, ending in Grenada, but sailing the other way, from Grenada north, can be hard going. Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Tobago Cays, and Petit St. Vincent are popular stops - see them all in our crewed slide show of the Grenadines.

Western Caribbean / Mexico

Belize - Excellent scuba diving and snorkeling. Uncrowded, unspoiled. Very few boats, restaurants or people outside the main ports. Bareboat and some crewed. Shallow water so cats are the norm. Charter can be combined with shoreside excursion such as exploring The Mayan ruins.
San Blas - Beautiful, unspoiled islands off the coast of Panama. Great snorkeling but scuba is illegal. No bareboat companies and only a few crewed yachts due to restrictions. The local Kunas have a very different culture so it is important to select a crew that is familiar with this area and its people.

Bahamas

The Bahamas - The Abacos are perfect for bareboating, The Exumas are for those looking for stunning scenery and solitude on a crewed yacht.
Abacos - Popular bareboat destination. Compact, sheltered cruising ground. Shallow, so cats have an advantage.
Exumas - Beautiful low-lying islands, stunning beaches and turquoise water. Crewed only. Very little nightlife. Great place to be alone.

MEDITERRANEAN

Season runs from early May to mid October.

Western Med

Spain, Balearic Islands - Relatively few boats can legally charter on Spain's coast, but Balearic Islands (Majorca, Ibiza and Menorca) are popular and steeped in history. Bareboat and Crewed.
South coast of France - Known as The Cote D'Azur or French Riviera. Touristy. A place to mingle with the rich and famous. Crowded in August.
Inland France - Canal barges. A whole network of canals link inland France. A canal charter can be a great way to leisurely explore this beautiful country and visit the many vineyards. From bareboats to five star luxury barges.
Corsica and Sardinia - Bareboat or Crewed. A beautiful, less touristy cruising ground. Crewed charters can combine Northern Corsica with NW Italy.
N.W. Italy - Genoa to Elba - An extension of The French Riviera, but less crowded. Some lovely harbors, including the beautiful Portofino and interesting islands to explore, plus plenty of fascinating towns and villages inland in the Tuscany countryside.
S.W. Italy - Amalfi Coast - The Bay of Naples and the spectacular Amalfi coastline are legendary. Ischia and Capri lie offshore and Positano, Ravello and of course Amalfi are popular ports. Driving the high cliff hugging road is an experience, but sailing along the coast is beautiful also.
Sicily and Aeolian Islands - Experience the flavor of Southern Italy and its sometimes turbulent past. Visit Stromboli and Mt. Etna, its two volcanos, and discover the fascinating Aeolian Islands with their black beaches and sulfurous mud baths.

Croatia

Eastern Italy - Consider starting your crewed charter in Venice, before crossing to The Croatian Coast.
Coast of Croatia - A wonderful, undeveloped cruising ground with beautiful islands, national parks and fascinating towns and villages. At the southern end, Dubrovnik is truly unique. Bareboat and crewed.

Greek Islands

Saronic Gulf - Close to Athens and relatively protected, these islands are popular with bareboaters and crewed yachts. Piraeus is convenient, but fast ferries can take you to a less commercial harbor to start a charter. Poros, Hydra and Aegina are popular island stops.
Cyclades - The Cyclades are what most people imagine a Greek Island should look like - pretty pastel colored buildings against bright blue skies and sea. The larger islands, which can accommodate cruise ships, can however get crowded and commercial, particularly in July and August. This area is also much more exposed than the other Greek Islands, and when The Meltemi peaks in August, winds can be strong enough to keep all boats in port. There are several bareboat bases but this is for more experienced sailors.
Dodecanese - The Dodecanese are just off the coast of Turkey and are less commercial than most of the other popular Greek Island groups. Rhodes is the largest island and with its international airport, is a logical starting point, but there are many other islands to see, including the beautiful Simi. Now that the formalities have been eased, it is possible to move between Greece and Turkey, so many crewed charters choose to start in Turkey, where boat prices can be so much lower.
Sporades - Primarily a bareboat destination, this area offers more protected sailing and relatively short distances, at least in the Northern Sporades. They are harder to get to, but in turn are far less touristy or crowded. A great way to experience the true flavor of Greece. Lots of great beaches, snorkeling and pretty island scenery
Ionian - The Ionian Islands are to the west of the Greek mainland and are noticeably greener, due to the different weather patterns. This is a popular bareboat cruising ground, with several interesting islands to visit, easy sailing and generally short distances between ports. Not as crowded or touristy as some other Greek Islands. Crewed charters can combine The Ionian with a longer charter up to Montenegro and The Croatian Coast.

Turkey

Turkey - Has to be by far the best value in The Mediterranean and offers a wonderful balance of beautiful scenery, great sailing, friendly people and magnificent ancient ruins. In these days of a deflated dollar and crippling exchange rates, Turkey is well worth a second look. Crewed sail, power and Gulets (popular local motor sailors), plus many bareboat bases. As in most of The Mediterranean, avoid July and August when possible, due to crowds.

ENGLAND, IRELAND and SCOTLAND

The SW coast of England, Western Scotland and SW Ireland have some wildly beautiful scenery, with classic fishing villages nestled between spectacular cliffs and green countryside. Weather can change quickly, even in July and August, and spring tides average at least 20ft, so better for more seasoned sailors.

NEW ENGLAND

Rhode Island Coast - Most charters start out of Newport, RI. Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and other popular islands within cruising distance offshore. Marinas can get very crowded in July and August.
Maine - Our own back yard! Spectacular coast with fishing villages, many pine covered islands and estuaries. Best Crewed as coast is unforgiving for amateurs! Best mid June to mid September. Can be foggy in August. September can be spectacular and the tourists have gone!

PACIFIC ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND and AUSTRALIA

Tahiti - Best weather May through September. Rainy season January through March. Bareboats out of Raiatea. Crewed also in more remote Tuamotus.
Tonga - Mostly bareboats. Smaller cruising ground protected by a reef.
Fiji - Chartering is mostly crewed, as local knowledge important.
New Zealand - Crewed and Bareboat chartering in The Bay of Islands. Best weather November through April.
Australia - Whitsunday Islands, popular with bareboats and crewed. Diving on The Great Barrier Reef. May through August are the cooler months.

ASIA

Thailand - Some crewed yachts and several bareboat bases. Choose cruising ground based on time of year to avoid unsettled weather. Warm year round but best November to April.
Seychelles - Excellent diving, beautiful beaches. Best November to mid March. Bareboat and Crewed.

So take a moment to VOTE. We want to hear about your favorite area. If you would like to talk to a bareboat or crewed broker, we would love to help you plan your next vacation!
Call us (800 621 7855), email us, or request information via our website.
All photographs taken by Ed Hamilton.



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  Ed Hamilton & Company
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