My husband and I planned our first solo sailing trip for 4 months. We thought we had everything planned out and knew the area where we wanted to sail. We had previously been to the BVI in Oct., 2012 with 3 other couples, aboard a Lagoon 450 with Dream Yacht Charter.
This time we wanted to try a St. Thomas company and not have to bother with the ferries. We chartered a Mahe 36' with AC from CYOA.
Our "plan" was to spend a sleep aboard and then take off to the BVI. Ha, not so fast!
Flight from DFW-MIA-STT was perfect, arrived on time at 1:00 pm. Taxi to CYOA, boat was clean and ready early to board and start putting things away. The staff at CYOA are nice. Barbara, Jay, Chris and Weeks were very helpful on everything that we needed. Jay was our check out guy, he went overboard telling us simple things and making us count everything onboard. A bit tedious but we understand that he is only doing his job. (see Problems with boat below) Probably should have taken an hour, not almost 3 hours!!
Starving and needing groceries, we stopped for a quick sandwich at the Frenchtown Deli. What a super place, friendly, good food, good prices. We walked to Pueblo Market and taxied back. The Market left a lot to be desired. Later in the week we shopped at Dolphin Market on St. John and it was 10x the store of Pueblo.
My husband had been sick 2 days before we left and he was on antibiotics. He still felt pretty bad on Saturday. We tried sailing but the winds were crazy and the swells were 7-9 ft. We were going to just get to Christmas Cove but our lazy jack busted so we turned around and went back to base. Chris climbed up and fixed it. By then it was lunch time and my husband was exhausted so we stayed on a mooring ball at CYOA again that night. No problem, came in for a nice shower at CYOA and dinner at Hook, Line and Sinker. Nice place, good food and very friendly people.
Took off Sunday morning, wind and swells were still crazy so we motored to Christmas cove and spent the night. The next morning still gusting to 25 knots and both of us not feeling well, we motored to Francis Bay via Red Hook. St. John looked amazing and we made a quick decision to just stay there instead of going to the BVI. Of course, I ended up with the same bug/infection that my husband had by Monday. We did a lot of napping and pampering each other.
Our favorite mooring area was Maho Bay/Francis Bay. Wow, just beautiful beach, hills, and very peaceful. The turtles were amazing to watch every day and swimming was very comfortable.
We did dinghy in one day to Cruz Bay and we loved it. Had a delicious lunch at Deli Grotto in Mongoose Junction. Cute place for shopping and watching people. We walked up to Dolphin Market. Fresh vege's, fruit. Nice place.
Thursday we had a wonderful, full day of sailing. Blue skies, nice wind, no swells. Full moon!!! What a great end to a great day.
Planned on doing the same on Friday but when we started the engines to motor out of the mooring fields, the port engine was pouring white smoke. We motored with just one to Christmas cove and called home base. Talked to Nancy and she said we “should” be ok. Well, we weren't about to chance the other motor going out too so we motored back to CYOA. Jay said that they could get us going again in maybe an hour but we decided to pack it up. We moved to Emerald Beach hotel for our last night. A nice comfortable big bed with quiet AC and a shower head that you can move sounded pretty dang good to us.
We were not too pleased with the Mahe. The owner of this boat needs to spend some money on it and do some general maintenance. He was the previous occupant before us so he is well aware of the problems. The rate that they charge is for a premium catamaran and this is far from it.
The weather was beautiful a few nights and we tried to go without AC. The generator was so noisy, it vibrated the starboard side of the boat. The windows do not have screens. Even followed Jay's suggestions of ventilation but it was way too hot. By the 4th night, we moved mattresses upstairs to the galley.
The fuel AND water gauges were not working. Jay said that we should have enough fuel until mid week but it was very nerve racking not knowing for sure. Plus the only place on St. John to get fuel is in Cruz Bay BUT we are not allowed to bring the boat into that harbor! Had to go to Red Hook twice.
The refrigerator and freezer kicked butt. It was really nice to have a full freezer for ice. The pots/pans, kitchenware were updated and adequate since we cooked a lot on this trip. Jay was sweet enough to find a coffee pot for me to use. I ended up not even taking it out of the box since I am now hooked on the Starbucks Via instant. But I really appreciated it, Jay!
We had a wonderful time regardless of the boat. We’ve been married and have worked together for 34 years and are great at adapting to any situation. Sailing with just the two of us was an experience. My husband is the sailor and I am not. Although I did learn a ton on this trip, I am ready to go back in October with other couples and be a hood ornament.
PROBLEMS WITH THE BOAT:
Shower hoses in both heads were inadequate. This is a design flaw and had existed from the beginning. Hoses are too short causing them to kink when they are extended from the sink to the shower.
Port side waste tank was completely full and plugged. It was never cleaned out or checked. We discovered this on the second day. What is amazing, according to CYOA the owner of the boat had used it the week before. This explained the smell of sewer.
Dinghy davits are too short for the size of dinghy. When raising the dinghy it ends up partially under the stern of the boat. Someone has to push it out with their legs as it is being raised. The pulley system for the dinghy is inadequate for the weight. We had to take the line from the motor end of the dinghy davit and feed it up under the seat and through the throttles at the helm to reach the winch.
Zero ventilation in both berths. The only good ventilating openings in the lower areas are the escape hatches in either head. These are positioned in the center of the shower area waist high with no way of covering them. If you shower at night with the light on you can be seen from the outside. The windows in both berths and the main salon do not stay open because of loose hinges. We had to tie them open with line or find something to prop them open. No screens on any windows and the salon windows have sun screens on them so visibility looking out is poor. These were installed because this boat gets hot.
Starboard side shower sump pump was extremely slow, about a one to one ratio, one minute shower one minute pushing the sump pump button.
No brakes or cleats for the jib sheets. They had to be left on the winches or left to fly when we used one of the winches to adjust the main sheet.
When we arrived on the boat we did a check out with Jay which we believe is critical. Understanding the boat at the beginning creates a comfort level for the user. The first thing they give you is a list of things that are on the boat, everything from how many towels to the number of maintenance tools, screw driver hammer etc.. The only problem is they want you to locate and count everything on the list and check it off. This as I understand it is for two reasons: if something is missing when we get back we are responsible, and this lets CYOA know we have located these things. My thought here is that if I am paying $714.00 a day PLUS a deposit for a boat which was paid for up front, show me the respect that I will return this boat undamaged and that I am responsible enough to familiarize myself with its contents.
The user’s manual was helpful but it mentions negligence so many times that you’re afraid to use anything. I would have them send you a copy of the check out documents before you send them any money.
CYOA an interesting philosophy:
We noticed that there wasn’t a broom or mop on board. (they did find a broom for us) It was explained to us that they do not provide these things because people use them as boat hooks and break them. They said that it’s sad that 10% of the renters do 90% of the damage to their boats. They also said that this is why they do not have electric winches on their boats and if they come with electric winches they disable them. Again, for the amount of money that I paid to charter this boat don’t treat me like that 10%.
CYOA does not provide a chase boat in the USVI. You break down you’re on your own. They do have boat service brokers in the BVI.
The folks at CYOA were great, professional and courteous. Their hands are somewhat tied to the company policies. The Mahe 36 is not a top tier boat or a second tier boat, it’s a weekend/day sailor at best and certainly not worth what we paid. We booked our trip with Joann at viyachts.com like we did last Oct. She made everything easy and I highly recommend using this broker.