How to Plan Your Charter
There are so many decisions to make when planning your perfect charter vacation. It is our hope the following information will be very useful to you. Just take it a step at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the details. We want this to be the most stress free, relaxing (yet energizing) trip you have ever had! Of course, we are always available to assist or advise you in any way you need. We are here for you so please don't hesitate to call or email us at anytime.
If you are looking for something specific, click on the links below to jump ahead to that section.
One Step at a Time
What Is a Bareboat Charter?
A bareboat charter is an arrangement for the chartering of a boat whereby no crew or provisions are included as part of the arrangement. Instead, people who “rent” the vessel from the owner are responsible for taking care of such things. In a bareboat charter, the owner gives possession of the boat to the charterer. The giving up of possession by the owner is the defining characteristic of a bareboat charter.
A bareboater occasionally chooses to have a captain onboard for the duration of the charter. In this case, it is called a “captain only” charter. The charter company will often times assist in facilitating a captain, but it is still considered a bareboat charter.
This is very different from a “crewed” or “term” charter. In that situation, the responsibility of the boat falls on the owner who has employed the master and crew which consists of a captain, first mate and or chef. These charters are fully provisioned by the crew.
Bareboat chartering gives you the freedom to choose your own destinations and set the pace for your vacation. It also gives you the opportunity to shop for yourself, or through the help of a provisioning company, choose exactly what you prefer to have onboard for your charter. It is very cost effective and makes managing your budget much easier.
Do I Qualify or Should I Hire a Captain?
We do not require a license or certification, but we do ask that you complete a sailing resume. Once you have booked your charter, we will send you a Charter Agreement and Terms & Conditions where you will find the resume form. We will review your experience and take a look at the boats you sailed and the similarity of vessel you are looking to charter.
If you prefer to have a captain onboard with you for the entire length of the charter we are happy to facilitate that request. A captain is $300 per day, plus you provide for all meals and, of course, it is customary to tip, so be sure to budget for that. If you want to learn more about sailing, you might enjoy have an instructional captain onboard to share their knowledge. Captain's fees in that situation are based on the level of training and the day rate of the hired Captain.
Please keep in mind that our Captains will not sleep in the bow cabin, so please plan accordingly when choosing your yacht. If the boat does not have a separate Skipper's Quarters, you will need an extra cabin within in the main accommodations of the yacht for the Captain.
When Is the Best Time to Sail the Virgin Islands?
There is no bad time to sail in the Virgin Islands, so the best time for your group really depends on you. December through April is our Mid/High season and when most people choose to charter. Christmas and New Year's weeks are really special and are the busiest weeks of the year, but well-worth it. Be aware of local events, even during off season, that could have an impact on crowds, etc, such as regattas, poker runs, or flotillas.
February, April and May are the quietest months, so you won't be fighting the crowds. These are great months for chartering.
June 1st - November 30th is hurricane season, even though June and July is quite busy. While many people are concerned about chartering during this time, there really is a very low chance of a hurricane affecting your vacation. If you are looking to be alone in an anchorage, with the pristine beach to yourself, October and early November are the best times for that.
We always recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance to protect your vacation investment, but most especially during hurricane season.
Choosing a Boat
When choosing a boat, start with the type of boat that matches up with your experience . . . monuhull or catamaran. Then, decide what size coincides with that or is one step up. How many people do you have will determine how many staterooms you will need. If you will be hiring a Captain, remember that one cabin needs to be available for that person. Also, take a look at photos on our website and pick a couple of your favorites. Determine your dates of travel and go to the "Request a Quote" button at the top of every page and we will check availability.
What is Included with the Yacht?
Every yacht comes with a fully equipped galley including microwave, outdoor BBQ grill and ice chest. Each stateroom will have bed linens, bath towels (not beach towels), hand towels and wash cloths. Snorkel gear is available to borrow at no extra charge. You will also be given a kit bag upon check-in that includes binoculars, cruising guides and a chart. These items will all need to be returned to the office upon your return to base. Be sure to bring phone chargers, aux cables, etc. Remember, this is a bareboat so there is no pre-provisioning. Plan accordingly. See more in the "Provisioning For A Bareboat Charter" section.
Can I Sleep Aboard the Night Before My Charter?
For $75 per person, a minimum of $150, you can board your yacht the night before your charter starts. Please coordinate with VIYC if this is something you are interested in adding to your charter.
Can I Place a Hold on the Yacht While I Check Airfare?
Absolutely! We can keep the boat on hold for up to a week. After that time, if we do not hear from you, we will automatically release the hold.
When traveling directly into the US Virgin Islands, there are some serious cost savings. Most major airlines serve the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas with fewer connections and/or direct flights. This makes airfare significantly less than flying into the British Virgin Islands — as much as $500 per ticket or more depending on the time of year. You can also avoid the costly and often inconvenient ferry. Not to mention the fact that you can easily lose a day on the front and back end of your vacation just getting from point A to point B.
Instead, you can go directly from the airport to Virgin Islands Yacht Charters and get settled immediately by taking advantage of our sleep aboard option if you have scheduled that in advance. Once you arrive, your provisions will be delivered directly to your boat, if you have made arrangements through one of our convenient provisioning services, or you can take a little time to shop for yourself at the nearby grocery store.
READY TO BOOK?
Always try to book your charter as far in advance as possible, particularly if your dates are not flexible or you have a specific boat in mind. December through April is our busiest time of year and these months generally book up well in advance. Christmas and New Year's often book a full year ahead. All of our yachts have full A/C and generator, so consider booking in low- or off-season for deals as much as 30% off.
Once you have decided on your dates and we have determined availability, the process is simple. We will email you with the Charter Agreement/Release of Liability and the Terms & Conditions for you to review, sign, and return to us.
What is the Payment Schedule?
What If I Need to Cancel?
We do understand things can happen at the last minute that may require you to cancel your charter. We try to be as flexible as possible, but please be sure to purchase the cancellation protection when you make your first deposit, so you are not disappointed. Click to view our Cancellation Policy, which is also part of the Terms & Conditions. Cancellation protection should not be confused with travel insurance, which you may want to consider purchasing from a third-party provider.
In order to secure the booking we will need a deposit of 50% of the charter fee. The deposit is due within two weeks of receiving your paperwork. If you wish to purchase cancellation insurance at that time please include $150 with your payment. Final payment is due 45 days
prior to the start of your charter. Payment instructions are included in the Terms & Conditions.
Now that you have officially booked your charter you will naturally start to think about planning out your itinerary, you will have questions about the process, local things of interest, and you will want to begin making decisions concerning provisioning, what to bring and not bring, etc. We will cover all of that and help guide you through step by step in order to make it simple and as stress-free as possible.
Do I Need a Passport or VISA to Enter the BVI?
What is the Currency in the BVI?
Is the Customs Process Difficult?
What Are the Customs Fees and Requirements?
Going back and forth through customs between the US and British Virgin Islands is a simple process. Certain times of year are, of course, busier than other times, but the procedure isn't anything to worry about. You will be given a customs packet during your briefing which contains all of the paperwork necessary for clearing customs both into and out of the BVI, as well as, clearing back in to the U.S. It is one stop in the BVI and one stop back through US Customs if you choose to clear in person. You MUST clear BVI Customs immediately upon entrance, but in the USVI you have 24 hours to clear in.
NEW to the clearing process is the Customs and Border Protection ROAM App, which can be uploaded to your cellular device.
CBP ROAM APP
Travelers should download the CBP ROAM app on their web-enabled smart device. Note that a free login.gov account is required to use the CBP ROAM app. After opening the CBP ROAM app, tap “Sign In”.
Travelers who do not have a login.gov account should “Create an account” and follow the instructions
Travelers who already have a login.gov account should sign into their existing account, and will be redirected back
to the CBP ROAM app.
After signing in to the CBP ROAM app, users can create and save traveler and conveyance profiles. These profiles can be reused for repeat entry into the United States. This makes clearing back into the US easy and totally stress free.
You will most likely clear into the BVI in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke or West End in Soper's Hole on Tortola. You will want to tell the customs officer that you are clearing IN and OUT and your paperwork should reflect that. You will want to purchase a Cruising Permit, which is required, and is $16 per person/per day. Also, you can expect to pay $20 per person for BVI Departure Tax and $10 per person for BVI Environmental Fees.
There are entry fees for the BVI National Parks so you must obtain a National Parks Permit as well. A National Parks Permit allows you to pick up day mooring balls in any of the BVI's fabulous marine parks. These include the famous Baths, the Caves, the Indians, Monkey Point and the Dogs. Anchoring is prohibited at all times in these areas in order to protect the Territory's vulnerable reefs. The cost of a park pass is dependent on the number of guests in your party and will vary from $50 per week for 4 guests to $110 per week for 10 guests.
Occasionally, the customs agent will include a Vessel License Fee which is an additional $35. There is a new fee implemented in the Fall of 2019 which is a Port Fee of $1 per foot for the length of your charter boat.
All persons, including US Citizens, require a passport when entering the British Virgin Islands. Your passport must be valid for another 6 months upon entering the territory. Visitors from some countries may also require a VISA for entry. If in doubt check with BVI Tourism Board. Don't have a passport or passport expired? Whether you're renewing a passport or applying for the first time, you can use this Passport Tool to fill out the form and print. Then simply follow the instructions for submitting. It's that easy!
The currency is US dollars. You will find most of the bars and restaurants will accept credit cards and traveler's checks. Due to the high bank charges in the BVI most establishments will charge a 3% to 5% fee on all card transactions. Always have some cash with you to pay for moorings or to use in some of the smaller bars and restaurants which may be cash only.
Overnight Moorings and Marinas
Can We Rent Watersports Equipment?
Yacht insurance is a mandatory fee of $40 per day, with a minimum of $200. There is a damage deposit due upon check-in. See Terms & Conditions for amount.
Most of the bays have overnight moorings and most of our guests prefer the safety and comfort of an overnight mooring instead of anchoring. Expect to pay $30-$35 per mooring per night. Moorings at the 5-Star Peter Island Resort are $65 per night. Be sure to get a receipt once you have paid for your mooring. If you would like to get your land legs back, spend the night in one of the BVI's full service marinas and make use of a little luxury on shore. Expect to pay anywhere from $1.50 - $2.50 per foot for the night. Some marinas will even include free water and ice.
Your boat will have a full tank of gas to begin your trip. Upon your arrival back to base you will need to pay to have the tanks re-filled.
Diesel is charged based on the market.
What About Diving Equipment or Dive Rendezvous?
There are truly amazing dive opportunities right around St Thomas and St John. You may also want to plan a rendezvous dive while in the British Virgin Islands and there are many great companies there offering that service as well. Please contact us if diving is part of your plans and we will hook you up with great companies depending on your dive location.
In the BVI in April 2016 new legislation was brought in, which means that guests can no longer fish from our vessels. Our boats are set up for sailing charters and are not fishing vessels, therefore do not comply with the new regulations.
Cell Service and WiFi
Cell service in the USVI is just like in the United States. There are no international charges. But, once you pick up a BVI cell tower, it can become quite expensive. Call your service provider prior to your charter and purchase a Passport Program or something similar and HotSpot your phone. This is definitely the easiest and most affordable option.
Most boats are equipped with WiFi capabilities, but depending on your location, service can be somewhat spotty. The additional cost for this is $30/$40 for 1 day up to $135/$150 for a week. Many of the restaurants and marinas have free WiFi access, but with ALGLink you will have the convenience of having reliable WiFi right onboard your own yacht.
BoatyBall for BVI
*BoatyBall.com was created to provide boaters with a more secure way to pay, stay, and play. Every BoatyBall mooring has been professionally installed and is in an active maintenance program so you can relax and enjoy your stay. BoatyBall.com has mooring balls in prime locations throughout the British Virgin Islands. BoatyBall.com has moorings that can be reserved through the app and other moorings that are in a first come first serve program.
BoatyBall.com makes it easy for boaters to pay. After setting up your account you can easily reserve and pay for a mooring ball in a matter of seconds. BoatyBall mooring fees are $40 and well worth the money and ease of stress. The ability to reserve a mooring ball allows boaters to spend more quality time on the water enjoying everything the BVI has to offer. To date, BoatyBall is available at Anegada, Cooper Island, Cane Garden Bay on Tortola, and Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda.
BoatyBall.com allows boaters to relax and play. Knowing you have a reserved mooring waiting for you on arrival to your favorite bay allows boaters to spend more time enjoying all the beauty of the BVI. That means more time with the family enjoying snorkeling, diving, fishing, National Parks, or just sailing the ocean blue.
Click here for a printable version of the BoatyBall Reference Guide. You should be able to find all of your boat information from our website, but please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We will also have this Reference Guide in your boat binder that you will receive upon check-in.
*Info obtained from
Know Before You Go
Decide if you are going to shop for yourself or with the help of a provisioning company. We want only the best for our owners and guests and have a few recommendations for local provisioning companies.
If you prefer to do your own shopping, Food Center, is a full service grocery store and an easy 5 minute cab ride away. Moe’s is a smaller, higher end grocery store in Red Hook and will have more gourmet and specialty type foods.
When making plans and in thinking about what you will need for the week, start with the basics. Think about all the things you use on a regular basis in your own home. Paper towels, toilet paper, all-purpose cleaning wipes, dish soap, scrubby sponge, kitchen trash bags and smaller trash bags for the waste paper baskets in the heads.
*Some additional things you will want to have:
Ziploc baggies, plenty of them, and in a variety of sizes. There are so many uses for these and you’ll be surprised at how many use. For saving left overs, keeping your money dry, organizing your chargers and adapters, etc.
Clothespins for hanging items on the railing to dry and keep them in place.
Personal toiletries including shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and hand soap for each stateroom.
You will definitely want bug spray onboard, especially if you are susceptible to bites.
Sunscreen is a must in the Caribbean sun, so buy plenty, but make certain it is the lotion type and is reef safe. NEVER buy spray on sunscreen or Coppertone products as they will yellow the deck of the boat and make it very slippery. Also, avoid sunscreen with self-tanner or bronzer as those will damage the boat as well.
Fabuloso is a must have product on any boat with marine heads and is readily available everywhere in the islands. Just pour a little bit into the head to keep it smelling clean and fresh. It really works!
A small box of matches is also a good idea just in case your lighter for the grill, cooktop and oven stops working.
Look at your itinerary for the week. What meals do you know for sure you will have ashore? Are there special nights you would like to have dinner onboard and watch the sun go down? More than likely you will have breakfast every morning onboard, so plan for that. Breakfast is a wonderful time to reflect on the previous day and talk about the plans for the new day. Have plenty of snacks, fruits, and simple things like sandwiches or wraps. You will also want to purchase salt, pepper, spices and condiments.
Drinks . . . can’t forget about that! Beer, wine, and alcohol along with your favorite mixers. Your yacht will have a cooler onboard for you to keep your drinks nice and chilled. Plenty of water and soft drinks, juices, etc. Try to avoid glass bottles if at all possible.
Ice . . . don’t worry about picking up ice at the grocery store as we have ice for sale at the marina.
*Remember, you will have many opportunities to purchase additional items and re-provision along the way, so don’t overdo it.
You won’t want to leave your boat with tons of food you couldn’t get around to eating.
PACKING FOR A BAREBOAT CHARTER
K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Sailor!
The old saying, "less is more" truly does apply when packing for your vacation. One soft sided duffle bag is the most you will need for a bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands. Space is very limited on most sailing vessels, so you will not want to utilized that space with hard-sided or bulky luggage. Most of the time you will be in a swimsuit and cover-up or t-shirt and that is perfectly acceptable during the day at pretty much every place you will want to play or dine. One or two "going out" outfits will be all you will need. A simple collared shirt for men and sundresses for the ladies. Avoid denim because it just takes too long to dry, although you may want to bring a pair of jeans with you are you are leaving the beautiful Caribbean weather for colder climates. Brrrrr!
A simple pair of flip flops will get you through an entire week, unless you plan to do a little hiking on the many hiking trails on St John, then you might want to throw in a comfortable shoe for that. If you plan to overnight in one of the marinas and use the showers, you will want some shower shoes. We would also suggest a small collapsible tote for carrying your toiletries along with you to and from the shower.
Don't pack large, bulky beach towels. Instead, try a Turkish towel or a sandless beach towel from Tesalate. Both will take up a minimal amount of space in your luggage and are very compact.
A long sleeve rash guard is always a good idea for a little extra coverage from the sun and to protect from the cool water while snorkeling. Along those lines, a light weight jacket or long sleeve t-shirt is also recommended for those cooler nights. And, remember, you will want to buy souvenirs while you are here and so consider purchasing those type things along the way.
Basically, pack half as much as you think you'll need and bring twice as much money and you'll have a great week!
In St Thomas taxi service can be quite expensive and sometimes a little stressful, especially at the airport. Usually cab fare is $15 per person from the airport to the East End, where Compass Point Marina is located. Also, be aware that some cab companies charge a fee for the amount of luggage you have with you as well. It is highly recommended that you pre-arrange your transportation a day or two prior to your arrival. If not, you will most likely end up in an open air cab or large van with other people and your stop will be the last stop because of the location. For a printable taxi info form click here. All cab drivers are familiar with the location of Compass Point Marina. Once you arrive at CPM, you will be looking for our office which has full length banners on either side of the door that say "Virgin Islands Yacht Charters".
ARRIVING IN ST THOMAS
Paradise Rental Car™ offers top-notch service with a personal touch unmatched by the big names on the island. As soon as you arrive you’ll be cruising under the sun in either the car you’ve reserved or a free upgrade, guaranteed! No more worrying about your car being rented out from under you. It is important to us that your vacation begins and ends as smoothly as possible, so Paradise Rental Car will provide free pick-up, drop-off, and delivery service between the airport or your destination on the island. Rest assured that on those dreaded ‘travel days,’ they’ve got your back! All of this for a lower price than any of the big companies can offer.
Renting a car instead of hiring a taxi can actually be quite the savings, especially if you plan to do your own provisioning. You can leave the car at the marina and Paradise Car Rental will pick it up. This is the only car rental company/service on island that we recommend.
What Time Can We Board?
Officially your charter starts at 12 noon on the first day and ends at 12 noon on the last day. Sleep aboards begin at 5 pm. We try to be very flexible with those times and will work with you to better accommodate your needs, assuming the boat is ready. We can't guarantee that will always be the case, but we will do our very best to help with ease of travel.
What Time Can We Expect Our Briefings?
Again, this is an area where we will be flexible and try to make it as convenient as possible for you. To get a jump on things and do a little prep work ahead of time, we suggest going through the NauticEd British Virgin Islands Chart Briefing prior to your arrival. It's fun and it will really help you in planning your itinerary and becoming more familiar with the navigation area.
What Happens If We Arrive After Hours?
If you expect to arrive after hours, please communicate that to us in advance so we will know that and we can make a plan for your arrival.
Are There Restaurants Nearby?
Within our marina we have one restaurant, Dive Bar, and they cook up amazing burgers, brats, and chicken sandwiches on their grill. If you're lucky enough to be here for their Summer or Winter Solstice Party, you are in for a real treat! Dive Bar is a popular hang out for the many day charter businesses in Compass Point as well as a local favorite. Dive Bar is open from 3pm until 11pm daily.
Red Hook is a five minute cab ride away where you will find a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and often times live music. There's never a shortage of fun in Red Hook!
Weather, Mechanical, and Onboard Issues
What Happens If Weather Becomes an Issue?
During the months of September and October there is a very slight risk of there being a named storm. Most people are concerned about chartering during this time, even though there really is a very low chance of a hurricane affecting your vacation. But, if you prefer very small crowds, warmer water, gentler winds, and lower rates there is no better time to charter than during Off-Season.
What Happens in the Case of Mechanical Issues?
In case of any mechanical issues you will want to call us right away. You can use the cell phone provide or from your own phone. More than likely Jim will be able to talk you through most problems ad have the issue resolved right over the phone. Should you need a service call, we will be able to reach you in a relatively short period of time. If, due to mechanical failure, you cannot sail and we are unable to repair the fault within 4 working hours from the time it was reported, Virgin Islands Yacht Charters will refund lost time. Sailing hours are deemed from 8am to 5pm and no refunds will be issued for lost time outside of these hours. It is imperative that you report any issues promptly.
Can We Use a Hairdryer Onboard?
Unfortunately, you cannot use a hairdryer of any other stylers aboard any of our yachts. Life in the islands is very casual and laid back. Once you have wound down to "island time", you probably won't want to blow dry your hair anyway. Let the tradewinds do it for you and embrace it! You always have the option to go into one of the marinas and use the onshore facilities for that special occasion.