Bareboat Charter Guide
Power or sail? Monohull or catamaran? Big or Small? Decisions, decisions...
Whether you have the experience or need someone who does, we've got you covered.
Tips & tricks for stocking your boat with all of the essentials for a stress-free holiday.
In the islands where Pain Killers reign, make sure your wet bar is stocked with these provisioning items.
Stock your boat with these toys for extra entertainment and adventure while on charter.
Life on Charter is splendid, here are some things that will make your trip even better. Like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Choosing the Right Boat
Selecting a yacht is one of the most exciting parts of a yacht charter vacation. When considering your options we recommend asking yourself questions like.. what amenities do you want the boat to have? And, how many private cabins will you need to accommodate the group? If you are interested in captaining your own vessel, what size or type of boat are you most comfortable with? These questions will help you as you navigate our fleet search.
Power vs. Sail
The first decision to make is whether you want a sailboat or a motor yacht. There is an old adage that says ‘life is about the journey, not the destination.’ Depending on whether you prefer the ‘journey’ or the ‘destination’ will help you select either a powercat or sail. On a powercat or yacht, you will have more time at the destination because the journey is much shorter. The reason is simple; you get to where you want to go when you want to get there since you are under power.
That’s a different story under sail. With a sailboat, you have to take into account the weather, and more specifically the wind. If winds are light you’ll need to tack back and forth for hours if need be — it’s not always as easy as sailing a straight line from point A to point B. Alternatively, sailing provides a very relaxing and fun way to see the islands. Many guests have a romantic image of sailing from island to island, enjoying the best sites of the BVI. If you love the art of sailing, there is simply no better place to sail than in the BVI!
Our honest opinion? You are on vacation for a limited amount of time. There are so many beautiful islands in the BVI to visit, if you charter a motor yacht or powercat you’ll be able to cruise exactly where and when you want to go. This will allow you to enjoy more of the British Virgin Islands during your stay.
Monohull vs. Catamaran
Once you have decided between power and sail, you then need to decide if you want to charter a monohull or a catamaran. Neither one is better than the other — both a monohull and a catamaran will offer a great way to explore the Islands. The differences come down to your personal preferences as well as how you and your crew will use the yacht while you are cruising the British Virgin Islands on your bareboat charter.
Catamarans (below right) have become an increasingly popular choice for charter guests in the BVI due to the exceptional level of space they offer for guests. Most catamarans have very large salons and outdoor spaces, given that they often have 20’+ beams. This extra width provides for additional areas to relax, entertain, and even escape making it the perfect vessel for groups. Catamarans also typically experience less tilt when swells are large because of the wide surface area their hulls cover.
Regardless of your choice, given the protected waters of the British Virgin Islands, either a monohull or a catamaran will provide a great cruising option for a bareboat charter.
If you know the type of boat you prefer, the next question is, what size? In general, the width and the length of the boat are less important than the number of cabins and heads — the boating term for ‘bathroom’. Consider how many cabins there are and how many people can sleep comfortably on board. Most motor yacht and powercats have 3–4 cabins, 3–4 heads and can comfortably accommodate 6–8 adults. Some sailboat and sail catamarans are even designed with up to 5 cabins and heads.
If you have a larger group, some of the powercats have dining areas in the salon that can also convert to a bed. Some may also have a small single cabin accessed through the port side cabin that can work well for a small child. These additional areas mean that some powercats can take up to 10 adults if two guests are willing to sleep in the dining room and not a cabin.
Captain Your Own Charter
Before you are approved to take a yacht or catamaran for charter you will be required to complete a Sailing Resume that details your previous yacht ownership and yacht charter experience. When your resume is reviewed, the operations teams wants to ensure that you have sufficient experience as a previous yacht captain.
When completing your yachting resume, the most important information to include are the yachts you have owned/captained that are similar in size to the yacht or powercat you hope to bareboat charter. There are no firm ‘rules’ for who is approved as a bareboat captain, but the general guide is that you need to have experience as the captain of a yacht which is of ‘similar size, displacement, engine configuration’ to what you want to charter. Typically, this means ownership and/or captain experience on a yacht or powercat within 10’ of the yacht you want to rent for bareboat.
The most important of all is your experience on a yacht with similar engine configuration. For example, all powercats and motor yachts will be dual engine twin screw. Therefore, you need previous boating experience at the helm of a yacht with similar engines — experience on a ski boat or center console will not be sufficient.
In addition to practical experience as a captain, it is also important that you have navigational experience. Chartering a bareboat yacht in the British Virgin Islands is very safe, as the islands are all very close together and there is line-of-site navigation. However, the British Virgin Islands are in the ocean and there are hazards and navigational markers that captains must be aware of such as channel markings, harbor and marina entrances, etc.
Bareboat charter guests may have enough experience on a vessel, but if this experience has only been on a lake or reservoir they may need some additional training regarding the navigational charts and helming of a yacht or powercat on the ocean.
There are no specific licenses, certifications or accreditations that you must have in order to be approved. If you have specific captain credentials be sure to include them on your resume, but they are considered secondary to the actual hands-on experience that comes from yacht ownership and/or previous yacht charters.
If you are worried you may not have quite enough experience — either with the physical size of a vessel or with navigating — there are multiple options that can still allow you the opportunity to bareboat charter a yacht in the BVI. One of which is a Check-Out Captain.
If the operations team feels you have some experience, but they are just not 100% sure on your ability to handle a vessel as large as you are considering renting, they will suggest that you have a one day ‘check out’ with a certified captain. This check-out will consist of having a captain on board your yacht or powercat with you for part of your first day to ensure you are comfortable and competent behind the wheel.
The check-out does not impede your day, as the captain will travel with you to your first destination. Along the way they will ask you to demonstrate your aptitude for the required bareboat charter skills including; anchoring, picking up a mooring ball, docking, navigation and chart reading, and close quarter maneuvering. Many guests actually find the check-out to be extremely helpful as they have a chance to ask questions and become more familiar with the yacht while the captain is on board. At the end of the day, the check-out captain will either sign-off on your skills or recommend a training captain.
If you have limited captain experience but still want to bareboat a yacht, then a ‘training captain’ might be perfect for your charter. The training captain will assist each day with planning a course, cruising the yacht, pick-up, and drop-off of mooring balls, etc. The captain remains on board with you for the entirety of your charter including overnight stays, with the main goal of improving your yachtsmanship. This is a great way to enjoy your charter while gaining an extensive amount of hands-on yacht captaining experience, qualifying you to captain a bareboat charter independently on your next trip to the BVI.
Tortola Sailing & Sight School
There is one more option if none of the above are feasible or appeal to you.
Have you always wanted to be the Captain of a bareboat charter in the BVI? Do you have experience on a boat of your own, but would like the confidence to charter something larger? Virgin Motor Yachts is proud to offer a partnership with the Tortola Sailing and Sights School. They offer a fantastic course called Powerboat Captain License that will increase your nautical knowledge, your yacht handling ability and give you the experience and confidence to be the Captain on your next charter. Best of all, the course is conducted while you are out on charter seeing all the beautiful sites of the BVI!
As a special offer, Virgin Charter Yachts will cover the cost of your course examination (a $200 value) if you book a Bareboat charter with us!
Provisioning is one of the most important steps to Bareboat charter planning. The fine art of figuring out what you need ahead of time and making arrangements for it to arrive at the boat before you leave the dock. Most charterers realize that they will need to provision with food, water, ice and beverages, but there are other things to consider too. Don’ forget the water toys, snorkel and/or scuba gear, fishing equipment and upgraded amenities such as a rib in lieu of the dinghy which is provided. You know, all the things that would make your charter vacation that much more enjoyable! This might be a good time mention the amenities that come with your bareboat charter; from there you can skip to the other provisioning sections for help with all of your provisioning needs.
VCY boats come stocked with:
Bed linens, blankets, pillows, bath towels, beach towels, hand towels, washcloths, dish towels
Blender, toaster, hot water kettle, coffee maker, microwave, propane stove and oven, refrigerator, freezer
Plates, cups, wine glasses, silverware, cutlery, mixing bowls, kitchen utensils, Tupperware, wine opener, can opener, placemats
VCY ‘Starter Kit’
Small bottle of dish soap, hand soap (in all heads), dish scrubber, dust pan and brush, matches, travel toiletries per head (shampoo, conditioner, body wash & soap), toilet paper (1 roll per head), roll paper towels, cleaning spray, clothespins, garbage bag (per trashcan)
Dock lines, fenders, large cooler, dinghy with 15hp outboard, boat hook, deck brush and bucket, emergency flares, emergency tiller, fire extinguishers, first aid kit, flashlight, life preservers, life ring, toolkit
Anchorage Guide, binoculars, charts, compass, cruising guide, depth gauge, parallel rulers and dividers, boat phone, and VHF radio
You’ll notice there is no hairdryer listed. You are welcome to bring yours but plan on only using it while onshore at marinas. You’ll learn during your briefing that boat electronics can’t handle the load of a hairdryer and trust us….you’ll end up with more trouble than it’s worth if you try!
Food & Drink Provisioning
Provisioning is one of the most important things you will do to prepare for your charter. We suggest placing a provisioning order for food and beverage at least 1 to 2 weeks prior to your trip to ensure delivery to Nanny Cay in time.
Please note: prices and availability of food and beverage items often change from the time you have placed an order, to the time that the order is actually processed. The provisioning companies do the best they can but may substitute or leave off items that are not available without charging you for those items. As you order, be sure to keep a comprehensive list of all the items you’ve provisioned, so when you arrive you can account for all items aboard.
If you forget to provision something–don’t worry! There is a small Riteway at Nanny Cay for last minute groceries and beverages. For those of you wishing to do your own provisioning, Virgin Charter Yachts will be more than happy to arrange a taxi for you on the day of arrival to take you to one of the nearby stores in Road Town.
The easiest way to stock your bareboat yacht with food is to order all your provisions before you arrive, and have them delivered right to your yacht. Riteway (the largest grocery store on Tortola), Bobby’s Supermarket or the Ample Hamper allow you to see their entire inventory online with add-to-cart ordering for all your provisions. Once you’re done just select your delivery time and specify the delivery marina. They will deliver the food right to your charter yacht or powercat, and even store your perishable goods for you if they arrive with your provisions before you‘re there.
We recommend meeting with your entire charter group over lunch/dinner before your trip, talking through the meals you plan to make, quantities and each persons’ preferences. While you are talking, one person can have the Riteway, Bobby’s Supermarket or the Ample Hamper website open on their computer and can be adding items to your cart as you talk. The website will save your cart so you can continue adding items you may have forgotten until you place your final order.
For a wide range of Organic and Gluten-free products, Riteway has the best selection. For specialty Italian produce and wine, Italian Wine Food Caribbean Ltd. is another great option. They offer online ordering through their website so you no longer have to email them for a provisioning list. However, they are not taking online payments yet so they will contact you for payment info once your order is placed.
Planning Meals on Charter
One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “what do we do about food on a bareboat charter?”— good question! Some guests choose to make all meals on board their yacht and others never even turn on the stove, choosing instead to eat ashore for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Cooking in vs. eating out is entirely personal preference while on your charter; our recommendation is a combination of both. We suggest planning to make breakfast and/or lunch on your charter boat. For breakfast many guests just provision with cereal, fruit, yogurt or even eggs, bacon, and toast — all of which are very easy to prepare in the galley of your powercat. For lunch, most charter groups simply make sandwiches or just end up snacking throughout the day.
Then there’s dinner — the pièce de résistance. We suggest planning to eat dinner ashore at one of the amazing island restaurants of the BVI.
Send all Provision orders to: Virgin Charter Yachts, H Dock, Nanny Cay, Tortola VG1110, British Virgin Islands
Be sure to let our staff know when your provisions are due to arrive, that way we can be sure your perishables are properly stored. We also recommend following up with the provisioning companies by phone to confirm delivery plans.
The desalinated town water on board the boat is safe to drink BUT it may not be as palatable as you are used to at home. There are many varieties of water available here on the island from Highland Spring to Perrier as well as many good local spring waters sold in gallon jugs at the Supermarkets.
“Most of our guests agree that it’s best to figure on approximately 1 gallon of drinking water per person per day if you are planning on provisioning for your entire charter. There are also water filling stations on some of the islands whereby you can refill your gallon containers – cost $1.00.”
Beer, Wine and Spirits Provisioning
For more of an extensive selection of specialty beverages, we recommend Tico or Caribbean Cellars who also will deliver to your charter boat. Each company tends to have ‘exclusive’ selling rights to particular brands, so if there is a certain beer or wine you must have, be sure to check with each company.
Rib & Water Toy Provisioning
Scuba & Snorkle Provisioning
The BVI is home to some of the most wonderful and exciting scuba and snorkle locations in the world. From the species diversity accessible by snorkle at the ‘The Indians’ to the highly accessible wreck dives including The RMS Rhone—the view from underwater is just as good.
For dive instruction, courses or even just equipment hire, we highly recommend Blue Water Divers – not only are they one of the best dive companies in the BVI, but they also have a dive centre right next to us in Nanny Cay! For our guests that prefer scuba diving tours, consider rendezvous diving with Blue Water Divers. They will meet you at your boat (location dependent) and provide you with transportation to the dive site(s) where you will embark on two guided dives. All equipment is included and light refreshments are provided.
Now given that the British Virgin Islands are over 60-square miles of Caribbean waters, it’s too far a distance for just one dive company to cover. If you’re looking for guided dives while in the east end of the islands by Virgin Gorda – with dive sites like the Chimney and Fallen Jerusalem – we recommend the team over at Dive BVI. Blue Water Divers primarily serves divers around Norman, Peter, Cooper and Salt Islands.
And for those that prefer to just snorkel? Blue Water Divers can provide you and your guests with snorkel gear as well. Make sure to have each guest stop in before you leave the dock to be fitted for snorkel gear before leaving on charter. Rates are per day for all equipment.
Every VCY bareboat charter boat comes with a standard 12 ft. Dingy with 15HP motor. This size dinghy will get you from your boat in protected coves and marina’s to shore and other nearby attractions with ease. For those of you looking to pursue activities that take you off island and into the Sir Francis Drake Channel, we recommend sizing up to a full rib rental. Ribs typically seat more passengers than a dinghy along with being faster and better able to navigate the swell. Please speak to reservations upon booking and they can help secure you an upgraded Rib.
Water Toy Provisioning
If you are seeking water toys, Island Surf and Sail are the shop to contact. Based out of Soper’s Hole Marina, Island Surf and Sail is the holy grail of toys and activities, and they ship your toy provisions to the boat FREE OF CHARGE. Their offerings include:
- Scuba and snorkle equipment
- Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards
- Surfboards and wind surfboards
- Floatation aids
- Dinghy ladders for guests that might struggle to get back into the dingy from the water after snorkeling
Life on Charter
Packing for a Yacht Charter Vacation
Most first-time charter guests tend to overpack and then find that they don’t wear half of what they thought they might need. Casual attire is welcome at most locations, even for dining. There are a small handful of finer dining establishments that you might want to dress up for, which is why we recommend the dining attire below. Note that some places do prefer a bathing suit cover up. Here is a checklist that you can use as a guide. And don’t forget, it’s best to pack in a soft duffle bag type suitcase so your luggage doesn’t take up too much room on the yacht.
- T-Shirts (at least one long sleeve if you find your skin is burning)
- Shorts (quick dying if you have them)
- Bathing suits (at least 2 recommended)
- Bathing suit cover-up (for casual day dining)
- Light pants (you probably won’t wear them)
- Flip flops/sandals
- Water shoes if you have them
- Dining attire (collared shirts, khaki shorts, sundresses, skirts, dressy top)
- Underwear and socks for each day
- Light jacket
- Shampoo, Conditioner & Body wash
- Suntan lotion, Sunburn cream (aloe vera)
- Other lotions (face and body)
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Insect repellent
- Baby wipes
- Pain reliever
- Seasick remedy
- Benadryl (for allergies)
- Waterproof makeup
- Medical prescriptions
- Camera or GoPro
- Cell phone (make sure to turn on International Roaming)
- Cell phone charger
- Dry bags or ziplock bags (to keep money, camera and/or cell phone dry)
- Beach bag
Other Things to Consider
- Microfiber towels (for back-up, they take up less room)
- Water bottle (keep handy for traveling)
- Games (playing cards, Uno, Trivial Pursuit, Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity)
- Spices in zip-lock bags (if you don’t feel like provisioning them. You may be charged import tax on these items…bring proof of purchase costs)
- Unique hanging plug-in light with extension cord (so as to identify your yacht in the dark)
- Individual small flashlights
- Eyeglass repair kit (you’d be surprised how often someone needs this while traveling)
- Snorkel shirts (if you burn easily)
- Personal snorkel equipment (although this is easy to rent at Blue Water Divers in Nanny Cay)
- Day pack or small backpack
- Lightweight rain jacket
- Clothespins and light clothesline for hang wet things
- Soft small cooler (for trips to the beach)
- Reading material
- iPad/laptop (keep in mind that internet is spotty in many places)
- Passport and Visas
- Credit Cards (Remember to call your credit card companies and let them know you will be traveling)
- Money and a safe way to carry it
- Travel Documents and Confirmation Codes
- Personal Marine Charts (Also provided on the boat)
US cell phones will work throughout the British Virgin Islands. It is recommended that you contact your carrier to adjust your plan to include international coverage or coverage that includes the BVI during your bareboat charter to ensure you receive the best rate. When you begin your bareboat charter you will also be provided a local cell phone to have with you while on charter. This cell phone will make free calls to the charter office as well as to the 24/7 emergency line and local search and rescue organizations, should you ever need them.
Internet & WiFi
The British Virgin Islands provide an excellent retreat destination for visitors seeking peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. For those wishing to stay in touch with all current happenings or share sunny holiday photos while sipping a cocktail on a white powdery beach, WiFi is available on board the yachts so you can stay in touch – if you choose!
Guests can purchase internet access for the duration of their yacht charter. The internet in the British Virgin Islands is good, but it is not comparable to what is ‘standard’ in the US. The wireless coverage in the BVI is about 80% — there are spots around Norman Island, North Sound Virgin Gorda, etc. where the internet is very spotty and intermittent. The wireless available on your charter yacht is great for checking email, and posting envy-inducing vacation photos to Facebook or Instagram, but do not plan to use it for any streaming services such as Skype, Netflix, etc.
Many of the islands, resorts and restaurants in the British Virgin Islands also offer free WiFi at their establishments.
Sailing After Dark
We do not allow our charter guests to sail after dark. We ask that you find a safe anchorage or mooring for the night before dusk. You can read further details in our charter contract. Failure to do this (unless permission is specifically given in writing) may void insurance cover and make you liable for damage or loss.
Keep in mind that during peak charter season, mooring fields at popular locations can fill up quickly. For this reason, we recommend that you find a mooring early and use your dinghy or RIB to explore the area so as to avoid being caught with the sun going down and no place to stay for the night.
If you choose to leave one country and enter another during a charter (i.e leaving the BVIs to enter the USVI’s) it will be necessary to clear both customs and immigration when you leave the first country and enter customs and immigration upon arriving at the next. We will provide you with information about the area you are visiting during your chart briefing.
In Case of Emergency
All our Yachts have VHF radios and an out of hours number will be given on the day of your arrival. On the day of your charter, you will also be issued a local cell phone, whereby all calls to our office and our emergency number are free of charge. If needed, we can place credit on these phones so you can use them for other calls. (Calls to the USA and Uk are 20c/25c per minute).
Please feel free to pass on our office number 1(284) 495-2526 as a means of contact to your folks back home. We will be more than happy to pass on messages.