Many people dream of chartering a yacht in the beautiful British Virgin Islands (BVI) — and why wouldn’t they? The BVI are a seemingly untouched piece of earthly paradise that films like The Blue Lagoon are based on. True wonders of the world. But being that they’re so remote and somewhat mysterious, how does one even begin to plan a charter vacation? It’s easy, let us walk you through it.
Picture this.. Instead of staying in a hotel for a week you stay on board a yacht, sailboat or powercat; moving each day to a new, beautiful island location. Looking out the windows of your charter yacht, you realize that you are surrounded by stunning turquoise blue waters, powdery white sand beaches and 82 degree temperatures all year round. Sounds perfect, right!?! But once you actually arrive on Tortola and pick up your charter boat, what next?? Where do you go? How do you know what to see? What do you actually *do* each day? Is there a specific ‘route’ you *need* to follow?
Before each charter, we will give you an individual chart briefing so that you have the opportunity to discuss where you would like to go, and then we will customize our chart briefing to suit your requirements. Mooring buoys are available in many locations but remember to arrive by 5 pm so you are on a ball before dark. Each boat is provided with a cell phone so you can call us at any time if you would like suggestions on where to go and what to see. If you would like to do some advance planning, we highly recommend the latest edition of the Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands! This invaluable book shows aerial photos of all the anchorages, tells you about the restaurant and shore-side facilities, and has many other useful tips and information. It also contains a fold-out chart so that you can log your trip and keep it as a souvenir. A copy of the Cruising Guide will be on board for you when you arrive for your use during your trip.
As they say in the islands, ‘no worries!’ Just relax, and go with the flow — and let us provide a few helpful tips to put your mind at ease.
One of the most important Steps to planning a great itinerary is to familiarize yourself with a British Virgin Island Map and Chart. The British Virgin Islands are a collection of 60 individual islands, with varying degrees of habitation and development.
TIP #1: DON'T SHOW UP COLD
Captaining a yacht charter is a big responsibility and you should know the basics of navigating these islands prior to arrival! It’s a good idea to order and/or review a British Virgin Islands map, navigational and hazard charts. Download the most popular hazard charts used by bareboat yacht charter and powercat charter companies in the BVI, here.
You don’t need to spend hours studying Virgin Island maps, but at the very least we recommend having an idea of the major islands and where they are in relation to each other: Tortola, Norman, Peter, Cooper, Virgin Gorda, Scrub Island, Guana Islands, Jost Van Dyke. Just go to our Map Resourse for a quick and easy guide to marina's and amenities on each island. You can also order a copy of the Cruising Guide which is a great book that provides lots of information on anchorages, harbors and the many restaurants, sites and amenities you will find ashore.
TIP #2: PICK YOUR MUST SEE BVI POINTS-OF-INTEREST (POI)
Once you have a general idea of the major islands, you can start to plan your yacht charter itinerary around the British Virgin Islands. Most guests book a yacht rental for a week, with a start and end on Tortola. Depending on your flights and travel schedule, this means you have 6–7 days to explore the BVI on your sail, powercat or yacht charter.
Ideally, you should plan for one island location per day. This would allow you and your guests an entire 24-hours to enjoy a shore excursion, a visit to the beach bar, and an evening restaurant on that island before heading toward the next. Once you have your most important island stops identified and mapped, you will have a rough idea of the best route you should take to see all your top BVI POI's.
Lastly, don’t be opposed to spontaneity! Feel free to adjust your route to stay in a location longer if you are really enjoying the sites, or the cocktails are especially great. Planning for two or three island stops each day can be done, but it means you are not able to stay and enjoy a spot as long or experience some potentially ‘unplanned’ adventures — just something to keep in mind.
TIP #3: BE ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE FLOW
Most guests arrive on Tortola, pick up their bareboat charter yacht and then plan their stops in a counter-clockwise direction around Tortola for the week. This is a good plan as it allows you to charter around the islands of the BVI in an organized sequence, maximizing time during your trip. Most charters travel at a comfortable cruising speed each day, and within 30 to 90 minutes, arrive at a new island.
"Pro tip: leave your mooring ball or dock in the morning after breakfast and travel to where you want to be for the next evening and spend the day there. This allows you to pick up a mooring ball for your yacht early, before many charter guests are cruising to the same spot."
Most charters wait until the afternoon to move islands and find a ball at a new location for the evening. However, if you get to an anchorage with your powercat and there are no mooring balls available it may be too late to find another spot. By leaving mid-morning, and cruising to where you want to be for the day and evening, you move against the crowds and can secure a mooring ball with less stress. You'll be sipping cocktails while the others are fighting for that last mooring ball!
TIP #4: STAY FLEXIBLE
The most important thing to remember when planning any itinerary for a bareboat yacht charter in the BVI’s is that plans will change! The weather may not cooperate one day or a member of your yacht crew may have had one too many rum drinks the night before, and wake up later than normal. Regardless of the cause, be flexible and willing to adjust your plans as needed. No matter what happens, you are still on a yacht, you are still in the BVI and miles away from the stress and pressures of ‘real life.’ So sit back, relax and enjoy the journey; no matter where it does or doesn’t take you!
A yacht charter in the British Virgin Islands is an amazing and fun adventure. With line of sight navigation, the BVI’s are one of the leading yachting destinations in the world. Planning your first charter to the British Virgin Islands does not have to be an overwhelming experience; let’s recap:
- Review a British Virgin Islands map and navigational chart in advance
- Pick your ‘must see’ stops and map your route
- Plan to arrive at the mooring balls in the morning
- Be flexible when things come up which change your itinerary plans
- There will always be more to see and do than you have time for, so just think of it as a great reason to plan a return trip!