Caribbean Yacht Charter – The perfect Social distancing vacation

If your family is anything like mine, you’ve been cooped up in your house for the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, social distancing and familial bonding has been great, but as things have started opening up around the country spending family time somewhere other than the living room is an exciting prospect. But with Covid-19 still posing a threat, sharing a resort swimming pool with thousands of guests isn’t the most appealing option. So that begs the question: what is the perfect social distancing vacation? Well in my opinion that award goes to the Caribbean yacht charter.

In short yacht charters are a lot like renting an RV. But instead of worrying about a campsite, dealing with mosquitos, and combating road rage you’re sailing on a private yacht in turquoise water from famous beach bars to secluded bays. Our family’s favorite place to sail is the British Virgin Islands. With over 60 islands surrounding the main hub of Tortola there’s plenty of white sand and crystal water so you can be socially distant to your heart’s content. Once you’re off the dock it’s just you, the boat, and some of the best beaches, dive sites, and national parks on earth (and your crew too but we’ll talk about that more later).

Now for those that are new to charters the biggest concern usually revolves around the boat. Specifically driving the boat, cooking on the boat, docking the boat, and well pretty much everything else you would do on vacation since you’re on a boat.

Driving the boat is actually pretty simple. All that’s needed is a driver’s license in most cases and the charter companies all do a very good job of getting new boaters familiar with the basic functions of the yacht. Additionally, the BVI’s are known for their consistent weather and protected waters which makes captaining a boat an approachable task for even novice boaters. That being said most charter companies offer the option to have a captain come aboard and show you the ropes for a few hours too.

Now the biggest choice in a charter vacation is whether to do a bareboat or a crewed charter. Bareboat charters are the most common and generally the cheapest option. As the name implies you charter a “bare boat” i.e. a boat with no supplies or crew. This allows families and friends on charter to provision the boat with the food they want, build their own itinerary, and captain the boat themselves. Crewed charters on the other hand come with a captain and sometimes a cook, who are responsible for sailing the boat and equipping it for charter. While crewed charters are more expensive, we recommend most first-time charters choose this option as it offers a less daunting approach to chartering.

Alright let’s talk about the boats themselves. Most of the charter boats in the BVI are catamarans. Catamarans have two pontoons and two motors (regardless if they’re a sailboat or motorboat), which makes them incredibly stable, easy to maneuver. Additionally, they often have more living space than monohulls and almost feel like small floating apartments. Now the features on all the boats differ and this is where talking to a broker who has experience can really come in handy. But most boats have between 4-6 queen bed cabins with 4-6 full bathrooms. There is always some sort of kitchen which usually has a small oven, a sink, a 4-burner countertop, and 2-3 refrigerators/freezers. Additionally, there are usually various lounge areas inside and out and some sort of charcoal or gas grill. So rest assured, the boats are set up for almost anything you might need for a week of vacation.

We love the BVI’s and everything they have to offer but we also know that the first time chartering a boat can be a confusing and intimidating process. So if you have any questions about the BVI, chartering, or how to get over your Covid induced cabin fever please don’t hesitate to contact us. Cheers, the Sailconcierge team

The Baths

 

The Baths – A must stop while in the BVI

If you are going to the BVI you need to make a stop at the Baths.   This is a natural beauty.  This geological wonder is on Virgin Gorda’s north shore and is comprised of granite boulders which a magnificently scattered around.   These massive granite boulders form little pools and white sand beaches that can lead to hours of exploration!

A series of steps and rope handrails guide explorers along a trail through the boulders.   It is physically challenging requiring those going along the trail to go up and down ladders and shimmy across rocks.   Our kids love this spot but my older parents usually stay on the boat or the beach.

In my opinion this is must stop but there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when going via boat.   There are National Park Moorings  (little red moorings) outside of the Baths.   These can go fast and if you do not get there early you could find yourself waiting for one.   The Baths is also a very popular spot for the cruise ships.   The Baths is beautiful but no so beautiful when you are sharing with 500 other people.   Before you go check out the cruise ship itinerary and find out which days the cruise ships will be at the dock.  You can find the cruise ship schedule at BVIPorts.org

Finally, before you try to paddle board in or even tying up to a National Parks Mooring check the flag on the beach.   This flag post was recently replaced and will provide you valuable information.   A red flag means it is not safe to moor.

A yellow flag means to show caution both mooring and swimming.   The currents in this area can be very strong especially when there is a north swell.   It is always best to be safe than sorry.   You can alway stay in one of the secure bays on Virgin Gorda and take a taxi over to the Baths.  

The Baths should definitely be on your list if you are in the BVI.   However, plan your visit around the cruise ships and be aware of the conditions.   We like to get there early in the morning so we have the place to ourselves.

 

 

 

Moorings in the BVI

Can I trust moorings in the BVI?

One of the nice things about chartering a boat through the BVI is that there are moorings in most of the popular bays.   This means you could go an entire week and never have to use your anchor.

This can be very comforting to someone who is captaining a boat on charter that they are not familiar with.

However, not all moorings are created equal and we recommend inspecting a mooring every time you  decide to tie up to one.   The pennant is the line that comes off the top of the mooring and is what is most likely to get damaged in the BVI by other boats getting the pennant caught in their props.   If your pennant is frayed then we recommend changing moorings.

Once you have tied off we also recommend having someone dive in and check the rest of the connections.   You want to check for excessive wear and tear.

Most charter companies will instruct you to tie off to a Moor Seacure mooring. Moor Seacure is a company that installs, maintains, and insures their moorings.   Tying up to a Moor Seacure mooring does not insure you will not have an issue but it significantly reduces the chances that you will.  We recommend looking for a mooring with the Moor Seacure stickers on them.

Another new addition to the BVI is the web based application called BoatyBall.   This has been very controversial but we love it for our customers.   For an extra $10 you can spend an extra couple of hours on the water and know that you have a spot when you show up to your favorite bay.

The BoatyBall program allows you to better plan out your trip.  If you want to make dinner reservations or book a SCUBA dive you know you will have a place to moor.  In addition,  all of the moorings in the BoatyBall program are in a regular maintenance program and are insured.  You can set up an account at BoatyBall.com

Typically the mooring fields start to fill up between 2-3 pm.  During busier times of year they can start to fill up around noon.   Some bays have good anchorages and others do not so you want to plan accordingly.

Most of the moorings in the BVI are $30 per night.   Someone will come by to collect around 4 pm.   You will want to make sure you have cash available for payment.   This is another benefit of using the BoatyBall system.

When you pay the person should give you a paper receipt.   You need to keep this receipt in case someone else comes by to collect.

So our motto when it comes to moorings in the BVI is “Trust but Verify”

Best Sailing Itinerary BVI

Looking for the best sailing itinerary in the BVI?   This is going to get personal 🙂

There are so many factors that go into building the perfect itinerary.  What might be ideal for one group might be terrible for another.  Ok, nothing is terrible in the BVI but you get the point.

We encourage a group to discuss their expectations when setting up an itinerary.   If one person wants to dive every day while another just wants to sail then someone is going to be disappointed unless you discuss up front.  The great news is you can dive every day and sail every day if you want to.

We personally love the BVI for spending time with family and relaxing at more secluded bays and beaches.   However, when we have friends with us we usually turn it up a notch and spend more time at the amazing beach bars around the BVI.   It really depends on what our goals are.

There is so much to do in the BVI that you will not be able to do everything in a weeks time.   Discussing ahead of time what you plan on doing and what you are going to save for a future trip will help ensure everyone has a great time.

Planning is great but sometimes Mother Nature will throw you a curve ball.   Be ready for it!   Part of what I personally love about the BVI is going where the wind blows.  However,  we are very fortunate and get to spend a lot of time in the BVI so we never feel rushed.

Many of our clients are on vacation to relax and enjoy time with friends and family.  For that reason, we typically suggest not trying to cram too much into a week long vacation.

At Sail Concierge we love helping our clients plan out their perfect itinerary.   These itineraries change from group to group depending on what they hope to accomplish.   If you are starting to plan your next adventure we would love to help.  Cheers!

 

Charter Insurance?

Do I need to purchase insurance when chartering a boat?

This is a common question that many will ask when chartering a boat in the BVI.   The simple answer is yes.

You are chartering a million dollar yacht for the week and if it is damaged for any reason you want to be covered.   This gives you the peace of mind that you need to relax and enjoy your vacation.  For that reason charter agreements always come with insurance.

The damage deposit typically ranges from $2000 – $8000 depending on the boat.   This means that if you damage the boat the maximum out of pocket will be whatever the damage deposit is.   Many times this is referred to as the “excess” but in American terms this is the “deductible”.

The charter company will authorize the amount on your credit card prior to departure.   Authorization is not the same as charging your card but it can impact the limit on your card so you just want to mindful of this when providing them the card to authorize.

If you damage the boat they will charge you up to the amount authorized.   If not, they tear up the authorization.

Some charter companies will give you the option to buy down the damage deposit by offering a damage waiver agreement.   Some places call these different things but this allows you to buy down the maximum amount you must pay if you damage the boat.   This is typically around $400 and it significantly reduces the maximum out of pocket for damages.   Many times this will bring the maximum out of pocket damages down below $1000.

The downside to this option is that the charter company will charge you $400 at the time of charter that you will not get back.   On the other hand we have been chartering boats for years and it is uncommon for something not to break while on charter.  You and your crew are typically on a boat that you are not familiar with and things happen.

Someone put something down the toilet that they are not suppose to or you that will cost you $150.  Forget to lock down a hatch that gets pulled loose while sailing thats another $400.   Do not ask me how I know 🙂

In any case, if you are bareboating we recommend purchasing the damage waiver.  This will allow you to relax and enjoy your vacation so when one of your kids comes to you with a fan in their hand saying they thought it was portable you can just take a deep breath and relax.

If you are with a group of friends we recommend splitting this up front.   This insures that you remain friends afterwards!

 

BVI Sailing Charter – Can you do it?

Have you dreamed of sailing through the crystal blue waters of the British Virgin Isands?  If you love the ocean and the excitement of waking up every morning in a new location then you will love the British Virgin Islands.   A BVI sailing charter can seem intimidating if you have never done it before.

There are thousands of boats to choose from, some are great and others are not so great.  Then there are questions around do you go on a crewed boat or do you have enough experience and confidence to take a boat out on your own.   This leads to questions about provisioning, fueling, docking, and a hundreds of other questions that deter many from ever seriously considering a charter in the Virgin Islands.

This is why we created Sail Concierge.   Let us take all the stress out of planning the perfect vacation to the islands.   We can walk you through the different options and set you up with the right training if needed (most of which can be taken online if you choose).  We will help you book everything from the perfect boat to the perfect dinner.  We are here to help you navigate the many different options that are available and create the perfect adventure for you and your family.