The First Time BVI Charter
The First Time BVI Charter
10 Tips For Planning The Perfect First Time Sailing Adventure
- Planning the trip
- The crew - The good bad and the ugly
- Communications in the islands
- Currency & credit cards
- Navigation in the islands
- What to bring
- Planning the itinerary
- Island etiquette
- Safety and security
It has often been said that planning the trip is half the fun. From deciding which charter company to use, the type of vessel, sail or power, the process should be fun and the entire crew should participate. If possible get the crew together for a Painkiller party that gets everyone in the island frame of mind. Talk about expectations, activities, provisioning options, and meal planning.
Make sure everyone is compatible and expectations of the trip are aligned. What is everyone’s appetite for enthusiastic sailing versus spending more time ashore hiking or beaching? If you have not sailed together before think about discussing the following points:
- Sharing the cost of food and fuel
- Keeping the boat tidy at all times and cleaning the head area after use
- sharing cooking duties
- respecting each other’s need for privacy and personal quiet time
- use of the dinghy
- participating in the running of the boat
Staying connected in the islands can be an expensive proposition, however there are a few tips that can help you save money. If you take your cell phone with you the first thing to do is to turn data roaming off as it can cost up to $20 per megabyte in the BVI. If you have an unlocked GSM phone (ATT/ T-Mobile) then we suggest purchasing a SIM card which is available from Mr.SIM or direct through the local carrier LIME or Digicel. This will allow you to call home for less than 30 cents per minute. Phones can be rented on the island, although this option is expensive. You can also purchase a pay-as-you-go phone for around $40-$50 dollars.
Wi-Fi is generally available throughout the islands but you will need to seek out a local marina or restaurant and get a password for access. Speeds are minimal but usually enough to place a Skype call.
The U.S. dollar is the local currency in both the U.S and British Virgin Islands. Major credit cards are widely accepted at the larger restaurants and marinas but not at the smaller establishments. Therefore you will need to bring adequate cash to cover these purchases and for nightly mooring fees that run around $30. ATMs are available at key locations but not everywhere so do not rely on them to replenish dwindling cash supplies. Inform your credit card company of your trip before you leave so they don’t shut down your card due to strange and exotic ATM location withdrawals.
The Virgin Islands offer an ideal setting for a first time charter. The islands are close in proximity, the passages are largely protected by the formation of the island chain and anchorages are abundant and protected. Most charter vessels are equipped with GPS plotters, however since the islands are closely situated, you will be navigating with a chart and Cruising Guide. You will find a chart of the area aboard upon arrival and you will receive a thorough chart orientation before departure. For a list of island waypoints check the Cruising Guide or click here. Spend a little time getting to know water color and relative depths as this will prove more useful than a GPS.
When planning a charter in the BVI there are a couple of options available to you. Allow the charter company to provision you from a pre-selected plan. This saves a lot of time but limits your personal choices. Different companies have different plans so ask for sample menus.
Provision yourself from one of the local markets like Riteway or Bobby’s Market. Riteway has a complete provisioning list and they will deliver it to your boat. This is a good option if you have special dietary needs or are looking for particular foods.
Food is generally speaking expensive in the islands and we highly recommend stocking up before the charter as food and drink items become increasingly more expensive on the smaller islands due to logistics.
For beer, wine, alcohol and soft-drinks, we suggest contacting one of the larger distributors like TICO who will deliver to the boat thereby saving you some precious charter time. Check the Cruising Guide Provisioning section for detailed listings of places to re-stock along the way. Don’t forget to order plenty of drinking water (at least a liter per day per person).
For a week’s charter you should try and fit everything into a soft sided duffle bag under 50lbs.You will spend your time in shorts, t-shirts and bathing suits so don’t overdo the wardrobe and leave all your good jewelry at home. Your charter company will supply most of the items you require but here are a few items that you should consider: medications & toiletries, sunburn cream, wicking sportswear with SPF protection, polarized sunglasses, camera and batteries, bug spray / mosquito repellent, a dry-sack for taking items ashore, books (electronic e-books if possible), Fish ID book or cards, baby wipes, LED head-lamp for reading, games, spices in plastic bags, nutmeg grinder (for Painkillers), and personal water bottles. Snorkel gear is supplied by most companies but if you have special needs, like a prescription mask etc. then consider bringing your own mask and snorkel and using the fins supplied.
When planning your Virgin Island sailing trip it is important to determine the right balance between sailing activity, snorkeling, diving or shore-side exploration. How experienced are the crew? What is the general appetite for trade-wind sailing? Do you and the crew want to eat ashore every night? All of these factors will determine how you plan your itinerary. Whether you sail around the islands clockwise or counter clockwise doesn’t matter, I always seem to work my way clockwise, the important aspect is to rough out a plan on a Virgin Island planning chart and then modify it as you go along based upon weather and crew requirements. Flexibility is the keyword. Sample BVI itinerary
Virgin Islanders are often rather conservative at heart and quite particular about dress. It is frowned upon to wear beach-wear or bathing suits into town or supermarkets. Topless sunbathing should be confined to the boat.
Great importance is set on greetings throughout the Virgins such as “good morning” or “good afternoon.” It is considered rude to approach people with a question or to transact business without beginning with the appropriate greeting.
Garbage disposal & overboard discharge in anchorages is a concern and your charter company will direct you in this regard.
The British Virgin Islands are consider a very safe area to cruise and there have been very few incidents over the years. Normal precautions should be taken when leaving valuables aboard the boat. Sun protection is perhaps the greatest concern and the easiest to prevent. Always apply cream in the morning and throughout the day, wear sun-glasses and hats.
In the water, be careful not to touch coral, sea urchins or lion fish and don’t swim alone or at night. When using the dinghy at night, operate at low speeds and make sure you have a light visible.