Before taking a Virgin Islands Sailing Charter
Some tips from your crew and the Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League to help make your adventure in Paradise one you want to last forever.
Anyone about to embark on a crewed charter in the Virgin Islands will soon see why this is such a great way to get away from it all. And some suggestions from seasoned salts can help make the sailing yacht charter trip even smoother. Please share this information with everyone in your charter group.
As to where the yacht's crew will await you, be sure you know before leaving home. On St. Thomas, it will be at The Yacht Haven Grande Marina. This is only a short taxi ride from the airport. On Tortola, the yacht normally boards guests at Village Cay Marina in Road Town or Pusser's Landing in West End. On both islands, taxi drivers are familiar with the locations.
Boarding time is usually at noon on the day your charter starts, unless you have made other arrangements with the Captain. Quite often the yacht has guests on board until noon the previous day and needs every moment to have everything ship-shape for your charter.
Payments and proofs
When you board your yacht you will be expected to pay the balance due on your charter -- in cash or traveler's checks (unless paid in advance, of course). No personal checks can be accepted in the Islands. As of December 31, 2006, a Passport is required for travel in the US and British Virgin Islands.
Space is limited on a boat, so bring soft-sided luggage or duffel bags, which can stow easily. T-shirts and shorts are the usual uniform of the day when you're not in swimwear. Shoes are not worn on board, but comfortable sandals or sneakers may be appropriate for shore. Evening dress is about as casual as daytime dress, but if you go to an elegant dining spot, long pants with a collared shirt may be required for men, and dresses or slacks for the ladies. Bring more than one bathing suit, as you're likely to spend more time in them than anything else.
The tropical sun can be very damaging to skin, so don't forget sunscreen. A few brands such as Pre-Sun and Bain de Soleil are very damaging to the yacht's finishes and are not allowed on board, as well as any Sun Tan Oil or spray oils and sunscreens. Despite precautions, you may develop a painful burn, so bring something light and comfortable to wear as a cover-up, plus a wide-brimmed hat or visor. A light sweatshirt may come in handy for evenings that seem cool after a long day in the sun. You needn't pack bulky towels as these will be available on the yacht.
Bring your camera, charger, and USB cord, and an extra pair of glasses or contacts if your wear them. Also, any medications you require, plus antihistamines for any allergic reaction you may develop from unexpected encounters with sea urchins, fire coral, or jellyfish. (If you watch where you're swimming and snorkeling, this isn't likely to be a problem, but remember: Don't put your hands or your feet where you can't see them.)
You may also want to bring your favorite CD's, DVD's, I-Pod, a good book or two, and anything else that adds to the pleasure of taking life easy. Do not, however, bring illicit drugs. Your Captain has too much to lose to permit their use on the yacht and can terminate the charter without refund if you bring them aboard.
Keeping in touch
Most cellular phones from the States work while in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). In the British Virgin Islands (BVI), many phones roam, but may have roaming charges.
You may want to bring your laptop computer to check e-mail, as we there are many spots where Wi-Fi is available.
You will have received a food preference sheet to be filled in completely with regard to all members of your party and sent back in advance of your charter. The chef will plan meals based on the information you provide, including any strong dislikes or allergies you indicate. Please note everyone eats the same entree when possible. The yacht stocks a selection of House International Wines and standard bar included in the charter fee. Champagne, requested wines, and premium liquors can be put aboard at cost upon request (please specify brand and quantities).
Getting to know you
When you first come aboard, the Captain will explain some dos and don'ts and ask about your special interests for the cruise. Remember, though, the Captain is responsible for the yacht and those aboard and has the final word in all decisions.
Your Captain and Mate may be a married couple or working partners. They may own the yacht or operate it for someone else. You'll savor your own quiet time staring up at the starry night sky or reading a good book. The crew will appreciate being allowed such times, too -- after all, they will probably be the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to bed at night, working hard to please you. As in other service industries, a 10-20% gratuity is greatly appreciated if you think the crew did a good job for you.
Your Captain will be happy to arrange for activities on shore, including recreational sports and dining out. Such excursions are, of course, at your own expense and will not be deducted from your charter fee. If you invite your crew to join you for dinner ashore as your guests, they will be delighted to do so. But if you prefer to dine out without them, they will not be slighted in the least.
Check it out
Here's a list to check off, to help ensure a carefree cruise:
- Food and beverage preference sheet filled in and returned ahead of time
- Passport for each member of your party
- Soft luggage or duffel bags
- Adequate sun protection (lotion, hat or visor, sunglasses), no suntan oil or sprays.
- Extra pair of glasses or contact lenses for those who wear them
- Regular medications, antihistamines
- Camera, charger, and USB cord
- Scuba Diver's Certification "C" Card, if applicable
- Eager anticipation of a memorable Adventure in Paradise