Here’s a compendium of questions that we are frequently asked about chartering a crewed yacht or catamaran in the British Virgin Islands. I’m reproducing some of these in this blog format so customers can have a document to print out that answers most questions.
1. High Season – Low Season – in the Caribbean there are no defined seasons so the High / Low season pricing shown refers to the number of people on board. Since the charters are inclusive of meals and beverages, the low rate is for the minimum number of guests and the high rate for the maximum number of guests on board.
The only exception to this is the Christmas / New Year holiday season that will have a 10% to 15% premium. The rest of the year there is no change. Notwithstanding, during the hurricane months of late summer, it is sometimes possible to negotiate a rate with the owner if the bookings are slow. I will be happy to do this for you after you have chosen a boat or boats from the long list into a short list.
2. April and May are very nice months and unlikely to have any special offers or discounts, September / October may be more negotiable price-wise but this is right in the middle of the hurricane season. A word about hurricanes: If you book a charter in the hurricane season there will usually be a “rain-check” clause or addendum to the contract so that you can re-schedule for up to 12 months from the date of the original charter if there is a named storm on a track to the BVI or close.
Also, if you book for a summer charter it’s wise to take out trip cancellation insurance. We offer some neat packages from Travel Guard that you can see, get a quote and purchase on-line.
3. There are no hidden costs or extra fees. Most sailing yachts are normally chartered on an “inclusive” basis which includes all meals snacks and beverages. You can book for a week or more.
If you book less than a week there may be a 10% surcharge. The rates shown are for one week comprising 7 nights and 8 days. The charter fee does NOT cover: Airfares, land transportation, dockage or marina fees other than the pick up and drop-off locations, fine wines or exotic liqueurs.
You will need to take GRATUITY into consideration however, this is normally 10% to 15% of the base charter rate, depending on service and payable in cash to the skipper when you leave the boat. This is discretionary but customary.
If the boat you choose is USVI based they may charge you the BVI cruising taxes and National Park Fees. However, in the scheme of things this is a relatively modest expense of about $4.00 per person per day + a flat fee for the boat depending on length.
Total about $100 to $150. Most charter boats anchor out in the many different bays and anchorages. There are also moorings balls available at a cost of about $20 per night. The captain may ask you if you’d like to be on a mooring ball (these are generally placed in the best locations in the anchorages) and if you’d like to be closer in, or if the sea is a little bumpy it may be wise to use a mooring ball.
Many BVI based boats will already have the BVI tax thing taken care of.
4. Some of the larger sailing yachts and most motor yachts are chartered on a “plus expenses” basis. This is because of the unknown fuel consumption at the time of booking and other items like meals and beverages that may be requested at a higher level than normally provided on the smaller and less expensive vessels.
So it’s important to understand how this rate is put together: There is a Base Rate for the use of the yacht and crew.
The client must then advance funds to the captain for the provisioning and any other expenses, like fuel that he heeds to buy. This advance is called an APA or Advance Provisioning Allowance. Normally we calculate this based on a percentage of the base rate and in the case of motor yachts, we estimate between 30% and 35% of the base rate.
At the end of the charter the expenses are itemized and presented to the client who may have to either “top-up” the amount already paid OR may get a refund if the expenses are less than what was calculated. This is quite a fair procedure since the client will only pay for what is actually consumed.
5. After you choose a yacht or catamaran that you feel comfortable with (and I feel comfortable with, since I know most of the boats and their crews), I will put a “hold” on the boat of your choice.
This hold is basically a 7 day right of first refusal that gives me time to draw up the contract, email it to you, get it signed by you, and receive a deposit from you. Once I have a signed contract and a deposit the boat is YOURS and the deposit is non-refundable.
60 days before the start of your charter you should be ready to remit the balance of the funds. If you book more than 6 months away from the actual charter date, we can get away with 25% deposit. A second deposit would be due at the 6 month mark, and the balance as I mentioned before, 60 days before the charter date.
If you book within 6 months of the charter date I’ll need a 50% deposit.
6. About a week or two before the charter date, you will have an opportunity to talk to either the captain or the chef (many times these are husband / wife or boyfriend / girlfriend teams where she does most of the customer contact). If you like a boat but would like to talk to the crew before committing, We can arrange that as well.
7. About 30 days before your charter date, I send you what is called a Preference Sheet. This will give me and the crew a much better idea of your likes and dislikes and will provide a blueprint for the crew to provision the boat accordingly.
It usual for you, the skipper and the chef to have a conversation regarding the preferences after they have this document in their hands and they will probably have questions.
So you can expect a call from the crew at this point. A note about bringing liquor on-board but since this is included in your inclusive price, there’s really no need. liquor is cheap and plentiful in the islands.
8. Charters run from 12:00 noon on the first day to 12:00 noon on the 8th day. Many of my clients like to arrive a day or so before the charter and spend the night at a hotel either in St. Thomas or Tortola.
Sometimes and depending on the boat, you can make arrangements for a late arrival and “sleepaboard” the boat the night before your charter begins.
Other boats however discourage this since they use the day before and the morning of your charter to provision and clean up everything so the boat is spick and span for your arrival.
9. Last but not least, everyone will need a passport. Best to fly into St. Thomas (STT) that has direct major carrier access from many major US cities. Spirit Air is always a favorite of ours.
If your boat can only pick up in Tortola, you should take the ferry from Red Hook, St. Thomas, to West End, Tortola which is a 30 minute ride. Here is the link to the ferry schedules.
10. Gratuity, as previously mentioned, is not included in the quoted rates, neither is it mandatory, however it is customary to tip the crew for good service; about 10% to 15% of the total rate in the case of “Inclusive” boats” is the norm. 10% to 15% of the base rate is the norm for boats that are chartered on a + expenses basis.