Here are some Virgin Island bareboating tips for newcomers to the bareboat scene in the BVI. Let’s start at the beginning: the British and US Virgin Islands offer one of the greatest and most relaxing bare-boating experiences in the world and we’d like the opportunity to offer up a selection of BVI bareboating tips.
Several factors contribute to this well earned reputation: plenty of small islands, regular E to NE winds, protected waters, great beaches and places to moor and go ashore and an overall excellent vacation experience even in bad weather.
As you can imagine, there is also a huge selection of bare-boat companies and models available for charter for both power and sailing enthusiasts.
Perhaps a little less in the power department because, after all, the Virgins ARE the ultimate sailing destination with the opportunity to have a great time under almost all weather conditions.
Nevertheless there are several companies that do offer some great power catamarans. The Moorings, of course and more recently MarineMax that has an exciting new line of 48′ cats.
Our company represents a number of these charter operators and we only deal with those operators who have consistently shown good service, well maintained boats and effective emergency service because, well, boats are boats and things do go wrong.
Typically most BVI bareboat companies operate out of Tortola where there are several excellent marinas. Let me go on to describe, briefly, how the bare-boat industry works in practice:
1) The bareboat companies don’t own the boats that they charter out. They are owned by private individuals who have placed their boats in charter and entrust them to bareboat operators who charter them out to clients like you and I. They maintain the boats, provide skippers upon request, offer provisioning services, and generally look after the boats they have been entrusted with.
2) Not all bareboat operators are created equal, there are First, Second and Third tier companies, This Tier system operates as follows. The First Tier companies only manage new boats and they keep them in service for 3 to 4 years. Then these boats that now have 4 seasons on them are passed on to the Second Tier and so forth down the line.
3) Many First Tier companies will only accept boats of a certain make or brand. Many times these boats will have been designed specifically for the charter trade and if prospective owners wish to participate in their ownership program, they have to choose to purchase a certain brand of boat that has been designed specifically for a particular operator.
So, if an owner wishes to take advantage of, for example the Moorings ownership plan, he will have to purchase a Moorings designed boat. If an owner wishes to purchase a Lagoon Catamaran, he or she will have to approach a company that offers an ownership plan for new Lagoons that have been designed or have had the design tweaked to meet the requirements of that particular operator.
4) Typically, as I mentioned before, the older boats that have a number of seasons on them are passed on down the system to other operators (these are the now, budget boats) that handle older boats.
5) There are, of course, companies that manage both newer and older boats and that don’t really care what brand they are. This can get a little complicated because their service and maintenance people need to be well versed in a number of different brands.
First tier companies that operate in the BVI are Dream Yacht, the Moorings, Sunsail, Voyage, Horizon, Horizon and a couple of others. Second Tier companies are Conch charters, BVI Yacht Charters, TMM and others. This is not a “ranking system and doesn’t mean that one particular is better than another.
It’s merely a reflection of the market they specialize in and the age of the boats they offer. Again, this is a generalization and in practice many operators have a mix of newer and older boats. So, on the basis of the above, I’ve developed some hypothetical FAQ’s
Which boat is right for me?
First question you have to ask yourself: do you really care if the boat is newer or older? Again, generally speaking, newer boats are generally more expensive than older ones, so what’s the budget looking like? Of course, a nice crisp, new boat with tight sails, electric toilets and plenty of room are a bare boater’s dream.
But there’s nothing wrong with floating around the BVI in a lower cost, older boat with baggy sails, after all you’re not here to win the America Cup..!! You’re here for the sun, the sand and the sheer enjoyment, sometimes sailing slowly and taking your time is all that’s needed.
How do I find the right boat at the right price?
Best to use a broker or booking agent. Find one you’re comfortable with and that you can trust. The booking agent typically has access to all or most of the operators, knows the boats, knows the area and can offer you the exact boat you’re looking for at the right price.
Most bareboat operating companies use a 4 shoulder pricing model with the most expensive “shoulder” being Christmas and New Year, the next highest priced “shoulder” are the winter months of January and February, then there is the Spring Break Period and Easter (March April May and June and finally the lowest prices are during the summer “hurricane” months of mid-July through August, September and October.
Some areas, like the Bahamas, however, have their highest rates in Summer, however, because it gets a little chilly in Winter. Give us a shout, we’ll find the best pricing for you.
If I use a broker, will I pay more?
No, most good brokers will offer all the discounts offered by the operators, including the seasonal twofers and sometimes even threefers, multiple boat discounts, repeat customer discounts and many times can obtain an even better price that if you go to the operator directly.
The brokers and booking agents are paid by the operators for their sales and marketing function, you don’t have to pony up any special fees or surcharges.
What constitutes a good broker or booking agent?
Knowledge of the boats and the destinations and boats and also very importantly, instant access to the industry databases and seasonal pricing and discount charts. Some brokers, ourselves included, use specialized search engines on their websites that you can use to browse through the boats and see the availability, specifications, pricing and pictures of each available boat. As an example, use our bareboat search engine on this website that offers availability and pricing from many 1st tier operators. (You know what tiers are now, right?)
Finally, a few words of wisdom regarding bareboating skipper requirements: The single most important thing that will enable you to qualify as a bareboat skipper is PRIOR SKIPPER EXPERIENCE ON A BOAT OF SIMILAR SIZE AND TYPE.
If you have a formal qualification, like a captains license or a series of ASA courses, so much the better, but it’s not a requirement that is set in stone. Not a good idea to lie on your sailing resume. remember that the safety of your passengers and the integrity of the boat is in your hands. Boats are boats and the weather can always turn nasty and you have to know what to do, quickly, efficiently and without panic.
If you have experience on mono-hulls, expect to have a skipper from the operating company check you out on a catamaran. They do NOT handle in the same way. Vice -versa is also true.
Give us a ring at 305-758-2500 or send us a quick contact form and we’ll be happy to contact you and you can ask all the questions.