Bareboat Yacht Charters Blog

Any bareboat yacht charter enthusiast can tell you, if you are planning a Caribbean yacht charter, the ideal destination is the British Virgin Islands.  Known to repeat bareboat charter yacht skippers as, “Nature’s Little Secrets,” the 50 or so islands, islets, and cays of the British Virgin Islands are nothing short of a yacht charter paradise.

Caribbean yacht charter clients, especially bareboat charter families, have long been sailing the turquoise waters surrounding the British Virgin Islands, drawn to the sheltered anchorages, white-sand beaches, and easygoing lifestyle of these islands.

Once a hideaway for pirates and brigands, the BVI’s have only 17,000 residents – in contrast to the 100,000 people living in the American Virgin Islands (often referred to as the United States Virgin Islands, or USVI). Caribbean yacht charter customers won’t find highrises or fast food on any of these islands, and they’ll find only a few posh resorts mingling with the more casual villas, family-owned inns, and funky beachfront bars and restaurants.

Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke are the most developed and most visited islands. Cooper Island, Peter Island, Norman Island, Marina Cay, and Sandy Cay are less developed but are popular with day-trippers. Most of the islands are close to each other and close to the USVI, making island-hopping the mode for the BVI.

Tortola (Spanish for turtle dove) is the capital of the British Virgin Islands (or BVI).  Road Town, on the southern coast, is Tortola’s capital. The entire island centers around Road Town and its beautiful harbor-businesses, luxury yacht charter marinas, restaurants, shops, pubs, and hotels.

Some fairly celebrated establishments like Pusser’s Road Town Pub grace the streets.   A favorite watering hole for thirsty barefoot sailors, Pusser’s pours English Ale on draft and mixes up some tasty concoctions with its famous Pusser’s Rum.

Pusser's Landing - a must see on your British Virgin Island bareboat yacht charter vacation

Pusser's Landing - a must see on your British Virgin Island bareboat yacht charter vacation

On Tortola’s north shore is the busy but laid-back Cane Garden Bay. This popular anchorage with its crescent-shaped beach has seen increasing crowds but has managed to hold onto its tradition of family-run inns, bars, and restaurants. Music is an integral part of Cane Garden Bay, and the friendly, open-air bars that line the water’s edge host local musicians whose island tunes can be heard floating across the bay.

Five miles from Tortola is Jost Van Dyke Island. Known as “the party island” of the BVI, “Jost” has only 150 residents, but it has six bars! Life on Jost Van Dyke has been described as “one long island-style happy hour” – with pig roasts, beach bars, and dancing in the sand. Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, an open-air ramshackle restaurant and bar has become a landmark and is undisputedly the most “happening” gathering spot for boaters in the BVI. Owner Foxy Caldwood is famous for his parties, none moreso than his annual New Year’s Eve party, which made Time magazine’s list of “Top 5 Places to Spend New Year’s.”

Norman Island is the largest uninhabited island in the British Virgin Islands and is steeped in pirate legend. Locals call it Treasure Island because of age-old stories of buried pirates’ loot. Blackbeard, one of the most famous and feared pirates of all time hung out here between raids.

At the western tip of Norman Island you will discover, “The Caves” – a popular spot with snorkelers and swimmers. The far northern cave is the most incredible, extending 70 feet into the mountainside.

Virgin Gorda is home to one of the Caribbean’s most amazing sights – exotic pools and grottos formed by gigantic granite boulders strewn across white-sand beaches. Known as “The Baths,” this surreal natural wonder (and snorkeler’s dream) is one of the most visited spots in the BVI.

The Baths of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands

The Baths of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands

Nature Little Secrets are a secret no more!

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Congratulations – you passed your ASA Bareboat charter sailing courses, and you are ready to plan your first yacht charter vacation.  Maybe a Mediterranean yacht charter odyssey…or perhaps a summer Caribbean yacht charter vacation.  Hmmm…

The choice of an area for your first bareboat charter trip can be a little tricky because there are three primary factors: your sailing experience, your climatic preferences, and your budget. There is no simple way to do this, because your decision will have to combine all 3 factors.

Picture yourself on your first bareboat yacht charter vacation

Picture yourself on your first bareboat yacht charter vacation

Before you can analyze the 3 factors, you must sort out the, “time of the year” issue.  After all, this is the one item you probably have the least control, in terms of the kid’s school holidays, vacation time from work, etc. Nevertheless, this is a good place to begin because, depending on the area, the timing will influence your budget.

If you have tight financial constraints, you can find excellent deals and discounts in some areas at low season. For example, the British Virgin Islands in July offer a great sailing experience, and you’ll find rates
reduced as much as 40% compared to high season (February and March).    If you are contemplating a Mediterranean yacht charter, May or September can be delightful and are much cheaper (and much less crowded) than July or August.

Your weather preferences are integral to your decision. Do you like very hot weather, or a more temperate climate? If you like the latter, for example, a Bahamas yacht charter vacation in February is much cooler (and cheaper) than in May.

Regardless of your skills, if this is your very first charter outing in open waters, we strongly suggest you choose an easy sailing area.  ASA sailing certification is good, but nothing takes the place on experience at the helm.  Here are two suggestions (assuming you are interested in a Caribbean yacht charter) guaranteed to provide you with a memorable first charter experience:

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are easy to get to from the States – only about 2.5 hrs by plane. Here, you’ll find magnificent scenery, plenty of beaches and not-too-bad snorkeling. Mooring balls are everywhere and you can go a whole week without dropping an anchor.  More importantly, you’ll enjoy a phenomenal sailing ground. Island hopping is done in line-of-sight, and the islands layout is such that most little “crossings” are short (1-2 hour sail on average).  Just as important, the anchorages are well protected.  Winds
always seem to be ideal in the BVI, sustained E/SE at 10-12 knots. This idyllic description does not mean you cannot get in trouble, as storm conditions can arise and challenge your  skills. If you apply good
seamanship rules, and listen to the weather forecasts, you’ll do just fine.

The Abaco Islands of the Bahamas are another great destination for first-time yacht charter sailors. The Abaco chain sits as the northern-most islands of the Bahamas. The Sea of Abaco is the shallow water between the islands of Little Abaco and Great Abaco. The Sea of Abaco has many of the same ideal attributes you find in the BVI:  Calm waters, easy line-of-sight navigation, and a relatively free of hazards area with easy anchorages.

Moving beyond the sailing elements of your self-drive charter yacht vacation, don’t forget to give some though to the recreational pursuits that differ from destination to destination.   Are you looking for active night life? Do you want to go shopping?  Do you like to fish?   These are important considerations that can be analyzed once you address the big three: experience, climate preferences, and your budget.

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