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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Effective immediately, bareboat yacht charter travelers visiting the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) risk being detained at airports and sent home if they don’t comply with new U.S. immigration rules.

Thousands of Caribbean bareboat yacht charter travelers are at risk, including those planning a bareboat yacht charter in Florida or the Bahamas, as many clients pass through US airports on their way to their destination.  Even luxury yacht charter customers flying direct to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands are affected, as St. Thomas is considered a US port of call for bareboats, as well as superyachts and mega yachts.

The introduction of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) means visitors from 27 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries — including most of Western Europe, New Zealand, Japan and Australia — must now register their details online at least three days before departure.

ESTA — which came into effect earlier this month — replaces the written green I-94 form and allows travelers under the VWP to enter the U.S. without a visa and stay for up to 90 days.  The measure is designed to tighten security and make it harder for terrorists who are citizens of the participating countries to easily obtain entry to the U.S.

ESTA logo

ESTA logo

Critics fear the new rule will be an inconvenience for business and leisure travelers, and the British Foreign Office is concerned that travelers who have not heard about the new rules may be caught off guard. A British Foreign Office report on travel trends for 2009 predicted a 13 percent increase of British travelers visiting or passing through the United States this year. “The consequences of not registering through ESTA could therefore be far reaching,” says the Foreign Office.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has assured travelers that the system can handle last minute and emergency requests.

ESTA has been operating on a voluntary basis since 1 August 2008 and is compulsory from 12 January 2009.

Applications can be made at any time, even if travelers have no specific travel plans. If itineraries change, information can be easily updated on the ESTA Web site. Once travelers are authorized, they can travel for up to two years or until their passport expires, whichever comes first.

Passengers must submit the same information that is currently required in the I-94 immigration form. This includes biographical data, travel information as well as questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions.
Here is a list of VWP countries:

Andorra, France, Luxembourg, Singapore, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, Estonia, Australia, Iceland, Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Latvia, Brunei, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Lithuania, Denmark, Japan, Portugal, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Finland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Republic of Malta and South Korea.

Registration is possible through the U.S. government ESTA Web site. In most cases, eligibility for travel will be approved immediately.  Applicants who receive an “Authorization Pending” response will need to check the web site for updates. Applicants whose ESTA applications are denied will be referred to Travel.State.Gov for information on how to apply for a visa.

ESTA does not change the rules for citizens from countries that require visas. That no longer includes travelers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Korea, and the Slovak Republic; they joined the VWP in November 2008. Malta became a member the following month.

Travelers are advised that ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. The final decision rests with the immigration official at the port of entry.

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