British Virgin Islands 2018

There's that one particular harbor…

Bareboat Help

For some reason this site has been getting a lot of traffic that is clearly not my crew (Johns Island, SC?). Most of what I have on the site is helpful for planning your own trip, but there are a few things that the bareboat skipper might be looking for that aren’t included. Since this blog isn’t set up to help other skippers, I haven’t devoted a lot of time to filling in the gaps. But I have decided to add this page to help with a few things. But first, some context. This is based on my experience, which with one exception has always been on Moorings boats. Again, with one exception, we’ve always worked our way around counter clockwise (see our itinerary for a general idea). We’ve always taken a crew along as well (as opposed to just the two of us). What I say here ought to be read in this context. If you’re getting your boat from someone else, I have no idea what you can expect in terms of equipment, etc. Also, some of this stuff is just preference. I’ve seen packing lists of experienced bareboaters, for example, that have a bunch of stuff I would never drag down there. On the other hand, I suspect they wouldn’t understand my logic, either. So take it all with a grain of salt. For the most part, the packing list below constitutes a second bag to tote to the islands. I find an army duffel works well. If you have questions, I love thinking and talking about the islands, so don’t hesitate to get in touch: sempereformata [at] yahoo.com.

First, there are people with far more experience and information than I have. They’re available to you at two different online forums. The first, and most populated, is Travel Talk Online. If you’re going to ask them for help, please consider registering. You’ll get more help that way. Lots of folks on this forum and they’ve got a wealth of information. The second is the BVI Pirate Forum. This forum is less populated, but the owner is a long-time BVI visitor who spends a great deal of time in de ‘ilons and is a wealth of information.

Bareboat Chartering

Bareboating is when you charter a boat (in our case, a sailing catamaran) without a crew or provisioning. You will crew and provision yourself. In order to be qualified, you will have to fill out a sailing resume, indicating that you have the necessary experience to safely operate a boat. Different companies have different standards. You can gain the required experience several ways. You can crew a bareboat charter for a couple of trips. You can also schedule a cruise with an instructor associated with the American Sailing Association or other such organizations and get certified. Certification isn’t required by most charter companies, but is highly recommended. The safer you are, the more fun you’ll have. Once the charter company has approved you, you just schedule the charter at a convenient date!

Which charter company?

I only have experience with The Moorings (and one trip with Pro Valor…the one that’s still in business). For more information on other companies, visit one of the forums I pointed to above. However, things to consider are the cost, condition of the boats, equipment included, maintenance support, and the pricing structure. By that last bit I mean what is included in the quote. The Moorings, for example, includes the cost of fresh water, fuel, the dinghy, and your first bags of ice. Other companies include some of these in their quotes, and still others include none of them. There’s no “right way” to quote a bareboat. You simply need to be informed.

The companies tend to be described in tiers. Top tier companies are typically those that only charter boats that are new or no older than 3-5 years. The Moorings is one such company. When these boats get too old for the top tier companies, some owners move them into second or third tier companies, such as Footloose. If the company is well managed, these can be great boats for less money. Some companies are huge (The Moorings) and others are small. This has no impact on how good the boats or the companies are. I have heard of terrible big top tier companies and wonderful little second tier companies. Though I haven’t used them, I hear good things about Conch Yacht Charters, BVI Yacht Charters, TMM, Voyage (who has the fastest looking boats in the islands), and Sunsail (used to be the second largest fleet in the BVI, but now owned by Moorings). Don’t forget to check the forums for some good insight into each company’s strengths and weaknesses.

One last thing to consider when choosing a company – location. Specifically, where will you stay before or after the charter? Is there a provisioning store nearby that is good? Do they have on property amenities like a swimming pool? A bar? Are there nearby restaurants? Most places will be fine with respect to most of these things. They wouldn’t be in business long without them. But some are better than others. The Moorings is hard to beat in this regard. They offer on property: A pool, two restaurants, a poolside bar, a dive shop, a hotel, an electronics rental company, a watersports rental company, and a provisioning store. They also have a spa, and the spa showers, which are pretty amazing, are open to all charter guests. The property is self-contained and pleasant to be at. The two largest and most popular provisioning shops are less than a mile off property. I once spent an afternoon with a taxi driver looking for a rigger’s knife for the boat only to find it in the last place I looked: The chandler just off property. There may be excellent reasons to use another charter company. That’s for you to discover. I keep thinking one day I’ll try another company, but it’s the ease of chartering through the Moorings that keeps bringing me back. That and the boats are great and the staff has always been helpful. On this entire page, now, let me tell you the most important secret: If you charter from the Moorings, plan your trip to shove off mid-week. It is a large company and a large base – one of the largest bareboat bases in the world. Saturdays are terrible days to be trying to shove off. There. I won’t say it again. Ssshhhhhh!

Crew

I can’t help you much here. You might be going with just a spouse or you may be taking 7 other friends along. Whatever you do, make sure they know what they’re signing up for and they know how to relax. I’ve never taken my kids, but lots of people do. Again, if you’re considering it, the forums mentioned above will be helpful.

Provisioning

Once you have a boat and a crew, you’ll need to provision. We provision at OneMart. There are plenty of great places to get provisions for your boat, but this is the place my own skipper used when I was a crew member and it has always worked out well for us. The Moorings will call you a taxi. The taxis get a percentage of what you spend at OneMart, so no need to pay them a fare (but do tip!). The driver will typically load all your stuff for you and help you get it into carts to take to the boat.

Now that AC is becoming more common on the boats (such as the 4600 and the newer monos), we are spending our first night on board. For a crew of 8 (which means 4 rooms at the Mariner Inn), it’s cheaper to stay on board. It also allows us to load and organize provisions the night before, so we get an earlier start in the morning.

There are other ways to provision. Most places will let you place orders in advance by fax or email and then deliver the goods to your boat. We haven’t done this, but those who do seem to appreciate it. Things to keep in mind are scheduling the delivery so your departure isn’t delayed. The shop will often substitute anything they didn’t have for what they think is the next best thing. Or if they have no substitute, you are left without something when it’s time to pull out. But again, those who provision this way seem to be happy with it.

Wherever you charter from they will be happy to point you to the nearest provisioning store. In addition to OneMart, you’ll find Riteway, Bobby’s, and Harbour Market in Soper’s Hole (a Riteway store) tend to be the most often mentioned. For beer, wine, and liquor, most folks can find what they need at the stores already named, but for better prices on bulk purchasing and sometimes a better selection, consider Tico’s, Road Town Wholesale, and Caribbean Cellars. TMM offers a great resource page with contacts for each of them here.

Skipper’s Packing List
You’ll want to provide your crew (especially first-timers) with a packing list. I’ve put together some suggestions here. But in addition to the personal gear, the skipper will want a few additional items. I’ve listed those below.

Handheld GPS with nautical charts
My preference is a Garmin eTrex 30, but any Garmin that will take nautical charts will work. This handheld is a backup since the Moorings boats come equipped with a console GPS. It’s also a good idea to have a quality paper chart. The Moorings provides one with the boat.

Flashlight
You’ll need this for getting ashore and back on the dinghy at night. You’ll want something strong that will really cast a beam out in front of the dinghy. I recommend the Streamlight flashlight here. It’s about the size of a mini-mag, but with a little more heft. And the 600 lumens are fantastic.

Thermos
We bring a couple of thermoses (thermi?) and make a bunch of coffee in the morning so we have it available hot all day. But this is dependent upon a coffee addicted crew. Personally I get all my nutrients from Red Bull and Beer.  :^)

First Aid Kit
Nothing fancy, but the basics at least. We try to be prepared for burns, cuts and scrapes. Anything more serious and we’re headed to the clinic anyway. Consider something for jellyfish as well. If you have anyone with access to epi pens, have them bring one. This may sound like overkill, but as a crew members once we had to rush our skipper from Fallen Jerusalem to the clinic at Spanishtown because of a serious jelly sting that sent him into anaphylactic shock. That’ll ruin a trip fast. Also consider throwing in some basics like tylenol and advil, tums, and dramamine for crew members that didn’t heed your advice to bring their own. It’s also helpful (although you can purchase this in the islands, so don’t cart it down there) to keep ginger ale and ginger snaps on board for seasickness as well.

Dive Flag
Not essential, but if you’re going to be diving you might consider hoisting a small dive flag. I also bring a few zip ties to make this easier.

Clothes Pins
These are essential for drying clothes from the lifelines. I’ve been on boats where they were supplied and on boats where they weren’t. It’s too easy to dump a bunch in a little plastic box and tote them along.

Cheap set of handheld two way radios
Again, not essential, but can be helpful for communicating with crew when some are ashore (at your local resort) and the rest are on board. For example, a couple crew members go ashore to drop trash and buy ice. They are going to get one bag, but you decide you need two. You can save them an extra trip with radios.

Electronics
Check and see if your boat has AC power. It probably doesn’t unless you’ve got a larger, newer boat. If not, consider taking a small AC converter. Mine is only 4x3x2 and weighs less than a pound. It has a single outlet, so we also take a power strip. With this we power the ipod for the boat and recharge batteries for cameras, etc. If you do have AC, it’s still a good idea to bring the power strip to multiply your outlets.

Binoculars
Your boat may have them. You’ll have to check with your charter co. They come in particularly handy for spotting the channel markers en route to Anegada. But once you’ve been to Anegada, you won’t need these anymore.

Harness
This is not a must have. However, if you have a good climbing harness, they come in handy for taking a ride up the mast on the spare halyard with a camera. They’re light and don’t take up any space, so why not?

Skipper’s Book
I take a folder with the necessary paperwork in it. I also use it to keep track of receipts. If you think this is a trip you’ll do regularly, it’s helpful to look back on your expenses to help plan the next trip.

Batteries
Make sure to take plenty of batteries for all your devices.

That about does it. This stuff along with the items on the personal packing list page pack into a carry on and an army duffel. If I think of anything else, I’ll add it.

2 Comments»

  cmgreenman wrote @

Good article. I recently did a trip to the BVIs (December 2013) so I wanted to add a few tidbits from our experience. We Bareboat chartered a Beneteau 343 from Conch Charters and were extremely pleased both with the boat and with the company. I highly recommend both. The boat was perfect for 2 with a huge aft cabin (get the 2 cabin model not the 3 cabin), spacious salon and good sized head with plenty of room for showering. Conch was also on the ball with everything and have us a great chart briefing before we left.

Provisioning: we provisioned online with Riteway abd it was a huge mistake. Next time we will do it ourselves. Bad substitutions, rotten veggies and meats, horrible service. We ended up going to the store to return $150 with of food and that ended up being a nightmare since the provisioning and retail sides are totally separate. 3 hours later we had everything we needed. Tico has a great selection of alcohol tho.

Excellent idea with the flashlights. We bought 2 waterproof 800 lumen lights. One night we tied one to the boat hook and put it in the water. I would have some great fish footage but my gopro case leaked acc ruined the camera. As for radios, I think pretty much all vessels have a VHF. I happened to have a couple handheld marine VHF radios so I brought one. I suggest learning proper VHF protocol and use that. Also if you meet someone and make friends you can use the VHF to stay in contact since cell service is spotty or non existent.

Good idea with the harness. I actually could have used that. One on the minor issues with the boat was that the anchor light was so dim it wasn’t visible. A trip up the mast with sandpaper for the contacts would have fixed that. We just ended up leaving the supplied, battery powered, led cockpit light on all night so we were at least lit and could be seen.

Finally, GPS. The handheld idea it’s good but if everyone on board has a smartphone or tablet there is a great app called Navionics that you can buy and install that had better detail abd more accurate charts than the chartplotter we had on board. The app has different versions for different areas of coverage. The version that covers BVIs (and all of south America) is about $15 for iPhone and android phones (more for the high def tablet/ipad version) and was more accurate than the chartplotter on board. You buy it from the app store, select the region you need, then down loss the charts for that area. It works WITHOUT any cell or Wi-Fi service as long as you’ve already downloaded the correct charts ahead of time. Btw, all of the virgin islands only took up 30 mb of storage on my tablet.

  sempereformata wrote @

Hey, I’m late replying, but thanks so much for leaving this comment. It’s always great to get input on different experiences.


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