A Quick Guide to Chartering a Yacht in the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands are an absolute paradise for escaping winter chill in style, comfort and luxury; or simply for taking a breather from everyday life and settling into some slower Caribbean rhythms, pondering the different hues of blues between the sea and sky.

Scenic view from Great Camanoe to Marina Cay in the British Virgin Islands, one of the most popular anchorages in the BVI sailing area

Keep in mind that chartering a yacht has never been easier than now, there are tons of choices, from tailor-made itineraries, complete with chefs, crew and the best beaches imaginable, to your own ad hoc, “go it alone” adventure. The only thing to do is start planning now!

BVI’s Geography

The BVI are made up of a collection of inhabited main islands, with an extra 50 smaller islands and cays (sandy islands on the surface of coral reefs – think “x marks the spot”), about 16 of which are inhabited. With the islands never more than 2-3 hours apart, you can easily have breakfast, lunch and dinner on a different set of islands/islets, from small towns on Tortola to your own private island for the day.

Marking the Calendar

The Mediterranean wins on this front, its seas stay calm for most of the year while hurricanes put a stop to all but the most determined yachtsmen in the Caribbean. So if you’re looking for some summer fun maybe Europe is your best bet. But from November to June it’s smooth sailing in the BVI. December to March though is ideal, when temperatures hover around a balmy 25c with a light, cooling wind on deck. Rainfall is lowest in December to April but has a habit of letting loose in May before calming again in June and July.

Beautiful sunset scene on the island of Virgin Gorda in BVI

Prices rise around the holiday season, so if you’re able to take the kids out of school, or go on an adults-only trip you’ll get a bargain in February and March while the rainfall is low and temperature is warm but rarely scorching.

Going Alone?

Solo, crewed, captain only? We all have different ideas of the perfect trip. For some it’s a completely hands-off experience, getting a break from life and embracing its luxuries, while for others getting your hands dirty and taking the reins will be part of the adventure. Having a crew adds to the price, so it depends on budget and privacy concerns. Staff on chartered boats are very professional and can be almost invisible, or can be an integral part of the experience. They each have their own seafaring experience and are sure to have some tales to tell. Having a captain on board gives the extra benefit of their knowledge of navigation routes, beaches and someone to tell the kids to stop running on deck!

Type of Boat

The two main options you have are catamarans or monohulls, and whether you want a sailboat or a motor yacht. Motor yachts are easier vessels for people with less experience, but romantics and seasoned sailors might scoff at petrol power and let nature lift their sails. Catamarans are best for big groups because of their larger living spaces and deck room, but most yachts, both monohull and catamaran have plenty of deck room for meals and sunbathing, so it’s not a worry either way.

Beautiful tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands in Caribbean

Different boats come with different options, even including having jet skis as part of the yacht package, so it’s worth browsing through some charter listings to see what options are available. Bear in mind that many yachts cannot be chartered without a crew.

A power catamaran’s name sums it up really, while these are, of course, for sailing into the sunset, they really shine when it comes to power across the seas. They’ve got big, powerful engines and can really build up speed to conveniently get you to the next great spot.

Safety Covered

Chartering a yacht should be all about being rocked to sleep by the changing tides, sunsets enjoyed from atop the deck, and with no worries about what could go wrong. The first two take care of themselves, but it’s up to the renter to ensure they have the most appropriate insurance policy. This is another reason to factor in whether you go crewed or bareboat.

The Islands

As the biggest island, with the most bustling culture, Tortola will naturally be your first port of call, where you’ll fly into and charter the yacht from.

Locations like Jost Van Dyke tempt visitors with its sugar mills, natural sea-formed jacuzzi and marine wildlife with a population barely reaching 300. After this though it’s all up to you – the short distance between islands makes them ripe for exploration. After picking a boat, while plotting your destinations you’ll be wondering how to start your life in the BVI, not just a vacation, there’s just so much to see. Let your sails guide you and remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination!…

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