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PREPARATION

What to Bring

Clothing

Most people pack too many clothes. The islands are laid back and usually a bathing suit or shorts and a t-shirt are the uniform of the day. Pack one or two nice outfits for dining out if you wish. Slacks and a collared shirt for men and a light dress for women will do. Only one or two high-end resort restaurants require men to wear jackets for dinner. On a longer charter, there are several laundromats at towns and marinas throughout the area. Some will take in laundry in the morning and have it washed and folded the same day.

Bring water shoes or your favorite Keene’s, Tevas, Crocs or other water shoes; they make it easier for a beach landing with the dinghy and make walking on the beach or hiking at The Baths much more comfortable.

Bring light clothing or waterproof sun block (Bull Frog is good) to cover your back, arms and legs while snorkeling. The fish and coral are captivating and it is easy to lose track of time while under the magnifying effect of the water.

Packing

If possible, pack everything for the charter into soft, carry-on luggage for the flight to the islands. Soft bags stow easily on a boat. Plan to carry all luggage aboard the aircraft or at least pack a small carry-on bag with the essentials. Checked luggage gets lost and the airlines will not deliver it to your favorite anchorage. Though all of the charter companies have a supply of masks and snorkels to choose from, bring your own. Your own mask, fitted properly to your face, will make snorkeling more enjoyable. Also, for those needing prescription lenses in the mask, any good dive shop can arrange for the lenses to be installed at a reasonable cost. The charter companies’ fins are generally serviceable.

Do not forget to bring your scuba certification if applicable.

The diving in the islands is some of the best in the world. The dive companies make it easy to dive while on charter. Call them on VHF 16 and they will arrange a pick-up virtually anywhere the boat is anchored and return once the dive is finished. They will even arrange to meet up with the boat at a different anchorage after the dive if the rest of the crew wants to continue the cruise while the divers in the group are exploring the depths.

Protection

Suntan lotion is readily available in the islands but it is more convenient to bring it from home where there is a larger and less expensive array of products to choose. It bares repeating that it is easy to get sunburned while on or in the water. Many a charter trip has been ruined and even cancelled by a crew member’s excruciating, severe sunburn.

Though insects are not a significant or persistent problem, bring insect repellant and bug spray. There are only a few anchorages, usually near mangrove forests, where mosquitoes and no-seeums (aka: nonoes) might be a problem. The trade winds usually keep the bugs at bay.


Provisions

All the charter companies provide provisioning services that, if required, must be requested a couple of days prior to arrival. There are set menus that are ordered based on the number of crew and which meals will be eaten aboard and ashore. Some packages assume that all dinners will be taken ashore and as such supply only breakfast, lunch and snack provisions.

Provisions

 

The pre-ordered food will be delivered prior to departure and will sometimes be stowed for you on the boat. You can also order your provisions on your own directly with the major markets on Tortola. The markets maintain web sites that include forms for ordering provisions.

The market will send back a cost for the requested provisions and if you indicate that you will buy from them, they will have the groceries packed up when you arrive to pay or delivered directly to your boat when paid by credit card.

 

Provisions

 

Calculations

Based on the itinerary, roughly calculate how many meals will be prepared aboard and how many eaten ashore. Many charterers dine out for more than half of the dinners. If you elect to do your own provisioning at the markets consider pre-ordering. Order water, beer, wine and hard liquor in advance and have these heavy items delivered to the boat. Some of the markets will pay for the cab to deliver you and your groceries back to the boat. There are food stores in a number of locations and you may not need to purchase provisions for your entire charter at the beginning of the trip.

Water

While the potable water in the islands—and in the boats’ water tanks—; is wholesome and safe to drink, most prefer bottled water for drinking. There will be times when the heat aboard proves the rule of thumb that states each crew member should be sure to drink at least one liter of water per day regardless of any other liquids consumed. Bottled water is available in all the area markets.

Spicing Things Up

Consider assembling a cooking and spice kit for the cruise. This might consist of a camp-cooking kit with small containers for spices and closable bottles for olive oil and other liquids. Pack it with restaurant packages of condiments such as salt and pepper as well as a cleaning pad and bottle of detergent. Some charter companies sell a starter kit that has all of these basic supplies. Most of the portions are beyond the needs of a week or ten day cruise and will end up distributed among the boat-cleaning staff. It is rumored that some boat cleaners have a three-year supply of partially used catsup, salt and pepper for their family’s use.

Cleanup

While the assumption may be that the First Mate and friends will do the cooking and cleaning, remember that it is their vacation too. Most charter companies will provide a cook at a reasonable daily rate if requested. The cook will require his or her own cabin and one day off per week. The charterboat cooks are capable and create enjoyable meal plans for any length cruise.


Navigation Gear

Most charter boats in the Virgin Islands come equipped with a cruising guide and basic charts. In most cases this will provide the necessary minimum to safely navigate to all destinations. Once the skipper has his bearings, most navigation will be done by sight and compass. Not all boats are equipped with a GPS and many captains elect bring their own hand-held unit.

For trip planning, it might be fun to enter some of the way waypoints into a GPS prior to arrival. A disk with all of the waypoints and software for loading into most GPS units is available from Fine Edge. It will give the first timer an idea of time and distances between anchorages. A GPS is more valuable if sailing for Anegada or St. Croix.

And don't forget to get a copy of Cruising the Virgin Islands guide book for hands-on manageability for navigating the area.

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