You are hereSelecting Your Boat


SELECTING THE BEST BOAT
FOR YOUR DREAM CHARTER

There are over 1,000 different bareboat charter boats available in the Virgin Islands. The selection is broad and your choice of the perfect boat for your cruise can be determined by a number of factors.

Powerboat

Powerboats—lots of interior room and space on deck!

Selecting the right boat for your and your group for your Virgin Islands bareboat charter tends to breakdown like this:

  • Power or Sail (Catamaran or Monohull)
  • Number of Cabins
  • Age of Boat
  • Air Conditioning
  • Budget
  • Location of Charter Base
    –Road Town
    –Nanny Cay
    –West End/Sopers Hole
    –Maya Cove (USVI)
    –Charlotte Amalie (USVI)
    –Benner Bay (USVI)

Mark Bunzel shares some of his experience to help you make the decision that is best for you.


Power or Sail

There is one good reason, if you have experience sailing, to choose a sailboat. Costs are lower—for both the boat and fuel. But maybe, you’re thinking, you just don’t want to work that hard! The truth is—there are many catamaran and monohull charter sailboats that leave the dock and never raise their sails on a Virgin Islands vacation. The distances between the destinations are short and it’s easy to motor to any anchorage.

But, for those of you who are looking forward to sailing the trade winds in the Virgin Islands, you can expect some of the best sailing in the world. There is that special satisfaction of looking up at a full sail, turning off the engine, and knowing that mother nature is providing the propulsion through the tropical paradise.

Unless you are headed the 15 mile plus route to Anegada, or the breadth of Sir Francis Drake Channel from, say, the West End of Tortola to Gorda Sound, serious sailing with some distance is a planned event. Many sailors plan a day or more to sail outside of the islands for a hearty sail out and back in open ocean.

If you are considering chartering a powerboat, your options have increased over the past 15 years. You might want to consider Virgin Traders, which offers true power yachts based on a custom design, like a classic Hatteras with a fly bridge and entertaining areas on the stern. The Moorings have added powercats to their fleet and have a wide variety of boats available. Costs are higher than chartering a sailboat, including higher fuel costs during your charter, but you will certainly enjoy the additional space and amenities that powerboats offer. 

Powerboat

Sailboats—plenty of warm tradewinds to reduce fuel costs even more!


Number of Cabins

The next decision is how many sleeping cabins would be best and how much extra room would you like.

There are economical 32’ sailboats that have two sleeping cabins, which can work well for one or two couples. For two couples you might find the space a little tight and want to consider a 38’ or a larger two cabin boat. The decision is based on your budget and how well you think your group or family can get along in an enclosed space.

Catamarans offer two hulls and more privacy. Some of the smaller cats have a cabin and head situated in each hull. Some may have three cabins with two heads, one situated ensuite in a master stateroom. Catamarans tend to have more living space, especially in the salon and cockpit areas and will cost more than a sailboat.

Note: watch for references to cabins and sleeping berths. The drop down tables in the salon area are considered sleeping berths, which are usually comfortable but don’t offer the privacy of a cabin.

Powerboat

Catamarans—privacy and a bit more living space.


Age of Boat

The Moorings and Sunsail offer boats less than five years old and a full selection of power or sail (catamaran or monohull) along with premium services at their base.

Conch Charters offers boats of all different ages at some of the best rates in the islands.

Voyager Charters and the Catamaran Company specialize in premium catamarans.

TMM and BVI Charters offer a full selection of catamarans and monohulls of different ages but with consistent quality.

Footloose Charters offers Moorings and Sunsail boats that are five to ten years old at a discount to their top-line Moorings and Sunsail charters.

Once you've narrowed down your needs, you can browse the different bareboat charter company web sites to check out the range of options available. Most offer boat layouts. Not all sleeping cabins are alike. Some cabins have small bunks that may be best for children or for use as an extra cabin to store gear. Consider the size of the cabins if you plan to share the expenses for a charter. You may want to adjust the share of costs based upon the accommodations.


Air Conditioning

Some crews insist on air conditioning for a comfortable night’s sleep. Keep in mind, this means a generator could be running through the night to power the system. Air conditioning is available in some of the larger sailboats, catamarans and most powerboats. It can get hot in the islands, so if you or your guests are sensitive to the heat, this may be important factor for you to consider.


Budget

There is a broad range of prices for chartering in the Virgin Islands. Top companies like The Moorings, Sunsail, Voyager Charters and the Catamaran Company offer fairly new boats and first class services. Value companies like Conch Charters offer boats of varying ages and tend to be less expensive for a very capable charter vessel.

Charter prices vary also based on the season. The winter months of January through April tend to be the high season and the months where there could be a hurricane offer lower rates. It is rare a hurricane comes through the Virgin Islands, but it can and does happen during the months from June—October (and even as late as November, after the official hurricane season).

Temperatures do not vary much in the islands—tradewinds tend to keep temperature reasonable, even in the peak of the summer when charter rates are lowest. December is not a very popular month, but can be a delightful time to cruise the Virgin Islands before the crowds arrive around Christmas week, where almost every charter boat is out.

There may be additional fees for the dinghy, outboard, insurance or other special services. Read the charter contract carefully to understand what is included and not included.

Powerboat

With a smaller boat you might enjoy a hotel room once in a while.


Location of Charter Base

The location of the charter base can also affect the cost and convenience. You may like the idea of arriving from the long distance flight to St. Thomas and, within 30 minutes of picking up your luggage, stepping on to your charter boat at Caribbean Yacht Charters (CYC) in Charlotte Amalie. The tradeoff is allowing for an extra days cruise, although pleasant, required to and from the British Virgin Islands, if that is your ultimate destination. It also would allow you an option worth considering, exploring beautiful St. John, before clearing BVI customs.

Coming to the BVI via Tortola, there are some charter companies that are close to the Beef Island airport, but they do not offer as many shopping options as Road Harbour. Most of the charter operations are near Road Town where you can do your own provisioning or take advantage of the most extensive shopping available in the British Virgin Islands.

A final consideration in selecting your boat is that you will be spending most of your time on deck or in the cockpit, so make sure you choose one that gives you and your crew the space you need.

The range of bareboat charter boats available gives you a great choice of options, but if you have questions you have been unable to find answers for, we would be happy to do our best to answer them, and also welcome any input on your experience after your cruise!

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