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Before you set sail . . .

. . . some tips from the Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League to help make your adventure in paradise one you want to last forever.


Anyone about to embark on a Crewed Motor Yacht Charter or Sailing Vacation in the Virgin Islands will soon see why this is such a great way to get away from it all. And some suggestions from “seasoned salts” can help make the sailing vacation even smoother. So, please share the information on this page with everyone in your charter group – and bring the PDF print out at the bottom of this page along when you come aboard!

On arrival . . .

Life in the Virgin Islands is laid back – and that’s part of the pleasure! The idea is to relax and not let inconveniences upset you. For example, if you fly to St. Thomas or Tortola via San Juan, Puerto Rico, your luggage may not arrive on the same shuttle flight because of weight considerations on the aircraft. So carry valuables, toiletries and a swimsuit in your hand luggage. Your checked bags will arrive eventually, and your Captain will have them delivered to the yacht.


As to where that yacht will await you, be sure you know before leaving home. On St. Thomas, it’s likely to be at Crown Bay Marina in downtown Charlotte Amalie or at the American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook. On Tortola, yachts normally board guests at Village Cay (pronounced “Key”) or Nanny Cay Marina. On both islands, taxi drivers are familiar with locations – and rates are posted at the airports.



You should board no earlier than noon of the day your charter starts unless you have made other arrangements. If you arrive on the island a few days before, stop by and meet the crew if the boat is in port, but understand that they’ll be busy getting things ship-shape from the last charter. If you arrival is delayed, let the Captain know by calling the contact number given to you by the Captain. Feel free to provide this number along with your charter broker’s number to people who may need to contact you during your charter. Most stateside cell programs will roam in this area. Make prior arrangements with your service provider.


Payment and proofs . . .

When you board your yacht, you will be expected to pay the balance due on your charter if not prepaid to your charter broker – in traveler’s checks or cash, please. No personal checks are accepted – they can take a month to clear stateside. Another option is to make arrangements with your broker to pay the entire balance in advance. Credit cards are occasionally not accepted in shops and small restaurants, so traveler’s checks are your best alternative to cash. U.S. currency is used in both the American and British Virgins. Each year we see more and more ATM's.


If you’ll be visiting the British Virgins or any other non-U.S. island, a passport is required. Without one, you Captain will have trouble clearing you into foreign ports and perhaps even more trouble getting you back to the U.S.


Stowing Away . . .

Space is limited on a boat, so bring soft-sided luggage or duffel bags, which the crew can stow easily. T-shirts and shorts are the usual uniform of the day when you’re not in swimwear. Hard soles won’t be allowed on deck so bring tennis-type shoes, flip flops and/or water shoes, plus some comfortable, cool walking shoes for jaunts ashore. Many crews prefer that you not wear shoes anywhere on board. (By the way, the people of the islands will appreciate it if you don’t come to town in your bathing togs or other abbreviated wear). Evening dress is about as casual as daytime dress, but if you plan to go to one of the few elegant dining spots, a blazer and tie for the men and semiformal dress for the women is appropriate. Bring more than one bathing suit, as you’re likely to spend more time in them than anything else on your sailing vacation.


The tropical sun can be very damaging to skin, so bring a protective lotion that does not stain towels, sheets, cockpit cushions and decks. Greasy preparations and oils in general are forbidden on board. Don’t forget sunglasses and lip balm containing a sunscreen. Despite precautions, you may develop a painful burn, so bring something long sleeved and full length that is light and comfortable to wear as a cover-up, plus a wide-brimmed hat or visor. Evenings can be cool, especially out on the water, so a light sweater or windbreaker will come in handy.


Bring your camera and plenty of film, disposable waterproof cameras to use while snorkeling, and an extra pair of glasses or contacts if you wear them. Also, any medications you require, plus antihistamines for any allergic reaction you may develop from unexpected encounters with sea urchins, fire coral or jellyfish. (If you watch where you’re swimming and snorkeling, this isn’t likely to be a problem, but remember: don’t put your hands or your feet where you can’t see them).

You may also want to bring favorite CDs and DVDs, a good book or two, your diary or anything else that adds to the pleasure of taking life easy. Do not, however, bring illegal drugs. Your Captain has too much to lose to permit their use on the yacht and can terminate the charter without refund if you bring them aboard. You needn’t pack towels, as these will be available on the boat. You should ask the crew before packing fishing or snorkeling gear as it may be duplicative and space is often a consideration. If you arrange for SCUBA diving, you’ll be able to rent gear here, if your yacht doesn’t provide it.


Getting to know you . . .


When you first come aboard, you’ll be shown to your cabin and given some time to get settled, usually with a welcome-aboard cocktail in hand. Soon the Captain will explain some dos and don’ts and ask about your special interests for the cruise. Here’s your chance to help plot the course for where you want to go and what you want to do – including taking the helm and trimming the sails, if you like. Remember, though, the Captain is responsible for the yacht and those aboard and has the final word in all decisions on your sailing vacation.



Going ashore . . .

Your Captain will be happy to arrange for activities on shore, including recreational sports and dining out. Such excursions are, of course, at your own expense and will not be deducted from your charter fee. If you invite your crew to join you for dinner ashore as your guests, they will be delighted to do so. But if you prefer to dine out without them, they will not be slighted in the least. Most cooks will appreciate advance notice if you plan to eat out.

Provisions . . .

You will have received a food and drink preference list to be filled in completely with regard to all members of your part and sent back in advance of your charter. The cook will plan meals and snacks based on the information you provide, including any strong dislikes or allergies you indicate. Let the cook know what your entire group will be happy eating as it is very difficult to prepare more than one meal at a time in a small galley. Most cooks will have provisions for the entire charter on board prior to your arrival, so please be thorough with your preference sheet. The yacht stocks a selection of standard wines, beer and liquor include in the charter fee; more expensive ones can be put aboard, usually at an incremental cost to you.



Working relationships . . .

Your captain and mate may be a married couple or working partners. They may own the yacht or operate it for someone else. In any case, you are guests in their “home”. You’ll savor your own “quiet time” staring up at the starry night sky or reading a good book. The crew will appreciate being allowed such times, too – after all, they will probably be the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to bed at night, working hard to please you.


If you come to think of the crew as friends (and you probably will), tipping may seem awkward at the charter’s end. But tips may constitute a major part of their working capital, and if you’ve enjoyed their efforts, they’ll appreciate your letting them know in this way. Most guest are comfortable with a tip of 10 to 20 percent of the charter fee, even more if the service was outstanding but the decision, of course is up to you. Putting your gratuity in an envelope with a note of thanks is a nice way to avoid any awkwardness.

Check it out . . .


Here’s a check –off list to help you ensure a carefree sailing vacation or motor yacht charter :


  • Food and beverage preference sheet filled in and returned ahead of time.

  • Where relatives and associates can reach us:

  • Boat Contact #

  • Yacht Name:

  • Where to board the yacht:

  • Passport for each member of party.

  • Soft luggage or duffel bags.

  • Adequate sun protection (lotions, hat or visor, clothing, sunglasses, lip balm with sunscreen).

  • Rubber-soled sandals and shoes, water shoes (opt).

  • Extra pair of glasses or contact lenses for those in party who wear them.

  • Regular medications, antihistamines.

  • Camera, plenty of film, disposable waterproof camera.

  • Traveler’s checks or cash for final charter payment, shopping, dining ashore, other shore expenses and tip.

  • Eager anticipation of a memorable “Adventure in Paradise.”

    Download a PDF of this Checklist & Information Page.
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