FAQ – Bareboat Charters

You’re going on a sailing vacation!

It’s a big decision, there’s a lot to consider. We’ve consolidated answers to common questions about our sailing charters below.

Bareboat Charter Frequently Asked Questions

A bareboat charter is renting a boat that someone in your group will operate.
To qualify for bareboat chartering you simply need to have experience skippering a similarly operated (sail or power) yacht that is within 8-10 feet of the yacht you wish to charter. With experience, a certification or license is not required in most locations, except the Mediterranean (see below.). You also need experience with various skills: anchoring, moorings, docking, navigating, and so on. The extent required of these skills depends on the difficulty of the location you wish to charter. For example, the British Virgin Islands is considered an "easy" sailing location with very little anchoring, docking and navigation required. In the BVI you don't need a large amount of experience with these skills to qualify to bareboat. Mediterranean Bareboat Charters: A license is required most Mediterranean bareboat sailboat charters and bareboat power yacht charters. For sailboats, if you do not have a license an online Mediterranean Sailing Certification has been approved for US citizens: NauticEd, a US-Based sailing school, now offers bareboat sailing certification that has been formally approved by the maritime authorities in the following destinations: Mallorca (Spain), Italy, Greece, Croatia, and the Seychelles. Feel free to email us at bareboats@visailing.com with the details (include size and hours) of your experience and we can let you what size yachts you are qualified to bareboat.
First, if you have experience but it’s not quite enough, there are two choices for your charter: 1. We will arrange for a “check out skipper”. This is a skipper / captain to sail with you the first day for a more extensive yacht briefing and to ensure you are comfortable with the yacht. The captain will go over any sailing skills you may need to brush up on, plus they will give you a lot of great local knowledge. 2. A flotilla, which is a group of bareboat yachts that sail together with a fixed itinerary and a lead yacht with a professional captain on board. This is the perfect opportunity for you to bareboat with a little guidance. There are one and two week flotillas available in many locations. You can charter any yacht you want and simply pay a small flotilla fee. Second, if you don’t have any boating experience, we can arrange for a skipper / captain to be added to a bareboat charter, or we can recommend a crewed yacht with a captain, chef and typically all inclusive.
Yes! Catamarans are gaining popularity and many monohull sailors are easily making the transition. All the sailing basics are the same; the main difference is operating the twin-screw engines (two throttles.) With experience on similar sized monohulls but no experience with twin-screw engines, we'll hire a check out skipper the first afternoon for approximately $200 to accompany you for a few hours. You'll see that once you have the opportunity to operate the twin engines, they are actually easier than the single engines on a monohull.
Yes! The best destination for bareboat certification while on charter is the Virgin Islands both because the area is favorable for learning to sail and because there are many yacht options. With a little pre-studying bareboat certification can be accomplished during a 7 night charter. The certification is ASA and includes 3 consecutive courses: 101, 103 and 104. In order to stay within the ASA regulations, you would need to charter a monohull. Or, you can complete the first course in 2 days at a local Tortola sailing school which is not a live aboard. Then you can continue on a catamaran for the other two courses, plus ASA 114 which is catamaran certification. We work with a local BVI sailing school if you want to share the boat with others. If you want to take a private course or your group is large enough for an entire boat, you can charter any bareboat that has a cabin/berth for the ASA captain. The ASA captain's fee is $200/day, plus meals and gratuity. The course materials and exams cost approximately $100/person. The most ideal situation is to charter for 10 nights, allowing 7 nights to accomplish your bareboat certification and an additional 3 nights on your own.
The British Virgin Islands is the ideal location for your first charter! The distances between islands is short at 1-1.5 hours and a maximum of 3 hours. The waters are deep and easy to navigate, and you never have to anchor because there are mooring buoys almost everywhere. Plus, the island layout provides protection from open water sailing, less probability of seasickness. The BVI has so much to offer: visiting 1-2 new islands every day, lot of restaurants and beach bars, great beaches, snorkeling, sunsets and fun for all ages!
Most boats are in Tortola. Our best advice is to charter from whichever location you can rent the most ideal yacht for your group. Charters starting in both Tortola and St. Thomas share the same cruising area with most of your charter days in the BVI. St. Thomas and Tortola are only a few miles apart and sailing time is 2-3 hours. Therefore, it's best to be on the right yacht rather than worrying about your starting island. Our Bareboat Experts can check availability and make recommendations based on your group's needs, email bareboats@visailing.com. The majority of people that charter from Tortola will fly into St. Thomas and take a 45 minute ferry to Tortola. The last ferry runs at 4:15pm and private water taxis can accommodate later times. The ferry cost is $60/person round trip plus luggage and port fees. The water taxi costs approximately 2-3 times more expensive than the ferry, but offers a complete personal experience.
You’ll only see pirates if you’re watching Pirates of the Caribbean during your trip! The areas where charters are offered are areas that are safe for visiting. Nowhere is “crime free” so we recommend normal precautions: be aware of your surroundings, lock the boat / dinghy when you go ashore and don’t leave valuable out in plain sight, and don’t walk in dark or sketchy areas.
Absolutely! A yacht charter is a wonderful family vacation and we encourage bringing children of all ages. VI Sailing owners, Casper and Melody Delgado, have chartered with their daughter as early as 9 months old to now in her 20’s. Feel free to contact us for great parental charter advice, plus there is an informative article on our website about chartering with kids, please see Link.
No, pets are not allowed on any charters.
No, sorry. Regardless of your experience, for safety reasons, at least two people are required on board.
Charters throughout the Caribbean and South Pacific start and end any day of the week. Most Mediterranean charters start and end on Friday or Saturday. When planning your dates, be sure to keep in mind travel time.
You’ll initially work with one of our Charter Experts to find the most comfortable yacht at the best value. Once your charter reservation is confirmed, our very capable Concierge Team will assist with your paperwork, payments and making recommendations for hotels, provisions, water toys, ect. Our entire team is comprised of industry experts who has first-hand experience. Once you arrive at your charter destination you will work directly with the excellent charter company's staff. The local phone numbers and office hours will be provided to you prior to your charter.
Yes and it is recommended! Some charter companies have their own trip insurance that will be offered when reserving your charter. Or, with any charter you can purchase trip insurance from one of our recommended companies for approximately 7% of your charter amount, see Link. Although no one expects to cancel their charter, last minute emergencies do happen. All companies have a no refund policy at a certain time before the charter - please see the cancellation policies posted on the individual bareboat company's rate pages. There are only a small percentage of charters that are cancelled, but in these cases the outcome is much better with trip insurance involved.
With all charter companies and in all locations, taxi and/or ferry fees are not included in the charter fee. Throughout the Caribbean and the majority of other worldwide locations, the charter company will arrange for your taxi after receiving your arrival details. With a few companies in Tortola, BVI you can prepay for your taxi and ferry arrangements.
The main advantage to a sleep aboard is that you'll leave the dock earlier the next day. Charters with a sleep aboard usually leave the marina around 10:30-11:00 AM, whereas clients without a sleep aboard usually leave the marina around 2:00-2:30 PM. Sleep aboard boarding times vary by charter company, but all are between 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM. The cost also varies depending on the charter company: $75/person up to 65% of the gross daily charter fee. Sleep aboard rates are posted on the individual bareboat company's rate pages. With a sleep aboard, you will load your gear that evening and have an opportunity to become familiar with your yacht prior to the yacht orientation the following morning. Also, you can usually provision that evening - especially in the Virgin Islands. If you arrive after the office is closed, the yacht's lights will be on, the refrigerator will be cold and there will be instructions describing the yacht's systems and where the bathroom and shower facilities are on shore. The staff will show you the yacht's complete systems the next day in a yacht orientation. On the other hand, a sleep aboard can be uncomfortable, especially in the summer if your yacht isn’t equipped with air conditioning; protected marinas and can be hot and buggy. Most hotels near the marinas will accept one-night reservations - our Concierge Team will assist you. Their prices start around $130 per room/night in low season and around $170 per room/night in high season, plus tax and service charge. A good night's sleep in a nice cool room after a long day of travel can be the best way to start your vacation.
A bareboat charter yacht handover (yacht orientation) will usually take about an hour. You should be as familiar with the vessel as possible before leaving the dock. As a minimum, the skipper and at least one other member of the crew should be shown:
  • The location and safe operation of all the safety equipment, including fire extinguisher, life jackets and first aid kit
  • The safe operation of the cooking and refrigeration systems
  • Correct operation of the heads
  • Engine operation and regular checks
  • Operation of the VHF system including mayday instructions
  • The location and operation of all the instruments, including the GPS when applicable
  • The location of all charts and pilot books
  • The location and operation of all the halyards, winches, reefing lines and other sail controls
  • The anchoring system
  • Any other systems specific to that vessel or not covered above
It is important not to rush the yacht orientation and don't be afraid to ask questions! If there is anything you are not sure of or want to know more about, an extra 15 minutes at the start of your charter could save you hours of down time during your vacation. The charter company would prefer you to feel 100% confident before you leave the dock. If you are not familiar with the cruising ground, the charter company will meet with you for full chart briefing which takes approximately one hour. If you are familiar with the cruising ground, you'll most likely receive an abbreviated chart briefing. What to expect : View the Sailing Resume and Boat Check Out Video
YouTube video
If you reserve a sleep aboard for your arrival night, you can expect to leave the marina around 10:30-11:00 AM after your chart briefing and yacht orientation. Without a sleep aboard, charters typically start at noon which is also the boarding time. After loading your gear and provisions and completing your chart briefing and yacht orientation, you can expect to leave the marina between 2:00-2:30PM.
The most convenient provisions/beverages option is to place your order in advance of your charter. The Moorings, Sunsail and Footloose offer their own provisions packages, which we recommend if you're chartering from one of these companies. Otherwise, you can order directly from the local grocery stores that do not have an up-charge on the items and offer free delivery. The two largest grocery stores in Road Town are Rite Way and Bobby's Market Place. Simply go on either of their sites and submit your order directly to your store of choice. You can also self provision at either of these stores the day your charter starts. For a larger selection of beverages, see Tico. We also have a few suppliers for specialty items that we send to our clients with their Vacation Planner. Almost everything you will consume or dispose of, you will need to supply. This includes charcoal for the grill. Please see the specific yacht information pages for a list of items included with your charter. Provisions options are generally the same for all locations, but please contact us for details.
Overnight moorings (buoys) average $30/night. The moorings are first come, first serve. You should plan to arrive at your overnight location by 3:00 - 3:30 pm during the higher seasons and 4:00 - 4:30 pm during the slower seasons. Once you hook-up to an available mooring, someone will approach your yacht in a dinghy to collect payment and give you a receipt, or the mooring will have instructions to pay a specific restaurant ashore. Only cash is accepted for mooring usage fees. Meals ashore. Bareboat charterers usually dine ashore for at least half of their dinners and occasionally breakfast or lunch. Most restaurants accept credit cards - Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than Amex and Discover. The average cost for dinner and drinks is $50/person. Of course this does not include a delicious Caribbean lobster! Ice & Water. Only cash is accepted in most locations. Ice costs $4.00 - $6.00/bag (we’ve heard of $10.00/bag on occasion) and water costs approximately $0.15/gallon. Fuel. Most charters require you to top off your fuel tanks. The exact procedure will be reviewed during your chart briefing. The average fuel cost is $5.25/gallon. Estimated Fuel Costs:
  • Sailing vessel without a generator ~ $70-$100/week
  • Sailing vessel with a generator ~ $125 - $250/week
  • Power vessel ~ $500 - $700/week
The British Virgin Islands Departure Tax is $20/person paid when leaving the BVI. The British Virgin Islands Environmental Levy is $10/person paid when entering the BVI. The currency in British and US Virgin Islands is US Dollars. The are a few ATMs within the cruising area. Please contact us for expenses during charters in other destinations.
For all power yachts and the majority of sailing yachts. The best places to top off your fuel tanks will be discussed during your chart briefing. The Moorings in the Caribbean and South Pacific include fuel in their charter fee for sailboats, so refueling is not required. Sunsail and Footloose have a convenient pre-pay fuel surcharge so that you do not need to refuel at the end of your charter.
You need to clear customs when entering a new country (BVI to USVI or vice versa.) Clearing customs into the USVI is usually done at Cruz Bay, St. John or Red Hook, St. Thomas. Clearing customs into the BVI can be done at Soper's Hole on the west end of Tortola or Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. The process of clearing customs typically takes 45 minutes. Clients starting their charter in St. Thomas need to clear customs once they enter the BVI; this is also when you pay the BVI Cruising Tax and National Park Permit fees. You can clear out of BVI customs at the same time, you just need to indicate how many days you'll be in the BVI. US citizens can pre-register on ROAM which allows you to check back into the USVI with your phone - otherwise, you need to check into the USVI in person. Clients starting their charter in Tortola need to clear out of the BVI, into and out of the USVI (can be done at the same time if you indicate how long you’re staying in the USVI) and then back into the BVI.
Don’t over pack!!! This is very, very important! This is the biggest mistake people make. You will be in your bathing suit and cover-ups almost the entire time. Here are some basic packing guidelines for a one-week charter:
  • Two bathing suits and cover-ups/wraps
  • Two comfortable pairs of sandals (no big heels – flip flop style is great)
  • One pair of water shoes (optional)
  • One pair of sneakers with two pairs of socks
  • Three-five outfits (I know this doesn’t seem like enough, but trust me – it is!)
  • If you plan to eat at Peter Island Yacht Club, a dressy outfit is required.
  • Underclothes and pajamas (you can be the judge on this)
  • Laundry facilities are available if necessary.
  • Remember to put one outfit aside for your flight home.
  • Use duffel type bags that you can fold up and store on the yacht.
  • In your carry-on bag, I suggest packing a change of clothes, a bathing suit and basic toiletries (in case your bags are delayed/misplaced.)
Here are some other items you should pack:
  • Beach towels
  • Beach bag
  • Toiletries, including a good moisturizer/lotion
  • Sunscreen (Use all the time and you’ll still get a tan!)
  • Lip sunscreen (optional)
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera
  • Disposable underwater camera
  • Deck of cards
  • Books, magazines, journal
  • Music CDs
  • Chargers for electronic items. Cell phones (some don’t work in BVI), camcorder, lap-top (I don’t suggest bringing…this is vacation, right?) The yacht has a 12V cigarette lighter. If you need a 110V plug you should either rent or bring an inverter.
  • Your planning chart (a cruising guide is on the yacht)
Here is a list of other items you may want to consider packing:
  • Large frying pan for groups or more than 6 people
  • Drink koozies if you drink bottled drinks
  • Inexpensive blow-up water floats if you usually like using them
  • Storage baggies (some gallon and sandwich sizes)
  • Spices (picnic-style disposable salt and pepper, and a small quantity of your other favorite spices.)
  • Powder drink mixes that mix with water. Iced tea, lemonade, crystal light and so on.
  • Coffee
  • Flavored coffee creamer (powder)
  • Snacks that don’t crush easily. Granola bars, mixed nuts/dried fruit, Pringles chips, crackers, and so on.
  • Dried foods – not too much. Rice, pasta, cereal and so on.
  • Condiments – again, not too much. Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, hot sauce, peanut butter, jelly and so on. You usually want to bring the smallest sizes you can find and in plastic containers.
  • Tuna or any other canned foods that don’t take up too much space.
  • Paper plates
  • Plastic cups
These items are suggested either because the quantities available in BVI are too much for one week, or because they are quite expensive. It is helpful to plan a rough menu prior to your trip to decide which items you actually need to bring. If you don't want to worry about packing any food items, that's okay. The selection is very good and there are several options for getting the yacht completely provisioned. There are several stores in the cruising area to re-provision or pick up anything you forget. Here are a few things you want to purchase once you arrive:
  • Air freshener!
  • Toilet cleaner!
  • Toilet paper
  • Charcoal
  • Basically, anything you will consume or throw away, you need to supply.
Leave your hair dryer and the majority of your make-up at home. If you must have a hair dryer or an electric shaver, check the electric outlets available on your yacht. Don't bring too much jewelry. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. You'll need cash for over-night moorings $30/night, taxis and small items like ice. ATMs are available.
All charter companies in all locations include a dinghy. Throughout the Caribbean and worldwide, an outboard is also included. The only exceptions are some Mediterranean locations - the outboard is not included, but available for rent. We try to list the dinghy and outboard sizes on the yacht information pages on our site. However, if the size is not provided online, we are happy to find out for you.
Snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel & fins) in adult sizes is provided free of charge with most charter companies. If it is not included, then it is available for rent at the local dive shop. Once your charter is confirmed, your Vacation Planner will detail what gear is included and what additional water sports equipment is available for rent.
All yachts in all locations will have a navigation chart on board. Virgin Island Sailing provides clients with a complimentary cruising guide book and other planning material. This is one of the many advantages to using VI Sailing for your charter!
Yes, a coffee maker is on board all yachts. Yachts that are not equipped with a generator will have a stove-top percolator. Yachts with a generator will either have a stove-top percolator or a drip coffee maker. A filter is not required for either.
Most Tortola yachts have a cell phone available with a prepay phone credit of $10 - $20 to use towards calls. Additional credits can be purchased throughout the cruising area. Calls to/from the charter company are free. Calls to the USA are approximately $0.50/minute. Many personal cell phones will work while on charter. However, the roaming and international fees can be expensive. We recommend contacting your service provider for specific details; often they offer a temporary international calling or texting plan. Calls from the Caribbean to your home country usually cost $3.00 - $4.00/minute, so it's best to use the on board cell phone if possible.
In the BVI many yachts are equipped with WiFi or offer it for a fee. Throughout the BVI and USVI there are also some WiFi hot spots. During your chart briefing, the charter company will inform you of the current locations. Internet service is not available in most other cruising areas, but please check with our Bareboat Experts.
Yes! Many yachts are being equipped with an aux input to the stereo - please check the online yacht specs. Some newer yachts also have a smart phone charger that connects direct to the sound system. Once your charter is booked, your Charter Expert can give you the specific details for the yacht you reserved.
In the BVI, the yacht has to be registered for commercial fishing - please check with us for specifics. If the yacht is registered, a fishing license is required for anyone 18 years or older who will be fishing during your charter. You can apply for a license at the Government Office on Tortola, Monday - Friday 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM. However, for convenience we recommend working with either Last Stop Sports or Island Surf and Sail to apply for your license prior to your charter, and to rent your fishing gear. A fishing license is not required in the USVI. Please check with our Bareboat Experts for requirements in all other locations.
Certified divers can rent scuba gear and tanks to take on board their yacht. Bareboats are not equipped with compressors or dive tank racks, but racks can be rented. Another option in the BVI is rendezvous diving whereas the dive company will pick you up from your yacht with your necessary gear. You would dive from their yacht, which is typically closer to the dive sites because some mooring balls are designated for dive boats only. For more information see Blue Water Divers on Tortola or Admiralty Diving on St. Thomas. Please check with our Bareboat Experts for rental companies in all other locations.
Hair dryers and yachts really don't go well together. But, we do understand the need sometimes! If you would like to use a hair dryer on board, please plan on bringing a very low wattage travel hair dryer. For non-generator yachts, you may also need to bring or rent an inverter. Please ask our Bareboat Experts about specific yachts. Keep in mind that you can also use a hair dryer on shore during your charter.
No, you should not drink the water from the yacht's water tanks, even if it’s equipped with a water maker. You should purchase bottled water for drinking. The amount of water to purchase will depend on your group and how much other beverages you'll have on board. As a general rule, you should purchase about 1/2 gallon per person/day.
If you are having a captain and/or cook, it is customary to tip them at the end of your charter. For a first day check out Captain, $30-$50 is usual and for crew staying on board for the entire vacation, 10% - 15% of the yacht’s charter fee typical. This is at your discretion of course!