Chartering in the Virgins: This Plan Is a Pitch for Smooth Sailing

Five steps to keep a BVI vacation relaxing. A feature from our December 2009 issue

368 BVI Turtle

Peter King

After more than a decade of bareboat sailing with my family and friends in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, I've learned that I don't want to waste my time on the trip with unnecessary work. So I do my planning beforehand, and then I spend a lot more time relaxing.

Five simple tips can help you make the most of your precious days in paradise.

Book in advance: Reserving airline tickets at least six months in advance means not only less expensive tickets but also a better selection of flights. I also like to call ahead to an island taxi service and schedule my ride, even prepaying from home. Charter companies can make suggestions; see "Virgin Islands Taxis and Provisions" (see below) for my recommendations.

If you're flying in to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and your destination is in the British Virgin Islands, it's possible to arrange both the taxi and ferry through the cab company; expect to pay about US$80 per person. It's less expensive and involves less hassle.

Pick the right boat: For too many years we waited too long to book our boat, and then we'd get something that wasn't exactly what we wanted. This year, we booked ahead, and we got the exact boat we wanted plus a discount usually offered closer to the charter date-just ask the charter company what it can offer.

You get what you pay for: For years, we'd pick an older boat, and then we had mechanical problems. So this year we spent extra-not much more, when you factor in the discount-and chartered a newer boat. Not only did we enjoy the luxury of the latest technology; we also didn't have to worry about such problems as old sails and busted-up dinghies.

Provision online: Without fail, we always spent the first evening of our bareboat charter in the B.V.I. at the grocery store. Then I went online and had everything delivered directly to our boat. Provisioning online allowed me to see prices, review greater product options, and make smarter decisions. See "Virgin Islands Taxis and Provisions" (see below).

Pack lighter: You've all heard this before, but it still amazes me how much people bring. Pack two medium-sized duffel bags. One carries your clothes; the other is for your sunblock, books, and CDs. Tightly roll up all your clothes and fit them into one duffel bag; remember, dress is casual here.

Keep it simple so you can spend less time preparing and more time relaxing.

Virgin Islands Taxis and Provisions
Contact Island Magic (340-775-7292) for taxi service on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

On Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, the B.V.I. Taxi Association (284-494-3942), JP Transport (284-540-5348), and Quality Taxi Association (284-494-8397) provide transportation.

For online provisioning in the British Virgin Islands, try the Ample Hamper (www.amplehamper.com), Bobby's Market Place (www.bobbysmarketplace.com, One Mart Foods (www.onemartfoods.com), and Riteway Food Markets
(www.rtwbvi.com).

Joanne Palmisano