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Old 17-07-2013, 16:47   #1
smp
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Chartering in St Thomas, Sailing in the BVI

Hi All,

I'm planning a first time bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands for this coming winter, we're looking at late January. It's two couples. My friend is convinced that if we fly into the USVI and charter a boat there, we can go sail in the BVI and that we'll save a lot of money. It looks like flying into St Thomas is the way to go but my research on this forum seems to indicate that most prefer taking the ferry to the BVI and chartering there.

It does seem kind of simpler to fly into St Thomas, charter a boat and go sailing. I'm just not sure if the charter companies like that, and what the disadvantages are.

We want to sail in the BVI, maybe St. John, maybe not. We're planning a 10 day trip.

Any other tips about chartering in the Virgin Islands are much welcome.
Thanks
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Old 17-07-2013, 17:15   #2
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Are you including the time it will take you to check out of the USVI then into BVI then out of BVI and into USVI? Take the ferry over from the USVI and charter in the BVI.
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Old 17-07-2013, 17:30   #3
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If you're planning a 10 day charter, I think you'd have more places to visit in the BVI. We have regularly flown into St Thomas and ferried to Tortola, stayed overnite and picked up our boat the next day after getting provisions. We add a day on the front and a day on the back to make it all happen. I'm a little biased but I love the BVI and all its room to roam.
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Old 17-07-2013, 17:39   #4
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Quote:
Originally Posted by smp View Post
Hi All,

I'm planning a first time bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands for this coming winter, we're looking at late January. It's two couples. My friend is convinced that if we fly into the USVI and charter a boat there, we can go sail in the BVI and that we'll save a lot of money. It looks like flying into St Thomas is the way to go but my research on this forum seems to indicate that most prefer taking the ferry to the BVI and chartering there.

It does seem kind of simpler to fly into St Thomas, charter a boat and go sailing. I'm just not sure if the charter companies like that, and what the disadvantages are.

We want to sail in the BVI, maybe St. John, maybe not. We're planning a 10 day trip.

Any other tips about chartering in the Virgin Islands are much welcome.
Thanks
Your friend is misinformed as to the relative cost of chartering and you will spend a lot of time screwing around with clearing in/out et al. While there is some merit to flying into St. Thomas vis-a-vis clearing customs etc. and so not having to endure that trial when you get back to the mainland, going through San Juan, PR and then on to Beef Island in the BVI also has it's merit if you are patient. Note, though, the Ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola isn't very costly and may be somewhat more convenient depending upon your airline arrangements. The BVI will offer you all the cruising you could want for a week to two week charter and being there is a decided improvement over the USVI. FWIW...
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Old 17-07-2013, 18:21   #5
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Hi all and thanks for the replies. The BVI is where we want to sail, the USVI is where my buddy wants to charter from because he's under the impression there are savings to be had and that sailing from the USVI to the BVI will be fun. I'm in favour of ferrying over to the BVI and chartering there and staying there and not worrying about any border stuff.
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Old 17-07-2013, 19:23   #6
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Your friend may very well being practical. It's not a far sail from USVI to BVI and if you go to TTOL Traveltalkonline: Viewing forum: British Virgin Islands (a real time wealth of information on what to expect in the BVI) you can read about the problem tourists are having with the (sometimes) ferry system. Also another good source, BVIPirate.com Site Map. Since it seems clear you are trying to save on expenses a private water taxi (if not shared) would be pricey. Also it's pricey to have to add on 1 night hotel stay in USVI because you didn't make the ferry out, or same on the return trip, or worse! Miss your flight and have to pay dearly.I haven't visited since before AA went into chapter 13, but previously would fly into PR and catch connecting flight to BVI. Seemed a wash when factoring the expense of having to get a hotel room at either end of the flight due to Ferry schedules. Also I never experienced any huge time waits or lines checking into BVI by plane or by ferry. 30 minutes max? Clearing US customs in PR never seemed overly horrendous either. Perhaps I was lucky. But re-entering the US always seemed more time consuming than entering the BVI. You can check in at West end, Rhode town, JVD, or Spanish Town. Can't imagine it'd eat up much of your vacation time. But that's just IME. Read further and more current information here and ask lots of questions;

Oh well here,
Traveltalkonline: We cannot proceed.

Traveltalkonline: our ferry solution

Traveltalkonline: BVI Govt and ferry companies ain't workin' it out

I'm sure other members with more current experience will contribute also.
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Old 17-07-2013, 20:35   #7
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Originally Posted by Gadagirl View Post
Your friend may very well being practical. It's not a far sail from USVI to BVI and if you go to TTOL Traveltalkonline: Viewing forum: British Virgin Islands (a real time wealth of information on what to expect in the BVI) you can read about the problem tourists are having with the (sometimes) ferry system. Also another good source, BVIPirate.com Site Map. Since it seems clear you are trying to save on expenses a private water taxi (if not shared) would be pricey. Also it's pricey to have to add on 1 night hotel stay in USVI because you didn't make the ferry out, or same on the return trip, or worse! Miss your flight and have to pay dearly.I haven't visited since before AA went into chapter 13, but previously would fly into PR and catch connecting flight to BVI. Seemed a wash when factoring the expense of having to get a hotel room at either end of the flight due to Ferry schedules. Also I never experienced any huge time waits or lines checking into BVI by plane or by ferry. 30 minutes max? Clearing US customs in PR never seemed overly horrendous either. Perhaps I was lucky. But re-entering the US always seemed more time consuming than entering the BVI. You can check in at West end, Rhode town, JVD, or Spanish Town. Can't imagine it'd eat up much of your vacation time. But that's just IME. Read further and more current information here and ask lots of questions;

Oh well here,
Traveltalkonline: We cannot proceed.

Traveltalkonline: our ferry solution

Traveltalkonline: BVI Govt and ferry companies ain't workin' it out

I'm sure other members with more current experience will contribute also.
Ditto what Gadagirl has to say. Traveltalkonline links that were provided are current and accurate accounts of the conditions people have encountered with the ferry situation. Feel free to read and form your own opinions.

My personal experience from working at a St Thomas based charter company is that business is way up since the ferry service became utterly unreliable. They couldn't be happier that numerous experienced charters have been recently "converted" to starting in the USVI and like the thought of cheaper plane tickets and being on your boat within minutes after landing at the airport. That same boat later becomes your private ferry to the BVI, St John, St Croix or the SVI. You choose the departure time and you don't have to slog your bags to the ferry, ferry to BVI customs, customs to the taxi and finally from the taxi to your boat. How do you want to spend your vacation time?
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Old 17-07-2013, 21:29   #8
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

I have chartered in ST. And sailed BVI. Checked in and out at the same time at Jost VD. Was pretty quick and painless. Check with John at CYOA Charters they will be up to date on the best way to do this.
Be careful with the ferries. we had to charter a private water taxi as our flight was late and we missed the last ferry which left quite early around 5 I think.
Regards
Paul
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Old 18-07-2013, 04:33   #9
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

If all 4 of you are either U.S. citizens or have a U.S. visa (travelling under the visa waiver program isn't possible via sailboat) then on a 10 day charter I'd guess you'll spend about 30-40 minutes clearing into the BVI from the USVI (the BVI has so many U.S. visitors that they don't require the usual clearance papers when arriving from the USVI) and then another 30-40 minutes clearing out of the BVI upon your return and 30 minutes to clear into the USVI in St. John upon your return. Add in another 30 minutes for anchoring/mooring and dinghy run ashore you will have about 3 hours total time for formalities and that isn't too bad considering the length of your trip. And as stated earlier in this thread, the ferry situation is sub-optimal with no hope of a solution in sight.

I like St. John (Mahoe in particular), but there is more to see and do in the BVI when it comes to scenic anchorages. I've spent literally months in the BVI and changed anchorages almost daily and still have one or two anchorages that are on my list which I haven't visited to date. I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves.
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Old 18-07-2013, 14:45   #10
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Originally Posted by smp View Post
Hi All,

I'm planning a first time bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands for this coming winter, we're looking at late January. It's two couples. My friend is convinced that if we fly into the USVI and charter a boat there, we can go sail in the BVI and that we'll save a lot of money. It looks like flying into St Thomas is the way to go but my research on this forum seems to indicate that most prefer taking the ferry to the BVI and chartering there.

It does seem kind of simpler to fly into St Thomas, charter a boat and go sailing. I'm just not sure if the charter companies like that, and what the disadvantages are.

We want to sail in the BVI, maybe St. John, maybe not. We're planning a 10 day trip.

Any other tips about chartering in the Virgin Islands are much welcome.
Thanks
Some of the Mates on this board would have you believe it is an either/or choice between chartering out St. Thomas, or the BVI. I am from St. Thomas and still enjoy sailing the Virgins. The truth is St. Thomas and the BVI are one and the same. Folk that sail out of STT head for the same sailing grounds that others refer to as the BVI. The local Native culture is the same between all of the Virgins. The artificial lines of demarcation are for the convenience of the empires that stake claim to one side or the next. Round trip ferry tickets (to Tortola) and taxis on each end will run you about $80 per person. You will likely fly into STT so if you can find a good deal on a yacht in the FrenchTown area, or out on the East end by Red Hook all the better. It will be a downwind sail heading home to STT. The BVI side offers more yachts to choose from. Sunsail has gobbled up The Moorings and pretty much has a monopoly and the competitive pricing that goes along with controlling that many hulls. The inferred preference of the BVI over STT is a perception that there are two separate sailing grounds. There is only one. This preference also is caused by the crowded and busy scene one sees in St. Thomas. St. Thomas has world class shopping and dining so it provides a classy way complete your fabulous sailing week by taking yourself and your Lady shopping on Main Street. She will love it. Yes, there are too many Americans living in St. Thomas and they tend to change things wherever they muster in large numbers. Base your decision on finding the right boat and charter terms for your vacation. Do not be fooled by the rhetoric STT vs. BVI. Have a great sail!
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Old 18-07-2013, 14:52   #11
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Clearing into the BVI and back out and into the USVI is not a big deal. Simple solution is to look at the options and see if there really is any savings to be had. Find out what the cruising taxes will be since you will pay that when entering from the USVI to BVI - chartering in the BVI it's already paid for.

We always charter from the BVI and prefer to fly into Tortola rather than take the ferry (we've done that too though). I've found more recently that flights are not much more expensive if at all at times to Tortola from Boston. Another tip if you are looking at flying into Tortola is to look at Cape Air's commuter book if you have enough people. With at least 5 people you can use the book on a single trip and it drops the round trip cost from San Juan to Tortola to $280/person. So you just need to get to San Juan for as little as possible. Our past few trips, our airfare has been between $700 and $800 a person.

If you really want to save, don't go in January. That's the busy season and charter prices are highest. Go in May or later for better rates.

But between BVI and USVI, there's no right answer. Either is fine. If you are thinking of the ferry, then starting in the USVI gives you your own personal ferry.
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Old 18-07-2013, 16:43   #12
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Im the friend from the first post.

My line of thinking on chartering from STT is based on my previous visit to the islands (stayed in a rental property on St John). I remember the taxis and ferries being somewhat disorganized at best.

We want to go for 10 days, but if even one leg of the flight or travel time is off by an hour, we wouldn't make it to the ferry in time as most flights get us to STT around 2-3pm. If the worst happens, we need accommodations for 4 people in St Thomas, and we've lost a day of our vacation. At the tail end of the trip, flights leave STT at 3pm, so again its somewhat of a mad dash to get to the airport on time and that last day is a bit of a wash as well.

It equals $80 per person in ferry rides, and around $30 per person cab fare.

The really crappy part is that for us, flights to BVI are impossible to find under $1100, and those that are around $800 are 18hr 2-stopover circus shows.

I haven't been able to find a moderately priced charter in St Thomas... so my question for this forum is- Can anyone recommend more charter companies in STT aside from CYOA?
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Old 18-07-2013, 16:47   #13
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

Something else to consider is a water taxi from St. Thomas. With 4 people this isn't such a huge cost, but clearly more expensive than the ferry. Always trade offs.

There are not as many companies to choose from in St. Thomas. I only know of two for sailing and CYOA is one of them. Island Yachts is the other.

Where are you coming from?
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Old 18-07-2013, 16:48   #14
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Re: Chartering in St Thomas, sailing in the BVI

We're flying out of Toronto, Canada.

How much would a water taxi cost, roughly?
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Old 18-07-2013, 16:49   #15
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Im the friend from the first post.

My line of thinking on chartering from STT is based on my previous visit to the islands (stayed in a rental property on St John). I remember the taxis and ferries being somewhat disorganized at best.

We want to go for 10 days, but if even one leg of the flight or travel time is off by an hour, we wouldn't make it to the ferry in time as most flights get us to STT around 2-3pm. If the worst happens, we need accommodations for 4 people in St Thomas, and we've lost a day of our vacation. At the tail end of the trip, flights leave STT at 3pm, so again its somewhat of a mad dash to get to the airport on time and that last day is a bit of a wash as well.

It equals $80 per person in ferry rides, and around $30 per person cab fare.

The really crappy part is that for us, flights to BVI are impossible to find under $1100, and those that are around $800 are 18hr 2-stopover circus shows.

I haven't been able to find a moderately priced charter in St Thomas... so my question for this forum is- Can anyone recommend more charter companies in STT aside from CYOA?
There are only 3 charter companies I'm aware of on St Thomas. CYOA, Island Yachts and VIP. Are you interested in a monohull or cat?
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