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Old 05-10-2016, 05:53   #1
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Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Hello,

I will charter a boat for 2 weeks in Jan 2017 from Tortola and plan to visit the USVI.
  1. How do I clear out of BVI customs?
  2. Do I have to clear out? What will happen if I dont do that?
  3. Do I have to get a US Visa in advance ($160)?
  4. I read about the following possibility: Get visa waiver (ESTA). Cross by official ferry to USVI. Get a stamp in the passport. Go back to BVI by ferry. Cross to USVI by charter boat. Check in with the US customs. ($60)
    Is this still working???
I would be great to get some answers!

Thanks
CG
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Old 05-10-2016, 06:19   #2
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, CG.

Vessels traveling between the BVI and USVI must clear out of BVI waters at one of the ports of entry and clear into US waters either at Cruz Bay, St John or Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas.

http://www.bvitourism.com/arriving-by-sea
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Old 05-10-2016, 11:07   #3
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

1. Take your passports and boat papers to BVI C&I, either in Soper's Hole (West End) or Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke. There are supposedly new regulations that everyone aboard must present themselves, but as of last week they haven't been enacted/enforced, so just the Captain goes into the offices. Clear out.
2. The US won't let you clear in if you don't have outbound clearance papers. They'll send you back - if you are lucky. If you aren't lucky, you'll be charged with a criminal offence.
3. Yes, only U.S. Citizens and LPR can enter the U.S. by vessel without a visa. Even citizens of countries that can fly to the USA with the visa waiver program need a tourist visa.
4. That loophole does work and is legal. I asked the C&I people in Cruz Bay about that when I cleared in (I have a Visa, so it didn't apply to me) and it is still valid.

When you clear in at Cruz Bay you need to ensure that everyone aboard joins you, they must all present themselves in person to the C&I officials and they'll get fingerprinted and retina scanned.
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Old 16-02-2017, 14:11   #4
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

If I can add a question or two:

I plan to charter in Tortola in June. My sons and their girlfriends are going to fly down and meet us for the last week of the charter. All of us are US citizens.

The current plan is for them to fly to St. Thomas, where we pick them up in the charter boat, clear out at Cruz Bay and clear in to BVI at West End, Tortola. The idea was to save money on flights from New Orleans or Boston to Tortola by having them fly to St. Thomas. Plus we want to visit a couple friends on STT before they arrive.

Is this a bad idea? Is it too much hassle and we should just pay for flights to Beef Island Tortola? Is there a good way to get them from the airport on STT to where we can pick them up, nearer the east end of STT?

Better to have them take a ferry to Tortola? One other option is for us to meet them at Hull Bay, StT, near our friends' house. That option would involve transferring all 4 plus their bags by dinghy from the beach.

I am just trying to get some advice from those who are familiar with the customs offices and the logistics to make a reasonable plan. Any feedback is appreciated.

BS'er
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Old 16-02-2017, 14:28   #5
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bullshooter View Post
If I can add a question or two:



I plan to charter in Tortola in June. My sons and their girlfriends are going to fly down and meet us for the last week of the charter. All of us are US citizens.



The current plan is for them to fly to St. Thomas, where we pick them up in the charter boat, clear out at Cruz Bay and clear in to BVI at West End, Tortola. The idea was to save money on flights from New Orleans or Boston to Tortola by having them fly to St. Thomas. Plus we want to visit a couple friends on STT before they arrive.



Is this a bad idea? Is it too much hassle and we should just pay for flights to Beef Island Tortola? Is there a good way to get them from the airport on STT to where we can pick them up, nearer the east end of STT?



Better to have them take a ferry to Tortola? One other option is for us to meet them at Hull Bay, StT, near our friends' house. That option would involve transferring all 4 plus their bags by dinghy from the beach.



I am just trying to get some advice from those who are familiar with the customs offices and the logistics to make a reasonable plan. Any feedback is appreciated.



BS'er


In order of your post.

There is no need to clear out of the US to return to the BVI but your charter Capt will, or had better, know that.

The order of events is:
Clear out of BVI
Clear into USVI (probably St John)
Clear back into BVI

St Thomas pick up options (which your Capt really should know):
Anchor in Lindbergh Bay walk over to airport and walk back with them. No dock/calm water beach landing.
Get a slip in Crowne Bay Marina and have them take a cab there.
Rent a mooring at CYOA and have them take a cab there. You can use the dock.
Get a slip at any other marina farther east from the airport, like American Yacht Harbor, and have them take a cab

Cab ride and ferry to Tortola $$$

Hull Bay makes zero sense to me. That is where people surf and can be really rolly for an anchored boat. I doubt a captain would accept that option.
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Old 16-02-2017, 15:47   #6
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

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Anchor in Lindbergh Bay walk over to airport and walk back with them. No dock/calm water beach landing.
I would favor this choice. Traffic in STT can be horrendous, especially coming out of the airport and through town [pronounced "tawn"]. The many cruise ships that visit Charlotte Amalie do not make the situation any better. If you must visit C.A., early morning or late evening are best.
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Old 16-02-2017, 17:13   #7
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Sailboat takes mooring near Cruz Bay. Fliers land at STT and taxi to west end where they take a ferry to Cruz Bay. Pick up fliers at Cruz Bay in dingy and go back to sailboat.
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Old 16-02-2017, 18:12   #8
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

We like to be cleared into BVI's and have guests take ferry from CA to Sopers Hole-West End and pick them up there at customs all cleared in to the BVI's! Saves first day out of CA often bashing into wind and seas until St. John which can be tough if your guests don't have their sea-legs yet
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Old 16-02-2017, 20:10   #9
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Thank you all for the helpful suggestions. It is a bareboat charter and I am the captain. Have chartered a few times down there but thus far I have avoided the customs clearing routine (Either stayed in BVI or PR + Vieques + StT). That is why I am asking.

We are probably going to visit our friends that live near Hull Bay the weekend before our sons arrive. But we might meet them on JSV and there fore we would not even go to the USVI at all. But that part is not clear yet, and so I thought we were going to meet them on St. John or StT.

But your experiences/advice is very helpful and appreciated.

BSer
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Old 16-02-2017, 20:58   #10
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

I'm sorry, I got this thread mixed up with another in which the poster had hired a Capt. I was thinking "You hired a Capt and they don't know the standard procedures? Find a new Capt!"

Enjoy your trip. Let the weather dictate your plans and be ready to adapt accordingly. I work in the charter industry and I see far too many good people stuck to a schedule they made back on the kitchen table 6 months ago. If there's no wind and it's glass flat (rare) then Hull Bay might be a possible anchorage with a settled forecast. If it's been blowing 25 for a week and the seas are 8+ feet then staying in BVI and waiting for a ferry to bring your group in would be best for all. Doing research as you are is wise but don't make decisions without a current marine forecast to guide you.

Another note: Verify that your charter boat has the proper paperwork onboard to clear into the USVI and that the charter company is aware of your intentions before you arrive in the BVI. You wouldn't be the first person that found their plans of visiting some of the beautiful beaches on St John canceled from a misunderstanding with their charter company.
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Old 24-02-2017, 09:36   #11
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Based on the great intel above and a little research, this is what I plan to do: Have a couple options and decide when we are there, as suggested.

But one plan that may work is to have our friends in STT pick them up at the airport and drive them to Red Hook, as they offered. The ferry across to Cruz Bay is only $7 per person plus $4 for each bag.
The charter man suggested to either anchor or moor west of Caneel Bay and dingy around to Cruz Bay to clear Customs & Immigration, or mooring in Maho Bay, beach the dingy securely to a tree, and then taxi/hitch into Cruz Bay and proceed directly to Customs and Immigration- Taxi is about $7/per each way.

I was recommended to avoid bringing the boat into Cruz Bay due to ferry traffic. But other routes would entail loading four young adults plus their bags into a dinghy to transfer to the sailboat, likely in 2 trips. It would be nice if there was a good place to tie up to a dock for an hour or so...

If our friends meet us in Jost Van Dyke instead of St. John, we may not even cross into USVI at all, and just have the kids catch the ferry from Red Hook to West End, Tortola. That is $13 per person and leaves only 3 times a day.

Rubikoop - you recognized a photo I posted a long time ago of Hull Bay, with our charter boat anchored there, so obviously you are familiar with it. I am puzzled you said it would be rough there, as we were protected from the East winds and had a calm stay there in 2014. Even the peninsula North of Magen's Bay seems to block seas somewhat. I value your opinion - could you explain? We anchored not far from the beach with the boat ramp and restaurant.

Any feedback on such options are appreciated.

BS'er
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Old 24-02-2017, 09:47   #12
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

If you have a catamaran or a boat with a very shallow draft you can temporarily anchor in a special area close to the Cruz Bay immigration offices; but otherwise take a mooring around the corner at Caneel Bay as suggested. There's a public dock where you can lock your dinghy and walk the 300 yards to the immigration offices, that beats taking a cab from elsewhere. I've heard that one can tie up to the immigration dock with the dinghy for clearance purposes, but that could only happen if there's no ferry coming in and I'd ask if it was OK once I entered the building.
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Old 24-02-2017, 15:04   #13
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

Thank you Zanshin
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Old 24-02-2017, 15:12   #14
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

No problems and I hope the comments help out. I've found that the officials at immigration in St. John have been uniformly polite and efficient; even though I have to have a visa and get retina-and-finger-scanned each time I clear in there.
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Old 24-02-2017, 17:59   #15
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Re: Customs&Procedere going from BVI to USVI and back by charter boat

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Originally Posted by Bullshooter View Post

Rubikoop - you recognized a photo I posted a long time ago of Hull Bay, with our charter boat anchored there, so obviously you are familiar with it. I am puzzled you said it would be rough there, as we were protected from the East winds and had a calm stay there in 2014. Even the peninsula North of Magen's Bay seems to block seas somewhat. I value your opinion - could you explain? We anchored not far from the beach with the boat ramp and restaurant.

Any feedback on such options are appreciated.

BS'er

I went back and read my two responses to this thread. I don't see where I said it "would" be rough. I believe I said I wouldn't go there personally in less then settled conditions with a good forecast because it could get rough. Have you seen people surf there? Have you gone to the beach and seen a large swell come in within an hour? Shelter from an east wind wouldn't be my concern but swell would be. To me it's like crossing an interstate without looking for traffic. Yes you will possibly succeed a few times but your odds are far better on a pedestrian bridge over the top or if the road is closed. Perhaps it's because I've seen large breaking waves roll in there washing some local boats on to shore while others are scrambling to get their vessels onto trailers between sets. Had I not witnessed such events, I would still be critical as to why more transient boats choose not to stop there. I also, gasp, very rarely spend the night in White Bay on Jost for the exact same reason, I've seen conditions get really bad, really fast. As the saying goes; Everything is fine until it isn't!
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