You can check in at Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda), Road Town (Tortola), West End (Tortola), or Great Bay (Jost Van Dyke). You do not need to put your friends names on any of your paperwork, indeed you should not, as they will neither be entering nor leaving with you. They, on the other hand, will be asked on their visa form, where they are staying. it will not hurt for them to have a letter from you, for use ONLY if they are asked for it. If you choose to meet them at Village Cay, they should probably just put "Village Cay" as where they are staying....it also has a hotel
, even though they would not be staying there. Sometimes Customs
gets very fussy and hassles people as to exactly where they are staying. The reason is that they really try to keep out people who may be thinking of overstaying their welcomes and wallets. But, I have never heard of someone being turned away for this. But, they don't seem to understand that people coming for a bareboat charter
, for example, might not know the name of their boat. Stay calm, in all cases!
You are obliged to check in before you do anything else. Legally, you are required to "anchor within sight of Customs". At West End and Great Bay you will, by definition, almost certainly be doing this. At Spanish Town, they have no way of seeing where you are without a walk. I always just say I am in the Marina (which allows you an hour of free dockage, which, depending upon what slip you are assigned and the wind
direction, is much less hassle than dinghying in), and it has never raised an eyebrow. At Roadtown, they also have a hard time seeing you, but woe be you if you admit to being in a marina. If you say you are in Road Harbor, you are probably OK. If you say you are in a marina, you can be (and folks have been) fined to the tune of $5000, although it usually gets reduced to something less than that, but still hefty. I am by no means advising you whether to go into a marina or anchor
, just telling you how it is handled.
Of course, coming in from St. Maarten, it certainly would not be difficult to just check in at Spanish Town and then do what you please from then on. Do be advised that Customs/Immigration in Spanish Town will not accept cash (hence not check you in) after 3:30 PM, so plan accordingly. I think that Jost Van Dyke closes at 4:00 but am not quite sure. Both West End, and particularly Road Town are open later due to ferry arrivals. If you arrived in the BVI at an hour before or later than the particular office is open, and say so, you will be charged overtime, even though you can only check in during office hours. If you arrive outside of hours, check in as soon as you can. You can check in on a weekend, but it is overtime. You are not supposed to go ashore, before checking in. Whether anyone will ever know this is another thing, but do keep out of trouble.
Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor answers channel 16, then shifts to 11. Their radio
frequently will not pick you up much south or north of the harbor, due to topography. They will only rarely assign you a slip before you actually enter the harbor, when an attendant will beckon you. If there is any wind
blowing, ASK them (even when you first contact them) if you can tie up to B dock (or the "long dock") for an hour. Getting into their "catamaran slips" in a wind can be quite challenging. Depends on your skills and maneuverability, and, of course, the wind. I have spent many an afternoon, while charter guests are at the Baths, enjoying the excitement of folks coming into those slips for the first time. When I do it, and I have done it many times on a regular basis, I am always just a bit more on guard. Many of the docks do not have an amidships cleat, so point towards one that does, if you have the choice, even thought the dock hand may initially be pointing somewhere else. Your 380 should just fit into the length of the slips, but only just. Beam will be no problem, but the wind can still undo you. The dock hands are decent and generally helpful.
Vilage Cay Marina answers 16, then switches to 71. The docks are pretty easy to get into in the prevailing wind, but a north wind blowing crosswise can make things a wee bit interesting. Fender
the leeward side. Most of their slips are thirty feet wide. There are plenty of bollards, and the dockhands are very good. Bathrooms are very substandard, so empty your holding tanks
before you enter. The restaurant is pretty good, for its type, but there is loud music
coming out of it, or the Bat Cave, several nights a week.
Soper's Hole marina has good staff, and some of the docks are very easy to get into, others less so. We almost never stay overnight, so I can't give you any great insights, other than to say that it is a cab ride around the harbor to Customs and the Ferry Terminal. Although it can get pretty crowded in the High Season, there are often a few moorings open, and they may be your best choice, as it is a very short and easy dinghy
ride to the dinghy dock at Customs and the Ferry Terminal. Anchoring
is mostly deep and not very realistic, particularly with a bareboat's length of rode
Great Bay, Jost Van Dyke, has quite tricky holding. When they put in some moorings a couple of years ago, I was hoping they would screw them into the bottom in the difficult places, but they screwed them into the bottom in all the best, most convenient holding spots. There aren't that many of them, and they really fill up in High Season, so you need to get in early in the afternoon and maybe even mill around for awhile. If you anchor
, there are still a very few good spots. Most boats wind up in marginal ones, but they never set their anchors well, so they don't realize this. Make sure you have set your anchor well, be unafraid to re-anchor, and pray that the other bareboaters/cruisers will have done the same. Of course, they probably won't have, so be careful. If there is no wind, boats can bob around every which way, but there is usually a breeze. This is our least favorite anchorage on JVD, but it is the only one convenient to Customs and the Ferries. We ALWAYS get in early enough for multiple anchoring
attempts, and have had to divert elsewhere on rare occasions.
Ferries do operate to all these places, although I am not sure that one goes from the USVI to JVD, in fact, I don't think one does. There are lots that go to West End and Road Town, and a couple times a week, one goes all the way from St. Thomas to Spanish Town. You will need to check this.
And, as someone else said, if you can get them to fly into Trellis (which, by the time that add the cab ride to the ferry in St. Thomas, the ferry ticket, and maybe a cab at the other end, may not be that much more expensive), they might even be able to see your boat from the plane as it taxis. In any case, it will be a short dinghy ride, and a five minute walk to the terminal. Easily done, and a nice place. If you do this, make sure to make a stop at The Last Resort, maybe for dinner and the show, but certainly for drinks and the show. Call them by phone
(the number will be in your cruising guide) rather than by radio
. Unoccupied boats have suffered intrusions, over the years, and announcing your dinner plans over the radio is an open invitation here and in other places. Check to see what days Al is playing (usually Tuesday through Saturday, but not always) and have a really enjoyable evening.
The order of difficulty for checking in (in my biased opinion) is Spanish Town, Road Town, West End, and then JVD. The order of difficulty for picking, for you (in my biased opinion) is Road Town, Spanish Town, West End, JVD. For your guests, it is probably a tie between Road Town, Spanish Town and West End. JBD will be dead last.
One of the best kept secrets of the BVI concerns the prevalence of dinghy theft, sometimes even when you are aboard! Lift
it or lock it. Always.
Best of luck, and have a great trip.