Originally Posted by mayacove
My wife and I are live aboard our Cruising Cat. A lot of friends and acquaintances want to come down for a week or two. In the past when we had a smaller boat, we simply paid for the expenses and were happy when people asked to chip in. Now we have the space for 6 or more people and Re thinking of how to have them visit, but contribute to the food
, moorings, diesel
etc. Not looking to make a profit, just cove the added expense. How do others go about this? Something up front, contribute to a "Kitty" ?etc?
Rather than deal with all this speculation on legalities, why not do the simple thing, which is to call BVI Customs
and ask their opinion? Ask to speak to Wade Smith, who is the head
, or Mr. Lettsome, who often makes the call on such matters. The phone
number for HQ is 284-494-3475.Try to get them to answer in writing, which may mean visiting them in downtown Road Town. It's these guys' opinion that counts, not what the USCG thinks.
A significant difference is that in many "foreign" countries, where chartering is big business such as the BVI, there are charges that differ, depending upon what category the guests fall into, and that tends to make the local officialdom a good bit more interested in things than in the US, since their business is to collect fees
. For example, in the BVI, where I run a crewed charter yacht, every charter guest pays a per person, per day cruising tax. That fee depends upon the time of year and where the boat is legally based (BVI or non BVI), but not where it is flagged. A boat that is "offered for charter" either in the BVI or outside of it, is, under the law, considered a charter boat, although that clause is not always enforced. Note that "offered" doesn't mean that the boat was ever actually chartered.
A boat classified as a charter boat used to be able to take friends or family
without having to pay the cruising tax. A few years ago, Customs got very sticky about this, and the current
interpretation is that immediate family is as far as they will go. Government
departments have been told to collect all the fees
that are due, and some officials can be very aggressive about this.
I don't know what the cruising tax is on "private" boats, but it isn't a secret. Customs will be happy to tell you and you should expect to pay it.
Chartering is a big business here, and carries implications that involve Trade
Recreational Licenses, Work Permits, RYA Code Compliance, all of which are subject to inspection
, and insurance
, for starters. And big fines, as in $5000. So you do NOT want to be involved in any misunderstandings, which is why I suggested the OP do the simple thing of calling Customs, rather than ask for all of our opinions, although it certainly is fun to hash over what we think OUGHT to be the answer! Remember, the BVI is a very small country and you never know whose brother in law you are talking to. The earlier comment about a guest's incorrect answer getting you into hot water
is certainly true.
When I read the OP's post, the phrase that sticks out as a red flag is the one about "friends and acquaintances", because it implies that some are friends and others are something else. And, there are certainly instances where the guest is a friend of a friend of a friend. Which isn's a friend, if the official is defining things in a narrow way. Remember, one of their jobs is to protect the legal
operators here. The fact that the OP is "not looking to make a profit" is irrelevant; many charter boats do not make a profit and are quite relieved to simply make expenses. But, the OP's description sounds like it fits the definition of "charter", by our standards.
This all may sound a bit frank and brutal, but every year a few boats get nailed for skirting the regulations
, and, when folk are pre-paying an agreed sum, it is very easy to slide from being a host to one's friends, to becoming a charter boat. Someone says, "can I bring along these other people who will be happy to pay their way", and one thing leads to another. And, Customs would rather charge you the fees for being a charter boat than not, so they do have a dog in the fight. Except, of course, if you are deemed to be a charter boat, you don't have any of the correct licenses nor insurance
, and this has heavy consequences. So, although I am sure there are many who have done it, be very wary of any grey areas.
Note that everything I have said pertains to charter boats, and to the difference between charter and private boats. I don't know the regs for bona fide private boats, because I don't operate one, but, as I said, those regs are not hard to determine. Just ask Customs.
However, in order to avoid any misinterpretations, I definitely would not stipulate that my guests pay any fixed rates, particularly if they are acquaintances or friends of friends, because those folks are the ones most likely to think in terms of a quid pro quo, rather than a friendly invitation or donation.
When I have friends onboard, I always pay the cruising tax, as if they are charter guests, because I run a known charter boat and don't want to get into a discussion I might not win. The OP wants to operate as a private boat so his fees will be different.
Shifting from legalities to etiquette, inviting friends as the OP plans to do incurs some real costs. I never used to expect contributions, when I had a boat more like the size of most of the members of this forum, and the number of friends I might carry maxed out at two or three. But, when you have six or more guests on a cat, it adds up quickly, and, as someone mentioned, moorings are pricey, as is water and everything else. Additionally, you will almost certainly be expected to dine out at places where you would normally eat onboard, and that's pricey, too. Friends WILL ask to come and visit and it won't be just for a weekend. So, I don't think expecting some help from a group of people that may number six or more is being "cheap".
Having said all of this, I have never, ever, had friends on board who have not offered or insisted on paying more than their share. They will usually say that they will pay for any costs or expenses we incur and they are as good as their word. Sometimes they even cover the cost of cleaning
the boat - again, remember that a good sized cat represents a lot more cleaning
than the average boat. I am sure that the OP's friends will be equally courteous, and if they aren't, they shouldn't be invited back. But I would suggest that he stay as far away as possible from a pre-determined price
, or anything else that is likely to be interpreted as a charter, and that may include giving some thought as to how loosely he should define the "acquaintances" that are invited, or, shall we say, included.