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Old 06-08-2017, 08:08   #1
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Question St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

A question for you BVI veterans...

I just booked a last minute, 8 day charter of a 2017 L450S through Dream out of Tortola 8/22-8/31. We'll fly into and depart from STT and have the option of picking up the boat in STT (American Yacht Harbor/Red hook), which appears to be much nicer than Hodges Creek in Tortola. While this would eliminate the hassle and expense of the ferry (~$550 for 7 U.S. persons ferry and cabs), it seemingly complicates provisioning (and perhaps customs.)

This is our first trip to the BVIs and we're trying to decide if the Red Hook departure is worth it, specifically;

Provisioning - No produce can be imported into the BVIs, so even if we provision in STT, a second trip will be required in Tortola.

Depending on who you believe, beef cannot be imported without an agriculture permit (although some sites say up to 40lbs can be brought in from the US.) And (if I understand the rules correctly) all "might" be subject to duty. I'm less concerned with the cost of paying a duty fee rather; anything that might complicate or delay clearing customs.

Options seem to be,

1) Forego the STT pickup and return in favor of Tortola/Hodges Creek using ferry and cabs.

2) Depart from/return to STT but provision in Tortola.

3) Depart from/return to and partial-provision in STT, then final provision meats/produce in Tortola.

Can anyone with experience weigh in? How would you manage departure and arrival?

Thanks Much!
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Old 06-08-2017, 09:18   #2
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

If you go out of Red Hook, the upside financially is you avoid ferry fees etc. the downside is you pay much larger fees when you check into BVI for a boat coming out of USVI (unless it is a BVI resident boat) - you need to check if it is a "belonger" or not.

Since you will not be arriving in BVI on a weekend if you sail out of STT, checking in will be quick and simple and, if you go into JvD rather than Soper's Hole or Road Harbour, you will be in great shape for your first night at either Great Harbour or Diamond Cay - I would not recommend White Bay (and your charter company may agree) because the holding is questionable even if a Cat's draft presents no problem.

I would check more carefully on the rules for importing food (I think they are less absolute than you suggest) but, in any case, I always do some extra provisioning at the supermarket in Great Harbour, JvD. On the way back into USVI, checking into Cruz Bay and then having lunch at the Sun Dog Cafe is always a treat - I think it is too late in the season for Pizza Pi in Christmas Cove.
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Old 06-08-2017, 22:43   #3
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

I see posts about taking a polar bear cooler full of meat from the USA to the BVI for boat charters all the time on the Traveltalkonline BVI forum all the time and the questions usually revolve about taxation. You can check there for further details but I would guess that lyou won't have any problems on that end.
Hodges Creek isn't a bad place, but it is quite a distance from the West End or Road Town so you might be best served to start in the USVI. The US doesn't require you to clear out when leaving the country, and clearing into the BVI isn't as onerous as many make it out to be. I clear in at either the West End (Soper's Hole) or at Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke, preferring the latter.
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Old 07-08-2017, 04:14   #4
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St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

I'm not sure what you mean by not bringing fruit and meats. This is fine... you are not commercially importing. We have done this for 30 years!

You will pay a significant duty coming into the BVI so keep your receipts handy. They will use -whatever- receipt you present to determine the import duty.

Really, picking up in the USVI is IMO the best option. We used to keep our boat at La Vida marina on east end and it was much more convenient than keeping it up in Tortola.

You have many more options for provisioning in St. Thomas than Tortola.... even if Tortola has much better provisioning now. Don't buy too much, just enough to get you through 4 or so days. Except maybe beer. Tortola has an updated grocery downtown that is akin to the newer upscale grocery stores in the USA.
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Old 07-08-2017, 04:36   #5
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalmSeasQuest View Post
A question for you BVI veterans...

I just booked a last minute, 8 day charter of a 2017 L450S through Dream out of Tortola 8/22-8/31. We'll fly into and depart from STT and have the option of picking up the boat in STT (American Yacht Harbor/Red hook), which appears to be much nicer than Hodges Creek in Tortola. While this would eliminate the hassle and expense of the ferry (~$550 for 7 U.S. persons ferry and cabs), it seemingly complicates provisioning (and perhaps customs.)

This is our first trip to the BVIs and we're trying to decide if the Red Hook departure is worth it, specifically;

Provisioning - No produce can be imported into the BVIs, so even if we provision in STT, a second trip will be required in Tortola.

Depending on who you believe, beef cannot be imported without an agriculture permit (although some sites say up to 40lbs can be brought in from the US.) And (if I understand the rules correctly) all "might" be subject to duty. I'm less concerned with the cost of paying a duty fee rather; anything that might complicate or delay clearing customs.

Options seem to be,

1) Forego the STT pickup and return in favor of Tortola/Hodges Creek using ferry and cabs.

2) Depart from/return to STT but provision in Tortola.

3) Depart from/return to and partial-provision in STT, then final provision meats/produce in Tortola.

Can anyone with experience weigh in? How would you manage departure and arrival?

Thanks Much!

I help run a bareboat charter company in St Thomas. BVI's do not charge any duty for food on board the board the boat for personal consumption. The duty is for import to resale.

AYH is much nicer than Hodges Creek. Spend some time around St John on the way over as it is much nicer than a lot of the islands in the BVI's.

Clear customs at Jost Van Dyke it is easier and the staff there is much friendlier than elsewhere.

Provisioning is cheaper and easier in St Thomas. The marina market is right across the street from the Marina in Red Hook. Or you can call Fine Food Afloat or Fresh Foods VI ahead of time and have it waiting on the boat.

The only way that could be any simpler would be if you had rented from one of the St Thomas based companies as you would not have ended up paying for the slip at American Yacht Harbor. Make sure dream yachts has paperwork on board for customs.

Jay
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Old 07-08-2017, 06:00   #6
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

Thanks all for the guidance. There seems to be conflicting information re: meats and produce (common consensus is 40lbs of US beef is OK, but NO produce.) I'm sure enforcement varies but I'm reaching out to British Agriculture today to confirm. We'll keep receipts on hand just in case duties apply.

Based on advice, I think we'll provision in Red Hook, chill overnight at AYH then head to Great Harbor JvD and clear in the following morning.

Looking forward to a great 8 days (weather permitting.) Thank You for your help!
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Old 07-08-2017, 06:40   #7
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalmSeasQuest View Post
Thanks all for the guidance. There seems to be conflicting information re: meats and produce (common consensus is 40lbs of US beef is OK, but NO produce.) I'm sure enforcement varies but I'm reaching out to British Agriculture today to confirm. We'll keep receipts on hand just in case duties apply.

Based on advice, I think we'll provision in Red Hook, chill overnight at AYH then head to Great Harbor JvD and clear in the following morning.

Looking forward to a great 8 days (weather permitting.) Thank You for your help!
I have been in the charter business for ten years St Thomas based. We run 20+ boats. No one has ever been charged duty for personal food on board one of our boats. I have never even been asked about food on board and I have personally completely filled one passport and put more stamps on then new than I care to count.

Jay
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Old 07-08-2017, 06:45   #8
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St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalmSeasQuest View Post
Thanks all for the guidance. There seems to be conflicting information re: meats and produce (common consensus is 40lbs of US beef is OK, but NO produce.) I'm sure enforcement varies but I'm reaching out to British Agriculture today to confirm. We'll keep receipts on hand just in case duties apply.

Based on advice, I think we'll provision in Red Hook, chill overnight at AYH then head to Great Harbor JvD and clear in the following morning.

Looking forward to a great 8 days (weather permitting.) Thank You for your help!


The worst thing you can do is "reach out" to any government office in the BVI. You are much better in a don't ask don't tell position. Seriously. Don't.

FYI... if they do ask for receipts, which they do for us because we bring everything from cars to bedsheets in, we have several different potential receipts to present.

I would not worry about it at all.
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Old 07-08-2017, 08:11   #9
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

I've done about 10 entries from the USVI to BVI in the past 2 years and not been charged any duty for food or beverages on board. I show $0 in food on the declaration form. Never been asked by C&I, but if asked would state we have "Ship's stores for consumption onboard."

If you need to do supplemental provisioning within the BVI, the most convenient to the boat with best selection especially for meats and produce is Harbour Market in West End. No 'supermarket' on JVD. The large Riteway supermarket in Roadtown, Tortola is going to be a taxi ride. Very small markets close to docks on the usual BVI charter routes are in Trellis Bay, Tortola; Cane Garden Bay, Tortola; Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda; Anegada near Gov't Dock; Great Harbour, JVD; and Scrub Island. Spanishtown, Virgin Gorda had a large dockside market that recently closed - don't know how far it is to the next closest market.

At BVI C&I, only you should go into C&I with all passports while your crew relaxes onboard. Your cruising tax and national park permit fee should be based on rates for a BVI based charter boat I would presume.

If dropping off at Hodges Creek, then next time consider a STT-based charter company so that in addition to avoiding AYH marina and DYC extra fees, you can also enjoy a great downwind sail from St John on your last morning instead of dealing with a taxi to the ferry that is hopefully running & on-time, avoiding ferry company hustlers, standing in line to buy ferry tickets, standing in line to pay BVI departure tax, standing in line for metal detector as you pass your bags containing metal objects to the side of the detector, 1 hour (hopefully event free) ferry ride to Charlotte Amalie, circling in the harbor waiting for the two ferries that arrived just before you to clear their 100 passengers through USVI C&I, standing in line on the ferry to disembark, standing in line at USVI C&I, tracking down your bags and passing them thru agriculture scanner, arranging taxi to the airport!
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Old 07-08-2017, 08:24   #10
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

Thanks Cuvee,

I agree about STT and avoiding the ferry hassles - that's why we arranged P/U and drop off in Red Hook (AYH costs are on Dream.)

I told Jay we'll likely be back to CYOA soon for a test charter on the Saona (after we get a chance to get aboard in Annapolis.)
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Old 07-08-2017, 08:40   #11
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

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I have been in the charter business for ten years St Thomas based. We run 20+ boats. No one has ever been charged duty for personal food on board one of our boats. I have never even been asked about food on board and I have personally completely filled one passport and put more stamps on then new than I care to count.

Jay
What Jay said x 2
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Old 07-08-2017, 11:45   #12
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

Just finished a 10 day charter with 16 of my family on two boats out of Compass Point in STT. Everything stated above is true plus, we provisioned dinghy/walking distance from the Compass Point marina, there were no marina fees and we were on the boat directly from the airport with one large taxi for teh 16 of us. It couldn't have been easier, walked off the taxi into two cleaned, air conditioned boats.

The provisioning was walking distance from the dinghy dock at the marina. Food Center is the best of the provisioning facilities.

I've run a small base in the VIs for years, the import fees and restrictions are for commercial resale only - no fees/restrictions for personal use. Trash is kind of funny, the customis in the US wanted us to dispose of BVI trash in the BVIs. We promised to take it to the international burn facility in Thomas Point Marina - no more hassel.

One other good thing, we departed Compass Point about 11 on the first full day for an easy motor/sail to Christmas Cove and some good snorkeling - in the water as quickly as possible, no hassel.

Any, we went over to Jost Van Dyke for BVI checkin - they are usually not crowded, very, very polite, and easy to do the formalities.

VI Yacht Charters was a good experience, finding two identical boats for 16 people wasn't easy - most companies turned us down flat even though we are highly experienced (USCG Masters and ocean crossings under out keel), they didn't want the hassle of dealing with "a large group that drinks to much." I guess they were referring to our one year old Grand Daughter???

In short, for the same money, we got two extra days on the water, one less round trip cab ride to coordinate, and an arrival that was didn't require a first night in the Hotel - our sleep aboard was the day we arrived and guaranteed available for whatever tie we got there if the flights were delayed.

Compass Point is far better Charlotte Amalie for first timers - the channel is well marked and you avoid a few hours of up wind motoring on your first day on board.
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Old 07-08-2017, 12:33   #13
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

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I help run a bareboat charter company in St Thomas. BVI's do not charge any duty for food on board the board the boat for personal consumption. The duty is for import to resale.

AYH is much nicer than Hodges Creek. Spend some time around St John on the way over as it is much nicer than a lot of the islands in the BVI's.

Clear customs at Jost Van Dyke it is easier and the staff there is much friendlier than elsewhere.

Provisioning is cheaper and easier in St Thomas. The marina market is right across the street from the Marina in Red Hook. Or you can call Fine Food Afloat or Fresh Foods VI ahead of time and have it waiting on the boat.

The only way that could be any simpler would be if you had rented from one of the St Thomas based companies as you would not have ended up paying for the slip at American Yacht Harbor. Make sure dream yachts has paperwork on board for customs.

Jay
BUT, and it's a big but, starting this past August 1, a BVI based charter boat pays $6 per person, per day, cruising tax, and a USVI based boat pays $16. So there is a $10 per person, per day difference in cruising taxes.

I live in the BVI and operate a charter boat there, and I think we are all partial to our home bases, myself included. Fees are much less on a BVI based boat. I, personally, don't think that American Yacht Harbour, in Red Hook, is a step up from Hodges Creek, in their present conditions. When I pick up guests in the USVI, I always feel we will waste in excess of a half day of the charter just getting to the BVI (upwind) and checking in. Much more if starting from Charlotte Amalie.

Riteway is now owned by Cost U Less (which is represented in the USVI) and prices have started to inch down. Bobby's in Tortola, or One Mart, are also good choices. They will deliver. I don't think you save much, if anything, by using that supermarket in Red Hook. You really need to go to the big stores like Cost U Less and such, and those are a cab ride away from either Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook. Food in the BVI is top quality, as we have not only a mega yacht clientele but a huge bareboat and villa clientele, as well. We still take trips to the USVI to buy stuff, but it's as much for the fun as anything else. We save little but can satisfy our Mc Donald's and KFC fix! Customs will not hassle you for stores on board and I, personally, use accurate receipts when declaring, rather than an assortment of "convenient" ones.

You have to take an inconvenient and costly cab ride to Red Hook if you leave from there, and all those ferries also stop in West End. You can take a very short cab ride to the ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie and take a ferry directly from there to Road Town, same price, nicer boat.

There is a reason the charter yacht industry in the BVI is several times larger than the one in the USVI, and a reason for almost all of the really top end crewed yachts to base in the BVI, as well, and I will leave it at that!
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Old 07-08-2017, 12:58   #14
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

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BUT, and it's a big but, starting this past August 1, a BVI based charter boat pays $6 per person, per day, cruising tax, and a USVI based boat pays $16. So there is a $10 per person, per day difference in cruising taxes.

This is a false economy still. The ferry or additional air fare to get to Tortola will eat this "savings" up. The new fees suck for everybody in the industry.


I live in the BVI and operate a charter boat there, and I think we are all partial to our home bases, myself included. Fees are much less on a BVI based boat. I, personally, don't think that American Yacht Harbour, in Red Hook, is a step up from Hodges Creek, in their present conditions. When I pick up guests in the USVI, I always feel we will waste in excess of a half day of the charter just getting to the BVI (upwind) and checking in. Much more if starting from Charlotte Amalie.

While you might not waste a half day up wind and checking in your guests do. The planes trains and automobiles to get to Tortola can burn two days of vacation and often results in an overnight at a hotel just to make the connections.

Riteway is now owned by Cost U Less (which is represented in the USVI) and prices have started to inch down. Bobby's in Tortola, or One Mart, are also good choices. They will deliver. I don't think you save much, if anything, by using that supermarket in Red Hook. You really need to go to the big stores like Cost U Less and such, and those are a cab ride away from either Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook. Food in the BVI is top quality, as we have not only a mega yacht clientele but a huge bareboat and villa clientele, as well. We still take trips to the USVI to buy stuff, but it's as much for the fun as anything else. We save little but can satisfy our Mc Donald's and KFC fix! Customs will not hassle you for stores on board and I, personally, use accurate receipts when declaring, rather than an assortment of "convenient" ones.

You have to take an inconvenient and costly cab ride to Red Hook if you leave from there, and all those ferries also stop in West End. You can take a very short cab ride to the ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie and take a ferry directly from there to Road Town, same price, nicer boat.

There is a reason the charter yacht industry in the BVI is several times larger than the one in the USVI, and a reason for almost all of the really top end crewed yachts to base in the BVI, as well, and I will leave it at that!
Yes there are lots of reasons why there are more boats in Tortola. A lot of those reasons are directly related to bad decisions on the part of our government. Changing the six pack rule brought a lot of crewed boats back to St Thomas. The bareboat industry has also expanded again in the last few years in St Thomas. The new cruising tax will drive boats both crewed and bareboat to spend more time in US waters. St John is spectacular, Culebra and Vieques have become serious contenders for part of the market as well. At the end of the day from the east coast of Puerto Rico thru the US Virgin Islands all the way to Anegada you have tremendous options available.
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Old 07-08-2017, 13:00   #15
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Re: St. Thomas Vs Tortola Charter Departure/Return

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Yes there are lots of reasons why there are more boats in Tortola. A lot of those reasons are directly related to bad decisions on the part of our government. Changing the six pack rule brought a lot of crewed boats back to St Thomas. The bareboat industry has also expanded again in the last few years in St Thomas. The new cruising tax will drive boats both crewed and bareboat to spend more time in US waters. St John is spectacular, Culebra and Vieques have become serious contenders for part of the market as well. At the end of the day from the east coast of Puerto Rico thru the US Virgin Islands all the way to Anegada you have tremendous options available.
All true, in my opinion. Hard to have a bad time.
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