An insider offers tips for first-timers
by Claire Shefchik Photography by Island Films, & VOYAGE Charters

Bareboating literally means that you and/or your travel companions are on your own, acting as captain and chef(s). Chartering a bareboat in the BVI isn’t like a cruise ship or renting a boat for a day. It’s somewhere in between and it’s an incredible vacation unlike any other.

We spoke to industry insider, Ian who gave us the inside scoop any bareboater should know before hopping aboard for the first time. First, it’s important to understand what a bareboat charter is and isn’t.

“One question that stuck with me, ‘So if I live in Texas, where does the boat pick me up?’ She thought her charter vessel would pick her up in the US and sail to the BVI. It is a misconception that a charter vacation entails long voyages over open water. A BVI charter is comprised of many short sails, no more than an hour or two at a time.”

Robin Downing captains a VOYAGE 590 with his wife Jo-Ann.

The BVI is unique as there are many islands to visit in a small area, each with its own identity and unique experiences, creating a refreshing variety of experiences.

Planning an itinerary

The BVI offers a nearly endless list of amazing places to explore. Feasting on seafood and sipping painkillers are just for starters and it is almost impossible to covers everything in one trip.

“Must-dos include a day at White Bay, Jost van Dyke, a day on Anegada ending with a lobster dinner, visiting Cooper Island, snorkeling off Norman Island, The Indians and The Caves, The Baths National Park and an evening in North Sound”.

What to bring

“Pack light,” said Ian. “All you need are some light clothes and toiletries and try to provision the bigger things once you arrive. Carry-on is my preference for ease of travel, guaranteeing your bag is there when you arrive and saving on space in your cabin once on board the yacht.” You only want to eat lobster, not be one. Nothing ruins a trip faster than severe sunburn on day one. “WEAR SUNSCREEN AND A HAT!,” stressed Ian.


After your journey to the BVI, check in at the Marina, where you will take a tour of your vessel and receive a comprehensive safety briefing before briefing before being handed the keys.

Familiarise yourself with the unique features of your boat, maybe take it for a spin around the bay. As you hop back onto land, it’s time to provision if you haven’t had these delivered. There are dozens of grocery and provisioning stores on the island.


On a bareboat charter you are responsible for provisioning and cooking.

“Under no circumstances would I bring food from home,” said Ian. “The extra hassle of packing food to last for a trip of such a distance, combined with the added luggage you will need to carry, or even the added expense of shipping, simply isn’t worth it.

One of Ian’s top tips: “Provision in advance,” he said. “There are many provisioning stores that allow you to order your provisions online prior to your arrival, which saves time and energy once you arrive.”

Getting underway

Before you set off, your charter company staff will go over how to operate the boat, fill you in on BVI rules and regulations for sailing, brief you on the local weather patterns and explain what to do in the event of a storm.

Things to watch out for

The number one mistake Ian sees first-timers make? “Running the generator while underway is a surefire way to ensure you have generator issues. If the intake gobbles up seaweed while underway, it will clog the system and you will be calling the charter company to come out and repair the issue, causing frustration and precious time out of your vacation”.

The islands and reefs provide plenty of adventure, but make sure to always be aware of the winds and tides if you anchor. Local regulations are non-negotiable, so respect the speed limits and ‘rules of the road’.

“Many anchorages can become packed by mid-afternoon,” said Ian. “If you are not comfortable anchoring, I recommend having an itinerary and planning to arrive at your overnight anchorage shortly after midday.

This is usually a sweet spot where yachts who overnighted the previous night are departing for a new anchorage, but before the rush of new yachts arrive to look for a mooring ball in the mid-to-late afternoon. If you arrive and look for a mooring ball at between 3-5pm, you could miss out”.

“One trip is never going to be enough” says Ian. That’s why so many guests return year after year to keep exploring all that the BVI has to offer.