Anyone out on the water recently in the BVI, especially around the North Sound would have noticed a slew of stunning super yachts taking in all there is to see and do in our beautiful territory.
By Traci O’Dea
Photography of NORD by Tom Van Oossanen
& SOLANDGE by Klaus Jordan

I’m lying on a sun lounger at Lambert Bay after a midday swim, being lulled to sleep by the lapping waves on the shore. An hour later, I wake up, open my eyes and still can’t believe the stunning scenery that surrounds me–lush sea grape trees, gentle sand, and the aquamarine water. The beauty of it surprises me every time I see it. Then I notice, in the distance, framed by the periwinkle sky, turquoise sea, and the green hills, a work of art–a yacht unlike any I’ve ever seen. It is pointy, brazen, geometrical. Once again, I feel lucky to be witnessing such beauty, but in this case, the beauty has been designed and engineered by humans.

I’m not the only one who is impressed by the presence of these stunning vessels in BVI waters. At the beach bar, everyone chats about the latest superyacht sightings in the BVI. Tourists want to know whose boats they are, hoping to rub elbows with some of the Territory’s most famous celebrity guests such as Mariah Carey, Kate Winslet, or Barack and Michelle Obama. Seasoned BVI skippers and crew are more excited about the boats themselves than who might be on them. They discuss the specs of each yacht and debate the definition of “superyacht” versus “megayacht” or even “gigayacht” and “terayacht”. (For the purpose of this article, all boats over roughly 80 feet, or 24m, are classified as superyachts. The other classifications signify bigger boats, but all fall under the superyacht category.) One yachtie can name them all, quoting each maker and owner. A charter captain comments that the boat she skippers is smaller than some of the superyachts’ tenders. A local carpenter tries to calculate the cost of the custom woodwork on some of the superyachts. An engineer mentions how he heard of an engine room that can pass a white-glove test. We all make assertions on which one is our favourite. Everyone seems a little bit in awe.

RaeNisia Scatliffe, regional marketing manager of the BVI Tourist Board says: “The presence of superyachts in the Territory signifies hope, resilience, and the confidence that destination BVI is still one of the most coveted Caribbean destinations.” She adds that many residents of the British Virgin Islands benefit from the presence of superyachts and that “the superyacht subsector of the hospitality and tourism industry contributes tremendously to our economy”.

“It’s the people of the BVI who make the superyacht experience so exquisite in the Caribbean, even more than the topography and scenery,” says Kevis Hughes, director of operations at KTM Yacht Support. BVI Tourist Board’s director of tourism, Clive McCoy, says that this is due to the “professional and knowledgeable crews” who “tailor-make itineraries to satisfy the requirements of their discerning guests,” taking them “to hidden coves and unique beach bars as well as signature BVI attractions like the Baths, the Caves, the Indians, the wreck of the RMS Rhone, and the Anegada Conch Shell Mounds.”

Scatliffe adds that “superyacht owners choose the BVI because of its gentle trade winds, beautiful coves and the waters which surround the picturesque island chain that boast amazing views and year-round warm weather.” The stunning setting is “complemented by a myriad of services and facilities to cater to these vessels and their guests, including full-service marinas, gourmet restaurants, boutiques, and specialized tours,” McCoy adds.

In addition to bustling beach bars, restaurants, and cafes, the British Virgin Islands has anchorages and mooring fields dotted among over 60 islands, cays and islets, offering exclusivity and privacy when desired. Some of the more secluded places to anchor include Ginger Island, Fallen Jerusalem, Prickly Pear, The Dogs, Little Jost Van Dyke, Little Thatch, and Guana Island. Each has its own stunning spots to swim, snorkel, SCUBA dive, sail, SUP, or simply soak up the scenery.

Bitter End Yacht Club marina and watersports manager, Nick Putman says: “From the days when a 90-foot yacht was considered large in North Sound, to today when a 300-plus footer is not uncommon, superyachts have always been a fascinating part of the local Virgin Gorda seascape.” Several marinas in the Territory offer berths that can accommodate superyachts. On Tortola, marinas that have berths for yachts over 100 feet include Nanny Cay, Hodge’s Creek Marina, Manuel Reef, Soper’s Hole, The Moorings, and Village Cay. On Virgin Gorda, superyachts can dock up and stay at Bitter End Yacht Club, Leverick Bay, Oil Nut Bay, and Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor. Other islands with berths for superyachts include Peter Island and Scrub Island. Each marina has its own level of service with such amenities as gourmet provisioning, swimming pools, chandleries, restaurants, watersports, and fuel docks.

Chartering a superyacht

Superyachts are owned by the superrich, but adventurers who can’t afford to own one can still charter one. We’ve all seen (or appeared in) season two of Below Deck, filmed in the BVI. In addition to partying on board, guests and crew are seen eating, drinking, and relaxing at local haunts such as Nanny Cay Beach Bar, CocoMaya, Bitter End Yacht Club, Pusser’s, The Baths, and Serenity Spa. In an article on about their stay in the BVI for season four of Below Deck, the crew praise the Territory as one of their favourite destinations. Crewmember Lauren Burchell says, “The British Virgin Islands are one of my favourite places on earth. Everyone there just wants to have a good time, whether it’s sailing, scuba diving, drinking or simply lying by the beach. It’s a never-ending lifestyle of sunshine, water and good vibes.” Deckhand Nico Scholly adds: “The Baths are an amazing, sensational and spiritual place. One of my favorite places in the world … the beach is formed by massive ash gray and white boulders leaving mini ‘baths’ inside them, allowing people to climb across them and swim in between them. After going through The Baths, you come across an iconic beach called Devil’s Bay with a crystal white sand beach and teal blue and green water!”

One of the main reasons that British Virgin Islands has been called the sailing capital of the world is because of the 60 islands, cays, and islets that guests can island hop between. And each island has an array of coves, harbours, reefs, secret beaches, sand bars, wrecks, and bays that offer a change of scenery every day. The islands of the BVI are located close enough to each other that “guests can choose to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, each on a different island,” says Scatliffe. “We encourage all our luxury cruisers to discover these islands and create their own BVI stories.”

McCoy adds that the BVI Tourist Board is encouraging members of the BVI community to offer more locally curated experiences that allow guests “to experience BVILOVE.”

According to Kathleen Mullen, director at Regency Yacht Vacations: “Superyacht charters start at around $120,000 per week plus all expenses and can go higher than $1,000,000 per week plus all expenses. The base price includes the rental of the actual yacht and crew. Additional expenses include all running costs for time on board, estimated at about 35 per cent of the charter rate; however, guests pay for actual cost as if they were the owner for a week, plus a 15 per cent tip for the crew.”

The range of prices per week depends on the size of the yacht, the amenities on board, the number of guests, and the number of crew. The most basic superyacht service includes private en suite cabins, watersports, bars, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and several indoor and outdoor dining and lounging areas. At the higher end of the price bracket, superyachts have extra amenities such as on-board cinemas, fine art, elevators, swimming pools, spas, saunas, dance floors, gyms, chandeliers, and helipads.

Superyachts are the definition of wealth and luxury. The British Virgin Islands is the destination for relaxation and beauty. With sleek designs and sun-kissed guests, superyachts enhance the beauty of the Territory. And guests who visit the Territory will never forget the warmth of the sand, waters, and the people of the British Virgin Islands.

For more information, contact Lürssen: [email protected]