One of the hardest things for new charterers to figure out is which yacht charter company to go with. There are many reputable, good charter companies in the British Virgin Islands and choosing one is often hard. Especially when you can’t go in and visit their office and see their boats.
First off, there is no one best company. They each have their pros and cons. Most of these companies have been in business for years and keeping happy customers is in their best interest. Google them, ask on the forums, find out what their strengths and weaknesses are.
No one will be able to choose a charter company for you. When looking at the various charter companies you should consider:
- Price. You will definitely find that some companies are more expensive than others. Usually you are getting something more for that price whether it’s a brand name or a newer boat. For example, Moorings is more expensive than Footloose Charters. That’s because Footloose’s boats are actually old Moorings boats, so the boats are 5-8 years old instead of 0-5 years old. Often people choose a company based on price but you need to think about what you might be sacrificing to get the cheapest boat.
- Type of Boat. Make sure the type of boat you want (monohull or catamaran, size, and even make) is available. Some boats of the same length are much more spacious than others and some are laid out much better than others. Each time I’m at a charter company, I take the time to visit as many boats as possible in order to check their layouts.
- Age of Equipment and Maintenance. The older the boat, the more likely something – or somethings – won’t work quite right on it. That’s not necessarily bad if you are willing to put up with them. Charter companies should do regular maintenance on their boats. Often fast turnaround times keep them from doing any significant maintenance between charters. On our last Footloose charter we had to call the chaser boat three times to come fix things. This changed our itinerary quite a bit as we had to hang out and wait but it was worth the thousands of dollars we saved and we weren’t in any hurry to get anywhere once we were out on the water.
- Availability. Many of the more popular boats go fast so if you want a 38′ catamaran next week, you may find that there’s only one charter company that has one available.
- Location. All the BVI charter companies are on Tortola so none of them are badly located but you may find that being near the airport or being near Road Town is preferable for your group. You can also charter out of St Thomas which has the advantage of being close to a major airport with no ferry ride, but make sure your boat is licensed to sail to the BVI.
- Size of Company. A small company may give you a chance to meet the people accountable for your boat and make new friends. A large company might mean really prompt response from the chaser boat 24 hours a day. A large company might be more likely to have the boat you want available when you want it.
- Extra charges. Most of the charter companies are good about not taking on “hidden charges” but you may still have to pay extra for things like water toys, ice and coolers. And you may want to check to see if you’ll need to pay for fuel when you get back and where and how you can retop your water tanks during your charter if you need to.
- Restrictions. Some charter companies prohibit you from visiting Anegada or tell you that you are on your own there – no chaser boat. Others prohibit their charterers from entering White Bay. You’ll need to check with your charter company and make sure your plans are ok.
- Captain or crew. If you don’t know how to sail or you just don’t feel like cooking, you might want to hire a captain or chef. Not all charter companies offer this option.
- Amenities. Some come with extras, like all of TMM Yacht Charter’s fleet comes with wireless internet.
Here are just some of the charter companies in the British Virgin Islands:
- TMM Yacht Charters
- BVI Yacht Charters
- Horizon Yacht Chaters
- Catamaran Company
- Waypoints (They have a base in the BVI as well as the USVI.)
Have fun picking your charter company and your boat. Half the fun of a sailing vacation in the BVI is planning your trip and dreaming about it!