The Handy Guide to Chartering Yachts in the British Virgin Islands


photo collage @British Virgin Islands Tourist Information Center

Blue skies with fluffy white clouds above, azure blue seas which surround lush tropical foliage and landscapes, it’s no wonder the British Virgin Islands have become one of the most popular yachting locations in the Caribbean. This is genuinely a paradise that anyone would wish to explore with the sun on their back, cruising around the tropical islands.

Lagoon 52 f (2017) in Tortola photo

Chartering in the British Virgin Islands

If there’s one thing that the British Virgin Islands isn’t short of, it’s plenty of bays and marinas where charter vessels of practically every kind can be chartered. However, easily the best location with the biggest range of choice is found on the main island of Tortola, where the capital of Road Town is located. Here you will find Wickhams Cay.

As the principal transport and commercial hub, Road Town also makes for an ideal starting location, given there are plenty of shops and stores where provisions and suitable equipment can be sourced, before heading out on your trips around the islands. Likewise, this makes the capital the most popular starting locations for a British Virgin Islands yacht charter vacation.

Nevertheless, Road Town isn’t the only location from which charter vessels can be organised on Tortola. Nanny Cay and Sea Cow bay are both popular marinas, just a short drive southwest beyond Waterfront Drive and along Sir Francis Drake Highway. Due to their convenient locations, both are increasingly frequented as alternative starting destinations for chartering.

Elsewhere and heading up towards the northwest corner of Tortola, the JY Harbour View Marina is enjoying a growing reputation as a good starting point for sailing trips, with a growing number of predominantly smaller charter yachts and other vessels available. It’s also a handy location for shorter voyages around the northernmost islands.

Sailing Seasons

Wintertime tends to be the busiest time of year in the British Virgin Islands for charter yachting, when the highest number of tourists and visitors head to the Caribbean destination. This peak or “High Season” typically runs from December through to April, coinciding with the optimal weather and sailing conditions.

It’s for this reason that “High Season” is also usually when charter prices tend to rise, especially around the Christmas and New Year holidays.  During these peak periods, booking your charter yacht and travel itinerary months in advance is most certainly recommended, in order to avoid any disappointment.

Some visitors to the British Virgin Islands prefer to avoid the busiest periods, given the warmth and reliability of the weather throughout the year.  That said, it’s always worth bearing in mind that July through to October is also hurricane season, and while the chances of a hurricane affecting  plans are typically very low, it can obviously lead to plans changing at short notice when there are storms and rough waters.

Choosing Your Yacht

Given the maritime activity in the beautiful British Virgin Islands has become such a thriving industry, there’s always plenty of choice amongst charter yachts, with vessels widely available to suit all tastes and preferences. Essentially, any charter should be planned with the requirements of your party in mind, ensuring there’s more than sufficient space and comfort, whilst also considering locations to visit whilst cruising.

The kind of vessel and amenities you choose will also affect how much you should budget for a charter, as prices can obviously range from the most basic options to the utmost luxury, and everything between. The type of yacht can also make for a wide range of different experiences, all of which can be unique depending on what you’re looking for in particular.

For those who want to enjoy nature’s breath pushing them across the crystal blue sea, sailing catamarans and sailing monohulls are the way to go. Cutting across waves with grace and speed, sailing catamarans come in a wide range of sizes, as do the more traditional sailing monohulls, for those looking for a more sedate adventure around the islands.

Sailing vessels aren’t for everyone, though. Power catamarans easily match the size and space available on their sailing counterparts, albeit with the ability to travel with more speed. In addition, power cruisers come with an extensive range of options, from small motor yachts for more intimate trips, to large luxury yachts able to take larger parties in the utmost comfort.


Skippered or Bareboat, Captain?

If you’re not sure what either of these two terms mean, well, that means choosing skippered charters will be your option. Essentially, as part of the charter you’ll be hiring a skipper and crew to suit the size and requirements of the yacht. This obviously means that everyone in the party can kick back and relax, while someone else does all the hard work.

That said, some charters can include the option to learn the ropes yourself, with captains and crews who will impart their sailing knowledge, based around whichever kind of vessel you’re chartering. This can be a fun way to experience the marvels of sailing around the British Virgin Islands, as you get to try navigating the yacht yourself while supervised by an experienced captain.

Alternatively and for those with plenty of seafaring experience, choosing the bareboat option might be the better choice, especially if you know the local seas well and prefer a little more privacy. Some people simply prefer to guide their own course during a cruise, although you’ll obviously need to have the right skill and experience, not to mention corresponding and recognised sailing licences.

Whichever kind of charter and type of yacht you choose, sailing around the British Virgin Islands is always certain to be a memorable and  pleasurable experience. Don’t forget to plan well ahead and make sure you choose all the options that suit your needs, and most of all, enjoy the trip of a lifetime when you get there.

photo collage @British Virgin Islands Tourist Information Center