HELPFUL TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR CREWED CARIBBEAN CHARTER VACATION aka Fun on the Watah, Mon!
Where, when, how and who?
Your Shipmates? Who wants to come?
Gather your friends, family or colleagues who express interest in joining in on this fantastic adventure. This is usually the most challenging part of any vacation especially for the one doing the planning. See if you can get your group to agree on some of the basic interests they will have such as SCUBA diving from the boat, focus on nature hiking, visiting some of the outer islands of the BVI such as Anegada (aka The Drowned Island) or choose your preferred location for chartering and if the customary term of 7 nights and 8 days will be enough for you all to see and do what you’d like.
The US and British Virgin Islands? The glorious Bahamas! St. Maarten, Anguilla, St. Barts and St. Kitts or further down island in the Grenadines (Great summertime chartering)
Determine a budget: Rates can be as low as $1500 per person per week for all inclusive meals and bar and up from there. This usually depends on several factors. The pricing of any type of Charter is for the whole boat and all toys/amenities and services onboard. It’s dependent on the number of people in the party as well. If there are fewer people the price would be higher per person.
Except for “Captain Only” there can be different levels of service on most boats these days.
- Captain Only (Less commonly offered): You purchase all food, drinks for you and the Skipper, pay for all expenses such as water, fuel, moorings each night where necessary, and any fees and taxes.
- Half Board service: This means a mixture of meals and usually standard bar is offered on board, with several taken on land at your expense at the restaurant/s of your choice.
- All-Inclusive: All meals, bar and expenses are covered by the charter rate.
- Crew gratuity is customary also, and usually ranges from 15-20% of the charter fee for your grateful crew at the charterer’s discretion. This can be given in cash or personal check at the close of your charter.
Slip Aweigh Charters will help you find the boat which offers all that your party wants to do and experience and keep it within your budget.
What about payments? To confirm any charter, first, we place a HOLD on the yacht of your choice for the dates you want to come. This is a “no obligation” hold and is subject to challenge by any other entity wishing all or part of that term for that yacht. If challenged due to not being confirmed, Slip Aweigh Charters has 48 working day hours to provide payment along with the signed agreement.
Until a payment is made and a Charter Agreement is signed by the charterer, the boat remains on HOLD status. Once Slip Aweigh Charters receives both items, we confirm your charter and the yacht’s schedule is blocked from anyone else wishing to charter the yacht/term.
Your funds go into a secure, escrow account overseen by our professional organization, CYBA for dispersal to the yacht according to the schedule in your signed charter agreement.
Payment schedules go like this:
For bookings made more than 6 months out from the start date: 25% of the charter fee is due to confirm.
The 2nd 25% is due at 6 months out from the charter start date.
If booked within 6 months of the charter, payment of 50% deposit is due to confirm.
All charters must be paid in full in cleared funds no less than 60 days from charter start.
If a charter is booked within the 60 days, all funds are due in full.
When is good to go? Weather will often play a role in when and where you want to go. For example, in the Virgin Islands many places to have fun on land, dance, dine etc. are closed for some of the Summer weeks usually from mid-August through September. This is the perfect time to choose the islands of the Grenadines to charter in. The Bahamas is a perfect destination for Spring and early Summer vacations as well.
Seasonal Rate ranges: Lower seasonal rates usually begin on May 1st thru Dec. 14th. High seasonal rates are usually between Dec. 15th through April 30th.
Holiday and other popular times Travel Dates-Book early!
The Christmas and New Years Eve week charter dates are by far the busiest time to come.
PLEASE NOTE: For Year End Holiday weeks, the rule of thumb is this:
Charters for Christmas Week must end no later than the 27th or 28th, December to provide for New Year’s Week arrivals.
New Year’s week cannot start prior to Dec. 28th.
So, advance planning to get exactly what you want is essential. It’s not uncommon to book this trip a year ahead of the week you choose for charter. Another very busy time is Spring Break, usually from late March to mid-April.
Full Moon dates: Particularly in the BVI, you will find some fantastic parties centered around Full Moon dates. These fun times are particularly Family Friendly. We highly recommend chartering around this time of the month. FULL MOON 2017/2018 info HERE.
Passports: If all in your party do not have passports, have them set about getting that done. The State Department issues passports and sometimes there is a waiting time. So, this detail should be tops on the list. You can pay extra for expedited handling, but this expense can be avoided by starting early. Visit the US Passport office HERE.
Important note: For US Citizens, passports are not required when staying within the area of the US Virgin Islands. You will have a wonderful time visiting St. John’s beautiful National Park waters and some special little Cays off the East End of St. Thomas.
Always make copies of your documents and keep them in a safe place either at home or in your luggage.
What are some fun things to plan on seeing?
Sailing Regattas, Caribbean style: This is a fun time to charter around.
In the BVI, the BVI Spring Regatta racing usually takes place at the end of March and early April. You can view this exciting race from the side of the course, or participate if you wish to bareboat with friends.
Then there’s the annual Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta. Typically in the month of May taking place off of Jost Van Dyke, BVI.
And of course, the classic yacht regatta in Antigua: Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta returns once again. The Regatta will run typically in the month of April
These regattas are fun for all ages, and you could be on board to catch the action as some of the most historically beautiful boats in the world race for all they’re worth.
There are crewed yachts and bareboats available for all these events.
What should I bring?
Pack light! First, only bring soft sided luggage since space is limited and storage is easier. Hard luggage can damage woodwork and paint. For those wearing clothing (joke! But we do offer yachts accepting nude charters), bring casual wear, mostly shorts, T-shirts, and swimsuits. For the ladies, sundresses work well in most all restaurant venues. A few of the more formal restaurants, mostly limited to the high-end restaurants of the BVI, require long pants and collared shirts and occasionally a jacket, but “smart casual” is always accepted. A large brimmed hat is very useful to keep off the sun. The tropical sun can be very damaging to your skin, so bring a protective lotion that does not stain towels, sheets, cockpit cushions and decks. Greasy preparations and oils in general are forbidden on board. Most charter yachts will provide sunscreen on board.
A word about REEF SAFE SUNSCREENS: Current research is now pointing to the issues of reef damage occurring due to certain sun screens’ ingredients. You can look into this yourself but here is a LIST of some that can be easily obtained in advance of your trip.
And don’t forget the big shirt cover-up. Just great for reducing the red look of the Peeling Tourist or Tourist Nose Tree! (This tree is common to all the islands: Known as the Gumbo Limbo tree or Turpentine tree, the bark is thin, peeling in a red-color.)
Shoes of choice are the type of sandals with heel straps. These will take you from the dinghy, to the docks, to the rocks, to the sandy beach, to the shops and anywhere else. Flip-flops or tie shoes can be bothersome for daily routine. However, if you plan on doing any serious hiking, you might opt for more substantial footwear but we love the strapped sandals for just about anything. All charter yachts now carry some form of Underwater camera, often with video, but you can bring those waterproof cameras with you. You will have fun taking candid shots with the fishes!
Do I Need Trip Insurance?
Slip Aweigh Charters always recommends that you purchase Trip Insurance. Things can happen…..and when they do, it’s always best to have a “safety net” to cover potential losses when it turns out you cannot come on your trip. We do recommend a visit to www.insuremytrip.com to review some of your options. There are so many, so it’s best to just call them to discuss your needs. They are always very helpful and will point you in the right direction.
What are other good times to come?
Now, having said all this, here are a few special pointers from us at Slip Aweigh Charters. We’ve lived aboard in charter there for more than 10 years.
If school schedules are a non-issue, consider taking advantage of the less crowded times in all of the Caribbean, but especially in the popular Virgin Islands. These months are all of May, June and early July. Toward the fall, mid to late October, early November are also good times to come tho’ it can be a bit rainy in early November. You’ll find all venues are open, historically the Tradewinds are a bit lighter than in Winter, and the rain chances are about average to lower than average. We say “typically” as there’s no guarantee. It’s de eyelands, mon. ☺