So, you're thinking about a sailing vacation in the idyllic waters of the US and British Virgin Islands. Not a bad choice. But where exactly should we go? Should we charter from the BVI, or US side? Did you think about the following:

If you plan to go to the BVI, you will be passing through Customs no matter what. Would you rather go through customs standing in the long line at the airport with a bunch of sweaty travelers? Or maybe in the Customs house in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke with a smiling agent to help you and music drifting down the beach from Foxy's, where a cold drink awaits? Duh. This doesn't seem so hard once you think of it this way. You will still need all the following stuff, just like always, and expect for the process to take about an hour, as long as there isn't a huge crowd. The longest portion is just filling out the forms, so take some crew to help. Checking back into the USVI is a breeze, and customs is a 5 minute stroll from CYOA. This only takes about 15 minutes. Note the fees and Customs office hours below:

Yacht Clearance Procedures

If you plan to exit and then reenter the BVI during your sailing vacation, please be certain to follow the proper procedures for clearing your yacht and crew through both BVI Customs and Immigration.

The ports of entry & exist are located at:

Road Harbour, Tortola
West End Harbour, Tortola
Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke
St. Thomas Bay, Virgin Gorda

Hours of operation: Monday to Friday 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and Saturday 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Closed Sundays and on BVI public holidays. After hours clearing may be arranged in advance. Additional fees will apply. Call Customs (284) 494-3475 and Immigration (284) 494-3701 (ext. 2538) to make after hours arrangements.

Your captain may clear all crew, provided he or she has all of the required documentation including:
* Ship's documentation. Prior to leaving the charter base, be sure this item is aboard if you plan to go between US and BVI waters.
* Valid passports for each crew member. (In the absence of a passport, Canadian & US citizens need only an original birth certificate or voter's registration card and at least one piece of photo ID such as a driver's license if traveling between the US and BVI waters).
* Be sure you clear into the territory you plan to visit. Don't forget to stop off again at any of the above listed ports of entry upon return to the BVI.

If visiting the USVI, you may clear in at Cruz Bay, St. John or Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. If you are not either a US or Canadian citizen and are entering the USVI waters on anything other than a commercial carrier (ferry, airline, etc.), you must obtain a visitor's visa. Visitors from the UK and all other countries should consult your local US Embassy prior to arrival in the BVI to determine what is required to obtain the proper visas for your crew wishing to exit the BVI by yacht.

BVI Cruising Tax

Yachts from outside the BVI:

All visiting yachts from other Caribbean islands or from outside the territory must acquire cruising permits upon entering BVI waters. Cost is $4.00 per person, per day, year-round. If you are on a crewed charter yacht, the crew is not required to pay. If you are on a bareboat, all persons are required to pay. Permits are available at all Customs offices throughout the BVI.

BVI charter yachts:

Charter guests aboard BVI registered yachts must also purchase cruising permits. The cost is $2.00 per person per day from December 1st to April 30th and $0.75 per person per day from May 1st to November 30th. If you are aboard a crewed yacht, the crew are not subject to this tax. If chartering in the BVI, your charter company will provide all required permits prior to departure.


When beginning your sailing vacation, would you rather take one more plane ride, or another taxi ride or two, or would you rather just get on the boat already?
It's amazing how many people don't really think about this. Let's say you fly in from Anywhere, USA to St. Thomas, a common stop-over on the way to Beef Island Airport and Tortola. You could: A) Wait around for the flight to take you to Beef Island Airport, spend 30 minutes on that plane, wait in the line through customs (see above), hail a cab and sit in the cab for a 10-25 minute cab ride to the charter company on Tortola (Sunsail is all the way at Soper's Hole, about as far away as you can get)....B) Take a 10 minute cab ride to the ferry dock , then a 30 minute ferry ride to Tortola, followed by another cab ride.... or C) Hail a cab and take a short 5 minute ride to CYOA at Frenchtown Marina. You could literally be standing on your boat 15 minutes after flying into St. Thomas. Hmmmm. That's a tough one. Why are we here again?...

So how much are plane tickets? Is there any great way to save? Well, yes, and no. Plane tickets to the Virgins are never cheap it seems, and the best prices we've been able to find from Reno, Nevada have been around $575 or so. Not bad, when the average seems to be more like $750, if booked well in advance. We wouldn't recommend waiting until the last minute to see if rates go down, what with the volatility of the industry right now and the fact that every time we've checked the rates just go up. You definitely save a bit by skipping the last leg to Tortola, but not a lot ($75-$150). There are also some good prices on direct flights from the east coast originating in Boston, Baltimore (BWI), and some New York airports. Look around at the various web sites (we've found to be the most reliably inexpensive, and to be anything but). Anyway, one way to save is to check with a local tour operator to see if they have available seats that they may have purchased at a group rate, and run it by your favorite travel agent to see if they have any cheap ticket options squirreled away in their computer system somewhere.

What about provisioning? Should we bring our own food? If you are not packing a lot of stuff (and believe us, you shouldn't be. See below), packing up a few sturdy boxes with a bunch of provisions is not a bad idea, as you will save a lot of dough over the rather overpriced groceries on the island. Booze and other beverages should probably be bought on-island, for the weight factor if nothing else. If you do decide to go the provisioning route, we recommend the "Dinners Ashore" program through CYOA (often referred to as "split provisioning" by other outfits) that lets you eat ashore most nights, or stop by a market yourself and get the fixings for a feast aboard. Maybe you'll even catch yourself a fish!

What do I bring? Living on a boat for a week with other people will be a unique experience. You will quickly discover space, especially storage space, is a premium. You will also realize no matter what you bring, it will probably be too much! So here is a helpful guide.

1. No hard suitcases.  Duffel bags only.

2. Only shoes with white soles. Please no dark soles.  They will leave marks on the boat. Non-skid athletic or deck shoes are preferred. You may bring sandals to walk on shore.

3. Pack light and reasonably. Most people recommend packing what they think they need, then go back and cut it in half. It works!

4. The Caribbean sun is hot and direct. Bring lots of sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, and a brim hat. If you are prone to sunburn, bring something to cover your body with such as wind pants and a long sleeve shirt.

5. All clothing should be light weight and light colored. You will need a beach towel, a couple of pairs of shorts, swim suit,  a light cotton sweater or light weight windbreaker for evenings. Linens are furnished.

6. Don't forget your camera and film. A waterproof disposable camera is excellent for underwater shots. Bring plenty of film!

7. Snorkeling equipment will be provided, but you may bring your own. Definitely don't bring your own flippers. The ones at CYOA are just fine. 

8. Any prescription drugs you may require.  However, you will need to provide a list of all prescription drugs for the ship's log. Check to make sure they are not sun sensitive.

9. Shampoo - just a suggestion. Water is a premium and Prell or similar shampoo allows you to wash and rinse your hair in the ocean. Trust me on this one. It works extremely well - no salt residue.

10. If you wear glasses - an extra pair would be wise.

11. Your favorite CD's. No tape player is aboard.

12. A change of attitude with changes in the latitude!

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