Cruising the Virgin Islands

This winter it’s time to update one of most popular cruising guides in the Virgin Islands, Cruising the Virgin Islands. In mid-February, we are headed to the Virgin Islands and have chartered a MarineMax 382 with three cabins and lots of living and entertaining space. We will take a tour of the boat for you when we arrive in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), but for now, we want to prepare for the trip.

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  • Planning the trip is fun. It starts you thinking about the warm temperatures and the warm water. Check the internet to see if there are any special events going on while you are there. Full Moon Parties is the night to be dancing and having fun. They happen every full moon in the BVI.
  • Consider the dining options. Depending on the size of your group and the time of year, you may want to make reservations which will affect your itinerary. There are many excellent restaurants, and a good rule of thumb would be to plan for half of your evenings dining out.
  • For the galley, think about making up a spice kit you can pack in a checked suitcase. So often spices, oils, and condiments end up being left behind on the boat or thrown out.
  • Most people take too many clothes. Think swimsuits, T-shirts and maybe 1-2 sets of nicer clothes. You don’t need much. Do bring suntan lotion and aloe with you. It is much less expensive at home.
  • For logistics, make sure everyone has their passport. The BVI is a foreign country where you must pass in and out of customs. Your flights should be set up well in advance, but work out where you fly into – St. Thomas or Tortola. And the following questions like which ferry take to get to Tortola? How do you get to the ferry? It is all doable with good planning.

We are offering a 20% discount on the Cruising the Virgin Islands map until Jan. 31.

Use promo code: virginislands

Or, buy the Cruising the Virgin Islands Planning Map on Amazon.

Cruising the Virgin Islands

Cruising the Virgin Islands,  Part 1 – Preparing to Go

Part of a successful trip is making it as trouble free as possible. This starts with the logistics. Our charter boat will have seven of us onboard sharing three staterooms. One will be relegated to the spacious salon. We will also have a second boat buddy-boating with us. More people add to the fun but also add to the logistics and coordination.

In addition to our fun, we are planning to visit a number of places that have gone through changes since the 2nd edition of Cruising the Virgin Islands. This trip, after all, is a professional trip and that is part of the job.

Baths of Virgin Gorda

We are offering a 20% discount on the Cruising the Virgin Islands map until Jan. 31.

Use promo code: virginislands

Cruising the Virgin Islands,  Part 1 – Preparing to Go

Travel

We purchased our tickets months ago to get the best fares. Traveling from the West Coast almost always means a red-eye flight. The best fares are usually into St. Thomas on a connecting flight from a major hub like Dallas, Chicago, or New York. Airlines fly commuter type planes directly into Tortola from San Juan, PR to Tortola where the MarineMax charter base is located. For us, we are flying into St. Thomas, then taking a shuttle van (no reservation needed) available right out the door from baggage claim for the 10-minute ride to the Fast Ferry. Then a one hour ride on the Fast Ferry. The last fast ferry is at 4:15 p.m. If your flight arrives after this, plan a fun night in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and catch the ferry the following morning. Assume total costs of $90-$100 per person to get to the charter boat.

exploring-the-baths-on-virgin-gorda2-mbunzel

Itinerary

See what is happening while you are there. Full Moon Night is a special time on Tortola with the action at the Bomba Shack for adults and in Trellis Bay for families and adult fun. Plan to eat and dance Caribbean style into the wee hours under the full moon. You can moor offshore in Trellis Bay if you get there before the bay is full. At the Bomba Shack, you must take a taxi from one of several nearby harbors. There is plenty of eating and dancing in many other locations throughout the month. Consult the cruising guide and in general, consider a circular pattern around the islands.

Paperwork

Travel in the BVI is relatively easy – no problem mon! They are serious about BVI Customs, and you will need to clear in when you arrive by ferry and clear out of Customs when you depart. You must have a passport. On one trip many years ago, one participant on Boat 3 in our group did not realize he would need his passport. His entire crew had to wait for two days while his passport was sent from the States at considerable expense.

Cruising the Virgin Islands

Provisions

Most people provision their boat with too much food. There are stores throughout the islands to pick up the essentials as well as beer, wine, and spirits. In fact, many pack too much food and not enough for drinks. Rum is very inexpensive in the islands, and rum drinks seem to go with the island vibe.

I like to pack a cooking kit with small quantities of spices, olive oil and balsamic for cooking. You can prepare this before you go and don’t have to buy jars of spices or bottles of oils at the stores on the islands.

One additional tip, divide up the meals ahead of time with the crew. No one person should be the galley slave. Have others look up creative recipes. I usually plan to have breakfasts on board – Mango pancakes anyone? Mango, guava, bananas are luscious and ripe and make a great breakfast treat. Plan for most lunches on board where you can whip up a quick salad and let everyone serve themselves.

The general theme is keep meals easy and fun. And, the work to a minimum and enjoyable.

Packing

Most take too many clothes. Plan for a couple of shirts or tops and a few shorts only one pair of slacks. For women, that little black dress that folds up very small is the most you will need. Sandals round it out. Pack one bag as a carry-on with all your basics. Assume the “what-if my bag does not make it…” Have bathing

Most take too many clothes. Plan for a couple of shirts or tops and a few shorts only one pair of slacks. For women, that little black dress that folds up very small is the most you will need. Scandals round it out. Assume the “what-if my bag does not make it…” and pack one bag as a carry-on with all your basics. Have bathing suits and a couple of basic changes of clothes in your carry-on – just in case. It is really difficult for your bags to “catch up with you” when you are traveling between the islands on a charter sail or power boat. Also, shopping in the BVI is somewhat minimal, and stores are limited in their selection.

We are offering a 20% discount on the Cruising the Virgin Islands map until Jan 31.

Use promo code: virginislands

Or, buy the Cruising the Virgin Islands Planning Map on Amazon.

Cruising the Virgin Islands,  Part 2 – Coming Next

In Part 2, we will cover a few more pre-planning tips. Then follow along on our trip in February as we see the best of the Virgin Islands and update our Cruising the Virgin Islands book.

 

– Mark Bunzel



 

 

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