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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection

WHERE TO START YOUR FULLY CREWED CHARTER IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS?
by Heather
April 2005

This question is often raised early in the booking process. Many fully crewed yachts can start charters in either St. Thomas or Tortola, but some yachts and crews have restrictions that limit pick up and drop off to the British Virgin Islands only. The number of guests is one of the leading factors, for when you have over 6 guests the charter must pick up in the British Virgin Islands due to Coast Guard restrictions in the US.

Tortola is the most common pick up in the BVI's. If you are staying at an island resort before or after your charter and the yacht has enough turn around time scheduled, they may be able to pick you up or drop you off at one of the other Islands such as Virgin Gorda or Peter Island. You will not need to spend any of your cruising time clearing customs if you start and finish your charter in the BVI's. You will clear customs at Beef Island Airport (EIS) if you fly to Tortola or at the ferry dock if you arrive by ferry. We usually advise flying in the day before your charter to avoid missing any valuable time on your yacht. Since most charter contracts are noon to noon, it eases some travelers' minds to know that if they are delayed, they are only missing hotel time rather than valuable cruising time.

In the US Virgin Islands, yachts usually pick you up in St. Thomas or St. John, but your charter vacation is mostly spent cruising the BVI's, so the yacht has to clear customs both in and out of the BVI's. This process can add time and cost to your charter. You should plan on at least 2 hours each time you clear customs, and sometimes more if it is a busy charter week or a weekend when there may be fewer staff working. When being dropped off in St. Thomas, the last night is usually spent in St. John so you can clear into the USVI in the afternoon and be able to sail to St. Thomas the next morning so you are off the yacht by noon.

Many guests find more competitive flight prices into St. Thomas because it is a larger airport accommodating larger airplanes. We offer bulk airfare on both American and US Air which can be combined with a charter when booked through our company. You may save money flying into St. Thomas, but if you are then starting your charter in the BVI's, you should include the addtional cost of taxis and ferry tickets. If you are not saving over $100 per person, it is probably better for you to fly into Tortola. If you choose to take the ferry, there are many available. Below are three links to three different ferry options. Round trip rates from St. Thomas to Tortola range from $40 to $44.

http://www.bviwelcome.com/ferries.html

http://www.tortolafastferry.com/

The Fast Ferry is a relatively new ferry line and is the one we recommend. They do not stop in St. John which can save you time, plus they land in Road Town which is usually convenient for fully crewed charter pick ups and drop offs.

If starting your charter in the BVI's, we do feel that it is a much smoother transition to fly to Tortola and take one taxi from the airport to the hotel.

Please call us at 1-800-621-7855 with any questions about USVI versus BVI crewed charter pick-ups. It can be a confusing topic but we are happy to point out the pros and cons to assure you are making the best decisions for your perfect vacation.

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  Ed Hamilton & Company
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