The U.S. and British Virgin Islands are among the most popular destinations in the world to charter a sailboat. What some may not realize is the equal opportunity to enjoy a pleasure cruise bareboating aboard a power yacht.
The choice between power versus sail depends on a few decision points. One of these is previous experience.
"If clients have experience with one or the other, power or sail, this makes the decision easy," says Melody Delgado, yacht charter broker with Virgin Island Sailing, Ltd., based in Nokomis, Florida. "But, for those clients who have experience with both, you simply need to make a decision on your group's preferences and every group is different."
One advantage of a power charter is moving faster through the cruising area, about twice the speed, says David Rohr, product manager for The Moorings, based in Clearwater, Florida. "So, you can leave anchorages later, pass the sail boats and arrive at the next anchorage earlier."
The need for speed is indeed a point for power.
"If someone is an avid scuba diver and wants to get from one dive site to the next as quickly as possible, then a powerboat is definitely the best way to achieve that goal," says Liane Le Tendre of Bareboats BVI, in Tortola. "The same thing applies if people are only here for a short time but want to see it all and do it all."
Other pluses for power include space, stability and live-aboard comfort, says The Moorings Rohr. "Air conditioning and generators, electrical appliances like microwaves, coffee makers, blenders and TV/DVD are on our powerboats."
A disadvantage can be a bigger fuel bill.
"Most power boats have twin engines and the engines are considerably larger than those on sailboats for obvious reasons," says Bareboats BVI's Le Tendre.
"Yet," says The Moorings Rohr, "Our power cats lead the industry when it comes to fuel efficiency and unless you are running your generator 24/7, the fuel bill at the end of a week is very reasonable, typically around $400 dollars for the BVI."
There are several types of power yachts to choose from in the US and BVI. For example, The Moorings offers a 37-foot 2-cabin power cat ideal for two couples or small families, and a 47-foot 4-cabin power cat that can sleep up to 12 in four-double cabins, two V-berths and a salon table that converts to a fifth double bed.
"In general," says Virgin Island Sailing's Delgado, whose company represents power yachts with from two to five cabins, "A monohull tends to have more interior space than a power catamaran and a catamaran tends to have more exterior space. However, most models are well appointed and spacious overall."
A sample power yacht itinerary through the BVI could start with a cruise from Road Town, Tortola, to Cooper Island where yachts can moor for the night in Manchioneel Bay with drinks and dinner only a dinghy ride away. Then, it's possible to rocket 16 miles to the east to North Sound, Virgin Gorda, home of the Bitter End Yacht Club. The next day, charterers can power out to Anegada for some of the best lobster in the BVI. Next, Marina Cay, a Pusser's rum outpost, lies to the west and is a good overnight stop, as is Cane Garden Bay the next day where live music at Quito's always draws a crowd. Finally, finish off the week with a stop in Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke where there are beach bars galore and du jour. Finish off the trip by snorkeling the caves at Norman Island before returning to Road Town.
"Lastly," says Virgin Island Sailing's Delgado, "Holiday weeks sell fast, otherwise you should reserve your charter about six months
DO YOU NEED TO BAREBOAT A POWER YACHT?
There is no formal certification, license needed or specific requirements needed to bareboat a power yacht. However, experience is essential.
"To qualify for bareboat chartering you simply need to have experience operating a yacht that is within eight to ten feet of the size yacht you wish to charter and with similar displacement," says Melody Delgado, yacht charter broker with Virgin Island Sailing, Ltd., based in Nokomis, Florida. "You also need experience with various skills: anchoring, moorings, docking, navigating, and so on."
The extent these skills are required depends on the difficulty of the location selected for charter. For example, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are considered an 'easy' boating destination with very little anchoring, docking and navigation required.
"In order to meet fleet insurance requirements, the person deemed to be captain will be required to supply a 'sailing resume', which the charter company will provide in their format, outlining his or her boating experience. The resume is then sent to the operations manager who will determine if he or she has sufficient experience," says Liane Le Tendre of Bareboats BVI, in Tortola.
If this experience is lacking, the company may ask the would-be skipper to hire a check out skipper for one or two days at a cost of between $150.00 to $175.00 per day, plus meals. The check out captain then makes the final determination as to their suitability as captain.
"If you are borderline or not qualified," says David Rohr, product manager for The Moorings, based in Clearwater, Florida, "other options are available. For example, you can hire a captain-only for your entire charter."
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based
marine writer and registered dietitian.