Boat Chartering

Crunching The Numbers And Making Choices

By Chris Edmonston

Photo of sunset in the Caribbean on a charter boat

The Moorings has a wide assortment of boats in their inventory, both power and sail. It's clear that catamarans are becoming the boat of choice for the rental fleets, and most of our BoatUS flotilla used either power cats or sailing cats. My family had a 46-foot sailing cat, which provided us a good amount of living space, and was reasonably easy for me to maneuver, even in the tightest of anchorages. The motors and the generator were quiet, and there was thankfully no diesel smell at all.

On the face of it, renting a boat for a week may seem like a large investment. But when I compared the cost of chartering a boat to renting a couple of hotel rooms at a resort for a week — including the cost of meals and entertainment — the prices turned out to be comparable, especially during the off-season. And most of the larger charterboat fleets are a reasonable flight from the U.S., so I knew we could get to and from a boat on the same day. Everyone who rented a boat had either a large family or multiple couples aboard, which brought the comparative cost of the trip way down. Boats used in the flotilla ran from 36 feet to 54 feet in length.

Photo of boats in the flotilla

In addition to the boat options, you can choose to go with a flotilla, or chart your own course. There is also the option of having a crewed charter, with captain available, or, as one flotilla member chose, a cook. And having The Moorings along just made everything easier. It took the guesswork out of where to dock, what to expect, and how to get the most enjoyment out of the week. It was like having training wheels — a great way to help calm the nerves for those not used to this location or style of boating.

The boats are well-equipped, with plenty of cooking utensils, bedding, binoculars, charts, stereo, and all the required safety equipment. The base offers extra amenities that you may rent or buy, such as canoes, kayaks, Wi-Fi hot spots, dive equipment, and a variety of food and beverage options, all of which may be acquired online beforehand, waiting for you when you arrive.

General Tips On Chartering

There is plenty of food storage space onboard most charterboats, though the tropical climate plays havoc on fresh fruits and vegetables. There are markets on most of the British Virgin Islands that are readily accessible, so don't feel the need to buy for the entire week before you leave the base.

If you like to wear a life jacket, or have children that should be in a life jacket, bring your own. While the boats come with life jackets, they're commercial grade and not ones you'd want to wear in the tropics for anything other than an emergency.

Photo of strolling on the beach at sunset

The sun is STRONG, and while you can readily find suntan lotion and aloe, we couldn't find zinc oxide anywhere. Bring long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and brimmed hats for the best protection, as any lotions quickly wash away in the ocean.

A dry bag was handy, especially when using the dinghy to and from the islands. A dry bag is a must at the Baths, a popular snorkeling hole on Virgin Gorda. You can't bring your dinghy ashore; you must tie up on the dinghy line provided, and swim in.

The Moorings states that they will service any boat issues within four hours, and we found that this was the case. While the boats are in good repair, they do get a great deal of use, and things break. Our three-year-old boat lost generator power (which had 5,500 hours on it) while at the Bitter End as we anchored for lunch. A new impeller was installed, and we were up and running within two hours.

The boats come equipped with a good chartplotter, a fixed and handheld compass, and a chart. At the captain's meetings we received bearings to the next stop, along with reminders of what areas to avoid. For longer runs, particularly to Anegada, the compass, knotmeter, and my watch were used along with the chart to verify the position on the chartplotter.

Traveling with a group added redundancy and extra security. As the winds picked up as the week progressed (hitting 25 knots by Friday), the autopilot became a heavily relied upon piece of equipment. 

Chris Edmonston is president of the BoatUS Foundation.

— Published: December 2014

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