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Things to Know Before Bareboating in the British Virgin Islands

Updated: 29 minutes ago

Captk and I love the British Virgin Islands. We have bare-boated through these beautiful islands 11 times. We have also bare-boated in the Bahamas’s twice, and explored Croatia and two parts of Greece on a small yacht with a Captain. It is the British Virgin Islands, we return to repeatedly.

Whether you prefer sailing or power boating, navigation is mostly line of sight. The normally steady, trade winds power your sails and keep you cool in the tropical climate. The unpack once, move at your own pace, and wake up to a new adventure everyday style of travel is very appealing to us. Even after 11 bare-boating adventures in the BVI, there are things that we have not done and places we have not explored. This post was born from the standard email we send to people who are coming on the boat with us. This is our best advice on what to expect and what to pack.

As a side note, CaptK and I are yacht owners in the Moorings Yacht Ownership program. Our first bare-boating experience was in June of 2016. We chartered through the Moorings. We fell in love with the freedom and privacy of bare-boating. By December of 2016, we were yacht owners of the power catamaran Far Niente III. We are currently starting our second contract with the Moorings. Far Niente IV is currently chartering in the BVI. If you are interested in information about yacht ownership, please leave a message in the comments section or email me directly at

Map of the British Virgin Islands

How to get to Tortola, BVI?

The simplest way to get to the British Virgin Islands is to fly into Beef Island, Tortola, airport code EIS. Most flights into Beef Island require you to stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico and change planes to a smaller plane. The runway on Beef Island is short and large planes can not land there. It is possible to fly into St. Thomas and take a ferry to Road Town, Tortola. It is important to check the ferry schedule from St. Thomas to Tortola before booking your ticket. You want to make sure your flights allow you enough time to get to ferry terminal. Taxis are available at both St. Thomas and Tortola's airports as well as the ferry terminals.

Essential Online Links For Booking Your Trip to the British Virgin Islands

Logistics: There is one international airport in the British Virgin Islands. You can also fly into St. Thomas USVI and take a ferry to Road Town, Tortola. : Taxis are available throughout the islands. Private Transfers are available from both airports: Private Arrival Transfer from EIS Airport to Tortola, Private Ground Transfers, St. Thomas, Ferry Schedules are available at, Water Taxi transfers are available through Dolphin Water Taxi 

Top-rated British Virgin Islands tours and experiences:

Conch Island Snorkel Tour: Contact Kelly at or Whatsapp at 281 496-0961

Top places to stay in British Virgin Islands: 

Wyndham Tortola BVI Lambert Beach Resort (Tortola - Budget Friendly, )

Sebastian's on the Beach Hotel (Tortola - Budget Friendly)

Saba Rock Resort ( North Sound - Luxury,)

Anegada Beach Resort (Anegada -Budget Friendly, )

My favorite Guidebook for Bareboating in the British Virgin Islands: The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands 

My favorite Guidebook for the British Virgin Islands: Top 10 US & British Virgin Islands 

Don’t forget to pack: water shoes*** underwater camera*** HD mask ***reef safe sunscreen.

What to Pack for Bareboating?

Pack light. Use a duffel bag/soft outer casing bag that is easily unpacked and stored away. Bathing suit (2 or 3), swimsuit cover-up (for ladies), lightweight, quick dry shorts, tee shirts/tank tops, 1-2 lightweight tee shirt or sun dresses (for ladies) Flip flops or Teva type sandals (you will not wear shoes on the boat). Some type of hiking shoes, I usually wear Tevas. Hat (good sun coverage) and long sleeve SPF shirts a good idea, as well. The BVI is EXTREMELY casual. Except for a few fine dining places, casual shorts are acceptable for ladies at dinner. Shorts with a collared shirt are acceptable for men at dinner throughout the BVI.

Usually, we do not wash clothes. There are laundry facilities in Leverick Bay, Anegada, Cane Garden Bay, Road Town and Nanny Cay. The boats has towels, blankets, and pillows already stocked.

Toiletries - we bring biodegrable soap and leave in spray conditioner. Bring toothpaste and any other clean up items. Keep makeup and hair stuff to a minimum - we go full mermaid in the islands. Bring reef safe sunscreen (lotion better than spray) and lip balm with SPF. Remember to pack any meds you need and sunglasses. There are showers onboard but we typically shower on the back deck before bed. Don’t bring pillows or anything too bulky. We will unpack and then store the bags away in a storage hold for the whole week.

Boat Bag Contents

We have a "boat bag" that we bring on every bare boating trip. It includes the following: dry bags, bio degradable soap (we like Johnson's baby wash and shampoo), scuba shirts (if you are visiting Jan to April the water can be chilly), Cruising Guide for the area, solar inflatable light, mask and snorkels, flashlight, multi-tool, bungy cord, Tide pen, seasickness medicine, blue tooth sound box, phone charger, multiple outlet plug-in, travel backgammon set, underwater camera and charger. Also consider packing, clothespins and binoculars,. These come standard on Moorings Boats. All the items are available in my Amazon Store Bareboating List.


Weather should be good. Expect mid-80s in the winter months and high 80s in the summer months, during the day and a 10-20 knot breeze out of the east/SE/NE each day. Lows in the 70s in the winter months and about 80 in the summer months. The boat has air conditioning and also opens up to the outside air. Water temp should be about 80F in the winter months and 85F in the summer months.


We provision from a local grocery ahead of arrival. I like Riteway in Road Town, Tortola. They have free delivery and will put your provisions in the refrigerator if you are not onboard when they are delivered. It is walking distance from the Moorings. I like to visit them on the morning of our departure to get last minute things.

We put together a rough itinerary, figuring out where we will eat lunch and dinners out. I like to have lunch at the Willie T in the Bight on Norman Island (their fish sandwiches are killer), at Hendo's Hideout in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke. For dinner, I like to have pizza at Cosairs in Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke and lobster at The Lobster Pot on Anegada. We put a rough menu together for meals on the boat. We eat most dinners on the boat, and eat some of the lunches ashore. We eat all breakfasts on the boat. We provision gallons water and one package of bottled water, to use and refill as water bottles. I have yet to find a non-plastic bottle option other than requiring everyone to have a Life Straw Water Bottle. We provision adult beverages. There are opportunities to get drinks ashore at most stops. We usually get wine, sparkling wine and Caribbean beer as a part of our provisioning. Also we get dark rum, and vodka. We order Orange Juice, Tomato Juice, Club Soda and/or Tonic Water, for mixers.

Because I like to cook and we cook the majority of our meals on the boat, I bring the following: a lighter (as back up for the stove which is propane), Champagne and wine stoppers, can tops (for beer and soda cans), coozies, yeti drink cups, corkcicle champagne flutes, Kitchen dishwashing brush, knife bag: with chef knife, paring knife, lemon zester, lemon juice squeezer, cork screw and bottle opener. We also bring: coffee filters, large kitchen trash bags, biodegradable TP, ziploc bags, salt, pepper, Sazon, Tony Chachere's Creole Spice Mix, Tabasco Sauce, Worchester Sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar packets and capers.

Water Toys

You can rent water toys (paddle boards, noodles, kayaks) ahead of your arrival. These are for when you at on a mooring ball or at anchorage. You can rent them from your charter company. They will be on the boat when you arrive. There are also two company's on Tortola that rent equipment including paddle boards, fishing gear and permits, kayaks and giant mats and floats, Island Surf and Sand and BVISUPCO.

Anchoring, Mooring and Docking

In general, it is our preference is to stay on a mooring ball in the British Virgin Islands. The mooring fields are clearly marked. In some mooring fields, there is enough room to anchor if that is your preference. Outside of Tortola, marina slips are available at Spanish Town, Leverick Bay, Bitter End Yacht Club, Nut Oil Bay and Scrub Island. We prefer not to stay in marinas, the only marina we have stayed in was Spanish Town. We used it as a jumping off point to visit the Bath's and have dinner at Coco Maya. Boaty Ball is a great tool for reserving mooring balls. You pay a slightly higher price but you are guaranteed a ball. This is especially nice in the more popular anchorages. Beware that some anchorages are weather dependent. When there are north swells, some anchorages may be uncomfortable or closed., especially Cane Garden Bay, White Bay and Diamond Key. In high seas, the most comfortable overnight spot is The Bight at Norman Island.

You will want to have cash available. Mooring Balls are about $35.00 per night. The fee is paid in cash to the collection person. Ice and trash drop off is also available in many mooring fields, this is a cash transaction as well. The British Virgin Islands accepts US dollars. ATMs are available in many of the larger mooring fields. Credit Cards are accepted at most shops and restaurants.

Going Ashore

There will be a dinghy with your boat. That is how you will get ashore when you tie up to a mooring ball or drop the anchor. If you have valuables to bring ashore (cell phone, wallet, small purse etc) it is a good idea to have a dry bag to take on the dinghy. There are designated dinghy docks at most places where you go ashore. It is a good idea to take the kill switch ashore with you, so no one mistakenly takes your dingy.

Snorkeling and Diving

One of the biggest attractions in the British Virgin Islands is the sea life. The waters surrounding these minimally developed islands are teeming with colorful fish and striking coral formations. Two of the most popular snorkeling spots are the Caves and the Indians, near Norman Island. The coral formations at the Indians are spectacular with beautiful blue fan coral, golden brain coral, and patches of red fire coral. The Caves are interesting because of the formations into the rock cliffs. They form small caverns that are home to tons of tropical fish.

Because these are the most popular spots, they are also the most crowded spots. However, in almost every cove, there is a quiet spot to enjoy the sea life. Most charter companies include masks, snorkels and fins as standard equipment on their boats.

If you are interested in Scuba Diving, there are some outstanding places to dive throughout the BVI. One of the most popular is the "Wreck of the Rhone" between Salt Island and Peter island. Check out BVIScuba for more information and equipment rentals.

Sample Boat Photos

Above is a photo of a catamaran, fly bridge: (grill, dining area, helm).

Above is a picture of the cabin on a catamaran. You could your own head (bathroom) or share one with another cabin.

Some other areas of the boat are shown as well. We will eat most of our meals outside either on the fly bridge or on the aft deck.

Chartering with the Moorings

The link for the moorings is below. You can access it for information about the area and the base in Tortola:

A taxi will be arranged for you to get from the airport or ferry terminal to the Moorings base in Tortola when you arrive. There is small liquor store and bakery on the Moorings base. There is a large grocery store a 5 minute walk from the base in case you have a need to get something you forgot. You can have dinner at the restaurant on the base (very good food/drink) or in Tortola your first night.

If you have any questions about Bareboating, please leave them in the comments section or send me an email at

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For More Information on Travel in the British Virgin Islands, Check Out These Posts


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