How to find the best price for a BVI sailboat charter

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Choosing a charter boat, especially the first time you go to the BVI, is really hard. We wrote up a list of all the things you should consider when choosing a charter company like type of boat, size of company, age of boat, location, etc. In this post I’d like to show you how I’d research the price.

First, I’d figure out how many people were going. Or really, how many cabins my group needs. Charter boat rates are really set by number of cabins, not by the size of the boat.¬†Each cabin on a boat is really just a double or queen bunk and a closet. So two tall, single guys are probably not going to want to share a cabin. Three little kids might love sharing a bunk. Although charter boats are priced by cabins, catamarans and monohulls are priced very differently – catamarans are about twice as much per cabin.

Next I’d decide how many “heads” or bathrooms I needed. If you are good friends, sharing’s probably not an issue. However, heads on a boat can easily get stinky. They’ll certainly get wet – usually the whole room is the shower. Depending on your group, it might be worth investing in more heads. (More heads also means less room to move around. If it’s just our immediate family, I actually want less heads on the boat.)

Then I’d decide if I wanted a catamaran or monohull. For some people, this is not a choice. Some people love sailing monohulls and wouldn’t consider it sailing if they got a catamaran. Others – like us – love the extra space and stability of a catamaran. We also find with two couples or two families, they offer a lot more privacy than a monohull. If money isn’t tight on a trip, I always choose a catamaran.

As a last step before I started checking out charter company web pages, I’d list all the extras I wanted. Do you want your dinghy up on davits or are you ok towing it behind? Do you want a generator? Or just shore side power for your sleepaboard? Do you want to leave from a particular place? Do you want a freezer separate from a refrigerator? Make a note of which ones are must haves and which ones are nice to haves.

Then I’d start checking out all of the charter company websites. First I’d note their home page to see if they are offering any discounts or specials. Then I’d use their online availability calculators to check what the cheapest monohull and catamaran for my group and dates are. If your dates are flexible, this might take more time. You’ll want to play around a bit more. For example, it might be that Sunsail doesn’t have their smallest 38 foot catamaran available the first week of June, but maybe it’s available the second week.

I would pick your boat before you buy your airfare.

As an exercise, I did this for an imaginary trip today. (I wish we were going soon!) I priced out boats as if there were:

  • 4 people going
  • for 7 days
  • the first week of June 2014
  • no provisioning (we like bringing and shopping for our own food)

For this exercise, I didn’t add any charter companies that wouldn’t let me check availability online. You should not assume that because I found the cheapest price to be a particular charter company, that they will always be the cheapest. It depends on availability, dates and many other factors. I am sharing this to show you my research method.

Here’s what I found.

Monohulls
Charter Company Specific boat Cost for 7 days Age of Boat Number of Cabins Number of Heads Notes, extras and things I’d follow up on (I’d add a lot more notes for my top 2-3 picks.)
The Moorings Moorings 37.2 – Club $2805 3-5 years old 2 cabins 1 head Does it have a freezer?It has a TV/DVD – we have only ever used a TV once in all of our trips.Shore power – nice if you plan a sleepaboard the night before as sometimes it’s hot at the dock.
Footloose Charters Footloose 32.2 $2083 5-8 years old 2 double cabins 1 head Very little info about the boat
Sunsail Sunsail 36i $2503 <6 years old 2 cabins 1 head
CYOA Yacht Charters 2012 Hunter e36 $3400 2 years old 2 cabin 1 head
Pro Valor 2007 Beneteau 323 $1925 7 yearsold 2 cabin Suggested for a couple or a couple with kids. Does it feel small?10 days for the price of 7.
TMM Jeanneau 42i $2900 6 years old 2 cabin 2 head Free wifi – and I’ve talked to people that said TMM’s wifi works well.Shows you availability before price, so hard to shop on price first as you have to enter all the dates.
BVI Yacht Charters Beneteau 311 $1650 11 years old 2 cabins 1 head
Sailonline.com Beneteau 393 Oceanis ‘Chachaa’, located at The Captains Compass $1925 I would want to know the yaer first! 3 beds 2 heads The boats in a charter company’s fleet are usually owned by individuals. Those people get a discount when they rent their boat. Often they have more discount weeks than they can use, and they sell their discounted rates online. Sailonline is one place you can check for that.

 

Catamarans
Charter Company Specific boat Cost for 7 days Age of Boat Number of Cabins Number of Heads Notes, extras and things I’d follow up on (I’d add a lot more notes for my top 2-3 picks.)
The Moorings Moorings 4000 – Club $5,820 3-5 years old 4 cabins 2 heads Freezer. (We always opt for a freezer separate from the refrigerator as it’s easier to keep frozen things frozen.)Hard bimini top.For a bit more the 3900 has electric davits for the dinghy and a generator.
Footloose Footloose 4000 $5078 5-8 years old 4 cabins2 bunks up front 2 heads Dining room for 8.
Hard top bimini.
Sunsail Sunsail 444 $7,053 4 cabins 4 heads Generator.This is a lot nicer/larger boat than many of the others listed here so the price isn’t really a fair comparison.
CYOA Yacht Charters 2010 Mahe 36 $4,000 4 years 2 cabins 2 heads For two couples, this would be one of my favorite boats, but I’d get a model with a generator.
Pro Valor 2006 R&C Leopard 40 Catamaran $4,025 8 yearsold 4 cabins 2 heads 10 days for the price of 7.No layout picture – I’d ask for that.
TMM Mahe 36 $3,500 7 years old 2 cabins 2 heads Free wifi – and I’ve talked to people that said TMM’s wifi works well.Shows you availability before price, so hard to shop on price first as you have to enter all the dates.
Voyage Voyage 500 $10,969(I did a search for November and found a 440 for $5,817.) 6 years old 5 cabins 5 heads Generator.Ice maker!2 freezers.Smallest model was not available – this is much bigger than most of the other cats in this list. It costs more because it’s bigger and because it has some extra amenities like an ice maker.Quote includes BVI cruising taxes and National Park fees.
BVI Yacht Charters Lagoon 380 $4,100 9 years old 3 cabins 2 heads
Sailonline.com Leopard 38 – Sunsail 40% of Sunsail’s listed prices 4 years old 4 cabins 2 heads The boats in a charter company’s fleet are usually owned by individuals. Those people get a discount when they rent their boat. Often they have more discount weeks than they can use, and they sell their discounted rates online. Sailonline is one place you can check for that. The boat will then be with one of the charter companies – this one is with Sunsail.

Next, assuming I had not chartered with any of these companies before, I’d check out the websites in more detail. I’d ask people that had sailed with them. (You are welcome to ask us. You can also check out forums like Travelalkonline.com.) I’d check out each of the boats. I’d consider all the amenities, the age of the boat, the reputation of the charter company and the location. See our complete list here. For the boats and offers that looked most interesting, I’d call or email the charter companies. I’d ask a lot more questions and see if there were any specific offers I’d missed.

Good luck! Feel free to ask questions in the comment and we’ll try to help.