What qualifications do you need to go bareboat sailing in the BVI?

Man sailing a yacht in the BVI

You want to take a sailing vacation on your own yacht. What qualifications do you need to charter a bareboat sailboat in the BVI? Bareboat chartering is where you rent a sailboat without a captain. In order to do so, you have to prove you are qualified to safely manage the boat.

Most BVI charter companies will require you to fill out a sailing resume. If you have any doubts about your qualifications, you can fill one out and they’ll tell you right away if you are qualified or not. For example, the Moorings resume can be filled out online.

Here’s the type of questions they ask:

  • How many times you’ve chartered in the past, with which companies, on what size boats and when. Some will ask for a list of trips with all details, some ask for a total number of days and average sizes. (Keep your resume around. It gets harder and harder to remember the details of every trip!)
  • If you own a boat (or have owned one), what kind, what size, how long, etc.
  • How many times you’ve anchored and in what circumstances. (I’ve always thought it weird they want a number. Who keeps track of that?)
  • If you are comfortable grabbing a mooring and anchoring.
  • Your mechanical abilities.
  • Your navigational skills. And if your experience is inland/lakes, coastal or offshore.
  • Then they’ll have a section for your crew. I always use this to show how they compliment any weaknesses I may have. For example, the first time I chartered, one of my crew was ex-Navy, long time boat owner with lots of anchoring, mechanical and navigational experience. He had no sailing experience but he was much more qualified than me to take a big boat out in open water.

There are classes that will build up your experience and resume as well. Some of these classes can be taken while sailing around the British Virgin Islands, combining a class and a vacation in one. I took Offshore Sailing School’s Live Aboard Cruising class in the BVI which gave me the US Sailing Bareboat Cruising Certification. Different schools will offer different certifications. Here are a few of the more well known certification organizations:

What you really want to make sure is that you are comfortable sailing your boat. As far as I know, none of the charter companies actually check your resume. CYOA does give you a hands on test your first day as you sail out. What’s important is that you actually do know what you are doing.  You’ll likely be nervous but here’s what you should be able to do:

  • Know how things work on a sailing yacht and be able to show your crew. This is everything from operating the heads to the breakers to turning on the engine to raising the sails … You won’t know exactly how to do them on the boat you’re going to get, but you have to be comfortable enough with these things that after being shown where things are on the boat, you can help the rest of your crew figure them out.
  • Navigation. Read a chart (including identifying hazards!), figure out where you are, plot and set a course. While it’s important to know, navigation in the British Virgin Islands is pretty straight forward. It’s almost all line of site in the BVI, there are minimal tides and most all boats come with a GPS.
  • Anchor. You need to be able to anchor if you have to. You can grab a mooring ball almost anywhere you go, but you should always be able to anchor. For example, in case you get in, the sun is setting and all the mooring balls are full.
  • Pick up a mooring. You’ll do this a couple of times a day and you’ll probably spend nights on a mooring.
  • Motor. Start the engines, drive a boat. Understand and follow right away rules.
  • Sail. Raise the sails, tack, reef and lower the sails on a 30’+ boat with crew.
  • Dinghy. Drive a dinghy (easy), trouble shoot why your dinghy is not working (supposedly easy).
  • Handle emergencies. Man overboard, large gusts of wind, windstorms with little visibility, a windlass that won’t work, a dinghy that’s floating away, …

Almost all charter companies will offer a captain for the first day or two if either of you are unsure. For a fee, of course. You can use the time with the captain to get a mini-lesson on your charter.

And you will probably be nervous the first time if not every time!