We are just weeks away from my next bareboat yacht charter trip – this one is a bit different. The plan is to sail the US Virgin Islands and Spanish Virgin Islands, including a couple deepwater crossings to and from St Croix (weather permitting!). We are also going to do a lot of fishing from the catamaran.
You can read more about my plan in this post, Sailing to St. Croix.
I’ll post some regular updates at the Yacht Warriors instagram account if you’re interested in following along.
To ensure a smooth, and (hopefully) stress free trip, we are always busy with final plans and preparations in the days leading up to a trip. I thought I’d share some of what I’m working on.
Watching the weather like a hawk
The trend is your friend. This is especially true when chartering during hurricane season. While November is well past peak season, disturbances can still spin up.
In recent days, I’ve consistently seen several storms showing up on longer range weather models. One has turned into Potential Tropical Cyclone 15 which will move on to the west and be a non-issue for us.
There is, however, another weak disturbance that could bring 30 knots of wind during the middle of our trip.
It’s too early to tell exactly what impacts it could have, but I like to watch the trends and see how the forecast evolves. If confidence builds for that scenario, we’ll want to make sure our itinerary includes an anchorage where we can hunker down for 24 hours or so.
As we get closer to our departure day, I’ll start watching NOAA’s 5-day marine forecast. This should give you a good idea as to conditions you are likely to experience.
For the crossings to and from St. Croix, we may need to adjust our itinerary for days with more favorable conditions. Or, we may have to cancel those plans all together. Under what conditions would I want to change those plans?
20+ knot winds – this could make for a rough ride
Light wind, less than 10 knots – we don’t want to motor
Unfavorable wind direction – while the trades tend to blow out of the NE in the fall/winter, they can be bent further into the SE or S with passing disturbances
Final communications with the charter base
I always like to try and connect directly with the charter base if possible, in the days leading up to our departure. You’ll need to try and find the right contact – it’s usually not the charter specialist that helped book your trip.
There are two objectives:
To try and position ourselves first in line for the charter briefing the morning after our sleepaboard. This can be the difference between leaving the dock at 9:00, or departing two hours later at 11:00. This doesn’t always work, but you miss every shot you don’t take.
To confirm boat equipment, such as portable a VHF radio, rod holders, gaff, type of grill, etc.
Getting the crew involved
As the skipper, don’t try and do everything yourself! Most people love to help out and enjoy getting involved. Here are some activities I’ve delegated for this trip.
This is a great one to delegate to one or two crew members that have some logistics savvy.
By this time, we usually have finalized our menu plan and detailed list. The final step is coordinating for delivery of the food, beverages, and booze.
Or, there may be certain items that may need to be picked up in person. Each sailing destination is different.
For the US Virgin Islands, our crew decided delivery of everything with one company to be the best option since we have late arriving flights. If we had arrived earlier, you can really save quite a bit by shopping in person. We are paying extra for the convenience factor.
The USVIs also have several options where you can order online and just show up for curbside pick up – a good compromise.
We are also trying our hand at bringing frozen meats with us for the first time. We picked up some filets from Costco and pre-cooked some other meals like taco meat and chicken. TBD if it is going to be worth the extra effort ahead of time!
Fishing licenses & regulations
There’s a lot to navigate when it comes to fishing in the USVI and Spanish Virgin Islands. There are federal waters (>3nm offshore), territorial waters, and the Virgin Islands National Park. Each has its unique license requirements, seasonal closures, and bag limits.
Additionally, there are numerous marine parks and protected areas that we’ll be passing through, such as the Coral Reef National Monument, East End Marine Park, and Hind Bank.
While at this point we are all familiar with the various rules, we have one crew member that is our designated expert to help make sure we fish lawfully throughout the trip.
Clearing customs into Culebra
We are required to clear customs when entering Culebra (Puerto Rico) from the USVI. Since we are all US citizens, this can be accomplished remotely with the CBP ROAM App.
One crew member has taken the lead in getting the app setup with the correct vessel and passport/known traveler numbers.
While I’m focused on navigating through the Ensenada Honda channel and getting us anchored, they can begin the check in process with CBP.
Buck Island Permit
We are going to sailing south to St. Croix, and one of the attractions is the Buck Island Reef National Monument. To visit though, you need anchoring permit.
I had a crew member help by obtaining the vessel registration and submitting the permit to the National Park Service for approval.