Bareboat Charter Guide for Beginners: How to Take Your First Sailing Vacation

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter

Photo: spectacular evening in North Sound, BVI on our first bareboat yacht charter trip

Why go on a bareboat yacht charter trip?

To me, there is no better vacation than a bareboat charter on your own sailing yacht. It has everything I’m looking for – sailing, saltwater, unbelievable surroundings, a new adventure each day, deep sea fishing, good food, fun with friends/family, and epic sunsets.

It’s not for everyone, but if this appeals to you, once you try it you will never want to go back to your old vacation ways. As soon as we finish a bareboat charter trip, I’m already starting to think about the next one.

Forget those touristy excursions. Get away from the crowds and access amazing places other people can’t reach. Learn to sail, understand what it takes to go on yacht charter trip, and create your own memories and adventures to last a lifetime. If you haven’t been before, it’s not as hard as it may seem.

Look forward to other sailing destinations such as the British Virgin Islands, Exumas Bahamas, Spanish Virgin Islands, Dry Tortugas, Greece, and French Polynesia.

In this bareboat charter guide for beginners, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know to give you the confidence to start planning your first trip. Let’s get started, there is not a moment to lose!

Anchorage in Anegada at Setting Point
On our bareboat charter yacht in Anegada, BVI back in 2018

Four ways to go on a yacht charter trip

A bareboat charter isn’t the only way to go on a yacht sailing vacation.

Bareboat charter

This is what my article focuses on – you serve as the captain, supply the crew, make provisioning arrangements, and decide where you want to go. The charter company will qualify your sailing experience to make sure you have a safe and fun trip.

Crewed charter

This is a great option if you want to decide if these types of trips are for you. You choose a yacht that comes with a dedicated captain and chef/hostess.

It’s the “all-inclusive” option. They will cook gourmet meals for you, mix you drinks, and tailor a sailing itinerary to your preferences. The yachts usually come with a wide variety of water toys.

Keep in mind, as you might expect, this is the most expensive option.

Bali 5.4 helm station view
At the helm of a Bali 5.4 in the Exuma Bahamas

Captained charter

You book this type of trip with one of the charter companies, and they help to provide you with a skipper. Choose also to add on a chef.

While this sounds similar to a crewed charter, you don’t know exactly who will be assigned to your trip. The experience you have will be less predictable and the customer service is perhaps not quite as top notch.

By the cabin charter

This type of shared charter let’s you book one or two cabins. You’ll have strangers aboard that you share the charter trip with. It may be offered by the charter companies or by one of the many crewed options available.

What is a bareboat charter?

A bareboat charter simply means that you rent a boat from a charter company for a defined period of time. Most importantly, the arrangement does not come with a captain, crew, or provisions – it is up to you to provide those things.

On your charter, you have the freedom to do whatever you’d like (within reason or course) during your trip – sailing, snorkeling, fishing, etc. These are more of my favorite boat trip activities.

Fowl Cay in the Exumas
Lunch snorkel spot in the Exumas on our 2021 yacht charter trip

Skills that you need for a bareboat charter

You do not need to be sailing certified to charter a sailboat. If you have substantial sailing experience on similarly sized yachts, you can provide a sailing resume to qualify with the various charter companies.

We’d recommend going to sailing school and getting certified anyway. We took three courses through the American Sailing Association:

ASA 101: Basic Keelboat Sailing – This is the introductory course for sailing. We had no sailing experience and wanted to learn when we were living in San Diego.  We also joined a local sailing club to practice our skills once or twice a month in San Diego Bay. The course is two days and usually completed over a weekend.

ASA 103: Basic Coastal Cruising – Builds on the basics you learned in 101 and further develops your seamanship.

ASA 104: Bareboat Cruising – Teaches you more about a boat’s systems and other skills such as anchoring, docking, provisioning, and advanced sail trim.

It’s worth nothing that ASA 103 and 104 are often offered as a combo course. We suggest taking 101, getting some practice in, and then if you decide sailing is for you, go take the 103/104 combo course. The 103/104 combo can also be done over a weekend.

If you have some sailing experience and just want the resource, you can purchase ASA’s book for the bareboat course.

The SmarterCharter book is also a great practical guide for skills specific to bareboating. There is also a monohull version.

Catamaran downwind sailing on a bareboat charter trip
Easy downwind sailing in 10 knots


Do you need to know how to sail? No! You can always hire a skipper or take a crewed charter for your first time if you want to test the waters first with this type of trip. The skipper can take you places that you might not have the confidence to go as a beginner.

Another option is to charter a motor yacht. Marine Max specializes in power catamarans.

You do not need to sail the whole time. One trip we had very light winds on several days, so we just motored. You will have plenty of fuel, even if you motor the majority of the time. You shouldn’t need to worry about stopping at a marina to refuel.

Anchoring and mooring

Do you need to know how to anchor? Yes! This is a skill that you should be comfortable with. Even if you only plan to tie off to mooring balls, consider a situation where all of the mooring balls are taken. In this case you may be forced to anchor.

We’d recommend picking a first destination such as the BVI where you can pick up a mooring ball at most popular anchorages. Familiarize yourself with how to reserve Boaty Ball moorings in the BVI, if necessary. This will keep the stress down for your first trip – you shouldn’t need to anchor overnight. Practice anchoring at a day lunch stop, such as Sandy Spit near Little Jost Van Dyke in the BVI.

On our first trip we did just this – we used mooring balls. Now that we have plenty of experience, we seek out secluded anchorages and enjoy anchoring overnight.

This video from Sailing La Vagabonde provides a good overview about how mooring balls work.

Dodging squalls on the way to the Dry Tortugas on a bareboat charter trip
Getting ready to deal with an isolated squall in the Florida Keys


For a complete guide to BVI weather and marine forecasting, check out my post here.

Plan to take your first trip during periods when settled weather can be expected. For the Bahamas and the Caribbean this means April-May and late November. Tropical systems are unlikely. The trade winds blow consistently out of the east at 10-15 knots – perfect conditions to practice your seamanship.

Plan to monitor weather conditions for the week leading up to your trip. This will help you to notice patterns that could affect your trip. Marine weather forecasts are available online from resources such as the National Weather Service. Your charter company will provide more detail on how to monitor weather during your charter.

If sailing in the Virgin Islands, know if a ground swell is forecasted. They are common between November and April. Make sure you are check the forecast since it could have an impact on your itinerary. Any anchorage exposed to the north will be unusable if a ground swell is running. The NWS Marine Forecast will include information about ground swells. They are very well forecasted.

You should also be familiar with how local conditions such as tides and island geography can affect your boat – such as being backwinded (this is more important if you plan to anchor).


ASA 104 should prepare you well to manage the boats systems. The most important part is making sure you are monitoring fuel, water, and battery levels. Ask lots of questions during your boat briefing and make sure you are comfortable working the electrical system by yourself. For example, they will explain how to charge the batteries and turn on the AC system.


You’ll want to understand how to read the water color, read charts, and plan a route. Pick a destination like BVI that has easy point and shoot navigation.


Docking can be stressful and intimidating. You can read all about it, but unfortunately the only way you get better is by practicing.

Here’s the solution – for your first trip, request assistance from the charter company when leaving the marina. They can help with the dock lines and also pilot the boat out for you. Use them! It will keep the stress down. At the end of the trip, reach them on the radio and they will send someone out in a dinghy to pilot the sailboat back in.

Practice docking on your own terms under ideal conditions.

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We have relationships with all of the yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.
Our first bareboat charter trip in virgin gorda sound
Aboard a 33 foot monohull in North Sound, BVI - the trip that started it all for the Yacht Warriors

What to consider when choosing a yacht charter boat

On our first boat trip, the one that started it all, we went out on a 37 foot, 2 cabin monohull. Every trip we’ve taken since has been on a ~45 foot 4 cabin, 4 head catamaran.

But, pick what you like! There is no right answer here. A couple things to consider:

Catamaran vs. Monohull

This can be a fiercely debated topic amongst seasoned sailors. For a sailing vacation, I believe a catamaran is the way to go. I write about it in more detail here. And if you want a complete review of a catamaran with lots of pictures, check out my thoughts on the Bali 5.4.

We enjoy having more space, a salon above the waterline, and the stability two hulls provide. I also find that I can maneuver a catamaran more easily because it has twin engines.

We also tend to go vacation with a crew of 8, and this works well with the space cats provide.

As far as sailing performance goes, monohulls tend to sail closer to the wind and can be faster than the catamarans that you’ll find in bareboat fleets. They will also keel over, which some people enjoy.


After you’ve picked a type of boat, I recommend that you choose the newest one that you can afford. Older yachts tend to have a greater chance of a breakdown. Your charter company will do their best to fix any issue, but it can definitely disrupt your plans (speaking from experience here!).

Spending a bit more on a newer sailboat is a good insurance policy.


Sometimes it will just come down to what’s available. Don’t sweat it. We’ve sailed on Lagoons, Leopards, and Balis. You’ll have a great time on any of them.

One feature we love is a fly bridge – essentially a common area up top that includes the helm station where everyone can hang out while cruising. We find that this is more fun than a separate area where the skipper operates the boat.

Bali 5.4 in the Exumas on a bareboat charter trip
Plenty of room for the whole crew on this Bali catamaran

Charter Company

We’ve used many different charter companies over the years. In the British Virgin Islands, you have many to choose from. In other sailing destinations, you may only have one or two options.

Each of them has different bases or marinas they operate from – some will have specific amenities that might appeal to you.

Reputation for quickly addressing any maintenance issues should also factor into your decision.

This is a complete list of the bareboat charter companies that we have relationships with, including destinations they operate.

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
Lady crew members lined up with painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar in BVI

Picking your crew

Picking your crew members may be the most important decision of your entire trip. Who you decide to take with you matters. We have lots of friends, but we wouldn’t want to spend 8 days on a boat with all of them (no offense friends!).

Choose wisely. Will they get along? Are they flexible if plans change? Would they be OK skipping a shower if the water runs low? Are they willing to help out (with cooking, cleaning, etc)?

How long should I plan the yacht charter trip for? 

We like to do trips that include 8 nights on the boat. The first night is usually a later check in and spent overnight in the marina after a day of travel. That makes for 7 full days of exploring and adventure on your sailing charter.

You can also consider staying in a hotel for your first night, but we like to stow away provisions and get familiar with the boat. It also allows for an earlier departure on your first full day – don’t waste valuable cruising time in the marina! 


Most charter companies can provide a provisioning service. Coordinate with your crew for meal planning and make your selections. The food and beverages will be aboard your sailboat when you arrive, what joy!

Check out our post on how to get the crew organized to help with provisioning planning.

You can also do the shopping yourself depending on the destination – Key West and the Spanish Virgin Islands are good candidates.

For a first time bareboat charter, keep it easy and let one of the provisioning services handle it for you.

We always plan for big breakfasts – eggs, bacon, and hash browns. Start your day right!

Lunches we keep simple since we are usually on the move or exploring ashore – sandwiches and chips work great.

For dinners, consider how many meals you’ll plan to eat ashore at beach restaurants. The other nights, simple is always better. Pasta, burgers, and tacos are some of our staples. Spend less time in the galley and more time soaking up that Caribbean sunset.

We also recently started preparing meals ahead of time, freezing them, and taking them with us. Read about my other top 10 bareboat charter travel hacks to help you have more fun and lessen the stress.

Palm Cay Marina in Nassau, gateway to an Exuma Yacht Charter
One of the marina bases that you might visit - this at Palm Cay, the gateway to the Exumas

What is the check-in and check-out process like? 


You will typically board your boat in the evening. Get comfortable, and in the morning, a representative from the charter company will meet you for the boat briefing. Here’s what they’ll cover – I talk more about what to expect for the boat briefing on this post. If you sign up for my free newsletter, I’ll send you a pdf version of my Boat Briefing Checklist that you can print and take with you on your first trip.

  • Cruising grounds – they can give you advice on where to go and what areas may be off limits. 
  • Boat systems and operation – you’ll do an inventory and cover all you need to know about the sailboat’s systems and sailing equipment. Have a list of questions prepared in case they miss something.
  • Safety – such as where the life jackets, life raft, plugs, and emergency tiller are located. You should also cover radio procedures if you need a refresher.
  • Communications – how to get in touch with the charter company if you have a repair issue or what to do when you are ready to return to the marina.


Check out is usually mid morning on your last day. You can either return to the marina the night before, or stay in an anchorage nearby.

Sometimes they ask you to visit the fuel dock, but you can also pay the charter company to handle this service for you. They might do another inventory with you, but usually you just need to disclose if anything is broken or missing.

Lagoon 46 in the Spanish Virgin Islands, Culebra at sunset; culebra anchorage
Spanish Virgin Islands' sunset on the west coast of Culebra

What does a bareboat charter cost?

Expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 for most bareboat charter trips. So what inflluences the pricing?

  • Type of yacht: monohulls are going to be more affordable than catamarans (all else equal)

  • Size of yacht: not surprisingly, the longer and bigger the boat, the more expensive it will be

  • Number of cabins: a 3-cabin catamaran with an owner’s cabin is going to be more affordable than a 4-cabin equivalent

  • Age: you’ll pay a premium for newer boats (but also might experience fewer maintenance issues)

  • Season: when you charter matters a lot. The high season holiday periods are always the most expensive, whereas, you can find great deals (and solitude) in the low season when tropical disturbances might threaten in the Caribbean

  • Discounts: charter companies offer various promotions, but you can usually expect to receive an early booking or a repeat charter discount (5 or 10% each). Last-minute discounts are another great way to save money if you are flexible (or work from home!)

Read more about bareboat charter pricing, the components of your quote, and what things you will need to budget for separately.

The Indians, BVI
Popular snorkel spot: The Indians in the BVIs

Charter destination for your first trip: British Virgin Islands

There is no better sailing trip for beginners than the British Virgin Islands. Here’s why:

  • Idyllic Caribbean surroundings – numerous tropical islands that rise sharply out of the ocean. Plenty of protected anchorages. Coconut palm lined white sandy beaches. Great snorkeling and fishing. What else do you need?
  • Settled weather – you can expect steady trade winds out of the east year round. If you avoid the summer months when tropical systems can develop, there is little risk of a major weather disruption.
  • Easy navigation – there are few navigational hazards and you can usually see the islands you are navigating towards.
  • Mooring balls – there are plenty of well maintained balls available, making it easier for beginners.
  • Well established bareboat yacht charter industry – lots of operators, a deep bareboat charter fleet, plenty of restauraunts that serve boaters, and many services to help make your trip easy.

If you have a cruising ground close to home that offers some of these same features, that could be a great option too!

Request a BVI Yacht Charter Quote

We have relationships with all of the BVI yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.
North Sound in Virgin Gorda, BVI

First time BVI bareboat charter sailing itinerary

We’ve visited the BVIs four times now, and every time our itinerary gets a little bit better. Here’s what I would do on a first time visit. (update – here’s a more in depth post about a first time BVI sailing itinerary).

You can also visit this link to see my other articles I’ve written about the British Virgin Islands. The FAQ section also address many common questions.

My sailing plan also assumes you take the sleep aboard option on your first day.

Travel day
Day 1: Travel day
Arrive, get settled in, and stow away your provisions. Familiarize yourself with the boat's systems if you'd like. Crack a beer - you've made it!
Travel day
Cooper Island Beach Club
Day 2: Cooper Island
Plan for an easy, short sail on your first full day on the water. Cooper Island Beach Club is a perfect stop. Grab a mooring ball and head ashore to enjoy the facilities, bar, and restaurant. Arrive early - the mooring balls fill up quickly! You may also enjoy a snorkel at Cistern Point to the south.
Cooper Island Beach Club
Devil's Bay at the Baths, a top BVI Beach
The Baths & North Sound
Day 3: Baths & North Sound
Get an early start and sail up the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Stop for lunch at The Baths, a must see visit. Swim ashore and hike through the monstrous boulders to Devil's Bay.

Round Virgin Gorda and enter North Sound through the well-marked channel. There are many places to choose from including the Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock, and Leverick Bay. Plenty of mooring balls are available.
Devil's Bay at the Baths, a top BVI Beach
The Baths & North Sound
Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada on a BVI yacht charter
Anegada & Setting Point
Day 4: Anegada
Some will say to avoid Anegada if you are a beginner, but I disagree. The channel is well marked and it is only a couple hours sail offshore. Check with your charter company. Anegada is a low lying, coral island making up part of Horseshoe Reef - the 4th largest barrier reef in the world. Rent a car and visit the spectacular beaches on the north shore. Enjoy a freshly caught spiny lobster dinner at one of the many Setting Point restaurants.
Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada on a BVI yacht charter
Anegada & Setting Point
sunset at Cane Garden Bay in the BVIs on a bvi catamaran charter
Cane Garden Bay
Day 5: Cane Garden Bay
Head back south and sail counter clockwise around Tortola. Monkey Point at Guana Island is a great snorkel lunch stop. Cane Garden Bay is a picturesque spot with lots of room and plenty of mooring balls. This is a great opportunity to head ashore and shop for additional provisions if you need them. There are lots of restaurants to choose from if you want to eat ashore.
sunset at Cane Garden Bay in the BVIs on a bvi catamaran charter
Cane Garden Bay
Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit
Day 6: Sandy Spit & Great Harbour
Make your way north and try your hand at anchoring near Sandy Spit. This is a fun day spot. Dinghy ashore for a picnic. Great Harbour at Jost Van Dyke is home to the famous Foxy's Bar. Enjoy some late night live music and dancing. Over the weekend, they have a famous Beach BBQ.
Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit
swimming at white bay jost van dyke
White Bay & the Soggy Dollar Bar
Day 7: White Bay & The Soggy Dollar Bar
Get an early start to grab a mooring ball on the east side of the bay. Check with your charter company to make sure it is not off limits. Enjoy a full day of beach bar relaxing and fun. The Soggy Dollar Bar is world famous for its invention - the Pain Killer. If you're a beginner, I don't recommend anchoring at White Bay. Stay at Great Harbour and dinghy over, or walk.
swimming at white bay jost van dyke
White Bay & the Soggy Dollar Bar
The Indians, BVI
The Indians & the Bight
Day 8: The Indians & the Bight
Pass nearby St. John, USVI and head for a lunch stop and snorkel at The Indians. Make a loop around the rock formations and enjoy the abundant sea life. Stay overnight at the Bight and join the party at Willy-Ts, the famous floating pirate ship bar and restaurant. The Pirate's Bight restaurant is also a very good choice for a last night send off.
The Indians, BVI
The Indians & the Bight
Travel Home
Day 9: Travel Home
Leave early enough to motor back to the base to comply with checkout procedures. Radio your charter company on your way back in if you'd like help docking the boat.
Travel Home

Thanks for reading my bareboat charter guide for beginners.! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about my secret anchorages in the BVIs.

Our Favorite Secret BVI Anchorages: Escape from the Crowds


When we go on bareboat sailing trips to the British Virgin Islands, I love to find off the beaten path anchorages. While you will be sure to find me with a painkiller at the busy Soggy Dollar Bar, I enjoy a secluded anchorage with an epic Caribbean sunset even more.

BVI lays claim to to tagline Nature’s Little Secrets, but each visit it seems to get more crowded. That is, unless you know where to look.

I’m going to share four of my secluded anchorages where you are most likely to enjoy the view all by yourself. I have a few more, but I can’t give away all of my secrets! If you are looking for the more popular British Virgin Island anchorages and mooring fields, check out my recommended itinerary for a perfect week in the BVIs.

  1. Eustatia Sound
  2. Muskmelon Bay
  3. Benures Bay
  4. Key Bay

As always, confirm with your charter company during your boat briefing whether some of these areas could be red-lined and therefore, off-limits.

Eustatia Sound outside Virgin Gorda Sound

Eustatia Sound Anchorage
Beautiful sunset at secluded Eustatia Sound

There is plenty of room for everyone in North Sound, but if you want to get away from the crowds, check out Eustatia Sound between Prickly Pear Island and Eustatia Island.

Take note that this area is redlined by several charter companies, such as the Moorings – make sure you confirm during your boat briefing. If it is off-limits, you can still explore this area with your dinghy from North Sound.

This peaceful area is usually one of the first stops on our BVI sailing trips. It gets me perfectly settled in vacation mode every time. It is also a convenient jumping off point for the offshore crossing to Anegada.

Eustatia Island is a high-end, water sports focused resort. You might see some of the guests kitesurfing nearby.

Sunsets here are excellent, and there is a nice reef with good snorkeling just to the north. We often take our dingy over in calm conditions.

You get the added benefit of gazing upon two islands owned by billionaires – Eustatia Island is Larry Page’s. His neighbor, Sir Richard Branson, owns the luxe resort Necker Island which he lives at for a number of months each year.

North Sound is a short dinghy ride – you can still get a piece of the action at some nearby beach bars and restaurants. Our picks would be Saba Rock and the Bitter End Yacht Club.

Eustatia Sound Anchorage in BVI
Eustatia Island, Eustatia Sound, the snorkeling reef, and proximity to North Sound (source: Eustatia Island)

Eustatia Sound Anchoring Guide

There are two approaches to reach Eustatia Sound. The easier route is to continue past the channel markers outside of North Sound and enter the wide channel on the east side of Prickly Pear Island from the north.

Your other option is to enter North Sound and continue east towards Saba Rock. Use the channel markers, keeping Saba Rock to port. You’ll see Eustatia Island to port as well. Proceed carefully around the reef, giving yourself plenty of space.

Anchor west of Eustatia Island in about 10-15 feet of water. The bottom is sandy and your anchor should set well.

This spot is exposed to northerly ground swells, so make sure you try this one in settled conditions. They are well-forecasted.

Muskmelon Bay at Guana Island

Muskmelon Bay Anchorage
The rugged geography of Guana Island with our catamaran at Muskmelon Bay

We like to stop here for lunch at Muskmelon bay on our way back from Anegada. Muskmelon bay is located at the northwest part of Guana Island, near Long Point. The entire island is a very private luxury resort and nature sanctuary.

This spot is incredibly picturesque and is swarming with marine life. Cliffs near the anchorage site make for some spectacular scenery. Truly a BVI secret. 

The coral reefs are well developed and it attracts plenty of baitfish. This, in turn brings the birds – what a show the they put on! I’m not much into bird watching, but it is a lot of fun to see them diving for fish at close range.

You’ll definitely want to hop in for a snorkel – you won’t have to swim far from the yacht. Expect to see lots of fish, rays, and a few turtles on most days.

The anchoring location is quite close to shore at Muskmelon Bay

Muskmelon Bay Anchoring Guide

I view this as a day anchorage only and there are no moorings available. The anchoring area is quite small, so I’d suggest you move on if there is another boat occupying the space.

Drop your anchor in the patch of sand about 400 feet south of the rocky beach visible on satellite in the NE corner of the bay. You’ll be fairly close to shore.

Backwinding is a concern here and is why I wouldn’t want to be here overnight unless in very calm conditions. If you aren’t as familiar with the concept, I talk about it in my BVI weather post.

Benures Bay at Norman Island

Benures Bay Sunset at Norman Island, British Virgin Islands
Not another boat in site at Benures Bay

(Update – since I wrote this, I’ve learned several mooring balls were installed, which is disappointing. You may not find solitude in this anchorage anymore.)

This peaceful bay is quite the opposite of the Bight with rowdy Willy T on the other side of the island. The shoreline is rocky and there is some interesting snorkeling in the bay.

If you like hiking, you can access the Norman Island trail system from the middle of the bay. It is easily visible on satellite imagery. Check out this article for tips on other ways to experience Norman Island

Pro tip: start early and hike over to the Pirate’s Bight restaurant for a nice lunch or dinner. It’s about a mile over to the Bight. If you go for dinner, make sure you make it back in time for sunset at Benures! Take a look at your sailboat lying in the bay below.

It is also a short dinghy ride over to the Bight. Make sure conditions are calm so you don’t get wet.

Benures Bay is another fantastic place to grab a sundowner and watch the beautiful show. The Indians and US Virgin Islands provide an outstanding backdrop.

Benures Bay, Norman Island British Virgin Islands
Another view of Benures Bay at Norman Island

Benures Bay Anchorage Details

The approach is straightforward and the bay is fairly deep in the middle. Aim for the north east side of the bay. The bay should have enough room for 4 or 5 boats, so don’t worry if you have to share.

Depths get shallow quickly as you get closer to shore. Drop the hook in ~20 feet of water and deep sand. Holding is excellent.

Be careful not to anchor to close to shore since backwinding can occur at Benures. Leave yourself enough swinging room.

Key Bay at Peter Island

The legendary Willy T, now an artificial reef at Key Bay | Source: Beyond the Reef

Key Bay is a wonderful, seldom used (in my experience) anchorage on the south side of Peter Island. It’s small, with only room for 2-3 boats – but that is what makes up it’s charm. It’s not possible for this one to get crowded.

Given it’s proximity to the marinas at Tortola, it can be a convenient first or last night stop for your sailing trip.

In 2019, Beyond the Reef successfully sunk the Willy T at Key Bay. Willy T was beached nearby at Norman Island after Hurricane Irma.

Beyond the Reef turned it into an artificial reef, and had some fun with a pirate theme. You can see it if you snorkel (the top mast is at about 30 feet), but it is really intended for divers.

They ask for a $5 donation if you use their mooring ball which will go towards supporting local kid’s swim programs.

Key Bay Anchorage Details

If there is any wind out of the south, this anchorage should be avoided, since swell will wrap it’s way around Key Cay. No one likes a rolly night.

The approach is from the SW and you’ll want to get close into the NE corner. Depths are around 15 feet with some sand, but also a lot of sea grass. Choose your spot carefully as there is also some coral in the area.

My BVI Beginner’s Guide has some useful information on other more popular anchorages in the British Virgin Islands.

The Best Caribbean Bareboat Charter Destinations

Best Caribbean Bareboat Charter Destinations

While far-off, exotic yacht charters might be intriguing, nothing beats a Caribbean bareboat charter destination right in our own backyard.

Tropical sandy beaches, steady trade winds, lazy beach bars, and convenient travel options characterize a visit to these many islands.

And if you’re limited to a week or 10 days, you’ll get to spend more time on your catamaran with a tropical beverage, and less stuffed into a crowded flight.

From Grenada to Puerto Rico, nearly every country in the leeward and windward islands has a Caribbean sailing vacation option for you.

So let’s dive in. If you are still early in your chartering journey, these are the top Caribbean bareboat charter destinations you need to explore. You can visit each many times, and still find new fresh adventure on a return trip.

I’m on my 11th yacht charter (still in my 30s), and I’ve only visited one destination outside of these six (Key West and the Dry Tortugas).

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter
Sunset at North Sound, Virgin Gorda in the BVIs

British Virgin Islands

Yes, the British Virgin Islands is the obvious choice, but you have to put it first on the list. It’s the global yacht charter capital.

Not only is the BVIs the best place for first-timers, but you’ll find yourself returning year after year. There’s something about it that keeps drawing you back.

I’ve spoken with some old salts that have made over 30 trips!

It’s popularity owes itself to the unique geography, with many islands and bays to explore, sheltered from the trade wind driven swells.

The sailing is predictable and navigation is easy with short, line of sight passages.

Beach bars, restaurants, and amenities galore, the majority of BVI’s economy caters to charterers.

My BVI destination page is a good place to start to learn more about the BVIs.

Devil's Bay beach at the Baths in BVI
Boulders at Devil's Bay | the Baths, BVI
Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
Lagoon swimming on the north shore of Anegada
white bay east side jost van dyke
Beach bars line White Bay, Jost van Dyke

Highlights of a British Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Hike through the gigantic granite boulders at the Baths to Devils Bay

  • Anchor in North Sound and enjoy the sights of one of the finest harbors in the Caribbean

  • Sail offshore to the sunken island, Anegada. Sip cold beverages at rustic beach bars on the beautiful north shore

  • Go Beach Bar hopping for painkillers at famous White Bay, Jost van Dyke

  • Jump into the water from the second deck of the floating pirate ship bar, Willy-T at Norman Island

Sandy Cany sandbar in the Exumas
One of the many sandbars in the Exumas, this one at Sandy Cay

Exuma, Bahamas

Yes, I know, it’s not technically the Caribbean, but it’s close enough.

I love the Exumas for the fishing, solitude, easy travel options from the USA, oh, and those dreamy blues…

This is also more of an advanced sailing destination and I would not recommend it until you have 2+ charters under your belt. You’ll need to anchor more frequently and pay close attention to weather, tides, currents, and depths. We first visited the Exumas on my third sailing trip.

The water in the Exumas is absolutely stunning, with some of the most vibrant turquoise blues I’ve ever seen.

If you want to learn more about the Exumas, check out my cruising guide, or my Exuma destination page.

Pirate's Lair in the Exuma Bahamas on a Exuma Yacht Charter
Pirate's Lair at Warderick Wells in the Exuma Land and Sea Park
Wahoo caught on the drop in the Exumas sound
Catching wahoo on the drop in the Exumas
Staniel Cay anchorage near Thunderball Grotto
Navigating to the anchorage near Staniel Cay and the Thunderball Grotto

Highlights of an Exuma, Bahamas yacht charter

  • Visit the Exuma Land and Sea Park – our favorite mooring field is the Pirate’s Lair

  • Dinghy the mangrove river at Shroud Cay and hike up to Camp Driftwood

  • Pass through a cut to the Exuma Sound and fish the drop for mahi, tuna, and wahoo

  • Cross the Yellow Bank and stop for lunch at one of the many coral heads you’ll pass along the way

  • Grab a peanut colada at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and snorkel nearby Thunderball Grotto

Sunset at Green Beach Vieques
Sunset at Green Beach in Vieques

Spanish Virgin Islands

Part of Puerto Rico, they lie right next to the US Virgin Islands.

If you want to seek out the old school Caribbean vibe, the Spanish Virgin Islands are for you. They are far less popular and developed than their Virgin Island neighbors to the east.

The SVIs consist primarily of Culebra, Culebrita, and Vieques. There are also a number of smaller cayos to explore as well.

You can find two of the most stunning beaches in all of the Caribbean here: Playa Flamenco and Playa Tortugas.

If you want to learn more about the SVIs, I wrote a cruising guide, with more info on the SVI destination page.

View of Culebrita, one of the Culebra anchorages
Tortuga Beach and the lighthouse at Culebrita
Lagoon 46 in the Spanish Virgin Islands, Culebra at sunset; culebra anchorage
Epic sunset at a Carlos Rosario
Tank at Flamenco Beach
One of the abandoned tanks at Playa Flamenco

Highlights of a Spanish Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Hike to the abandoned lighthouse at the top of Culebrita for incredible 360 views

  • Sip $2 Medallas from the vendors at Playa Flamenco

  • Snorkel the beautiful reef from your mooring ball at Carlos Rosario

  • Watch an epic sunset over the Puerto Rico mainland at Green Beach

  • Take a bioluminescence kayak tour at Mosquito Bay

Petit Rameau at Tobago Cays
The idyllic Tobago Cays, a must stop in the Grenadines

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

You’ll enjoy easy sailing, white sandy beaches, abundant marine life, and many vintage Caribbean beach bars to help cool you off.

Consider a roundtrip or a 1-way passage south to Grenada. This option avoids a potential uncomfortable upwind slog back to St. Vincent.

Most people don’t spend much time on the main island of St. Vincent – the many unspoiled islands of the Grenadines to the south beckon.

If you want to learn more about the Grenadines, pick up a copy of the Sailor’s Guide to the Windward Islands.

Anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay
The anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay
Petit Tebac
Captain Jack Sparrow's island, Petit Tebac
The lone umbrella at Mopion Island
The lone umbrella at Mopion Island

Highlights of a St. Vincent and the Grenadines yacht charter

  • Visit the stunning Tobago Cays, snorkel the coral reefs, swim with turtles, and arrange for a lobster beach barbeque

  • Anchor at idyllic Salt Whistle Bay and walk along the beautiful palm-lined beach

  • Explore the island where Captain Jack Sparrow was marooned – Petit Tebac

  • Head to Mustique and grab a cocktail at the legendary Basil’s Bar

  • Get your picture taken with the umbrella on the castaway island, Mopion

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Often photographed Trunk Bay at St. John, USVI

US Virgin Islands

During Covid, the US Virgin Islands made a resounding comeback due to travel restrictions elsewhere. Many long-time BVI visitors discovered the USVIs for the first time. Some were pleasantly surprised!

Why is the USVI appealing? Good provisioning options, cheaper prices, and direct flight options are a few reasons.

Consisting of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, most boaters spend the abundance of their time circumnavigating St. John and visiting the pristine National Park areas.

You can even use it as a jumping off point to explore the Spanish Virgin Islands. Read about how I did this in my recent USVI and SVI bareboat charter trip.

Epic sunset at Magen's Bay, St Thomas, USVI
The lovely bight of Magens Bay
Beautiful fall day at the Maho Bay mooring field on our US Virgin Islands bareboat charter trip
Beautiful day at Maho Bay in the Virgin Islands National Park
Christmas Cove anchorage on our USVI bareboat charter in the US Virgin Islands
Christmas Cove anchorage and a sunset over St. Thomas

Highlights of a US Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Lounge on the beach at Maho Bay and take in the spectacular surroundings

  • Be adventurous and conduct an offshore passage to St. Croix to visit the pastel-colored town of Christiansted

  • Stroll the lovely town of Cruz Bay and grab a bite to eat or do some shopping

  • Sail the north shore of St. Thomas to the bight at Magens Bay. Simply enjoy the magical scenery or head ashore for a drink at the beach bar

  • Enjoy the solitude of the Salt Pond Bay anchorage – lime away the afternoon or hike for the views at Ram’s Head

Shirley Heights on a Antigua yacht charter
Historic English Harbour in Antigua

Antigua & Barbuda

After spending a lot of time recently in the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, our next trip is planned for Antigua & Barbuda in the southern Leeward Islands. Read about my plan here.

Antigua and Barbuda is a single country, located in the southern Leeward Islands near Montserrat and Guadeloupe (potential offshore destinations for a longer yacht charter trip).

This destination has something for every type of crew. Gorgeous beaches (they attest to having 365 of them), offshore fishing, plenty of bars and restaurants, British naval history, reef snorkeling, and some adventure at offshore Barbuda.

Why else do I like this Caribbean bareboat charter destination? It has a great balance of the get-away-from-it-all anchorages that we enjoy, but it also has a great beach bar/nightlife scene.

pink beach in Barbuda
Quiet pink beaches await after an offshore sail to Barbuda
Carlisle Bay on a Antigua yacht charter
With 365 beaches, there's one for every day

Highlights of a Antigua & Barbuda yacht charter

  • Sail offshore to Barbuda, one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems; anchor in solitude anywhere along the Caribbean’s longest pink sand beach (11 miles)

  • Relax amongst the reefs at peaceful Green Island

  • Drag some fishing lines and catch mahi, wahoo, or tuna in the deeper water offshore

  • Hike to Shirley Heights for commanding views and some nightlife at their famous Sunday evening bbq parties

  • Gaze at 200 foot mega yachts in Falmouth Harbour or rub elbows with the rich and famous at the establishments ashore near historic Nelson’s Dockyard

  • Arrange for a tour of frigate bird sanctuary at Codrington Lagoon

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Thanks for reading my post about the best Caribbean bareboat charter destinations! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about how the British Virgin Islands’ vibe is changing.

BVI Catamaran Charter: 10 Day Sailing Plan

swimming at white bay jost van dyke

Do you have 10 days to explore the British Virgin Islands on a BVI catamaran charter? I envy you! I usually only have time for week-long yacht charter trips.

I drew up the perfect 7-day sailing itinerary for the BVIs, but what if you have a few extra days?

Here’s how I would design it, let’s dive in!

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter
Looking towards Saba Rock in North Sound

The yacht charter plan: 10 days sailing the British Virgin Islands

Day 1: Head for North Sound

Is sailing up to North Sound too ambitious for your first day? No!

It’s only a 2-3 hour trip, and there’s no better setting to enjoy a first night aboard.

Sail up Sir Francis Drake Channel from the Road Town area and skip the Baths (we’ll come back!). If you haven’t been before, try Mountain Point for a lunch and snorkel stop along the way at the NW tip of Virgin Gorda. The Dogs are also a great alternative if there are no moorings available or if there is a northerly swell running. Read more about BVI sailing conditions.

Grab a mooring ball near the Bitter End Yacht Club or Saba Rock and marvel at the beauty or the protected harbor of North Sound.

Pour yourself a cocktail, you’ve arrived in paradise!

Consider making a reservation ahead of time at either the BEYC or Saba Rock. You can’t go wrong with either to enjoy an excellent meal to kick off the trip.

Boulders at Devils Bay at the Baths
Devils Bay at the Baths, Virgin Gorda

Day 2: Explore Virgin Gorda and the Baths

Today we’re going exploring ashore. Make the quick motor across the sound to Leverick Bay for a change of scenery. You can pick up a mooring ball, or spend the night on the dock if you wish.

Grab some walking shoes and arrange for a taxi to take you for a shore-based visit of the Baths. I like this option since you don’t have to worry about red flag conditions on the beach from a northerly swell. No need to swim ashore from your catamaran!

On the way, consider grabbing a bite at Hog Heaven and marveling at the panoramic views.

You can also consider eating at the Top of the Baths after hiking through the giant boulders. All in, it’s about a 30 minute taxi ride, one way.

Today is also a great opportunity to eat that CocoMaya, one of the top-rated restaurants in the BVIs with a gorgeous setting. Make sure to make reservations early! Leverick Bay also has excellent options for dinner.

Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
The lagoon of Cow Wreck Beach

Day 3: Sail offshore to the Sunken Island, Anegada

Next up we’re sailing north to my favorite BVI destination, Anegada. I wrote more about navigating to Anegada and what to expect there in this post.

This is a great day to get those fishing lines in the water – you can expect to catch mahi, little tunny, mackerel, or barracuda along the way (check out these BVI fishing tips).

I like spending 2 days at the sailing destination of Anegada on our BVI catamaran charters – it is 100% worth it, trust me.

Break up your visit into 2 parts:

  1. Epic north shore beach exploring on your first day

  2. Horseshoe Reef tour on your second day

Grab a mooring ball at Setting Point, get your things organized, and head ashore for a full day of beaching and liming away the afternoon. You can taxi it, but we like to rent mokes for the flexibility they offer.

In the morning, we usually head to Flash of Beauty which lays claim to the best snorkeling spot on the island. Just to the west is Loblolly Bay.

Big Bamboo or Monica at Flash of Beauty can serve you up something for lunch. Try Monica’s roti!

Set your sights for Cow Wreck Beach in the afternoon for some lagoon swimming and chilling at TIPSY’s beach bar.

After a long day, take it easy and mix up something easy for dinner aboard your catamaran with a sundowner and an epic sunset.

Conch mounds in Anegada on a BVI catamaran charter

Day 4: Tour beautiful Horseshoe Reef

Before you get picked up for your tour, make lobster dinner reservations at one of the establishments at Setting Point.

A couple weeks before your trip, you’ll want to reserve a tour with Kelly or Sherwin. I’ve used Kelly in the past, but I’ve heard Sherwin is great too from what I hear.

They’ll pick you up right from your yacht sometime mid-morning. t’s a fun ~30 minute speedboat ride out to the reef. He’ll set you up on a drift snorkel and you can also help him look for lobster. While it’s illegal for visitors to take lobster, Kelly and Sherwin are able to when they are in season. They can also hook you up with conch.

The reef is really beautiful, and we’ve even seen nurse sharks and eagle rays.

After the snorkel, you’ll stop by the famous conch mounds on your way back. Make sure to hop in the water and get your picture taken.

Back at the yacht, relax and get ready for an awesome lobster dinner party, right on the beach.

sunset at Cane Garden Bay in the BVIs on a bvi catamaran charter
Sunset view in Cane Garden Bay

Day 5: Enjoy an easy downwind sail to Cane Garden Bay

With prevailing easterly trades, this is usually an enjoyable downwind sail to Cane Garden Bay. If you’re fishing again, troll over the wreck of the Chikuzen – there are a lot of big fish that hang out here.

I like Guana Island for a lunch stop. Monkey Point has good snorkeling or if you are looking for more of a challenge, try anchoring at Muskmelon Bay. I talk about it in my secret BVI anchorages post.

Cane Garden Bay is a quintessential Caribbean bay with it’s pastel colored houses and palm tree lined beach.

This is a great day to re-stock on provisions mid-trip if you need something. Bobby’s Supermarket is a well stocked grocery store you can walk to from the dinghy dock.

Pro tip – pick up a mooring ball at the back end of the anchorage. It’s a longer dinghy ride ashore, but you’ll be rewarded with an unspoiled view of the sunset over Jost van Dyke to the west.

Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit (pre-Hurricane Irma)

BVI Catamaran Charter Day 6: Relax at Sandy Spit and hike to the Bubbly Pool

Take your time in the morning – you aren’t going far. Mosey up north and drop the hook at the anchorage to the west of Sandy Spit – it’s a idyllic uninhabited white sandy island.

Swim, snorkel, or head ashore for a picnic.

After lunch, the moorings at Diamond Cay are a good option to overnight. You have access to two excellent bars/restaurant – Foxy’s Taboo and B-Line. You can’t go wrong with either.

The Bubbly Pool is another popular attraction which is around a half mile walk from the dinghy dock at Foxy’s. Waves crash through the rocks here into a pool that you can swim in. Try and time it for high tide – it will be more exciting!

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
Liming away the afternoon with some painkillers

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Day 7: Party at the famous Jost Van Dyke beach bars

Today is another beach day. Woo!

This is your day to just chill – and there is no better place than the beach bars at White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.

World famous Soggy Dollar Bar, inventor of the painkiller, beckons. Check out their webcam for a live look at the action.

You have two options for anchorages. The easiest option is to grab a mooring ball in Great Harbour, dingy ashore, and then either grab a short cab, or walk ~30 minutes to White Bay.

You can also relocate the yacht to White Bay, but you’ll need to exercise caution. For some bareboat charter companies, White Bay is off limits because squalls and backwinding can easily put boats on the beach – so, check first. It can also get very crowded, and the anchorage is tight – there is not much room for error.

I talk about my concerns in this post and some of the other options you have for enjoying White Bay.

We are content to just hang out on the beach at Soggy Dollar Bar all day long, sipping painkillers. But you should check out the others if you want to explore!

Hendo’s Hideout, next door, is newer to the scene. The food here is fantastic.  Coco Loco, Gertrude’s, and Ivan’s are also worth checking out.

Norman Island Caves British Virgin Islands
The famous caves you can snorkel at Norman Island

Day 8: Norman Island’s floating bar and the Indians

On the way to Norman Island, make a pit stop at the Indians for some snorkeling around the pinnacles that jut from the sea. It can get busy, so try and arrive early!

If you need water or fuel, Soper’s Hole is a good option on your way.

Continue to Norman Island and grab a mooring ball in one of the biggest anchorages in the BVIs. Read more about what to do at Norman Island in this article I wrote.

If you didn’t get enough snorkeling, hop back in the dinghy and head over to The Caves – Normand Island, and in part, this snorkel site is rumored to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. There are 3 caves here that make for an awesome snorkel experience.

The legendary Willy T (or William Thornton) resides in the Bight and is a permanently moored bar and restaurant, known for it’s wild times among cruisers and vacationers.

Grab some food, a cocktail, and be sure to jump into the bight off the upper deck.

fresh mahi caught on a sailboat during a bvi yacht charter
Fresh mahi hitting the deck

Day 9: Fishing and chilling at Peter Island

This is a bit of a free day. If you like fishing, head for the shelf and south drop on the other side of Norman Island. We have had some success with mahi in this area.

Peter Island is a good overnight – check out Key Bay for some seclusion. There is only room for a couple boats. Conveniently located here is the wreck of the old Willy T. In 2019, Beyond the Reef successfully sunk the Willy T here as an artificial reef. It was beached nearby at Norman Island after Hurricane Irma.

It’s best as a dive, but you might be able to see it snorkeling with good visibility.

Other Peter Island anchorages we like are Little Harbour or Deadman’s Bay.

HMS Rhone diving on a bvi catamaran charter
Diving the HMS Rhone

Day 10: Dive the Rhone and celebrate at Cooper Island

Last day or your bareboat or crewed charter! Let’s make the most of it. Sail for Salt Island and the moorings where you can snorkel/dive the famous wreck of the HMS Rhone, a National Park site. It always impresses me just how big this dive site is.

After lunch, sail for Cooper Island. Make sure you are familiar with BoatyBall as you might have to play the lottery to secure a mooring ball here. Anchoring is prohibited to protect the sea grass.

We always try and eat ashore here to celebrate our final night in the British Virgin Islands. The meal never disappoints and the rum bar and brewery are also worth checking out.

Sunsets here are spectacular over Tortola and the US Virgin Islands to the west. Not a bad way to finish up your BVI catamaran charter trip!

First time on a BVI catamaran charter? You might want to check out my Bareboat Charter Guide for Beginners.

Want to take a BVI trip like this one?

We have relationships with all of the BVI yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.

The BVI Beach Top 10 List

BVI Beach Top 10 list in the British Virgin Islands

After many bareboat yacht charter trips to the British Virgin Islands over the years, I’ve put together my Top Ten BVI Beach List. Yes, I’ve checked each of these out personally.

Some of these are accessible only by boat, and others are intended to be visited by land. There’s something for everyone! Most BVI beaches have everything you would want in a tropical Caribbean setting: white sand, palm trees, turquoise water, and nearby beach bars.

If that sounds good to you, these are the best beaches in the British Virgin Island you need to visit and what you can expect to find there:

  1. Anegada’s north shore beaches: Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay

  2. Devil’s Bay at the Baths

  3. White Bay Beach, Jost van Dyke

  4. Sandy Spit

  5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

  6. Smuggler’s Cove

  7. Deadman’s Bay, Peter Island

  8. Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

  9. White Bay, Guana Island

  10. Brewer’s Bay, Tortola

Loblolly Bay offers excellent snorkeling and beach walking

1. Anegada’s north shore beaches: Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay

Anegada’s north shore beaches stand alone atop this list. It is one of my favorite places to visit and a highlight of any British Virgin Islands yacht charter trip.

These beaches are best visited by renting transportation (mokes preferably) from vendors in Setting Point. You can learn more about how to do that in my post on visiting Anegada.

Start on the east end with Flash of Beauty where you can find the best snorkeling in the BVIs and a great lunch spot. Monica’s roti is the pick of the menu. Wander along the beach of Loblolly Bay and consider a visit to Big Bamboo.

After lunch, hop back in your mokes and work your way to Cow Wreck Beach. Lagoon style swimming and liming away the afternoon is all that’s on the agenda. Grab a cocktail or two from Tipsy’s or the Cow Wreck Beach Bar.

If you are into windsurfing the north shore is your best option in the BVIs. You can rent equipment and other water sports from the Anegada Beach Club.

Devil's Bay beach at the Baths in BVI
The small, but stunning Devil's Bay, part of the The Baths

2. Devil’s Bay at the Baths

The reward at the end of your hike through the Baths is a stunning little sandy bay beach surrounding by immense granite boulders. We usually hang out here for an hour or so – there is no better place than Devil’s Bay to relax and swim.

After a morning dip, you can take the trail to the Top of the Baths for lunch and commanding views of the area.

If you plan to visit by charter yacht, make sure you arrive to the NPS mooring balls early! They fill up fast, especially in peak season.

You also need to pay attention to the beach safety flags which can be seen from the mooring field. If a north swell is running it can be hazardous to swim ashore (there is no dinghy landing allowed). A red flag indicates danger.

Still want to visit if there is a north swell? Grab a slip in Spanish Town to the north and take a taxi to the Baths. You can also taxi from other Virgin Gorda locations, such as North Sound.

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
The Soggy painkiller lineup at White Bay Beach

3. White Bay Beach, Jost van Dyke

You can’t write a top 10 BVI beach list without including White Bay towards the top of the it. It can also be found atop several “best of the Caribbean” lists. Recently in USA Today’s Top 10 Caribbean Beach Bars, the Soggy took #1 and Hendo’s Hideout, #4.

It’s the best place in the British Virgin Islands to spend a full day beach bar hopping. Be prepared for crowds, however, as it’s the most popular beach in the BVIs.

Visit the Soggy Dollar Bar for the original painkiller, or find out which establishment serves up the best bushwacker.

To visit White Bay, you can anchor on the east or west side, if not redlined. I actually prefer to stay overnight at Diamond Cay and take a short taxi ride. You can read more about why I think this is better in my post about the hazards of staying in White Bay.

Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit, before Hurricane Irma gave her vegetation a haircut

4. Sandy Spit

Sandy Spit is a fantastic lunch option on your way to an overnight anchorage at Jost van Dyke or Cane Garden Bay.

It’s a tiny white sand beach island, that was laid bare by Hurricane Irma. Accessible by boat only, you’ll likely only have a few other neighbors. Grab a picnic lunch, a football, and head ashore for the afternoon. The views of the surrounding area, are also, fantastic.

If Sandy Spit happens to be too crowded or if the anchorage is rolly from a swell, check out nearby Sandy Cay for a similar experience.

Savannah Bay, a top 10 BVI Beach
Secluded Savannah Bay in Virgin Gorda

5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

If you are looking for a more secluded beach, Savannah Bay might interest you.

For yacht charters, the entrance through the reef is tricky. Many charter companies make this bay off-limits. That said, it is best visited by a short taxi ride from North Sound locations such as Gun Creek.

This is a beautiful, gem of a beach, perfect for strolling and swimming. With no services ashore, solitude and natural beauty are why you visit. There is also excellent snorkeling on the protected reef.

Smuggler's Cove, one of the best BVI beaches
Smuggler's Cove beach on Tortola

6. Smuggler’s Cove, Tortola

Smuggler’s Cove is also off the beaten path with the anchorage redlined by charter companies. There are reefs on two sides, with a narrow anchorage down the middle.

Ashore you’ll find a great beach for lounging and swimming. Park yourself at Patricia’s Beach Bar for an old school BVI experience with cheap drinks and open fire grilled beach entrees including fish sandwiches, hot dogs, and jerk chicken.

To visit, grab a taxi ride over from nearby Soper’s Hole.

Considering a BVI yacht charter?

We have relationships with all of the BVI yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with many of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.
Deadman's bay, a top BVI beach
Peaceful Deadman's Beach with Deadchest Island in the background

7. Deadman’s Bay, Peter Island

Even when the British Virgin Islands are busy, you can usually stretch out at one of Peter Island’s many bays and beaches.

My pick is Deadman’s Beach on the north side. It’s best visited in settled conditions with no northerly swell forecasted.

Peter Island is a private resort, that is still in the re-building process from Hurricane Irma in 2017. That said, you can use the beach here, but you’ll notice plenty off no trespassing signs asking you not to venture in farther ashore.

Drop the hook in the SE corner of the bay for the best protection. Aside from enjoying the calm waters of the beach, you can also dinghy over to Deadchest Island for some snorkeling. It’s a nearby National Park.

Cane Garden Bay's beach in BVI
The popular Cane Garden Bay beach on Tortola

8. Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

One of the most popular bays in the BVIs, it also has a nice beach with a protected swimming area. It’s a beautiful bay lined on the hillside with pastel colored houses.

There are plenty of options here for eating, drinking, and shopping. Many establishments cater to cruise ship visitors, so you might want to check the schedule before choosing to visit.

Stroll along the beach and take your pick of places to grab a cold Carib. For an excursion, the Calwood rum distillery is nearby, or, enjoy a dinner with huge views from Bananakeet just up the hill.

White Bay beach on Guana Island, an overlooked BVI beach
White Bay on Guana Island, a private eco resort

9. White Bay, Guana Island

Another private resort island, you come here for the beautiful scenery and relative seclusion. The setting is spectacular and we usually find fewer visitors than other anchorages. When we are looking to escape the crowds, this is the BVI beach we visit.

You can use the beach, as local laws allow, just don’t venture farther inland. Resort staff will surely be keeping a close eye.

Monkey Point is a good snorkel option, a short dinghy ride away. I also love Muskmelon Bay, just to the north. The birds are sure to put on a show as they use it frequently to feed on bait fish. You can also dinghy here in settled conditions.

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands, a top BVI beach
Brewer's Bay beach - look at those inviting coconut palms!

10. Brewer’s Bay, Tortola

Often redlined due to it’s northerly exposure and trickier anchoring protocol, Brewer’s Bay is also a lesser visited, unspoiled gem. If you are able to come here, I recommend at least a lunch stop and snorkel.

Nicole’s Beach Bar on the south side of the beach serves up local fare and cold beverages.

Relax on the palm tree lined beach or try a snorkel on the many coral reefs in the bay.

Thanks for reading my post about my BVI Beach Top 10 List! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about the perfect week-long BVI sailing itinerary.

What is Boatyball in the BVIs?

Photo credit: Cooper Island Beach Club

If you haven’t sailed in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) recently, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Boatyball.

As some of you may know, in peak season especially, the BVIs can be very crowded with boaters. Many of the mooring balls at the most prime locations, such as Cooper Island or Anegada, fill up before noon!

So, if you want to get a ball, you had to wake up, throw up those sails, and race to your next anchorage. 

But, what if you wanted to spend most of the day out on the water: sailing, snorkeling, fishing, etc.


So, what is Boatyball?

Boatyball was started a few years ago to offer a web-based reservation system for mooring balls in some of the BVI anchorages.

The balls are easily identifiable by their orange mooring color, blue markings and Boatyball logo.

In addition to balls that can be reserved, you can also pick up a First Come First Serve (FCFS) in the Boatyball program. Once secured, you can pay for it using the Boatyball application.

Boatyball partners with the ball owners to simplify payment collection using the web application. Payments for other mooring balls are either collected by someone who dinghies around a mooring field. Or, they are paid in person ashore by the boaters.

Boatyball also claims the balls are potentially safer than others you may find throughout the BVI. They are installed and regularly maintained by Moor Seacure – a trusted company that services mooring balls throughout the Virgin Islands.

Boatyball mooring ball in the BVIs

How it works

You can find the full details on Boatyball’s website, but below are the key points. They also recently announced a price increase.

Reserved balls

  • Sign up for an account on the website
  • At 7:00am everyday, reservations open up
  • Currently, the balls cost $55/night
  • If you are successful, your reservation begins at 12:00pm and ends the next day at 11:59am

First come first serve (FCFS) balls

  • These balls are white with a Boatyball sticker on them. They also have a 3 letter identifier.
  • Grab any one that is available
  • Once you have secured to the ball, login to Boatyball and pay the $40 mooring fee

Advanced reservations

  • Recently, they also began offering a way to reserve balls >24 hours in advance
  • This is limited to only a small number of people (8 boats in a week last time I checked)
  • Ensures you can reserve a ball where you want to, without fighting for one at 7:00am
  • You’ll pay for it: this privilege will cost you $479 for a week. This fee does not include the nightly $55 mooring ball fee
Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada on a BVI yacht charter
Setting Point anchorage at Anegada, where there are 18 reserved balls

Where are the Boatyball moorings?

Currently (as of December 2022), the Boatyball moorings are located in 11 bays and anchorages. Note: these numbers do not include other non-Boatyball moorings.

Reserved Balls
FCFS Balls
Cooper Island
Marina Cay
Leverick Bay
Saba Rock
Cane Garden Bay
Soper’s Hole
Diamond Cay
Little Jost
Great Harbour
Little Harbour

The great Boatyball debate

Some people love the Boatyball system, whereas others have some reservations about it (excuse my pun!). Here are some of the arguments on both sides.

Why some people like Boatyball

  • The reservation system allows you to spend more time out on the water.
  • The knowledge that there is a reserved ball with your name on it gives you peace of mind and allows you to follow a planned itinerary.
  • The balls are safer: they are professionally installed and regularly maintained/inspected by Moor Secure.
  • Makes it easier to pay for your mooring ball.

Why others do not like Boatyball

  • It is difficult to make a reservation – by 7:01 in peak season, all reservations can be taken. This makes it a game of chance. Spotty internet connections can also make it hard to “win” a ball.
  • Reservations can result in unused mooring balls that otherwise could be used for lunch stops. Some visitors are avoiding some of their favorite spots as a result.
  • There is no easy way to enforce the system if another catamaran squats on your reserved mooring ball.
  • Waking up to participate in the reservation competition at 7:00am takes away from the vacation experience.
  • The system didn’t help solve the root of the problem – a shortage of well-maintained mooring balls throughout the BVIs at present. There are even recent reports of poorly maintained National Park System balls.
Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter
Virgin Gorda sunset with Saba Rock in the background (pre-Irma) | Now with Boatyballs available

What’s next – my Boatyball predictions

I’ll start by saying that I’ve only been back to the BVIs once since Boatyball was started. I always visit in shoulder season (May or November) and I had no need to use Boatyball. We didn’t have any trouble picking up a FCFS ball in the Boatyball anchorages we visited (Anegada, North Sound, and Cane Garden Bay).

If we were in peak season, that could have been another story.

Our crew also prefers dropping the hook at more secluded anchorages, so we would probably just plan to avoid Boatyball crowded bays.

While there are some frustrated sailors, it doesn’t seem like Boatyball is going anywhere. They also have the support and partnership of many BVI establishments and charter companies. 

Will they continue to grow and expand in the BVIs or elsewhere in the Virgin Islands? I have no idea!

But, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pop up in more BVI bays and potentially elsewhere in the Virgin Islands. (Update: in 2022, there were 59 Boatyballs added, both FCFS and Reserved representing a 37% increase)

Interested in other articles about the British Virgin Islands? Check out our BVI page.

BVI Mooring Ball Fees on the Rise

In a move that is sure to aggravate many BVI yacht charter crews, Boatyball announced on November 28th, 2022, that their fees are increasing.

  • First come, first serve (FCFS) mooring balls are increasing from $30 to $40 per night
  • Reservable mooring fees are increasing from $40 to $55 per night

This announcement came on very short notice with the price increases going into effect only 2 days later, on December 1st. For crews currently on charter in the British Virgin Islands, they might be in for a surprise.

So what did Boatyball cite for the increase? “The cost to maintain and cover the moorings have increased significantly over the last 15 years which is when the last price increase took effect.”

They also mentioned other businesses have already raised prices to $40 for FCFS moorings, and they are following suit. This is true, with non-Boatyball moorings in Anegada currently at the $40 mark, and perhaps others.

The point they made about the first price increase in 15 years is a bit head scratching since Boatyball has not been in business that long. What I think they mean is that for 10+ years, mooring ball fees in the British Virgin Islands have been at the $25-30 level.

$30 is what I paid when I first visited the BVIs in 2012, and my old versions of the Cruising Guide confirm the fact.

Perhaps it is time for an increase. I would not doubt labor and material prices have increased since then. When you consider recent inflation levels, it’s hard not to believe.

If you are unfamiliar, Boatyball was started a few years ago to offer a web-based reservation system for mooring balls in some of the BVI anchorages. Learn more about how Boatyball works and why they have created controversy amongst yacht charter crews. It seems most either love, or hate Boatyball.

My view on the increase? Perhaps it is time for a price increase for the first time in 10+ years.

It certainly seems justifiable on the basis of labor and material price increases to install and maintain moorings. A move from $30 to $40 over 10 years represents a roughly 3% annualized increase. You can’t tell me prices haven’t increased since then.

With Boatyball so polarizing, they are sure to be the scapegoat for the move. I would argue, however, the industry was overdue for an increase. Boatyball will be the fall guy.

Don’t like it?

  • You can choose not to use Boatyball, but others will also soon be at the $40 level as well. And yes, I understand in certain mooring fields like Cooper Island, you don’t have a choice
  • Drop the hook, however this is getting harder and harder to do in the BVI as additional mooring balls are installed in already crowded bays. I talk about some anchorages I like in this post (just please don’t use them when I visit!)
  • Go visit the US Virgin Islands. Mooring ball fees in the Virgin Islands National Park are currently $26
  • Explore other charter destinations such as the Exumas

Bottom line? $40 is the new $30 in the BVIs. 

Sailboat Fishing Guide: How to Fish from a Sailboat

Mutton snapper caught while trolling in the Virgin Islands

Sailboat fishing is one of my favorite activities during our boat trips. Fortunately, many of the most popular sailing destinations like the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands (check out my BVI specific fishing tips or Exuma fishing guide) are also excellent places to fish.

Even if you aren’t an experienced angler, with a little planning you can have a lot of success. Here’s what you need to know to catch some serious fish and turn your yacht into a fishing sailboat.

Table of contents:

Fishing tackle and equipment

Northern Exumas Wahoo
Wahoo we caught with a diving lure in the Exumas

To rent, or to bring your own?

On our first few trips, we rented fishing equipment, but now we bring our own quality gear. A few things to consider…


Most charter companies should have an option to rent a rod, reel, and small tackle box for around $20/day. They will also provide a rod holder and gaff. Check in advance if they offer this option and what is included. You should expect to bring your own lures and additional fishing tackle.

Ye be warned: don’t expect quality gear – we’ve had a lot of problems the few times that we’ve rented. The equipment gets a lot of use and tends to be poorly maintained.

Renting is the cheaper option if you aren’t serious about fishing. Buying your own equipment is an investment that will take a couple trips to payback.

For smaller reef fish, the rented equipment should be just fine! If you want to go after the bigger pelagic deepwater fish, consider bringing your own setup.

Bring your own gear

The biggest factor to consider with bringing your gear on these fishing trips is the added headache of dealing with the airlines. You’ll need to check your rods and potentially pay an extra fee. United, for example sometimes tries to charge $200 if the container is over a certain length. If you have preferred status with an airline, you might be immune.

You should also plan to check fishing tackle and filet knives.


I have two, 6 foot jigging rods that I bring. If you have a local fishing store (mine is Fishing Tackle Unlimited), ask them what they’d recommend – there are lots of options. You can get away with shorter rods for trolling – it might help save you money on airline fees.

I like the jigging rod since you can use it for lower speed trolling, jigging, and bottom fishing. If you bring spinning reels, you can also use them for casting.

I use this Plano rod tube to transport my rods for every trip – it’s affordable, fits several rods, and is adjustable depending on the length you need.

Plano Rod Tube (TackleDirect)

This is the Plano rod tube I use to transport my two rods. It's made it through 8 airline flights now.

Plano Rod Tube (Amazon)

This is the Plano rod tube I use to transport my two rods. It's made it through 8 airline flights now.


I use Shimano TLD 30IIAs. This was a recommendation from a friend that does some serious marlin fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s why the 2-speed reel is great for sailboat fishing. When sailboat fishing under sail and you land a good size fish, you can’t just stop and you can only slow down so much with course corrections. The 2-speed reel lets you use the low gear to deliver more power to the fight.

Check out the youtube video below of the cero mackerel we caught on a 2022 trip to the USVI and Spanish Virgin Islands. We were sailing in 30 knots of apparent wind and had a reef in the main and jib. At the time we hooked up we were sailing at 9-10 knots and were only able to slow down to about 7.5 knots while we reeled it in.

I have the reels spun with 65 pound braided line (braid) and topped with 80 pound mono line. 

Spinning reels are also great – if you come up on a school of mahi-mahi, stop or slow the yacht, and cast some lures out. Keep in mind if you plan to use them for trolling, you won’t be able to have as much line on them as compared to trolling (or conventional) reels.

Shimano TLD-30IIA reel (TackleDirect)

This reel might be oversized for some of the fish you'll catch, but the 2-speed reel will help when you aren't able to take the sails down and have to keep moving.

Shimano TLD-30IIA reel (Amazon)

This reel might be oversized for some of the fish you'll catch, but the 2-speed reel will help when you aren't able to take the sails down and have to keep moving.

Fishing tackle for bareboat charter trip
Prepping some lures and tackle ahead of a bareboat sailing trip

Other equipment for fishing off a sailboat

For my tools and knives, I use BUBBA products. You’ll get their famous non-stick grip and high-quality materials that will within stand the saltwater. These things will last for years.

Filet knife – I highly recommend bringing your own, well-sharpened filet knife. The boat is unlikely to have a knife sharp enough for the job. You also want a blade that is flexible. We brought this BUBBA knife on our recent Exumas sailing trip and it worked great!

BUBBA 7 Inch Tapered Fillet Knife (Amazon)

Razor sharp and comes with the BUBBA non-stick grip.

Exuma fishing tips: filleting a wahoo in the Exumas
Filleting a freshly caught wahoo in the Exumas

Pliers – I use them to help remove hooks and to cut wire leader.

BUBBA Stainless Steel Pliers (Amazon)

These pliers won't rust and they also come with crimper and cutting features.

Casting net – I do not bring one of these, but you can if you are a serious angler and have an idea where to catch them. Some countries may not allow them, so make sure you double check the rules.

Trolling hooks – bring some #7 or #8s, such as Mustad Big Game Stainless Steel. The stainless steel are more expensive, but are resistant to saltwater. You’ll use these hooks to set up your skirted lures and ballyhoo rigs (if you can find frozen ballyhoo).

Mustad Big Game Stainless Steel Hooks (TackleDirect)

These are the sharpest hooks you can find and the stainless steel will help prevent rusting in between trips.

Mustad Big Game Stainless Steel Hooks (Amazon)

These are the sharpest hooks you can find and the stainless steel will help prevent rusting in between trips.

Bait circle hooks – I like Gamakatsu or Mustad #7s. The circle hooks are best for bottom dropping with live/dead bait. The fish is most likely to swallow the bait whole, and the circle hook helps to prevent the hook from getting stuck in deep. Rather, they are designed to hook them in the mouth.

Gomakatsu Circle Hooks (TackleDirect)

These are great hooks to attach some live/dead bait and set on the bottom. Use the Double Dropper Rig (video below).

Gomakatsu Circle Hooks (Amazon)

These are great hooks to attach some live/dead bait and set on the bottom. Use the Double Dropper Rig (video below).

Live bait net – I’m usually able to catch a couple live bait on sabiki rigs each trip. I keep them alive in this Lindy Bait Tamer. 

Catching live bait blue runners with a sabiki rig
Catching some blue runners for live bait slow trolling | We keep them alive in a bait tank
Lindy BaitTamer (Amazon)

This one is right-sized for a bareboat charter and has held up over several trips. You can keep it in the water when you are at anchor. When moving, put it in a bucket and change the water every hour to keep the fish alive.

Gloves – I would consider this optional. We usually have a pair on hand to search for spiny lobster. The gloves can make it easier to handle a fish without the help of a gaff or net.

Sabiki Rigs – for catching bait fish. I usually bring 2-3 since they can get tangled and break easily.

Weights – you’ll want a couple for bottom dropping. The deeper you drop, plan to go heavier.

Swivels – you’ll attach these to your primary line to quickly swap out pre-rigged lures. Look for ~75+ pound rated ball bearing swivels with snap connections.

Wire leader – we attach 2 feet or so of steel leader often when trolling since we catch a lot of toothy fish (barracuda, mackerel, and wahoo). This will help you catch more fish and lose fewer lures. Check out Malin Hard-Wire stainless steel leader. No. 6 to No. 9 will do. Check out this youtube video that shows you how to rig up a wire leader with the haywire twist.

Malin Stainless Steel Leader (TackleDirect)

Attach a copy feet of this leader to your rigs to prevent line breakage from tooth fish (like wahoo).

Malin Stainless Steel Leader (Amazon)

Attach a copy feet of this leader to your rigs to prevent line breakage from tooth fish (like wahoo).

Fishing techniques and the lures to bring

Trolling lines are in the water - this is what our setup looks like

What is the best way to go fishing from a sailboat? These are your best options.

Trolling from a sailboat for bluewater sportfish

Most of our fishing is done when we are underway. It’s fun to always to toss a line knowing something could hit your lure at any time.

This is also the best way to cover a lot of distance, do some offshore fishing, and hook up on some game fish. We also do it in 30 feet of water too!

We bring our own rod holders to clamp on to the railings – not all sailing yachts come with them and the charter company may not have spares.

Amarine Rod Holders (Amazon)

These are an affordable option for clamp on rod holders in case you want to bring your own.

King mackerel caught in Key West
King mackerel caught while trolling with a ballyhoo rig and Ilander lure skirt

We will usually pull one line at the top of the water (or slightly below) and a second 10-20 ft deep using a diving lure.

At the top, we use Iland Ilander Trolling Lures with weighted heads to keep the lure just below the surface. We use the 8 1/4 inch length and I like blue/white, pink, and black/purple. Get a variety! If we have dead bait such as ballyhoo or mahi belly, we will rig the skirt with them.

Iland Ilander lure (TackleDirect)

This is a great all-around surface lure that you can often catch mahi, tuna, and king mackerel with. Blue/white, pink, and black/purple are my favorites.

Iland Ilander lure (Amazon)

This is a great all-around surface lure that you can often catch mahi, tuna, and king mackerel with. Blue/white, pink, and black/purple are my favorites.

Iland Ilander Flasher Series lure (TackleDirect)

Try a couple of the flasher skirts as well - the reflective mylar helps to attract some fish species.

Iland Ilander Flasher Series lure (Amazon)

Try a couple of the flasher skirts as well - the reflective mylar helps to attract some fish species.

Fathom Offshore Calico Jack Slant (TackleDirect)

This Fathom lure has a tapered nose that creates great swimming action. It also comes pre-rigged on 12' of mono and includes a stainless steal hookset.

Check out this video on how to rig a ballyhoo for a skirted lure.

For the second rod, we’ll use an artificial diving lure. I like the Rapala X-Rap Magnum and the Yozuri Bonita (look for them in 5-6 inch sizes). They have great action and will dive 10-20 feet below. These are your best bet for catching wahoo.

Yozuri Bonita lure (Tackle Direct)

This has been my most successful diving lure recently, and I caught my first wahoo with it. In 6 3/4 in size, try the Flying Fish, Red Black, and Purple Black.

Rapala X-Rap Magnum lure (Tackle Direct)

Try these in a variety of depths from 15-40 feet. I like Hot Pink, Bonito, and the Green Mackerel colors.

Shark bait in the Exumas
Yo-Zuri Bonita lure (Flying Fish) on a fish that we didn't reel up fast enough!

Experiment with distances – we like to mix it up, and there is no perfect formula. We usually put one line ~75 feet out and the second ~125-150 feet behind the sailboat. You can mark the line with a sharpie to help you quickly get lures back in the water after checking them.

If you notice lots of sargassum seaweed in the water, check those lures frequently and clear them if necessary. While this can be frustrating, the good news is that mahi mahi like to hang out under seaweed lines.

Catching sargassum
This is going to happen to you! Check those lines often.

Casting for mahi-mahi or tuna on the surface

This technique has worked for us a couple times. I also see it successfully done all the time on deep sea fishing charter videos such as StanzFam.

The idea is that while trolling in deeper water, you might come across a school of mahi or tuna. What do you look for?

  1. Birds or a disturbed water surface. This usually means the birds and fish are attacking a bait ball. Go join in on the action! They are in a frenzy and will eat anything.
  2. Mahi-mahi love to hang around weed lines or other floating debris. It is said they don’t like the sun very much. Get close to investigate – you can often see them in clear water.

Stop the boat, toss in some lures, and quickly retrieve them with the reel. This is best done with a spinning reel, but it can work with conventional reels as well. Bring a couple popper lures such as the Rapala Magnum Explode.

If you have live bait, even better!

Here’s a variation of this technique: you just caught a mahi. If you can stop the sailboat, see if it’s friends come to investigate. They sometimes do!

Mahi hook up in the Virgin Islands
Schoolie mahi-mahi caught on a recent trip along a weed line using an Ilander lure

Bottom dropping for reef fish species

Occasionally we’ll stop over a reef and drop a couple lines down to target snapper and grouper. You can even use this technique when at anchor.

We use two hooks on a dropper loop knot and put on some live or dead bait (even if it’s a piece of raw chicken). This video is a great overview of how to tie the knot.

Drop it down and wait for that monster grouper to hit your line!

This technique is hit or miss when sailing. Most fishing boats or fishing charters that use this technique have a sonar fish finder to help them target the fish. Doing it on a sailboat is somewhat of a guessing game, but it has worked for us before. Try and find something with good bottom structure if possible.

Jigging for bottom fish

This technique also targets bottom fish. Drop your jigging lure and let it sink close to the bottom. Once it’s down, pull up quickly once or twice and then let it sink back down. You can also try this in different directions.

For lures, Tady Lures are a great option. I also like Berkeley Fusion Bucktail Jigs – try the 3 ounce version in pink colors.

Little tunny caught trolling near Key West
Little tunny we caught trolling in ~40 feet of water

Where to fish while sailboat fishing

The obvious answer for me is: anytime we are sailing or moving the boat!

If you are trolling in less than 60 feet of water, you are likely to only catch mackerel, barracuda, and potentially some reef fish like mutton snapper.

To turn your sailboat into a sportfishing boat, let’s head for deeper water. I like to use the Navionics Boating App to help plan our routes. The Sonar Chart and Relief Shading layers help you pinpoint bottom structure and shelfs where the water quickly drops off.

You can have a lot of success trolling over bottom structure – anywhere that might provide a habitat to fish. Where there are small fish there are sure to be bigger fish. Also look for non-dangerous wrecks on your charts.

Drops are where the water can quickly fall of from 100 feet to thousands in a short distance. Troll back and forth over this if it will fit in your itinerary. The BVIs, Spanish Virgin Islands, and Exumas all have drops that you can fish during your charter trip.

The picture below is from our sailing trip to the Spanish Virgin Islands where we had a great fishing experience. We caught mahi-mahi, mutton snapper, yellowtail snapper, king mackerel, barracuda, and more. We also did pretty well on a recent bareboat trip to Key West.

Each pin represents a fish caught during that morning we sailed around the eastern end of Vieques. We weren’t able to reach the drop farther south (black and purple shading) due to sailing conditions (the trades were really blowing), but we trolled over the shelf drop and other bottom structure.

Fishing route in Vieques
Trolling route around the shelf area at Vieques in Puerto Rico | Pins represent fish we caught (source: Navionics)

We've caught one, now what?

Well first, get it on the boat!! Our setups described above are usually strong enough to pull the fish straight up onto the steps on the back of the pontoons of our catamaran. We don’t usually worry about the line snapping

If you are sure you’ve landed a keeper, you can also grab it with a gaff to make sure you don’t lose it at the boat. I have not seen many of these on charter boats, but you can ask for one if you rent gear.

For hook removal, we simply use a pair of pliers and gloves. The goal is to get that fish back in the water as soon as possible if it’s catch and release.

How to fillet your fish

I think the absolute best resource to learn is by watching videos. Captain Nick Stanczyk is the expert I turn to. Check out his youtube channel StanzFam. He usually filets fish at the end of every episode, and the videos are really fun to watch.

Filleting a mahi mahi caught in the Virgin Islands
Fileting a mahi at the swim ladder

These are the fish that we would keep if caught:

  • Mahi-mahi
  • Tuna (yellowfin or blackfin)
  • Wahoo
  • Snapper
  • Grouper

There can be some varieties of these, so just be sure you are keeping the good eating ones. For example, a little tunny looks similar to bonito, but are not good eating at all. Check out my guide to the different types of fish in the Virgin Islands. Most of these fish can be caught all throughout the Caribbean.

If you are fishing in areas with ciguatera poisoning, double check local guidance before eating any reef fish.

We always bring supplies to make fish tacos and ceviche (yellow tail snapper is great for this). Simply grilling up some filets with olive oil, garlic, and lemon is also hard to beat.

Fresh caught ono poke bowl
Fresh ono (wahoo) poke bowl from our recent Exumas trip

If you’ve enjoyed this post and are new to bareboat charters or sailing vacations, check out our starter guide here.

Thanks for reading my post about sailboat fishing! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about the fish of the Virgin Islands.

Bars & Restaurants Closed for 2022 BVI Hurricane Season

2022 BVI bars and restaurants closed for hurricane season

Many popular British Virgin Island establishments close for BVI hurricane season as yacht charter crews wait out potential weather disruptions. It also serves as a welcomed break for employees. The BVI hurricane season where tourism slows down peaks in August and September.

Most businesses will be back open by middle to late October, as the greatest threat of hurricane season in the BVIs has peaked.

Here’s a list of some bars and restaurants that closed for the 2022 BVI hurricane season and re-opening dates, where available.

📸 source: Saba Rock

North Sound & Virgin Gorda

  • Bitter End Yacht Club: re-opening October 19th
  • Saba Rock: re-opening October 17th
  • Leverick Bay: while the upstairs restaurant is closed, Jumbie’s is expected to remain open
  • Nova at Oil Nut Bay: re-opening October 8th
  • Blunder Bay, North Sound Bistro: unclear if they are currently closed, but they are expected to be open in October


  • Sugar Mill: re-opening October 16th
  • Brandywine Estate: re-opening September 14th
  • Indigo Beach House: re-opening October 15th
  • Quito’s: re-opening
  • Elmtones: re-opening late October or early November

Other BVI Islands

  • Cooper Island Beach Club: re-opening October 21st
  • Pirate’s Bight at Norman Island: re-opening October 1st

Fish of the Virgin Islands

Fish of the Virgin Islands

The fish of the Virgin Islands are similiar to what you can expect elsewhere across the Caribbean, from the Bahamas to Grenada.

Many of them, are delicious eaters, and others, fierce fighters.

If you’re planning a yacht charter or are thinking about booking a fishing trip, these are the fish you are most likely to encounter in the Virgin Islands. That includes the British Virgin Islands, Spanish Virgin Islands, and US Virgin Islands.

If you want to learn more about fishing techniques in the Virgin Islands, check out my tackle and fishing technique recommendations here.

Offshore fish of the Virgin Islands

Location: north and south drops, or in the deep water between St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix.

Offshore is my favorite place to fish in the Virgin Islands. We typically head out to the north or south drop and troll back and forth in 200 to 600 feet of water.

Since we are usually sailing, we’ll have two lines out – one surface lure such as an Iland Ilander skirt. The second is a diving lure such as the Yozuri Bonita.

Here are the offshore fish species you can expect to catch:


Exuma fishing tips: filleting a wahoo in the Exumas
Here I'm fileting a fresh caught Wahoo to prepare it for sashimi and poke bowls on the catamaran
Fresh caught ono poke bowl
Wahoo poke bowl

Wahoo is by far my favorite eating fish that we catch. It’s great as sashimi and in poke bowls, or grilled up in fish tacos.

The wahoo fishing is always better in the fall, beginning in November, although it’s possible to hook one anytime of the year.

Since they claim to be the fastest fish in the ocean, they are also a lot of fun to fight. On my last trip, a huge one ran out most of my line and then snapped the 80 pound braid!

We’ve always had more success with wahoo using diving lures that swim 15+ feet below the surface of the water, such as the Yozuri or Rapala X-Rap Magnum.

Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish)

Filleting a mahi mahi caught in the Virgin Islands
Shot of me filleting a schoolie mahi mahi caught on a shelf area near the South Drop

Mahi are unmistakable with their shades of green, yellow, and blue.

You can catch mahi year round, in the shelf areas, as well as offshore.

Look for floating debris or sargassum – they don’t like the sun and enjoy shading themselves beneath. If you can see them, stop the boat and cast a popper lure near them. They can’t resist.

Mahi always become great candidates for fish tacos on our yacht charter trips. They are also excellent sauteed and crafted into a sandwich.


Yellowfin tuna

Yellowfin tuna are also easy to identify with the yellow markings and distinctive sickles. They can get quite large, compared to their cousins the blackfin and skipjack. Skipjack can be distinguished from blackfin with their horizontal stripes on the belly.

Tuna can be targeted by trolling using skirts and diving lures. If you see birds attacking a bait ball, that’s also a good sign tuna can be near.

Yellowfin is the best eating tuna, but all three are worth eating. Straight up with some soy sauce or cooked rare is the way to do it.



Blue marlin hooked up

Honestly, I’m not ever intentionally targeting marlin. If we ever caught one it would surely be released. I really don’t want to have a several hour battle either since we usually have a lot of ground to cover on our sailing trips (such as my crossing from St. Croix to Culebra on my Fall 2022 trip).

They can be caught in the Virgin Islands though, and it’s great fun if you have the right equipment and sportfishing boat.

Try pulling some bird teasers behind the boat to help raise them to your lures.

The size of the marlin that can be caught on the north drop is something of legends. You can also encounter marlin in the deepwater between St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix.


Sailfish are typically caught for catch and release beginning in the fall months when the water begins to cool.

If you know where to look, you can see them surfing swells at the surface when their distinctive sail breaks the water. Anglers can then target sailfish by casting a surface lure or live bait to them.

Inshore Virgin Islands fish species

Location: shelf and reef areas, <150 feet

Inshore areas are great for bottom dropping, drift fishing, or fishing off the back of the boat while at anchor.

If shallow enough (I’m only a beginner at spearfishing), we’ll hop in and try and shoot with with a Hawaiian sling or speargun.


Catching barracuda in the Caribbean

This is, without a doubt, the fish we catch most frequently while trolling. They just can’t resist my lures, I guess!

They are fun to catch, but not the ones we want to eat. With the potential for ciguatera poisoning, especially the larger ones, we always release them. 

Another reason we don’t eat them? They smell…apparently the meat doesn’t but their skin is another story.


King mackerel caught in Key West
King mackerel we caught in about 50 feet of water

I’ve yet to catch a spanish mackerel, but for some reason we have hooked plenty of king mackerels. You can tell the difference since the spanish mackies have distinctive yellow spots.

We recently caught a cero mackerel on our USVI and SVI trip – it made excellent eating! They look pretty similar to spanish mackerels, but have a distinctive stipe.

Spanish/cero mackerels are the better eating fish. King mackerels are oily and require a different type of preparation, such as by smoking.

Toothy fish, similar to the wahoo and barracuda, you’ll want to use a wire leader if you think you might hook one.

Bonito (little tunny)

Little tunny caught near key west florida
Little Tunny that I caught and released using a Iland Illander surface lure

Another fish on my list that we catch and release. I’ve just heard the meat is not that great to eat. They are shaped like tuna, but you can identify them by the squiggly dark lines on their back.


Jack caught in the Virgin Islands
Jack we caught with a surface lure while trolling over a reef in 50 feet of water

There are many different types of jacks. I think some are good eating, but I don’t have a sharp enough eye yet…we typically catch and release them if we hook one.

They can be caught while trolling and also while spear fishing.


Small grouper caught in the US Virgin Islands
Small grouper we released in Culebra

Grouper is one of my favorite fish to eat.

Again, there several species, such as the black grouper and red grouper. You’ll want to make sure you are in compliance with fishing regulations. Sometimes there are certain seasons for these type of fish.

Also make sure you don’t keep any goliath groupers – they are typically off-limits all year round. Worth checking out the nassau grouper too, they are sometimes off-limits.

Groupers are best hooked while spearfishing or bottom dropping.


Snapper we caught in the Spanish Virgin Islands

Snapper is another great eating fish. The three most common you might encounter are yellowtail, mutton, and mangrove.

I’ve hooked both mutton and yellowtail before while trolling over a reef, but they are easier to target by spearfishing or bottom dropping.

Yellowtail snapper also like to congregate underneath your yacht. You can even chum the waters to attract them with leftover meal scraps. If you see this, put on some light fluorocarbon leader and some dead bait – you’re likely to get a bite quickly!


Tarpon under the yacht in the US Virgin Islands

You’ll often see tarpon in marinas near the areas where they throw fish scraps. In the British Virgin Islands, they like to hang out at Saba Rock, where they do a daily feeding.

These are definitely not eating fish – the meat doesn’t taste very good and the tarpon are quite bony.

You might, however, catch one if you drop a line down with dead bait in your anchorage. They are ferocious fighters and fun to catch!


Catching lionfish in the Exumas
Lionfish we speared on a reef in the Bahamas
Fresh caught lionfish ceviche
Lionfish ceviche appetizer on the boat - delicious!

Lionfish are in invasive species and can be taken any time of year. They don’t get very big, but the meat is excellent!

Spearfishing is the way to catch these suckers. For beginners, they make excellent targets since they aren’t afraid and don’t try to evade you (since they have no predators).

Check out my post about lionfish ceviche that we recently made in the Exumas. It has some cautionary notes about removing the venomous spines (painful but not life threatening).

Spiny Lobster

Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster
Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster on the boat | We got these from a local since tourists are not allowed to take them

Ok, not a fish, but worth mentioning.

Make sure you check local regulations, they differ, for example, between the USVI and BVIs. In the BVIs, tourists are not allowed to take them at all.

When in season and legal, we use a tickle stick and net to coax them out of their hideouts. A snare is also a good method.

Nothing beats fresh spiny grilled lobster with an epic Caribbean sunset (we’ve tried boiling too – grilling is better!).