Reef your bareboat budget

Are you contemplating a Caribbean bareboat charter, but concerned about the cost? Here’s how you can blow those worries off the chart with just a few simple tricks.

Most charter companies have tempting deals that offer full or partial meal provisioning. If you choose not to take advantage of these, you will save money by not paying for items that you don’t use. We recently met a couple who, at the end of their week’s charter, were left with many unopened items like ketchup, canned vegetables, instant coffee, and sliced cheese. The only things they’d consumed were the fresh food and beer, which is all you really need for a seven-day sail. We’ve met other crews who picked up their boats fully loaded and ready to go. One boat ended up with enough juice and soda pop to quench the thirst of a cricket team, and another finished up with a cooler of mismatched remains that included ten packs of hot dogs but not one bun.

If you do your own provisioning, ask a local. Few islanders shop at the gourmet groceries favored by bareboat companies. Their favorite stores are where you’ll find affordable, in-season specials: vine-ripened produce like plantains and mangoes, island-raised chicken and beef, today‘s catch, and fresh-baked goods. Shopping local will take a bit more time, but you’ll meet friendly people and you just might learn the secrets of cooking goat and ground provisions (island parlance for root vegetables).

Next, whenever possible, gybe around the tourist traps like Tortola’s Sopers Hole. The grocery store there contains a nice selection, but for some reason nothing has a price on it. After the clerk tallies the bill, you’ll be needing a stiff drink, which you can get at the overpriced bar next door. Better yet, walk one block to the village of West End where you’ll find Kelly’s Restaurant-Bar-Superette. This properly priced shop offers it all and next door is a sweet restaurant-bar boasting a blackboard of $13 specials. On our recent visit we could choose BBQ ribs, baked chicken, stewed turkey, or steamed fish (either yellowtail or hard nose, whatever that might be). Along with several sides, it was a day’s worth of food for not much money. If you can actually finish their jumbo portions, you can work it off with a 25-cent game of pool.

At the east end of Tortola, the Trellis Bay Grocery store sells high-priced produce and meats. Don’t do it! Instead, take a short taxi ride to the town of Long Look where you’ll find four great grocers, a string of funky rum shops, a bakery, and a selection of snackettes serving BBQ, Johnny Cakes, and cold, cheap beers.

Another way to keep your dollars in your wallet is to fly in with those hard-to-find items you just can’t live without. If your day won’t start right without a Starbucks fix, then bring it with you. If you need specialty candy, nuts, or dried fruit, bring it along. Some folks actually fly in frozen steaks, which will save money, but only if your plane’s on time.

Yes, times are tough, but there is a silver lining you can put in your pocket by shopping and eating local. Coupled with cut-rate airfares and special sail-away deals, summer is actually an affordable time to charter. The savings you enjoy from your extra efforts might just be enough to cover the deposit on your next island getaway.


Conch Charters, 800-521-8939.

CYOA Yacht Charters, 800-944-CYOA.

Fair Wind Charters, 866-380-7245.

Horizon Yacht Charters, 877-494-8787.

Sunsail, 800-797-5306,

TMM Yacht Charters, 800-633-0155.

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