Skip to main content

Checking in and out of different countries or islands while on a bareboat charter may be necessary, but the process can be a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Not only do you have to check out of the first port but also into the second, and then vice versa. Rinse and repeat. Some ports will allow you to do both in one visit, but then you can stay only 24 hours if you want to avoid a second trip to the customs and immigration office. Spontaneity on vacation may soon feel impossible.

For example, charter in St. Maarten (Dutch side) and you’ll be required to repeat official processes when visiting St. Martin (French side) as well as Anguilla and St. Barths, both which can be reached in just a few hours. Some ports around the world make easy work of the process, while at others you’ll spend an hour watching three people (sitting within 5 feet of one another) make a dramatic show of officialdom. However, in order to experience beautiful cruising grounds, sometimes the dance is worth it. Just be sure to budget time and money (sometimes $100 or more based on vessel size and number of crew) because it’s not always cheap or easy.

Tips for Easier Checking In/Out

Avoid checking in and out of major ports where there is commercial traffic, like ferries or cruise ships. Refer to the cruising guide for smaller offices that aren’t crowded and are staffed by personnel who work with bareboats frequently.

Prepare paperwork ahead of time. You’ll need ship registration papers, crew passports and previous check in/out documents. You may want to make a comprehensive crew list and ask the base to make you a dozen copies.

Talk to cruisers and other charterers to get the scoop on which entry ports are the fastest and friendliest.

Don’t forget to purchase cruising and national park permits. I’ve never been asked to show one of these, but I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the law in a strange land.

Bring cash. Some of the offices you’ll visit won’t have copy machines much less the ability to run a credit card.

Stay flexible and friendly. Whether you’re dealing with a Greek or French keyboard at computerized offices where you type in your information, or you’re witnessing death by a thousand bureaucratic cuts in a musty room, keep cool. Showing aggravation at inefficiencies or a sense of urgency because you’d rather be under a palapa with an umbrella drink will only lengthen the process—I promise.

No Check-ins Needed Here

Here are some bareboat destinations where checking in and out will not be necessary:

Mexico used to require cruisers to check in and out of each city, but that’s not the case anymore. Furthermore, the only real bareboat charter company in Mexico is Dream Yacht Charter out of La Paz, so there’s only one city you’ll likely encounter on a week-long cruise in the Sea of Cortez.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines are part of one country, so checking in and out isn’t necessary, and you’ll enjoy lots of diversity as each island has its own unique character. However, if you sail as far south as Grenada or its Grenadines (Carriacou and Petite Martinique), you’ll be in a new country. You may want to set Union Island as the southernmost boundary.

The British Virgin Islands are among the easiest cruising grounds in the world with short hops between picturesque islands. Visiting St. John is tempting because it’s so close to Tortola, but in fact, it’s part of the U.S. Virgins.

Tahiti cruising is simple because the most often visited islands of Raiatea, Tahaa, Huahine and Bora Bora are all within French Polynesia, which itself, isn’t a day’s sail of any other country.

Greece is also a breeze, whether you’re in the clustered Saronics or the far-flung Cyclades. You’re free to sail from island to island, all of which are dramatically different from one another.

An independent commonwealth, Antigua and Barbuda are separated by about 25 miles and are quite different from each other in character, but not nationality, so no office visits needed.

Witnessing how things get done in countries around the world can be fun if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, choose destinations wisely, or at least come well-prepared so you can get through the process as quickly as possible. 

Charter Chat

Horizon Yacht Charters has new boats joining their fleet in Antigua. Two catamarans and a monohull (years 2012 -2015) are available now horizonyachtcharters.com.

The Moorings is offering an inclusive crewed rum experience. Charter in St. Lucia and visit various distilleries in Martinique for tours and tastings. The Moorings.com

September 2017

Related

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Barcelona Venue Shaping Up

The decision to host the next America’s Cup in Barcelona ruffled the feathers of some fans, but the Defender is happy with how the venue is shaping up. The process of allocating team bases, spectator zones and the race village is underway. “I cannot speak highly enough of the ...read more

ELAN-GT6---273

Boat Review: Elan GT6

Elan’s first sporty “Grand Turismo” yacht, the 43ft GT5, launched in 2017, and was actually a bit of a mash-up. It combined an existing go-fast hull from Elan’s sexy E5 racer with a new deck and interior optimized for cruising comfort, and a somewhat detuned rig to create a ...read more