We will be heading to the islands next year for a sailing trip. In the past we have always used TMM out of Tortola. We love them, however, getting there is always a challenge. The flights into Tortola tend to be pricey and we end up flying into St Thomas then taking the ferry to Tortola. Every year the flight gets delayed and we either miss the last ferry or get extremely stressed trying to get to it before it departs....
Does it make sense to charter out of St Thomas?
Any suggestions for a TMM like charter company out of St Thomas?
If you are planning a 10 day charter I would say absolutely. When you start to get shorter it depends on your plans and who you are taking. I could spend a entire week in the USVI quite happily. If you have newbies you want to show all the BVI sites things change. My ferry experiences the last few years were horrid but this last year all 3 trips went well and the ferry companies seemed to be trying. I would try for a 10 day charter and spend 3 days exploring St John. 6 cabin boats may be limited in the USVI so I would book early! G
For sure CYOA is a popular choice out of STT. I almost booked with them this year, until my plans changed. Alternatively, I strongly suggest arriving a day early and staying a day following your charter. There are some cheap(er) hotels available, get one with a pool and all your stress will be gone.
In the past 14 months, I (and my crews) have flown through STT to do four charters out of TMM. No disruptions to our plans related to the ferries. This is not to say that everything went perfectly smooth every time. Smith's will book you on their ferry and allow you to use one of their competitors if you can't make theirs or they mess up. More fun than sailing up "seasick alley" from Charlotte Amalie.
Starting your BVI charter from St Thomas vs the BVI is a great option. Advantages and disadvantages to both. You just need to weigh the time saved by not taking the ferry to the extra cost of clearing your boat and crew into the BVI from St Thomas. For a St Thomas charter, We added a couple of days front and back end for sailing around St John.
In 2017 we paid about $450 in sailing fees for a crew of seven on a CYOA Beneteau 48 for 7 days in the BVI. In 2019 we paid about $1000 in sailing fees for a crew of seven on a BVIYC Helia 44 for 7 days in the BVI. These fees seem to be a cash cow for BVI government so expect them to increase even more once this Covid closing is lifted. Pretty sure sailing fees for a BVI originating charter are about 25% of these amounts.
This this year in June...(NOT!!!) ,,, Next year in January we are going originate our charter in the BVI again.
We have used both TMM and CYOA and have found both companies very similar. We do prefer to sail out of St. Thomas as it is not as stressful or time consuming to get on the boat. We usually arrive STT by 2pm and are on the boat 30 minutes later. This allows us to have time for extra provisioning and to complete the presail work prior to departure early the next morning. We spend the first night after leaving the charter base in one of the beautiful bays of St. John.
The only downside for us with chartering from St. Thomas is the provisioning both food and alcohol and the increased fees from the BVI’s.
I am not sure why you would have an issue with provisioning in St Thomas? Ther are multiple companies that will provision for you in advance. There are also multiple grocery stores. Even big-box warehouse stores for large groups.
As for the customs fees. This, unfortunately, is a pay me now or pay me later. That money is gone whether you charter in the USVI or the BVI. Us based boats pay $16 a day, BVI boas pay $6 a day. So seven days on a USVI based boat will cost you $70 more per person per week. The Ferry is a $90 round trip. The environmental and security fees are the same whether you ride the Ferry or a USVI based boat. You will pay slightly more in Park Fees and the port fee regardless. Your other option is to fly into Beef Island. This will normally be even more expensive than the ferry.
None of these costs include a night in a hotel on one end or the other if the schedule doesn't work out. Let alone that lost time. Then there is St John. The Crown Jewel of the Caribbean. Most BVI boats never get to spend any time there. The value of getting off the plane and onto your boat in under an hour is hard to monetize.
St John I truly a crown Jewel. The only thing to be aware of is a N swell knocks out a big chunk of the anchorages. On the plus side the swell is a non event from May through Nov. As I posted before I could be quite content spending the entire week in the USVI. I am actually surprised we have not seen more charter companies pop up there. G