The British Virgin Islands - The Yacht Week
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Here we go – Yacht Week #3. This one is all about New Year’s Eve in the British Virgin Islands. If you look at my posts on YW Croatia and YW Greece, you’ll start to understand that there’s a theme to the structure of these posts, but this one will probably change, at the very least, my opinion on the company.
While the BVI themselves, and the USVI for that matter, are absolutely gorgeous, they are way different from what you experience with TYW in Europe. If you're still debating on going or not, keep in mind that the boats are about double the price of their boats in Europe, the islands are super small and very laid back, and traveling in a regatta like that means you have to park in marinas where you end up paying $150+ each in cab fares for the week. That's the case for NYE week - I've heard W1 was much different.
That said, TYW is always a good time, especially with the right people, and if you can't find a group of people to sail the BVI with, the yacht week is a great way to do it!
As usual, I’ll break down the discussion on TYW into a few categories:
1. Choosing your boat
2. Choosing your crew
4. The first day
5. The parties
6. The sightseeing
7. The Food
8. TYW Clichés
9. The costs you may not already know about
So here goes…
1. Choosing your boat
This time we only had two of us, so it was on us to find a way onto a boat. Originally, we booked a two-person cabin – everything included (skipper, hostess, water, lunches and bfasts, etc. on a premium yacht) for 2000EUR. While that’s about double what we paid for our boats in both Greece and Croatia, we figured it’s New Year’s Eve week and it’s the Carribean so it makes sense. We also assumed that a premium yacht meant a catamaran, because there’s no way 2000EUR each would put us on a monohaul. Well, we were wrong about that. When YW says premium yacht for the cabins, they mean either a brand new monohaul with AC or a super old catamaran without AC. When we found that out, we immediately attempted to sell our spots in the cabin and join another boat.
At that point, it was probably about September, and that’s when people started posting their open spots in the Facebook group. More and more boats opened up as we got through October and November, so even though it was late, we did finally sell our spots and switch to another boat. This one was a four bedroom, four bath catamaran with AC. I have to say, the catamarans are 100% worth the extra money. Just the fact that your kitchen is on the same level as the outdoor dining table and you have a huge flat surface to lay out on is a game changer.
Air conditioning – MUST HAVE
Four double bed rooms all the same size
Larger living room with more seating than the last one and it’s on the same level as your outdoor space
Tons of storage at the bottom of the stairs for those two that might be sleeping in the galley
Large space for laying out, both on the front of the boat, and on top.
Same pros as the previous boat (stereo system, cooler, etc.)
Huge cooler on the back of the boat where we could keep booze/cider
The skipper and hostess (if you have one) or your last guest, will be sleeping in what is essentially just flat holes in the boat on the front end. There’s really no actual bed for them, so keep that in mind.
2. Choosing your crew
As I mentioned, it was just the two of us so we were basically just sending messages to anyone with open spots. The facebook group is probably the easiest way to do this. You can email the help desk on the YW homepage and they can add you or send you the link.
We ended up joining a crew of groups of 1 and 2. While it could have gone horribly wrong, I think it actually was a good mix.
2First and most importantly, you have no room for hard suitcases/normal rolling bags so avoid those – go for duffles that you can flatten. Usually I’d say if you need a bigger bag, you can store it at the marina, but because of the hurricanes, the marina was pretty much destroyed and they barely have docks, let alone luggage storage. I'm not sure if that's changed since NYE 2018.
Here’s a packing list that we got from Marcus (our skipper in Croatia) and our thoughts on each thing (in italics):
Dramamine (non drowsy) – absolute must, especially in the BVI – the waves are huge, everyone threw up all week long
Sleeping mask + ear plugs – not a bad idea depending on how easily you sleep
Floaties – I’m not actually sure you need it on this trip because the waves are usually too big to do the circle float day – I wouldn’t spend a ton of money on them
Costumes for the regatta on the last day –come up with a theme. Bae-watch is way overdone, Santa’s helpers is the most common one you’ll see in the BVI
Sunscreen -- duh
Flags – it will help you identify the boat – bring a bunch. And bring big ones – we underestimated how small ours would look
Sharpie Marker – to help mark your belongings – never needed this
Aux cable – for music to play through the boat speakers
12 Volt USB car charger – while not in the marina, this is your only source of power - to connect your phone to the car (would recommend getting one with a few usb slots so you can charge multiple phones at one)
External Rechargeable USB Battery Charger – yes. Keep in mind if you get a big one, you might blow a fuse. There’s plugs in every room so probably just get a few small ones
Deck of cards – just in case it rains or for drinking games
Boat shoes, sneakers and flip flops – girls please leave the heels at home! – agreed. Don’t bother with heels
Sweatshirt – it may get windy at night -- yep
Beach towel – yep although if you don’t have room for it, just buy a cheap one when you get there and throw it away before you leave
Bluetooth speakers – yep – sometimes annoying to have to change your song when the phone’s plugged in downstairs
Go Pro/waterproof camera/disposable waterproof camera – try your best to capture the most amazing week!! -- yep
Glowsticks, body paint, glitter -- yep
Battery powered Christmas lights for the boat – DEFINITELY. There is no light on the boat and you’ll come back on a taxi boat and have no clue which one is yours. The more unique the lights, the better. Zip ties to attach them to things also helps.
Bug Spray! -- ehhhhh
Sunglasses – bring a couple of pairs as you may break or lose a pair during the week – true, and you lose them because they go overboard so don’t bring expensive ones out during the day while sailing
White outfit for the white party – they call it something else now, Riviera chic or something stupid, but it’ll always be white party to us
Here’s what we brought that he missed:
Waterproof phone case
A hat to block out the sun some days
Converters – you never know if your plugs in the BVI will be American, British, or European, so bring options.
One of the other things that we did the first time around was pack a box full of Costco stuff as a checked bag. Two of our friends were flying directly there from SF and they filled a box with liquor, paper plates, solo cups, peanut butter, plastic silverware, paper towels, and sunscreen from Costco because it was SO much cheaper to do it that way. Then at the end of the week they just tossed whatever was left and had no checked bag on the rest of their flights on low-cost airlines.
4. Getting there and The First Day
There are multiple options for getting to the island you’ll head out from. We left from the marina on Tortola, which is one of the larger islands in the BVI. If you look at flights into EIS, you’ll find that there are none direct from the US. You’ll have to layover probably in Puerto Rico. Some of us didn’t want to deal with that so we took the direct flights to St.Thomas in the USVI, spent the night, and then took the ferry over the next day. While it may seem like this is the cheaper option, let me just tell you that it’s not. They collect multiple taxes on leaving and arriving both ports the ferry goes into/out of. You’ll end up paying probably another $60-$75 in taxes anyway. In addition, the ferries filled up the day of. There were people that ended up showing up late because they couldn’t make it to the ferry. Just save yourself the hassle and fly into and out of Tortola.
Once we got to Tortola, it was completely down-pouring rain, and we had to wait in a line for probably an hour for customs. We then met our crew at a lunch spot and then headed out to the boat. Check in was kind of a mess because not all of the boats were ready at the same time. Luckily for us, ours was, and we got on it right away.
We had pre-ordered food from the suggested YW grocery store, and when it finally arrived 3 hours late, it was missing all kinds of things. One of our friend’s boats ordered from another company and they got everything they ordered on time. I’d highly recommend going through someone other than the YW recommended company.
That first night, they allow you to book a reservation for dinner at the location where the party will be. By the time our hostess called, all of the tables were already booked. I’d highly recommend making all of your reservations yourself the day you get the YW schedule. Do not wait until YW does it for you. Do not wait for your hostess to attempt to do it. A lot of the places will also respond on facebook messenger if you can’t get them on the phone.
As always, after you get the boat insurance paid for, the skipper will check it out to ensure it’s all in working order. Make sure either they take pictures of everything or you do, especially if you don’t do the flat rate deposit. You don’t want the owner to blame you at the end of the week for something that was already there.
5. The parties
First piece of advice – unlike the other locations, the BVI really doesn’t do table/bottle service. Like I mentioned in the section above, make your dinner reservations in advance. Most of the parties are at the dining locations. The one I’d say you do want to do dinner and a table for is at Coco Maya. They have tables for dinner and separate tables for the beach. They literally right on top of one another, but we opted for both.
Brandywine Bay – this is the first night, and the location that I mentioned you need to reserve a table for dinner at in advance. It’s a pretty cool location and you can jump up on the rock wall if you’re feeling adventurous. The way you’ll get drinks is by paying in advance at the door for tokens. You’ll then use those to go up to the bar. You can get a similar set up to bottle service and there’s some tables set up around the dance floor where you and your crew can gather.
Leverick Bay – this is another location where you can either eat on your boat or on shore. I’d definitely recommend getting a table either way and mention to them that you’re with Yacht Week so they put your table on the beach. The restaurant has a bunch of food, but it took literally hours to get it after we ordered, so I’d say eat on your boat and come later. They do have painkillers on happy hour though so maybe don’t wait too long to get to shore.
Big Bamboo – This is a fun bar on Anegada. Yacht Week will provide dinner that night and it’s a huge barbeque complete with lobster if you get in line early. The party goes on all night and it’s on the beach so wear your flip flops. You’ll jump in YW provided cabs to head back to your dingy.
Jost Van Dyke and Foxys (NYE) – they like to promote this as THE party to be at in the BVI and one of the most amazing NYE parties in the world. I have to say it was a huge let-down. No one dresses up except the YW people so you’ll be out of place. You’ll be surrounded by older people drunk AF. There’s a BBQ buffet but it’s $25 per person and it’s not worth the price. Drinks were also crazy expensive. And it rained. At the end of the night, getting a cab back is a total nightmare. This was not at all what I expected, especially from the way YW promotes it.
Willy Ts – This is pretty much what I’d call the only day party of this route. During the day you’ll head into Bight Bay and hang out at Willy T’s which is more or less a floating bar. It’s pretty cool and it’s big, but insanely crowded especially if it’s pouring rain like it was for us. Unfortunately, the waves and wind were so bad that we missed our stop at Pirates Bight and the hostesses all had to scramble to provide their boat’s another dinner.
Coco Maya - This is the closing party and it's an incredible spot. You can book dinner at the restaurant before the party starts, and I'd highly recommend doing it way in advance over email or phone. The party itself starts later and it's right on the beach. Definitely wear flip flops. They also have table/bottle service at this one if you're interested. We got a gigantic bottle of Belevedere and our friends got a huge bottle of champagne. The DJ was bumpin and it was a blast.
6. The sightseeing
The BVI route was very different in this aspect from the European routes. The islands you visit are much smaller and basically are just tourist spots, with the exception of Spanish town.
Things we’d recommend:
The Baths – As soon as you get into Spanish Town, snag a taxi and head up the Baths. They’re pretty amazing, and even if there’s a line, it’s well worth it. Also bring cash because it costs a small fee to get in. If you remember to bring your paperwork from YW, it’s actually included. We did not.
Jost Van Dyke – We were at JVD for a couple days, and went out to the Soggy Dollar on the first day. I think the other weeks actually got to park right in front of the Soggy Dollar and didn’t have to worry about taxis, but we didn’t have that luxury. Taxis are $10 per person to each bay. If you park at Foxys Taboo, that’s two bays over from Soggy and you’re looking at $40 there and back per person. Plus, there’s only about 10 taxi trucks on the island, so you’ll be waiting a looooong time. That said, Soggy Dollar is a blast and so worth it. Make sure you get a painkiller!
Anegada – definitely rent scooters to get around. Call in advance and reserve them. Try to get the slower ones in case no one on your boat is comfortable driving what is essentially dirt bikes. Take the scooters out to Cow Wreck Beach and hang out. Don’t forget a towel!
7. The Food
TYW recommends a grocery company to you – I’d highly recommend doing your own research. The one they recommend gets incredibly overwhelmed and screws up.
We also had a hostess this time around that helped a lot with what to buy, but in case you don’t have one, here’s our recommended grocery list:
Alcohol (survey your boat and figure out what people will and won’t drink and what they’re willing to pay especially if you have guys and girls and tanks and lightweights)
Water - get literally as much water as you can. Huge bottles are usually best.
Breakfast croissants, bagels, toast, or cinnamon rolls (anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated)
Eggs and breakfast meats – you can definitely make breakfast easily especially if you have a hostess, just remember how many people you’re feeding and how many eggs people eat in one sitting.
Stuff for sandwiches – grab salami or ham or whatever the local meat is, some bread, and some spreads (mustard or mayo or tzatziki) and whatever else you might want. Sandwiches and chips are the easiest lunch to have while sailing.
Plan for at least two dinners on the boat – go with something easy. Salad, pasta, grilled cheese, etc. Keep in mind you probably have two pots/pans maximum and a tiny stove. One night we had steaks – the boat was supposed to have a grill, but it didn’t work so the Texan guys cooked them in a pan.
Paper plates, silverware, and plastic cups. Again, no one wants to be down in the boat doing dishes, unless you have a hostess – then that’s literally her job.
Paper towels – trust me you want a lot of this
Garbage bags (big ones for the kitchen and maybe small ones for the bathroom)
Coco Maya - hands down my favorite food on the trip. Unreal lettuce wraps. The only unfortunately thing was that the night we went they weren't doing any specialty cocktails including their famous sangria.
Leverick Bay Restaurant - This place was cool and I'm sure that the actual restaurant surrounding the pool has fantastic food, but they were not ready for the group that was the Yacht Week. We had a table on the beach near the DJ, and while we were able to order pizzas, it took over an hour to get them and then two of them got dropped on the sand. I'd highly recommend eating on your boat instead.
JVD/Soggy Dollar area - you cannot get food to go at the bars around the Soggy Dollar. That said, they have an easy spot to grab a sandwich that's grilled right there on the side of the building. It was great and cheap. Definitely a good option.
Willy T's - they did have a small kitchen and they made some good chicken tenders. It's definitely all fried food.
Pirate's Bight - We were supposed to go here and the menu looked amazing, but the stop got cut from the agenda. Did have reservations in advance though just in case.
8. TYW Clichés
These are the things you see in the YouTube videos that make yacht week so unique. All of these other companies that also do circle floats absolutely copied it from TYW.
Circle Float: This actually didn’t happen this time around because of the weather and the bad waves. We were all very disappointed.
Regatta Day: One of the days you’ll get all decked out in your themed gear and all of the boats will race (aka have a regatta) to the next location. The staff will sail around trying to get pictures and videos of all of the different themes, so be ready to show off your creativity. Santa’s Helpers (oops), Greek gods and Bae-Watch themes are way overdone. We saw some cool themes like penguins, Titanic, Top Gun, the Croatian Bobsled team, etc.
9. The costs you may not already know about
You buy all of your skipper’s and hostess’s meals and drinks. They have full access to your kitchen. Don’t be awkward about it at dinners where they’re with you. Just split everything evenly. Splitwise is your friend but don’t use multiple currencies - it gets super confused.
Skipper and Hostess Tip – this is usually about 10-20% of the total cost of your boat for each person. Give it to them on the last day as you leave the boat.
Hostesses – they’re a blast and they buy all of your groceries for you so you never have to shop, but they’re expensive. They also take up a spot on your boat, so keep that in mind. It means that you’re splitting the cost of the boat with one less person AND you pay an extra 600 euro on top of that to have her plus all of her meals and her tip at the end of the week. It adds up quickly. We did have one on this trip but I’m still not convinced it was worth it.
The Kitty – when you first get on the boat, the skipper will ask you for kitty money. It’ll cover your gas, your taxi fees, and your docking fees. I think we did 150 euro each in the BVI. Our skippers always made sure to keep receipts for everything so we had them if we wanted them.
The weather – be prepared for rain. Its still their rainy season there so don’t be surprised. I’ve also heard that the wind is always bad and the likelihood that you’ll have high waves is like 90%. BRING DRAMAMINE. Some boats had literally the entire crew throwing up.
That’s Yacht Week BVI in a nutshell…or maybe more than a nutshell. Our last words of advice on TYW:
It’s hopefully going to be one of the best weeks of your life – embrace the insanity
If your skip hits on you, which we’ve heard stories about, talk to someone in a crew tshirt. That’s not cool, unless your interested in him/her too haha.
Try not to hit on your skipper. That being said, if it happens and it’s mutual….oops?
The skippers and hostesses do not get paid the same amount – there’s a survey at the end of the week and their salaries are based on their survey results
Don’t let your skip get too drunk. Someone has to sail the boat in the morning.
If you can come up with something fun to introduce yourself around on either float day, do it. For example, we had shots of rose with rubber duckies in them that we call Ducky Rose and people loved it
Don’t be that asshole that brings a floating barge as a floatie that fits 8 people. You’ll take up too much space and everyone will hate you
Full cans of beer/cider float. Do with that what you will.
Once you pick your ratio when you’re booking your boat, it’s hard to change it. Especially if you want to take a girl off and add a guy in, so try to know your ratio before you book.
Make friends with the photographer – they might just end up on your boat for the day and then you could end up in their Instagram posts on Thanksgiving!
Book your flights early. The prices go WAY up as you get into Sept/Oct.
No shitting where you sleep! DO NOT go #2 on the boat. Just trust us. It’s gross and everyone will know you did it. Tell everyone else on your boat that’s a rule. SOS - Shit on-shore.