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Best Vacation Ever?

"Mobile Hotel" and Seaside Patio Make an Unbeatable Experience.

"Weeeee. Gurgle...gurgle...weeeeee"

My daughter is making that happy sound. We're snorkeling fifty yards off the beach at Culebrita, a tiny islet in the Spanish Virgin Islands (SVI). Anna has discovered another purple fish or prickly anemone. This is about the tenth squeal of joy she's let out.

Get ready for similar reactions if you go down to the islands for a sailing vacation. It may be you making the sounds of joy.

Over the years I've had the pleasure of taking 30+ people on more than ten such trips. In this piece, I share some of my experiences.

What is a Charter Vacation?

Sailboat charter companies like Horizon or Moorings rent boats in beautiful places all over the world: the Mediterranean, South Pacific, Far East, Pacific Northwest, throughout the Caribbean and more.

When you charter a boat, you're typically renting a boat owned by an individual. The owner has placed the boat in a charter program where it earns money through rentals to customers like you and me. The charter company maintains the boat and manages the rentals for the owner. See the end of this article for a list of charter companies.

Virgin Islands Coral

The Sea as Back Yard

Vacationers especially love the variety of a charter trip. Instead of being stuck in one place for an entire vacation, you can pick up your "room" and move it around.

Say you want a quiet, relaxing trip. You can easily steer to sleepy anchorages away from crowds and noise. Or, if you're in the mood for a livelier time you can head to

island hot spots with crowded bars, spicy restaurants and late night dance clubs.

Or, of course, you could have a mix of both.

Beach at Culebrita

On our trip to the Spanish Virgin Islands, we enjoyed both. We sailed to Culebrita on the eastern edge of the SVI, anchoring at Flamenco Beach. There we encountered just three or four other boats. On the beach, we played in the sand and hiked over a rocky path to a tidal pool. We were the only people at the pool.

Later, we anchored at Ensenada Honda in Culebra, a mile-and-a-half long anchorage filled with boats and bordered by homes and shops. The seven of us dinghied ashore for dinner and the next morning for breakfast and a stop at a grocery for supplies.

How Much?

Prices vary widely according to size, age and type of boat. New model year boats are 25-40% more than five-year-old boats. Catamarans are typically 30-50% more due to their popularity and large size. On our trip, we shared a 40' Lagoon catamaran (four cabins, four heads) with another couple and their kids.

Our total cost (including airfare, food, hotel and boat) for a Sunday to Sunday trip was about $4,800 per family. Of course, this can vary depending on where you fly from and how luxurious you want to go. We included hotel stays on the front and back ends of the trip.

We felt pampered on this large yacht. With four cabins and four heads, our group had plenty of room. A generator and air conditioning kept us comfortable on steamy tropical nights.

Breakdown of Costs (USD)

Meals: Full Service or Self-Provisioning

Our Lagoon 400 catamaran had a full galley and plenty of room for dining aboard. We decided to shop for our own groceries since we had some experience with this and didn't mind the extra effort. You can also opt for full-service provisioning with most charter companies. Fill out a provisioning list a few weeks before your trip and the food is ready when you arrive at your boat.

We shopped for the majority of our food at the beginning of our trip and supplemented with short stops along the way (bread, beer and fruit if you must know). We enjoyed one dinner ashore at the popular Dinghy Dock in Ensenada Honda.

If You Go

I hope this short piece gave you the urge to learn more. Feel free to drop me a note at with your questions or comments. Or chime in at the comments section below.


Businesses mentioned in the article

Dinghy Dock, TripAdvisor

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