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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
The questions below are some of the most commonly asked questions. Click on the question to view the answer. If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us or use the information request form.

Where can we sail?
What does Down Island mean?
How do we know which yacht to select?
What is required to book a yacht?
What if, after we've booked a yacht, we have to cancel?
What itinerary do we follow?
How do we know where we ought to go?
Can we help sail the yacht?
What is included in the charter fee?
The bar is included?
How much are the taxes?
How does the chef know what we like to eat?
Do we go into marinas at night?
Are the yachts and crews insured or licenced?
How many people are in the crew?
How long do we sail every day?
Will there be anyone else aboard the yacht?
What is there for kids to do?
How do we get to the islands?
So are there still pirates left in these waters?
Clothing and luggage, what should we bring?
What about SCUBA diving from the yacht?

Where can we sail?
The Caribbean is made up of several differing cruising areas. The Virgin Islands, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Peter Island, St. Thomas, St. John and the smaller cays and islets make up one of the cruising areas. The Windward Islands, from St. Lucia to Grenada, with St. Vincent and the Grenadines in between, make up another cruising area, and the Leeward Islands (St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Barths, Saba, Antigua, etc.) make up a third cruising area. Its also possible to cruise from Antigua south to St. Lucia, for example. Distance and time generally don't allow charters beginning in one cruising are and ending in another. There are alternative cruising areas around the world too... Panama's San Blas Islands, Tahiti and the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific, the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, New England, the Greek Islands and the coast of Turkey, the Riviera, or the fjords of Scandinavia.

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What does Down Island mean?
Yacht Connections has an office in the British Virgin Islands. For us, everything south and east is "Down Island." This means two other island groups in the chain, the Leeward Islands, and the Windward Islands. A down island charter is more oriented towards the sailing aspect of the vacation, and has the possibility of experiencing several national cultures, while a Virgin Islands-based charter is oriented toward water sports, beaches, and diving, in addition to the sailing. For folks living in the Grenadines, our office is "Up Island."

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How do we know which yacht to select?
All the yachts are different, in part because of the personality that the crews lend to them, and also because of the amenities offered aboard. Almost every yacht in charter has a colour brochure available. From having an office in the thick of the chartering action (the British Virgin Islands), we get to know the yachts and crews better than anyone. Besides that advantage, Yacht Connections brokers attend a number of charter yacht shows annually, several in the Caribbean and a couple in the Mediterranean. Typically, we would post you a selection of brochures of yachts available in your time frame, desired charter area, and that can also accommodate your size charter party, budget, and other needs. Once you've received the brochures and had a chance to examine them, you ought to give us a call straight away, because the yachts can book up fast.

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What is required to book a yacht?
In order to reserve your yacht for the dates you want, a 50% deposit is required. Yacht Connections accepts VISA and Mastercard for charter deposits (however not for the final balance). A yacht cannot be reserved until a deposit has been made. Much like an airline ticket today, the charter deposit is non-refundable, so please examine the pamphlet on trip cancellation insurance that comes with you information package. The final balance of the charter fee is customarily paid to the captain upon boarding, in either US dollar travelers cheques or cash.

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What if, after we've booked a yacht, we have to cancel?
Very few charters actually cancel, but if the dates are rebooked, you will be entitled to a refund. If through some unfortunate happenstance you are forced to cancel, every effort will be made to rebook you into an alternative date, or to rebook the dates and gain you a refund. A pamphlet on trip cancellation insurance will be included in your customized Yacht Connections brochure package. This sort of policy covers you should you have to cancel your charter due to illness, blizzards in your home state, or other such unfortunate happenings. It can also cover you if your luggage chooses a vacation area different from the one you chose!

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What itinerary do we follow?
The itinerary is yours to set. If you like a particular anchorage, you don't have to leave! The captain is there to advise you as to what wonders and mysteries the area holds, why you might wish to visit a certain anchorage, or why you can't (Maybe there's a reef in the way!). Your crew are there because they know the area. Your crew will advise you on what are reasonable distances for a day's sailing or anchoring, and were to go to find the night life you'd like to experience, or likewise the solitude! An anchorage that is perfectly comfy now may not be the best place to sleep for the night, and your professional crew will know this. The only restrictions are your comfort and safety and the safety of the yacht (Not counting your embarkation and departure dates, of course). Check the sample itineraries and charts for the various cruising areas elsewhere on our website.

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How do we know where we ought to go?
Again, you crew is there to advise you and help you plan your charter. One of the methods we use to help the crew help you is what we call a Guest Preference Form. Charterers fill out and return the Preference Form that we send to you once you've decided upon a particular yacht. The form asks questions like: * The names, ages and occupations of everyone in the charter party? * What do you want to do while on charter (There are a number of typical options listed)? * Are you already sailors, or have you chartered before? * When do you like to awaken in the morning? * Do you want to go out at night, for example. These questions help the crew get to know you a little better before you arrive, and they help them advise you. Some guests pen wonderful letters introducing themselves to their crew, and even include photos of the charter party. Little things like these let the crew know that their guests are absolutely brimming with enthusiasm!

There are several fine books published about the various cruising areas. These are called "Cruising Guides," such as The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands, or The Cruising Guide to the Windward Islands (The Grenadines), and The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands (St. Martin, St. Barths, Antigua), amongst others, and they are available from perhaps a local chandlery or travel book store. They can be mail ordered from a toll-free number in the states, 800-330-9542. These colourful guides let the yachtsman and woman know why they might choose a certain anchorage, services and amenities available ashore, and any hazards that might be lurking in the waters locally, reefs, rocks, sand bars, and such. They are excellent books, and provide unique points of view in the genre of travel guides.

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Can we help sail the yacht?
Sure, help as much as you want, or as little as you desire. Or don't help at all. Don't hesitate to enjoy watching someone else weigh anchor or grind on the winches. Likewise feel free to ask why the crew is doing something, or what the sailing terminology means. If you happen to be at the helm and the captain says it is time to tack or change course, it could be because there's a nasty little rock or reef in the way and you probably really should follow that advice.

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What is included in the charter fee?
Generally every thing, the yacht, the crew, the provisioning*, and fuel, the works. Often there are some minor "Cruising Taxes" or local port dues that may not be included in the charter fee and are the responsibility of the charterer. Anything that the charterer wishes to purchase ashore is at the charterer's expense. Diving, if available from the yacht you've decided upon, is often a small extra fee. Some dive gear rental may be required, again at guest expense. Any time the charterer wishes to berth the yacht in a marina or at a dock rather than anchor, is an additional expense on the charterer's account. Outside the Virgin Islands, bar beverages are often not included in the charter fee, and are extra. Exceptional bar requests and provisions are also extra, such as vintage wines, champagnes, something like a 32 year-old whisky, or a pound of beluga caviar are extra. * Some of the larger sailing and motoryachts charter on a "Plus All Expenses" rate. This means that the charter fee includes the yacht and the crew, all provisioning and running expenses such as fuel are all additional expenses on the charterer's account.

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The bar is included?
In the Virgin Islands, generally speaking, standard bar beverages are included in the charter fee. Down Island, in the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands, bar beverages, including spirits, beers, wines, champagnes, mixers, juices, soft drinks and sodas are not included in the charter fee. (The exception is mentioned above)

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How much are the taxes?
In the British Virgin Islands the taxes include a one-time US $45 "Yacht Tax" and a "Cruising Tax" of US $4 per charter guest, per day in the BVI. There may also be a departure tax of US $5. In the Windward Islands, the St. Vincent & the Grenadines government charges a cruising tax of 2EC per foot length of the yacht (One U.S. dollar equals 2.6EC). In the Leeward Islands taxes are minimal, except for Anguilla, which can get up to US$125 for overnighting on the yacht, while its only US $20 on St. Barths for the yacht. Some yachts include the taxes in their charter fee, others don't. Ask us and we can tell you what each individual yacht does.

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How does the chef know what we like to eat?
One of the methods we use to help the chef get to know you is what we call a Guest Preference Form. Charterers fill out and return the Preference Form that we send to you once you've decided upon a particular yacht. The form asks questions like:

* What do you like to eat (There are several options listed, such as "Italian Foods," and "Mexican Foods," Fish?, Veal?, and including "What's your favourite dish?" and "What foods don't you like? Such as Broccoli? Liver? Brussels Sprouts?")?

* What sorts of breakfasts do you prefer, Hearty American, Continental, a mixture, or just a bagel and a bowl of Wheaties?

* Do you want to go out at night, or perhaps dine ashore, for example. Normally, either the captain, the chef/mate, or both will give the charter organizer a call prior to the charter dates.

Please Note: The chef has provisioned the yacht for you and the number of guests in your charter party. Therefore, if you meet someone in the anchorage and wish to invite them aboard, if merely for a cocktail or to show off the yacht you've chartered, politeness and the rules of the sea dictate that you ask the Captain's permission (Nautical Protocol: One always asks the Captain's permission to come aboard at the start of the charter, after that you and your party are the guests. Strangers should ask permission from the captain to come aboard). The Captain is charged with your safety and comfort, and he or she might be somewhat surprised to encounter un-accompanied strangers aboard. If you expect to be meeting up with friends that will be chartering at the same time, please don't hesitate to let the Captain and Chef know ahead of time so that they may help you meet your friends.

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Do we go into marinas at night?
Generally the yachts anchor out in the evenings. Not all of the islands have docks or marinas. Some of the islands are uninhabited. Thus each yacht carries or tows a tender, or dinghy with an outboard motor, sort of the taxi for getting around. If you wish to dock at a marina for the day or evening, the dockage fees are not covered by the charter fee and are on the charterer's account. Many guests ask if they may take or drive the dinghy, however, for most of the yachts insurance coverage prohibits a non-crew member driving the dinghy, and likewise U.S. Coast Guard rules prohibit a non-crew member driving the dinghy.

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Are the yachts and crews insured or licenced?
The yachts are insured by their owners for both liability and the value of the vessel. The captain, as master of the vessel, is the responsible and licenced person aboard. They are licenced by or in accordance with the flag that the vessel flies. For example, many of our captains hold the prestigious "Yacht Master - Ocean" certificate from the Royal Yachting Association or an equivalent parallel organization, while most of the American skippers will have a U.S. Coast Guard captains license. Our French skippers have commercial French licences.

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How many people are in the crew?
Most of the yachts 60 feet long and under are staffed by a couple, a licenced Captain and a Chef/1st Mate, while yachts that are over 65 feet often will have an additional crew member, a stewardess or deckhand. Larger yachts will carry more crew members.

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How long do we sail every day?
That can be up to you, although some places are just plain farther away. This also depends upon where you are cruising. In a good breeze, a sailing yacht might make 8, 9 or 10 knots, so 40 nautical miles are a 5+ hour cruise... But then from one end of the British Virgin Islands to the other, Jost Van Dyke to the Bitter End is 40 knots, and ALL the British Virgin Islands and the various anchorages are in between those two points! Naturally sometimes the wind blows harder, and softer, but you might expect to sail for a couple hours in the morning, and a couple hours in the afternoon. It all depends on where you are, when you awaken, and what you, the charterer wants to do!

Distances "Down Island" tend to be greater, so we often advise 1st time charterers that the Virgin Islands are the place to begin their personal chartering career! Then try the Leeward Islands or the Grenadines for a 2nd or 3rd charter. From the southern end of St. Vincent to the northern end of Grenada is about 60 nautical miles, for example, and all the Grenadines are in between. Naturally the same story of distance and time applies to motoryachts, though they will tend to cruise at a somewhat higher speed (12 to 15 knots), and will cover distances more quickly.

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Will there be anyone else aboard the yacht?
The entire yacht is chartered to you. Therefore the only people aboard are your crew, and the members of the charter party. The chef has provisioned the yacht for you and the number of guests in your charter party. Therefore, if you meet someone in the anchorage and wish to invite them aboard, if merely for a cocktail or to show off the yacht you've chartered, politeness and the rules of the sea dictate that you ask the Captain's permission. We do have a small number of yachts that book by the cabin, such that the folks in the cabin across the companionway will be strangers. Several of these groups have become such good friends that they insist on booking together on future trips!

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What is there for kids to do?
Chartering and sailing are for kids of all ages! Our yachts have hosted kids as young as 90, and as new as 2 months. It is important to note that kids who swim have a better time than those who don't, and likewise, parents of swimmers have abetter holiday too! Actually there is plenty for kids to do. Some of our crews actively promote their vessels as "kids boats" and encourage family bookings. Kids take to snorkeling like a fish to water. They love the curious wonders of the deep and will often pepper the captain with questions, testing his or her knowledge of marine biology. Along with the obvious beach combing and swimming, many of the yachts have other water sports toys for kids of all ages too, such as kayaks, water skiing or tubing, and maybe even diving for the older kids. The truth is, yachting brings out the kid in all of us! The crew are not baby sitter however, and shouldn't be expected to baby sit. The crew may offer for an evening to sit while Mum and Dad take in the evening ashore, and naturally they will happily teach the kids to snorkel.

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How do we get to the islands?
American Airlines is the main service provider to the Caribbean Islands from the United States, with hubs in both San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida. Many other airlines, including Delta, United, Continental, US Air and Northwest serve San Juan from the states, while American, American Eagle and LIAT continue on to the British Virgin Islands and the other islands in the Caribbean. Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Iberia and BWIA serve the various Caribbean Islands from Europe, and there are a number of carriers from South America stopping in San Juan. Yacht Connections, Ltd. works with and recommends Caribbean Travel in Miami, they know the area, and purchase tickets in bulk from American Airlines. Caribbean Travel can be reached toll-free in the states at 800-327-5540, or 305-444-7999. Their fax number is 305-444-5739 Mention our discount number, 3600, to get the best fares.

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So are there still pirates left in these waters?
"Arrr... matey, that wee bit 'o rock is Dead Man's Chest, y'see! Can ye hear the swabs singin'? "Blackbeard" Teach marooned 'em, y'see, an' what's left 'o them he'll sail back for t' make buccaneers 'o th' rabble! Listen hard, matey, hear 'em! 'Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.... Fifteen men on a Dead Man's Chest'" Many of the islands in the Virgin Islands are named for the pirates and privateers of long past. The channel down the middle of the British Virgin Islands is named for Sir Francis Drake, who to the Spaniards, was a pirate, and to the English, a hero! Jost Van Dyke, Hans Lollick, and the Thatch Cays were all named for pirates. Norman Island is said to be the true setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, with Long John Silver! Today's pirates are the lucky few who find themselves living the good life aboard a crewed charter yacht in the Caribbean! Bring eye patches and head scarves with you for a theme evening aboard the William Thornton, a "pirate ship" and floating restaurant and bar anchored in the Bight of Norman Island!

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Clothing and luggage, what should we bring?
Keep your packing light. As far as actual bags are concerned, DO NOT bring hard luggage! Soft, foldable duffel bag type luggage is much easier to store away on a yacht * Aboard your yacht: Folks tend to dress in shorts, swimsuits, and tee shirts, ergo formality is out the door, er... rather, out the port hole! So extra swimsuits might be in order so you don't have to sit around in a wet one. You may discover that even though the temps get up to 85 degrees or so in the winter, the breeze at night, out on the water, can bring on goose bumps. You might like to bring a sweatshirt or windbreaker.

* Foot Wear: The standard aboard the yacht is to not wear shoes. Shoes pick up sand and grit that will grind away the relatively soft exterior of a yacht, so custom says take off your shoes before stepping aboard. Flip-flops, sandals, or topsider-type deckshoes are fine for ashore. There are fine hiking trails on the various islands, so you might want to bring a pair of light hiking shoes to enjoy that part of your trip.

* Caps & Hats: Bring something like a baseball cap or a hat with a broad brim to shade your face. The water is like a mirror. Needless to say, this is a good point to think about sun screen too.

* More Formal Wear: If you think you might need a gentleman's jacket and tie or a ladies evening dress, think again! Actually, if such attire was required someplace ashore, you probably didn't want to dine there anyway. On the other hand, a barefoot gentleman in a tuxedo cuts quite the figure in one of our local beach bars! Can't you just wait to go ashore at Anegada and order a huge Caribbean lobster dinner and still be able to wiggle your toes in the sand below your table?

Also, don't forget to pack those essentials: a camera, sunglasses, and smiles!

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What about SCUBA diving from the yacht?
A good number of the Virgin Islands-based charter yachts offer diving from the yacht, for certified divers, while others arrange for Rendezvous Diving. Some yachts even offer Dive Instruction and what are called Resort Courses. If available, diving is for guests who are already certified divers. Don't forget your C-Cards! For yachts that have diving available, there may be an extra fee for diving. Meanwhile, "Down Island," fewer and fewer yachts are offering diving from the yacht. This has a little to do with local rules requiring local dive operators to dive with anyone wishing a dive excursion at certain sites.

* Rendezvous Diving: Many of the yachts work with local, shore based dive shops that have a staff of Dive Instructors and Dive Masters, rental gear and dive boats. Your captain will radio in and find out what is the dive menu from some of the shops, and schedule a "rendezvous" with the dive boat. Afterwards, the dive boat will meet up with your yacht to drop you off. A 2-tank dive with gear runs around $90 per diver. Rendezvous diving is for certified divers, those taking instruction may also rendezvous.

* Dive Instruction: Some charter guests will complete what is called their "book work" at home, through a local dive shop, club or the YMCA. Many don't relish however, the prospect of doing their "Open Water" certification dives in an abandoned quarry where hacking a hole in the ice is a part of the ritual! Open Water certification can be completed in two days in the islands, either by referral from one dive shop to another, or to an instructor aboard a charter yacht. The fees for the book work portion depend upon the shop or club, while the two day open water portion in the islands tends to run between $300 and $250 per student. After this initial 2 day certification, newly certified guests may then continue to dive throughout the duration of their charter by whatever method the yacht offers.

* Dive Masters and Instructors: There are two kinds of divers that are licenced and insured to act as dive guides. One is a Dive Master and the other is a Dive Instructor. Usually, if your yacht is one that offers diving, the captain or mate will be one of these. Dive masters are licenced to guide, but not qualified to give instruction.

* Resort Courses: There is a method to introduce non-divers to the sport. This is called a Resort Course. In the morning the dive instructor will familiarize a student with some rules, the equipment and some hand signals used to communicate under water and will lead students on a very shallow dive, to test the students comfort with the equipment, hand signals, and comfort under water. If the student is comfortable, the instructor will take the student on a dive to about 25 or 30 feet below the surface. This is the way many avid divers were first introduced to diving.

* Dive Fees: Of the charter yachts that offer diving, some include everything in the charter fee, while others charge extra for diving, air fills, and/or gear. A yacht may offer diving, but gear will need to be rented from a shore-side firm. Your captain will arrange this prior to the charter. Typically dive fees run anywhere from $20 per diver, per dive, up to $200 per diver, per week, including gear.

* Please note that the dive master or instructor has a responsibility for guest/diver safety. Diving is done solely at the master's or instructor's discretion, and depends entirely upon how the master/instructor judges the weather, seas, your abilities as a diver, and any alcoholic beverage consumption.

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What about tips or gratuities?
It is customary to tip your crew at the end of your charter, in much the same fashion that you would any other service employee. The customary amount is 15% to 20% of the charter fee. During the course of your charter, the crew has been your professional sailing staff, tour guide, waiter and waitress, bartender, gourmet chef, taxi/dinghy driver, chamber maid, beach boy, dive or snorkeling buddy, and perhaps even bridge partner! If you were tipping each and every one of those people, all that would eventually add up over the course of a week. Any other questions, please don't hesitate to click on the Contact Us button or click the Request Form button on the Yacht Connections Homepage.

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