Yacht Charter Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent & the Grenadines is a Caribbean island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean. Nine of the 32 islands are populated, though you can visit many of the unpopulated islands. You'll find some of the most stunning spots in the Caribbean to snorkel, swim and sail. It's not as well-trafficked as some of the other charter areas, so you'll find fewer boats and more quiet, out of the way places.
Like much of the Caribbean windward islands, Europeans colonised St. Vincent and the Grenadines (or "SVG" as it's often abbreviated) in the 16th and 17th century, and it had a pre-colonial native population. It's thought Christopher Columbus first sighted the island, but it was the French who first established a colony in the early 18th century, bring in Europeans and African slaves. Over the next two hundred years, the islands changed hands several times, settling finally under British possession from the end of the 18th century until gaining full independence as a sovereign nation in 1979, though it remains within the British Commonwealth.
Soufriere volcano on the island of St. Vincent erupted twice in the 20th century. The main island is volcanic and forested, though there is considerable variation in the 37-mile long archipelago. North of SVG is St Lucia, and you can see Grenada from the southernmost islands.
Hiring A Yacht in St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Most Grenadines yacht charter bases are in Calliaqua or the Blue Lagoon Marina on the island of St. Vincent. St. Vincent is the northernmost island in the chain, and common itineraries start out sailing south and looping through the island chain before coming back north. Prevailing winds favour sailing south, and one-way charters are possible. There is even one company that allows one-way charters between SVG and Grenada.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is close enough to St. Lucia and Grenada that some charter companies allow sailing to these other countries. Also, charters originating in those countries can come to visit St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
There are a few other charter locations in the country, including one on Bequia, and arrangements can be made to start or end a charter at different places in the islands.
"Boat Boy" Culture
Some islands have Boat Boys. Despite the name, these are grown men who may approach you offering a variety of services. This is normal and can be helpful. They want you to engage them for your stay and will help you with everything from dinner reservations, fresh local produce, tickets to local beach parties and BBQs, souvenirs, or getting your laundry done. St. Vincent and the Grenadines isn't as built-up for tourism; in some places having your own concierge can make life easier or more interesting.
It's not onerous, and you may find some experiences you'd otherwise not know about. Once you've agreed to work with someone, word will go out and other boat boys won't approach you. The cost to you is minimal; most of their services have their fees built-in. Though give a tip when you say goodbye and prepare to leave. Feel free to negotiate and haggle for services and goods; be fair and you may win a friend.
Not every boat that approaches you will be a boat boy looking for engagement. It's also common for locals to come out selling fresh fruit, fish, or souvenirs, or they may represent restaurants or businesses looking to attract customers or make reservations for the evening's dinner on a sandy beach.
Getting to St Vincent and the Grenadines
Argyle International Airport (airport code: SVD) is on the main island of St. Vincent. Flights from Miami, New York, and Toronto come into this airport. Many visitors fly from Europe or North America into Barbados instead, then take a Caribbean airline such as L.I.A.T. or SVG Air to get to Argyle. Travellers can also connect through St. Lucia, Grenada or Trinidad if more they need options.
From Argyle airport, your charter company may make arrangements for a shuttle or taxi to take you to the charter base. You can catch a taxi from the airport yourself. Most of the charter bases are within thirty minutes from the airport.
If your charter is originating in Bequia, you will need to come to St. Vincent and take a ferry or quick flight or fly from Barbados, St. Lucia or Grenada. Air SVG and L.I.A.T. fly locally between the islands.
Best Areas To Charter**
The entire country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is reachable on any week-long sailing itinerary. There are so many fantastic places, you'll regret the ones you can't make.
The Tobago Cays Marine Park is the most popular spot in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and maybe the highlight of your sailing adventure. You'll want to allow more than a day and plan to arrive early in the day. Besides stunning reefs for snorkelling, beaches, and crystal clear waters you'll find a bird sanctuary, a turtle sanctuary, and many hiking trails on the islands. Because it's a national park and marine preserve, there are more structures and rules, and there will be a daily fee for each person on your boat. A ranger will stop by when you pick up a mooring to review the rules and collect fees. As of this writing, the fees for charter boats are 10.00 EC$ (or XCD, the East Caribbean Dollar) per person, per day and moorings cost $45.00 EC$ per night as of this writing.
There are no groceries or stores in the marine park, though you may get help from a boat boy in a pinch you should plan ahead with provisions, alcohol, and water. If you plan scuba diving in the park, the rules require that you dive with a local guide. Make arrangements in advance if possible.
The Tobago Cays are only reachable by boat, so it will be only charter boats, cruisers, and tours from nearby islands, though it still can be busy in the prime season.
Union Island is the bustling business end of the SVG island chain. Ashore, you'll find restaurants and services, places to park your dinghy, shopping, and markets. Union Island is known for consistent breezes and is a very popular spot for kite surfing and windsurfing. Clifton Harbour is an excellent spot to stop to get to shore or head out to Happy Island, a unique bar on the coral reef hand-built from conch shells. Another popular anchorage is behind Frigate Island, a mile or so from Clifton.
If you sail to Carriacou or Grenada, you will need to visit Clifton to clear out of SVG when you leave, and back in when you return.
Mustique is a private island and is popular with celebrities and the very wealthy. It has stunning beaches and natural beauty. Because it is privately owned and managed, access is limited and rental moorings are only available in one location in Britannia Bay. It is an expensive place to visit, but it is popular with the rich and famous and you never know who you might end up near in a restaurant. Around the winter holidays into January, access to Mustique is more restricted, with many roads are closed and moorings limited to give additional security and privacy for the seasonal influx of high profile guests.
If there's a sailing centre in the Grenadines, it's Bequia. It's another place to start your charter, and boatbuilding, sailing and regattas are a part of the culture there. The annual East Regatta and music festival is a highlight of the year.
Moorings are available in Admiralty Bay, though they are not government-sanctioned and inspected. You can also anchor of Princess Margaret beach. There's snorkelling around the bay, and Port Elizabeth is a good spot for restaurants and starting activities on the island. Check out the boat museum, the boat model builder, the beach bars, catch a cab to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary (a favourite with kids), or take a hike for the stunning views from Ma Peggy's Rock.
You will probably start your sailing holiday in a harbour on the south end of St. Vincent. It is the largest island and the capital and has the largest airport. If your charter is not provisioned, this is where you will shop. Many people jump on their boats and sail south right away, but there are things to see and do on the main island of the archipelago. Though the northern coast doesn't have many protected anchorages or mooring fields, along the south coast the Blue Lagoon, Calliaqua Bay, and the Carenage are a few of the ready spots for your first or last night on the boat.
The island has a number of historical forts, a botanical garden, waterfalls, an active volcano, rainforests, and many hiking trails. In July there is a lively carnival.
This is a pretty island with good snorkelling, but access and services for visiting yachts is limited. A private resort owns most of the island, and those areas are not accessible. You can anchor in Grand Bay and access the island and walk to lovely beaches or snorkel from the boat. It's a quiet stopover before sailing to the Tobago Cays Marine Park.
More than just a staging location for visiting the Tobago Cays, Mayreau is a fun and pretty spot with lively nightlife and beach bars and BBQs. It's within the boundaries of the Marine Park, and the island has several bays and coves to anchor or pick up a mooring. Windward Bay on the east side of the island abuts coral reefs with good snorkelling, while Salt Whistle Bay on the north end is protected with beaches bars and restaurants onshore. Trois Anse Bay and Saline Bay are off white sand beaches on the west side of the island. It's worth a walk to Station Hill to get an expansive look at the Tobago Cays.
Don't let its small size fool you, Mayreau is known for its nightlife and maybe a welcome bit of liveliness after the natural but quiet beauty of the Marine Park.
Palm Island is privately owned and occupied by the Palm Island Resort. You can anchor off the island and visit the beach, one of the finest in the area. Use a stern anchor at the dinghy dock to avoid getting caught under the dock. You may visit Casuarina Beach, and the beach around the Coco Palm beach bar on the southern shoreline. You will also find a boutique and an art gallery.
Petit St. Vincent
This is the southernmost of the Grenadine islands. It is privately owned and has a resort. You may anchor off the island and go ashore at the dinghy dock. Please note that much of the island is only open to resort guests, though you may visit the main bar and restaurant at the resort with appropriate island-casual attire. There is also a more casual bar, and a spa open to yachting visitors.
There are excellent snorkelling and diving in the reefs around the island.
Carriacou & Grenada
It is possible (and very tempting) to visit Carriacou or even the main island of Grenada on your SVG charter. Remember even though you can see Carriacou from Union Island, it is in another country. Your charter company may have rules about leaving the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. If you sail to Carriacou, remember to clear out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to clear customs and immigration in Carriacou or Grenada. It's not a complicated procedure, but there are rules to follow and it takes a little time. If you are on a crewed charter, the captain will handle this for you.
Types Of Yachts To Hire
St. Vincent and the Grenadines offers any kind of yacht hire you might want for your charter holiday. Sailing vessels are more common and readily available, though you can find many larger crewed charters for powerboats, power catamarans and luxury yachts.
Monohull Sailing Yacht
Most monohulls are better suited for smaller charter parties. They'll give you a more traditional sailing boat experience, while still offering comfort and a great platform for a family holiday. You will find sailing monohulls in every charter location.
Sailing catamarans offer a good mix of space and comfort and capacity for larger groups and multiple couples. They're a more stable platform, and easy to handle for comfortable, flat sailing. The larger size and capacity of the sailing catamarans make them well suited for bareboat and crewed charters.
While power catamarans are growing in popularity in charter fleets worldwide, their availability in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is limited. Most of the power catamaran charters are larger boats with a captain and crew.
Luxury Yacht Charters
With some of the more exclusive destinations in the world, luxury yacht charters are available throughout the islands. From classic sailing yachts to a hundred-foot motor yacht, there's a wide variety of luxury yacht charter options.
Skippered yacht charter or Bareboat?
Skippered yacht charters enjoy more popularity in St. Vincent and the Grenadines compared to sailing grounds like the British Virgin Islands. While sailing in the Grenadines is not much more challenging than other locations, the distances between destinations is a little greater, and the shore-side facilities are not as ubiquitous across the islands. In addition, there are some regulations visiting the Tobago Cays Marine Park which a skipper will handle. If you wish to stop in Grenada, the captain will handle all the clearances.
Skippered charter: Many of the skippered charters are boats dedicated specifically to a crewed charter experience. There is often not an option to charter a specific yacht as a bareboat, or to add a captain to a bareboat you like. This policy varies by charter company and yacht.
A crewed yacht charter relieves you of the duties of navigating and operating the yacht on your holiday, and you can focus more on relaxation, exploring, and sightseeing.
Bareboat yacht charter: If you're a sailor and getting there is half the fun for you, there are plenty of bareboat in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. You will have to pay a little more care to the rules in the Tobago Cays, but the rangers will explain the guidelines.
Do you need a licence to charter St. Vincent and The Grenadines?
You do not need a license to charter a boat in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but you will be required to prove your competence to handle a yacht. The list of relevant qualifications below will help prove this to a charter company, though they may want a skills check-out before you take the boat.
International Certificate of Competence (ICC): Standard European Qualification for bareboat sailing
ASA 104 Bareboat Sailing Certificate: The American Sailing Association's skipper minimum qualification for hiring bareboat yachts
RYA: The Royal Yachting Association's qualifications (minimum day skipper level) for bareboat charter hire.
There are also many other European national boating qualifications that are accepted here too, it's worthwhile checking these details before hiring.
If you want a skippered boat rental as a charter yacht then you don't need any sailing certification at all, you just turn up and off you go.
Best Times To Hire
The winter months from December through March are the peak season for hiring a yacht in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The weather is warm but not uncomfortable, averaging 28°C (82°F) through the winter. Summer months will be warmer, averaging 31°C (88°F). In the summer there is a slight risk of cancellation for a tropical storm or hurricane.
The most expensive weeks to charter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are around the winter holidays, with prices decreasing on the edges of winter. The lowest prices are in July through October.
Conditions are almost always pleasant, with prevailing 15-25 knot north-easterly trade winds through the winter months offering good sailing. Off-peak, the trades send more south-easterly and a little lighter. During peak season the winds favour easy reaches south from St. Vincent, though you may do a little more beating to windward or close reaching heading back north at the end of your charter.
How much does it cost for a charter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
Grenadines yacht charter pricing is the highest in the weeks around Christmas and New Year's, followed by February and early March. Off-peak charters may cost as little as 1/3 of the peak pricing holiday weeks.
A bareboat forty-foot monohull sailing boat sleeping six will cost around $4,000 per week during the peak season, but only $2,600 during the low season.
At the other end, a fully loaded forty-six-foot luxury catamaran with sleeping space for ten is a little over $12,000 per week during peak season but drops to $5,500 during low season.
The two holiday weeks may cost up to 50% more than high-season rates.