Advice for Booking Charters in COVID Times
Caribbean Yacht Charters in a Pandemic.
Last Updated: January 2021
Are you longing to feel the warm air on your skin as your yacht glides through crystal clear tropical Caribbean waters? Are you looking to book a sailing holiday but are not sure how to plan given the pandemic?
Yacht Charters in the Caribbean in Covid times are not as easy to plan as they were this time last year, but they are still very much possible. And as charter operators in the Caribbean, BlueFoot Travel has lots of insights to share with you as you start planning your next sailing vacation.
In this sailing blog, we will provide guidance as you plan your sailing itineraries and entry protocols. We will also give you information about health monitoring and cleanliness guidelines you should consider when preparing for your next sailing trip. And we will share lots of additional information sources for your own research.
How The Pandemic Affected Us
On 19th March 2020, we were getting ready for our yacht charters in the British Virgin Islands. Then all ports and airports closed. Guests arriving via the US Virgin Islands could not get to the BVI. And we were unable to pick them up due to border closures.
That was the end of the season for us. And like everyone else, we had no understanding of how long the pandemic would last. So we decided to sail yacht Nemo south to St Vincent & The Grenadines where we were for the majority of the lockdown. In mid-June, we sailed Nemo to Grenada in preparation for the hurricane season, where she is right now.
Caribbean Pandemic Management
The islands of the Caribbean have done an incredible job in managing the pandemic. They have kept their citizens safe whilst balancing the requirements of travellers arriving by sea and by air. We give them huge kudos for this, as it is a fine balancing act.
At the end of March, most of the islands across the Caribbean closed their borders to sea and commercial air travel traffic. Now, most of the countries we sail to have started to open their borders. And most islands have now put strict rules and entry protocols in place with regards to traveller entry, whether by sea or air. These include:
- having an approved negative COVID 19 PCR test result before boarding a flight to their country. And in most islands, an extra test or tests are required when you arrive
- pre-arrival paperwork and in some cases downloading tracing apps for use once you arrive
- quarantine periods ranging from 0-19 days depending on the coronavirus infection rates in the country you are travelling from at a given time
Implications For Booking A Sailing Holiday
What does this mean when planning for your sailing holiday now?
Sailing Itinerary: Charter Start and End Points
Many sailing itineraries start and end in a different country. Or the itinerary leverages islands close to each other to expand sailing opportunities. When planning your yacht charter consider staying within the borders of one country. This will reduce potential quarantine and port and airport border issues, should restrictions change.
- Example 1: At the time of writing, if you start a sailing trip in St Lucia, you may not be able to get to St Vincent & The Grenadines without a COVID test and a 14 quarantine period, even if you have been in St Lucia for 14 days before and completed their testing requirements.
- Example 2: The British Virgin Islands is still closed but is due to open their borders on 1st March 2021 for boats not already in their waters. You can arrive by air via Beef Island. So you will need to arrive by air to start a charter in the British Virgin Islands and the yacht will already have to be there.
When planning where you want to sail, consider the scope of sailing and anchorages available within a country’s borders. Are there enough anchorages and sailing opportunities for a week or two? These countries/islands all have great sailing areas within their own waters for a 7-10-day boat charter:
- St Vincent & The Grenadines – download our SVG sailing guide here
- Grenada, Carriacou & Petit Martinique – here is an example route map (click map tab)
- Antigua & Barbuda – here is an example itinerary (click map tab)
- SXM & St Barts – here is an example itinerary (click map tab)
- The British Virgin Islands – here is an example itinerary (click map tab)
- Guadeloupe & The Saintes – here is an example route map (click map tab)
Each of the islands has their own entry requirements, although some CARICOM countries have tried to align where possible. As you plan for your sailing trip, one thing to consider is a sail and stay vacation. This way you can maximise your travel and enjoy island life before your sailing holiday.
Below are links to all the travel advisories for islands we sail to during our charters. You will find links to approved accommodations on the islands as well.
- US Virgin Islands
- The British Virgin Islands
- Saint Martin
- Sint Maarten
- St Barts
- Antigua & Barbuda
- St Lucia
- St Vincent & The Grenadines
Until a vaccine is available, testing for antibodies is one of the only ways that islands without huge medical infrastructure can protect their borders from travellers arriving at their shores.
As such you will likely be asked to show tests results or have an actual test on your way to your sailing holiday, either by the airline, by immigration and by the sailing holiday company as well.
These are often nasal swabs or instant blood test achieved from a small prick of the finger. These tests may or may not have a cost, it depends on the island you are on.
Consider the following health guidelines when you plan your sailing charter:
- adhere to social distancing guidelines in the country/ies you are sailing to and from. You can find all the details per country in the links above
- bring your own mask(s) and PPE equipment, as many islands are unable to provide them
- wear masks once you land until you meet your yacht crew or are at sea
- agree to have a temperature test upon arrival and during your trip so that you can check how you are doing. Tell local authorities if you have any symptoms
- bring your own snorkel and mask if you want to snorkel during a trip
- research, where you can get testing done on an island, incase you need to have a test during your sailing trip.
Yacht Cleanliness & Provisioning
Cleanliness, hygiene and staying healthy are top of everyone’s minds right now. Making sure the boat you are sailing on is ship shape and clean is more important than ever now too.
Most yacht charters have great cleanliness standards anyway, but when booking your sailing holiday make sure you understand what the cleaning protocols are before you jump on board your yacht. And if you are sailing with a skipper or crew, find out what social distancing policies will be in place. Some guidelines to consider:
- 48 hours between charters to minimise any virus transfer
- If you have a provisioning package, disinfect all containers and packaging brought onto the boat before storing. Wash fresh produce and store appropriately. If provisioning for yourself do the same before taking anything below deck.
- Your charter company can tell you what is being deep cleaned above and below deck before your charter starts. And what the cleanliness standards will be during your charter including:
- Sanitizer suitable for hands and surfaces should be available in cabins and shared spaces. This is especially important when leaving and coming back from ashore
- All surfaces in communal areas are frequently disinfected
What’s Not Changed & Has Got Even Better!
With a little bit of planning, none of the above will detract from the amazing experience of getting out on a sailing boat in the Caribbean.
You will still find wonderful trade winds, stunning anchorages and the wonderful sea life. And everywhere you go you will find friendly islanders, who all want to welcome you to discover their islands.
Never have we seen so many tropical fish, dolphins and whales and such clear waters. Now really is a great time to start planning your next sailing trip.
Below are some of the latest and greatest information sources for planning a sailing trip in the Caribbean. Or if you want to chat to us live about organising a sailing holiday you can schedule a FREE yacht charter consultation
- BlueFoot Travel’s Coronavirus FAQ
- Cruiser Facebook Pages – There is a ton of information on these Facebook pages, not only in the posts but also the searchable document sections too.
- Antigua Cruisers
- BVI Boating
- Dominica Cruisers
- Eastern Caribbean Cruisers’ Discussions
- French Antilles Cruisers Information
- Martinique Cruisers Information & Events
- Grenada Cruisers Information and Carriacou Cruisers
- St Lucia Cruising Yacht Discussion
- St Vincent & The Grenadines Cruisers
- Sint Maarten Cruisers & Boaters (SXM)
We hope that this information helps you in planning your next sailing charter holiday whether it be a bareboat, skippered, cabin or crewed yacht charter.
If you would like to understand exactly what BlueFoot Travel is doing to ensure a safe environment on our yacht charters you can read our Coronavirus FAQ for all the details.
Thanks for reading our sailing blog. If you have any feedback or additions to this post, please do get in contact. And if you are interested in joining us on a cabin charter you can view availability for our sailing trips here.
Neil & Sam
The BlueFoot Travel Team
About BlueFoot Travel
We offer sailing holidays in the Caribbean. Join us on a yacht and experience an unforgettable crewed cabin charter. Book a cabin for your sailing vacation – ideal for solo and single travellers, couples and small groups. Relax and recharge. Enjoy delicious healthy food. Get hands-on sailing experience with an RYA sailing instructor. And, have lots of fun as we sail from one beautiful island to the next. Sail in style with BlueFoot Travel.