Many people may not realize that the island of Bermuda is not actually located within the Caribbean. Rather, it is off the coast of South Carolina in the United States. This makes it a convenient stop for many northern yachters on their way to more tropical destinations.
Bermuda is often a stopover for boats leaving the Caribbean around April or May and for boats traveling to the Caribbean in the fall. It traffics over 1,000 yachts each year, and is also a popular base or stop after yacht races.
There are a number of party boat cruises available in Bermuda, from amped-up sight-seeing tours, to dinner cruises, to booze cruises. Though the type of cruise may vary, they usually offer the same amenities: live music or a DJ, entertainment and games, and refreshments. Some even stop to allow passengers to participate in water sports.
Vacationers can even rent full party boats on which to host their event. Wedding, anniversary celebrations, birthday parties, and product launches are all made more exciting when held at sea. These boats can be rented for several hours to a full day, and depending upon the size carry 30 to 300 people out to sea.
Travelers visiting Bermuda can easily charter a boat if they don't have one of their own. In fact, there are several different charter options available. Crewed charters are for travelers who need a hand to get around on the sea, while a skippered bareboat is for those who only need a little bit of help. Bareboat charters are for those who know all about sailing to the islands.
Crewed yachts come with everything from a skipper and crew to a cook, but the captain always calls the shots. This means that while you can determine the itinerary, if there are any dangers the captain may change it to avoid problems.
Experienced sailors can charter a bareboat with only the equipment travelers will need to sail the islands. However, travelers needing a bit of guidance, sometimes determined by the rental company, and sometimes by the travelers themselves, can find a skipper a great addition to their journey.
Travelers going on their own will need to prove their qualifications. They'll also be offered a tutorial of the area, reefs, and safe harbors so they'll never have much to worry about.
If you're traveling with a large group of people, and have at least two experienced sailors, you might want to try flotilla sailing. This is when three or more boats sail the same course together. An experienced captain is hired to sail the head boat, and members of your party follow in tandem.
After selecting which type of charter is most suitable for you, you'll then have to choose which type of boat you'd like to sail. Yachts and catamarans are the most commonly chartered vessels that sail this region.
Yachts and catamarans differ mainly in that yachts have one hull and catamarans have two. Catamarans are also said to be easier to maneuver despite their large size, and provide a more comfortable setting for passengers. On the other hand, there are many different types of yachts available to choose from. Dingies are small yachts that are a good choice for short trips, pocket yachts are a mid-sized yacht that are good for weekend trips, and cruisers are the large yachts that can spend several days at sea without issue.
Most charter companies offer travelers the chance to have food provided (for a fee), though some travelers prefer to buy it themselves before they set sail. While buying your food may save you some on the cost of food, many travelers choose to have the food provided because it can be difficult to get food through customs, and shopping at your departure point may be a hassle. Don't forget to purchase enough food for captain and crew if you've hired any on board help.
There are plenty of different charter companies around Bermuda and, to help you gain a better understanding of charter companies, they have been broken down. The four main classifications are classifications by size - large and small - and "tier."
Larger charter companies come in all sizes. It is often suggested that first-time charterers use the larger companies because with a larger fleet available, problems are virtually nonexistent. However, travelers should keep in mind that smaller companies often stay small to provide the best customer services they can.
Companies that list themselves as first tier will offer travelers the chance to charter boats that are very new, and these boats generally have the most extras as well. Boats older than four or five years will often be sold to companies in the second tier. However, the cost for second tier ships is also lower.
Meanwhile, there are other ways to select charters. Many travelers like to book their charter via a charter broker, who acts like a travel agent and helps travelers find the best choice for charter options. This can also be important because a charter broker can help to unite travelers with a crew that would be well-suited to their personality. Charter brokers help with all kinds of charters, and are paid by the boat's owner for their services.
When entering Bermuda, travelers must first make contact via radio. Contact the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) Bermuda or Bermuda Harbour Radio on VHF Channel 16, and list your approximate arrival time and any special needs you may have. There is a 24-hour radar watch, and the station is on call on 2182 KHz, 4125 KHz, and VHF Channels 16 and 27. Make sure to pay special attention to the reef! The radar should alert you if you pass too close, but it is always best to be safe.
Bermuda has only one port of entry: St. George's Harbour. Travelers should enter this port flying the yellow quarantine flag and head to the Customs dock, which is located on the Northeast corner of Ordnance Island and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Enter St. George's Harbour through the Town Cut channel. After clearing Customs, yachts may travel elsewhere in Bermuda; yachters who don't stop here first will be fined. Yachts entering between midnight and 8:00 a.m. will be directed to anchor in Powder Hole, where they must remain until Customs opens.
You should have two crew lists and two lists of consumable stores. Usually the Customs boarding officer will handle all formalities. The entrance fee of $15(USD) is charged to all people entering Bermuda. Firearms, including spear guns, must be left with the Customs officers. All medicines must be declared. Fruits and vegetables are not permitted to enter. Animals must have proof of health and an Import Permit from the Bermuda Department of Environmental Protection. Contact the Department of Environmental Protection via mail at P.O. Box HM 834, Hamilton HM CX, Bermuda, or by phone at 441-236-4201.
Yachts are allowed to remain in Bermuda for six months. If yachts are left longer than six months, then a Customs duty of 33.5 percent of the yacht's value will be charged. If delays are necessary for legitimate reasons, the Collector of Customs may grant an extension.
Remember that spearfishing is expressly prohibited within one mile of any shore, and sewage must be stored in holding tanks or be sanitized by U.S. Coast Guard-approved marine sanitation devices.
If you'd rather spend several hours at sea than several days, renting a boat for a few hours is probably a better option for you. Day rentals are great for a quick sail around the island, water sports such as water skiing and diving, and fishing. Waterski boats (seats up to five people), family cruisers (seats six), runabouts (seats eight, sleeps two), and cruisers (seats and sleeps 10) are the most common day rental options.
Some people just can't escape the lure of the ocean, especially when they see the waters surrounding Bermuda. Whether you're interested in sailing to or around Bermuda, your perfect yacht awaits.
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