Charter Review: BVI Yacht Charters, Lagoon 420 Aria
Dates Reviewed: October 20 - October 28, 2008
Charter Location: BVI Yacht Charters, Road Town Harbor, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Yacht Chartered: Aria 2007 Lagoon 420
Locations: Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Charter Advisors Recommendation
Great Value, friendly people, and a great yacht. We loved the Lagoon 420 they helped us choose and our charter mechanic deserves special mention for a very well informed and through checkout. Aria, the Lagoon 420 was a wonderful value. We wish we could get a deal like this every time! We would go back. BVI Yacht Charters is a good choice for the first time or seasoned charter. The value and the yachts for both groups are well represented.
Charter Company Overview
The BVI Yacht Charters Charter Advisors review was one packed with fun, great surprises, and wonderful sailing. The team at BVI Yacht Charters went out of their way to find the perfect yacht for our request. But it was more than that. Aria, a 2007 Lagoon, 420 had a few surprises of her own that added to the value far beyond what we expected. The charter base in Road Town is straight forward, simple, and clean. We would recommend BVI Yacht Charters to our readers and we would especially recommend Aria. She is a hidden gem in a sea of charter yacht look-a-likes.
What They Say About Themselves
As Published on their Website
BVI Yacht Charters was established in 1974 - With a growing fleet of yachts ranging from 32'-52' they are able to match their clients with the right boat for their needs! Whether an experienced sailor who loves the feel of the wind in your face as the yacht heels over the crystal clear Caribbean seas, or new to the world of sailing and are looking for a spacious, air-conditioned catamaran with a large cockpit in which to sunbathe and drink a cocktail then BVI Yacht Charters has the perfect boat for you! All of our yachts are fully equipped, clean and professionally maintained.
We are research nuts when it comes to looking for a charter deal in the BVI. When we find one, we can't wait to get down to the nitty gritty and get the yacht booked. This time around we we booked in low season (October). Weekly prices were close from charter company to charter company. So, the cost per day was not the major consideration. It came down to who had the right yacht available when we wanted to go and who could give us the best value for that yacht. This time it was BVI Yacht Charters who offered the deal that made it an easy choice at these prices. Ten nights for the price of seven!
Recommended or Chosen Charter Yacht
The Folks at BVI Yacht Charters recommended Aria, a 2007 Lagoon 420, owner's version after sharing our preferences with them. They hit the nail on the head for our needs and recommended a yacht not too big, not too small, and plenty comfy! It was very clear, these folks know their fleet well and understand that different people and groups need different things. We were grateful when we received a specific recommendation instead of a laundry list of available yachts with a little not that says: "They're all great!"
We were presented with two provisioning options though nearby markets. We selected an "easy on the chef" option that provided us with the basics for breakfast and lunches. Drinks, water, sandwich meat, breads, eggs, butter, jelly, juice, lunches meats, pastas, snacks, ice, BBQ charcoal, garbage bags, paper towels, etc.
Upon arrival at the airport you will be greeted by the warm sweet air of the Caribbean as well as a good selection of taxies. If you haven't pre-arranged a taxi, you shouldn't have a problem getting one. We do recommend that you arrange a taxi in advance. BVI Yacht charters does not have a shuttle service. They can and will help you arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the airport if you desire. Travel time from the airport to the charter base is approximately 20 min. For a party of four adults, budget for 40 dollars for the taxi ride. If the taxi driver helps load and unload your bags, tipping is most appropriate.
Arrival at Base
The base is simple, clean, and functional. Located in the Road Town inner harbor. If you plan on arriving a day before your charter, consider a sleep aboard night or a hotel in town. There are no hotels on the property (not a bad thing, low overhead, lower possible prices).
Overnight or Sleep Aboard Night
As we arrived at the base late in the day, an overnight was in order before the charter began the next day. This is a very common situation. The evening was spent getting bags unpacked and stowed and becoming familiar with the location of the onboard systems. This evening aboard also allowed us to keep from rushing around or looking for things the next morning. We knew the yacht inside out and had everything put away and ready to go by 7 p.m.
The Morning of the Charter
Provisions were delivered first thing in the morning, on the start date of the charter. Food and produce were fresh and plentiful. We were impressed that they included many of the basics as "included." Trash bags, cups, charcoal, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.
Chart Briefing and Check in
We were greeted by friendly faces with proper South African accents you would expect on the Brit side of the Virgin Islands. They kept the check in and briefing process simple. BVI Yacht Charters presented us with the final paperwork to sign off on, and collected a $1000 security deposit. We were then presented with our cruising permit, charts, and boat bag.
The boat bag they gave us contained additional charts, cruising guides, flashlights, a few spare tools, and binoculars.
We also pressed the boundaries of where they allow charters to go in the BVIs. Namely the Coral Atoll of Anagada and the U.S. Waters of St. John. These two are usually not places charter companies want you to go. Especially Anagada (which does require a good amount of experience in the BVIs to understand). BVI Yacht Charters can help you sail to these destinations if you and the weather are up to the task.
Lastly we were asked to take a check-out Captain for the day as our sailing resume was heavy on the Monohull side. We didn't mind a bit. You never know what you might learn.
The last piece of paper you will receive is the yacht check-out checklist. The checklist is just like the one you get when you rent a car.
Yacht Check-out Checklist
We found no problems with the recommended Lagoon 420. This owner's version yacht was lightly used, well cared for, and a pleasure to inspect from bow to stern.
Yacht, Mechanical, and Safety Briefings
These are the last steps before you shove off. In addition to our final briefings, we were also introduced to our check-out captain.
After we met, we headed back to Aria with our check-out Captain and BVI Yacht Charters mechanic in tow.
Note: If you have limited experience on the type of yacht you have selected, it is normal practice among all charter companies to require a check-out captain for a few hours to a day to be sure you have a sold feel for the yacht before turning you loose. This is a good thing!
Yacht Mechanical and Safety Briefing
The mechanic took us though the yacht and its mechanical systems. Every system we had to operate was covered in exactly the right detail. We didn't even have to ask the questions we had prepared the night before. Very thorough. Floorboards were pulled up to show everything from how the bilge pumps operated (and how to manually operate them if needs be), where the water tank switches are, and so on. Well done!
Click to see Aria - Lagoon 420's yacht review.
The Path To Windward
It's hard to say what our "planned" float plan was for this review, but we always have solid float plan intentions! This time around we chose a more windward path. But then again, somehow we end up mostly sailing to windward anyway. Maybe it's because our captain is right handed. Who knows.
Our BVI Yacht Charters review took us from their base in Road Town, Tortola to the Baths on Virgin Gorda on our first day for lunch, then off to the North Sound for a couple of days of live aboard and dinghy fun. Not to mention some awesome snorkeling, beach combing, the Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock, the Sand Bar, Leverick Bay, The Fat Virgin, and the not to miss Monday Night Mash Up dance party with "DJ Heavy B" at the Bitter End Pub. Being at the mooring ball at in the North Sound can keep you busier than a full day sailing (and can be a bit more pampering if you know where to go!).
From there we sailed our longest nonstop on day three. All the way to the other end of the BVI chain via the "Atlantic side," passing the Dogs, Guana, and Cameno, Islands to port, past Tortola, all the way to Jost Van Dyke. Anchoring is a necessity to get to the most famous haunts and the hidden treasure, and where the bubbly pool awaits. You either have to be in the know, ask a local, or know where to have lunch (eat at the right place, and there is a map printed on the back!) to find it though! Early on day four it was time to head off for a short reach to Sandy Cay for a bit more anchoring and snorkeling, then a very fast sail to Sopers Hole in the west end of Tortola, basically right at Frenchman's Cay. This is a wonderful mid-day stop off for lunch and to top off the water tanks at the same time. Full grocery provisions are also available. Helpful hint: day four is generally a good day to top off water. We ended day four by sailing though a small squall that snuck up on us over the Tortola Hillside. We were cursing our departure timing. Just 30 min. earlier or later, we would have missed it. We dropped sail and motored the rest of the way. The squall didn't last long and the rainbow that followed lit our path to our final destination that day perfectly, The Bight at Norman Island. Dinner at the infamous Willy T's is the only (not literally, but for us anyway) way to round out an evening moored in The Bight. Do be aware that the evening hours will turn the volume up on the festivities at Willy T's. Families should go earlier if possible. Or you may have to explain human anatomy to your kiddos a bit early. One thing you can count on. It's all in good fun at Willy T's!
By day five we were convinced of how easy to sail and enjoyable the BVI Yacht Charters Lagoon 420 was.
Day six found us hopping hot spot to hot spot. The Indians, Cistern Rock, and an evening at Cooper Island and dinner at the Cooper Island Beach Club for dinner and some just-made, homemade brownies.
We took full advantage of the wonderful sailing conditions in the BVIs on day seven, our last full day. Aria was such a joy to sail we meandered our way in the most round about fashion possible all day until we reached Peter Island. Normally a short jaunt, we stretched it our all day. We even made and ate lunch under sail. The Lagoon 420 is just that user friendly. The last morning aboard, we set sail for a quick reach across the Sir Francis Drake Channel and arrived back at the Road Town base by 10:30 for our 11:30 check out. The Lagoon 420 inspired confidence even among our least seasoned crew. She was a joy under sail, motoring, and at the mooring. This one is a safe bet.
Noteworthy While Underway
Our departure went smooth. Our Captain for the day was helpful and informative. As we cleared Road Town harbor with our captain giving us the run down on every line and winch. He also showed us how to use the auto helm to do a neat little trick called auto-tacking. Very cool. He also made sure we understood the differences between sailing a Monohull and a Catamaran. After about 2 hours he was ready for drop off in Spanish Town just across the Sir Francis Drake Channel on Virgin Gorda.
It's a rare sighting in these waters. We came across a pod of four dolphins or so playing in our bow wave just off the Atlantic side of Guana Island on day three heading to Jost Van Dyke.We were told sighting dolphins is rare. Our encounter did create a stir with the local media. In fact our photos made the local paper. We have had reports from other charters that they have had the same experience in about the same place. We don't know how rare these sightings truly are, but if the stories we hear are even half true, you stand a good chance of seeing sailing with them yourself.
It can't be stressed enough how comfy this yacht is. From the ease of boarding and living aboard, to the dinghy and beds. The motion underway was a stable as stable could be. This yacht encourages you to just GO! We'd put a first timer or kids on this cat any day. Even the helm is comfy and big enough for two!
Windows On The Water
A nice extra touch. The stern cabins have windows that look inward and slightly down. When underway the kids or the kids at heart can watch the water fly by under the yacht.
Ok. We're about to talk in general terms here for a sec. Most charter yachts under $4000 per week rarely come with the power options the BVI Yacht Charters Lagoon 420 did. Power Winches for the main and jib. Generator. Powered winch for the dinghy davits, air conditioning, push button starting dinghy outboard, and even the all elusive microwave! All the features on this yacht, combined with low season rates and a special deal for a couple of extra days for free made this review charter one of the best values we've ever experienced.
Our review went with few issues. Even mother nature settled down. The bulk of our adversity on this review came before we picked up the yacht. Our review crew had arrived in the BVIs the week prior, just in time for hurricane Omar. We're happy to report the charter companies did a good job getting their charters back to base and into safe harbor well in advance of Omars arrival. We we're very happy to see that Omar was a couple of days in the rear window by the time our yacht was ready.
True, we had a blown fuse on the dinghy. We even had the halyard twist up in us at the top of the mast. Heck, we even had a electric winch stop working. But there were so many redundant systems and everything was so easy to use, it's hard to call these things Issues. Or even qualify as real adversity. All we know is that the yacht was a blast to sail and comfy all at the same time. And never once did she let us down!
Dinghy and Outboard
Our dinghy was outfitted with an electric push button starter and we kept blowing the fuse every time we started it. This situation was resolved by BVI Yacht charters in less than 30 min. Not too shabby considering we were anchored at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda on the other side of the channel from them at the time. We rarely see electric start outboards on charter dinghies. We're glad BVI Yacht Charters went the extra mile with the "easy to start" option. Once the popping fuse issue was solved, we were the only ones at the dingy dock NOT working out our backs to start the ol' dink. That was pretty satisfying all by itself.
Like we were saying, we lost a powered winch. But, we had 3 more! I don't think anyone onboard really cared that one winch stopped working, or noticed for that matter.
Halyard Doing the Twist!
When we pushed off from the dock and raised sail for the first time with our check-out captain, we all noticed the mainsail wouldn't go quite all the way up. We were shy of the top by a few inches. We checked the sail, its shape, and the general state of things. After a quick call to report this to BVI Yacht Charters, they offered to take the twist out or we could continue underway. Being that taking a little twist out of a halyard would require us returning to base, we opted to keep trucking along. What's a few inches anyway?
Huh? Pizza? Trust us... you want to know this. Cooking a frozen pizza in a yacht oven may not be the best idea. Why? A Couple of reasons. First, you may come to discover that the Caribbean brand of frozen pizza you just purchased expired a year ago. Thats no fun when you're hungry. Second, the ovens on yachts tend not to be what you're used to at home. It takes twice as long, and seems to get hotter on the outside than on the inside. If you've ever successfully baked a pizza aboard in the actual oven in the galley, we love to hear about it! Send us an email and let us know the trick!
Aria was a pleasure to sail. She was fast, fun, and simple to sail. This yacht is perfect for couples and families who want a bit more space and a no heel experience. Beginners NEED APPLY! You can literally just push a few buttons, fill the sails, turn the engines off, and you're off. We could point just about any direction except dead down wind (too slow!) and of course the "irons" (into the wind). She's quickest on a reach and works to windward nicely. No fancy daggerboards needed.
Please see our Yacht Review for the full scoop on Aria, BVI Yacht Charters 2007 Lagoon 420
The return went smoothly with no problems or issues. As with most charter companies we had to return the yacht by 11:30 a.m. on the final day of the charter. An overnight the previous night at Peter Island made for an easy reach across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Docking was a snap with the assistance of their dockhands. We topped off our tanks as per their instructions, gathered up our belongings and headed to the office. The friendly staff at BVI Yacht Charters helped us though our check out and final yacht walk through. When we were done, they arranged the cab ride back to the airport.
BVI Yacht Charters has a wonderful mix of charter yachts. From smaller more value oriented 30-footers though 44 plus footers designed like european flats and Italian sports cars. But all fall well in the value range when compared to the rest of the marketplace. Dollar for dollar, we saw a real value in Aria. And most importantly the real value was shown once we were underway. With an eye on value and high quality charter yachts, Charter Advisors recommends you give BVI Yacht Charters a try. Check out our links page if you would like their info.
By The Numbers
Total Yacht Costs: $3,439
Cost / Fee breakdownYacht: 2,219 with Taxes and Fees
Note: There was no up front fuel payment
Duration: 10 days
Deal Booked: Buy 7 nights Get 10 This deal was offered after speaking with BVI Yacht Charters directly. Often specials like this are posted on their website.
Extra Trip Fees / CostsMooring fees: $20 per night ($140)
Security Deposit: $1000 (Credit Card or Bank Card Hold released after you return)
Water: $38 (1 refills, both tanks)
Trash disposal: $15
Note: Minor fees and deposits such as permits and insurance deposit, are not listed. The above totals are not to be used as exact costs as these costs change often. This budget summary is intended for planning purposes only and to give a good idea for the average costs involved. The costs listed above are as per what we were charged at the time of charter.
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