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Yacht Charter Glossary

Many are a little fuzzy about the terminology used by those in the yacht charter industry. The following are definitions and explanations of some bareboat terms we use that pertain to the yachts and the equipment we offer. This glossary is designed to help novice boaters and first time charter guests understand what the heck we are talking about and the terms used throughout our website!

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Bareboat or Bare Boat?:

Utter the word *bareboat* and some folks become positively giddy envisioning a bunch of naked people frolicking aboard a yacht, sailing through paradise. Ermmm, no! Sorry but public nudity is illegal in the BVI.

A bare boat yacht ... or more correctly, a "bareboat" (one word) is a sailboat or powerboat for hire without crew. Think, "car rental" versus "limousine service".

When bareboat charters began, bareboat simply meant no extras, you got a "bare" boat. That is not appropriate today, as several modern bareboats have every extra one could imagine, including, microwave ovens, Mp3's, TV's, VCR's, DVD's, air conditioning, ice makers, blenders, etc. In addition, you may hire a captain, cook or both, effectively turning a bareboat into a "captain only" or "crewed yacht".

Bareboat with crew OR crewed yacht - What's the difference? back to word list


A bimini is a weather resistant fabric (usually Sunbrella) stretched over a stainless steel frame and fastened above the cockpit or flybridge of a boat. It serves as a sun shade and a quasi rain shelter. Biminis are an absolute necessity for Caribbean sailing ... unless you have no concerns about sunburn and melanoma!

Note: Bimini is also a Bahamian island!

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Bow Thruster:

A really handy little device that makes docking and maneuvering in tight spaces a whole lot easier than without one.

It is a small propeller that runs parallel to the boat (in other words facing sideways) which is mounted either in the hull or is attached to the underside of the boat, at the bow.

The thruster will propel the bow of the boat either to port or starboard at the push of a switch. Marvelous little things! Very nice item to have in the equipment list.

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Captain Only Yacht Charters:

A captain only charter is exactly that. No cook, stewardess or deck hand, just a captain. Captain only charters are available on bare boat yachts only.

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I realize this may be insulting for some, but many people inquire about "bareboat rentals", which we really don't offer. "Chartering" refers to "weekly or term" sailing or power boating holidays.

Boat rentals pertains to "daily" charters for smaller boats such as hobie cats or day sailors or a small power boat with outboard. Bare boat charter companies and brokers sell *term charters* which are a week or two in duration. You live aboard a bareboat.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and I can think of at least one BVI charter company which offers daily rentals, provided they have something suitable available. But don't try to book more than a day or two in advance!

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A cockpit on a monohull sailboat (single hull) is where your helm (steering wheel or tiller) is situated. This is a sunken well with seating, recessed into the main deck.

Modern catamarans (yachts with two hulls) often have raised helms for improved visibility, making the cockpit strictly a lounging and dining area.

For our purposes, a powerboat cockpit is usually located in the aft (rear) part of the boat that is also used for lounging, dining or as a fishing platform.

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Credit Card Captain:

Though we don't use this rather derogatory and obnoxious term throughout our website, there is at least one reference to it on our bareboat qualifications page.

Sadly, some people do not know the extent to which their lack of knowledge extends and erroneously believe that sailing is a piece of cake. They foolishly belief that whatever they don't already know, they can learn along the way. Sigh.

Sailing, like many other sporting activities requires a skill set and a great deal of knowledge. It takes years and sometimes a lifetime to become a truly skilled sailor. All we ask is that our charter guests be "competent" bareboaters.

"Some" brokers and "some" bareboat charter companies will allow completely unqualified boaters to charter a yacht. Why? The only possible answer is greed. The equation seems to be, If you have a credit card, you can sail a yacht.

So with that knowledge, please go ahead and view the bareboat qualifications page. I have turned away more than a few credit card captains in my day. I really don't need a commission that badly.

You may be amused to find one or two videos on YouTube specific to credit card captains. I tried linking to one or two here ... but someone keeps changing the URL. Very annoying.

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Crew Cabin or Crew Coffin:

Not to be confused with a pilot berth, a crew cabin (which I often call a crew coffin) is located at the bow of the boat. In days gone by, this cabin was reserved exclusively for crew as they are generally pretty cramped and stuffy. Charter companies normally didn't market them as for guest use. Over the years, these spaces have marginally improved and families often put teenagers in there as they seem to be able to sleep anywhere and for long periods of time. See forepeak berth (below) for additional information.

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"Fully crewed" means there is a full time captain and cook (who are often but not always the owners) who live aboard the yacht and sometimes they may also have a stewardess or deck hand. It depends on the yacht if a stewardess, deck hand or additional crew are supplied. Do not confuse a crewed boat for a bareboat with crew. They are not the same thing! We do not sell crewed charters. We sell bareboat charters with crew.

Confusing, I know. Sorry ... but there is a very distinct difference.

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Davits are a wonderful feature available on many catamarans, some power boats and larger monohulls. Davits are a pair of small cranes affixed to the transom (upright part of the back end of your boat) which are used to lift your dinghy and suspend it over the water while underway (moving). By lifting your dinghy rather than towing it, you are creating less drag and will get better performance (speed) from your boat.

Caution: Crew will rapidly become spoiled if you charter a catamaran or powerboat with davits as they will not be required to worry about hauling in your dinghy every time you want to anchor, moor or dock. The good news is, if you charter a yacht with davits, you may not need to bring all those lazy crew members with you!

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A dodger (like a bimini) is usually made of canvas or Sunbrella material, with vinyl window insets. It is attached to a stainless steel tubular frame and it covers the front part of the cockpit, that covers the companionway.

The purpose of a dodger is to block passengers in the cockpit from "most" wind and waves while the boat is underway. It also usually allows you to travel with the companionway hatch open for easy access.

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Forepeak Berth:

The forepeak is the forwardmost interior part of the boat, all the way up in the the pointy end, otherwise known as the bow. A berth is a bed. Ergo, a forepeak berth is a small cabin or bed located way up in the bow.

Note: Many forepeak berths are not designed for adults and are suitable only for children or teenagers. Forepeaks that are designed for adults are generally not very comfortable and are usually pretty scant. Almost none are air conditioned even if the yacht has air conditioning.

If planning to use the forepeak, it is best to set it aside for teenagers. It has been my experience that many teens can sleep just about anywhere.

Some forepeak berths that provide an opening hatch access from the forward cabin are ideal for small children travelling with their parents. Adults, not so much.

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The head is your toilet or latrine. In days of yore, all available space on a sailing ship was used for cargo space or as crew quarters. The bows of a boat (pointy end) must be shaped to easily cut through water and weight must be distributed amidships (middle section) or slightly aft (rear). As a result, crew quarters were spread throughout the bows of a ship or aftermost part of the ship.

But what to do with that v-shaped space at the bow? That space wasn't much good for anything other than storing anchor line and ground tackle (chain and anchor). Now there's a convenient place for a latrine! As it was almost always located forward or *ahead* ... the potty became known as "the head".

I have no idea if the above is a factual explanation or not. I picked it out of the nether regions of my mind. I'm pretty sure I read it in some nautical book or another.

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In-Mast Furling:

The large majority of yachts have standard, fully battened mainsails ... but in-mast furling mains have gained popularity over the past 20 years and although at the beginning, they did tend to have some rather severe problems, the technology has come a long way over the past 20 years.

Many die hard sailors will poo poo even the thought of an in-mast furling system. Obviously, as the sail actually winds into the inside of the mast, you can't have full battens, which means you can't control the sail shape as well as you can with a fully battened main. That means you will be sailing "somewhat" less efficiently. You will still get where you want to go, but perhaps a little more slowly than the same boat might, with a fully battened main.

However, I believe there is a place and purpose for everything. In mast systems are ideal for anyone sailing a larger boat while short handed or for a skilled captain sailing with an unskilled crew. The beauty of in-mast furling is that the captain can do (almost) everything that needs to be done ... from the comfort of the cockpit, without knocking himself out.

So put sailing snobbery aside and try to understand that when on a sailing vacation, it's not about speed! It's about enjoying the British Virgin Islands, in all her glory! :)

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Pronounced exactly as written ... or as lew~ward. Either pronunciation is correct. It just depends upon where you are from.

The "lee" side of the boat or dock is the sheltered side that faces the direction the wind is going. In other words, if the wind is hitting you on the your back, you are facing leeward and your face is protected from the wind.

Whenever possible, you will want to dock on the leeward side so the wind and waves aren't pushing the boat onto the dock.

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Lazy Jacks & Stack Packs:

Both lazy jacks and stack packs are used in conjunction with a fully battened main.

Lazy jacks are a series of lines attached to both sides of your mast leading to both sides of the boom, anchored at various distances from the mast to the clew. This very simple concept allows you to douse (drop)your mainsail (quickly and effortlessly) and the lines will guide the sail so that it flakes (folds) itself onto the top of the boom.

The stack pack is usually made from a Sunbrella type material and is simply a bag attached to the foot of the sail (on either side of the boom) that envelops the sail once it has been doused. Close the zipper and the sail is protected from wind and weather.

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In simple terms, a monohull is any conventional sailboat or powerboat with one hull.

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A "multihull" is a yacht with more than one hull. The term includes catamarans which have two hulls and are very popular here in the BVI and trimarans which have three hulls, which are a lot more rare.

There are very few trimarans available for charter. However, the largest trimaran in the world, (Cuan Law), is located in the British Virgin Islands and is available for scuba diving and larger parties of up to 20 guests.

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Option or Hold:

Your yacht charter broker or bareboat company may offer an "option" or "hold" on whichever bareboat you are interested in chartering. This is a tentative booking which is placed in your name pending receipt of your contract, sailing resume and deposit payment. An option is usually in effect for 5 to 7 days (depending upon the company) and provided payment and documents are received within time allowed. After receipt, your boating holiday will then be confirmed.

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Pilot Berth:

Usually a single berth (bed) which is located within easy access to the helm in either the main saloon or a companionway (corridor). A pilot berth was originally intended for the captain or his second in command, who took the midnight watch and needed to be close to the helm.

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Port & Starboard:

Port is the left side of a boat, identified by red navigation lights at night while starboard is the right side of the boat and has green navigation lights at night.

There's a mnemonic my father taught me when I was little to help me remember this. My parents liked port wine so he would say, "There is no red port left."

A sailing yacht on a starboard tack, has right of way over another yacht on a port tack. If the sail is on the port side of the boat, that boat is on a starboard tack.

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Food and beverages or grocery provisions for your sailing holiday. There are several companies located in various places and close to marinas which will do your provisioning for you and deliver to your charter base. See BVI Yacht Provisioning for more information.

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RIB or R.I.B.:

You will see this reference in many equipment lists. It stands for *Rigid Inflatable Boat*. How can it be rigid and inflatable at the same time? The hull is rigid (which helps the boat track through the water) while inflatable pontoons are mounted to the sides of the dinghy and provide a nice soft cushion for one's posterior. R.I.B.s are much preferred to the standard rigid dinghies of days gone by, which tended to be responsible for innumerable and sometimes very painful boat bites* after a night out!

Note: A "Boat Bite" is any bruise or minor injury received aboard a yacht, which is usually self inflicted through clumsiness, inebriation, being in the wrong place at the right time or taking part in sailing regattas. Racing sailors (at least those who actually work) are often covered in boat bites after a lively race!

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Sleep Aboard (SAB):

You may arrive in the BVI late in the afternoon or evening, when it is no longer possible to get underway for your charter holiday. Most bareboat companies offer what is called a "sleep aboard" the night before your bare boat sailing vacation begins. This means you may hire your yacht (at a reduced rate) to sleep aboard while still docked on company premises.

A sleep aboard does not mean you may leave any earlier than the time stated in your charter contract, which is usually noon. Several companies reserve the right to board your yacht (with you aboard) prior to noon in order to complete last minute preparations and maintenance.

Arrange your sleep aboard (SAB) when you make your reservation. In high season, there may be times when the yacht you've chartered isn't available for a sleep aboard. In this case, ask your broker or charter company to arrange nearby hotel accommodations for you.

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No, not the kind you bounce up and down on! A trampoline is a stretchy, lightweight fabric or woven netting stretched between between two hulls of a catamaran (or three hulls of a trimaran) at the bow (pointy end) of the yacht which acts as a safety net for sailors when on the forward hulls.

Designed as a safety feature to prevent sailors from falling overboard, a trampoline also offers a great deal of additional lounging space and is probably the most popular feature on any catamaran. Kids are automatically drawn to them.

When I first designed this web site, I included "trampoline" in our equipment list on all catamaran pages. That reference was quickly removed when clients began requesting catamarans with the biggest trampoline! Apparently, they thought this would be great fun for their kids to use to dive off their boat! Errrmm, nope.

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A bed, aboard anything afloat, is properly referred to as a "berth" . The "V-berth" is situated at the bow and follows the contour of the boat into an inverted V shape.

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The acronym stands for Virgin Islands Search and Rescue which is a volunteer organization funded by private as well as corporate and (sometimes) government donations. This organization is dedicated to saving lives at sea and will come to your assistance in the event of any serious medical or any other life-threatening situation.

V.I.S.A.R. maintains two bases from which the rescue boats are dispatched. One is located on Tortola at Road Reef Marina, beside the BVI Marine Police Station. The other is located on Virgin Gorda at the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, Spanish Town.

How to contact V.I.S.A.R. - use your on board cell phone or VHF radio. In the event of a life threatening situation or serious emergency, be certain to call V.I.S.A.R. first and your charter company immediately after in order to apprise them of the situation.

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Weigh Anchor:

No, you don't put your anchor on a scale to see how much it weighs! To weigh anchor means to take up or lift the anchor off the sea bed when getting underway or "under weigh".

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A windlass is probably the most wonderful invention since the light bulb and can make your sailing holiday a real dream. It is a device which will lift your anchor for you. If you have ever had to struggle to lift a 45 lb. anchor, you will certainly appreciate this handy gizmo!

Treat these little gems as if they were your best friend in the world! Don't ask a windlass to do what it was not designed to do. It is not intended to be used as a come along, so don't try to reel your boat up to the anchor using your windlass. Proper procedure is to drive up over the anchor (so it is positioned just below your bow) ... and then step on the windlass' *UP* button to lift your anchor off the sea bed. A good windlass costs thousands of dollars, so don't go burning out its motor because you didn't understand how to use one!

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The windward side of the boat or dock is the direction from which the wind is coming. If the wind is hitting you in the face, your are facing windward. If the wind is hitting your back, you are facing leeward.

If standing on the leeward side of the boat, you are the farthest away from the wind. If standing on the windward side, you are closest to the wind.

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Yacht Broker:

Don't confuse a yacht broker with a charter broker. Yacht brokers sell yachts. Charter brokers sell sailing or power boating holidays!

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Yacht Charter Broker:

There are bareboat and crewed yacht charter companies and yacht charter brokers who sell for them. Simply put, charter brokers sell term charter holidays aboard any number of privately owned yachts supplied through various charter companies or private owners.

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Last updated: Jan 8th 2016
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