In a clever move, the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board has initiated the BVI VIP Club, which is like a “frequent flyer” program that gives travelers special privileges based on the number of your visits to the British Virgin Islands.

Membership is complimentary, but you have to provide proof of your visits by sending copies of the stamps in your passport.  The Basic level, for residents of the U.S. and Caribbean is three visits, while the rest of the world requires only two visits.  Silver level is reached with six (or four) visits, and Gold membership is with ten visits (seven for non-U.S/Caribbean residents).

Basic and Silver memberships give you a VIP newsletter, discounts, gifts and invitations to special events.  The Gold level is the one you want to earn, however, because it gives you VIP arrival status at the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport (formerly Beef Island Airport), which should skate you through customs and immigration quickly. 

For information, go to


Le Boat Has A Vision

Le Boat, the inland waterway bareboat charter company with fleets on the canals of France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland, made a major commitment with their Vision series.  The company, a sister charter operation to The Moorings and Sunsail, invested in an all-new 49-footer, which debuted in 2011 and is rolling out into most of their bases in 2012.  

Available with either hybrid electric/diesel power combined with solar panels or traditional diesel power, the Vision is a huge improvement over previous canal boat offerings.  The spacious interior has four large ensuite cabins, plus an open saloon/galley/pilothouse.  Up top, the large bridge/sundeck includes a BBQ and fridge, settee with table, and helm.  Adding to the ease of handling is a new joystick control that links a bow thruster with the main engine to simplify docking and passage through locks.

Le Boat, 800-734-5491,


Leopard 44 Best Boat Of The Year

Introduced to North America at the Strictly Sail Miami Show in early 2011, the Leopard 44 has received the SAIL Magazine Best Boat 2012 for the category of Cruising Multihulls under 50 feet.  Built by Robertson and Caine in South Africa, the Leopard cats have proven to be fast, sailor-friendly and robust in charter service worldwide. 

Drawing on an idea from Lagoon catamarans, the Leopard 44 has a door from the saloon to a forward lounging cockpit that should prove attractive with its comfortable seating and sun protection from the extended cabin top.  It is, we think, ideal for enjoying a sundowner at anchor.

The Leopard 44 is available in two versions, with either an owner’s suite filling the entire starboard hull and two ensuite guest cabins in the port hull or a more charter-friendly four-stateroom four-head version.  Going into service with Sunsail as the Sunsail 444 is the four-cabin version, while other charter companies (including TMM Charters) offer the owner’s layout.

Either way, the 44/444 has a raised bridge with excellent visibility and electric winches for sail trim.  Other bareboat features include generator and air conditioning, electric windlass, fully-battened stacking mainsail and furling genoa, and full Raymarine electronics.

Sunsail, 888-350-3568,

TMM, 800-633-0155,


Marine Max Jumps In

MarineMax, the largest recreational boat and yacht dealer in the United States, has jumped into the bareboat charter pond with a fleet of Dufour luxury sailboats based out of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Chris Caswell PhotographyCalled MarineMax Vacations, the bareboat program will initially offer 15 Dufour sailboats and intends to follow that with a fleet of bareboat powerboats as well.  Aiming to appeal to a higher-end charter clientele, each of the boats will have $50,000 in upgrades that include a generator, air conditioning, and a watermaker, which sets them apart from other BVI bareboats.

Two sailing models are now available: the MarineMax 413 and the 433.  The 413 is actually the Dufour 405GL, a 40-footer with three cabins and two heads.  The 433 is the Dufour 425GL, a 42-footer with three cabins and three heads. 

Arriving later in 2012 will be two power catamarans: a 38-footer with a two-cabin/two-head layout and a 45-footer with four ensuite cabins plus a flybridge.

The fleet will be based at Hodges Creek Marina, which is in Maya Cove on the east end of Tortola and just a short taxi ride from the BVI airport on Beef Island. 

Until March 31, 2012, the company is offering 20% off bareboat charters of five days or longer when booked before January 31.

We expect this to be a serious contender, since MarineMax Vacations president Lex Raas and VP Raul Bermudez both held those positions for many years with The Moorings, and clearly understand bareboat chartering.

MarineMaxVacations, 888-461-5497,

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