The British Virgin Islands are a top bareboat charter destination from the US and Canada. And I periodically get questions about how to provision there. A while back, I wrote about charter meal planning to answer some of the questions.
Since then, several readers have sent me information on provisioning companies/grocery stores they’ve used that offer online ordering. If you are using one, make sure to read all the “fine print” on payment, returns and any extra fees. I don’t know of anyone who has really had a bad experience, just that you should know what the terms of the agreement are as they are not all the same.
Note that most companies do state prices online but make some sort of a statement that they are approximate and subject to change when the order is actually filled. Therefore, while you’ll have an estimate of your cost, you won’t know the final bill until your order is delivered to you.
I’ve also had a few emails about other specialty provisioning options — pre-cooked frozen meals and a couple of seafood options — and have included that information here, too.
We used Ample Hamper for all three of our charters in the BVI and were very happy with the service — but the last charter we did there was over 13 years ago and thus the current situation could be different. At the time it was the only option for Soper’s Hole unless you wanted to shop yourself at a local grocery. Locations in West End and Road Town; free delivery anywhere on Tortola if order is over $125. Offers full online ordering and multiple people can work on an order over several days. Considered the priciest overall but also carries the most “specialty” and “luxury” items. Visit their web site
UPDATE November 2016: A reader reported a bad experience with Ample Hamper being late with a delivery and missing items.
Bobby’s Market Place
Two readers have said they’ve used Bobby’s and been very happy. LaDonna (she didn’t leave a last name) said “We’ve used Bobby’s on 3 occasions and had great service. . . . We usually spent the morning after our sleep aboard running to pick out our own fresh veggies and Bobby’s would even pick us up and return us to the charter company.” With Bobby’s, you download their forms (PDF or Excel), complete them, and then email them back — complete instructions are on the site. Located in Road Town; free delivery on Tortola. Very popular and friendly service; good prices. Visit their web site
RiteWay Food Markets
Rite Way has 7 locations on Tortola (near most of the major charter bases) and full online ordering. My experience is that their web site works well in Internet Explorer and Chrome but the dropdown menus sometimes have problems in Firefox (I’m on a PC; don’t know about a Mac). So if you have problems in one browser, try a different one. While I know of many people who bought “extra stuff” by walking into one of their stores, I don’t know anyone who has used the online provisioning. Free delivery on Tortola. Tends to have the best prices and their new flagship store (Pasea) is fantastic if shopping in person; word of mouth is that Bobby’s is easier to work with if you are ordering online — maybe why no one had used RiteWay’s online ordering? Visit their web site
Tico is a low-cost source for alcoholic drinks, but they have a $150 minimum order for free delivery on Tortola during normal business hours. LaDonna used them instead of Bobby’s for drinks and was very happy. In checking out their site, I noticed that while still not cheap compared to typical US supermarket prices, Tico’s price on a case of Budweiser cans was remarkably cheaper — $21.95 at Tico, $35.59 at RiteWay and $27.20 at Ample Hamper. At that rate, it could be worth it to pay the $9.95 delivery fee if you don’t meet the $150 minimum order size for free delivery! Another thing that I noticed about Tico is that they have a fair number of wines under $10 per bottle. Online ordering, although it must be completed in one sitting. Visit their web site
BVI Fishing Complex
Great for fresh local fish and seafood, but no ordering, delivery or web site — you have to go there in person. About 1 mile from the Moorings base in Port Purcell, Road Town (I’m told to ask directions at the Moorings office). Open normal business hours on weekdays and Saturday mornings.
Don’t feel like cooking, yet don’t want to eat at a restaurant? Ms. Penguin offers frozen gourmet meals (make sure your boat has a freezer before ordering!). Located very near the Moorings base — just a couple minutes’ walk — for easy pickup. Otherwise, there is a delivery fee. Note also that most dishes are sized for two good-sized portions.A reader named Scott said that his group did this for two nights of their trip and enjoyed the meals. He noted that they are a little on the pricey side, but still less than the cost of eating at many restaurants ashore. He also pointed out the need to still provision the “extras” — a baguette and salad to go with lasagna, for example. His bottom line was that they’d use Ms. Penguin again for some good but easy meals. These are the same “prepared” meals that Moorings and Sunsail offer in their provisioning packages. Visit the web site
The BVIs are all about tourism and yacht charters are a big part of that. Do not worry about finding food or snacks along the way if you don’t get it all at the beginning. There are numerous smaller grocery and convenience stores all over the islands. Lots of great little bakeries and plenty of bars and restaurants, too.
Know of another great option that I didn’t mention? Or perhaps had a disappointing experience and want to pass on what NOT to do? Leave a note for others in the comments!