When provisions are delivered dockside, it’s wise to leave the boxes in the cockpit and only take food below

There are several options for provisioning, and most charter bases have a local market or two nearby. Most of the local markets will also deliver food to your boat before your departure, which is a great time-saver.

Tip! When you load food from the docks onto your boat, take precautions to prevent insects from hitching a ride onto the boat. Insects can hide within the walls of cardboard boxes used to transport groceries. Leave the cardboard boxes on the dock, loading only the groceries themselves onto the boat.

Provisions Delivered to Boat

Many of the local markets have online forms available for you to order provisions before you arrive. This is a great service that reduces the number of tasks you need to complete on an already busy departure day. These forms make the selection and meal planning easy, with complete meals identified for your selection. You can choose to have all of your meals provisioned this way, or choose partial provisioning, with some meals on board and others at restaurants ashore.

Note that because the local┬ámarkets’ stocks are dependent on shipping from outside the islands, the markets will make some substitutions to your selected meals. This is typically not a problem, just be flexible and expect a few substitutions and enjoy the convenience.

Ordering provisions delivered to the boat is probably the most common method used by charterers, and here are a few lessons learned to make sure this goes as smoothly as possible. Have a couple of crew members prepared to handle the provisions when they come.
  • Give one crew member your pre-ordered your provision list and assign them to check off each item as it is loaded into the boat. Make sure you are aware of any substitutions, and that you are given credit for any missing items.
  • Bring gallon size ziploc type bags, and place any meat products into the ziploc bags before you put them in the ice box. Your fridge, though it may have some self refrigerating capability, will depend largely on a couple bags of ice added daily, which means the fridge is more like an icebox. Items in the bottom of the fridge may at times be floating in icy water, so you want to make sure they won’t leak.
  • Have as many crew members on hand to form a human chain and pass provisions into the boat. This will save a lot of trips down the companionway.
  • Do not bring boxes down into the boat, because they may occasionally have bugs in the cardboard. Instead, unload the boxes dockside or in the cockpit, and only bring the food items below.

Shopping By Yourself

You can also take a taxi (or walk, if the market is close enough) and do the shopping yourself. The markets’ stock comes from all over the world, so do not expect to see familiar brands or a lot of variety. This is a multi-cultural experience, and you may find products or brands you wish were available back at home.

Provisioning the boat mid trip at a small market in Soper’s Hole

Bringing Food With You

Many sailors will check a cooler full of familiar staples from home in order to save some money and ensure that favorite products will be on board. Be sure and check with BVI customs authorities if you plan to bring food to make sure what you bring is not prohibited. Many meat and fresh produce products are prohibited in foreign countries.


There will be restaurants available in most larger anchorages, but not all. It is recommended that you plan on some self provisioning for those locations where no restaurant is available, or where it may not be open in time for breakfast and an early start to the day. More on specific restaurants is contained in the isulands section.