Chartering the U.S. Virgin Islands

Author:
Publish date:
A solitary sailboat glides past Trunk Bay on St John

A solitary sailboat glides past Trunk Bay on St John

It’s easy to spend an unstressed week enjoying the natural beauty of the waters around St. John and St. Thomas

Shoulder to shoulder with the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgins are made up of four main islands (St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island) and then another 50 or so smaller cays.

USVI19-map

The main island is St. Thomas, which is a major gateway to the Caribbean with a busy airport and a ferry system to the BVI. Frenchtown on Charlotte Amalie Harbor, where CYOA charters is based, has a party vibe, with passengers from cruise ships mingling with the salty sailors haunting the bars and restaurants. At Red Hook, on the other end of the island, there’s a busy harbor with charter bases for Island Charters and Sail Caribe, along with a host of independent operators.

On the horizon and only six miles away, St. John is a wealthy island, home to many celebrity residences. Most of St. John has excellent anchorages on the north and south sides. Caneel, Maho and Francis bays are beautiful, and the old Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins are fun to visit.

There are no marinas, but Cruz Bay has some of the best shopping—visit Mongoose Junction or take a drive to the other side of the island and shop at Skinny Legs bar where you can enjoy an umbrella drink and memorialize the experience with lots of T-shirts.

Maho Bay on the western bight of Francis Bay is fringed by a white sand beach that extends 60 feet out into turquoise water where it joins a reef. Curious turtles surface all around and dozens of stingrays glide just below the surface.

Almost two-thirds of St. John is protected as a national park and that includes the surrounding bays. Anchoring is not permitted in many of these, so mooring balls ($20 per night) are provided. You’ll find many quiet spots to enjoy excellent snorkeling.

Although it’s easy to spend an unstressed week just hanging around the USVI, charterers out of St. Thomas often spend at least a few days in the BVI, says CYOA’s John Jacob. 

A typical Virgin Islands sunset, seen from Waterlemon Cay

A typical Virgin Islands sunset, seen from Waterlemon Cay

DON’T MISS

Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas

The Annaberg Plantation on St. Thomas

Snorkel with sea turtles in Maho Bay

The floating bar in Coral Bay on St. John

EXPERT TIP

Jay Pennington, CYOA Charters:

“Spend a night at Honeymoon Beach, in Druif Bay on Water Island. Believe it or not, this spectacular anchorage is less than a mile from our base. Perfect for the first or last night of charter. There’s a great roped-off swimming area, and it’s home to two beach bars.”

EXPERT TIP

Jim Veiga, owner, Sail Caribe: “Waterlemon Cay / Leinster Bay on the north side of St. John offers a protected mooring field (US National Park Moorings). Snorkeling around Waterlemon Cay is spectacular. It is unique in that it offers both shallow water and deeper water coral reef structure that attract a large variety of fish from small typical reef species to large grouper and snapper.”

OTHER BAREBOAT CHARTER COMPANIES

 Island Yachts /  Virgin Islands Sailing

October 2019

Related

grenadapromo_0

A Grand Grenada Charter

I have often sailed in the swath of more accessible West Indian islands that lie between Antigua and Puerto Rico. But I had never before cruised around any of the islands south of Antigua, so I jumped at the chance last April to step aboard a Lagoon 380 catamaran from Horizon ...read more

SunFast-600x

Video tour: Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300

Jeanneau America's Mike Coe takes SAIL aboard the brand new Sun Fast 3300 for an exclusive tour. This mid-sized stripped-down racing boat has a perfect balance of amenities and weight-saving simplicity to make it a blast to sail. Though it boasts sleeping space for up to six, ...read more

furlex2

Know-how: Installing an Electric Furler

Push-Button Reefing Boats have never been easier to sail, and yet, designers and builders still strive for that extra iota or two of convenience. A case in point is the growing acceptance of powered headsail furlers. Roller-furling headsails are ubiquitous not only on cruising ...read more

New-Lead

Know-how: Modify a Blackwater System

My dissatisfaction with the head and holding tank plumbing arrangement on our 1987 Sabre 38 had grown as we cruised the boat away from the comforts of a marina for longer periods of time. When we are tied up at a marina, the use of regular bathrooms generally trumps the ...read more

01-LEAD-Suzuki-55f19d31e297c

Choosing the Right Outboard

Two of the most indispensable items on board a cruising yacht are a dinghy and an outboard motor. At anchor or on a buoy, of course, they are your only means of getting ashore. They also have a thousand other uses. For example, they can allow you to motor across to friends’ ...read more

2019-giftGuide

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Sailing America Rizzoli International Publications has released this striking portrait of American sailing by nautical photography legend Onne van der Wal just in time for the holidays. Featuring 200 stunning photographs spanning the length and breadth of the sailing scene—from ...read more

01-Sailing-La-Vagabonde,-Outremer-48

Cruising: the Vagabonde Life

Once upon a time conquering your dream of sailing off into the sunset was enough, but these days it seems like you have to be popular on social media too. Balancing the stresses of sailing around the world while keeping a successful—not to mention financially lucrative—social ...read more

191114

Video: 11th Hour Racing Arrives in Brazil

Team 11th Hour Racing finished in fourth place this past week among the 29 IMOCA 60s competing in the 4,335-mile doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Aboard were American Charlie Enright and French sailor Pascal Bidégorry, ...read more