Skip to main content

Chartering the U.S. Virgin Islands

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

Spons-Sailing-Convention-for-Women-CA-April-1-photo-1-2023-12_06_22

Sailing Convention for Women Returns

After a three-year pandemic hiatus, the Sailing Convention for Women is back with expanded learning opportunities taking place at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club in Corona Del Mar, California on April 1, 2023. Some of the workshop topics include Suddenly Singlehanded, Steer with ...read more

thumbnail_Jump-1

The Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race Returns

It’s been four years since racers last sailed the cold North Atlantic in the venerable Marblehead-to-Halifax race—and finally, the wait is over. The Boston Yacht Club and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron have announced the 39th Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race set for this ...read more

Wendy-2048px

Meet Wendy Mitman Clarke, Editor-in-Chief of SAIL magazine

Learn more about how she and the magazine’s team are committed to building on SAIL’s legacy of more than 50 years as an authentic voice about the sport and the sailing life, delivering stories that educate, inspire and inform. ...read more

maintenance-02

Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will ...read more

01-LEAD-DSC_0953

The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar, and AIS. They help me be a safer and more ...read more

02-En-route-Jost-Van-D

Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these ...read more

220307FP51_1JML0332

Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it ...read more

00LEAD-IMG-9035

Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill ...read more