St Thomas, US VI - Anticipation is running high for a busy crewed charter yacht sailing season based on reports from captains, crews and yacht brokers attending the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Yacht Association (VIPCA) show, which took place Nov. 7 to Nov. 10.
"Our season is just getting underway, and the crewed charter yachts are booking up very fast," said Oriel Blake, executive director of VIPCA. “And we are not just ramping up, but we have a new client base coming to the USVI from the cruise ship and hotel industry. Meanwhile our captains and crews are largely remaining in the territory where we showcase our national parks and reefs, wall diving, culture, Caribbean history, restaurants and sailing the trade winds.”
There were nearly 30 boats at the VIPCA show, many of them catamarans mainly in the 40ft to 60ft range. Captains and crews varied in age and interests, and made up a good cross section for those seeking a variety of experiences in and around the waters of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, including the use of water toys from power snorkeling to hydrofoil boarding.
Captains Devan Rose and Davis Alford who run Paradise Yacht Management’s 52ft Lagoon, Ocelot, said they are looking forward to including St. Croix in their itineraries this year, sailing the 40 miles to snorkeling and diving at Buck Island National Reserve.
“I personally love to sail, and when we sail to St. Croix for some it is the first time they are out of sight of land. But it is a beam reach both ways which is the nicest point of sail,” Devan said.
Similarly, the crew of Charter Caribe’s Lagoon 65, Aeolus, said they are looking forward not only to the world class scuba diving on St. Croix but also enjoy bringing guests to the towns of Christiansted and Fredericksted.
“We are often accompanied by dolphins riding the bow wake and frigate birds,” Captain Mayon Hight said of. "We also have guests who really do want to stretch their legs and hike on St. John, so we are fortunate to have the unspoiled beauty there and we often take our guests hiking."
For yacht brokers on site, the 2021 VIPCA offered a chance to refresh their current information and meet new crew.
Santiago Aranques of Argentina is a charter yacht captain with the British Virgin Islands-based Charter Porte company. He and chef Lucia Valentini said they plan to split their itinerary between the USVI and the BVI in the coming months to take care of all the region has to offer.
With the growth of the charter yacht industry ongoing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a generation of younger sailors are also now being offered training programs through the Marine Apprenticeship Program. For 18-year-old Sierra LaVargie who graduated from the program, her goal is to be a captain and run her own charter company someday. “We have been trained in sailing, power boating, lifesaving, and the hospitality side of boating. I think the marine apprentice program has given me the confidence to take the larger steps like becoming a captain, something that I feel I will someday be ready for.” For more on the 2021 VIPCA, visit https://vipca.org/usvi-charter-yacht-show/.