I want to provide a quick travel summary of our recent trip to St. John (March 12th - 20th) and also comment on our experience with CYOA. I cannot say enough good things about CYOA. I was a bit nervous for a number of reasons 1.) We have chartered often out of BVI but never St. Thomas. 2.) We have never experienced St. John other than the too often sail by on our way from Jost to Norman. 3.) Although we have chartered well over 50 times, we have never done so short-handed (meaning just my wife and I). Long story short -- we had, in my mind, the best trip of our lives (although my wife might put Paris on top).
CYOA - I cannot thank them enough for so many reasons. Whether it be during our charter arrangements, during our briefing or during our check-out -- CYOA proved to have exceptional service. Since it was just the 2 of us we chartered Island Angel (a Hunter e36 monohull). She was very well maintained, handled well both under sail and power. At 36’ she might be small but was more than enough room for the two of us and large enough cut through the Pillsbury Sound swells with ease. Both Chip and Jay from CYOA were professional and a fun to work with.
To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about having to go through a checkout since I have some good experience in my background. In retrospect, I believe more charter companies should go through mandatory checkouts to ensure the comfort of their charterers from the get-go. In addition, if I were an owner I would very much appreciate this service to help reduce risk of harm to the vessel. Actually it is really not a check-out but more of CYOA showing you the ropes (so to speak). It was especially fortunate in our situation since Chip, who performed our checkout, had discovered that the tack in the main roller furling had become unattached. He had it reattached within 5 minutes where I know we would have struggled it for awhile.
CYOA is based in St. Thomas and the Marina is small but we really liked the fact it is located in Frenchtown. There were many small friendly restaurants a few minutes walking distance. Provisioning was a bit of a hassle since there is really not an option like Bobbie's in the BVI. Nevertheless we rented a jeep and had it all completed within 2-3 hours. In fact, we were able to drop the jeep of within walking distance from the marina the next morning.
We loved St. John. We had originally planned to spend a good amount of time in St. John then eventually cross over to Jost. However we loved St. John so much -- we never left. The beaches are the most spectacular that I have ever seen -- absolutely incredible! This is coming from someone who has been to many locations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii. The beaches are pristine, calm, lush... The colors are extraordinary: every shade of blue the ocean has to offer, lush deep green vegetation spread across the rolling hills and lava produced black boulders edging the sides of the perfect white powdered beaches. This all exists within its own natural splendor due to the national park designation over most of St. John. We hiked some excellent trails allowing some very memorable views. We especially enjoyed the hike to the Sugar plantation on via Maho Bay which had spectacular views and was also educational (self guided tours).
St. John beaches are very secluded. In fact, there were a few times late in the afternoon where we had the entire beach to ourselves (cruise shippers typically scatter by 2-3). Better yet there were no commercial buildings around the beaches we visited due to national park regulations. Don't get me wrong, I love a good beach bar and enjoy a party but there was something about this experience that was so different and enjoyable. It simply felt great to be there with just my bride, moving at our pace to a different anchorage each day where each anchorage only seemed to become more and more beautiful the further we sailed East. We made it as far as Leinster (my favorite). We did spend our last night on Great St. James which is a good mid-point back to St. Thomas and makes for an easy morning sail. Get there early though as morning balls go fast. It was the only place we had to anchor during our trip. Great St. James is nothing like St. John however the dinghy up Pizza boat was a one of a kind experience.
I am not sure when we will be back but we most definitely will be back. Thanks for reading.