We're not sure how much time we're going to have onboard Tortuga when she arrives in March and because it may be short (3-5 days), we're toying with using that time to check out St John and we have a ton of questions. I'm sure there will be more but let's start with these.
To premise, we'll be leaving out of Road Reef Marina(near Road Town) and we're won't be sure of "when" until we get there. We will literally be setting the itinerary as we get on the boat because we won't know when she'll be ready or how much time we'll have until she's been outfitted. Because of that it will just be the Capt(wife) and me onboard a 46' sailing cat. 1) If we check out of West End/Sopers Hole, what is the trip like from SH to Red Hook and from Red Hook to Cruz Bay? One of my concerns is that it will be mostly motoring and we won't get the time we want to shake out the sails.(The Capt now says Cruz Bay customs may be open now?) 2) are there any suggestions for stops that in 2-3 nights could give us a good feel for the island? I'm certain that we'll want 1 "quiet" night to appreciate the beauty on board and 1 night to check out dinner ashore etc. If we're lucky enough to have a 3rd night we'd probably go ashore. 3) is it true we wont' have to check out of St John? All we'd have to do is check back in West End or Jost?
Cruz Bay is open for entry of private vessels. Short 1 hr motorsail directly from Sopers Hole, but you could certainly take a fewl hour sail if you did a reach to Jost Van Dyke, back to Great Thatch then north around Great Tobago then to Cruz Bay.
You can anchor (3 hr time limit) in the small bay at the north side of Cruz Bay (the so-called Creek), then dinghy to the National Park Service dock. It's a 100 yd walk to the C&I trailer. Alternatively, grab an overnight mooring ball at Lind Pt and then dinghy to the NPS dock. Cruz Bay is your best option for dining ashore. There are many dining options within a few hundreds walk from the NPS dinghy dock. Lots of very nice shops and restaurants at the nearby Mongoose Junction. Great food (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and drinks at Cruz Bay Landing overlooking the main plaza in Cruz Bay near the ferry dock.
There are many wonderful quiet harbours around St John with great beaches, including Francis, Maho and Leinster bays on north shore (Maho has a beach bar) and the more remote Salt Pond Bay and Little and Great Lameshur bays on the south shore.
From Leinster Bay you have a short hike to the Annaberg plantation ruins. From the day mooring at Genti Bay on the south shore, there is a great hike past a 19th century sugar mill to the Petroglyph rock carvings that predate Columbus by many centuries. From Salt Pond Bay there's a great hike to the scenic Ram Head peninsula.
The south shore is an excellent jumping off place for some more exciting sailing into the Caribbean to test your boat and gear.
Few overnight STJ bays offer any 'dining ashore' -- Cruz Bay , picking up a mooring by Lind PT. or Caneel will have the best options. Anchoring in Coral Bay is about the best second choice for shore dining. Rendezvous Bay is my favorite quiet STJ anchorage!
Agree with answers about St. John. I assume since it’s a new boat in Road Reef that TMM will be commissioning it to whatever you want on it. The way things often work out at any busy charter base, they will be workin* on it when you arrive or waiting for something. New boats often have “teething problems” as was explained to me when it seemed we made more than one trip back to road reef that first week and a chase boat came with a part they had been waiting to install. They won’t make a chase call generally into US waters. If there is a paid charter coming up right after your three day maiden voyage you might be loose with the plan to go to USVI until you get to the base and see that everything is onboard and tested. TMM will do a great job in caring for your boat, but with a real short 1st time out, it may not go seamlessly.