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Trip Report - USVI Only #245393
01/19/2021 11:45 PM
01/19/2021 11:45 PM
Joined: Jun 2016
Posts: 72
S
Shifty Offline OP
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Shifty  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2016
Posts: 72
Greetings Gang!

We returned to the sunny shores and waving palms of northern Indiana on January 9 after an 8 day charter with CYOA and a sleep-aboard night on arrival. The crew included me, my wife, 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, a 9 month old grandson and a friend of our daughter. We sailed on an Astrea 42 catamaran. 9 people. Great boat. As this was our first ever USVI-only charter, I thought I'd share a report. First, for those of you who might not want to hear all the particulars, some here are some key takeaways:

1) CYOA. As always, impeccable. They have adopted a very deliberate approach to check-in and charter briefing that is COVID-conscious without sacrificing service. After 30+ years of chartering with CYOA, we knew we wouldn't be disappointed, and we weren't...not to mention best boats available, in my opinion.

2) AIRPORT. A breeze. We had our COVID documents and travel portal confirmations in order and on hand and were out of the airport in less than 20 minutes. The airport personnel were quite gracious and efficient.
3) PROVISIONING. Per usual, we brought our own frozen meat and cheeses. As the usual provision delivery services are not presently functioning, we sent a delegation to Pueblo and purchased our necessary supply of food and provisions.

4) CROWDS AND MOORING. Definitely a factor. We were sailing from Jan. 31-Jan.8 and for the first time in my experience, we found that there was serious competition for mooring balls just about everywhere we went. Funny, I remember when my dad first started taking me in the mid-80's, there were just about zero moorings and when they did start popping up, we snobbishly thumbed our noses at them (Woosies!). But as they became more prevalent, it didn't take long before we became addicts. So on this trip it was kind of nice to "re-learn" the anchoring drill... and we loved it.

5) BABY ON THE BOAT. I was actually a bit worried about this. My oldest daughter and her husband have a 9-month old baby boy. He loved it. Easy as pie. For those of you similarly situated and considering taking an infant aboard, I can tell you that all of my apprehensions were set at ease -- especially if you're on a spacious cat. He was a little prince and thought he was king of the world. And he especially loved dinghy rides and getting in the water.

5) OVERALL EXPERIENCE. Absolutely fabulous. The USVI usually gets a night or two on our itinerary, as we are in a hurry to get to the BVI. Thus, this outing afforded us an opportunity to visit no less than 4 places I have either never been or haven't been to in a long time. It was a wonderful time of discovery. More on this in the details below. One thing I'll add in this section is that I am very proud of the way the USVI has approached the pandemic. They're killing it down there, and doing it the smart way. Everywhere we went, we felt very welcome, but also observed that folks were very purposeful (and respectful) about observing masks. And business sure looked to be booming. I am hopeful that the USVI takes this as a long-term opportunity to up its game, drop a bunch of mooring balls, invite businesses to serve charterers and otherwise take advantage of some of the incredible anchorages it has to leverage its attraction to charterers. Can you imagine, for instance: a Soggy Dollar-style outfit at Brewers Bay, a Willy T's at Magens Bay (not to mention beach access for dinghy's), a Foxy's at Maho, and a Last Resort (yeah, I'm aging some of you) on Green Cay? I would, I think, leave Salt Pond and Lameshur alone. They are special.

Okay, then, for the particulars of our charter stops:

DAY 1. Left Charlotte Amalie and headed east under motor into an oncoming wind of 25 mph. Wonderful, actually, as it felt life-giving to get salt water on our Midwestern bodies! First stop, Caneel Bay -- totally full. Second stop, Maho -- totally full. Third stop, Francis Bay, where we picked up the last available mooring. Eventually went to shore, snorkeled, swam and visited the beach bar. Terrific to enjoy our first painkillers in almost a year.

DAY 2. Leinster Bay. Least crowded anchorage of the week (though there were only 2 or 3 available when the sun went down). As this has almost always been one of our overnights, nothing remarkable to report here, except that we love the snorkel around Waterlemon Cay, the walk to Annaberg and the peaceful setting of the anchorage for an overnight.

DAY 3. Caneel Bay / Honeymoon Beach. Arrived at 10 am and picked up the only available ball. Fabulous time here. Honeymoon Beach was totally rockin' with St. John-based visitors. Awesome beach bar and a great vibe overall.

DAY 4. Magens Bay. Eh. For us, not great, but certainly not terrible. The day was overcast and the beach vibe was (at least from our perspective) not ideal. As we had a baby on board, we snuck a dinghy up on shore on the extreme south end of the beach -- about 1/2 mile from the bar and restaurant. We had a good anchorage at the south end of the bay and spent a good night there. The place has definite potential, but this is one of those harbors that could use a major re-focus to cater to charter customers.

DAY 5. Lovango Cay. Loved it. Paid $35 for an overnight mooring, but you had to book dinner reservations to get the ball -- which we were glad to do, and certainly glad afterward. This is exactly the kind of joint that the USVI needs to up it's game in the bareboat market. Great resort. Great dinner. Stellar staff. By the way, the $35 mooring reservation does not officially start until 5pm and does not include pool prrivileges. We did radio in around 2 pm and they let us come early as the ball was not booked for a day customer. We didn't test the pool privilege issue. No beach, but some pretty good snorkeling around shore and, in particular, around the rocks on the east end of the resort. In view of some other recent posts about rather rolly overnight experiences, I will add that we were there under rather calm conditions and had a very pleasant overnight.

DAY 6. American Yacht Harbor, Red Hook. Great stop. Picked up a slip for the night (they strongly recommend reserving in advance) and re-provisioned at Moe's, had a decent dinner at one of the restaurants right by the marina dock, fueled up in the morning and hit the proverbial road. I've always thought it was nice to give the crew a chance to break the trip up with a ground-stop to stretch legs, get some space, do some shopping and get ready to hit the sea again. Red Hook is a fabulous place to do it. I would also note that AYH runs a pretty tight ship with vigilant security and a helpful staff. While the Red Hook neighborhood can seem a bit on the raucous side, the marina itself was very safe and comfortable.

DAY 7. Little Lameshur. Hated it. Just kidding, but please stay away! Together with Great Lameshur and Salt Pond Bay, this is truly one of those magical places where you feel like you've left the world behind, and your worries with it. Superb snorkeling, great hikes, relaxing private beach (but a pretty rocky approach at the very end), and one of the most spectacular starry nights you'll ever experience.

DAY 8. Christmas Cove. Fun stop. Picked up the only available mooring at 10 am. Please hear this next part . . . in the past 25 years, the snorkeling around Fish Rock has been the best snorkeling experience I've had. More live coral than I've seen in a very long time. This alone makes it worth the stop. After a swim and snorkel, we ordered pizza from Pizza Pi, dropped the ball and headed back to Honeymoon Beach at Caneel for our last night. There, we picked one of the last two remaining moorings and headed to shore for a late afternoon painkiller at the beach bar.

DAY 9. Indiana. Cold. But, shoot, I like cold too, so it's good to be home. I will admit, however, that I was looking at boat rates and potential travel dates within 3 days of coming home!

Blessings All!

Shifty.

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Re: Trip Report - USVI Only [Re: Shifty] #245398
01/20/2021 01:22 AM
01/20/2021 01:22 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,177
USVI
LocalSailor Offline
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LocalSailor  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,177
USVI
The USVI is doing just fine without the Frat Party drinking party zone places you suggest we need. It is what makes the BVI attractive to many. --
You said the Bays that were quiet were "SPECIAL' -- that is the point of sailing here, natural undisturbed and undeveloped.
Have a nice sail, swim and snorkel, enjoy a great dinner aboard with friends and family -- a really perfect charter.

Re: Trip Report - USVI Only [Re: Shifty] #245423
01/20/2021 12:36 PM
01/20/2021 12:36 PM
Joined: Jun 2020
Posts: 153
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MIDiver Offline
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MIDiver  Offline
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Posts: 153
Thanks for the detailed report. I'm concerned about the mooring situation for our USVI charter next month....

I am in complete agreement with LocalSailor. For many, what makes St. John, so attractive are the typcially (unfortunately in the past for the time being I suppose) serene anchorages/moorings and unspoiled beauty. Maho used to be one of those places. Crossroads spoiled that. A Foxy's type establishment there would be a travesty. IMHO we don't need that type of "attraction" on St. John.

Re: Trip Report - USVI Only [Re: MIDiver] #245426
01/20/2021 01:11 PM
01/20/2021 01:11 PM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 770
Middleburg, VA
cwoody Offline
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cwoody  Offline
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Posts: 770
Middleburg, VA
Originally Posted by MIDiver
I'm concerned about the mooring situation for our USVI charter next month....


One day, post covid vaccine, BVI will be open again, to international travel by air and sea.

Once this happens the current increase pressure on the St Thomas charters will decrease. St Thomas probably will remain more popular than before the BVI shut down, but I don't think there is any reason to go crazy with plans for huge expansion of the charter options and anchorages in St Thomas.
As Local Sailor said "They don't want it They don't need it."

I plan to return to chartering in the USVI and BVI when I can take advantage of both areas as I have done before.
Charter from the USVI and sail to the BVI. Best of both worlds.


Chuck W.
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Re: Trip Report - USVI Only [Re: cwoody] #245436
01/20/2021 02:56 PM
01/20/2021 02:56 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,177
USVI
LocalSailor Offline
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LocalSailor  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,177
USVI
Originally Posted by cwoody


I plan to return to chartering in the USVI and BVI when I can take advantage of both areas as I have done before.
Charter from the USVI and sail to the BVI. Best of both worlds.


I really think this has worked as the best plan for a long time - with the addition of the SVI sailing popularity this combination of the 3 different areas to sail makes it as attractive as any sailing Paradise in the Caribbean. -


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