A Guide to Sailing in the US Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie, capital of St Thomas, offers plenty of fun for the visitor
Charlotte Amalie, capital of St Thomas, offers plenty of fun for the visitor | © Michael Runkel / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sadie Whitelocks
3 November 2021
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Just south of the British Virgin Islands amid the dreamy blues of the northern Caribbean Sea, you’ll find the US Virgin Islands. They consist of three main islands – Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas – and around 50 smaller islets and cays. Discover why this archipelago is the best place to visit on your next yachting adventure.

Spend a lazy day sailing the US Virgin Islands by chartering a yacht with SamBoat.

What to see and do

St Thomas is one of the top shopping spots in the Caribbean, with dozens of duty-free bargains to be had along Main Street in Charlotte Amalie. Afterwards, swap the crowds for the crystal-clear waters at Magens Bay on the north coast. An entrance fee helps keep the golden sands from becoming overrun.

Absorb all the beauty St John has to offer with a hike along the Reef Bay Trail. This route, which takes around two to four hours to complete, leads you past some of the oldest and tallest trees on the island, along with ancient rock carvings left behind by the original inhabitants.

St Croix is a hotspot for diving and snorkelling; an excursion to the Buck Island Reef National Monument is a must. The preserve is known for some of the Caribbean’s most spectacular stands of elkhorn coral. Back on shore, get into the Caribbean swing of things with a trip to the Captain Morgan rum distillery.

The popular yet narrow beach at Magen’s Bay | © Kerrick James / Alamy Stock Photo

Best mooring locations

If you’re looking for great amenities and a convenient location to explore the USVIs, then Yacht Haven Grande (contactable on VHF channel 16 /10 and via +1 340-774-9500 or +1 954-960.3975) is one of the best marinas in the archipelago. The harbour, located just a 20-minute walk from Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas, has 46 berths and is able to accommodate megayachts with a max length of 656ft (200m) and a draft of 25ft (8m).

Another comfortable docking option is the award-winning American Yacht Club in Red Hook on the east side of the island. St John Marina is the only offering of its type on St John, while St Croix has several smaller marinas offering anchorages and moorings for day use and overnight stays.

Yacht Haven in Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas Island | © Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to eat and drink

The US Virgin Islands serves up a mix of American and Caribbean inspired dishes. Unique dishes include fish and fungi (a dish consisting of fried fish and a polenta-style accompaniment), johnnycakes (a savoury pancake made from cornmeal), and cow heel soup. On the drinks front, the Bushwacker cocktail – invented in St Thomas – features a moreish blend of dark rum, coffee liquor, cream of coconut, dark creme de cacao, milk and nutmeg.

If you fancy a little fine dining, AMA at Cane Bay on St Croix serves up highly Instagrammable dishes, while Mr Big Life Food Truck in Charlotte Amalie is a top wallet-friendly option – popular picks include saltfish pate (a snack similar to empanadas) and jerk chicken kebabs.

Best charter option

SamBoat offer a range of yachts to charter across St Thomas with many moored in Charlotte Amalie, from six-berths that comes with a skipper or a 12-berth bareboat catamaran. Simply choose the dates that suit you and book through the website – it’s as simple as that. For a deeper exploration of the US Virgin Islands by yacht or catamaran, book a vessel with Dream Yacht Charter.

Catamaran sailing by Garrison House | © Zoonar/Norm Lane / Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to get groceries

If you opt to dock at the Yacht Haven Grande on St Thomas, Moe’s Fresh Market is right by the marina. It has a great selection of goods, from fine wine to bathroom products, which can be delivered directly to your vessel on request. Other grocery options include Natural Food Grocery and Deli, Pueblo Supermarket, and The Fruit Bowl. Over on St Croix, The Market STX is a popular spot for those looking to restock.

Pueblo Supermarket is a good choice to stock up in the US Virgin Islands | © byvalet / Alamy Stock Photo

Key annual sailing events

The St Thomas International Regatta, dubbed the “crown jewel” of Caribbean racing, takes place every March. The sailing event allows you to experience reliable winds and warm azure waters. Another popular date on the sailing calendar is the Martin Luther King (MLK) Regatta at the St Thomas Yacht Club which is held in January; this gives competitors the opportunity to race against island neighbours.

Sailboat regattas are a key element of local culture in the US Virgin Islands | © Jean-Pierre De Mann / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Climate and weather

Peak sailing season in the USVIs runs from December through to March. At this time of year, winds average 15 to 20 knots with temperatures around the mid to high 20C (68F) range. This is an ideal time to visit if you like a little more wind, a bustling harbour scene, and enjoy socializing. But, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, come between April and June. You’ll be able to enjoy similar temperatures and very little rainfall. Another perk is that the marina rates are lower during this period. July to October is best avoided as this is hurricane season.

Sailing boats in Cruz Bay, the capital of St John | © Michael Runkel / mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

How to get there

If you’re planning to travel to the USVIs to charter a boat or to leave the archipelago once you’ve arrived on your own vessel, there are two major airports in the territory: the Cyril E. King Airport on St Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St Croix. Ferries also run regularly from St John and St Thomas to the British Virgin Islands, offering another way of hopping between countries.
Take a longer sail around the US Virgin Islands by booking a vessel with Dream Yacht Charter.

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