Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | August 10, 2011

Christmas Cove, US Virgin Islands

Memories from the first Caribbean Charter originating out of St. Thomas many years ago!


N 18° 18.5′ W 64° 50.0′

We left Palmas on Sunday afternoon for a 6 ½ hour upwind trip to Dakity Harbor on Culebra. The weather was stronger than forecast with heavy seas slowing us down. With a later than usual start, we barely made it by sunset. Dakity is becoming one of our favorite spots. It is smoother there than in the marina. If it had a sandy white dog beach, with a little beach bar for Bob, it would meet criteria for the perfect anchorage.

We continued on to St. Thomas on Tuesday in smoother conditions, and arrived in Charlotte Amalie Harbor 3 hours later where we checked in with Customs. We had filed an electronic float plan, using the new Local Boater process we had signed up for, and called the Customs office when we arrived. It turned out we didn’t have to check in there, even though the Customs folks in Puerto Rico said we should. Customs procedures are handled differently in these two US territories,and are a little confusing. We will have to check back in when we return to Puerto Rico.

The return to Charlotte Amalie was nostalgic as it was the departure point for our first Caribbean bareboat cruise 25+ years ago. We’re not especially fond of large cruise ship ports, but it brought back great memories. The Virgin Islands, and in particular, the British Virgin Islands, gave us a glimpse of the best of Caribbean cruising over the course of many vacations. Our first Caribbean charter boat was a 33 foot Pearson. Our experience our own 32 foot Beneteau qualified us to bareboat charter without having a professional captain on board.

We read about the famous Caribbean “trade winds” and when we flew into St. Thomas they were howling steadily at well over 20 knots. We thought that was the norm, and took off on the first leg of our charter from Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas to Cruz Bay in St. John. On that passage along the south side of St. Thomas we encountered some of the largest seas we have ever experienced. At least they seemed that huge from the perspective of a 30 foot boat. When we turned into the more protected waters of St. John and I got over my queasiness that day, it felt exhilarating. From St. John, we hopped over to the British Virgin Islands where we found abundant protected waters, many quiet, scenic anchorages and the charm of less “civilization”. We initiated about a dozen subsequent charters in the BVI over the years.

This trip we had much calmer weather, and enjoyed a scenic hop up the coast to Christmas Cove, situated just to the east of St. Thomas and south of St. John.

I highly recommend a charter boat vacation to anyone who enjoys spending time on the water, and who wants to explore new destinations. The Virgin Islands, and in particular the British Virgins are a perfect charter destination as there are many wonderful anchorages to explore in close proximity to each other in easy to sail waters. If you avoid the most expensive winter season, and perhaps share the boat with family and friends, a charter vacation can approximate a cruise ship trip in cost. The experience is very different. You will enjoy small, tranquil anchorages with some of the most gorgeous water you can imagine, activities of your choosing – watersports or land-based, elegant beach-side dining, often no shoes required, and some of the best stargazing you can imagine. You are in charge of your schedule, and while there are suggested itineraries, if you like a particular spot and want to spend extra time there and skip another location you can do as you wish. Captains and cooks can be hired for those who don’t desire those duties. Captained charters can also be arranged for instructional purposes to help those who would like to bareboat in the future and want coaching on boating skills and local navigation. Bob & I shopped around and often found the best values with an economy “Mom & Pop” company and a boat that was comfortable but not brand new. There are free brokerage services to help you sort through the many options and match you with a suitable company/boat/captain, and we used those services when this was all new to us. That’s my commercial for chartering. It has made such a difference in our lives and I don’t think we would be here now if we had skipped that experience.

This time around, the US Virgin Islands hold more appeal, mainly because they are more dog friendly than the BVI. Having US dogs, I don’t have to do anything special to get them admitted to a US territory. I have determined that traveling by boat, it is not practical and will be almost impossible to meet 100% of the dog entry requirements for the BVI as well as some of our upcoming destinations. The toughest regs seem to lie with the British-affiliated territories. We may stop over briefly at Jost Van Dyke this trip, our very favorite BVI location, and speak with the Customs Officer there to get a feel for their interpretation of the rules. In our travels so far we have found that the application of formal rules to private yachts is inconsistent.

Planning to move on to St. John soon.  Then we hope to meet up with some Defever friends who are cruising in the area. The tropical weather looks settled for the next week – keeping our fingers crossed.

Carnival's Liberty & RCL's Explorer of the Seas were in town. We anchored close by while we sorted out the Customs process.

Sunset view of St. Thomas from Christmas Cove



  1. So glad you made it back to the Virgin Islands and this time on your own boat. Enjoy!

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