THE VIRGIN ISLANDS - SAILOR'S PARADISE
Did you know that the water in the Virgin Islands is sparkling turquoise? The sky is crispy cobalt? The occasional cloud is fleecy white? The sun is happy yellow? The beaches are sugary ivory and the crew are deliciously tan?
The only real way to capture the color and romance of the Virgin Islands is to see for yourself! However, we've decided to give you a sneak preview, so please read on…
The Virgin Islands lie in the West Indies about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico.
The typical Virgin Island's cruising area extends from St. Thomas to the west to Virgin Gorda to the east, a distance of approximately 45 miles. The Atlantic Ocean meets our island chain on the north side, and the Caribbean Sea borders us on the south side. The larger islands within this area are: St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Norman Island, Cooper Island, Peter Island, and Virgin Gorda. There are many smaller and lesser known islands and cays that are also interesting to explore. Just outside of this area are St. Croix to the south, Culebra to the west and Anegada to the north. Except for Anegada, the islands were born from volcanic activity, which means they are mountainous and picturesque. The beaches are white and sandy, and the coral reefs are active with abundant marine life.
Cruising in the islands is easy
Since the islands are close together, you'll be "island hopping". Navigation is by line-of-sight, but some guests bring a hand held GPS for practice or for fun. The water is clear and you can usually see the bottom long before it gets shallow. Changes in the color of the water will also tell you a great deal about whether the bottom is sand or grass. There is minimal tidal variation (approximately 18" max) and no fog! Rain showers come and go quickly, and there is minimal commercial traffic compared to other areas you may sail. To save your energy for snorkeling, and save our reefs for future generations, most popular anchorages have well-maintained moorings for overnight use. The usual fee of $15-30 per night is well worth not having to hassle with anchoring or worry about dragging during the night.
Our weatherman gets bored
The Virgins are famous for year round cruising. The temperature ranges from the 80's in winter to the 90's in summer. The sea temperature hovers at 80, plus or minus just a hair. The prevailing winds are the tradewinds (from the east). There's a slight wind shift to the north in winter with wind speeds of 15 - 20 knots. In the summer, the winds shift to east south east and blow 10 - 15 knots. Christmas Winds are stronger winds that may blow for several days at a time, anytime from December through February. There really is no rainy season. We usually have short bursts of showers and blue sky quickly follows.
Due to our tropical location and the world's weather patterns, keeping an eye out for storms is a concern in areas that fall in the hurricane belt. CYOA does not charter in the most likely months that these storms may occur (September and October). Though it is just as likely the weather may be perfect, we do not recommend planning a once in a lifetime vacation during this time.
Making new friends
Slow down and relax - that's what vacation is about! People in the islands are laid back and the pace is slow. They appreciate a proper greeting like "Good Morning," "Good Afternoon," or "Good Night" before conducting business. Be dignified and respectful of their home. Leave the hurried, rushed, competitive elements of your own life behind, and definitely leave your laptop at home! Dress is casual with t-shirts and shorts the norm, BUT please do not wear bathing suits or micro-outfits in town as they are not appreciated. Save the skimpy outfits for the beach or your boat. The currency is the US dollar, and people in the Virgin Islands speak English with a local lilt..."Welcome to de islands, mon!"
Customs and Immigration
Since you will be visiting the U.S., British and possibly the Spanish Virgin Islands, a passport is required. Be sure you put this item on your vacation planning checklist along with your plane tickets. U.S. citizens do not need to clear out of the U.S. when heading to the BVI, however, everyone must clear into the BVI upon arrival. This is most easily done in West End, Tortola, or Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke. The Customs and Immigration office is an official government office so be sure to wear proper attire – again, shorts and t-shirts with flip-flops are fine. All charter boats, regardless of origination, pay a cruising tax in the BVI. You should budget this at $40pp/week and $50 for the vessel for the cruise. There are several elements that make up the cruising tax and that is why it is estimated. When returning to the U.S., a stop is necessary at U.S. customs and immigration in Cruz Bay, St John. Each stop usually takes about 30 minutes, and most people take the time to visit the interesting shops and colorful restaurants in each location.