Sailing and Boating Near the USVI

Keep a few simple rules in mind when traveling the U.S. Virgin Islands

Photo credit: © Daniel Mcdonald | Dreamstime.com
 

Sailors looking to enter or even pass through the U.S. Virgin Islands will need to be aware of the following rules and regulations.

If you simply want to enjoy a few hours on the open water, without the cost and complications of sailing on your own you should take a day sailing excursion. See the table below to get names and phone numbers for area excursion services.

Boat Excursions
Name Phone Location Island
Aqua Blue Charters (340) 344-1190 Sapphire Beach Marina - Sapphire Beach St. Thomas
Big Beard's Adventure Tours (340) 773-4482 Hotel Caravelle - Downtown Christiansted St. Croix
Bilinda Charters (340) 514-2270 Downtown Christiansted St. Croix
Boat Day V.I. (855) 262-8329 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Calypso Charters (340) 777-7245 National Park Docks - Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Caribbean Blue Boat Charters (340) 690-2583 9715 Estate Thomas - Red Hook St. Thomas
Cloud 9 Sailing Adventures (340) 998-1940 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Cool Boats (340) 344-6812 Crown Bay Marina - Frenchtown St. Thomas
Copeland Boat Charters (340) 690-9988 Cruz Bay National Park Dock - Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Cruise Ship Excursions (340) 775-5055 Upper Havensight Mall - St. Thomas St. Thomas
Day Sail Fantasy (340) 775-5652 Sapphire Village - St. Thomas St. Thomas
Daydreamer Charter (340) 775-2584 Dreams Sugar Bay Resort & Spa - 1.4 mi. (2.2 km) North-Northwest of Red Hook St. Thomas
Daysail High Pockets Adventure (340) 690-0587 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Elixir Charters (340) 344-3336 Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina - East End St. Thomas
Fury Sailing Charters (340) 643-7733 Yacht Haven Grande - Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas
Good Day Charters (340) 514-3458 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Hakuna Matata Charters (626) 824-5039 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Independence Sailboat Charter (340) 775-1408 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Island Roots (340) 643-5000 Cruz Bay National Park Dock - Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Jester Sailing Adventures (340) 513-2459 Secret Harbour Beach Resort - Nazareth St. Thomas
Jolly Roger Charters (340) 513-2508 Christiansted Boardwalk - Downtown Christiansted St. Croix
Kekoa Sailing Expeditions (340) 244-7245 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Lion In Da Sun (340) 626-4783 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Lovango Charters (340) 626-9685 Congo Cay Congo Cay
Nate's Custom Charters Day Tours (340) 244-2497 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
New Horizon Sailing (340) 775-1171 1-A-9-19 Dorothea - Sapphire Beach St. Thomas
Oh Be Joyful Sailing (340) 244-0605 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
One Love Charters (340) 227-5229 Compass Point Marina - East End St. Thomas
Palm Tree Charters (340) 643-4239 Cruz Bay National Park Dock - Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Privateer Charters (888) 727-0793 Sapphire Beach Marina - Sapphire Beach St. Thomas
Roseway Sailing (340) 626-7877 Gallow Bay Dock - Christiansted St. Croix
Rumbaba Charters (340) 690-1659 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Sadie Sea Charters (340) 514-0778 Cruz Bay National Park Dock - Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Sail Pepper (340) 771-7011 Coral Bay St. John
Sail Safaris (340) 626-8181 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Sail With Liberty (443) 831-1911 Red Hook St. Thomas
Sail with Captain Max (340) 775-7467 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Salty Dog Day Sails (340) 244-7290 1.1 mi. (1.8 km) South West of Coral Bay St. John
Simplicity Charters (340) 774-9348 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Singing Dog Sailing Day Tours (717) 602-3536 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Sonic Charters (340) 244-5096 Compass Point Marina - East End St. Thomas
Southern Hospitality (340) 998-4399 Cruz Bay National Park Dock - Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
St. Thomas Scuba Snorkel Adventures Boating (340) 474-9332 Hull Bay St. Thomas
Stormy Petrel and Pirate's Penny Tours (340) 775-7990 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Sun Sea Charters (340) 626-6785 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Swashbucklin Tours (340) 244-8600 3108 Estate Bethesda - Hull Bay St. Thomas
Take It Easy (340) 677-1320 East End St. Thomas
Treazzure Sailing Adventures (340) 690-2735 Red Hook St. Thomas
Tribal VI Day Sails (340) 998-7767 Water Island Water Island
VIBE Charters (340) 626-2875 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Wasabi Sailing (340) 344-5429 Secret Harbour Beach Resort - Nazareth St. Thomas
Wayward Sailor (340) 473-9705 Cruz Bay St. John
Wish Upon a Star Charters (631) 946-9292 St. John St. John

Boat Rentals and Charters

When chartering a yacht, prospective charterers have several options: "bareboat," "skippered bareboat," or a "crewed charter." Experienced sailors may choose to be both captain and crew on a bareboat, while skippered bareboats mean a captain is hired, but no crew. Crewed charters are fully-staffed ships, including a cook.

Those who can prove their bareboat qualifications may be given a tutorial of the seas surrounding the Virgin Islands, including reefs and safe harbors. However, some companies may insist that travelers bring along a skipper, at their own cost, for at least the first days of the journey. The skipper is paid by the day, and lends his own knowledge. This can be a personal choice as well for travelers uncomfortable with their skill level.

There are many charter companies throughout the Caribbean region, and these are divided in two manners. Larger and smaller companies offer different fleet sizes, which can be a good or a bad thing. Larger companies may not have such dedicated customer service, but, should any problems arise with your charter, will have a much easier time replacing your ship with another one, sometimes larger. These are more often recommended for first time charterers. Two different tiers also divide charter companies, those these divide companies by age of their ships. Those with ships no older than 4 or 5 years are first tier companies, while second tier companies often buy the best maintained older ships from the fleets of first tier companies.

Considering chartering a vessel? Be sure to look at the following chart to reach regional charter services.

Charter and Rental Services
Name Phone Location Island
Awesome Power Boat Rental (340) 775-0860 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Bali Bound (340) 775-2584 19-2-53 Smith Bay - Anna's Retreat St. Thomas
Blue Tang Yacht Charters (340) 776-9070 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Buck Island Charter (340) 718-3161 Green Cay Marina - The vicinity of St. Croix
CYOA Yacht Charters (340) 777-9690 Frenchtown Harbour Marina - Frenchtown St. Thomas
Captain Nautica Private Charters (340) 775-9360 6186 Estate Frydenhoj - East End St. Thomas
Charter Boat Center (340) 775-7990 6300 Smith Bay 16-3 - Red Hook St. Thomas
Connections Coral Bay (340) 779-4994 Coral Bay St. John
Connections Cruz Bay (340) 776-6922 Cruz Bay St. John
Crewed Charters (340) 776-4811 3801 Crown Bay - Red Hook St. Thomas
Flagship Yacht Charters (340) 774-5630 Yacht Haven Grande - Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas
Fly Away Charters (340) 514-7403 Coral Bay St. John
Heavenly Day Catamaran (340) 775-1800 Bolongo Bay Beach Resort - 2.8 mi. (4.6 km) Southeast of Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas
Island Yachts (340) 775-6666 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Kestrel Sailing (340) 514-9982 Tropical Marine - Red Hook St. Thomas
Lady Jasmyn Charters (603) 781-9864 3280 Golden Rock - 1.3 mi. (2.1 km) West-Northwest of Christiansted St. Croix
Lazy Bouy (340) 514-9982 Tropical Marine - Red Hook St. Thomas
Limnos Charters (340) 755-3203 Compass Point Marina - St. Thomas St. Thomas
Llewellyn's Charter (340) 773-9027 6.6 mi. (10.7 km) East of Christiansted St. Croix
Magic Moments Luxury Excursions (340) 774-5530 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Nauti Nymph Powerboat Rentals (340) 775-5066 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Noah's Little Arks Dinghy Rental and Sales (340) 693-9030 Cruz Bay St. John
Ocean Runner Power Boat Rentals (340) 693-8809 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
See & Ski Power Boat Rentals (340) 775-6265 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Smith's Ferry Service (340) 775-7292 Veteran's Drove - 2.1 mi. (3.3 km) East of Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas
St. John Boat Rental (340) 227-5144 Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
St. Thomas Boat Rental (340) 227-5144 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Stormy Petrel and Pirate's Penny (340) 775-7990 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas
Tropic Powerboat Rentals (340) 776-6462 1.2 mi. (1.9 km) South West of Coral Bay St. John
VIP Sail and Power Yacht Charters (340) 776-1510 Compass Point Marina - East End St. Croix
Vilocity Boat Rentals (340) 677-0739 201 6501 Red Hook Plaza - East End St. Thomas
Virgin Islands Boat Rental (888) 493-2114 American Yacht Harbor - Red Hook St. Thomas

Cost can be effected by many different factors, as can your comfort. When choosing a yacht, you'll want to note these considerations to help you find a balance:

  • Larger ships are more costly, as are ships with more extras.

  • Travelers often prefer to charter a yacht with one more room than they intend to use, for their comfort.

  • A three cabin/two bath monohull, which ranges in size from 36 to 50 feet, is the most popularly chartered boat size.

  • Experienced sailors often prefer monohull boats, but families and groups may want to consider their design: Thin plywood walls are far from soundproof between rooms.

  • Families and first time sailors may consider catamarans the best option, as they generally experience less roll in port and are said to have more comfortable cabins.

  • Other additions may include a power windlass for anchoring, canvas tops for cockpit sun protection, and kayaks, windsurfs, and electronic extras like GPS. These may come at an additional cost, but can be worth the fees.

Individual Charter Boats
Name Phone Location
Kalina (340) 244-9070 1.7 mi. (2.7 km) South West of Coral Bay
Kiote Sails (340) 643-5172 Coral Bay

Other additons can also cost travelers, though crewed charters often come with more extras. Food will always be a concern, but feeding more people on a crewed charter can make it more expensive - though these charters also include a chef to prepare all of the meals. High season chartering will cost more than off-season charters as well. Travelers picking up a yacht far from home will also need to consider the cost of airfare to their pickup location. Customs and luggage fees are sometimes added as well.

Docking

Travelers should remember basic entry requirements for entering the the USVI, but there are additional considerations when sailing your own or your chartered craft into the islands.

Ports of entry are located on each of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sailors may enter at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, Christiansted on St. Croix, and Cruz Bay on St. John. Once you have entered via one of these ports you must go through immigration, unless you are traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands directly from Puerto Rico.

Travelers planning to travel to Puerto Rico from the U.S. Virgin Islands should obtain a cruise permit in the Virgin Islands. If they do not, they will need to purchase one upon arrival in Puerto Rico, but such permits are issued free in the Virgin Islands. If leaving the Virgin Islands for Puerto Rico, sailors must clear out of customs.

Passengers are not allowed to disembark until they have cleared customs. All travelers should have their paperwork ready. Foreign travelers from countries other than Canada will need a valid U.S. visa or they will be fined $160(USD). Firearms must issued a permit, and all pets must have documented rabies and health certificates.

Customs offices are open 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Overtime fees will be charged to those entering the islands outside these times. For more information about customs and immigration, travelers may contact the offices directly in St. Croix: 340-773-1011; St. John: 340-776-6741; and St. Thomas: 340-774-9700.

Seriously considering traveling to the USVI using your own vessel, or one you charter in a different location? See the listing below to get summary information concerning nearby marinas.

Marinas
Name Phone Location Island
American Yacht Harbor (340) 775-6454 Red Hook St. Thomas
Caneel Bay Shipyard -- Downtown Cruz Bay St. John
Compass Point Marina (340) 775-6144 East End St. Thomas
Crown Bay Marina (340) 774-2255 Frenchtown St. Thomas
Deep Water Dock -- Water Island Water Island
Fish Hawk Marina (340) 775-9058 Maroon Town St. Thomas
Frenchtown Harbour Marina (340) 777-9690 Frenchtown St. Thomas
Green Cay Marina (340) 718-1453 Tamarind Reef Hotel - 2.4 mi. (3.9 km) East-Northeast of Christiansted St. Croix
Independent Boatyard (340) 776-0466 East End St. Thomas
Jones Maritime Dock Marina (866) 609-2930 Downtown Christiansted St. Croix
Oasis Cove Marina (340) 244-0442 6186 Estate Frydenhoj - East End St. Thomas
Pirates Cove Marina (340) 715-7700 East End St. Thomas
Salt River Marina -- Clairmont St. Croix
Sapphire Beach Marina (340) 998-1203 East End St. Thomas
Silver Bay Dock Marina -- Downtown Christiansted St. Croix
St. Croix Marine (340) 773-0289 Christiansted St. Croix
St. Croix Yacht Club (340) 773-9531 6.7 mi. (10.7 km) East of Christiansted St. Croix
Vessup Bay Marina -- Red Hook St. Thomas
Yacht Haven Grande (340) 774-9500 5304 Yacht Haven Grande - Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas

Restrictions

Authorities have issued some important restrictions within the U.S. Virgin Islands to protect the health and safety of humans and nature.

The U.S. Virgin Islands' government is working to cut down on drug trafficking. A special task force patrolling the waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands means travelers are cautioned to avoid being caught with illegal substances.

Sailors traveling within the Virgin Islands National Park will have a few other regulations to consider:

  • It is prohibited to anchor on or damage a coral reef.

  • Sailors may not anchor in Salt Pond Bay, Reef Bay, Great Lameshur Bay, nor Little Lameshur Bay. In these locations sailors may anchor at the mooring buoys that are white with a blue band.

  • It is prohibited to take any marine features (coral, shells, and fans) alive or dead.

  • Boats may not be tied to shoreline vegetation.

  • Anglers may not spear fish within the park. Line fishing is permitted in certain areas only.

  • Travelers may take no more than two male spiny lobsters (minimum size 9 in/23 cm) and may only trap them by hand or handheld snare.

For more information about park regulations, sailors should contact the National Park administration, on St. John at 340-776-6201 and 340-773-1460 in St. Croix.

Nearby Anchorages
Location Latitude Longitude
Saint James Bay - Great Saint James Island 18.3088030981 -64.8322427273
Jersey Bay - East End 18.3104328047 -64.8603093624
Cowpet Bay - Cowpet Bay 18.3159353548 -64.8440605402
Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve - 4.1 mi. (6.6 km) West-Northwest of Christiansted 17.7746851892 -64.7581708431
Chocolate Hole Bay - Chocolate Hole 18.3165137946 -64.7845959663
Secret Harbour Bay - Cowpet Bay 18.3179978645 -64.8531746864
Benner Bay - East End 18.3172441599 -64.8676478859
Bolongo Bay - Bolongo Bay 18.3122940744 -64.8966747522
Great Cruz Bay - Cruz Bay 18.3200756271 -64.7891288996
Vessup Bay - Red Hook 18.3241271069 -64.8509216309
Redhook Bay - East End 18.3264540377 -64.8443555832
Grootpan Bay - 2.6 mi. (4.2 km) South of Coral Bay 18.3089103318 -64.717862606
Saltpond Bay - 2.7 mi. (4.3 km) South of Coral Bay 18.3081565879 -64.7068762779
Cruz Bay - Cruz Bay 18.3316454562 -64.7969716787
Flamingo Bay - Water Island 18.3120649004 -64.9588000774
Druif Bay - Water Island 18.3169080477 -64.9584138393
Caneel Bay - Caneel Bay 18.3436245459 -64.7874498367
Careening Cove - Hassel Island 18.3302349154 -64.9345636368
Elephant Bay - Water Island 18.3234061061 -64.9531835318
Water Bay - Coki Point 18.3478734848 -64.8659580946
Hawksnest Bay - 1.4 mi. (2.3 km) Northeast of Cruz Bay 18.3480801242 -64.7795963287
Long Bay - Charlotte Amalie 18.3357116584 -64.9253153808
Trunk Bay - 2.0 mi. (3.3 km) Northeast of Cruz Bay 18.3526829645 -64.7707557678
Christiansted Harbor - Downtown Christiansted 17.7486307362 -64.7050631046
Turtle Beach - Buck Island 17.7860968649 -64.6279120445
Coral Harbour - Coral Bay 18.3446327255 -64.7128415108
Chenay Bay - 3.1 mi. (4.9 km) East-Northeast of Christiansted 17.7611179762 -64.6587789059
Lindbergh Bay - 2.6 mi. (4.2 km) West of Charlotte Amalie 18.3352533727 -64.96753335
Francis Bay - 2.3 mi. (3.7 km) West-Northwest of Coral Bay 18.3615013236 -64.7460579872
Borck Creek - 1.0 mi. (1.5 km) East-Northeast of Coral Bay 18.3532939462 -64.702091217
Leinster Bay - 1.9 mi. (3.1 km) Northwest of Coral Bay 18.3653299419 -64.7365951329
Frederiksted Harbour - Frederiksted 17.7119103678 -64.8869007826
Haulover Bay - 2.4 mi. (3.9 km) East of Coral Bay 18.3489666445 -64.6780157089
Princess Bay - 1.6 mi. (2.5 km) East-Northeast of Coral Bay 18.3550657952 -64.6928215027
Newfound Bay - 3.0 mi. (4.9 km) East of Coral Bay 18.3462878415 -64.6686172485
Hull Bay - 2.6 mi. (4.1 km) Northwest of Charlotte Amalie 18.3700901401 -64.9520140886
Teague Bay - 6.7 mi. (10.7 km) East of Christiansted 17.7562455281 -64.6021413797
Cottongarden Bay - 7.8 mi. (12.6 km) East of Christiansted 17.7605164931 -64.5845514536
Sopers Hole - West End 18.3869913161 -64.7011792656
Sprat Bay - Peter Island 18.3495057942 -64.602162838
Little Harbour - Peter Island 18.3545716361 -64.6005105972
South Bay - Peter Island 18.3391185 -64.5730018616
White Bay - Peter Island 18.3476931496 -64.5752549171
The Spring Bay - Peter Island 18.3513387814 -64.5789670944
Deadman's Bay - Peter Island 18.3558600614 -64.5705556817
Great Harbour - Great Harbour 18.4425771113 -64.7512936592
Lee Bay - Salt Island 18.370588774 -64.5344638824
Boughers Bay - Downtown Road Town 18.425369802 -64.6168184274
Salt Island Bay - Salt Island 18.3742950085 -64.5316529274
Brandy Wine Bay - 2.1 mi. (3.4 km) East of Road Town 18.4150685122 -64.5858979225
Maya Cove - 3.3 mi. (5.3 km) East of Road Town 18.4234765283 -64.5670044422

From quiet St. John to tourist friendly St. Thomas, and to historic St. Croix, sailing in the US Virgin Islands can vary greaty from island to island. Local guides to the major USVI islands can be found below.

Sailing in Specific Areas
Guide to St. Croix Sailing
Guide to St. John Sailing
Guide to St. Thomas Sailing
 

Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.