Why Charter a yacht vacation in The Virgin Islands…?
One of the Top Yachting Destinations in the World
Eco-Chartering in the Caribbean
It’s a natural!
There are so many things to do and experience in this beautiful little corner of the world.
There are miles of hiking trails, historical landmarks and crumbling sugar mill ruins from the cane plantation days. An energizing hike can bring you to the tops of hills where you’ll think you can see forever. On these islands you might find some rare small lizards, iguanas, many colorful butterflies and flowers with several on the endangered species list. Certain times of the year, various colorful trees bloom: The flame-orange heavy canopied flamboyant dominates the landscape.
Flamboyant tree in the Virgin Islands
And the wild and fragrant native frangipani, among many other flowers give quite a show.
Some of the older spiny Century Plants (although, it’s usually around 20 years to bloom) decide it’s time in the Spring to produce an enormous asparagus-shaped spike from their centers which quickly becomes a “tree” of yellow puffy flowers to decorate the hillsides in great numbers. They will be covered with honeybees and hummingbirds. And at night, they are pollinated by only one species of bat which they depend upon. They evolve and die after about a week and then they become Christmas Trees! Some well over 20’ tall. Yes, the islanders have been using these “skeletons” for generations. They make a fine Christmas tree and you will see some yachts carrying them on their decks decorated to the hilt!
25 foot tall Century Plant spike
If you’re lucky, after dark, a hawk moth might come to visit you in the lights of your cockpit relaxation area. This is the adult form of the colorful frangipani caterpillar. The moth is so large, at first glance you might think a bat has flown into your area! But, no, it’s just this large, rather drably brown moth who thinks you might be a night blooming flower to sip from!
Birders will be treated to the sight of red billed tropic birds (in season), brown boobies, pelicans, various egret and herons, all the tropical terns in your birding book, small finches, the ubiquitous nectar eating bananaquit (sugarbird), various species of hummingbirds, frigatebirds- “The Pirates of the Air”, oystercatchers, night herons and on and on. More frequently, due to a careful program of re-introduction, you might now see a Flamingo or two. The Virgins, along with so many other Caribbean island paradises, provide generally great exploring for all interests natural.
Before “civilized” man populated these islands, there was known to be two indigenous mammals: The rodent Isolobon portoricensis about the size of a possum, and the insectivore esophontes edithae, looking a little bit like a very small anteater. These species have long gone extinct.The only present-day native species of mammal is bats (possibly 6 species), though rats and mongoose have taken up residence due to man’s incursions.
While on your charter, you might be interested in feeding your own bats! Yes, after dark, in many coves you might be treated to the sight of a bat flickering in and out of your vision on the water’s surface. You are seeing the fishing bat. Ask your chef to give you some bread, cast it on the water and sit back to watch the show. These bats do not normally eat bread…they are extreme specialists in detecting even the smallest fish ripple on the surface of a potentially wind roiled water surface. Only they know how they can do this, and they aren’t talking. The bread will attract the fishies and the fishies attract the bats. I have known of several charter clients who have captured this wonder on camera! And please don’t worry…they won’t get in your hair! They know unerringly where you are and where they are. Ne’er the ‘twain shall meet. The myriad beaches are a blinding eye-squinting color of white…we thank our parrotfish friends for creating these beaches. Parrotfish love to dine on algae which tends to accumulate on coral. Of course, when they scrape the coral, they will take in some of the hard skeleton of the coral itself, and later, well, you know.
You can tip your snorkel to the parrotfish for providing you with the lovely white soft sand beaches.
Aside from a few “major” islands, the charm of this place is the countless little crumbs of cays sprinkled all around ringed with colorful and pristine coral reefs. And most all are in sight of each other.
You are challenged to name and count all the different shades of blue and green you will see in the waters of the Virgin Islands. You will spend many happy hours after your SCUBA dive or snorkel just trying to identify them. It goes like this…. “It was blue, had a yellow stripe through its eye, and black fins, and it was……”
Virgin Islands Weather
When you arrive, your first impression will be the total clarity of the air itself. The clouds appear as cotton balls in a clear deep blue sky. There is no industry per se on these islands to lend pollution to the atmosphere.
The average temperatures range from 77°F in the “winter” to 82°F in the summer. Water temperatures in the Virgin Islands do not change greatly from summer to winter. Usually the 4 or 5 degree change is only noticeable to those of us acclimated to consistently warm tropical weather. In the summer months the water temperature is about 83 degrees and in the winter about 79 degrees.
Average wind speeds range from 10-12 knots from the East to ESE in the Late Spring and Summer to 15-18 knots, East to ENE in late Fall and Winter.
The famous easterly Trade Winds which propelled Columbus and his merry men and later, so many others, to these islands are almost always some shade of East. Since the island chain is oriented from East to West, this makes for great sailing in the Drake Channel, especially on the home bound leg.
But for true blue sailors, the windward tacks in the Sir Francis Drake Channel make for spirited sailing and are the very reason so many World Class Regattas are held in the waters of the Virgin Islands.
Virgin Islands Diving and Snorkeling
Miles and miles of colorful coral reefs extend out from the mostly protected aquamarine shores of the US and British Virgin Islands. The area is abundant with famous dive sites like the Wreck of the Rhone and many others too numerous to mention.
Remember, though it might be blowing “over there” the natural barrier of the islands flanking the Sir Francis Drake Channel, provides cover and shelter to keep your lovely snorkeling area tranquil and clear. Just like swimming in your own personal aquarium.
VIRGIN ISLAND AIRLINES AND AIRPORTS
Numerous major airlines fly from select major US Cities directly into St. Thomas. If need be, you will be routed through Puerto Rico (where you then take a 20 minute flight to either Tortola BVI (EIS) or St. Thomas (STT). And being US and British Territories, everyone speaks English (most with a lilting island dialect, mon) and all islands use US currency.
Most of the US and British Virgin Islands are so close that many “land” vacationers take day boat trips from St. Thomas or St. John to Tortola, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda. Ferries run daily between St. Thomas and St. John as well as the major BVI ferry ports (Imagine this: some BV Islanders commute to work on St. Thomas daily!). Thus, you can hop a short ferry ride from St. Thomas to the BVI if you choose a charter originating from one of the ports there.
THE SPANISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Culebra, Culebrita, Vieques and surrounding cays.
For those with a more adventuresome spirit, do not overlook the possibility of cruising the beautiful Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques, just off the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico. This is a bit “off the beaten track” and should be considered if you can take more than the customary week long charter. You might gain access to your charter by flying into San Juan, and hiring a taxi to take you to the East end of the large island of Puerto Rico. You would meet your charter there to begin your exploration of the less visited islands of the Spanish Virgins.
Or you can choose a yacht which will take you there from St. Thomas. You could then fly into St. Thomas on the inbound leg, and fly out of San Juan on the outbound leg thereby spending your sailing vacation virtually “off the wind”. Either way, it’s best to add a day or so to your charter week to arrive there in a leisurely fashion.
While there you can visit pristine reefs for diving and snorkeling. And, especially in the winter months when the North swell is running, you can sit in a “bubbly pool spa” at Isla Culebrita while the froth and foam of the Atlantic Ocean washes over you. That night, or the next night, you could be in Vieques to experience making green angels in the water! Yes, the few world famous (and undervisited) small bays are populated with a bio-luminescent plankton. Have a friend or your accommodating crew take your photo. You will be a Green Angel…promise! We can help you find the exact right boat to take you there.
Why a Yacht Charter? Why not a Villa or a Resort?
Considering a sailing or motor yacht charter with professional crew is a very special way to see this lovely place. Call it your “Floating Villa”, a moveable luxurious accommodation for your whole party complete with customized gourmet on-board catering and service. Your crew will see to your every need and be very visible or seem to disappear if you wish. They do know how to give the Honeymooners all the privacy they desire.
Why see one island when you can virtually see them all? At a resort or villa, nice as it might be, you will be spending about as much there as you would a cabin on your Floating Resort. This Floating Resort typically has all the toys you could dream of plus! If you spot a lovely beach along your journey, all you have to do is ask to go there. And your crew will take you there. You don’t have to rent a day sail boat or motor yacht to see the area. You are already aboard one.
Picture your private picnic lunch packed by your creative chef, just for you!
You are in charge of your itinerary (with a watchful eye from your skipper for weather conditions). You can do it all, or do nothing. Every day evolves on its own. Over breakfast, if there’s something you’ve decided to do which wasn’t planned, just change your plan. To make this dream vacation happen, all you have to do is seek guidance from Slip Aweigh Charters, your professional yacht charter broker; from that time on, all the work of finding the perfect yacht is done for you at no additional charge.
To sum it up, you would have to look long and hard for another destination or vacation plan which offers you so much to see and do all in one very tightly knit group of tropical islands. Access is easy, people are more than friendly, inter-island transportation is frequent and reliable, weather is wonderful, abundant foods are a combination of exotic and familiar. As so many before you have discovered, this is indeed a very special place comprised of the BVI’s “Nature’s Little Secrets”, and “You, Unscripted” in America’s Paradise and it waits for you. You will come back again and again….