Ten years ago, with just my passport and a carry on, I hopped on a plane from San Francisco to St. Thomas, USVI. Tucker had arranged a flight and a ten day bareboat charter in the Caribbean. What an amazing way to spend my 25th birthday! We sailed out of Red Hook Bay, St. Thomas over to St. John, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, back to St. John, and returned to St. Thomas at the end of our ten days.
Our stop in Jost Van Dyke gave us our first taste of island time. We attempted to check in to customs and immigration around noon but were unsuccessful. They insisted we have lunch and come back later on. We dingied to another harbor later on to snorkel and visit the self-serve Ivan’s Stress Free bar. We moved on to a new harbor nearly every night. The little day sails were easy and comfortable between the islands. The swim at each new anchorage was refreshing and warm all at the same time. Ninety degree water and ninety degree air was simply paradise. I would need to get my hands on a Virgin Islands cruising guide to remember exactly each stop we made, but they made a great impression. This is the list I remember, however, I’m pretty sure we only had ten nights so we must have spent some days in these places and moved on and found our night time anchorage in the same day:
- Lienster Bay, St. John- our first night out on a mooring ball in front of an old sugar factory
- Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke- we snorkeled at White Bay, stayed up late at Foxy’s, poured self serve drinks at Ivan’s Stress Free Bar
- Cane Garden Bay, Tortola- we listened to live music on the beach, and found a sailboat that had been out cruising for 13 years
- Soper’s Hole, Tortola- we restocked on expensive perishables, refilled water tanks, met some students that had been studying at Arecibo
- The Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda- pretty and fancy
- Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda- there was a shower near the anchorage (oh boy, this isn’t a great sign if I remember a shower from 10 years ago and don’t have one of my own)
- Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda- we went and swam at The Baths. Awesome!
- Coral Bay, St. John (two nights)- the real cruiser’s anchorage and luckily we weren’t on a big name charter company boat so we were able to sort of join in for a couple days. There were some beautiful boats there!
- Caneel Bay, St. John- this must have been a lunch anchorage for us, though we did go into the main part of town for a day
- Trunk Bay, St. John- underwater national park- amazing!
- Cinnamon Bay, St. John- our last night
I loved the charter! The boat was an incredibly comfortable Island Packet 32. Wow! The sailing was amazing, easy, and warm. The waters were well charted, the guide books were up to date, yet I still was discovering something new every single day. After sailing for so long in the San Francisco Bay it was amazing to not have to wear foul weather gear on an ordinary July day and to be able to raise the full sail (on our old boat we were always reefed down). It only took me until Cane Garden Bay to decide we should go cruising. Tucker dingied over to a pretty big sailboat with a Scottish flag. I don’t remember exactly how long he was gone, but when he came back he told me that that guy had been out sailing for 13 years. That was the instant I knew I absolutely would go cruising too.
I’ll never forget sitting on the swim platform, dangling my legs in the water, late in the evening before we had to return the boat. I was heart-achy that it was over. Owning our own cruising boat is no where near as simple as hopping on a charter boat for a bit, but I am more than a little bit thrilled that ten years later we’re about to head out and make our dreams a reality!