I love sailing. Plus, I grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So you might think I know all about sailing the USVI. But nothing could be further from the truth. And it’s that shortcoming that made my recent visit to the USVI Charter Yacht Show so surprising.
About The USVI Charter Yacht Show
The USVI Charter Yacht Show is the premier event for charter brokers, the travel agents of the sailing world, to get up close and personal with the multihulls, monohulls, and motor yachts (plus their crew) that ply the waters of the region.
So, while it is more of an industry event, swinging by and seeing the many boats filling Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas is undeniably impressive to anyone. Just doubly so for charter enthusiasts.
And speaking of the venue for a moment, that was my first surprise of the visit. While I am familiar with the location’s importance to sailboat charters in St. Thomas, I didn’t know that the Yacht Haven Grande Marina was recently crowned as the Superyacht Marina of the Year!
This is the same global honor marinas from Montenegro to the French Riviera to Abu Dhabi are vying to win. You know, the places lavishly featured in just about every James Bond film. And they all lost out to the marina in our backyard!
Options, options, options
This year, a whopping 74 yachts were exhibiting — ranging in size from 44- to 141.8-foot in length. And here again, there were more incredible surprises.
The first big one for me was the boutique nature of the offering in the USVI. You see, Sunsail and Moorings, don’t have a base in the USVI. Neither do any other big global fleets.
So, what you have here instead is a collection of entirely individual boats creating completely bespoke experiences for their guests. But even though each boat has its unique personality, they all looked impeccable.
The most awe-inspiring of the bunch was the 141.8-foot Columbia. It’s a modern replica and namesake of a famous fishing schooner built back in 1923. And from the second you lay eyes on the magnificent vessel, its sultry classic lines harken back to the original’s title of the fastest fishing schooner in the North Atlantic.
The big difference between the Columbia then and the Columbia now is that the holds that used to be filled with fish on the old Columbia are now outfitted with luxury accommodations for 12 plus every conceivable modern luxury. I particularly loved the handsome sunroofs.
Another standout of The USVI Charter Yacht Show was a genuine classic, the Eros. This staysail schooner was built back in 1939, but don’t let her age fool you. She’s recently undergone an 18-year museum quality restoration that has her looking stunning.
As I toured through Eros’ 115-foot length, each turn revealed another luxurious surprise. One of those surprises was a bathtub!
As I strolled the rest of the show, it became clear that the catamarans weren’t going to be outshined by the classic monohulls.
There were 62-foot Lagoons, 40-foot Norsemans, and more. In fact, the comfy catamarans made up a good three-quarters of the show. And again, they were all unique and all exquisitely appointed.
VI vs. VI
OK, so with me doing multiple sailing charters a year, Yacht Haven being one of the world’s best marinas, and with all these fantastic, distinct charters available in the USVI, why was I so unfamiliar with the offering?
It all boils down to our neighbor: the British Virgin Islands.
Undoubtedly, the BVIs get all the ink when it comes to sailing in the Virgin Islands. And it’s no wonder. More than half of all visitors to the BVIs arrive for extended sailing charters. That means that at any given time, there are likely more guests sleeping on the water than on the land!
So, while the BVIs get busier and busier, the USVI has something a bit more uncommon to offer. To get the low-down on exactly what that is, I chatted with Oriel Blake, the Executive Director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association.
Here’s what she had to say:
So, you want to grab your family or friends and sail away for the week of a lifetime. Before my visit to The USVI Charter Yacht Show, I may have suggested some destinations other than the USVI.
Well, now I’m counting the seconds before I can hop aboard any of the amazing yachts I discovered and experience our home islands from a whole new perspective! If you’re also looking to explore the USVI with a yacht charter, look no further than the U.S. Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association booking page.
Lead photo credit: Phil Blake