A number of day-sail operators offer sailing trips around St. John and to the nearby British Virgin Islands. Choices typically include half-day snorkel trips around St. John; full-day expeditions to Jost Van Dyke, Norman Island, or Virgin Gorda in the British Virgins; or sunset sails around St. John. Many trips include extras like free drinks and lunch. Rates range $40–60 for half-day sails and $60–130 for a full-day sail.
The Pepper (340/776-6226, ext. 212, www.sailpepper.com) offers the most distinctive sailing excursions on St. John. Modeled after a traditional island sloop, the 23-foot Pepper can accommodate up to six passengers. With Captain Fred at the helm, you will travel to off-the-beaten-path snorkel sites during the day-time snorkel sail ($90 per person). Alternatively, sign up for a sunset cruise ($44 per person). The Pepper departs from Maho Bay on the north shore.
Captain Philip Chalker runs a popular day sail operation on his 30-foot Islander sloop, the Wayward Sailor (340/776-6922, www.waywardsailor.net). Full- and half-day expeditions visit snorkel sites around St. John and the British Virgin Islands. Full-day rates are $105 for adults and $95 for children; half-day rates are $65 and $60. There is a six-person maximum, guaranteeing personalized service.
The Outlaw (340/998-5406, www.sailoutlaw.com) is a 55-foot Baltic sloop that accommodates up to 12 passengers. This handsome Finnish-built sailboat has a lovely teak deck and comfortable seating both above and below deck. All trips are exclusive; a half-day sail has a $600 minimum charge and a full-day sail is $1,050 minimum. Additional charges apply for groups over six.
Instead of contacting sailing operators yourself, you can also book a day sail through one of the clearinghouse activity desks around St. John. These desks will match you with the kind of day sail you want and make the reservation for you. You can make arrangements in person or on the phone. Desks include St. John Adventures Unlimited (Gallow’s Point and Cruz Bay, 340/693-7730, www.stjohnadventures.com) and Connections (Coral Bay and Cruz Bay, 340/776-6922).
For a luxurious day aboard a plush power yacht, call Blue Tang Yacht Charters (340/776-9070, www.bluetangyachtcharters.com). A professional crew will greet you and help you board the 51-foot SeaRay yacht, and then it’s off to the British Virgin Islands for a day of snorkeling and sightseeing. This is truly an upscale day out. All charters are exclusive, and groups of up to six may be accommodated.
If bareboating is more your style, and you’re competent at the wheel, then consider renting a small powerboat you can captain yourself. Nauti Nymph (340/775-5066) is a St. Thomas-based rental company with an office at the Westin Resort on St. John. It offers 28-foot to 32-foot Fountain powerboats and 26-foot to 28-foot catamarans. High season rates range $375–670 for a full-day rental.
If you are sailing into St. John from the British Virgin Islands or another foreign port, you will have to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration in Cruz Bay.
There are National Park Service moorings at Caneel Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, Francis Bay, Leinster Bay, Salt Pond Bay, and Great Lameshur and Little Lameshur Bays. Each bay has its own specific anchoring regulations; check with the National Park Service guide before dropping anchor.
At Coral Bay, don’t pick up any of the private moorings; instead, drop your anchor. There is a dinghy dock in front of Skinny Legs.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition