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Caribbean Cruising in Style                      Photo Gallery
By Ryan Jannenga

    Taking a taxi from the airport to the east side of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands seemed to be the obvious choice for most, since air-conditioning and expediency was seemingly worth sacrificing a little local flavor. I opted however, for the city bus. No better way to get a true taste of culture than to get as far away from tourists as possible. Although I stood out as the sorest thumb on the island, the locals were very friendly and helpful, and were sure to let me know when my stop came. After weaving through side tracked neighborhoods and eye-shutting fragrances for 30 minutes, we finally arrived in the quaint little town of Red Hook. Having several hours to kill before the arrival of fellow journalists I did as any red blooded, Caribbean bound yachtie would, and bellied up for a few at Molly Malone's.

    The better part of the afternoon was spent at this mellow, Irish Caribbean pub where fountains trickle and fat iguanas pursue the illusive remnants of conch fritters. The pub is steps from the boat docks and is a great place to enjoy cool shade and good food. The hours flew to the tunes of Thin Lizzy, Rod Stewart, The Eagles. The rest of the party showed and we were off on the tender to board Arabella.

    The 160-foot sail cruise ship, Arabella, has 20 staterooms, each including air conditioning, satellite TV, and telephone. This regal schooner sails throughout the Spanish, British, and U.S. Virgin Islands from November through April and offers access to secluded coves and bays that larger cruise ships cannot negotiate.

     After getting settled in we embarked on a sunset sail to St. John over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Dinner ashore at La Tapa met what few expectations I had as we drank wine and admired the talents of local artists. The night progressed and I found myself doing poor (if not slightly incriminating) renditions of Garth Brooks at Polli's karaoke cantina, which seemed to be a hot spot that night. As we headed back to the dock, St. John was alive with island jams and street goers despite its small, idyllic setting and it was a shame to have only one night to spend there.

    Waking up only mildly alert, yet fully de-pruned from hours in the hot tub, which sits on the aft deck, I found the sails hoisted and pushing us toward Norman Island in the BVI's. Norman Island is 610 acres of uninhabited reefs and bays, which hold great snorkeling and diving spots. A beautiful island style lunch was being served to my surprise seeing as breakfast had come and gone hours past. We enjoyed mango chutney, coconut shrimp, and crab cakes as the crew anchored near the "Treasure Island caves", which are the supposed setting of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic. That afternoon was spent kayaking warm, clear caves, swimming in the endless tranquility of blue, and beachcombing through the relics of forgotten yachties.

    The falling sun seemed to lure us effortlessly to Peter Island for, you guessed it, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres overlooking their secluded coves. Peter Island lies four miles south of Tortola and is comprised of 1,300 acres of lush, mountainous terrain and private beaches. The harbor on Peter Island is one of only a few in the area that can dock mega yachts and also offers a full service marina and daily water sports. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the entire resort and spa facilities. Designed to overwhelm and captivate, the spacious open-air spa will undoubtedly ensure your peaceful well being as the resort provides first class amenities and sapphire views of Caribbean bliss.

    We dined aboard Arabella that night on fresh mahi-mahi, island salad and Chilean wine. The elegant dining of the main salon is romantic and rich, keeping with the ships intimate setting. The night once again drew me to the hot tub under the twinkle of 10,000 stars and nothing but beauty seemed to exist.

    By this point in the trip the inevitable rethinking of one's life began to occur and our arrival at Jost Van Dyke certainly did not help. The morning cast a picture perfect setting for a day of inebriated wanderings between the bars and the water, which was spotted with charter boats and smiling faces. Our first, and really only plan, was of course a world famous Painkiller at the drinks own birthplace, The Soggy Dollar Bar. The Painkiller is a local concoction of Pusser's rum, tropical juices, and a hint of nutmeg. One quickly turned into one too many, as is so often the case when in a tropical paradise, so after a refreshing dip we shuffled down to the One Love Bar. Perhaps not the best way to counter a buzz, but after all, this was research.

    The music at One Love was a hi-light of the trip and I hope that my recommendation of a soundtrack was dually noted by the bartender. The one-man island band did a 10-minute cover of A Pirate Looks at Fourty which would crush any ex-patriated parrotheads attempt at local stardom. Although being thoroughly content with my feet in the sand and a cold beer in my hand, the clock struck that not-so-happy hour of time to go. Not that it was all that bad seeing as we did a sunset cruise around to the next bay, Great Harbor, for dinner at Foxy's.

    Foxy's has a slightly more upscale atmosphere with great food and a good energy. The huge gift shop will keep the girls busy while the guys corral about the bar talking ship and stretching truth. The stroll down the sandy road to Corsair's is usually the next action taken if the dancing at Foxy's becomes too much. Corsair's, which has also been deemed an "official" harbor hangout is a must see due to its cheap drinks and beach front setting. We enjoyed the soulful tunes of Harry Belafonte as the moon came to cast a glow over our hammock.

    Somehow to my huge surprise I found myself once again in the hot tub back on Arabella. This being our last night out we made the most of it by playing games, revealing secrets, and spilling wine. Falling asleep with the gentle sway of a sailboat rivals any five-star resort.

    Clearing customs in St. John the next morning was a breeze despite the foggy head and beating sun. From there we headed back to St. Thomas for shopping and a barbeque lunch. As the women flocked to the jewelry and T-shirts I sat pondering the necessary steps leading to a Caribbean relocation. Life revolves around fun, work revolves around life, and I've grown tired of cities. So by the time this gets read I will hopefully be back to de islands mon.

Check out these websites:

Arabella Cruises

Peter Island Resort

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