Joanna is a guest contributor to Vacation Smarter and brings her own style and twist to the blog with accounts of her travels.
On a recent trip to St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, CM, a couple of friends and I chartered a boat and…hang on…actually, I’m not sure I want say any more than that. I really should keep it a secret – it was an amazing day, and what made it so special was the solitude. Here’s the deal: If I tell you, you keep it to yourself, okay? Good.
We drove from Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove, heading east towards Red Hook, taking a small turn right at Compass Point well before the ferry port. This narrow road lead us down to a fairly hidden marina, where all we knew was that we had to find berth 51 and meet ‘Patrick’.
Patrick Cena is the owner of Privateer Charters, a company offering tours around the US and British Virgin Islands on his twin-engined 27ft Everglade.
The four of us had chartered one of his boats for the day and had requested to be taken all around the coastline of St John, stopping at beaches, snorkeling spots and getting the lowdown on the island.
We had a fantastic day. The boat was beautifully maintained and stylish, and Patrick had really listened to what we had asked to do. He was a likeable, good humored captain, whose vast knowledge of the islands was indispensable. We sped round the coastline of St John, pulling into bays and jumping off the boat into the ocean to get to beaches that are only accessible by water. My favorite was Little Cinnamon beach, where we swam ashore and watched the local Boobie birds and pelicans dive bombing into the ocean for fish.
After I had signed my name in the sand and marveled at views of the clear water, we climbed back on board The Privateer and headed to a snorkeling spot. On the way we passed the tiniest stretch of pristine sand in a cove, nicknamed by locals as Two Butt Beach.
After we’d snorkeled, Patrick sped us to Coral Bay, on St John’s south-east coast and we jumped off the boat onto a jetty and walked to Skinny Legs, a beach bar and restaurant. Perfect for beer and the best burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches we’d had in a while. Patrick was clearly well-practised at gauging how much his guests want to be left alone, and hovered discretely until we waved him over to join us. Seriously, shout the guy his lunch – he earns it.
Heading back round the rugged south coast we stopped in a bay and swam and snorkeled again, seeing barracudas and schools of striped snapper, before speeding back to St Thomas.
Part of the deal is that you pay for fuel, so be ready when you get back to the harbor to whip out your credit card at the pump. Be warned – the Everglade is no Prius and we did enjoy some fantastic speed over the waves – we paid $180.
The four of us agreed that our boat trip round St John was the highlight of our week in the USVI. There really is no better way to see the islands. It is just as you imagine it, but better. White sands, turquoise water and peace.
Two days later, we put our rental car on the ferry from St Thomas to St John and revisted some of the beaches that Patrick had shown us from the boat that you can reach by road. It was fabulous, but there really is something very special about landing on a beach from the water, rather than walking from a parking lot.
The cost of the charter was $550 for the day, plus the fuel (and a well deserved tip for Patrick). Please don’t gasp – take a minute to figure out how much you pay for a family of four to take a half day catamaran trip on a boat packed with forty people, or a guided tour of somewhere with a commentary in nine different languages. It was worth every single cent to have a boat to ourselves and tailor-made itinerary.
So, as agreed, please keep it to yourself. There is only room on Two Butt Beach for mine and CM’s.
Other posts by Joanna:
The Best of Both Worlds
What Happens In Vegas