Chasing the Caribbean sun in St. Thomas, USVI

Oct 5, 2021 by Carol Bareuther

By Carol M. Bareuther, RD

When locals living in the hills above Charlotte Amalie harbor look out and see the 452-foot, Lürssen-built M/Y Rising Sun is back on the docks at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande St. Thomas, they know the winter season has arrived. Ditto when Steve Job’s comparatively smaller 256-foot Feadship M/Y Venus, now owned by Job’s wife, docks there on one of its frequent fall-to-spring visits. The deep-water, well-protected Charlotte Amalie harbor, once the crater of an ancient and long-extinct volcano and now the home of IGY’s purpose-built big-yacht marina, is an ideal Caribbean superyacht destination.

“It might seem contradictory, especially with the global pandemic, but 2020 was our most successful year ever and 2021 is even stronger,” said Phil Blake, general manager of Yacht Haven Grande St Thomas, which this year earned its fourth Superyacht Marina of the Year award by the UK-based Yacht Harbour Association.

The 1.2-square-mile Charlotte Amalie Harbor first served as a beacon for an international fleet of schooners when Denmark planted its flag here in the late 1600s. Tourism took over the economy after the U.S. purchased St. Thomas, St. John, St Croix and its surrounding 50-plus islets, rocks and cays over a century ago. More recently, the harbor has become one of the busiest cruise ship ports in the Caribbean. With this, and the opening of YHG-STT in 2007, there is now an incredible infrastructure to support superyacht owners, charter guests and crew.

On the yacht side, cruise time from Miami or Fort Lauderdale averages 2–3 days, and with the U.S. flag status there is no need to clear immigration on arrival. Major yacht transport companies service St. Thomas, transporting vessels from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Europe on a regular schedule.

On the people side, there are direct flights to nearly a dozen gateway cities in the U.S. from St. Thomas’ Cyril E. King Airport. The airport’s jet port accommodates large and small private planes, and there’s helicopter service too. There are abundant recreational facilities, including fine dining, name-brand shopping, and watersports galore, as well as a soup-to-nuts of professional services from provisioning to marine services. Best of all, the cruising grounds in and around the U.S. Virgin Islands are ample and attractive.

A weekend charter of 2–3 days is enough time to cruise St. Thomas and St. John. In 7 days, it’s a breeze to add St. Croix, located 40 miles south. Beyond the U.S. Virgins, the British Virgin Islands are 30–45 minutes east of Charlotte Amalie at cruising speed. Anguilla, St. Maarten-St. Martin and St. Barths are a 120- to 150-mile run to the southeast; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, is 70 miles to the west.

Here is a sampling of three U.S. Virgin Islands anchorages ideal for large yachts:

Magens Bay, St. Thomas. The natural anchorage and protected bay here accommodate the largest of superyachts. The main draw is the mile-long, heart-shaped arc of white sand, named one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Anchoring permits are limited to 14 consecutive nights.

Virgin Islands National Park, St. John. Private yachts 210 feet or less can enter park waters and anchor in Francis Bay and Maho Bay, on the island’s north shore. Yachts 125 feet or less can also anchor off Lind Point, a dinghy ride away from Cruz Bay and its bars, restaurants and shops. Motorized watersports equipment isn’t allowed in park waters.

Frederiksted, St. Croix. Superyachts can use the cruise ship pier for alongside docking, with prior permission from local agents. Several bars and restaurants, shops, and historic sites like Fort Frederik are within walking distance. To the south, yachts can anchor off the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. To the northeast in Cane Bay, the coral wall drops from 40 feet to over 13,000 feet and is wonderful to explore by mini-submarine.


Ninety-six-hour notice of arrival is needed for yachts over 300 tons. The U.S. Coast Guard has additional requirements for vessels 400 gross tons and over. A USVI harbor pilot must be onboard yachts 1600 tons and over to enter. Beyond this, there are three basic steps in the normal arrival procedures to enter the USVI from international waters.

Step 1: Notify Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) on arrival. IGY YHG-STT offers on-site Customs & Immigration. Documents required are a current certificate of registry, clearance from previous port, and completed documents 1300 (vessel entrance and clearance statement) and I-418 (crew/passenger manifest). No U.S. cruising license is needed. If departing for any foreign port other than the British Virgin Islands, an outbound clearance needs to be filed along with an updated I-418.

Step 2: Immigration – Crew & Guests. Yachts arriving from the mainland U.S. or Puerto Rico don’t need to clear immigration. The captain still must file entry paperwork since the USVI doesn’t require or accept a US cruising license. Non-American crew and guests arriving on private yachts need to have proper visas.

Step 3: Regulated Garbage: All garbage has to be disposed of following local and federal regulations. Staff at IGY’s YHG-STT can advise.

COVID-19. No COVID-19 test result is required to travel to or return to the U.S. mainland from the USVI. However, everyone arriving in the USVI needs to submit an approved COVID-19 test result and get cleared before travel. The Travel Screening Portal is located at: YHG-STT does offer on-site COVID testing.


Located on Charlotte Amalie’s eastern shore, IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande St Thomas (YHG-STT) is an ISPS-compliant facility that offers 46 berths for vessels up to 656 feet, with a maximum 25-foot draft. Specifically, the marina can simultaneously dock two 400-foot-plus yachts, four 300-foot vessels, and 10 to 11 yachts up to 200 feet each. Virtually every slip fits vessels up to 150 feet.

In-slip, there’s power, water, hard-wired internet that plugs into an ethernet cable at the dock, Wi-Fi, high-speed fueling, and pump out for black water and waste oil.

Golf carts are at the ready to transport guests, luggage and provisions on the 18-foot-wide piers.

There’s 24-hour security and video surveillance of the marina.

The Shoppes at Yacht Haven Grande is akin to a dockside village with restaurants and boutiques, as well as service providers and recreational facilities for crew. Professional services on the property include provisioning, a medical clinic, a salon and spa, and a marine store.

For pleasure, crew have exclusive use of a resort-style pool, fully equipped gym, lounge, outdoor exercise area, and lighted tennis and beach volleyball. There are also regular crew events such as pool parties with games, food and live music that, although on hold recently due to COVID, are planned to resume.

“Another popular crew event and unique to YHG-STT is our Friday night mini-regattas,” said marina manager Phil Blake. “We have a fleet of 11 remote-control 3-foot sailboats with fully functional parts, such as the mainsail, jib and rudder. Each sail has a country code and sail numbers — ISV (US Virgin Islands), USA, CAN (Canada), GBR (Great Britain), NOR (Norway), AUS (Australia), and NZL (New Zealand) — that international crews get behind and cheer for. We run a couple of windward-leeward courses, and the bartender from Navy Beach comes out with a bicycle bar. We start at 5 p.m. and race until sundown. It’s great fun,”

There are several private and community events annually at The Shoppes at Yacht Haven Grande St Thomas. Two of these are the USVI Charter Yacht Show, Nov. 7–10, and the first annual Caribbean Charter Yacht Show, Dec. 9–12. The former focuses on family-size charter catamarans, while the latter is a superyacht show. Both attract charter yacht brokers from around the world. There are also holiday concerts, farmer’s markets, and community Zumba and Tai Chi classes.,  


The services below are the closest to IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande St Thomas that have sound experience working with yachts.


FirstBank VI
Port of Sale
Full-service tellers, drive-through, ATM

+1 340.774.4800


Subbase Drydock
1200 Ton & 350 Ton drydocks; can haul vessels up to 225 feet
+1 340.776.2078 |

Forever FlowersFrenchtown

In-store & online orders; delivery; arrangements, bouquets, gift baskets, florals for events
+1 340.774.9370 |



Alaa Sableh
Pickup & drop-off at YHG
+1 340.690.5783 or 340.514.6259

Magras Dry Cleaner
Four Winds Plaza
+1 340.776.2442 or 340.227.8154

Marine Parts & Supplies

National Marine Suppliers
+1 340.693.6017

Island Marine Outfitters
Crown Bay Marina
+1 340.714.5311

Budget Marine
Near Red Hook
+1 340.779.2219, WhatsApp +1 340.474.2908


Yacht Haven Family Practice
Walk-in and appointments; staffed by general practitioners; open Mon-Fri, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
+1 340.776.1511 |

Post Office

U.S. Postal Office
Havensight Shopping Center
Full-service post office
+1 340.776.9897 or 800.275.8777


Moe’s Fresh Market
In-store shopping & online provisioning. Meats, seafood, deli, prepared foods, fresh produce, grocery items, ethnic ingredients, beverages, and large wine, beer & liquor selection
+1 340.693.0413 (store), 340.693.0254 (provisioning) |

National Marine Suppliers
Premium meats, produce, and dry goods, as well as hard-to-find beer, wine and liquor brands. 1-800-MEGAYACHT
Salon & Spa 

Sugar & Spice Salon Spa
Unisex hair care, facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing, specialty wraps, massage, and makeup for events such as weddings.
+1 340.776.5893 |


There are taxi drivers usually stationed at YHG-STT as well as the Cyril E King Airport. Avis, Budget & Discount Car Rental are also at the airport.

VI Taxi Dispatch
+1 340.774.7457

Elite Limousine
+1 340.474.7759

Presidential Limo
+1 340.473.6550

Caribbean Buzz Helicopters
Lindbergh Bay, across from the airport
+1 340.775.7335 |