Our Lodging Partners

Everyone knows that the best day of your US Virgin Islands vacation is the day you spend on the water...which is why people typically get their boat day booked right after they book their flights and lodging.
Where you stay on your trip to the USVI also plays a big role in your overall vacation experience. There are lots of places to choose from, both on St Thomas and St John. Each island has different areas, each with their own pros and cons. Over the years, we have stayed all over on both islands, so if you need some guidance choosing where to stay, please reach out.
Since we started Shades of Blue Charters we have made lots of new friends, many of whom help to promote our business. Some of our new island friends have rental properties, so if you are looking for a place to stay during your visit to the USVI, please consider staying with one of our lodging partners.

Ayiti Cottage on St John

Oleg's place overlooks Fish Bay on St John and is very  affordable and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Cruz Bay. If peace and quiet and comfortable accommodations for 2 is your thing, take a look at Ayiti Cottage.
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Sapphire Dreaming

A 1BR and a Studio unit located at the Sapphire Beach Resort on the east end of St Thomas.  Sapphire Beach Resort has a beautiful beach, a marina (where we keep Island Girl), pools, multiple restaurants, and is 5 minutes from Red Hook. I have stayed at both of these units and they are super nice and very well equipped. Mark & Peggy are friends of mine and are super accommodating. They have added lots of nice little touches to make your stay in the islands easier.
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And here's the Studio:
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Battman's Place

This 2BR house overlooking beautiful Magens Bay is owned by my friend, Battman (aka Alan Batt). If you've never stayed out on the Peterborg peninsula, you are in for a treat. The house is spacious and comfortable and is in a gated community where it's very quiet and peaceful. The views of Magens Bay from the deck are fantastic. The best part of our days were the morning coffee and afternoon cocktails on the deck watching everything from local wildlife to mega yachts coming and going. Conveniently located 5 minutes from Magens Beach and 15 minutes from town.
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Rum Punch Anyone?

Most folks that come out with us for a day on the water enjoy having a few cocktails during the trip. Many choose to bring their own adult beverages but, if you don't feel like lugging heavy coolers down to the dock, there's another option. When booking your trip, you can pre-order rum punch by the gallon and it will be waiting for you on ice when you arrive. Pretty nice, right?
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Most bars and restaurants down in the islands serve rum punch and it's just one of those drinks where no two recipes are exactly the same. Every place has their own recipe and for me, it can be kind of fun to try them in different places and see which ones I like the best.
The rum punch that we serve on Island Girl is the result of a few years of "research". Like I said, I really enjoy rum punch and I know a good one when I taste it. I solicited the help of a close friend to help me come up with the recipe for the rum punch we would serve on the boat. The requirements were simple:
  1. It has to taste good
  2. It has to be made with ingredients that are readily available on island.
  3. It cannot be too sweet. No one really wants all that sugar anyway.
  4. It cannot be heavy - it must be light. Painkillers are great, but they're heavy and after a few, I tend to get pretty full, and that's no fun.
  5. It cannot be weak or too strong. It needs to be "strong enough". Remember, drinking on a full day boat charter is a marathon, not a sprint.

Pretty simple requirements, actually, but it took quite a bit of "testing" to zero in on the recipe we use on the boat. We only use Cruzan rum. It's made on St Croix, is easy to get, and quite frankly, we think it's the best.

Side note: If you ever have the opportunity, visit the Cruzan Rum distillery on St Croix and take the guided tour. The tour guides are great!

Our Cruzan Rum distillery tour guide, Darnell
Our Cruzan Rum distillery tour guide, Darnell
You'll learn a ton and will get to see how the different types of rum are made.  This is not just a "demo" room - you actually walk through the various parts of the distillery where rum is being made. Pretty cool.
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At the end of the tour, your guide brings you to the bar where s/he makes you 3 or 4 drinks of your choice. It will be the best $7/person you will ever spend! Make sure you have a designated driver!)
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We use nearly 1 liter of rum in our 1 gallon of rum punch, so it's definitely not weak. We also use a combination of 3 different juices (sorry, the amounts and types of juice are proprietary). We do not use grenadine. (See requirement #3 above.)
Lastly, we do add a little water to our rum punch. Not only does this help keep it "light", it helps with hydration. Remember, we are serving it on a boat out in the hot sun. You're welcome. 🙂

Anyway, we think our rum punch recipe is perfect for a day on the water. Give it a try and see for yourself. And if you don't finish it all, you can take the rest with you and drink it the next day on the beach Cheers!

BVI Update

Yes, the BVI are open as of 10/1/2021, and that's great news, however there are some very specific requirements for entry that are posing challenges for US based day charter boats and their guests. Here are the highlights:

  • All travelers into the territory on a day charter MUST BE FULLY VACCINATED
  • All travelers must show a negative PCR or Antigen test that is no older than 5 days
  • All travelers must pre-register for a rapid test to be taken at West End Customs upon arrival into the territory using their online portal
  • Travelers must purchase travel insurance which covers COVID 19 medical costs, doctor visits, prescriptions, medical repatriation, and quarantine accommodation costs.
  • All travelers must, upon arrival at the West End Customs, take a rapid test, and if negative, will be free to enjoy their day in the territory. This test costs $50/person and is in addition to the normal customs fees.
  • Minors under the age of 17 need to present a negative PCR or Antigen test that is no older than 5 days and be accompanied by vaccinated parents or guardians.
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We are closely monitoring the situation with the BVI entry requirements and plan to do a practice run in the coming weeks to "see for ourselves" and to assess how easy or difficult this will be with guests on board. The other factor in all of this is the testing requirements this places on our captains. Depending on how many BVI trips we run each week, it is possible that our captains could be getting tested daily. Not only is this difficult from a logistical standpoint, it will also get very expensive. While there are free testing sites, it is unlikely that we will be able to count on using them all of the time.
The BVI's loosening of their entry requirements is great news and we look forward to running day trips to all of our favorite spots in the near term. However, with the information we have, we are not ready to start running day trips to the BVI at this point. The situation is pretty dynamic, to say the least, and as the situation evolves and more questions get answered, we plan to reevaluate this decision regularly.  Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks...

Why You Should Book a Private Boat Charter in the US Virgin Islands

Many people have told me that the day they spent on the water with us was the best day of their vacation and that they are so happy they decided to book their charter. Given the large number of emails I receive from folks asking questions about our charters, it occurred to me that there are a LOT of people who come on vacation to the USVI and do not get out on the water. So, I thought I'd write a quick post on a few of the top reasons, in my mind, why I think you should book a private charter on your next US Virgin Islands vacation.
First, the US Virgin Islands are gorgeous and seeing them from the water gives you a different perspective. While on vacation, you get to drive around on the windy roads, up and down the hills and mountains visiting various beaches, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. Views of the sea and the various shades of blue are everywhere. However, the natural beauty of these islands cannot be fully appreciated until you get out on a boat and view them from a different perspective. We can point out the various beaches you may have already visited or ones you plan to visit. We can show you various landmarks that aren't always visible from shore. By getting off the island and viewing it from the water, you gain a new appreciation for the scale of things.
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Second, by booking a private charter, we can take you to places that are only accessible by boat. We can take you by the various offshore cays and islands that you see from your beach chair. We can take you to some great, uncrowded snorkeling spots that you just can't get to without a boat. We can take you to floating restaurants like Lime Out and Pizza Pi. We can even take you to secluded beaches that you cannot get to without a boat.
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Third, when you book a private charter, the boat is yours for the day - we do not mix groups. I receive a lot of emails asking "how many "other" people will be on the boat with us". The only people on the boat besides your family and friends are the captain and perhaps a mate, but they won't be strangers for long. While it's nice to get to meet other people from various places while you're on vacation, sometimes you just want to hang out with your inner circle of friends and family. Having an entire boat to yourselves is a good way to do just that.
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Fourth, when you book a private charter, not only is the boat yours for the day, but the schedule for the day is entirely up to you as well.  Unlike the larger boats that take lots of people out, we are not on a strict, pre-determined schedule with set times and stops. Don't get me wrong, the big boats are a LOT of fun, but sometimes, you just want to do what you and your crew want to do without a set schedule. We often have people come prepared with a list of places they want to see but we also have people with no set agenda that want to figure it out on the fly. With a private charter, you also have the ability to change your itinerary just because you feel like it. We had one group come out with us that wanted to stop and look for turtles at Maho before heading to Waterlemon Cay for more snorkeling. We tied up to a mooring ball that was right in the middle of all the action at Maho. After snorkeling, our guests sat on the boat and floated on noodles just "taking it all in". The boat next to us was grilling and had a great playlist going. We saw turtles pop up right next to the boat. A paddle boarder stopped by to rest and say hello. When asked if they would like to move along to Waterlemon, our guests said that they would prefer to spend more time right where they were. So, we stayed for another hour before moving on. Another time, while waiting for our pizzas from Pizza Pi in Christmas Cove, a band started playing live music from the deck of a large sailboat. Our guests enjoyed it so much that they decided to cancel the rest of their itinerary and we finished up the day right there. So, you have lots of freedom when on a private charter.
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Lastly, while on a private charter, you get to spend a lot of time with your captain. Our captains have all lived in the Virgin Islands for years and they do what they do because they love sharing the beauty of the islands they call home with visitors. They will share stories, facts, history, folklore, and perhaps some gossip with you. They might point out the homes of famous people or tell you about past hurricanes. Your captain is a local...an expert, and by the end of the day, you will have laughed and learned a lot and perhaps gained a new friend.
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These are just a few reasons why you should book a private boat charter on your next vacation. Give it a try - you won't be sorry!

The Donkeys of St John

Many people come to St John for the natural beauty and are amazed to find all different types of animals as well. One that stands out the most is the donkey. The donkey is a non-native species dating back to the "plantation days" when the sugar mills ran on donkey power. When the sugar mills stopped running, the donkeys were set free to roam the island.

You are sure to see them on the road from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay and maybe even on the beach from time to time. They are typically found in groups of 2 or 3. To many, the donkeys aren't always a welcome sight. Many feel that they have played a role in destroying part of the ecosystem of the island. Others view them as a cute reminder of what makes St John so quaint. You may be tempted to, but you're really not supposed to feed or touch the donkeys; it makes them more aggressive to be hand fed and more likely to approach people and cars.
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If you are interested in learning more about them or helping to protect these lovable donkeys, reach out to the folks at Carolina Corral in Coral Bay where they run an animal rescue farm providing a home for domestic animals in need.

USVI Travel Tips

A lot of you will be traveling down to the USVI in the coming months so here's a travel tip for you. The travel day back home is always tough, but even worse when you have an early check out and a later flight. What can you do? There are a lot of options for how to spend this last day but a lot depends on you. For me, I like my last day to be low key/low stress and I always try to figure out a way to soak up every last drop of vacation fun before I get on my flight back home. Here are two good options for you.
If you have some time to kill before your flight, but not a lot, here's an option I highly recommend. Head to the airport right after you check out...but have your taxi driver drop you off at the Emerald Beach Resort right next door to the airport. Head out back to the restaurant/bar overlooking the beach. There's usually a nice breeze, music playing and a really relaxed atmosphere. Grab some drinks and maybe some food and relax knowing you are only a 5 minute walk to the airport. Be sure to try the "Mermaid Wata" drink - fantastic!
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This next option works better if you have a mid or late afternoon flight AND you want to get a little more beach time. Check out of your place early and go to Magens Bay on St Thomas. Magens Beach is beautiful with plenty of room to spread out.
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Walk the beach, swim in the ocean and enjoy one last beach day before heading home. There's a place to get drinks and lunch and the best part is they have bathrooms with shower facilities so you can get cleaned up before heading to the airport. There are always taxis there as well, so getting to the airport is easy.
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How To Travel Light to the USVI

We've been coming down to the Virgin Islands for years now, and I always chuckle to myself when I see people at the airport or on the ferry struggling with these HUGE suitcases. (Picture a family of 4 or 2 couples with 4 big bags, 4 carry-on size bags and an assortment of "personal items''.) I realize it's probably just human nature to overpack when you are unsure of what you really need in a place you may not be familiar with...so that's why I decided to write this quick post about how to pack light for a weeklong trip to the Virgin Islands. I should point out that even after many trips, I am _still_ refining my packing list. Let's get into it.

The places we usually stay at have laundry machines, so that benefit alone allows me to take fewer clothes. I travel with a backpack and my soft-sided backpack cooler. The backpack goes in the overhead bin and the cooler goes at my feet, under the seat in front of me.
In my cooler, I place my laptop (if I bring it), my phone, wallet, passport, money, a camera and GoPro (if I bring them), a waterproof speaker, sunglasses, my various charging cords, chargers, etc. and 2 insulated tumblers.
My backpack is for clothes and sometimes I bring snorkel gear as well. I usually wear shorts, a short sleeve collared shirt, a lightweight pullover or sweatshirt, and sneakers on the plane. Here's what I pack for a week long trip:
  • 4 pairs of underwear (remember we have laundry machines)
  • 2 pairs of athletic socks for morning workouts or hikes (my sneakers and 1 pair of socks are on my feet and I only wear them for traveling or working out/hiking)
  • 2 pairs of athletic shorts
  • 4 bathing suits (I could get away with 2 but I like having a variety)
  • 3 pairs of shorts (i.e. khakis) for going out to dinner
  • 5 t-shirts for the beach/working out
  • 5 t-shirts for going out to dinner (these are slightly "better" than my beach t-shirts)
  • 1 collared shirt (my wife makes me bring it). Apart from the plane, I almost never wear it out to dinner. Really depends on where we are going.
  • 1 long sleeve shirt for the beach
  • 1 wide brimmed "lifeguard" hat (Yes, this fits inside my backpack. I usually stuff the hat with socks or underwear to fill it up then place it flat in the middle of the backpack and pack around it. Works great - no damage.)
  • 2 pairs of sandals/flip flops. Once I arrive on island, I wear flip flops the majority of the time. The only time I wear sneakers is on travel days and on hikes or during workouts. Why 2 pairs? I recently started bringing 2 pairs because I didn't like putting wet flip flops on when going to dinner. So now, when I get back from the beach, I let my wet flip flops dry overnight and I wear the dry pair out to dinner.
  • Toiletries (I buy my sunscreen after we arrive)
And that's it! That's all I bring. The amazing thing is that I finally convinced my wife that she too can survive a week in the USVI with only a backpack full of clothes. (She used to be one of those people dragging a HUGE suitcase through the airport or on the ferry.) Her first time trying the backpack method, she was really anxious about it...very nervous she would run out of clothes. Well, she didn't. Now, she is totally on board with using a backpack for a weeklong trip to the USVI.
There are a couple of other benefits to traveling "light":
1) You save $$ on checked bag fees.
2) You save time at the airport in St Thomas. On your arrival day, you don't need to wait for your checked bags. Head straight to the rental car counter or the taxi stand and get your vacation started earlier. On the way home from St Thomas, you also save a bunch of time as the line for screening checked bags is often very long.
The feeling of traveling light is very liberating. Give it a try. You won't be sorry.
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Introduction: Captain Kirk

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Allow me to introduce you to our captain and manager, Kirk McGeorge.
Captain Kirk joined the Navy in 1976 and served six years, first as an Aircraft Mechanic and later as a Deep Sea Diver.  He bought his first sailboat in 1983 and became a full-time, live aboard sailor in 1994. He has sailed his boat around the planet - twice. He earned his commercial USCG license in 1994, AMSA Master-V (Australia) in 1997 and has lived and worked exclusively upon and below the ocean his entire adult life. His passion has always been underwater with manned submersibles and was directly involved with the first (and last) manned expeditions to the Titanic.
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Kirk has called St Thomas "home" longer than any other spot on Earth and is currently living around the Virgin Islands aboard his Hylas 49 GALLIVANTER with his Canadian Super-Model wife, Cindy.
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All of our charter guests love Captain Kirk and if you spend any time with him, you will understand why. He's a fantastic addition to the Shades of Blue team and I feel very fortunate to have found him.
If you see him out on the water or around town, be sure to say hello.

Island Girl’s Arrival

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On November 5th, we flew down to St Thomas in anticipation of Island Girl's arrival between 11/6 and 11/8. Shortly after we arrived, the shipping company informed us that our freighter, Sea Steamer, was delayed due to bad weather in Turks and Caicos which was preventing them from unloading a large boat there. So, we waited around for a few days...mostly just sitting on the beach- St Thomas isn't a terrible place to kill some time. We were staying at Sapphire Beach Resort and made good use of the beach and their awesome resort style pool. On Monday, our freighter arrived and while we were originally scheduled to be unloaded at 3:30pm, Island Girl wasn't lowered to the water until after 11pm. We grabbed a slip at Crown Bay Marina and returned the next morning to move her to her new home at Oasis Cove Marina.

Over the next 2 weeks, we had a lot of work to do, things to get, and people to talk to. The boat was filthy and covered with metal shavings, dirt, and grease. We managed to get that all cleaned up and detailed the entire boat. We met with our insurance agent as well as the folks who helped us with our business license. Most importantly, we spent a lot of time with our captain, Kirk, running the boat and getting it ready for charters.

After 17 days, we returned home to MA and left Island Girl in Captain Kirk's capable hands. He's wrapping up a few maintenance items on the boat as he prepares for our first official charter next week!

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Sea Trials Part 2 and Our Big Journey

Sea Trials Part 2

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A couple of weeks ago, we flew down to Fort Myers, FL for 3-4 days of sea trials on Island Girl. Because the fuel in the tanks was over a year old, there was some water in the fuel and we got off to a rough start. (Water in boat fuel tanks is a "normal" thing.) Anyway, once we sorted all of that out, we spent the rest of our time running Island Girl and testing all of the new systems on the boat. She ran fantastic! The motors are quiet and really efficient. The new seats came out awesome. The 2000 watt stereo system sounds terrific. We have 4 different speaker zones that are individually controllable, so tons of flexibility. Guests will be able to connect to a private WiFi network so they can listen to their own playlist. We tested the new power steering, the anchor windlass, the freshwater rinse down system, and the retractable shade over the entire rear deck of the boat. We also did some testing of the built in coolers; our beers stayed really cold so, yes, they work just fine. Besides testing all of the new systems on the boat, we also had a goal of putting 20 hours on the new engines so we could get through the break-in period and have the first scheduled maintenance done before we shipped her to St Thomas. (20 hours is a long time, by the way.) We initially wanted to run down to Key West for lunch, but the marine forecast on the Gulf  wasn't favorable for a long journey such as that. We ran in and around Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Islands and even made a run up to Cabbage Key for lunch.

There were a few small issues that needed to be addressed, so when we left, we handed the list to the great folks at Twin Screws Marine Service and went to the airport for our trip home.

One of our captains
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The Journey

This past weekend, I flew down to Florida so we could move Island Girl from the Fort Myers area to Port Everglades in preparation for shipment to St Thomas later this week.

We decided to take the shorter, inland route which involved transiting the Okeechobee Waterway through the middle of the state and Lake Okeechobee and the Intracoastal Waterway on the east coast  - approximately 210 miles. Our day started early; we were underway by 7:30am with a goal of being at the first lock by 8am. (There are 5 locks on the route and they are used to control the water height on the waterway and the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee.) It takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes to an hour to go through a lock. You communicate with the lock tender via VHF radio - he calls the shots. When it's time to enter, the light turns green, the gates open and you enter the "chamber". After putting fenders out, you pull the boat alongside the concrete wall and grab hold of the lines that are dangling over the side. Once all of the boats are in the chamber, the gates close again and the lock tender either raises or lowers the water in the chamber to match the height of the water on the other side of the gate. Once the water is at the right height, the gates on the other side open, and you're on your way again.

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The trip through the middle of the state was beautiful and the flat, calm water gave us an opportunity to let Island Girl stretch her legs! We made great time.

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She's quick!
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After 3 locks, we entered Lake Okeechobee. Because the water level in the lake was high and because Island Girl doesn't draw much water, we cut straight across the lake (instead of the longer route the bigger boats take) and shaved 30 miles and at least 45 minutes off our journey. We then made our way through 2 more locks and entered the St. Lucie river and eventually the ICW on the east coast for the 80 mile journey to Port Everglades. The ICW was calmer than the Atlantic so it made for a smoother ride, but it wasn't without its challenges. There were numerous no wake and "Manatee" zones which forced us to go slow and often for extended distances. There was a LOT of boat traffic as compared to the occasional fisherman we saw making our way through the Okeechobee Waterway. There were a handful of low bridges requiring us to request and often wait for a bridge opening. Then there were the rain squalls and thunderstorms which added to the fun. We finished the last few hours of our journey in the dark with our running lights on. We pulled in to a marina close to Port Everglades where we had a slip reserved a little after 9pm. We buttoned up the boat, gave the keys to the security guard and headed to the airport where we picked up our rental car for the long ride back to Fort Myers. Our day ended at around 12:45am.

Island Girl will be loaded on a freighter later this week with an expected arrival in St Thomas somewhere around November 6-8. Fingers crossed for a safe and uneventful journey.

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