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Old 03-03-2010, 08:46   #1
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Living Aboard in the USVI

I was wondering if anyone on this forum is living aboard near St. Thomas or St. John. I've lived aboard and cruised several multihulls in for FL Keys and South Florida for 10 years and am thinking about making the jump to the USVI. The sailing grounds there seems to be fairly idyllic. Can anyone here give me an idea as to what life aboard is like in the Virgins? As far as jobs go, I am a licensed captain, former parasail captain, dive instructor/master, and bartender, so I don't think employment would be much of an issue, but I'm not sure. This is a fairly open question, as I am wondering about all kinds of issues, like dinghy dockage, access to supplys/shopping (Food, H2O, etc), crime, economy, where's better (St. Thomas or St. John), what is the best area to anchor, are boats required to tie up to moorings, etc, etc?? I recall reading a thread once that said the park service is taking over anchorages, true? Any thoughts or opinions anyone can render would be greatly appreciated. Thanx!

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Old 05-03-2010, 12:39   #2
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I'm new here, and basing this opinion on one month of cruising in the US, British and Spanish Virgin Islands recently. I can tell you that it is not a cheap place to cruise in, and can imagine living aboard there would be pretty high compared even to the Keys, where I am very familiar with.

We didn't do much around St. Thomas, and I can say that the whole area from the airport to downtown Charlotte Amalie, and the hotels/cruise ship thing--it was completely forgettable, especially compared to everywhere else we went. I am sure the other side of St. Thomas is perfectly wonderful in comparison but we only saw it from a distance. Spent most time in the BVI and out to Culebra and Puerto Rico but St. John is a nice destination with the natural areas, etc. I will tell you that food, water, diesel, etc. prices and mooring is outrageous down there, (BVI much worse!) and anchoring areas very limited at St. John. In the BVI, we typically paid $25/night for mooring, and in the USVI national park area it was $15.

As far as work goes, I think their is a ton of competition from others doing what you want to do, and many of the regular type jobs are held by islanders from Santo Domingo, especially. I never saw any jobs posted at all, and the idea of working into the tourist business is not a new one, but I would research it carefully and find a niche somehow.

Additionally, I would caution everyone to make sure they have a good sense of where they are when they use a cell phone down there--many times I thought I was on domestic but ended up without warning on an international link, and came home to a $700 surprise, but was able to convince AT&T that it was unfair because I never used the phone when I was certain I was in foreign service. Another person I talked to was hit for $1300 with less satisfactory results.

Again, food and beer, gas: shockingly high prices!

Hope someone will expand on this, and maybe tell of some ways to get around some of it. Good luck!

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Old 06-03-2010, 08:12   #3
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You can almost forget about working in the BVI as the work permit cycle is about 4 months long and you can NOT be in the BVI while it is underway. Still a great place to cruise for a while.

St John in the USVI is one of my fav places but 80% is national park including the waters and you are limited to 30 nights a year use. Very few other places on St. John exist that are not already flooded with private moorings.

A few places do exist to anchor off island just off St Thomas on the South side. Most are not conducive to working a regular job due to dink distance you would have to make every day. Lots of others attempting to do what your considering and finding it difficult but if you can make connections with an existing company your chances improve if you have a stable life style.

St. Thomas itself is not a fav place to hang out in a boat. Very expensive or difficult to land a dink frequently as most of the land is private and steep as in rock walls with no beach.

I would, however make the recommendation that you do come down and check it out for yourself. Great place but more expensive for food, fuel and mooring. You can almost forget about slip space. Still it would be worth your trip just to see the place and do some sailing and see what you may find... just bring money!!!
I prefer a sailboat to a motorboat, and it is my belief that boat sailing is a finer, more difficult, and sturdier art than running a motor.
--- Jack London
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Old 07-03-2010, 07:21   #4
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I would like to disagree after having spent considerable time anchored in and around St. Thomas. The place is a dual-side economy. The front (face) side is aimed at taking as much money, as quickly and as possible from the Cruise Ship passengers (politely and with style) and the other side is centered on the workers and sales people behind the cruise ship passenger industry.
- - Anchoring is free in St Thomas and I know many, many friends who live on their boats and daily go ashore to be sales people and have other jobs supporting the cruise ships. Once you have been there for some time you will learn where to buy all the things you need at a fraction of the "front end" store prices.
- - Jobs are abundant in the "cruise ship season" and scarce in the "off season". So you need to budget and put away what you earn "in-season" to get you by during the off-season. This happens to fit well into a young cruisers lifestyle as they can take their boat and head out to many great sailing destinations during the "off-season" and then return in the fall to their "in-season" jobs.
- - St John is much smaller and does not get cruise ships so the jobs are mostly "construction/service" orientated.
- - St Croix is also a "construction/service" job island but does get a few cruise ships, but nothing like St Thomas.
- - Puerto Rico has jobs but you need to be very fluent in Spanish. The Spanish Virgins are mixed language wise and rather limited in job opportunities.
- - That leaves St Thomas as the hub of cruising-kitty replenishment opportunities for US cruisers. And it is a quite fun and enjoyable place once you get to know the "lay of the land."
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