I stand corrected (well more like sitting at my lapbook) - but many years ago I held the same opinion of St Thomas - not very nice and the BVI's were so much more exciting to a new charterer. Since then I have had occasion to spend considerable time - a month and more at a time on my own boat. My primary reason for returning up island to St Thomas was to take advantage of the no-hassle Postal System without having to deal with customs
agents and fees
when in a foreign country. Having to wait many weeks for all the packages to arrive, I had time to explore and get to know the island culture behind the obvious tourist front. In addition, I had several cruising friends working there for the season to refill their cruising kitty. When you learn of the "other side" of a place you get a deeper impression of the place.
I only know of commercial
companies in St Thomas. There are about 4 or 5 for sailboats and the rates vary from US$400/day to US$2000/week. And you must be already "bareboat certified" by a reputable school
- and - have a sailing resume. That is the "kicker" - getting a sailing resume which is a listing of places, boats, and companies that you already chartered from. Where do you start?
After I got a "bareboat certification" from ASA in Miami
I rented boats from the school where I got my bareboat certification
. After that I branched out to 3rd level charter operations who had the older, run down boats and weren't too particular about to whom they rented. One level lead to the other and in a few years I could rent from 1st level operations especially in the "off seasons."
Your plan to check out the various operations around the island is probably the best choice. On St Thomas there are "jitney" buses that circle the island. They are obvious with their canvas
top and bench seats on top of a flat bed
truck frame. Costs were about US$2 per half island; $3 from Red Hook to Charlotte Amalie last time I was there. From Red Hook the buses go by Benner Bay with some marinas
and charter outfits; then to Charlotte Amalie and French Town with CYOA. Google
St Thomas bareboat
charters and you will find the locations of the other places.
I do not think that there are any local co-op type clubs in the islands only commercial
outfits in the normal bareboat business. But who knows. Normally, the rates for chartering out of USVI are cheaper than the BVI's but that may have changed as the number of outfits has decreased over the years.
Bareboat chartering is not cheap
, but if you get 2 or 3 couples (4 to 6 friends) together and split the costs it becomes a very economical and fun way to see the islands compared to staying in a hotel/resort.