Catamaran Charter Features Worth Paying For

Bali 5.4 blue lights in the Exumas

Not all catamaran charters are created equal. If it’s in your budget, a ~45-50 foot catamaran is the sweet spot for most crews of 8-10. It has all the space and features you need to enjoy in style, your week in paradise.

I’ve learned what to look for after chartering catamarans in the Caribbean for 10 years. I’ll tell you which sailing catamaran features are worth paying up for. Additionally, I’ll describe what you can expect from the four different classes of catamarans: 40-footers all the way up to 55+. Let’s dive in.

Our Lagoon 46 catamaran at anchor at Playa Flamenco

Which sailing catamaran charter features do you need?

What catamaran yacht features do you need for your trip, and which are worth budgeting for? Here are my thoughts on the 14 most common features you can expect to see.

Flybridge ⚓⚓⚓⚓⚓

What is a flybridge? It’s an area up top with seating and/or lounge space where most of the crew can hang together. Sometimes, the helm station is also integrated.

If you book a 45+ foot catamaran for a bareboat charter, you are usually guaranteed to have a flybridge. On a 42-foot cat, there may be a lounge area for two underneath the boom, but I wouldn’t consider that a flybridge.

This is a must-have for me – the flybridge is our main hangout area during our charter trips when we are on the move. I prefer the layouts on Lagoons and Balis where the helm station is integrated, not offset to port or starboard. Another benefit of these versions? You get a bimini with shade for everyone, not just the skipper.

Sunbathing on the Bali 5.4
Lounging on this extra large flybridge

Outdoor speakers ⚓⚓⚓⚓⚓

Yes, believe it or not, I’ve chartered a catamaran without outdoor speakers. We had to use a portable one, and it was less than ideal.

It’s rare, but worth checking for this one.

Air conditioning and generator ⚓⚓⚓⚓

This is another must-have for our crew, and I recommend it if you have the budget. Adjusting to sleep on a catamaran charter usually takes a day or two, and it’s made harder if you are tossing and turning in a stuffy cabin. Sleeping well for us is important while on vacation.

If you’re on a catamaran charter in the winter months when the trades blow stronger and cooler, it’s possible to get away without the AC.

Of course, there are downsides to using the AC. The main one is the constant hum of the generator. The units can also be finicky, sometimes requiring troubleshooting and maintenance calls from the base.

Watermaker ⚓⚓⚓⚓

In destinations such as the Exumas or Spanish Virgin Islands, with fewer opportunities to top off tanks, a watermaker is a sensible choice.

If you adhere to good water discipline, it’s possible to make it a week without topping off. The biggest water savers are using saltwater for dishes and taking navy showers (turning off the water when soaping up).

I appreciate not having to worry about water usage rates, and I prioritize booking cats with this feature.

catamaran charter features worth paying for
The flybridge and hard top bimini on the Lagoon 46

Bimini cover ⚓⚓⚓⚓

An often overlooked feature, many crews don’t realize that their flybridge areas underneath the boom are sometimes not covered at all.

Look for models with integrated helm stations, such as the Lagoon 46.

I take it a step further and find yachts with hardtop bimini covers for the crews that we help. This is advantageous for several reasons:

  • The coverage area is usually larger than soft tops

  • You can climb on top to access the boom/mainsail

  • It gives you a better handhold when sailing in spirited conditions

Compass Cay shark
Late night nurse shark visitor at Compass Cay in the Exumas

Underwater blue lights ⚓⚓⚓

Underwater lights are great if you like to fish. It’s always fun to see what marine critters will show up. Plus, they look cool!

charter catamaran in the Exuma Bahamas
The hydraulic swim platform also serves to raise the dinghy

Hydraulic swimming platform ⚓⚓

Another nice to have on sailing catamarans. I appreciate it more from the fact that it makes raising the dinghy up much easier, especially compared to a system with a manual winch.

Bali 5.4 in the Exumas on a bareboat charter trip
Hatch to the forward hangout area

Electric winches ⚓⚓

At a minimum, most cats will have an electric winch to raise the main. Sometimes they will also have electric winches for the jib, but not always.

I also would like to see an electric winch for the dinghy davit system, but sometimes it’s hard to confirm this feature.

Forward hatch in the salon ⚓⚓

This is another nice to have on catamaran charters, and many yachts in the 50+ foot range might have, especially Balis.

charter catamaran feature with the garage door style salon
Garage door style indoor outdoor space

Garage door-style salon ⚓⚓

This is a feature unique to the Bali. There is one table, and the garage door opens up to create an indoor/outdoor space. Side windows also slide open.

I enjoy the setup, but it’s not for everyone. Keep in mind the salon is not air-conditioned since the garage door is not airtight.

Teak decking ⚓

Looks nice, I guess? But, not something important to me on a sailing vacation.

Solar panels ⚓

These might help you run the engines less for battery re-charging, but I really don’t pay attention to this feature when choosing a cat for week-long charters.

Bow thrusters ⚓

I’ve seen these on a Bali 5.4, but we were advised not to use them. With twin engines, catamarans can spin on a dime already.

Losing my hat on the Antigua Barbuda crossing during our bareboat charter
Lost my hat while trying to fix the twist on a broken self-tacking jib system

Self-tacking jib ⚓

This is a nice feature since it requires less work from the crew, but I’ve recently found many of the jib clew control systems are broken. This prevents proper sheet position management and sail trim. In that case, I’d rather just have a traditional jib sheet setup.

This isn’t an important feature for me.

The four classes of charter catamarans

40-foot catamarans

These are great for families or crews traveling on a budget. You’ll get 3-4 cabins, but usually only two heads. If you’ve got kids aboard, this probably works out just fine.

Most 40-footers catamaran charters do not have any flybridge or lounge area. On the plus side, the mainsail will be much more accessible!

One exception on the flybridge is a newer model from Bali – the Catspace.


42-foot catamaran charters

These are usually 3-4 cabins and 3-4 heads (depending on if it’s an owner’s version). Many 42-footers will have options for air conditioning and water makers. The biggest feature lacking is a dedicated flybridge area, which shows up in the next class of charter catamarans.

These are great for crews who are still budget-minded but are looking for a few more features to lighten the load on their sailing vacation.


~45-foot catamarans

This is the sweet spot for most crews of eight. There is plenty of space, and you can find any feature that might be important to you without breaking the budget.


  • Lagoon 46 (previously the Lagoon 450)

  • FP Elba 45

  • FP Tanna 47

50+ foot catamaran charters

Here’s where you enter party barge territory for your catamaran charter. These charter catamarans typically have 5-6 cabins, sometimes mixing in single or bunk bed cabins.

They feature larger flybridge areas and usually have some of the many, if not most, of the features I listed above.


  • Lagoon 51 (just now starting to hit the charter fleets in the British Virgin Islands and elsewhere)

  • FP Aura 51

  • Bali 5.4

Cheeseburger in Paradise’s True Origins

The true origin of Jimmy Buffett's Cheeseburger in Paradise is actually Stanley's Welcome Bar in Cane Garden Bay

With Jimmy Buffett’s recent passing, I thought it would make an appropriate tribute to share with you the lesser-known origins of what really inspired Jimmy Buffett to write Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Most Parrot Heads haven’t heard the truth.

Many beachside establishments have made the claim over the years, most notably Le Select Café in St. Barths and the tiny Floridian island of Cabbage Key.

But did you know that the song has its roots in the British Virgin Islands? According to Jimmy himself, it occurred in Roadtown, BVI at the Village Cay Marina.

Case closed right? Not so fast.

Enter Manpot.

Jimmy in recent years "out on the sea for adventure" aboard his Surfari 50, Drifter | source: Jimmy Buffet

Re-writing cheeseburger history

My friend Malcolm Boyes, known down island as Manpot, first visited the British Virgin Islands in 1984. He bought his beachfront house in 1989 and has long since called Tortola home.

Back in 1984, the same year Cheeseburger in Paradise was written, Manpot got the story straight from the man himself. Here’s his account:

I hung out with Jimmy back in 1984 when I was staying at Cane Garden Bay. I was invited to Jimmy’s launch of his, then, Caribbean Soul clothing line. Jimmy put on a small show and then we got to meet and talk.

That’s when he told me where he really wrote the famed tale.

Jimmy had suffered a broken bowsprit on his way south and told me that Cane Garden Bay (CGB) was an easy place to sail into, and then he smelled the burgers. Ashore, he stumbled into Stanley’s Welcome Bar right there on the sand. The rest is history.

Getting it straight from Jimmy to me makes me a believer. After that he said he was renting the red-roofed house at the west end for about four months. He wrote Cheeseburger in Paradise while waiting for repairs to be completed on the boat. That house was recently sold by Baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax..quite a famous little beach house!

The true origin of Cheeseburger in Paradise from Jimmy Buffett - Stanley's Welcome Bar
Stanley's Welcome Bar as it might have looked back in 1984 | Source: Chichicastenago

I asked him why about Jimmy’s comments that it actually occurred at the Village Cay Marina.

All I can say is that Jimmy “changed his tune”. Never could figure out why Jimmy changed it but he does like to throw some mystery in.

One other proof that it was “Stanley’s” is on the old t-shirts that boasted “Cheesburger (misspelled) in Paradise”. Only two places were officially allowed to use that…Le Select in St Barths and Stanley’s, although he sued everyone else who used the moniker.

I only believe what I am told one on one..and that is it!

I’m a believer as well. Having sailed to both Roadtown and Cane Garden Bay, the latter is more Jimmy’s style and much closer to paradise. It’s even featured in one of his most famous songs, Mañana:

But women and water are in short supply

There’s not enough dope for us all to get high

I hear it gets better, that’s what they say

As soon as we sail on to Cane Garden Bay

Watching the sun go down with some Jimmy Buffett tunes in Cane Garden Bay
Floating in Cane Garden Bay after we "flew to Saint Somewhere" to escape from it all for a few days

Stanley’s Welcome Bar later became Tony’s (his son changed the name), but it was wiped out during Hurricane Irma in 2017. It has yet to be rebuilt.

So if you want to pay homage, you’ll have to settle for a stroll along the beautiful, but much-changed Cane Garden Bay beach where it once stood.

Manpot still makes the rounds with the locals down in the BVI – check out his book Tales of the Tropics for an account of his adventures with some colorful island characters. You’ll also learn how he got that name!

Manpot wearing his Stanley's Welcome Bar Cheesburger in Paradise t-shirt (misspelled of course)
Manpot wearing his Stanley's misspelled Cheesburger in Paradise shirt

Top 3 Chartering Mistakes I’ve Made

I was chatting with a skipper recently about the difficulties of chartering in the Exuma Bahamas. Namely, navigation and anchoring challenges resulting from shallow water and strong tidal currents.

With careful planning and attention, I think it’s a great place to test your skills after getting comfortable in easier destinations like the British Virgin Islands.

That said, I recounted a story when things got hairy trying to pick up a mooring ball at the Pirate’s Lair. In fact, the 3 biggest chartering mistakes I’ve made have happened on various trips to the Exumas.

With my tail between my legs, here are all the juicy details to help you avoid a similar fate!

Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Britney and I at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Where’s the dinghy?

Midway through our trip, we made the quick dinghy trip from our anchorage near Thunderball Grotto to the famous Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We enjoyed some evening drinks and our fanciest dinner of the trip.

We were decked out in our best Christmas attire and were instantly recognized by the other Texans ashore by our Buccee’s ugly sweaters. Great times were had with those Texans…

I’ll blame the famous SCYC peanut coladas, but when we returned to the protected dingy beach a few hours later, our dinghy was gone!

Finding out lost dinghy in the Exumas - one of the biggest mistakes I've made on charter.
Finding our missing dinghy behind a nearby pier

After a few panicked moments and a scan of the area, we found it floating about 50 feet away behind a pier. We were lucky it didn’t head out to sea, never to be seen again.

Chartering mistake with the dinghy

I thought we had pulled the dinghy high enough on the beach, but I didn’t give enough respect to the Exuma tides. Secondary mistake: not tying off the dinghy to something ashore or setting the anchor.

Emerald Rock mooring at Warderick wells on a Exuma sailing itinerary
The beautiful Emerald Rock mooring field in the Exumas

Wrapping it up

If you’ve sailed long enough, it’s quite probable this chartering mistake has happened to you…

After a nearby lunch and snorkel stop, I motored us over to our overnight anchorage at the Emerald Rock mooring field in the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.

Since it was a short trip, we towed the dinghy behind us instead of raising it up on the davits.

As I was making adjustments to keep us on station while the crew secured the lines, I felt the starboard engine seize up. I knew immediately what happened.

Yup, I had wrapped the dinghy painter (line to tow the dinghy) around the propeller.

Fortunately, we still had one engine, conditions were settled, and the crew had almost finished with the lines. I spent the next 30 minutes with another crew member diving on the prop to cut away the line.

Chartering mistake while picking up the mooring ball

I neglected to assign someone to take the slack out of the dinghy painter. If you do wrap a prop, make sure you let the charter company know – it’s possible the drive shaft got bent.

Picking up a challenging mooring ball in the Pirate's Lair at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Warderick Wells.
The crew struggling with the mooring ball at the Pirate's Lair

Round and round we go

On another trip, we made for the Pirate’s Lair mooring field late in the afternoon. This is a beautiful and unique area of the park. The mooring field lies right in the middle of a cut with very strong currents on a changing tide.

We just so happened to arrive during one of those times, and we made at least 6 attempts to pick up a ball. Each time I had to maneuver in a tight area and I struggled to keep the Lagoon 450 in position for the crew.

On our 7th attempt, the park warden motored up (they were making the rounds to collect mooring ball fees), and informed us all of the balls were out of service. They kindly helped us with some intricate navigation to nearby Halls Pond Cay for the night.

Pirate's Lair anchorage at Warderick Wells
The Pirate's Lair cut and Halls Pond in the background behind the smaller cays

Chartering mistake in the cut

  1. I approached the balls from downwind, but the tidal current had a much larger force on our cat. I should have approached from down current. Better yet, I should have planned for a slack tide to make things easier.
  2. I failed to recognize the balls were missing part of their pennant which would have made tying off difficult in any condition. Part of this was complicated by the fact we had earlier confirmed by radio with park officials that we could take one of these balls. There was some second-guessing involved.
  3. Lastly, I didn’t have a backup anchorage planned, so I was determined to make it happen. I now always have at least two possible overnight anchorages in mind – this is good practice in peak BVI seasons when mooring fields can fill up fast.

I’m happy to report that on our last Exuma trip in 2021, we conquered the Pirate’s Lair mooring field despite another strong current.

Pirate's Lair Warderick Wells Exumas
A successful tie-off in Pirate's Lair | Look at the tide ripping past the mooring ball

Thankfully, none of these chartering mistakes were too serious, but they could have been. I always learn a lot when things don’t go as planned and these situations were no different.

What other mistakes can be made while chartering? Here’s my top 10 list of mistakes to avoid.

Top Exuma Anchorages to Drop the Hook

Fowl Cay anchorage

One thing that I love about the sailing in the Exumas? It never feels crowded when we visit.


There are over 365 cays, and you can anchor in solitude at many of them. No need to rub elbows with your neighbors in crowded mooring fields. Take the paddleboard out, go spearfishing, and enjoy the peace and quiet of a Bahamian sunset.

Here’s my guide to our favorite Exuma anchorages. I’ll start in the north and work my way south.

Northern Exuma anchorages

Sail Rocks North anchorage

North Sail Rocks anchorage

Hands down, this might be my favorite Exuma anchorage. I love it because of how remote it feels (shh! don’t tell anyone). 

It’s definitely off the beaten path and usually avoided by most yacht charter trips. Best accessed from the Exuma Sound, consult Active Captain community for details on the approach.

I like North Sail Rocks as a good option as a first or last night before a return to the charter base in Nassau.

You can anchor in ~10 feet and are very well protected from easterly trades.

What to do at North Sail Rocks

When we last visited, we had one of our best days of fishing on the drop just a couple hundred feet offshore. This included landing my first wahoo of the Bahamas.

The whole area is interesting to explore by dinghy or stand-up paddleboard.

Spearfishing is also excellent on the reef that runs through the middle of the anchorage. Swim to it directly from your yacht.

Ship Channel Cay anchorage
Nearby coral heads offer good opportunities for spearfishing
Bali 5.4 helm station view
Having some fun riding the dinghy around the anchorage

Ship Channel Cay anchorage

Ship Channel Cay is the first large cay in the chain, and one of the first you’ll see as you finish crossing the Yellow Bank. It’s nearly 3 miles in length.

There are many spots you can choose to anchor in the lee of Ship Channel. Make sure you give the many coral heads enough room. This one is best in settled conditions and easterly wind. Anything with more of a northerly component might get rolly. Definitely avoid if there is a frontal passage coming through.

We chose a spot towards the bottom third, about a half mile north from popular Powerboat Adventure’s Ship Channel Cay – they run day tours from Nassau.

What to do at Ship Channel Cay

This location is another good chance to explore by dinghy – you’ll likely be the only ones here.

Spearfishing is also a great bet – we brought in several invasive lionfish on the coral heads next to our yacht. The lionfish ceviche we made was delicious!

If you venture ashore, there are some ruins along the western side worth exploring.

Allan’s Cay anchorage

Allan’s Cay is a bit more popular, so don’t expect to be the only ones here. There are several options for anchoring – one or two boats will fit at SW Allan’s Cay. Most everyone else anchors in the sandy shallows between Allan’s Cay and Leaf Cay.

Be careful if there is weather afoot – expect this anchorage to get quite rolly.

What to do at Allan’s Cay

The main attraction here is the protected rock iguana species. You can’t miss them as you approach shore – despite signs, many visitors still feed them and they are eager for a snack.

Check the local guides for advice on several excellent snorkeling locations here. One I recommend is Stephen Pavlidis’ The Exuma Guide.

Shroud cay anchorage and the mangrove river
Shroud Cay North anchorage with a view of the mangrove river

Shroud Cay anchorage

Shroud Cay is a must stop to enjoy the mangrove river dinghy ride, waterslide, and exploring of Camp Driftwood.

We like to anchor near the river entrance so it’s just a quick dinghy ride (Shroud Cay North on Active Captain).

There’s plenty of room to spread out here – be careful of your yacht’s draft as some areas can get shallow.

You can also drop the hook at Fresh Well Bay just a bit further to the south.

What to do at Shroud Cay

As I mentioned, an absolute must is a dinghy ride to the Exuma Sound side. This is always a highlight of an Exumas yacht charter trip. It takes some planning though – you want to do this on a rising tide, about an hour before slack tide.

I talk about our recent experience on my Exumas trip report here.

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Halls Pond Cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Halls Pond Cay anchorage near Warderick Wells in the Exumas

Halls Pond Cay anchorage

While the popular mooring fields at Warderick Wells get most of the attention in the southern part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Halls Pond Cay flies under the radar.

You can get here from either side – Halls Pond Cut or from the Banks. If you anchor far enough in, the tide change will have minimal effect on your swing.

There are a couple private moorings here that should be avoided

What to do at Halls Pond Cay

It’s a lovely, peacful spot and also a private island, so your exploring ashore is limited to the beach. The snorkeling is great here, especially around the point to the south. 

I also like to grab the snorkel gear and take the dinghy over to the rocks at the north end of the cay. This is best done at slack tide!

Otherwise, just chill out and enjoy having this place all to yourself!

It’s also worth pointing out that Johnny Depp’s island is nearby – Little Halls Pond Cay.

Fowl Cay anchorage Exuma Bahamas
The beautiful bight at Fowl Cay

Fowl Cay anchorage

Get Fowl Cay on your itinerary as a lunch stop! More about why I love it in a sec.

This anchorage is exposed to the easterly trades, so it doesn’t make the best overnight stop. It can be done however.

The navigation looks a bit tricky on charts, so be extra careful about coral heads on your way in and out.

What to do at Fowl Cay

Here’s why I like it.

  • Absolutely beautiful spot, and you’ll probably have it all to yourself
  • Just outside the park boundary, so you can do some spearfishing nearby (we have caught several fish here)
  • It’s a short dinghy ride to the popular Rocky Dudas attraction

Fowl Cay is a private resort, and I’ve heard they aren’t friendly. It’s worth a dinghy ride near the beach to check out the abandoned plane.

Compass Cay shark
Nurse shark visitor at Compass Cay

Compass Cay anchorage

There are several anchorages at Compass Cay. I like the channel near the marina between Compass and Pipe Cay.

Expect to experience some swing here on the tide, but there is plenty of room. Being a short dinghy ride from the Marina to explore Compass Cay is a plus!

What to do at Compass Cay

It’s worth a trip ashore for the small docking fee you’ll pay at the marina.

There are plenty of nurse sharks to swim with in the marina and you can also access the trails around the island.

The fantastic beach on the sound side is appropriately named Crescent Beach. I like enjoying the afternoon here with a cooler full of cold beverages. The beach has a couple covered structures for your use.

If you’re lucky, you might also get some nurse shark visitors at your yacht.

Sandbar at Sandy Cay on a Exuma yacht charter

Sandy Cay anchorage

Sandy Cay is another excellent choice for a lunch pit stop. You might also anchor here in settled conditions overnight. It’s within quick reach of the hub at Staniel Cay.

Watch out for coral heads and anchor in 15 feet on the west side of the Cay.

What to do at Sandy Cay

The main attraction here is the sand bar – it’s one of the best in the Exumas. Bring a picnic ashore and enjoy relaxing in this lovely spot.

Staniel Cay Anchorage
West of Thunderball anchorage at Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay anchorage near Thunderball Grotto
The approach between the cays

Staniel Cay anchorage

OK, you’re right. Staniel Cay can be busy and is a quite well-known Exuma anchorage. But, we always make a pit stop here since it’s often our turnaround point to head back to Nassau.

That means we are enjoying a bite ashore and re-stocking provisions.

There are plenty of options to anchor in the area. Pig Beach is nearby at Big Major Cay, but we try and avoid it now that we’ve checked that box.

I like the West of Thunderball anchorage. The area surrounding can be shallow, so I like the approach between the two cays to the NE.

What to do at Staniel Cay

Dump your trash, re-stock on provisions, and get yourself a peanut colada at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The food is also excellent.

You of course have the pigs nearby. Sometimes it’s fun to do a dinghy drive by and check out the big yachts that like to anchor over there.

And don’t miss snorkeling Thunderball grotto. Plan for this as it’s best done at slack tide (do it after low tide unless you are ok diving underwater to get into the grotto).

Thanks for reading my post about our favorite Exuma anchorages and making it all the way to the end! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about our last trip sailing in the Exumas.

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Sailing the Virgin Islands: What We’ve Learned

Sailing the Virgin Islands

When you think about sailing the Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands certainly come to mind, and perhaps the US Virgin Islands. But did you know about the third part of the VIs, the Spanish Virgin Islands?

We’ve sailed in all three, multiple times, and it’s our favorite place to charter.

If you’re planning to sail the Virgin Islands, find out what I’ve learned about cruising conditions, when to visit, and what to expect at each of the three very unique sisters of the Virgin Islands.

The Baths, BVI
A typical day in the British Virgin Islands with puffy tradewind cumulus clouds

Cruising Conditions in the Virgin Islands

You’ll enjoy some of the best yacht charter sailing conditions anywhere thanks to the steady easterly tradewinds and the protection in the lee of the islands from waves and swells.

Generally, for weather conditions, you can expect steady 10-15 knot trade winds from the ENE-ESE, puffy tradewind cumulus clouds, and an occasional shower or squall.

In the winter months, you can expect Christmas Winds to blow occasionally: several days of strong winds (15-30 knots) created by high pressure systems in the Atlantic. This is also considered the dry season.

On the other hand, the summer months are wetter due to passing tropical waves or disturbances. In between, winds tend to be lighter.

example of backwinding while anchored
An example of how backwinding works while we are anchored at Muskmelon Bay

Virgin Islands weather features

Navigation is mostly line of sight with the exception of certain areas, such as Anegada. There are few navigational hazards compared to a destination such as the Bahamas.

Tides are not significant, and you can expect a 0.5 to 1.0 knot current that moves from east to west.

Northerly ground swells can catch novices off guard. They affect northerly exposed anchorages, making them uncomfortable and potentially dangerous from mainly Nov – Apr. You can read more about them in this post about BVI weather resources.

Backwinding is possible at some Virgin Islands anchorages if strong winds are blowing (15+ knots) over steep, tall terrain.

View of Culebrita, one of the Culebra anchorages
Perfect day at Culebrita in the Spanish Virgin Islands

Best time to go Sailing in the Virgin Islands

If you’re planning to go sailing in the Virgin Islands, you should consider the four different sailing seasons:

  • High season: December to March

  • Shoulder season one: April to June

  • Peak hurricane season: July to October

  • Should season two: November

Personally, my favorite time to visit is during shoulder season one. We enjoy predictable weather, longer days, steady wind speeds, fewer crowds, and cheaper charter prices.

white bay east side jost van dyke
Expect crowded mooring fields in the BVI during high season

High season: December to March

This is the busiest and most expensive time of the year in the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands. The Spanish Virgin Islands are always going to be a bit sleepier. Hurricane season is over, and the annual pilgrimage of cruising boats has made it’s way from mainland U.S. and Europe to enjoy the warm Caribbean winter.

Expect crowded mooring fields, shorter days (almost 2 hours shorter than the summer), and a visit from the Christmas Winds.

Shoulder season 1: April to June

This is my favorite and I believe the best time to visit the Virgin Islands for sailing trips. We’ve been to the VIs 4x in May. The crowds have thinned out somewhat and the weather has become more settled.

Expect easy 10-15 knots from the E to SE and an occasional shower to cool things off.

Our catamaran at anchor at Playa Flamenco
Playa Flamenco in the Spanish Virgin Islands during a passing tropical wave

Peak hurricane season: July to October

Many charter companies put their boats on the hard for hurricane season, but it’s still possible to book. Expect great deals, and you might have the whole anchorage to yourself.

Just keep an eye on the tropics – try these strategies for chartering during hurricane season.

Shoulder season 2: November

This is my second favorite time to sail in the Caribbean.

Again, the crowds haven’t arrived yet and the weather tends to be settled – similar to April-June. Some tropical mischief is still possible, but you’ll see lower prices than December.

Anchorage in Anegada at Setting Point
Setting Point in Anegada on our 2019 trip

The three sisters of the Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands is the global yacht charter capital, for good reason.

Not only is the BVIs the best place for first-timers, but you’ll find yourself returning year after year. There’s something about it that keeps drawing you back.

I’ve spoken with some old salts that have made over 30 trips!

It’s popularity owes itself to the unique geography, with many islands and bays to explore, sheltered from the trade wind driven swells.

What makes it so great?

  • Idyllic Caribbean surroundings – numerous tropical islands that rise sharply out of the ocean. Plenty of protected anchorages. Coconut palm lined white sandy beaches. Great snorkeling and fishing. What else do you need?

  • Settled weather – you can expect steady trade winds out of the east year round. If you avoid the summer months when tropical systems can develop, there is little risk of a major weather disruption

  • Easy navigation – the BVIs have few major navigational hazards (if you pay attention to red-lined areas) and the sailing is usually line of sight

  • Amenities – there are bars and restaurants to fill your heart’s desire

  • Mooring balls – plenty of well maintained balls are available, making it easier and less stressful for crews

  • Well established bareboat yacht charter industry – lots of operators, a deep bareboat charter fleet, and many services to help make your trip easy

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma) on a bvi catamaran charter
Beautiful evening in North Sound on our first ever charter

Highlights of sailing the British Virgin Islands

  • Hike through the gigantic granite boulders at the Baths to Devils Bay

  • Anchor in North Sound and enjoy the sights of one of the finest harbors in the Caribbean

  • Sail offshore to the sunken island, Anegada. Sip cold beverages at rustic beach bars on the beautiful north shore

  • Go Beach Bar hopping for painkillers at famous White Bay, Jost van Dyke

  • Jump into the water from the second deck of the floating pirate ship bar, Willy-T

  • Discover abundant marine life at the many snorkeling sites, such as the Indians and the Treasure Island Caves

Epic sunset at Magen's Bay, St Thomas, USVI
Magens Bay in St. Thomas is spectacular

US Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands don’t get as much attention as their more popular sister next door, the BVIs, but they should for charter crews.

I visited the BVIs four times before exploring a USVI yacht charter. Verdict? I was especially blown away by the Virgin Islands National Park and the beauty of some of the bays.

And, don’t tell the British Virgin Islands, but I think the USVIs have better beaches! (yes I love Anegada’s north shore, but these USVI beaches are more numerous and can be accessed right from your dinghy)

Why might you like a USVI yacht charter?

  • Idyllic Caribbean surroundings – Plenty of protected anchorages. Coconut palm lined white sandy beaches. Great snorkeling and fishing. 

  • Settled weather – you can expect steady trade winds out of the east year round. If you avoid the summer months when tropical systems can develop, there is little risk of a major weather disruption

  • Easy navigation – there are some hazards to avoid, but most of the sailing and navigating is point and shoot, line of sight passages

  • Amenities – there are some really fun beach bars and restaurants to visit. There are even vendors you can visit in the National Park

  • Mooring balls – plenty of well maintained balls are available from the National Park Service, making it easier and less stressful for crews

  • Easy logistics – no need for a transfer with many direct flights available from mainland US. You can be on your charter yacht within 30 minutes of landing, seriously!

  • Good for kids -when I take my little kids on a yacht charter for the first time, I think the US Virgin Islands will be the destination. Why? Short passages, plenty of activities, protected swimming/snorkeling areas, and lots of beaches to relax on.

Beautiful fall day at the Maho Bay mooring field on our US Virgin Islands bareboat charter trip
You can't miss the amazing beaches of the Virgin Islands National Park - this one at Maho Bay

Highlights of a US Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Beach, snorkel, repeat. The Virgin Islands National Park has countless opportunities for snorkeling and beaching all day long. The setting doesn’t get any better thanks to its protected status.

    • Hawksnest Bay for turtle sightings

    • Trunk Bay for the underwater snorkel trail

    • Cinnamon Bay for swimming and gazing at luxurious villas

    • Maho Bay for the awesome beach

    • Leinster Bay / Watermelon Cay for the best snorkeling in the Virgin Islands

  • Cruz Bay and Coral Bay on St. John are fun, quirky towns with lots of shopping, dining, and drinking

  • The south drop is just an hour away where you have great chances of catching mahi, wahoo, and tuna to cook up right on your yacht

  • Marvel at Magens Bay, one of the most spectacular settings I’ve visited in the Virgin Islands

  • Lime away the afternoon and enjoy an epic unobstructed sunset at Honeymoon Beach, Water Island

  • Grab a pizza from the floating pizza boat, Pizza PI VI, at Christmas Cove

Lagoon 46 in the Spanish Virgin Islands, Culebra at sunset; culebra anchorage
You'll often find solitude in the Spanish Virgin Islands - this was on our 2022 guys fishing trip

Spanish Virgin Islands

If you haven’t yet sailed the Spanish Virgin Islands on a yacht charter, you are missing out!

Even though the islands are a couple hours sail from St. Thomas, they still feel largely undiscovered. Solitude, beautiful beaches, and excellent fishing are just some of the highlights that rank highly on my list of must haves for a boat trip. Many people describe the SVIs as what the British Virgin Islands were 20+ years ago: raw, quiet, undiscovered – I was too young back then, but I’ll take their word for it!

You’ll see evidence on your trip of how the US Navy and Marines used these islands for training: target practice tanks on Flamenco Beach and bays that are off limits to anchoring due to potential unexploded ordnance. This is one of the primary reasons tourism here lags its Virgin Islands’ neighbors to the east.

The Spanish Virgin Islands are actually part of Puerto Rico, and it’s easy to coordinate a yacht charter from either the US Virgin Islands or the Puerto Rico mainland. I’ve chartered from both, and I actually prefer from the US Virgin Islands since there is a deeper charter fleet.

The cruising grounds consist primarily of the islands of Culebra and Vieques with several other small islands/cayos mixed in for exploration. If you don’t have a full week to explore, I would spend more time on Culebra.

There are several wildlife refuges which help protect and make the Spanish Virgin Islands such a special place. This includes the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge which used to be controlled by the U.S. Navy until 2003. 

Don’t expect beach bars at every anchorage. This is a place to get away from it all and soak in the natural surroundings.

Green Beach, Vieques with a sunset over Puerto Rico in 2020

Highlights of sailing the Spanish Virgin Islands

  • Anchor at picture perfect Tortuga Beach and hike to the lighthouse atop Culebrita for commanding views of the surrounding islands

  • Drop the hook or hike to Flamenco Beach, a global top 10 ranked beach; enjoy $2 Medalla beers from the kiosk vendors and take your picture with the rusting tanks

  • Snorkel the gorgeous reefs on the west side of Culebra right from your yacht, such as at Carlos Rosario

  • Troll fishing lines on the southern drop at Vieques and catch tuna, wahoo, and mahi

  • Book a kayak tour to experience the bioluminescence of Mosquito Bay

  • Experience epic sunsets over the Puerto Rico mainland at Green Beach

  • Take in the local party scene at Isla Palominos on your last night

Hope that was helpful to learn about sailing the Virgin Islands. Check out my Bareboat Charter Guide if it’s your first visit to the British Virgin Islands.

3 Strategies for Yacht Charters During Hurricane Season

I enjoy yacht charters during hurricane season for two main reasons: crowds begin to thin out and charter pricing can fall substantially.

But, you should be prepared to deal with some tropical mischief.

I’ve had my fair share of run-ins:

  • May 2018: experienced 30 knot winds and heavy rain in the Exuma Bahamas on the tail end of pre-season TS Alberto
  • November 2020: moved a bareboat trip within 48 hours of departure from Key West to the Spanish Virgin Islands due to the forecasted track of Hurricane Eta
  • November 2022: hunkered down from heavy rain at Flamenco Beach, Culebra while a tropical wave passed overhead – it later developed into Hurricane Nicole

Despite the storms, we had safe, enjoyable charters each time.

Want to take a yacht charter during hurricane season? I suggest you try one of these three strategies.

    1. Pick a low/no-risk destination
    2. Book with an option to relocate or cancel your yacht charter
    3. Snag a last-minute charter with a clear weather window
A hurricane season sailing charter destination, Grenada

Pick a low/no-risk charter destination

The easiest way to mitigate the tropical risk? Avoid it!

Pick one of these destinations that encounter few, or no hurricanes during the Atlantic tropical season.


So you still want to charter in the Caribbean? Try the Isle of Spice. While they can experience storms, they are far enough south in the hurricane belt that the risk of a major trip disruption is lower.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Mediterranean

Take your pick of Croatia, Greece, or Italy. These are popular yacht charter destinations with well-established fleets. But, two words of caution. It can be hot, especially in August and September. Secondly, it’s peak tourist season from June – August. Expect crowds at some of the more popular destinations ashore.

Approaching Raiatea from deeper water
The beautiful island of Raiatea

French Polynesia

Ahh, the exotic Society Islands including Bora Bora, Tahaa, and Raiatea. While they do experience cyclones, they are in the southern hemisphere so storms occur mainly from January to March. June through August is considered the dry season with lower temperatures – similar to a February BVI trip.

Honopu Beach at the Napali Coast
The stunning, rugged Napali coastline of Kauai


Hawaii you might ask, really? I wrote about why bareboat charters aren’t doable in Hawaii, but it’s still possible to arrange for a crewed yacht charter. The summer months are the best time to go sailing in Hawaii. Check out my post for some inspiration on a Kauai itinerary – my favorite Hawaiian island.

This was the forecast for us when we were supposed to be sailing in Key West; time to call the audible!

Book with an option to re-locate, or cancel your charter

One of the benefits of booking with a charter company that has more than one base?

Some will let you move your trip if your charter destination is smack dab in the middle of a hurricane forecast cone. I did this exact thing in November 2020, shifting our trip to the Spanish Virgin Islands.

It is by no means guaranteed, but charter fleets typically aren’t booked solid in the shoulder season and summer months. Check with your charter company or broker ahead of time about the potential to do so.

Alternatively, you can plan to bail all together. I typically do not purchase travel insurance, and in some cases, a tropical storm isn’t going to get you your money back. If you go this route, read the fine print – policies that have an add on “cancel for any reason” are your best bet.

Rain squalls on our USVI bareboat charter trip
Squally weather during hurricane season

Snag a last-minute yacht charter with a clear weather window

In August 2021, I monitored long-range weather forecasts for days using Tropical Tidbits resources. Finally, it looked like we had a clear 10-day window for a bareboat charter to explore to explore the Dry Tortugas.

We booked the trip one week from departure and got a huge discount on the booking.

On a side note, don’t do what I did…in Florida…in August…without AC. Well I was supposed to have AC, but that’s another story.

Flight availability can make this strategy difficult to pull off, but if you have the schedule flexibility, it’s a great way to charter in the off-season.

Culebra Spanish Virgin Islands sunset at Playa Carlos Rosario
Find your own piece of paradise during hurricane season

There are some other downsides to chartering over the summer months. Many popular bars and restaurants close, especially in the British Virgin Islands (check out the current closure list). It can also be warmer, with lighter, more finicky winds. Better for swimming. Less so for sailing.

But if you’re like us, and enjoy a secluded anchorage, sailing during hurricane season has some special perks.

Antigua Bareboat Charter: A Week in Paradise

Antigua bareboat charter at Dickenson Bay

One of our seasoned crew members was turning 40, so naturally, we planned another epic sailing vacation adventure to celebrate. Where to this time? We wanted to try something new after plenty of recent sailing in the Virgin Islands and Bahamas.

An Antigua bareboat charter popped up on our radar, and after a bit of research, we were sold. It’s 365 beaches, British naval history, and an offshore blue water sail to unspoiled Barbuda beckoned.

Read on for account of our week-long trip in May 2023 with a crew of 9 on a Lagoon 50 (and later a Bali 5.4). It’s a long post, but with many pictures to give you an idea of what life was like aboard with the Yacht Warriors. Enjoy!

Day 1: Arrival to Jolly Harbour and provisioning

Getting to the southern part of the leeward islands always means an early start. For most of us, that was the 5:45am departure from Houston to Miami with American. What to do with our several hours layover? I know! Time to get the vacation started with some eye opener beverages at the club.

Drinks in Miami before our flight to Antigua
Drinks at the club to get the party started

Feeling good, we landed in Antigua just in time for rush hour through St. John. While only about 15 miles, it took us nearly an hour to make the trip to the yacht charter base at Jolly Harbour. We were met by the base manager who helped us get situated for our sleep aboard on our 6-cabin, Lagoon 50.

Jolly Harbour Antigua sunset
Beautiful sunset upon arrival to the Jolly Harbour marina

Scared off by the charter company’s provisioning list pricing, we elected to provision ourselves after a quick dinner at La Cantina. Epicurean, one of the best supermarkets on the island, is located a quick walk from the marina. It had most of what we needed and they even had carts to walk it back to the catamaran.

Day 2: Perfect seclusion at the outer islands of the North Sound

Our catamaran was in good shape…but not great. Having identified several issues the day prior, we spent most of the morning troubleshooting them. The base crew was great and very helpful, but it’s always frustrating when these issues are left to the charter crew to triage upon arrival.

These problems were the usual suspects, but not insignificant: refrigerators that wouldn’t cool, select cabins without AC, and water maker fits and starts.

At long last, we hit the fuel dock for a top off at around 11:00, and we were on our way out the marked Jolly Harbour channel.

Departing Jolly Harbour on the first day of our Antigua yacht charter
On our way out the Jolly Harbour channel
Heading out from Jolly Harbour Antigua
We're on our way!!

First stop? How about a long cruise along the northern coast to the north sound area and Great Bird Island? Perfect. The base recommended nearby Deep Bay and Fort Barrington. But that looked too close and we weren’t ready to drop the hook yet.

Activate the yacht rock playlist.

So if you read my Antigua bareboat charter sailing plan, Great Bird Island might seem like an odd first night’s destination. And, you would be correct. But, there’s some logic there, I promise.

We needed to be in English Harbour on Sunday for a surprise Mother’s Day brunch and evening barbeque party at the Shirley Heights Lookout. As a result, we had some time to kill before we made our way counterclockwise around Antigua’s southern coast.

With light easterly winds, we elected to motor our way through Boon Channel as we got our sea legs. We waved at the celebrities at Jumby Bay before donning polarized glasses for some careful navigation of the north sound area.

There are plenty of coral heads to dodge in this area as you make your way east. However, they are easily seen with good light, and Doyle’s Cruising Guide does a great job outlining the various approaches.

In search of some elbow room, we left the several yachts already at anchor in the lee of Great Bird Island and proceeded a bit farther south to Redhead and Rabbit Islands. No problems setting the anchor here.

Our track navigating to our anchorage behind Redhead Island in Antigua
Our track to the anchorage and dinghy ride to Hell's Gate

What a beautiful spot! We spent the late afternoon swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the raw beauty of this wild area. If you have time, I’d also recommend a trip out to Hell’s Gate, a unique rock structure. But, be careful! There are plenty of coral heads that come right up to the surface. We had to double back a few times, so take it slow.

Devil's Bridge in north sound Antigua
Hell's Gate in the remote north sound area - worth a visit!

Dinner was filets we brought with us from Costco, mac ‘n cheese, and sauteed lemon and herb broccoli. Oh and of course a cocktail or two with the sunset. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any drone shots of this area due to the proximity to the airport.

Matt & Britney in Antigua during our bareboat charter
Your two Yacht Warriors skippers
Beautiful evening at Rabbit Island and Lobster Island in Antigua
Sunset over the Antigua mainland

Day 3: Fishing, Carlisle Bay, and some drama

It’s Saturday! And, we need to be somewhere close to English Harbour for Mother’s Day Brunch. Onwards to scenic Carlisle Bay on the southern coast! It’s a long(ish) day on the water, back around the way we came.

After a hearty breakfast, we are on our way and eager to try our fishing spread of 3 rods and 2 handlines.

Despite our high spirits, our confidence in landing trophy fish in Antigua was pretty low. Sargassum makes it pretty difficult to troll lines behind the boat. But that wasn’t going to stop us from trying.

With 10 knots from the east, the west coast of Antigua actually affords your best chance of landing fish since it is free of much of the sargassum. Sure enough, we were on the board with a small barracuda.

The rest of the cruise was beautiful as we passed nearby the lush green hills of Antigua’s west coast. As we rounded the corner, we finally landed a fish worth eating – a cero mackerel. We recently caught one of these on our USVI trip and it made excellent sashimi, one of the best!

Catching a cero mackerel in Antigua
Good eater size cero mackerel caught on a diving lure

We shared Carlisle Bay with several other catamarans, but there is plenty of room to spread out. What a gorgeous bay. Again, we spent the afternoon swimming with some cold beverages.

The Carlisle Bay anchorage during our Antigua yacht charter
Beautiful evening in Carlisle Bay
sunset at Carlisle Bay, Antigua

And here’s where it gets interesting, and I’ll go through this rather quickly. I think what we learned from the experience deserves a separate post of its own (coming soon).

While most of the crew was in the water, Britney smelled smoke in the salon and alerted me and another crew member (who happens to be on a refinery emergency response team). He poked his head into the locker and requested a fire extinguisher. Yup – we had an electrical fire on one of the AC relays.

After I shut off all the breakers and he had used another fire extinguisher, it went out.

Needless to say, we were very fortunate with the circumstances that let us identify and put out the fire.

We were not going to stay aboard this boat any longer. With Mother’s Day looming and our plans in shambles, us guys were in a pickle!

What could save this unfortunate situation from disaster? I know! How about a stay at the yacht-friendly 4-star Carlisle Bay Resort. With fingers crossed, I gave them a ring and asked if they had 4 rooms for 2 nights. Then I held my breath.

Boom. Carlisle Bay delivered big time. I can’t say enough how helpful and accommodating they were. Essentials were packed (including the cero mackerel) and we dinghied ashore, leaving the ill-fated Lagoon 50 at anchor in front of the resort.

They were even able to turn our fish into amazing sashimi. Much better than I could have done!

Cero mackerel sashimi during at the Carlisle Bay Resort
Our fish, expertly prepared by the resort

Day 4: A Mother’s Day to remember

While I would have much rather been aboard an operable catamaran, the rooms at Carlisle Bay were a close second.

View from our room at the Carlisle Bay Resort
Not a bad view to wake up to

We spent the morning brunching and the moms swimming while we worked out plans with the charter company.

Ice run to take back to the catamaran at Carlisle Bay
Making an ice run to the Lagoon 50 to try and save some groceries

After some back and forth they decided to deliver a Bali 5.4 from St. Martin. It was the only catamaran nearby that could accommodate our crew of 9 (I believe the Lagoon 50 we were on was the biggest in their fleet). It would arrive the next morning where they would clear customs and then raft up to us at Carlisle Bay for the transfer.

With plans set, we relaxed and enjoyed the amenities at the resort.

Swimming at the Carlisle Bay Resort
Hanging on the swim platforms for Mother's Day

We had no intention of cancelling our Shirley Heights visit, so we arranged a roundtrip van with the resort. Some folks had warned me the lookout was rather touristy, but it became one of the highlights of the trip.

The views are spectacular – you just can’t beat the setting. The music puts you in the right mood. Drinks are cheap. And lastly, the ladies had a blast clearing out the dancefloor when a DJ opened up later in the evening.

Shirley Heights Overlook at the Sunday barbeque during our Antigua bareboat charter
Incredible views from Shirley Heights overlooking Nelson's Dockyard

Day 5: Resuming our Antigua bareboat charter on the Bali 5.4

Some people strongly dislike Balis, but the Bali 5.4 makes a great party barge – it’s perfect for a 40th birthday party. This was our second time aboard one. I reviewed it here, and you can also read my full account of our Exumas trip here.

So, this was a big upgrade for us from the Lagoon 50. The 5.4 has more amenities and a better flybridge area complete with a refrigerator.

We thought about heading to Green Island, but after a delay getting through customs we planned to head for English Harbour and Falmouth which we had missed due to the fire fiasco.

Around noon, the Bali 5.4 arrived, we completed the transfer, and we were on our way for an hour’s motor east.

Bali 5.4 arriving to replace our Lagoon 50 on our Antigua yacht charter
The Bali 5.4 replacement cat arriving to raft up for the transfer

The Freeman Bay anchorage is tight and can experience shifty backwinding, but we found enough room and winds were forecasted to be light. There weren’t many yachts to gawk at moored stern to at Nelson’s Dockyard, but we enjoyed the view just the same.

We lacked the energy for a trip ashore to explore, so we settled for a dinghy ride to the Covent Garden market for some supplies.

Freeman Bay anchorage at English Harbour, Antigua
Looking back towards Nelson's Dockyard
Fileting a barracuda for bait in Antigua
Prepping a barracuda for some bait

Day 6: Sailing offshore to remote Barbuda

Time for a change of scenery. With 10-15 knots of east winds this was an ideal forecast to cross north to remote Barbuda.

OK it’s only about 30 miles, so it’s not that remote. But, it feels that way when you are there.

We came around the eastern point of Antigua, raised the main, and pointed for a waypoint that would put us west of the Codrington Shoals.

A broad reach wasn’t the Bali 5.4s favorite point of sail, and we struggled to get the twist right on the jib due to a broken self tacking car. So we plodded along at about 6 knots before motoring in the last 10 miles. I wanted to make sure we had enough light to safely make the anchorage.

Fishing you might ask? Yes, we tried but the sargassum beat us again this time.

For our first night in Barbuda, we chose Coral Group Bay, as outlined in Doyle’s guide. It lies inside a protected reef area and requires eyesight navigation. Using the provided GPS coordinates as a guide, we had no trouble making our way inside with good light.

It was a long day on the water, so we enjoyed the afternoon with the usual activities – cold Caribs and some floating.

Sunset at Coral Group Bay in Barbuda
All by ourselves in the Coral Group Bay anchorage

Uncle Roddy’s is a quick dinghy ride away and gets great reviews, but we elected to just chill after many meals recent meals ashore.

As is tradition, we always play Master and Commander on the big screen. Alone in the Coral Group Bay anchorage, this seemed like the perfect setting to enjoy it.

watching master and commander on the catamaran during our Antigua bareboat charter
A Yacht Warriors tradition - Master and Commander on the big screen

Day 7: The endless white sand beaches of Barbuda

I always like to work in at least one chill day where we don’t move very far…this was that day.

We picked a new anchorage nearby at Cocoa Bay and contemplated the days activities.

We’d heard good things about the Codrington Lagoon tour of the frigate bird sanctuary, but we had more important things to do, like Yacht Olympics!

Breaking into teams of three, we competed in a swim meet, flip cup, and finally, floating beer pong. That last one was extremely difficult with the wind and swell!

This was a great idea planned by one of our crew members. 5 stars. Highly recommend for your next yacht charter trip.

Yacht olympics during our Antigua bareboat charter
Winners of the Yacht Olympics gold medal

After lunch we headed ashore to walk the beautiful Princess Diana Beach over to Shack-A-Kai, a rustic no-frills beach bar where we spent the afternoon. It reminded me a lot of Anegada, in fact, the whole Barbuda experience did. So if you’re an Anegada fan like myself, you might want to put Barbuda on your bucket list.

Miles of endless beach at Shack-A-Kai on Princess Diana Beach in Barbuda
The beaches of Barbuda are reminiscent of Anegada, BVI
Shack-A-Kai beach bar in Barbuda
Ladies chilling at Shack-A-Kai

Enoch will usually offer fresh grilled lobster dinners, but unfortunately they were out of season during our visit. Next time!

We enjoyed one of the best sunsets of the trip at Cocoa Point.

Best sunset of the trip in Barbuda
Epic Barbuda sunset
Cocoa Point and Princess Diana Beach in Barbuda
Endless white sand beaches in Barbuda - this area had a lot of new construction

Day 8: 80s night at Dickenson Bay

This was our last big opportunity for fishing, but alas, just a single barracuda on our crossing back to Antigua. I even caught a couple ballyhoo with a sabiki rig earlier in the trip. I thought for sure that would have been the difference maker.

Rigging a ballyhoo during our Antigua bareboat charter
Fresh ballyhoo rigged up on an Iland Ilander lure
fishing a large sargassum patch on our sailboat in Antigua
We even tried to jig near the big sargassum patches

The sailing, however, was MUCH better – this time on a beam reach. We cruised along averaging a brisk 9 knots on the beefy cat.

Losing my hat on the Antigua Barbuda crossing during our bareboat charter
Lost my hat while adjusting the jib twist

On a last minute decision we dropped the hook at Dickenson Bay for our final night, instead of Deep Bay. We’d heard there was a floating tiki bar that we had to check out.

Plus, we brought 80s outfits, and it would be more fun at bustling Dickenson Bay where the Sandals is located along with several other restaurants.

Checking out the floating tiki bar at Dickenson Bay Antigua
Party crew at the floating tiki bar

The tiki bar was fun, but the rum punches disappointed. Back to the party barge for some proper cocktails while we made another delicious home-cooked meal. This time: spaghetti and Costco meatballs.

For a final sendoff, we busted out the led lights and enjoyed some dancing on the XL-sized Bali flybridge dancefloor.

Antigua bareboat charter at Dickenson Bay
Dickenson Bay sunset during our Antigua bareboat charter

Day 9: Back to reality

Rubbing our bleary eyes, we got a 7:00am departure for the hours long motor back to Jolly Harbour for check out procedures. This includes making enough time for a fuel dock top off.

Of course, there were two boats ahead of us, so we floated for nearly 30 minutes before taking our turn.

The rest of the process went smoothly, and after some real showers, we were on our way back to the airport.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed our Antigua bareboat charter trip report.

Bars & Restaurants Closed for 2023 BVI Hurricane Season

2022 BVI bars and restaurants closed for hurricane season

📸 source: Saba Rock

Many popular British Virgin Island establishments close for BVI hurricane season as many yacht charter crews wait out potential weather disruptions. It also serves as a welcomed break for some employees. The BVI hurricane season, where tourism slows down, peaks in August and September.

Most businesses will be back open by middle to late October, as the greatest threat of hurricane season in the BVIs has passed.

Here’s a list of some bars and restaurants that will be closed for the 2023 BVI hurricane season. We also include a list of those not planning to close. The Yacht Warriors will continue to update this list as we hear back from more businesses.

Businesses not planning to close

  • Soggy Dollar Bar
  • Blunder Bay, North Sound Bistro
  • Anegada Beach Club
  • Ivan’s Stress Free Bar
  • B-Line
  • Scrub Island

BVI closure and re-opening dates

North Sound & Virgin Gorda

  • Saba Rock: closed August 13th; re-opening October 14th
  • Bitter End Yacht Club: planning to re-open October 21st
  • Nova at Oil Nut Bay: closed August 25th, re-opening October 6th
  • Leverick Bay: while the upstairs restaurant is closing July 18th (re-opening October 30th) , Jumbie’s is expected to remain open


  • Brandywine Estate: closed August and September
  • Quito’s: closed August 12; re-opening October 15th
  • Indigo Beach House (always closed Mondays): closing August 20th

Other BVI Islands

  • Cooper Island Beach Club: closed August 7; re-opening October 20th
  • Pirate’s Bight at Norman Island: closing the big restaurant July 31st; expecting to re-open on October 1st. The smaller restaurant is expected to be open until August 14th with a lighter lunch menu.
  • Wonky Dog: closing August 16th; re-opening October 1st
  • Foxy’s: closing September 3rd; re-opening October 4th
  • Foxy’s Taboo:  closing August 11th until the rebuild is finished
  • Hendo’s Hideout: closed September 3rd; re-opening mid October

How to get to the British Virgin Islands?

how to get to the british virgin islands

There are four ways for most travelers to get to the British Virgin Islands.

The best way? Take my advice: fly to neighboring St. Thomas, USVI and ride a short, private water taxi directly to your destination. You’ll get there faster, you’ll avoid long, sweaty customs lines, and you get to enjoy a cold beverage while taking in the island views, in style.

The British Virgin Islands is not the easiest of the Caribbean destinations to get to. In fact, you often have to jump through hoops and commit to a full day of travel on each end of your trip.


A lot of it stems from the length of the runway at the Beef Island, Terrance Lettsome airport (EIS). It’s not long enough to support big aircraft, and there is little room to expand.

So in most cases you have another leg, by sea or air, from a neighboring island. Until June 2023, there were no direct flights to EIS from the US mainland (AA just launched a Miami route, but it had a rough start).

So how to get to the British Virgin Islands? There are four ways for most. Here I rank them from best to worst.

  1. Fly to St. Thomas (STT) and take a private water taxi

  2. Fly to the St. Thomas airport and take the public ferry to the British Virgin Islands

  3. Direct flight from Miami using the new (introduced in June 2023) American Airlines route

  4. Fly to a nearby island, such as San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), and take a short connecting flight

Let’s jump in.

Axopar water taxi

Baller option: fly to St. Thomas (STT) and take a private water taxi

OK it’s not quite the same as flying private, but it’s worth it if you have room in the budget.

First off – fly to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. It’s literally right next door and only 15 miles away.

The St. Thomas, USVI runway is several thousand feet longer and supports many larger aircraft. Since it’s a US territory, there are also many nonstop, direct flights from the US per day. Miami, Atlanta, and JFK are a few of the airports you can connect from.

Take a 30 minute taxi to Red Hook where your private taxi will be waiting to whisk you away to paradise. Check availability with companies like Chillout Charters, Island Time, and Dolphin Water Taxi. Book early.

They’ll have cold beverages aboard so you can get your vacation started. The first stop will be to clear through BVI customs – usually Soper’s Hole on the West End, but it could be elsewhere depending on your final destination. It’s a 20 minute trip.

Your skipper will handle the paperwork while you wait aboard. Usually it takes 20-30 minutes, but it can vary.

Next, they’ll drop you as close to your final destination as possible. This is convenient for many charter crews since they can unload at any of the marinas.

Why the private water taxi might not be for you

It’s expensive – be prepared to shell out ~$1,500. And, if you have a large crew, 10+, you might need a second taxi.

Lastly, if you have a late afternoon flight arrival, you will probably need to go to Road Town to clear customs. Expect this to take a bit longer.

charlotte amalie in the USVI
Charlotte Amalie, where you'll pick up the ferry to Road Town, BVI

Best for most: Fly to St. Thomas and take the public ferry from Charlotte Amalie

This is similar to the private water taxi option, but instead of going to Red Hook, take a 10 minute taxi to the public ferry dock at Charlotte Amalie.

There are three operators that share the Charlotte Amalie – Road Town, Tortola route. While you might find a consolidated schedule online, it’s best to check directly with each operator for the latest schedule information.

Pro tip: while you wait at the Charlotte Amalie ferry dock, head upstairs to the Petit Pump, grab a cocktail, and watch the seaplanes take off and land nearby.

The trip takes about 50 minutes each way. Once you arrive you’ll clear customs. Usually it should take no more than 30 minutes.

That’s it – take a taxi to your final destination. There are also other ferry connections you can take if you are staying on another island, such as Virgin Gorda.

What you should know about the public ferry

You’ll need to pay $10-20 per bag (up to 50 pounds).

The ferry schedules can experience abrupt changes or cancellations – keep a close eye.

Buy one-way tickets on the next available ferry – there’s a good chance you’ll need to use two different operators.

The newer American Airlines route landing at Beef Island, BVI

The unproven option: fly direct from Miami to Beef Island

While the American Airlines’ direct flight from Miami had a rough start, I am hoping it works out. This would be far more convenient for some – saving an extra taxi and ferry ride.

But, it has yet to be proven reliable.

An unfavorable wind forecast can always disrupt the route, forcing AA to shed weight on the flight. This means some passengers and/or luggage is going to get bumped.

Another reason you might not like this option? It’s expensive – expect to pay several hundred extra bucks for a ticket. It might be comparable in price just to take a private water taxi to the British Virgin Islands.

Cape Air Cessnas, one of your options for how to get to the British Virgin Islands

Worst option: fly to a nearby island such as Puerto Rico, and take a short connecting flight to BVI

This is by far your worst option. Avoid it at all costs. I’ve done it and got lucky, but many crews don’t have it so easy.

Due to the short runway at BVI, connecting flights from neighboring islands such as San Juan, Puerto Rico are run by smaller regional airlines, such as Silver Airways, Seaborne Airlines, InterCaribbean, and Cape Air.

As a whole, these routes are plagued by schedule delays, lost luggage, and poor customer service.

You can try it, but you’re playing with fire.

Exumas Cruising Guide: Our Favorite Bahamas Sailing Destination

Fowl Cay anchorage Exuma Bahamas

We first visited the Exuma cays back in 2018 on a bareboat charter and wow!! It is nothing like the Virgin Islands where we had done most of our prior sailing.

I mean this in a very very good way – shallow water sailing amidst unbelievable shades of blue, remote and pristine natural beauty, sandbars galore, solitude, and of course – serious fishing.

We recently visited the Exumas again, so I took some time to collect my thoughts on this top notch charter destination. Here’s the full trip report with lots of pictures.

To begin, it is not a place for beginner captains – weather, anchoring, tides, and cuts present unique challenges. It helps to have experience on the water. The British Virgin Islands, for example, is well-suited for a first time sailing trip.

Here’s what you need to know. After you get through the basics, I include a sample sailing itinerary that I would use for a first-time visit to the Exumas. Visit my Exumas page for even more information about this charter destination.

Let’s get to it.

Planning for your Exumas bareboat charter

Palm Cay sunset, the Exuma bareboat charter base
Great sunset at the Palm Cay Marina

One of the benefits of a yacht charter in the Exumas, Bahamas is the proximity to the U.S. mainland. All the major bareboat charter operators are based in Palm Cay Marina in Nassau, New Providence. I’ve chartered with them all and can help you make the right yacht and charter company decision for your next trip. Learn more here.

Many short, direct flights are available from cities such as Houston, Texas and Miami, Florida. You’ll be settled into your sailboat with a cocktail before the sun goes down.

It’s about a 45 minute trip to Palm Cay from the airport. You can either grab a taxi or arrange for a shuttle with your charter company. Palm Cay is conveniently located on the southeast side of the island – a perfect jumping off point to cross over the Yellow Bank to the Exumas island chain. 


We recommend provisioning with your charter company. They can provide you with a food and beverage list that will have most of what you will need. Expect an occasional substitution as well. When you arrive, your food and beverages will already be aboard your yacht. What’s not to like about that!

If you prefer to do your own shopping, Solomon’s is a well-stocked supermarket located about a mile from Palm Cay. Cars are available from the marina to rent, or you can take a taxi.

Prices are expensive…as they are elsewhere in the Caribbean! Expect to pay ~$50 for a case of beer, for example. Rum is much cheaper though!

Provision well, since there are limited opportunities to re-stock as you head south. Staniel Cay or Blackpoint are your best options. Marinas at Highbourne Cay and Compass Cay have smaller stores with more limited selections.

Exumas Bahamas cruising guide resources

The Navionics Boating App is great for planning. Sketch out and research potential routes, fishing spots, and anchorages. ActiveCaptain Community is part of it and is a helpful feature to get additional information direct from other cruisers.

Your charter yacht should come with a recent edition of the Explorer Chartbook – Exumas and Ragged Islands. It’s the gold standard as far as Bahamas charts go.

I often use it before to help plan our sailing itinerary. If you want to purchase it ahead of time, you can get it here:

"Explorer Chartbook - Exumas and Ragged Islands (Amazon)

This is the gold standard for charts in the Bahamas. There should be a copy on your yacht, but you can also pick one up ahead of time for planning.

Stephen Pavlidis puts out a cruising guide with some very valuable information. It has more commentary such as where to go fishing the drop in the Bahamas Sound (he recommends from Sail Rocks to Highbourne Cay).

He also includes his own chart sketches to help with navigation. Keep in mind though, that the most recent edition is from 2015. Better to trust the Explorer Chartbook, electronics, and most importantly, visual navigation techniques. You can pick up a copy here:

"The Exuma Guide" (Amazon)

Although the most recent edition is a few years old, Stephen Pavlidis provides great commentary and advice for your Exumas sailing trip.

Exumas cruising conditions

The Exumas are a long string of 365 islands, stretching over 100 miles from the Sail Rocks in the north all the way down to Great Exuma in the southeast. 

That’s a long way to travel for a week long vacation! It is too far to go all the way down and back in a week. Here are your options:

  1. Explore the northern Exumas, turning around near Staniel Cay (this is what we recommend!). There is so much to explore that you won’t miss out by missing the southern Exumas.
  2. Do a one way trip from Great Exuma to Nassau. This takes advantage or the prevailing trade winds out of the east – enjoy that downwind sailing. It does, however, complicate provisioning since Great Exuma is not as well stocked. You will also need to coordinate extra logistics to travel to Georgetown for the start of your trip.
  3. One way from Nassau to Great Exuma. This makes provisioning easier, but you are more likely to sail to windward.

For the purposes of this cruising guide, we focus on the northern half of the Exumas. If you have more time, consider this 10-day roundtrip itinerary.

Halls Pond Cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Halls Pond Cay in the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park

When to sail in the Exumas?

My favorite time of year to go is April-May. Here’s why:

  • Consistent trade winds blow out of the east to southeast, allowing for more settled cruising conditions
  • Cold fronts are not as common.  This means fewer squalls and potential exposure to westerly/northerly winds
  • Days are longer, giving you more time for fun on the water
  • Although early tropical activity can occur, it is far less likely
  • It’s less busy since many of the full-time cruisers have begun to leave the area in preparation for hurricane season

November to December can also be a good time to go – the weather is often pleasant. Keep in mind that cold fronts do sweep down from the west. This can occur as early as October. You’ll need to pay close attention to the weather forecast and have some flexibility with your itinerary. 

In the winter months (January to March) cold fronts march in like clockwork. Be prepared for squalls and winds in excess of 20 knots.

We would avoid the summer months since it can be very hot/humid, the winds are light, and there is always the risk of tropical activity and trip disruption.

Sandy Cany sandbar in the Exumas
The many shades of Exuma blues at the Sandy Cay sandbar

Sailing conditions in the Exuma

Sailing in the Exumas is not for beginners – you need to understand tides, conduct weather planning, and navigate by reading the color of the water. Few mooring balls are available, so you should also be comfortable anchoring almost everywhere (the good news is that the holding is generally very good!).


The trade winds blow somewhat consistently unless interrupted by fall/winter cold fronts and tropical disturbances in the summer.

In the winter, the trades blow more from the NE. In the summer, they are more frequently from the SE.

downwind sailing in the Exumas
SE winds allowed for some easy downwind sailing as we headed back north

Exuma Bank vs. Exuma Sound

You’ll likely spend most of your time cruising on the west side, on the Exuma Bank. Depths are ~20 feet making for incredible shades of turquoise blue. You also get great protection from the easterly trades, so even with fresh breezes – swells stay to a minimum!

Exuma Sound is the deep side to the east of the Exumas. Reefs mark the edge with many cuts allowing for passage in between. In some places, such as the Dog Cays in the north, the drop plunges to thousands of feet only a couple hundred feet off shore.

The Exuma Sound is where you want to go fishing for the pelagic fish – mahi, tuna, and wahoo. I recommend sailing NW (instead of SE) in the Exuma Sound due to the prevailing trades – you are less likely to encounter swells on your bow. Keep that crew happy!

Exuma cut with a changing tide
Even in calm conditions, opposing tidal flow and trade winds can cause washing machine conditions in the cuts

Tides and Cuts

You will want to pay close attention to the tides due to many shallow anchorages and passages. In general, the tidal range is ~3.5 feet, but can be higher during, for example, Spring tides. In this case, depths at low tide could be below the ones indicated on the charts (MLLW).

I like to print off the latest prediction from NOAA, which provides the tides for Nassau.

  • In the northern Exumas, the tides will be around 20 minutes later than Nassau
  • Around Staniel Cay, you can expect the tides to be about 30 minutes later than Nassau

The numerous cuts between Exuma Sound and Exuma Bank can rip when the tide is flowing. They can be especially treacherous when the wind blows against the direction of the flow. Try and time any passages you make for a period of slack tide.

Charts, especially the Explorer Chart, should be studied carefully. They’ll provide good advice on the preferred cuts to pass through (some are much wider and easier than others).


The majority of anchorages are located with protection from the easterly trades. I’ve found that holding is generally very good with white sandy bottoms. Coral or rock bottoms can be found in areas more affected by the cuts/tidal flow, so keep that in mind.

Use of mooring balls is mainly limited to those available in the Exumas Land and Sea Park. Expect to anchor most everywhere else.

I talk about my favorite Exuma anchorages in this post.

Compass Cay anchorage in the Exuma Bahamas
At yet another secluded Exumas anchroage - this one outside the Compass Cay Marina

Interested in an Exuma Yacht Charter?

We have relationships with the Exuma yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with all of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.

Exumas sailing itinerary: the perfect plan for a week in the islands

Our itinerary plans for 7 days on the water and begins at Palm Cay. As we mentioned earlier, we’ll plan for a “there and back” route with the turnaround point at Staniel Cay.

You might also want to check out my roundtrip, 10-day Exuma sailing itinerary plan.

Day 1: Overnight in Palm Cay Marina

After arriving at the airport, you should be at Palm Cay in under an hour. We usually plan to spend the first night on the boat, but you might also check out the villas that are available.

Unpack, finish your provisioning, and settle in for an enjoyable evening at the Marina. This might be a good chance to dine out since there are not many options available in the Exumas.

The Pink Octopus is a short walk from the marina where you can try some local Bahamian dishes. It’s also located next to the Beach Club where you can grab a cocktail. Check out the pool if you get in early enough!

Day 2: Yellow Banks crossing and Highbourne Cay

Stand up paddleboarding in the Exumas
Enjoying some SUPing in calm conditions after a crossing of the Yellow Banks

Get a start as early as you can! It’s a long day on the water (~35 nautical miles). 

The Yellow Banks is a shallower area mid-way between Nassau and the northern Exumas with many coral heads. But, it’s scarier than it sounds.

With the sun overhead, the coral heads are very easily seen and avoided. Many are marked on charts. If you head for a waypoint south of Beacon Cay, you will also encounter far fewer coral heads. This works for us since we plan to stay at Highbourne Cay on our first night.

It the weather is settled, it’s fun to stop mid-way for lunch on the Yellow Banks. Toss out the anchor in 10-15 feet of water, and enjoy a snorkel of a nearby coral head. Perhaps you’ll find some Bahamian lobster for dinner (lobster season runs August 1 – March 31)! Snorkeling may be difficult if the tides are running – exercise caution.

Highbourne Cay is a convenient first night stop. I like the West Beach anchorage. Avoid the Highbourne Rocks reef on your approach, and anchor in 10-15 of sand.

Near your anchorage, the beach is beautiful and is great for an evening stroll. The Highbourne Rocks also offers great snorkeling.

Crack a beer and enjoy the view – it doesn’t get any better than this. You’ve arrived in paradise.

If you want to venture out farther, you can dinghy ~2 miles to Allen’s Cay to explore the local species of iguanas (this is also a great Day 3 morning activity).

Highbourne Cay marina is a short dinghy ride. They have a store, restaurant, and other amenities. Check out their visitor and snorkeling guide available on the website.

Day 3: South to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Pirate's Lair anchorage at Warderick Wells
Enjoying the sunset at the Pirate's Lair anchorage at Warderick Wells

This is another day with a few hours on the water. It’s ~20-25 nautical miles south to the anchorages or mooring fields in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

If the weather is settled, consider using one of the cuts to enter the Exuma Sound for some deep water fishing. If you go in the fall, it’s a great time to catch some wahoo – my favorite eating fish. Check out our sailboat fishing guide for some advice or my more specific Exuma fishing tips post.

Northern Exumas Wahoo
Make sure you save some time to fish the drop in the Exuma Sound!

As you head south, be aware of the no-fishing zone that protects the park boundaries. The park is strictly a no take zone: no fishing, conching, shelling, or lobstering.

The Sea Park is huge, with over 170 square miles. It’s an ecological reserve and marine sanctuary – you won’t be disappointed by the snorkeling here.

We recommend grabbing a mooring ball in the Emerald Rock mooring field. When you are within range, call “Exuma Park” on channel 9 to check ball availability. Once you’ve taken one notify them.

You can pay the $35 mooring ball fee at the Visitor Center. They also might send around a boat to collect the fees.

The Emerald Rock area is near a couple beautiful white sand beaches and has trail access to the wonderful hiking on Warderick Wells. Make a quick dinghy ride over to the visitors center to snap a picture with the whale skeleton. They can give you a trail map too.

Boo Boo Hill is a popular destination and the highest point on the cay. It’s tradition for cruisers to leave a piece of driftwood behind with your boat’s name on it.

Day 4: Thunderball Grotto and swimming pigs

Staniel Cay Anchorage
Anchorage at Staniel Cay - Thunderball Grotto is the first cay to the left

Continue making your way south towards the anchorage at Big Major Cay.

Sandy Cay is a fun lunch stop close by with one of my favorite sandbars. Anchor on the west side and head ashore for a picnic!

Big Major Cay is the location of the famous swimming pigs. Some words of caution: this is a busy anchorage, so if you’re looking for more solitude, check out Between the Majors anchorage (more advanced anchoring) or Bitter Guana Cay a bit farther south.

Pig beach is fun to see once, but it isn’t a place we’ll need to return. Go get your pictures while swimming with the pigs if you decide to stop here.

The other famous attraction in the area is Thunderball Grotto. It’s an amazing cave snorkel featured in the James Bond movie Thunderball. It’s a short dinghy ride over from Big Major Cay. Otherwise, there are several places to anchor your yacht nearby. Try and plan your visit for slack tide.

Don’t miss your chance to do some re-provisioning and dump some trash. Use the government dock to access two of the nearby grocery stores.

The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the biggest establishment you’ll come across in this part of the Exumas. We like to plan a meal ashore here, for either lunch or dinner. At a minimum you’ll want to try out their SCYC original – the Peanut Colada.

Note: New as of March 2021, the SCYC now operates 21 mooring balls nearby. Check out the map here. Rates start at $40/night.

Day 5: Back north to Compass Cay

Crescent Beach Compass Cay
We caught a great rainbow on our recent visit to Crescent Beach

Again, if the weather is looking good – head out to the Exuma Sound and do some fishing as you head back north. If the trade winds are from the east, you should have some following seas to please the crew.

Compass cay is a short 1-2 hour sail. You have a few options for anchoring. I like the Compass Cay (Outer Anchorage) since it is less affected by the tides. 

If you want more of a challenge, check out the many options at Pipe Cay. It’s a maze of sandbars and one of the most beautiful areas in the Exumas. 

Nurse sharks at the Compass Cay Marina
Nurse sharks at the Compass Cay Marina

Compass Cay Marina is worth a visit. Get your pictures with the nurse sharks and check out the trails on the cay. Crescent Beach on the east side is said to be one of the finest beaches in the world. Note that you’ll have to pay a landing fee for your dinghy and crew.

Day 6: Shroud Cay and the magical river ride

Shroud cay anchorage and the mangrove river
Shroud Cay anchorage with the mangrove river in the background

Today is a longer day on the water – around 25 nautical miles or so. We are heading to Shroud Cay – one of my favorite stops!

You have a few options for anchoring – check out the charts. If you have a shallow draft vessel, try North Shroud Cay which puts you very close to Sanctuary Creek.

The Sanctuary Creek dinghy ride is an absolute must for any Exumas visit. The mangrove “river” is full of sea life such as turtles and rays. On other other side is the absolutely stunning Driftwood Beach and Camp Driftwood.

You are permitted to motor at idle-speed. PLEASE NOTE: you need to check the tides and begin this river ride on a mid, rising tide. This will give you time to explore and avoid being stranded. The river is only passable on a mid or high tide.

Beach your dinghy, and enjoy a ride or two on the water slide. Here’s a video of us enjoying it on a recent trip.

Camp Driftwood is worth exploring, so bring some walking shoes. It was built in the 1960s by a hermit who lived there with his sailboat. The camp was later used by the DEA to conduct reconnaissance on the drug kingpin Carlos Lehder’s operation at Norman Cay.

Make sure you don’t get stranded! Head back to your yacht on a flooding tide and enjoy another spectacular Bahamian sunset.

Note: depending on the tides, it may make more sense to ride the river the next morning, on Day 7.

Day 7: Final day optionality

Sail Rocks North anchorage sunset
Enjoying the sunset at the Sail Rocks North anchorage

You have a few options for a final day in the Exumas – each of these is a logical jumping off spot to make the crossing back to Nassau the next day.

Norman’s Cay

The main attraction here is the sunken drug plane from Carlos Lehder’s activities in the 1970s. If you want to snorkel it, try and do so at slack tide.

Macduff’s is a quaint restaurant ashore which seems like it is in the middle or nowhere. You may want to radio ahead for reservations if you plan to eat there for dinner.

Anchoring is easy on the west side of the cay. You can also anchor in the cut closer to the sunken plane – you will swing on the tide, so be prepared.

Construction activity could be from a company that is doing a large-scale development of the island.

Highbourne Cay

Check out the information under Day 2.

Allen’s Cay

This is the location for the local species of iguanas. There are numerous anchorages marked on the charts. Be prepared to share the area with tour boats depending on when you arrive.

Sail Rocks North

This is a settled weather anchorage that we visited on our most recent trip. If you want to get away from the crowds and fish the northern drop, this is the place to be.

Day 8: Crossing back to Palm Cay

Hopefully the wind gods cooperate and give you some great, downwind sailing. The first time we made this crossing back to Nassau, we had 5 knots directly behind us – no fun!

If you weren’t able to have a lunch stop at a coral head, give it a shot.

You may either return to the Palm Cay marina and enjoy the amenities, or, head over to Rose Island if you prefer another night on the hook. Make sure you plan for time in the morning to return and go through check-out procedures – it’s about an hour’s motor.

Sandy Toes is a excursion-focused bar at Rose Island. There are mixed reports of whether they permit cruisers to come ashore.

Interested in an Exuma Yacht Charter?

We have relationships with the Exuma yacht charter companies and have personally chartered with all of them.
Let us find you the best option - it doesn't cost you anything extra.