Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Glory & Grandeur of Yachting Season in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

One of the most anticipated times of the year in the Caribbean is yachting season, and St. Thomas Virgin Islands is no exception. Every winter yachts of every size, beauty, grandeur and expense descend on the islands in large numbers.

They come from all over the world, some staying for several months, others staying for shorter periods; and yes, some bringing well-known celebrities. Some of the yachts are rented, or leased, but most are privately owned. They make quite an impression on many aspects of island life, not the least of which is the economy.

The yachts dock at any of a number of marinas, like Yacht Haven Grand, St. Thomas Yacht Club, American Yacht Harbor, and others; however all the yachts pictured below are docked at Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas. During season these lovelies lined up like huge, magnificent toys, and are only separated from the picturesque shops and boutiques of Charlotte Amalie by the harbor sidewalk and Waterfront, a 4-lane thoroughfare.

The harbor, a natural deep water harbor is one of the deepest in the world, and at one time was the busiest shipping and distribution center in the Caribbean. In those long ago days, import houses and warehouses belonging to English, French, German, American, Spanish and Italian traders thrived. Today the historic old buildings housing the fashionable boutiques and salons were once those warehouses.

Of course during those times, pirates like Blackbeard were also frequent visitors to the island. That is, until it became apparent that their presence restricted trade (for obvious reasons). A Virgin Islands governor responsible for allowing pirates access for financial gain was severely punished by the Crown in Denmark ... but that's another story.

Today, Charlotte Amalie harbor is still a bustling center of activity as yachts, cruise ships, departing/arriving seaplanes, tour boats like the Kon Tiki party boat (yes, the one that just sits the bottles of rum and fruit punch on the bar and it's every man and women for themselves), as well as small boaters provide plenty of traffic.

One of the activities that keeps St. Thomas a hot spot for yachting takes place each Spring. The International Rolex Regatta, held this year between March 27-29, 2009 has been around since 1974, and is an island tradition.

Commodore Newbold, of St. Thomas Yacht Club stated recently ... "Over three days, the finest yachtsmen and yachtswomen from around the Caribbean, the United States and Europe join in world-class racing in a spectacular environment, which includes the warm, clear waters surrounding our club. It is an adventurous way to get a jump on their summer sailing season."

The beautiful, classy yachts definitely add a pleasant ambiance to the island scene. It is a joy on an early morning walk to pass them so close on the sidewalk that you can greet and chat with crew busily swabbing the decks and attending to other chores.

But what I find really intriguing is while shopping, dining or walking on Waterfront ... to casually observe an early morning breakfast, a romantic sunset dinner, or maybe a cocktail party on the deck of one of these vessels. I'm telling you, it's the stuff of movies.

The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.