Boat Access Policies and Procedures

by | May 30, 2021

Welcome to the Boat Access program at the St. Thomas Sailing Center (STSC). We’ve been offering sailing at the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC) since 2016. This document will provide you with information on how Boat Access works as well as some guidelines for the use of our fleet. If you have any questions about your Boat Access privileges or these policies, please don’t hesitate to call. We’re eager to help you make the most of your time sailing with the St. Thomas Sailing Center!
St. Thomas Sailing Center St. Thomas Yacht Club

Sailing and Office Hours

Hobie Wave and IC-24 sailing are available from 9 am until the last launch year-round; launch hours 8-6 in winter, 8-7 in summer. Cruising Boats are available 24/7 except during hurricane season. Boat Access may be limited due to weather, during sailing events and during maintenance/hurricane season (August through November). The STSC office is open 9am-5pm seven days a week during the sailing season, early December through July. During maintenance/hurricane season, office hours may be reduced; we recommend calling in advance to meet with staff or to reserve a boat.

Boat Access Requirements and Fees

Boat Access requires membership in the St. Thomas Yacht Club (either an Annual or a Blue Water membership) payment of the boat access fee, and a checkout. At each level of Boat Access, use of smaller boats in the fleet is included, subject to checkout. Persons under age 18 may have Hobie Wave Boat Access only.

The annual Boat Access year is January 1st – December 31st. See our website or call the office for current Boat Access fees. For members adding or upgrading Boat Access after March 31st, fees are prorated according to a quarterly schedule. For members upgrading from Blue Water to Annual Boat Access, the Blue Water Boat Access fee may be applied toward the Annual fee when a Blue Water membership is contiguous with an Annual STYC membership. The first day of Annual Boat Access will be retroactive to the first day of the Blue Water Boat Access.

Couple/Family Membership Boat Access

For STYC members with a Couple or Family membership, family members may be added to Boat Access per the below listed fees. Each person with Boat Access must sign a waiver and have a checkout. The below reservation policies apply to a Couple/Family.

For Hobie Access, the fee covers all members of the family, any family member who has had a checkout may use a Hobie Wave. Only one boat at a time may be used by the family, use of more than one boat at a time requires an additional boat access fee.

For IC-24 Family Boat Access, the fee covers the first family member. Each family member, after the first, who wants Boat Access pays an additional 50% of the Boat Access fee.

Guests and Sailing Partners

You may sail with guests at any time at no charge. As a Member with Boat Access it is easy to meet and sail with other STYC Members:
You can add your information to our Find Sailing Partners List and contact other STYC sailors on the list. Just email the STSC office and we will send you a link to the sign up form.
You can sign up to sail as crew on any of the low key island races, Saturday afternoon or Friday evening IC-24 racing, or weekday evening Hobie racing and other meet-ups & social events we have scheduled throughout the season. See the calendar on our website for all currently scheduled events.

Checkouts

All new and upgrading Members with Boat Access are required to take an on-the-water checkout with an STSC instructor or complete the appropriate course(s) to enable them to sail boats in their Boat Access category. Allow a half-hour for a Hobie checkout, two hours for an IC-24 checkout and four hours for a Cruising Boat checkout. Checkouts are complimentary once you have purchased Boat Access and are scheduled by appointment. The purpose of the checkout is twofold:
To help you become familiar with the rigging and handling of our boats under the guidance of an instructor, as well as with procedures for taking them out, and
To help us determine if you need further instruction before skippering our boats.

If the instructor determines, following the checkout, that further instruction is necessary, private lessons are available or you may be required to take an Introduction to Hobie Wave Sailing for Hobie Access, Learn to Sail Course for IC-24 Access, or a Cruising course or Bareboat Certification Program for Cruising boat Access.

Boat Reservations and Cancellations

Boat reservations may be made in-person or by calling/emailing/texting the office. Specify the date, departure and return time, and any special requests such as a boat with lifelines or a shade canopy.
For reservations requested by voice message, text, or email, expect a reply confirming your reservation. If you have reserved a boat but find you cannot make it, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make the boat available to other Members with Boat Access. See below for reservation policies according to your level of boat access.

Blue Water Hobie Wave or IC-24 Boat Access:
An STYC Member with Bluewater Boat Access may have one reservation on the books at a time during a Blue Water Membership. Please note that there may be limited availability for Blue Water Boat Access on weekends.

Annual Hobie Wave or IC-24 Boat Access:
7-day Boat Access: up to two weekdays and one weekend reservation on the books at a time. New reservations can be made upon the completion of each sail.
Weekday Boat Access: up to two weekday reservations on the books at a time.

Annual Cruising Boat Access:
One 7-day cruise can be booked as far in advance as you want.
Additionally, you can have two weekdays and one weekend day on the books at any time. However, after a weekend sail you may make another weekend day reservation for any time after the upcoming weekend (i.e. you must skip a weekend)
In addition to the above reservations, last minute reservations may be made the day prior for the next day if the boat is available. The Cruising Boat calendar is available for viewing by Cruising Boat Access members so you may plan your sailing days.

A reserved day is a 24 hour period starting at 9am until 9am the next morning. However, if you are only using the boat for part of the day, we appreciate it if you specify a start and return time. This improves boat availability for both sailing and maintenance.

Cruising Boats will be hauled for maintenance/hurricane season from about August 1 through November 30.
Cruising Boat Access members who have taken loving care of the cruising boats will have priority to renew Cruising Boat Access for the following year

Navigation and Sailing Area Boundaries

Hobie Waves must stay in the water between the Yacht Club and Christmas Cove. Note that there is frequent ferry traffic in Cowpet Bay

IC-24 navigation limits are bounded by Abi Beach in Frenchman Bay on the south side of St. Thomas, Buck Island to the south, Coki Point on the north side of St. Thomas, Francis Bay on the north side of St. John and Salt Pond Bay on the south side of St. John. See diagram below.

Cruising Boat navigation limits are the US, British and Spanish Virgin Islands – An area bounded by Anegada, St. Croix and Vieques.

The key to trouble free sailing is continuous navigation. Keep your chart out and refer to it constantly while sailing. Areas to pay particular attention to are: shoal and rock off Deck Point, Calf and Cow Rocks, Current Rock, rocks off Cabrita Point, Fish Cay, Stragglers. Know the location of these and many other hazardous areas in advance and avoid them.

Etiquette and Boat Maintenance

Before sailing: check into the office to get your boat assignment and tell us where you expect to sail and when you expect to be back. Hobies – be sure to take a PFD for everyone on board.

After sailing: please report all any and all maintenance and equipment issues to the office after your sail either in person or by text/email. This communication is critical to enable us to fix a problem quickly or to maintain the equipment. Please report sail repair issues as well—try to be as specific in describing the problem, tear, or location. Please leave your boat in at least as good of shape as you found it. Staff always appreciate a check-in upon your return and a report on your sailing experience!

Hobie Waves: secure halyards to not slap against the mast, keep mainsheet block out of the sand.

IC-24’s: There is a bucket and other cleaning equipment on every boat; give the cockpit and deck a saltwater rinse if needed at the end of your sail. Take trash off the boat. Please pass the halyards around a spreader to prevent them from slapping against the mast. Wrap the pick-up buoy around the bow cleat several times to keep it on deck.

Cruising Boats: please leave the cruising boat clean (inside and outside), with at least a half full fuel and water tanks and an empty holding tank – ready for the next member to sail.

Communication on the Water

We recommend you bring a cell phone while sailing to contact us in case you need assistance. Make sure you have STSC and STYC numbers in your phone. You may check out a hand-held VHF from the office which will allow you to radio other boats or marinas in sight.

Weather Conditions

On days when we determine that high winds or other weather conditions might make it unsafe for you to sail, we may require that you reschedule your sail for another day. In such cases we will attempt to call you in advance of your scheduled arrival. We begin making cancellation calls at 9am, so if you are coming for a 9am boat, it would be advisable to check the marine forecast before leaving home, or wait until 9 and give us a call. In marginal weather conditions we sometimes can avoid canceling by restricting boats to the water between the Sailing Center and Christmas Cove.

Squalls

Squalls are not uncommon in the Caribbean. They rarely last more than 10-15 minutes but they can produce winds in excess of 30 knots, which can cause a knockdown if you’re sailing upwind. You can often see them coming—you will see dense clouds with some vertical development, to the east, and usually will see heavy rainfall just before the strong winds arrive. These are the steps you should take when a squall is immanent:
Before the squall hits, take your mainsail down, furl and lash it to the boom.
You will be able to sail comfortably on a broad reach with the jib only, but you must be sure you have room to leeward to do so. A squall can reduce visibility to near zero for its duration, so plan ahead and estimate a safe compass course to sail. If it’s too windy for the jib, or you need to slow down more, you can drop and lash the jib. You will be able to sail up to a beam reach with no sails up.
If you do not have room to leeward then after you get your sails down and lashed, you should anchor, and wait it out. If you need help, contact the Sailing Center and we will send someone out to help you.
Once the squall passes you can put your sails back up and continue sailing!
Destinations
Hobie Access: Hobies must sail within Cowpet and St. James Bays – between STYC and Christmas Cove. You may carefully beach Hobies at the Elysian or sandy spots in Christmas Cove on Great St. James. You can also tie up to a mooring in Christmas Cove, order pizza and beverages from Pizza Pi VI and snorkel while they cook it. Pizza Pi will deliver in their pizza delivery dinghy if you ask them to!

IC-24 Access: There are many wonderful bays and coves where you can moor or anchor (no anchoring in National Park waters), swim, snorkel and picnic, all within a two-hour sail of STYC. Indeed, this is one of the incredible benefits of sailing here! See the Cruising Guide on our website or the Yachtsman’s Guide to the Virgin Islands for more details.

Cruising Access: The waters of the US, British and Spanish Virgin Islands are considered to be some of the best cruising grounds in the world. Copies of the Yachtsman’s Guide to the Virgin Islands and Guide to the Spanish Virgin Islands are on board each vessel.
Note: there is no anchoring in the waters of the Virgin Islands National Park and the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. Please respect National Park & National Monument regulations.

Groundings

If you do run aground and can’t get off immediately, drop your sails and call the Sailing Center. We will send a power boat out to help you. Grounding a keel can cause dangerous structural damage. Whether you can get the boat off the ground or not, for the safety of those using the boat after you, report all groundings to STSC so we can inspect the boat and repair as necessary.

Damages

Members with Boat Access are responsible for any and all damage or injury resulting from operator error, up to a limit per incident of $500 for Hobie Waves, $1500 for IC-24s and $2500 for Cruising boats. Skippers are also responsible for any equipment lost while a boat is in their care i.e. winch handles, anchors, boat hooks, charts, etc.