the flavor here. You tie up in the afternoon,
head to the beach, then enjoy the marina’s
restaurants and amenities.”
DON’T MISS: Boca Grande on Gasparilla is
Old Florida at its best, or “stuck in time,” as
the locals say, a seaside village with a five-and-dime store and ice cream shop. For anchoring
out, head to Pelican Bay on the backside of
Cayo Costa. This secluded nature preserve
attracts many of the 200 species of birds in the
area. Cabbage Key is a popular stop for boaters, many of whom swap sea stories at the bar
best known as “the place with all the money
on the walls.” The staff here has been serving
cruisers for over 60 years.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
THE ALLURE: One of the world’s top spots
for bareboat chartering, this island chain
attracts as many first-timers as it does return
visitors. It’s one of those rare places where
you can find seclusion on an impossibly
perfect white beach as well as an incredible
social scene, which plays out in the restaurants, beach bars, and fine resorts throughout
the 50-plus islands and cays. It’s a top-notch
tropical paradise for boaters of all experience
levels, but what makes it a great choice for
the first-time charterer is the fact that it’s so
easy to get around. The wind, which typically
heads west at 15 to 20 knots, is very predictable so you won’t feel tense about the weather. In addition, navigation is line of sight, the
water is deep, and most places have secure
mooring systems, all of which mean it’s easier
for you to relax.
“Technically, you’re in a foreign country,
but it all feels familiar,” says Gary Hendricks
of The Moorings, which operates a reputable
fleet out of Tortola. This company leases
power cats that can cruise near 15 knots,
which means you can cover a lot of territory
in a single day. And because these islands are
grouped close together in a relatively compact stretch of water, you can explore a good
deal in the course of a seven-day cruise.
DON’T MISS: Most tourists head for The
Baths on Virgin Gorda for an afternoon snorkel, but if you want to avoid the crowds, go
to Sandy Cay off Jost Van Dyke. This tiny atoll
has an incredible beach, plus good snorkeling. From here, it’s a short run to Diamond
Cay, home to the “Bubbling Pools,” or natural rock formations that fill with water when
the tide is up. For great evening entertainment, hit Cane Garden Bay on Tortola.
TAKING YOUR OWN BOAT TO
A MORE EXOTIC LOCALE?
BoatU.S. Insurance now has an
upfront “no-hassle” cruising limit
extension for popular destinations
such as Alaska, the Caribbean,
Mexico, and Nova Scotia.
or call 1-800-283-2883.