Organized Chaos in Cruz Bay

Each port city has its own distinctive flavor, and some are wilder than others. If this is true, Cruz Bay, St. John keeps the pirate’s heart warm. Though times have changed, there is still booty to be found. Even with today’s navigational equipment, boats still run aground on the harbor’s protective, fringing reefs. Perhaps it is due to the mayhem caused by the bikinis and booze on the beach that the harbor seems to operate in a perpetual state of organized chaos. Nevertheless, the professional charter boat captain must stay focused. The professional boat captain is strategically jockeying for a premier anchorage in the harbor, while working to stay safely afloat. They know how to anchor their boat close enough to shore for their guests to easily swim to the bar, but never too close that they run aground.

CruzBay-historical-St. John
Cruz Bay has been a port-of-call for many a sailor, merchant and pirate!

It is not a big harbor, but dozens of boats come in and out every day traveling between the US and British Virgin Islands. There are two channel entrances into the harbor. There is one fuel dock, one customs house, and lots of rush-hour traffic. Most of the day-boaters never make it past the Wharfside Village Shopping Center where the shoreline is ringed with restaurants like Waterfront Bistro, Vista Mare and Joe’s Rum Hut, and boutiques, like the Turquoise Turtle, which are filled with enticing things designed to make your island dreams come true.

Cruz Bay almost always gleams from the vacation revelry. People stroll the beach with a smile on their face, and enjoy the warm embraces of strangers. This is “Love City” after all! The sun shines day after day making it easy to relax. Yet, conditions out on the water can change dramatically over the course of a day. As the daily report reads from one local captain: “Good morning all, It’s a little blustery this morning 79º ENE wind 20-25 mph 34% chance of rain. 10Ft. swells combined with gusty winds = cancelled boat ride today. If you’re headed to any of our North Shore beaches be careful of the crashing surf.”

OceanRunner-Cruz Bay-boats
Ocean Runner boats in Cruz Bay.

Local knowledge tells us that there can be gusts up to 35 knots on a perfectly sunny day, that there are strange eddies and currents around the islands, and many hidden reefs. Sadly, in the past year there were three accidents outside of Cruz Bay due to poor navigation. One was involving a mega-yacht that had a joystick control. The yacht crashed on the reef off Moravian Point, a passage known locally as “beer can alley” (if you are not close enough to throw a beer can to shore, you are too far way). The word on the streets was that the captain was inexperienced. A discussion followed among captains in Cruz Bay. Did the joystick control inspire too much confidence in the new captain or boater? What happened to the time it took to work up to driving a big boat – and the experience gained from that practice period spent on smaller boats?

The captain of this boat ran aground on the reef outside of Cruz Bay.

As a captain moves up to driving bigger and bigger boats, so does his knowledge of the sea graduate. Great boat captains read the water, feel the wind, and sense changes in the barometric pressure before the weather shifts for the worse. Honing these senses takes time on the water. The new joystick control steerage definitely does make it easier to control the boat, but it does not tell the captain how to control the boat.

Today there are more ways than ever for someone to explore the Virgin Islands by boat. There are fast boats, slow boats, big boats and small boats. Boats you can charter yourself, and boats with fantastic captains! Ocean Runner is the only company in St. John that offers bareboat rentals, and that’s because we know how to teach you to navigate locally. We also have an awesome program to help you reach your dream of owning your own boat in the Caribbean. We think of your vacation dreams to explore the Virgin Islands by boat, and we work to make sure you reach them, and get home safely.


  • “Lobsters, Snorkeling and Cliff Jumping..oh my!” "We spent a glorious day with Captain Morgan! This was our first trip to the area and he managed to cram in a ton of activities and sights while still allowing us to just relax and take a slow, chill vacation day. There were 4 of us--two adults and our young adult children. He picked us up from St. Thomas and took the time to figure out what we wanted--rather than just taking us to a standard cookie cutter list of places. Over the course of the day we snorkeled and swam on quiet beaches, ate freshly cooked lobster at Sidney's, explored the area and capped off the afternoon with a leap off of a 40 foot cliff into the deep blue sea. Pure perfection. Morgan was friendly and fun. Would recommend to anyone looking for a relaxing day on the water!"    
    David C
  • "Our family of four spent the day with Jeremy as our Captain. He let us pick our day along with some of his suggestions. We ended up snorkeling at the Norman Island Caves and The Indians. Had a fabulous lunch at Pirates Bight , drinks and jumps at Willy T and finally spent some time at Jost Van Dyke and the beach . Jeremy was professional, friendly and we always felt safe. Would definitely recommend Ocean Runner for anyone looking for a day on the water." Visited July 2015
    Debbie S
  • "What an experience. Took a trip to the British VI's to see the Bath's, Caves at Norman Island and Jost Van Dyke. Hired Ocean Runner to take us there for a full day trip. Captain Tom Larson took care of us like we were his own family. He was so knowledgeable when it came to the history of the islands surrounding St. John and the BVI's. Highly recommend Captain Larson and Ocean Runner for your excursions out of St. John."
    John S
  • "The boat we rented from Ocean Runner was well-maintained, the staff were courteous and obviously experienced, and the advice and service excellent!  We would strongly recommend OR to anyone seeking a powerboat rental while visiting St John."
    Dana - Nashville
  • "We have used Ocean Runner quite a few times during our family vacations and always have had a wonderful day. Last year we had a larger group and had to use another company. The difference was obvious from the get-go. Of course we enjoyed the day - it's impossible not to - but the overall experience was not up to what we have enjoyed with Ocean Runner."
    Janet - Massachusetts