January 22 - St. Croix to Buck Island
It was a short sail from St. Croix to Buck Island. By 11am, we were anchored in a white sandy bottom with crystal clear water. Buck Island is known for its great snorkeling. It’s a national marine park and has an underwater trail that’s marked, identifying the types of coral you’re looking at and also the types of fish that inhabit the reef area.
We took the dinghy to the trail and tied it up to a mooring. As soon as we got in the water, the very first fish we saw was a nosy grey shark, snooping around. The water was exceptionally clear, with lots of other snorkelers in the water who had come on tour boats. The reef was quite spectacular, with lots of varieties of coral such as elkhorn, brain, a soft tubular type and fan coral. Lots of fish too. We saw a number of barracudas, puffer fish, purple tang, clown and trumpet fish, groupers, parrot fish and many others (that I mostly know by “yellow fish, blue fish with stripes, etc). It was one of the best snorkeling swims I’ve done.
After snorkeling, we took a walk on the island’s trail. It started around the beach and wound up the hill. The first thing that we were greeted with was a sign on an inconspicuous tree. It stated “Menchineel Tree. Do Not Touch! Danger! Do not eat the fruit!“. Apparently, the tree is highly poisonous. Some of Christopher Columbus’ men got very ill from eating the fruit. We gingerly walked around the tree. Onward, there were panoramic views of the reef and of St. Croix from the summit. The foliage along the way was predominantly cactus. Some very unique looking specimens.
January 24 - Sailing to St. Thomas
The next day, we pulled up anchor and headed for St. Thomas, the main USVI island. It was an easy crossing and we even got in a little sailing. We anchored on the east end of the island, in a place called Red Hook.
Not long after anchoring, the wind started to pick up. Great, we thought! It turned out to be a restless night with the wind piping up to a steady 22 knots with stronger gusts.
Not a place we want to stay for long, but Red Hook had restaurants, bars and marine stores. We took a ride into town the following day on one of the safari taxis. It only cost a couple of bucks to go anywhere on the island in an open bed truck with bench seating. We got to Charlotte Amalie and soon had our fill of the place. It mostly consisted of duty-free shopping stores to attract the cruise ship tourists.
We asked around for a restaurant that offered free wi-fi to their customers. After following a couple of misguided leads we met a gal who told us to go to Hooters for good wi-fi. Honestly! We talked to her for a few minutes. She divulged that she had worked for Hooters, but left after becoming unhappy with the pay. Besides that, she wasn’t using her masters degree in education. She then made a career change and got a job teaching at a Catholic elementary school. Now she would have been a fun elementary school teacher (that I never had). Anyway, we did find Hooters and indeed it turned out to have good wi-fi and not a bad sandwich to boot. And, yes, the server was indeed well endowed!
That night, a friend of Dave’s came to sail with us for a few days. Greg is one of the people that Dave knew from Ashley Marina in Charleston. Greg is a yacht broker. He worked on the sale of Lahaina Roads to Dave. That same night, I booted up my Acer netbook and the unexpected occurred - it croaked. I tried several times to reboot it and got nothing but a dark screen.
I had to have a computer. The following day I frantically called around town and found out that K-Mart sold computers. As it turned out, I found an HP netbook at a decent price at Office Max. So if my blog sounds a little different, it’s because I have a new computer. :)
After the shopping spree, we went back to the anchorage. When we got to the dinghy, we found the inflatable going flat. Since we didn’t have a pump with us, we took a chance on making back to the boat. With the three of us in it and a good sea chop against us, the dinghy really started to soften. It was at once funny and worrisome. The dinghy was very near to collapsing and folding in half by the time we got to the boat. But we lucked out. It never felt better to grab a hold of Lahaina Roads‘ toe rail!
January 26 - A Quick Three Mile Motorsail to St. John
The following day we picked up anchor for Cruz Bay, St. John. It was only three miles to Cruz Bay from Red Hook. We got there very quickly but found it to be too busy. We moved on to Caneel Bay, an anchorage just east of Cruz Bay.
Two thirds of St. John, at one time, was owned by Laurence Rockefeler. He donated the land to the U.S. Park Service. Thus, even today, most of the island is a park. The park service maintains a bunch of moorings to preserve the underwater reefs. So when we got to Caneel Bay, we picked up a mooring for the night. It was a picture-perfect setting, with a white sandy beach lined with palm trees.
The next day we walked into the town of Cruz Bay. Nice little place, but again, a bit touristy. We got back to the boat and decided to move further eastward to Maho Bay. As we motored along, we could see a number of pristine looking beaches.
When we got to Maho Bay we again picked up a mooring. It’s cheap enough. For those sixty and over, the moorings are half-price ($7.50)! After lunch, we went snorkeling. Although there wasn’t a reef where we were, the snorkeling along a rocky shore was fantastic. I got a chance to follow a leather back turtle for several minutes and later followed a bat ray, as it was skirting around the sandy bottom looking for some scraps. Along with those creatures, I saw countless other varieties of fish.
Greg had to go into town to get his passport. While he did that, Dave and I took a hike. Great panoramas from some of the plantation ruins up the hill. Wild goats were walking by us like we weren‘t there. We struck up a conversation with two couples traveling together, while at the plantation ruins. They seemed interested to hear the tales of our sailing adventure. After a brief chat, we went our separate ways. Dave and I headed up the trail and decided to aim for an old church at a place called Coral Bay.
It turned out to be quite a hike with lots of ups and down. As we neared Coral Bay, all we could think of is that we had a long home and had no money to buy a beer! I suggested that we might try to hitch a ride back. So we started walking down the main road. Just then, a car pulled up and the people inside waved at us. It turned to be the same couples we had met at the ruins (wisely so, they had driven to Coral Bay).
They were on their way to Skinny Legs Bar and Grill, which reportedly had the best burgers in St. John. We told them that we were on our way back hoping to hitch a ride, besides, we didn’t have our wallets with us. They waved us good bye and drove away.
A few minutes later, as we were walking down the street, the couples drove up behind us and said, “Hey, why don’t you come to lunch with us, we’ll treat!” We said “Sure!”
It turned out to be a really enjoyable lunch. Mary Jane, George, Paul and Julia were truly wonderful people and we had a great time exchanging stories. After lunch, they even gave us a ride back, which in their tiny Suzuki required MJ to sit on George’s (her husband) lap. Funny how things turn out.
When we got back to the boat I went snorkeling. Near where we were anchored there was a small cay called Waterlemon Cay. It was a neat swim. There were millions of small silver fish in the water. The brown pelicans were having a field day dive-bombing them. They were doing so all around me and I could watch the pelicans dive under water and fill their bills full of fish. What a sight! On the way back to the boat, a moray eel was quite exposed and curiously looked at me, while further up a bat ray effortlessly glided through the water. All in all, not a bad day.
January 29 - Off to Soper’s Hole, BVI
After one more fascinating snorkeling session at Waterlemon Cay, we left for the British Virgin Islands. In only minutes we were cruising Soper’s Hole looking for a mooring or a good spot to anchor. It was tight. There were dozens of other yachts there.
We finally anchored in twenty meters, deeper than we like to be in. Sopers is very commercial. To me it reminds of the many portside villages in the U.S. built to attract the out-of-town tourists. We took a short walk around the place and went back to the boat. It was happy hour!
January 30 - Just Jost van Dyke
I’m surprised at the short distances to all of these islands. Leaving Soper’s Hole, we made it to Great Harbor at Jost van Dyke under sail in not much more than a half hour. The beaches here are surprisingly lovely - white sand, palm trees and beach bars with wi-fi. What more can a yachty ask for? Near us is Foxy’s and in the next bay, which we walked to, are several more bars. We sat down at Sandy Bottoms where several catamaran yachts had pulled up near the beach. It was a nice afternoon.
January 31 - Feb 1
Dave and I are now sitting in Road Town, Tortola at a small French cafe having a French baggette with a buttery St. Marcellin cheese that reeks of cholesterol. Since Jost van Dyke we made a brief stop at a beautiful bay called Cane Garden Bay, then anchored at Lee Bay. Early this morning we motored to Trellis Bay on Tortola, right near the airport. Greg left from there this morning and we'll be expecting Rob tomorrow night.