US Virgins with our First Island Visitors

US Virgins with our First Island Visitors

About two weeks ago were in Sopers Hole for Magnus to get yet another rabies shot and health certificate so that he would be all set for the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.   While we were there we briefly met the crew on S/V Laho which was great for several reasons. First, we had been following their blog since last winter which really helped us get through the polar vortex or whatever it was the froze the great lakes over, but more importantly they are about the same age and travelling on a similar sized boat with a dog.  Sometimes it is refreshing to know that you aren’t crazy to be living on a boat, or at least that you aren’t alone in the idea. So we stayed a couple extra days in the BVIs and invited them for dinner so we could hear about the great places we should watch for between here and the Bahamas.

With 5 days remaining until Mom and Dad were due to arrive in St Thomas we cleared out of the BVI’s and carried on to Cruz Bay on St. John to check in with US Customs.  En route we got hit with some heavy squalls so I scrambled to furl in part of the genoa while Magnus dove downstairs and took a seat staring back at me while I got soaked in the rain. Maybe he just wanted to check on Chrissy or to make sure we hadn’t developed any leaks.

The anchorage in Cruz Bay is brutally shallow and after setting the anchor in about 7’ to 8’ of water, I was worried we would be pushed into the shallows by a ferry wake. So, when I looked down and saw my rudder flirting with the weeds we put out a stern anchor to hold us in deeper water next to the channel. Next time I will grab a mooring in Caneel Bay and dinghy the mile around the corner instead. It would have been the quicker option.

We had no issues clearing in and when I mentioned the dog on board and that we had his health certificate the lady looked at us, hesitated and said if we had it with us she would look at it, and so the paper got a quick glance. Nothing makes you feel better about jumping through hoops to bring your dog along to get there and find out they really don’t care.

The best surprise for the day was our trip to the grocery store. They actually had loads of fruits and vegetables and their shelves were stocked throughout the store. A huge improvement from the BVIs where half the shelves are sometimes bare!

At this point we had 5 nights remaining until my parents arrived and as they are not boaters and Mom is particularly sensitive to the motion of the boat we started on a quick clockwise loop of St John to find places that might be calm and flat in the anchorages. We skipped Caneel Bay as we could see the gentle roll of the boats there and made our way to Francis Bay. We had a good night despite waking up to the wind was howling there on several occasions. The next morning we motored around the corner to Waterlemon Bay and found it to be a nice spot. I snorkeled around the Waterlemon Cay clockwise and then when I got back to the boat I read in the guide book I was supposed to go counter clockwise.   If you want better exercise, go clockwise like I did, you’ll feel better afterwards, especially when the winds are blowing 20 knots.

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The next day we started beating up the narrows between Tortola and St. John. We thought we had finished with this windward slog when we left the BVI’s but here we were doing it again with a double reefed main. We had been targeting coral bay but there aren’t many places where overnight mooring is permitted, so we sailed in towards the little town, decided it would be a nice spot for us to check out some other time and then kept on going to Salt Pond Bay on the south east shore. This is a beautiful spot but with the SE winds, the waves do wrap into the bay so we had a bit of a rolly night with one other boat. The views on the hiking trails made up for it though.

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Sorry everyone, it’s not snow, just foam from the salt pond.

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Hard to get tired of views like this.

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That’s a massive cactus tree, quite amazing to walk up next to.

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St John reminds me of Georgian Bay in some ways and here was our first deer spotting.

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Next we stopped in at Christmas Cove tucked behind Great St. James Island. This is a popular spot, but probably only because there are not better spots close to Charlotte Amalie. We knew this stop would be too rolly for our visitors, but we were curious about the Pizza boat and didn’t want to spend two nights in Charlotte Amalie. The Pizza PI boat was on their day off when we pulled in, but we did dinghy over and order one for lunch the next day. Their market is obviously directed at the tourists, but I felt compelled to try it once as it co-owned by another young engineer who has escaped the rat race.

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In Charlotte Amalie, we anchored next to the mega yacht marina so we could stock up on food. We wandered into town, and Chrissy was able to find a SIM card for the phone and set us up with a new prepaid plan that will see us through Puerto Rico. Kmart and Pueblo helped us restock on items that we had slowly been drawing down while in the BVIs due to either price or availability. I lugged the dinghy tank and our jerry can over to the gas station and filled up next to a local who grumbled to me how the gas prices had yet to really come down here compared to being stateside. I sympathized with him, but seeing as we use about 5 or 6 gallons a month for the outboard I can’t say I was concerned myself about paying a buck or two a month more than I would stateside. I have since noted that I paid less for diesel at the marina in Hampton back in November than they are currently paying at the pump here.

Hmmm, I think their lifeboats on those cruise ships are as big as our boat…

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This mega yacht dinghy garage is bigger than the garage I had in the house.  I think the row of jet skis behind the tender are worth more than the car we parked in our garage too…DSC_0255

As expected we had a rolly night in the Charlotte Amalie harbour, but at least the winds were falling for Mom and Dad’s arrival. We decided that a marina stay would be the best bet to help acclimatize them to the boat motion, so we booked a slip at Crown Bay Marina. This worked out well as Chrissy was able to stock up on fresh foods as they have two grocery stores in close proximity. Meanwhile I cleaned the boat, polished the rust off the stainless, serviced the head and a few other maintenance tasks and then Chrissy took advantage of the onsite laundry.

As usual my tasks were running longer than I’d hoped and with the winds and clouds having dissipated I was in serious need for a shower. I figured it would be better to risk being late to meet Mom and Dad over at Yacht Haven in the dinghy and enjoyed my first real shower since we left Hampton. Anyone else want to visit now?

I’m happy to report that Magnus and I made the 2 mile trip quickly on plane in the dinghy with my little eggbeater outboard that many have made fun of. As it turned out Mom and Dad had just found the dinghy dock when I came around the corner on the final stretch. The return trip was obviously slower, but we made it. Then I grilled some steaks for dinner.

The following 4 days were the calmest 4 days in a row that we have had since we arrived in the islands which was a pleasant change after two weeks with enhanced trade winds, heavy squalls and lots of boat noises at night.

We motored from Charlotte Amalie over to St John seeing true winds of 2-3 knots. We picked up a mooring in Francis Bay and had lunch. With the winds being so light, there was no westerly current between St John and the BVI’s to prevent a small little northerly swell from creeping into the bay and rolling us. I could tell this wasn’t going to work but had no idea if Waterlemon Bay would be much better so we took a hike to find out. It did look better so we headed back to the boat and motored around the corner and tucked into the bay. We spent two nights there so we could swim, snorkel and hike.

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With the winds still being light we figured we would try Salt Pond Bay, but when we arrived it was full (it is part of the National Park and you must use a mooring) so we carried on to Great Lameshur bay instead which turned out be a nice spot as well.

On our last day we had a downwind trip along the southern shores of St John and St Thomas and unrolled the Genoa for a bit to motor sail. We had 2 to 4 knot apparent winds on a very deep reach so I had to time the pictures with the gusts as they filled the sail, but at least Mom and Dad got to see that the boat does still have sails. By the time we got to St Thomas the wind had dropped so we furled the genoa and motored the rest of the way over to the airport.

Here’s Mom thinking that you wouldn’t feel these waves on a cruise ship.

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The perks of having fixed the autopilot…and someone to take a picture.

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As we were approaching our destination we saw a cruise ship in the distance and I confirmed it was the Allures of the Sea using the AIS. This ship is so big its length shows up in nautical miles on our AIS rather than in feet like most ships do. The ship must have been late to port as it was steaming in hot into the bay, but surprisingly we never noticed a wake or disturbance when we passed behind it.

Here’s a fun fact.  Our fuel tank is big enough to supply him with a whopping  34 seconds at cruising speed, yet we went over 2 months on only 3/4 of a tank.

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For anyone dropping guests off Lindberg Bay is a 2 minute walk along the sidewalk to the airport terminal and probably much more reliable than trying to get a taxi on a day with 6 cruise ships in port. Chrissy and I stayed the night after I had dinghied around the corner to get our propane tanks filled. The night was a bit rolly, but not too bad, although we did both sleep on the settees instead of the v-berth that night.

Since then we have moved to a little anchorage on Hassel Island just around the corner from the main Charlotte Amalie Harbour. Other than the massive ferry wakes it is a nice spot to dinghy into town from and there is a stone beach to play fetch with the dog. We are planning to check out the island in more detail and reprovision so we can head out again. We plan to do a few more nights in St John as it is peaceful and then we would like to jump over to St Croix for a few days before we continue heading west.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Like you pointed out, I also see a similarity to some of the areas of Georgian Bay and some of the photos you have here.

    And, yes, the Allure of the Seas is one big-ass boat. I was on it in Dec 2013… me and about 5500 of my closest friends. Enjoyed it, yes, but I have no doubt your mode of travel is FAR superior to Allure.

    Great photos & write-up!

  2. Very nice to read your blog.  Glad you had some company!

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