Thursday, April 28, 2011

St. Thomas / St. John

Saturday 16 April – Saturday 23 April

We are underway by 8:30 Saturday morning motor sailing under clear blue skies with light to moderate winds, and 3-4 ft. swells. Less then 5 hours later we are approaching the island of St. Thomas, a first time for all 3 of us. We had decided to anchor off Water Island as the guide book said the main harbor was full of moorings and could get really crowded with the cruise ships and ferries coming and going. Well it turns out the “anchorage” by Water Island is now full of moorings, and all moorings in St. Thomas are private. The water is also very deep at this spot 30- 40 feet so you have to let out a lot of scope on the anchor rode so you need a lot of swing room. The mooring field is not set up in any kind of grid, people just put their mooring wherever they wanted it so you have to try to anchor between them, and with quite a few boats already anchored it took us a few circles to find a place to anchor. In looking for a spot we dropped the hook and had to bring it back up, the new windlass worked great except it had some grease from the factory still on it causing it to slip when it was time to bring the last bit of chain & anchor on deck. Once anchored Steve cleaned the excess grease off the windlass while I made lunch. Afterward we all piled into the dinghy and went in to the dinghy dock by Crown Bay Marina. From here it is just a 30 minute walk into the main town of Charlotte Amalie. First thing we notice is they drive on the LEFT ?? Left over from British occupation in the 1800's !? As we walk towards town and St Thomas Harbor we notice that they have a lot more room to anchor over here and very few mooring balls the opposite of what our guide book said. As we get to town we watch as the last cruise ship leaves the harbor. I think, great less crowds, what I did not think was that all the shops would be closed ! Here it is on a Saturday at 5 pm and 99 % of the stores are closed. Sean called it nightmare on main street ! A lot of the restaurants were closed also, just goes to show that this is definitely a cruise ship town. Find a place for a drink and snack before catching a taxi / bus back to the marina, have dinner there at Tickles Dockside Pub next to the dinghy dock before heading back to the boat. A beautiful sight with the homes along the hill sides lit up and the almost full moon shining down on the bay. Sunday we went back into town, checking out several more areas of town, up and down some steep streets until finally my knee said enough walking and we caught a taxi back towards the dinghy dock. We had learned the trick with the taxi / buses, if you flag one down and ask to go to a certain location it cost 4-5 $ BUT if you wait at one of the regular stops and get on with other people it only cost a $1. Monday morning we went on a 2 tank dive, both good dives but the second was really neat. It was where the Navy blew up and sunk their old housing barges, so you get to swim up and down the corridors looking at all the fish that now use it as a home. Getting some good tips from the captain of good anchorages and snorkeling sights down island. That afternoon we head out for one of them, Christmas Bay off Great St. James on the east end of St. Thomas. Afternoon swim, before a relaxing evening where Steve prepares a wonderful dinner and Sean & I get to play a few more games in our backgammon tournament. Tuesday morning we go snorkeling around St. James before the big 3 mile trip over to St. John in time for lunch. St. John is the smallest of the 3 USVI, and least populated and unspoiled as 2/3 of it is National Park. Sean steers the boat as we picked up one of the parks mooring balls in Caneel Bay. Stopped by the floating pay station to drop off our payment and I guess some people don't understand how drop boxes work. There were several envelopes with money in them in the empty envelope bag, but we did the right thing and put them down the payment drop box where they go. Into the Caneel Bay Resort to check out their restaurants and grounds. What a beautiful serene place, a place where rich folk go to get away as the rooms start at a $1000 a night. Get some hiking trail info, then back to the boat where Steve & Sean clean the bottom of the boat while I read in the cockpit. Steve makes another wonderful dinner as Sean & I continue our backgammon games. After dinner we play a few hands of cards. Wednesday we hike into the town of Cruz Bay, I get to try out my new trekking poles that I had ordered and Sean brought down with him. A walk around the town, checking out the shops, finding a place for lunch, then a few more shops. Steve & Sean take the Caneel Hill trail back, climbing to 700 feet, while I linger in town before going back on the Lind Point trail we came over on that only rises 160 feet meeting them back at the dinghy. Sean & I continue our nightly backgammon ritual while Steve makes another great dinner, after dinner Steve & Sean play several games of backgammon. Thursday is a long days motor sail back to Puerto Del Rey Marina in PR under clear skies with flat calm seas. We arrive at 4:30 just before the office closes. I call customs to report that we just returned form the USVI, even though both are US territories, you are supposed to check back in. When I finally get someone on the line she tells me we have to come in and pay another $27.50 even though we paid at Mayaguez, and that CBP guy told us we could just use the release # on our receipt. Now we are getting another story, that we have to go to the customs office again and repay for reentering. Really makes you want to lie and not tell them you left, which would have been very easy to do just saying we went to one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. We have a nice farewell dinner at the marina restaurant with Sean and will deal with customs on Friday. Being Good Friday almost everything is closed, grocery stores and all, so traffic is light going into the airport. Dropping Sean off a little early for his flight home after a great but too short of a visit. Then we head for the customs office in Fajardo who had already called us to make sure we were coming. Traffic out from the airport is much heavier, with everyone heading to the beaches and the ferries right next to the customs office. I was worried we would get there at noon just as they closed for lunch, but we made it by 11:40. Both the supervisor Mr Martinez and the other guy working were very nice and helpful, even if I had to explain that I was born in a city called New York City in the state of New York. We did have to pay another $27.50 BUT this time we were able to get our LBO (local boater option) that no one before was able to do and we also got the decal to be sent to our PO Box, that we can have scanned to get the # so we will not run into this problem again going between USVI & BVI. Keep the rental car for one more day so we can go to the store and re-provision on Saturday before leaving main land PR on Sunday.

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