Thursday, May 19, 2011

St. Croix

Wednesday 11 May – Wednesday 18 May

Wednesday we spend a lazy day at anchor planning our course to St. Croix and talking about what we want to see and do there. Thursday we are at the fuel dock by 8 and underway by 8:30 heading south under gray skies with light winds and calm seas. Around noon I lay down to “rest my eyes” AKA take a nap, I hear over the VHF radio a call out to the sail boat heading to St. Croix. I sit up and look around but did not see any other boats around, so lay back down and the call comes out again, this time I get up and look around and spot a 60' Catamaran off our port bow. I tell Steve, who has been reading and tuned the radio out, I think that boat is a drift and hailing us. We call Jolly Mon back, and their motor had stopped and with the light winds out of the south they were not making any headway toward St. Croix. We get closer and the beautiful, young captain Cara tells us her cell phone is dead, so could we please call her boss so he can come out to get them. We make the call and Miles tells us he is out on a charter with a group so can't do anything until after 1. He tells Steve that it might be a loose battery terminal wire. We relay the info to Cara and her girlfriend, but they still cannot get the boat started. Steve puts the dinghy down and goes over to their boat and they get it started. We both get back underway towards St. Croix, calling Miles back to let him know the boat got started. As we get closer to the island Miles calls us back asking where we are going in at, and we tell him Christiansted Harbor. He tells us he has a mooring we can use, and to follow Jolly Mon into the channel. That works out great as his mooring has to be one of the best spots in the harbor. Just a few yards from Protestant Cay, offering great protection and right off Kings Wharf where most of the towns stores, restaurants and bars are located. Jolly Mon goes to the dock where they keep several charter boats, Jolly Mon being one of them. Dinghy in the water by 4, first stop is to go by the National Park Service office to submit an anchoring permit request to go to the Buck Island Reef National Monument. No cost for the permit they restrict who and how many boats go there trying to preserve the marine garden. Stopping by a tourist place to get maps an tour guide books as we head to a local bar to meet Miles and Cara, them thanking us for helping us thanking them for the use of the mooring ball. Back to the boat just in time as the skies after being gray and cloudy all day have finally decided to let loose with a downpour. Friday the day starts out beautiful as we go to get a rental car, this is a “big” island, 24 miles long and 5 wide and there are some places throughout the island that we want to see, so rental car is the way to go. We head east stopping at Cain Bay for lunch then thru some windy roads over some heavily wooded mountains, a mini rain forest on the way to Frederiksted, the other “big” town. Glad we are staying by Christiansted as it is much nicer. Next we stop by and tour the Whim Museum,a restored sugar plantation from the 1800's. Then on to the Cruzan Rum distillery, where we go for the tour and then get our free drinks. I was driving so could only have one Steve had a 2nd and some of the others in our group were having 3rds & 4ths closing the place down, but they came by taxi. That is the trick when visiting this distillery to get there early for the tour then just hang at the bar trying the different rums with different mixes. Since we got a late start to the day it is 4 by the time we leave the distillery, knowing it is to late to go to the Botanical Gardens we stop by since it is on our way back to see if it looks worth coming back for. The clouds have been building all day and we make it back to town just before a downpour, waiting it out at a harbour view bar. After it stops we decide to get an early dinner before another round of rain keeps us from coming back to shore. Our 1st choice of restaurant is Galangal, an authentic Thai place that we had heard great reviews for. But they were booked up so we made a reservation for Saturday night and went to a place called Bacchus which turned out to be a great choice also having some unusual dishes that were excellent. Make it back to the boat before the late night storm comes thru. Saturday we keep the car for another day and head back out to the St. George Village and Botanical Garden. 16 acres of sugar plantation ruins among 1500 native and exotic plants and trees. Drive east past Christiansted to the Teague Bay area, a shallow draft anchorage to be used with a caution with local knowledge to navigate the reefs. NOT a place to bring Ocean Star, but another waterfront area of the island we wanted to see. Next stop is Point Udall, the eastern most point of the United States. Now we have been to one of the most southern and eastern points, might make it to the most western in Guam one day but NOT to the most northern in Alaska. Back to Christiansted and go to tour Fort Christiansvaern. Steve gets to use his national park card to get us in free again to see this well maintained Danish fort. It did not see battles against foreign Island invaders but was used to imprison Island slaves, and later as an Island jail. Back to the boat to get cleaned up for dinner. The skies have been getting cloudier as the day went on and just around sunset again the skies open up. This time thunder and lightning come with the rain and it does not look hopeful that it will stop any time soon. We wait until 7:30 before canceling our 8 pm dinner reservation and eat on board. This is the heaviest rain we have seen in a long time, rain and lightning last all night long. Sunday we wake to the sun trying to come out put still cloudy, return the rental car and make arraignments to do an afternoon dive. All the locals keep telling us how unusual this weather is and they never see this much rain this time of the year ! At least the heavy rains come at night so we are still able to tour the island. The humidity level is way up reminding us of being back in Houston / Kemah. We get a cab over to Cane Bay to do the afternoon dive, they have the most unusual dive boat we have ever seen. It is a bright yellow inflatable, with 4 passengers & 2 crew & 6 tanks we were a tight fit. The floor in the bow unzips and you sit on the edge put your gear on and just lean over and do a face plant into the water. Pretty neat actually !! Getting out is easy also, go under boat to opening unhook BC driver lifts that up into the boat so you can easily lift yourself up thru the opening. The first dive wound up being a drift dive, about 20 minutes into the dive the dive master writes us a note saying this will be a drift dive and the boat will come to us. Good thing because I was just starting to wonder about how much air I would suck up trying to swim back against the current. It was my first drift dive and what a great experience just moving with the flow of the water watching all kinds of beautiful sea life float by. Once we surface, blowing a whistle and raising a flag to get the drivers attention to come get us, I was amazed at how far we had drifted from the boat and our beginning spot. The boat pulls up and we all get back in and Neil the driver goes to start the boat again with NO luck ! Now we are doing a drift boat ride ! Kendall (dive master) & Neil keep trying to start the outboard again with no luck as we drift further away. Their shop is located right off the beach where we put out from so I guess someone noticed that we were not heading back to base camp and called on the VHF radio. Kendall told them about the engine not turning over and said we would try a few more times then call back if they needed to put a second boat in the water to come get us, which they did have to do to tow us back in. Second dive we went out to a closer reef on the other boat that towed us back in and made it out and back without incident. Gear washed off changed into dry clothes and get taxi back to town. This driver driving a lot faster on the winding mountain roads giving us a thrilling ride back to town. Just a short little shower during the day and it looks like maybe it wont rain Sunday night so we call up the Thai restaurant to see if we can get in but they are closed on Sunday & Monday so Steve makes us a Thai dish on board and it's a good thing because we do get rain again almost all night long. Monday we were going to head over to Buck Island but the morning started cloudy with showers and winds gusting so we thought we would have better protection at this anchorage then over at Buck Island so we stayed put and worked on a few boat projects, always plenty of them. The generator has been overheating and shutting off whenever the air conditioning is on, so Steve troubleshoots that, determines it's a low cooling water flow, and back flushes the cooling water circuit. The actual back flushing only takes 10 minutes or so, but figuring out how to do it, remembering where the necessary parts are located in storage, digging them out, and making the connections takes 3 hours. But success in the end, the cooling water outlet temp drops by 15°F and the AC runs fine. It only takes another hour to put everything back in its place again. Cruising, the joy of boat maintenance in exotic places. The day actually cleared up and got nicer and just as we thought we would escape the evening shower it started around 7:30. A short light shower during dinner so had to run the generator and had a noisy but cool (AC) dinner. Tuesday we make the short hop over to Buck Island, a national underwater park, under sunny skies. The Island is only a mile long and ½ mile wide with a huge reef surrounding most of it. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 destroyed a lot of the reef so the park has been monitoring it's slow recovery. We arrive just in time for some clouds to move in for an afternoon shower, have lunch waiting for it to stop. Once it does we go ashore to walk the trails up 300 feet to an observation deck looking out over the reef. The clouds are hanging around so we put off snorkeling until Wednesday but take the dinghy around to the reef side of the Island to see where the dinghy and tour boat moorings are. Circumnavigating the Island on the way back to the west side anchorage it is a job avoiding the coral with just the dinghy. Wednesday the day starts off sunny so we head back over to the reef early while the sun is out. Plenty of fish but the damaged coral is very evident 22 years later. As we are climbing back into the dinghy a few of the tour boats bring large groups of snorkelers in, and it starts to rain, so we're glad we got there early. Two little afternoon showers mix in with the sunshine and another short evening shower – doing the “hatch rain dance” with our 24 hatches gets tiresome, but we're happy for the airflow when they're open. Thursday we will head back to St. Thomas and hopefully away from this trough that has been sitting over us this past week and causing all the rain.


  1. Did you get an underwater camera??

  2. no new camera, the one we have can go underwater up to 10 feet so is good for snorkeling and other water pictures