US Virgin Islands -  St. Thomas & St. John: March 13 - 28, 2007

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period.

In our last posting, we were, as they say in Savannah, fixin’ to depart from Culebra and head toward the Virgin Islands.  Events intervened.  Friends Steve and Linda aboard Seaman’s Elixir fought headwinds and motor-sailed east from Puerto del Ray to Dewey.  So we spent an extra day in order to spend time with them and experience more of the craziness that accompanies a sailing regatta.  Lotsa extra people in town for that.  Lotsa Heineken consumed.  Big crowd for a free concert at the ferry dock, where for us the behavior of the Puerto Rican boaters was at least as fascinating as anything happening on stage or in the crowd.  You see, the normally near-vacant harbor and bulkhead were jam-packed with boats of all sizes.  Boats kept arriving and just rafting up with the boats already there.  No asking for permission, no communication whatsoever, as far as we could see.  Just jump aboard the boat already there, tie up to their cleat, and then use their boat to jump to the dock, or another boat closer to dock, etc., until one could reach the dock.  Does this sound sneaky, as if the tied-to boat didn’t even know about the new arrival?  No es verdad!  On the contrary, you silly gringos!  For example, one of the tied-to boats was an expensive sportfish, filled with semi-nude nymphets gyrating to the music from the nearby stage, and also salted with a few hombres with beer bellies.  Gyrating on board apparently carried great status; there were a number of young nymphets up on the dock also in a state of near undress, engaged in sadly tentative and hopeful gyrations that were clearly aimed at the sportfish.  But I digress.  The point is, the tied-to vessel was perfectly aware of the un-invited tie-up.  Their only reaction was to send one of the beer bellies up to tie a self-protecting fender between the new arrival and the host ship. 

We could somewhat later hear, from our vessel in the opposite harbor, that the musical style had changed, but at the time we were there the rap-oriented songs didn’t appeal to any of us old fuddy-duddies, and so we took an early leave, with a brief backward glance on the part of some of us toward the sportfish, and elbowed our way off through the crowd to visit the Dinghy Dock Bar/Restaurant, where rumor had it there was to be another session of karaoke.  Along the way, we heard the bongo drums in Mamacita’s, so of course we had to venture in to show Steve and Linda.  Have I mentioned that during regatta there are lotsa folks around?  We could hear the bongos, but certainly couldn’t get close enough to see anything, let alone see the bar or a place to sit, and so we continued our passage to the alleged karaoke.  Found a table there, but alas, no active karaoke, and hence no chance to cajole Linda into a performance.  (Rumor has it that she has a good singing voice.)

And then Steve and Linda announced that on the following night they were going to throw another rum tasting with guests from the trawler Diesel Duck.  Further, Diesel Duck had guests on board that we would surely want to meet:  the videographers and creators of a television series devoted to cruising.  Their show Distant Shores airs in Canada, and in several European venues, including Norway and Sweden.  It has also recently been picked up by a cable channel in the USA.  The rum-tasting would be photographed for future airing on the show!  That sounded interesting, and so we delayed our departure yet another night.  Meeting the owners of Diesel Duck and their guests was a treat.  We thought we were accepting an invitation to join Steve and Linda for an hour or two of rum and nibbles, but Linda surprised us with a gourmet dinner that could have stood on its own legs as a subject for a cruising episode.  Yummy!

We finally said our good-byes to Seaman’s Elixir and Salty (new Swedish friend Haakan had also been persuaded to delay his departure and attend the tasting/dinner) the next morning, 3/13/07, as we left our staging-mooring at Ensenada Dakity, Culebra.  Only 28 miles to pass out of the Spanish Virgins and into USVI, to Long Bay, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, where we were hailed by Jim on Osiris.  We first met Jim at Georgetown, Exuma Islands, in the winter of 2005/2006.  We’ve been repeatedly running into him this winter, starting in Luperon, PR.  He had some friendly advice on where to anchor in Long Bay in order to avoid the rollers coming in from the south, and later joined us one evening for drinks and conversation about what to do and not do, and where to go and not go, as we proceed southward toward Trinidad. 

Strong winds came up shortly after our arrival, and lasted for many days, with gusts up to 40 knots, and so we spent more time than we had intended in the busy harbor.  (Side note:  our hefty Bruce anchor held us just fine.  Not so with all the boats in the harbor; we spoke with a volunteer with the coast guard auxiliary who reported that four boats drug on one of the worst nights.) 

Just south of our anchorage was a huge dock that accepted a minimum of three new gigantic cruise ships every morning.  Gigantic, as in humongous.  They departed every evening at dusk.  What fun for the passengers would cruising in the dark be?  Save your money, friends, and come cruising instead with us!  We cruise in the daytime mostly, and only use night passages on stretches that you would probably want to avoid anyway (unless you are exceptionally adventuresome.)  The cruise ships brought thousands and thousands of would-be shoppers to shore every day for the duty-free shopping, and Charlotte Amalie was prepared!  Of course we walked through the shop district, and of course we expected to see fancy clothing and jewelry stores and liquor stores, etc.  What we did not expect was the magnitude of the district, and the density of the above-mentioned shops.  There was a multiple-block stretch in which every other shop featured expensive jewelry.  Amazing.  And there were a number of watch and camera shops as well.  And, um, I have kinda been wanting to get a really good SLR digital camera.  I have some really nice lenses for my Nikon film camera, and film is just so passé, don’t you think?  So, um, I asked a few questions and then did a little web research about prices, and, um, then on a day when the store was so filled with cruise-ship passengers that we couldn’t see our way back out, I bought a Nikon D200 digital camera with a Nikon 18-135 mm zoom lens.  (Psst.  Please write Barb and tell her how much more you enjoy the pictures on our web site now that I am using a profession-grade camera.  Please.) 

Disaster befell us while we were in Charlotte Amalie.  Our main computer -- the one we do NOT use for navigation, the one we use for virtually everything else, including storing all of our digital pictures, storing our email from the address, storing all of our Krogen Cruiser history stuff, storing all of our software for creating our web site – that computer’s disk drive died.  We had intimations that all was not well, and had attempted to do a full backup earlier.  Got messages that the file system was corrupted, and that we should run CHKDSK five or six times before proceeding.  What is up with that?  Why cannot Mr. Gates refine his operating system to the point that it would recognize whether or not another pass was required, and if so just bloody do it!  In any case, we ran CHKDSK many many times, until there was no indication of an error, and downloaded Norton Ghost (thanks to son Jeff's recommendation) to do the backup, and then did the full backup to a hard drive that we had purchased for just such a function (thanks again to son Jeff).  Got a message that said that since there were corrupted portions, the backup may not be ususable.  Oh goody.  And then, several days later, and after we had stored on the disk some of our latest photos destined for our blog, when we attempted to boot the computer, it would not read from the disk.  When we left Puerto Rico, we left the area of free long distance under our Verizon phone plan.  And so it was that we spent a fortune on a roaming call to Dell, during which we were first told that it would cost us umpteen dollars for a new drive, and then told that, oops, we have an extended warranty and so they would ship us a new drive without cost.  So we gave them the address of new friends Steve and Vicki, who live on St. John, and with whom we have been for some time communicating via email, first about their quandary concerning which trawler to buy:  Kadey-Krogen or Nordhavn or Selene, and then later, after they had decided on the 48’ Kadey-Krogen North Sea, about how to outfit the beauty.  (Do we need to add that we think they made a very good decision?)  Later when no disk drive arrived, we called Dell to discover that they later realized that they don't ship to the US Virgin Islands and so had cancelled the order without any notification.  Grrrrr!  Thus, we had Dell send the disk drive to our mailing address in Florida, and then had them forward it to the Virgin Islands. 

We had loaded pictures from Culebra onto the drive after having done the full backup, and before the disk failure, so, alas, there is a gap in our pictorial narrative.  Lost are pictures of the lovely beaches and the regatta in Culebra, and of our new Swedish friend Haakan.) 

St. John is perhaps the most striking island we have yet visited.  The island (and its immediate neighbors) is steep and lushly green.  The water seems extra clear.  (Barb and I had a nice scuba dive the afternoon of  3/18/07 and another on the morning of 3/20/07.)  Most of St. John is a federal park, thanks to the beneficence of Laurance Rockefeller, and hence it has mostly been spared the development that is so evident on the steep hills of St. Thomas.  Most of the bays have park service mooring buoys, placed there in order to protect the coral reefs.  Good thing – there are oodles of at-best-semi-competent cruisers here on charter vessels.  The prerequisites demanded by the charter companies are apparently quite modest.  For example, we heard one story about a charter boat that radioed back after four days and asked to be sent more anchors:  their boat had been equipped with “only” four and they had now run out with three days remaining!  And there was the sailing vessel on charter that radioed back a frantic call for help – they had mechanical problems with their engine and were stranded.  The charter company asked them why they didn’t just sail back.  The response?  “Sail -- we don’t know how to sail!”

Cruz Bay, on the west end of St. John, has some very elegant shops and bars and restaurants, but the place retains a small-town feel.  Steve and Vicki asked us to join them for breakfast at JJ’s on the morning of 3/17, after which we moved to the Quiet Mon bar and restaurant, where a large green-clad crowd, composed mostly of locals, gathered to watch the annual St. Paddy’s Day parade.  Remember, we are formerly from Savannah, home of the USA’s second-largest parade, but I can truthfully say that I have never seen a St. Paddy’s parade more enthusiastically received than the parade we witnessed here on St. John.  It was not a large parade, and it was not a long parade (about two blocks!) but it was a charming parade.  We had a blast, as did all concerned.  (See pictures, below.)

On 3/19 Steve met us in Cruz Bay and took us for a driving and hiking tour of the east end of St. John.  We had never seen highways with slopes so steep.  Maybe a short driveway at a residence, but not a road functioning as the main road.  St. John contains the ruins of over 100 plantations and sugar mills and rum factories.  One of the most restored (and cleared) and accessible – the steep road leads right to a parking lot -- is the Annaberg Sugar Mill, where we enjoyed the trip back in time and spoke with a very knowledgeable docent.  Steve maintains of a couple of the island’s extensive (and challenging) trails as an unpaid volunteer, and we also took an extended hike down (and up) a couple of “his” trails, thereupon visiting several overgrown ruins.  The trails were a very enjoyable outdoor experience – the kind of thing we like to do -- but the ruins were a terrific “bonus.”

An interesting aside about the trails:  in several places they were littered with abandoned items.  Clothes and shoes and toiletries and diapers and hats and towels and electric hairdryers, etc.  The volunteers keep the trails clean, so these are “freshly abandoned”.  And who does the littering, you may ask?  I couldn’t have guessed, but the locals know that the debris is shed by illegals being smuggled into the country.  There are no immigration officials on the island, and customs officials stay in their offices in Cruz Bay, so there is no “homeland security” here.  Presumably, once here the illegals need only to get to the west end of St. John to openly catch the ferry to St. Thomas and then onto Culebra.  In Culebra they can openly catch the ferry over to Puerto Rico.  From there?  Who knows, but Puerto Rico is a big country with lots of places to blend in, and probably lots of places to secure false papers.

I don’t know about y’all, but I think a lot of homeland security funds have been wasted in areas that have no significant threat.  Every State had to get its share, whether there was a real threat or not.  Meanwhile, everyone here knows there is a real problem, but there are no funds for tightening the borders.  Strange, huh?

We bounced around a bit during our stay in the USVI.  Spent too much time in the rolly anchorage of Caneel Bay, since it was close to Cruz Bay, where we were to pick up our new disk drive.  Also visited Francis Bay and Hawksnest Bay which were much smoother but unfortunately too far away from Cruz Bay.  Eventually, we moved around to Coral Bay, on the southeast corner of St. John, where we were fortunate enough to be able to use one of Steve and Vicki’s cell phones for our struggles to get our computer system restored.  We had a great time socializing with Steve and Vicki and a friend of theirs from DC, Eric.  Chuck also joined Steve and several young ladies – Vicki, who does not join in, calls them “Steve’s harem” -- on their very early and very challenging run/walks on the steep steep trails in the area.  Terrific exercise.  Barb would have liked to have also become an honorary member of the harem, but alas, her time was taken up in days of efforts to restore the computer system.  And speaking of the crash, the fact that you are reading this does indeed signify that the system has been restored, thanks to the Herculean efforts of Barbie. This account is already far too long, so we omit a description of the twisted and tangled path that finally led to restoration.

In a way, we were lucky to have the crash.  Or at least, if we were going to have a crash, we were lucky that it occurred here.  We had a great time on the island, getting to know Vicki and Steve, meeting other locals, exploring the island, and getting a feel for the local ambiance.  For example, we learned that the "new" locals, the ones that have only lived here for under ten years, feel a strong sense of community with their friends.  Someone said that their birthdays always get remembered and celebrated here by friends, something they said never happened back in the States.  No one knows last names.  Everyone has a nickname, to help distinguish between folks with common first names.  There was a Pete, for example, who was known as "Heineken Pete", even though Pete had been on the wagon for several years.  Steve said his own nickname was "Steve 'n' Vicki".  Men have a special handshake that starts like a normal one, but ends with touched fists.  Woman are always kissed on a cheek, sometimes both.

There was a blues festival during our stay, during which various blues bands played in various watering holes on the island.  And then on Saturday night the grand finale:  a major concert on the east end in an athletic field in Coral Bay.  Great time.  We have pictures taken on the first night at the Gecko Gazebo in Cruz Bay, but, sadly, neglected to take a camera to the big concert on the final night of the festival.  And we had a nice meal with Steve and Vicki and Eric at Island Blues where we also listened to karaoke that was so bad that Chuck said that his toes were still curled hours later.

First picture taken w/ new camera

Alley in shopping area of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

Plaque in alley

Another alley

Interesting character walking the streets of Charlotte Amalie

Dinghy dock in Charlotte Amalie

Open bazarre opposite the dinghy dock -- note the open taxi

Some of the taxis are rather distinctive

Another taxi

Typical fare in the bizarre

Major street through the tourist shopping area

Sushi in Charlotte Amalie

About to dig in

The damage has been done

On the way back to the boat in Charlotte Amalie

Barb approaching the dinghy dock

Busy anchorage in Charlotte Amalie

K-Mart roofline in St. Thomas

St. John as seen from St. Thomas

2 strangers, Barb, Vicki and Steve before St. Paddy's day parade in St. John

The sponsoring pub in Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

Vicki and Barb relaxing before the parade

The crowd grows as the time nears

Helping to set the proper atmosphere

Puppy displaying appropriate spirit

Lights flashing, sirens blaring -- the parade begins!

Youths giving testiment to the goodness of Guinness

Official participants in the parade

Unofficial participants in the parade

Much-loved annual participants

They paused and performed in front of the sponsoring pub

Another view

St. Paddy's Day Queen

Some entries were modest

Throwing beads and waving hat

Dancing an Irish jig in front of the pub

High stepping lass

A well-received performance

Pub owner throwing surplus T-shirts into the crowd

Milling about after the parade

Didn't have to dye the parrot!

Another imaginative entrant relaxing after the parade

Vicki was swept off her feet in the pub

Lunch w/ Steve and Vicki at the Gecko Lounge

Beach as seen from Caneel Bay, St. John

Haze from Montserrat Volcano and/or Sahara Desert persisted for days

Krogen 42 Broulee arriving at Caneel Bay mooring

Richard, Debra, and Richard's sister from Broulee

Club Med II cruiseship anchored off St. John

Islands where we dove in foreground and BVI in the background -- note again the haze

Hot spot in park in Cruz Bay

Steve took us on a tour of St. John

Annaberg Sugar Plantation

Slave Quarters info

Walking by the Horse Mill

Another view of Horse Mill

Horse Mill info

Cane Fields info

Windmill tower for the mill

Boiling pot and slots for additional pots in Boiling Room

Opposite wall of boiling room

Boiling Room info

Charming and knowledgable docent at Annaberg

Leinster Bay, St. John

Coral Bay, St. John

Sign in Aqua Bistro, Coral Bay

View south from Steve and Vicki's spectacular home

View north across their pool

Coral Bay, north from Steve and Vicki's home

Barb awed by the view

Another view of their home

Showing off the boat to running/walking partners Steve and Nina

Coral Bay as seen from a far-away ridge

Lunch at Skinny Legs Bar/Restaurant in Coral Bay -- Steve, their friend Eric, Vicki, and Barbie

View of Coral Bay from Centerline Road

Another view of Coral Bay -- can you pick out TTII?

Lounging at Gecho -- woman on left is former member of Steve's running harem


Portrait of a soon-to-be Krogen owner -- Steve

Portrait of the soon-to-be Admiral -- Vicki

Eric cooking up a storm for a house party at Steve and Vicki's

Just some of the food that was prepared

Just some of the folks who came and enjoyed the view, food, and fellowship

Another view of some of the guests

Ladies from The Twin Cities, down for a brief vacation.

Barbie's full plate

"Freedom" statue in Cruz Bay park depicting slave rebellion on St. John

Blues Festival from Wednesday to Saturday

Band on opening night of St. John Blues Festival

Young local barmaid did a set with the band

St. Paddy's day queen could sing the blues

Gecko Lounge owner Barbie played a mean harp

And she could sing the blues too!

Another Barbie dancing to the blues


Flag courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.