US Virgin Islands: January 1-16, 2012

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Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI

Polar Bear Plunge

Faithful readers will recall that when we last wrote, we were in the southeast corner of St. John, tucked into Lameshur Bay.  On New Year's Eve we celebrated a "European New Year's" (meaning that the toasts were at 8 PM our time instead of midnight) on Livin' the Dream, along with Jim and Debbie of Loonsong.  New Year's day, we all walked the road over to Salt Bay, site of the annual "mock the unfortunates in Northern climates" celebration of St. John's very own "Polar Bear Plunge". 

Drunk Bay

Afterwards, we took the short path over to the adjoining Drunk Bay, where the windward exposure provides ample supplies for the creation of whimsical coral creations.  And then up the hill to a local bar/restaurant, for free-for-a-donation chili.

Limin' w/ chili

Days later, after Loonsong and Livin' the Dream had both left the bay, we were sitting in our saloon when a familiar catamaran entered the bay and headed right for our boat.  Holy mackerel, that is Awakening, with Suzi and Mike (and their wonder dog Jib) aboard.  We had met them in Bonaire where we shared many a dive and social hour. We immediately invited them over for sundowners, during which we decided to dive the next morning on nearby Tektite Reef.  Not only did Barb's new BCD perform splendidly, but I snared a lobster!


On Jan. 3 Barb and I took the dinghy into the dock at Greater Lameshur and followed the path up to the ancient petroglyphs that can be seen on the rocks on the rim of a pond below a spring-fed waterfall.  Very much worth the trip, and one that two year's ago would have been a piece of cake.  Alas, with Barb's knee and my arthritis in ankles and knee, the up-and-down trip was slow and somewhat painful.

Path parallels stone walls on several stretches

One of many near the pond

Water Island

We have bounced around a bit from anchorage to anchorage since we got to the USVIs.  Francis Bay on the north end of St. John, and Lameshur Bay on the south.  At St. Thomas, we caught up with Livin' the Dream at Brewer Bay, just north of the jetty that is the extension of the runway for the Harry S. Truman airport.   Lovely place, with a nice beach and sandy bottom for good anchoring and calm waters provided by the shelter of the jetty.  We have also anchored a number of times in Elephant Bay, north of Water Island and south of Crown Bay on St. Thomas.  Always a bit wind-swept and roiled by passing ferries, but oh-so-convenient to Crown Bay with its shopping and access to the form of public transportation, known locally as safaris, that consists of covered-but-open truck beds with bench seats. During one of our times in Elephant we got a surprising email:  a resident of Water Island had looked down and noticed our boat and invited us to join them for lunch sometime.  The USVIs are usually described as consisting of three major islands:  St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.  Residents of Water Island describe it as the "fourth island".  Formerly owned by the US government, it was the site during WWII of a project to build a fort to protect the then-existing submarine base at Crown Bay.  The war ended before the project was completed, and the fort never received armaments.

On January 11 we took the dinghy in to the ferry dock on Water Island, and there were met by Tony, who took us on his golf cart up to his home on the ridge, where we had lunch with him and his wife Mary, and with their friends John and Jackie.  Tony and Mary are the former owners of the 39' Kadey-Krogen named Growler; thus their interest meeting us.  They live on the island 6 months and on Hilton Head, SC, the rest of the year.  We had a very nice time exchanging stories about cruising and about our life experiences in general.  At one point it was mentioned that Mary could play the piano.  I mentioned that I had heard in a podcast that a famous piano-playing Mary (sic) had just died:  Marian McPartland.  Mary told us that she had taken lessons from Marian, and at one point had called her up to ask for advice about what to play at an audition.  Marian had said not to worry about what to play, just pay attention to what you wear! (Later, while fact-checking on the web, I saw that Marian has not died.  Wonder what I heard on the podcast????)

After lunch Tony took Barb and I on his golf cart for a tour of the island.  He said there are fewer than 150 residents. We saw the Pizza Parlor, open only on Friday nights, and the snack stand at Honeymoon Beach where on Saturday nights the stand is replaced by a kitchen truck that provides a supper -- choice of three entrees -- with all the trimmings.  And then there is the free movie shown on Monday nights, projected against a sheet strung between palm trees.  At the end of the beach is the only bar on the island. During the tour we stopped to see the home of John and Jackie, which they have recently put up for sale.  After 20-some years of living full-time on the island, they would now like to move to the Carolinas. They are asking $745,000 for their beautiful home.

Earlier that day the massive cruise ship Allure of the Seas had docked at Crown Bay. A little "googling" revealed that she was constructed in 2010 and can accommodate 5400 passengers, is 1,181 feet long and has a beam of 184 feet. It was quite a sight to see her point her nose into the corner and then swing her tail around to the dock.  From my vantage point it appeared, as she swept by, as if her stern missed one of the anchored sailboats by less than the length of the sailboat.  At dusk Barb used her vibration-reduction point-and-shoot to catch a surprisingly sharp picture of the ship as it left.

On January 16th we returned to St. Thomas and Elephant Bay after having spent some time at Francis Bay, St. John.  We returned in order to be nearby when son Jeff arrives on the next day for a visit, but the 16th was on a Monday -- free movie night at Honeymoon Beach!  Tony met us again at the ferry dock and gave us a ride to the beach.  He and Mary were not attending the movie, but John and Jackie were. Locals park their golf carts in a long line facing the screen consisting to two sheets sewn together and stretched between two palm trees.  We arrived well before dark, and enjoyed grilled chicken sandwiches and a cheeseburger prepared by Heidi, the snack chef. Saw a brilliant green flash, and then settled into two of the plastic chairs provided by Heidi and positioned in front of the golf carts. Soon, the high-quality video projection system began showing video clips obviously restored from the trailers that preceded the main movie years ago at drive ins.  You know -- 5 minutes until the show starts, be sure to visit the snack bar, etc. etc. Which we did, for some of Heidi's popcorn. Then, a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  And then, the main feature, preceded by the obligatory FBI warning against non-private use, so in effect it said that what was about to happen was highly illegal. The projectionist briefly stopped the show, and announced in a loud voice that if anyone wanted to report him, his name was, um, actually I don't remember the name he gave, but a "regular" whispered that the name he gives each Monday is bogus.

The movie, by the way, was "Crazy, Stupid Love".  Such was our appreciation of the experience of the whole evening, that we enjoyed the movie, even though it was our third viewing! (Long story not worth going into -- suffice it to say that the repetition is not because we think the movie is that super.)

Tony and Mary

Streak of mud and silt stirred up by Alure's maneuver


Someone hides a cache and publicizes its location on the geocaching web site.  Participants note the location, find the cache, leave their names on the usually-provided log within the cache, and report the fact of their finding to the web site.  Barb and I have unsuccessfully looked for two caches near my sister's home in Bismarck, ND.  We noted that a cache existed at Maho Bay on St. John, so when we returned to Francis Bay from St. Thomas, we took our portable GPS to shore for a hunt.  Alas, we are now zero-for-three.

Friday night out at Maho Bay Camp

Every Friday night, the menu at the restaurant includes prime rib. Bunches of cruisers went in on Friday the 13th.  Most, including Barb, took along discretely-transported Tupperware for doggy-bagging duty; I cleaned my plate. :-) Afterwards, the restaurant shows a movie, but we skipped out and instead moved to an on-going glass-blowing demonstration.  The young woman and her male assistant were in the process of making one goblet -- no wonder such items cost so much.  The process was slow and obviously required skill and dexterity. Really fun to watch.