The alarm at 0530 reminded me of when I worked for a living but we needed to get the ferry to the American island of St Thomas to have our passports stamped up with the visas which should allow us to sail there next week. We can stay for 90 days and the visa cost just 14 US$ each online and was quick and easy to complete. Jack got a taxi to the airport and on from Antigua to Gatwick where he was not looking forward to the UK weather after a month with us in the sunshine. He has been great company and we all enjoyed our time travelling up from St Lucia.
The fast ferry was just that and we docked in Charlotte Amalie at 0750, then having the day to explore the capital of the USVI. We watched the seaplane or airboat as it is called locally, take off and land several times in the bay, quite close to other boats.
It was an interesting place for many reasons, not least the 7500 plus tourists from the 3 huge cruise ships who were herded down the Main Street. Although this is a beautifully restored area, it is full of duty-free shops for the tourists and you needed to run the gauntlet past salesmen literally trying to drag you into their stores!
It was far cheaper than the BVI though, so we bought some swimwear and rum – what else do we need!! On the return ferry people were carrying diverse items from car tyres to huge packs of loo rolls. Customs into the BVI was a long wait!
We walked on to the swanky marina which had shops for the rich owners of the super-yachts berthed there. Louis Vuitton was one but there were no small sailing yachts around and all the pontoons were high, concrete and fixed, so it would be difficult to berth anyway. The marina even had a spa, outside swimming pool, tennis and volleyball courts on site.
Further on we reached the cruise liner terminal. Another trap for the unwary, with 7 huge shopping malls full of diamonds, watches, alcohol and souvenirs. The ships were impressive but we had had a flavour of this cruise during our walk up Main Street, when we were mistaken many times for being ‘off the ship’. One man standing outside a shop said ‘this shop was mentioned in your talk this morning’, so we assume the holiday makers are guided to the ‘right’ shops and many were carrying pre-printed lists. I am sure not all cruises are like this but it seemed to suit those we met.
The town itself is a mix of duty free shops, a few bars and backstreets in need of updating. The government buildings were on the waterfront and we were amused to see the deep ruts in the grass alongside a sign saying ‘Do Not Park on the Grass’. Another sign in a shop window was ‘No Solicitors’ and one at the ferry terminal said ‘No Loud Music, No Litter, No Barking’. The pedestrian crossings and yellow school buses were straight from the USA and the taxis were very nicely painted. We saw a small car ferry with palm trees on the deck for decoration and wondered how the drivers manage to drive on the left in left hand drive cars. We found it an interesting place to visit.
We sailed from Soper’s Hole on Friday morning but it was just a short hop of 5 miles to Cane Garden Bay where the moorings are 25 US$ a night. Rob and I haven’t sailed the boat alone since mid-October, so it is time to get used to sailing her ourselves again! You can easily pick up a mooring during the day for free but at sunset the charge is collected for overnight stays. They have a dock here with ice, fuel, gas and water, so we will get a replacement gas bottle, which is the only one we used over the last month. We still have nearly all the water we bought in Dominica as we have only used the front tank, which the water maker tops up when we run the generator or engine.
We want to visit Sandy Cay on our way to Jost Van Dyke, where we can clear out of the BVI in Grand Harbour. On Tuesday we plan to sail to St John’s to clear into the USVI in Cruz Bay and spend 10 days or so cruising there. Moorings are much cheaper and we expect food, fuel and water to also be less expensive than in the BVI.