We checked in at Cruz on St John’s. We were last there in February 2012 and learned the lesson of the shallows in the anchorage and next to the customs dock. Best to take a mooring in the nearby Caneel bay and dinghy in instead, as it is only a mile and they don’t ask to see the boat. All crew have to report for finger printing in the USVIs though, different from most of the islands when just the Captain is allowed ashore.
The Customs dock is not so high you can’t climb out of the dinghy and once the 2-page form is filled in and you are given clearance, it is best to move the dinghy to the opposite side of the bay near the Marine Park Visitor’s Centre. The dinghy dock there is a good height and has cleats you can lock the dinghy to. From there it was a short walk to the well-stocked supermarket just up the hill. We went into the town again the following day to explore a little more. There are another 2 good dinghy docks either side of the ferry pier in the southern half of Cruz Bay.
We found a brilliant supermarket called ‘Starfish Market’ in a small mall up another hill, with a huge selection of goods, including fresh fish and their separate store opposite containing a large number of international brand drinks, together with deli items and nibbles for drinks parties. The town has a lot of interesting shops, at least 3 ATMs, 2 launderettes and a number of bars and restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines.
As we circumnavigated all of St Johns last time, we only spent 1night on the compulsory mooring at 15 US$ a night, having a BBQ the second night anchored off the capital, Charlotte Amalie, in St Thomas, the more developed and populated island next to St Johns. The National Park is lovely, unspoilt and quiet with amazing water for snorkelling, trails to walk and lots of wonderful scenery.
We had a downwind sail from Cruz to Charlotte Amalie and used the short cut through a narrow passage bordered by very sharp, nasty looking rocks. It is 200 foot wide where we can go, to the east of the rock in the middle and there can also be a 3-knot current against you there, so we put our engine on in case of a wind shift. Christmas Cove is just south of the cut but was quite busy and rolly, so we carried on. A novel sight was a yacht done out as a Pizza Take Away and the smell from it was really tempting. It was anchored in the mooring area, a good place for business.
We anchored in the north of St Thomas Harbour, in 5 metres. The bay is huge with plenty of space in the shallower water but it was a bit windy and rolly during the day, happily calming down after dusk for a more comfortable night. We watched the seaplanes taking off and landing and cruise ships leaving the dock at sunset. Hardly a day goes by without at least 2 on the visiting schedule, fortunately published in the local free magazine. We noticed a few boats we knew again in addition to the 2 that always travel together, ‘Never Bored’ and ‘Just Imagine’, who were on moorings off Cruz.
We went to Charlotte Amalie on the ferry in January 2012 just to get the temporary Visa Waiver to enable us to take Beyzano in but were there when 7500 cruise ship passengers were being hustled along the duty free shopping street and didn’t take time to find out much about the town. This time we did wander around the main and back streets, got an excellent roti for lunch from the Ideal Restaurant in Garden Street and bought new, stabilising binoculars for 200 GBP and 2 bottles of Hendrick‘s gin for 28 GBP, a bargain.
We left the dinghy in Frenchtown Marina, next to the Ferry Terminal where Customs are located but you need a stern line or anchor to dock there and it costs 3.33 GBP/5 US$. We didn’t have a stern line and had to adapt our dinghy hoist line instead, which was too short to allow us to get the dinghy to the dock. We had to climb over into a neighbouring dinghy to get ashore and hope it was still there when we got back. The Customs office is open 0800-1630 Monday to Saturday but shuts 1200-1300 for lunch. On Sunday it is open from 1030. Clearance required filling out the same form as on arrival, no fee once more and the lady was very friendly and gave us another form for us to fill in for Culebra in advance, to save us time there. You then have 24 hours to leave.
Although Culebra is part of Puerto Rico, in turn part of the USA, we had to clear out of the USVIs and clear into the SVIs. Noonsite says you should get your cruising permit for Puerto Rico here as it is free but the Customs official in St Johns and St Thomas told us they don’t issue cruising permits so we’ll have to pay the charge in Culebra or PR. Another change is garbage. Last time, as ‘aliens’ we were not allowed to dump rubbish anywhere except for 1 official location. Even if we bought the food in St Johns, having it on our boat made it ‘alien’ like us, so we couldn’t just put it in any old rubbish bin. Seems to have been relaxed now, as far as we can tell, as we were not given the third degree about it at Customs when we cleared in. Step forward.