This will be the last post for a few days whilst we sail the 430 miles to Bonaire. We have had a lovely week hopping from bay to bay around the island of St Thomas, visiting their busiest beach, a bay next to the airport and had a look at their commercial port too. All very different to what we are used to.
Magen’s Bay on the north coast was our first anchorage. A huge bay, well over a mile deep and half a mile across, so it was well protected. Although there is a reef in the middle, near the beach, plus a few local moorings, there are still acres of space to anchor in sand and we held well for 2 nights with plenty of time to watch the tourists arrive around 1000 and leave again at 1600. Before and after that the beach was almost deserted. There is a snack bar, shop, showers and equipment hire at the beach, even sun loungers but no umbrellas. Taxis queued up all day dropping off and picking up passengers. Not sure if they all came from a cruise ship or hotels but they certainly made the best of the beautiful sand and warm sea. The water seemed a lot warmer than in other bays, perhaps because Magen’s is so deeply indented and the water is shallow for some distance, enabling it to heat up better.
Having a dinghy meant we didn’t have to join the masses of course. We just chose a quiet little beach and sat on the rocks for a while before walking along the main beach at dusk and watching the sun go down.
Next we sailed further west until we could see Culebra in the distance and turned the corner to head into Brewer’s Bay, right next to the airport. It can’t be said to be a quiet airport but the majority of the planes were small at least and it all stopped at dusk. We both love planes, so for us it was great to see them all landing and taking off during the afternoon.
The bay itself is lovely, with a wide sandy beach and the university beyond. Apparently buses go into town from there. We didn’t go ashore but had a swim in the clear water and were surprised to see a lot of reef fish under the boat. We had dropped our anchor in a large patch of sand, clearly visible in the shallow water but it would be easy to damage the coral, so perhaps they should install moorings.
The following day we motored past the big commercial dock where a transporter ship was loading up yachts, presumably for either the US or Europe. Many of our ARC friends shipped their boats back east, some from St Thomas, some from Florida. A couple of the boats on the ship still had their dinghies with outboards attached, hanging from davits, as well as all their sails.
Next we motored into the Long Bay anchorage in Charlotte Amalie in order to get weather forecasts and some shopping. We left the dinghy in the Yacht Haven Grande, just in front of the office and it didn’t cost anything. There are WiFi areas in the marina complex too, with free access. The huge cruise ship dock was empty and the town was deserted with many shops and bars shut for the summer. Fortunately the duty free shop we needed was open, so we stocked up on Hendrick’s for our sundowner gatherings. Less than 30 GBP for 2 litre bottles.
We also visited some of the historical buildings we missed last time, climbed the ’99 Steps’ to ‘Blackbeard’s Castle’ only to find it shut. At least the views were worth the effort and the gardens and nearby buildings were also very pretty. We then walked back to the marina and across the road is the Pueblo supermarket, a large, well-stocked store with good prices. The dinghy dock is near that end of the marina, so not far to carry the shopping.
After a slightly rolly night in the anchorage we headed east again and back to Caneel Bay where we have constant free WiFi from the hotel. It looks like there is a reasonable weather window from Sunday; so our plan is to clear out from Cruz tomorrow before leaving early on Sunday. If we feel tired by the end of the day we can stop for a few hours in St Croix, otherwise we are going to sail on past (yet again we haven’t seen the third and largest of the USVIs) and aim to reach Bonaire by either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning depending on the speed we can make. When we left from St Lucia in 2013 the wind was behind us but this time it will be on the beam most of the time and we should make a faster passage but I would still prefer to arrive in daylight. There aren’t any dangers around Bonaire and we do know the anchorage but it is just much easier when you can see the moorings!
This evening a lady paddling a kayak came over to remind us that they were our neighbours 4 years ago in Haslar Marina. We didn’t recognize their boat but that’s because they bought a new one just after we left and did the ARC last November. They are now awaiting confirmation of space on a ship from here to get the boat back to the UK and return to Haslar. Their 3 children must have had an exciting year and we’ll hear about their adventure tomorrow evening.
So in the morning I need to bake a ginger cake and some more cookies for the long trip and night watches, get some provisions, dump the rubbish, visit Customs, log the route into the iPad and prepare Beyzano for sea. With it being more than 1 night’s sailing we will take formal watches to fit in with our preferences. Rob is happier doing day watches whilst I’m content to be up at night and wouldn’t miss sunrise for anything. Hopefully we will catch a tuna or mahi mahi on the way and have a good passage without any drama.