Our wait in the US Virgin Islands of St John and St Thomas has been a very pleasant one and we met up with ‘Blue’, last seen in Culebra but who are also going to Bonaire as soon as the weather allows.
Checking in is free here and we took one of many vacant moorings in Caneel Bay near Cruz, the port of entry for St John so we could dinghy around to the Customs Dock. Timing it between ferry arrivals meant there was no queue and we had already filled out the form given to us in Culebra, so it took just a couple of minutes. We then visited the supermarket for a wider and cheaper selection than in the BVIs and caught up with our emails using the free open WiFi close to the Caneel Bay Resort. Several of the moorings are within range.
We enjoy being in the USVIs as they are really pretty, clean, quiet and well organised. The moorings are in good condition and half the price of those in the BVIs. There is no anchoring in the marine park surrounding St John though, so if you are staying a long time the cost would add up, even at 10 pounds a night. You need to pay at the floating pay stations but can use cards or cash.
There is plenty to do here with lots of organised activities, equipment to hire and guides to tell you about the park. We watched groups on the beach nearby preparing to go kayaking, standing like soldiers with their paddles at the ready. I’m still really keen to try stand-up paddle boarding but its been a bit windy for a novice lately.
Later we headed back into Cruz to the ‘posher’ supermarket, ‘Starfish’ and got some wonderful meat. After evening drinks on board ‘Blue’ before we went our separate ways, we spent Thursday cooking up meals for the passage. 20 portions of chilli con carne, paprika steak casserole and chicken curry are now frozen for those times when it is too choppy to cook or we are just too tired to bother. Rob has already eaten the fruit cake I baked a few days ago, so I have another to make for our night watches.
Having changed our plans, Admiral, our insurer, needed a signed hurricane questionnaire from us. We have a printer/scanner on the boat but the heat tends to dry up the cartridges and need to replace them each time we want to print. Fortunately, ‘Connections’ in Cruz had printers and scanners available for only 5 US$ for 8 prints and 4 pages of scans, plus we spent time checking and sending emails. We have now booked a marina in Curacao for 3 months and paid our insurance (another big expense each year) so we are now organised. Without us requesting it, Admiral gave us a bonus of 2 extra month’s leeway so we don’t need to be in Bonaire until 1st July and can head north from the 1st of November. This is a great help as the weather often means we can’t get somewhere by a specific date and if there is a good weather window in early November from Bonaire, it would be best to take it.
We then spent a couple of nights in Mayo and Francis Bays, next to one another and just ‘around the corner’ from Caneel. There are numerous moorings and a buoyed channel for dinghies to access the beautiful sandy beaches. Early one morning we walked the Francis Bay Trail, a short and gentle walk with lovely views, leading to a neighbouring bay.
The wooden walkway keeps you out of the wet ground usually but it has been so dry lately that the salt pond is completely dry and you can see animal footprints across it. We wondered what had made the prints until we spotted some deer in the woods.
The water is amazingly clear, just stunning. The pelicans obviously find it easy to see the fish as they dive in and out near the beach. There are picnic tables and BBQs set up along the beach, some alarmingly close to the trees! Bins and restrooms are located near the beach and other bays have snack bars and showers too. Quiet hours at 2200-0600, so you are guaranteed a good night’s sleep.
We met Simon Scott from ‘Toad Hall’ whilst in Francis Bay and had seen the boat in Benures Bay and Soper’s Hole last week. He came over to look more closely at our sprayhood as he is having his redone. It turned out that he and his wife, Nancy, write the Cruising Guide for the Virgin Islands and as we have the entire set of 5 Cruising Guides from Trinidad to the USVIs it was good to meet him.
Next we moved back around to Cinnamon Bay, another well organised park location but with cottages to rent, lots of camping sites in the trees, a restaurant, small shop and watersports hire. In the bay we met a lovely couple, Gavin and Catherine, on ‘Jump’ who are just starting their cruising adventure and heading south through the chain. We remember those early, exciting days when everything is new. Wonderful.
This morning we drifted gently around the corner on the genoa and back to Caneel Bay to pick up WiFi and have a wander around Cruz. It has a nice feel about it with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. There are 2 launderettes but I didn’t have time to find out prices. With our water maker being so efficient, I’ve been doing more hand washing on the boat.
Tomorrow we are sailing along the north coast of St Thomas, to visit Magens Bay, a deep, protected anchorage, which Richard and Lavinia from ‘Partners’ recommended. Then we will visit Brewer’s Bay on the west coast before anchoring in Charlotte Amalie, the capital. Our gin stocks need replenishing before we go to the ABC’s where it is much more expensive! From there we have a day sail to St Croix where we will await the weather window for our 3-day passage to Bonaire. If a good window arrives soon we will just make a dash for Bonaire direct from here.