Friends and Fun in the Virgin Islands: April 2 2011
We continue our Virgin Islands tour in Charlotte Amalie of St Thomas relaxing with Rob and Tracy. Charlotte Amalie was named after a Danish Queen and is the capital of the US Virgin Islands. This bustling port has been a beehive of activity for hundreds of years. Pirates came first and used it for R&R (we understand the appeal). The Danes came second and pragmatically asked the pirates to "behave a little better and keep their hands off of Danish ships." The heyday of St Thomas came next between 1790 and 1815 when the Old and New Worlds were fighting it out at sea. The numerous battles resulted in prize and booty that needed to be disposed of after the smoke settled from each skirmish. St Thomas filled the bill because the clever Danes declared Charlotte Amalie a free port; thus a secure harbor where warships of all nations could sell their legally (and illegally) acquired ships and goods. Hence the tricky distinction between a pirate and a privateer; rogue vs. gentleman.
The remnants left today of this colorful, rollicking past are a bit benign although it is still a "free port." Old Danish mansions dot the hillsides and charming West Indian houses surrounded by still flourishing gardens are tucked between small alleys leading to equally small shops. Eventually, the Danes lost interest in the island which pleased the US who purchased it and finally had a strategic outpost in the Caribbean. We have enjoyed our strolls through the cruise ship flooded town but nothing felt local until we stumbled into Frenchtown. Frenchtown is located on the western edge of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor and has a definite neighborhood feel. A short wander discovered bungalow homes and even a kid's T-ball game (Mar 16). We met up with Rob and Tracy at family-owned Hook Line and Sinker restaurant for a laid back meal of steak, lobster, mussels and pasta (www.hooklineandsinkervi.com). Unfortunately, we will have to curtail further exploration of this homey place for another time. For now we have a favorable weather forecast so we pulled up the anchor from the western side of Hassle Island and were bound again for the BVIs (Mar 17). Light conditions allowed for a straight run with a check-in at Spanish Town and a parking spot back in North Sound of Virgin Gorda.
Our quick trip to the US Virgins definitely filled an Americana gap that has been growing inside us; however, buffalo chicken pizza did come with traffic jams. It is all about trade offs and compromise. That said, one USVI experience that had no compromise was a new pair of earrings for Erin. She has been wearing the same brass hoop earrings since we left Boston...clearly they are enjoyed and practical in our wacky lifestyle; unfortunately, they are beginning to corrode. After visiting countless jewelry stores with Tracy no match could be found until a jeweler walked Erin to a craftsman's workshop. Nick of K&M Jewelry Repairs agreed to replicate the hoops in gold in less than 48-hours. Done! After a bit more chit chat it seems that Nick is Greek (Nikos) and grew up on the island of Crete. We dusted off our Greek vocabulary and were thrilled with the lovely gold earrings bought in St Thomas and made by a Greek craftsman...quite a geography jumble (5126 Drake's Passage, Suite 101A, ph.340.777.1555).
We were again in the BVIs where much is familiar...hhhmmm...except for our new neighbors. It seems that the mega sailing yachts are in town for the Superyacht Caribbean Regatta and Rendezvous (http://www.superyachtregattaandrendezvous.com/). It was spectacular to watch the gleaming hulls and massive rigs head outside the sound for three days of racing. In the evening lights twinkled and drums played creating a glitzy backdrop for owners that were decked out in navy blue blazers with white trousers and in beaded gowns. It was all quite glittery! But no big surprise because this new Virgin Gorda Yacht Club is an extension of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda of Sardinia where we saw mega motor yacht Dilbar last summer and heard live piano wafting from the clubhouse in Porto Cervo. Oh la la!
As for us, we have settled into a lazy routine of hiking the trails around Biras Creek and snorkeling Eustatia Sound (www.Biras.com). Friends Becky and Bob (s/v Stardust) were always up to join in the fun so we were sad when they departed the anchorage headed south to Curacao. We have been together daily on the net since last spring and physically together in Majorca, Gibraltar, Morocco, Canary Islands and the Caribbean. Oregon isn't really all that far from Boston, is it?! Smooth sails, guys. But cruiser socializing never slows down too much because there is always someone new in town. We bumped into Erik and Margarite (s/v Liberty) at the Bitter End Pub while watching Duke beat Michigan in a March Madness game (Mar 20). The last time we saw this Dutch pair was in La Gomera, Canary Islands, when we were all anxiously awaiting a weather window to cross the Atlantic. It was a fun evening of drinks and bits aboard Barefeet (Mar 21). We told some tall tales and chatted about future sailing routes. It looks like we are both headed to the US east coast so there should be more impromptu meetings in the future.
Our proximity to the USA really has us doing double-takes when we see an American flagged boat. It was not too long ago that if we spotted another American boat in an anchorage we would hop into the dinghy and rush over to say "hello" to this rare breed. Now it would take us all day to visit just one-third of the boats flying the stars and stripes. We see boats from Cotuit, MA, and Newport, RI, and Oxford, MD...even Denver, CO. Now it is a bit of a game to discover a "new" US city.
Winds moderated as expected which allowed an uneventful motor to the airport at Trellis Bay on Beef Island (Mar 25). Lino and Phyllis happily basked in the immediate sunshine after leaving snow flurries behind in Boston. Aaagghhh, the deep freeze is still going strong. We motored back to Virgin Gorda to begin our BVI tour. Anchored in Eustatia Sound Barefeet was nearly alone on the turquoise waters with the periodic turtle popping up for a breath. Saba Rock was a quick dinghy for the familiar happy hour and dinner; burgers just do not get much better than this (www.sabarock.com). Relaxation set the pace as we introduced our friends to the beautiful BVIs. We hiked around Bitter End and Biras Creek before sundowners and pizza aboard Barefeet (Mar 26). Homemade soppressata sausage was a wonderful addition to our Caribbean appetizer options. Thanks Lino and Phyllis!
Our next move was a gentle down wind sail approximately 18 miles to The Bight on Norman Island (Mar 27). Oh, and a small detour to the giant Rite Way supermarket in Road Harbour. Sooooo much activity for the day meant that we took it easy for dinner and let Willy T's do the cooking. The floating restaurant was rockin' when we arrived just before sunset with dinghies and go fast boats rafted and tied alongside tighter than sardines in a can. We settled into pain killer cocktails, burgers and fries while we watched the circus of merriment swirl around us. All ages were represented with young children as jovial as octogenarians. The next day we headed below the water for additional beauty. We saw various corals, countless conch shells, barracuda and even dancing squid/cuttlefish in a line so straight that the Rocketts would have been impressed. The Bight was laid back and easy as we slid from Caribbean feast to underwater exploration to reading in the shade. Gosh, it feels like summer! Plus, if any provisioning category is lacking the Deliverance supply boat is happy to fill the gap. That's service!
The sun took a brief break as clouds rolled through for a single day (Mar 30). There were two inches of rain in St Croix; however, zero rain in the BVIs (or at least at Norman Island) meant that our floating home was unaffected. We made an early morning run to the Indians for a snorkel before the winds strengthened. Chris used a SCUBA tank while Erin and Lino circumnavigated the pinnacles with snorkels. Coral burst with life and schools of fish paraded past our eyes. It was impressive. A pork roast dinner aboard as the sky turned apricot and we had passed through another laid back 24-hours. Norman Island was great but there was more to see. Off we went for Jost Van Dyke and the famous Foxy's (Mar 31). It was a no-drama motor north past Tortola and out the other side. Foxy's was a beehive of activity with a full lunch crowd (www.foxysbar.com). There were charter boats, cruisers, motor boat day-trippers and loaded catamaran tour groups. It seems that it's not too hard to get "bums on seats" at the moment. We enjoyed a large lunch of chicken rotis, fried chicken sandwiches and french fries. But don't try and order a Pain Killer cocktail because they don't have it. Instead go for the Figgin' in the Riggin'...blended dark rum, banana, mango...yum! After a browse through the Foxhole Boutique we strolled through the sandy "main street" before heading back to Barefeet. We pulled up the anchor and moseyed to nearby Diamond Cay where we anchored just behind Sandy Spit. All fun and no work makes...hhmmm...nah, that's not how it goes. Well, we needed to focus on Barefeet. Chris replaced the pump head on the watermaker while Erin cleaned the pre-filters. All put back together and our water is again fresh as a mountain stream. Well done!
A bit more snorkeling, some shopping at Foxy's Taboo and a run to Soper's Hole filled another sunny BVI day (April 1). Snorkeling was a bit bouncy without too much to see but the water was warm and clear. Soper's Hole was our final stop on the Pucci/Miller BVI tour. We tied to a mooring ball beyond the ferry terminal which kept the boat steady and unruffled despite regular ferry traffic from the USVIs and wind bullets through the cut. Dinner ashore was at the Jolly Roger Inn where we added the dinghy to an already well-in-use "parking dock"...squeeze in, there's room. Is this really our last dinner together? Stay longer, Lino and Phyllis...who needs to return to ten inches of snow (no, not an April Fool's joke)?! However, jobs beckoned so off they went to the airport via taxi (April 2).
Back to just the two of us and we will provide Barefeet with a bit of TLC at Crown Bay Marina in St Thomas in the form of general cleaning and engine maintenance. She has been the hostess with the mostess but general maintenance has slipped and we want to be in good shape when we arrive in the boat services wasteland of the Bahamas...our next stop. It looks like we might have a weather window for a straight hop on April 6 which should give us just enough time to get sorted out before the 5-ish day passage. Time will tell if the forecast remains and Mother Nature gives us the thumbs up.