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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

St. Thomas, St. John and around the BVI
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Maho Bay, St. John, USVI. Saturday, April 24 2003
    We last left you in Culebra, where we had just hand filled the water tanks. We shook the figurative dust off our feet (literally: snorkeled the hull with a scrub brush to remove a green beard and barnacles attached to the hull) while anchored just at the entrance of the harbor behind a protecting reef. The winds got quite lively and we slept to the sound of singing rigging. Tito and Roberta took off in the morning for St. Croix where they expected to pick up mail at Tito's sister's home there. We exchanged what we expected to be our final goodbyes by VHF and got prepared to go. During the day, the winds dropped so most of the trip back to the USVI took place as a slow procession followed by a 3 hr motor sail. The winds continue to blow when and where they choose and don't seem to do what we wish.
    A 36 mile beat (it is normally down wind) got us to our favorite haven: Christmas Cove where we spotted the familiar red hull of Alleluja, Tito and Roberta's boat. It’s a large ocean but a small community. Later, after a rainy day in Maho Bay, we had glorious winds and lovely scudding clouds in the sky. A spur of the moment sail took us up the Narrows towards Drakes Passage tacking into boisterous winds and considerable chop. We started calling on the radio for Krazy Kat, skippered by Tom on a charter out of Soper's Hole hoping to blunder into him somewhere in the BVI. We met Tom on our club trip to Catalina Island and he had let us know that he was chartering here via email. By pure luck he happened by the locker where the only working radio had been stowed and heard the name of his boat. He informed us that he was at Green Cay over by Jost Van Dyke. We did a quick turn and flew down the same channel we had just painfully worked our way up. We shot over to JVD and poked around in Green Cay examining the sterns of the many catamarans anchored there. No Krazy Kat. He had mentioned going to Cane Garden after lunch. Off we go beating back to Tortola and into Cane Garden. There we found the boat but no dinghy. We dinghy ashore and walk the length of the beach checking out the beach bars for Tom. We decide to walk back along the road just inland from the beach and there he is with his wife and friends strolling in the opposite direction. Great fun was had by all. We had to leave after chatting for a while, as we still had to get back to Maho Bay before it was too dark. We did probably 30 miles just for fun. It is just the thing to offset the cabin fever brought on by rain. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of annual invasion by the "Puerto Rican Navy" which occurs during Easter vacation. The PRN is a collection of huge sport fishing boats with very tall towers on top which can be ascended for spotting the giant marlin that one is ostensibly going for. The main activity seems to be washing and polishing the boats and arranging and re-arranging very impressive rafts of multiple boats. They moor them backwards with the aft facing the mooring ball so that the cavernous cabins catch the breeze and many are equipped with impressive lights and stereos. Everyone seems to have a great time but the mix of lively Latins and stiffer Anglos combined with the competition for moorings seems to cause some small friction. Having just enjoyed the warmth of the Puerto Rican welcome in Culebra, we could only feel that the bright fishing light left shining into our cabin all night was the boorishness of stink potters, and in no way a characteristic of those sharing the national origin of its skipper.
     We have a visitor. Jim, one of our boat partners from home, arrived for a taste of warm water sailing. I think he is hooked. We cleaned out the second cabin and provisioned in Red Hook at American Yacht Harbor. It’s a well run harbor with chandlery and US priced grocery store within grocery cart pushing distance of the boat slips. We did yet another traumatic entrance to our slip after running the gauntlet of ferries, water taxi's and dinghys. Our always enthusiastic Portuguese dock hand secured the lines in the order and manner he feels is most appropriate and offers many positive suggestions regarding securing the lines he cannot reach. As there is a cross wind blowing us off the half finger pier and nothing but a large, unpadded phone pole planted in the mud to leeward, the skipper was considerably less interested in exploring possible alternatives docking schemes for getting safely secured than getting him to CLEAT THE %$#$$$ LINE, (please) NOW!. Opinion aboard Eaux Vives remains evenly divided on whether his skill matches his enthusiasm and how appropriate the skipper's deep terror is. No plastic or barnacles have been harmed during dockings at AYH and the skipper has usually recovered by Happy Hour.
     Jim got the grand tour around St. John and BVI. We whisked him out of the marina over to Christmas Cove and had him snorkeling about a very impressive eagle ray within two hours of landing. After a tropical sunset and stunning dinner, he felt like he had "dropped down the rabbit hole" and was already thinking that losing his job might not be a bad thing. We had a great sail up south side of St. John to Lameshur Bay where the absence of bars (or any other man made things for that matter) insures the absence of party boats. Rolly times in Lameshur had us moving around the corner to Hurricane Hole where rains of biblical proportions kept us spending the days sopping up drips with towels and bailing the dinghy. We did get a chance to snorkel the mangroves
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ringing the anchorage where the fish make up in numbers what they lack in size. The roots of the mangroves are the nursery for all the reef fish and covered with clams and soft corals. Clouds of small fry swim amongst the still waters and tiny versions of all the reef fish prowl the shallows without having to worry about their predators penetrating the forest of roots.
     After the rains passed, we got a boisterous sail from Hurricane Hole all the way up to the top of the BVI. The winds were strong and from an unusually favorable direction and we got all the way to the Bitter End by 2:30 including beating our way in the narrow channel. We hung out among the great and near great patrons sipping tropical drinks on the veranda under palms and still had time to blow back down North Sound to anchor in Drake's Anchorage. Our anchoring was highlighted by some careful soundings of the exact depth of a sandy shoal with which our skipper was not previously conversant. He determined that the water covering at low tide is just a wee bit less than Eaux Vives draws. No star fish or sea slugs were harmed during this process. Examinations undertaken in the mornings determined we had not even cleaned the bottom of the bulb at the end of the keel of barnacles and/or bottom paint. We invented a wonderful Easter Cake for breakfast -- Lance chopped an apple, and then mixed the crumb topping, and Jim pretended to be a mixer at medium speed for 4 minutes. It was superb. Then we went ashore and looked for Easter eggs, but apparently, the Easter bunny had not been on Mosquito Island, although the rains had left many wild flowers.
   The next day’s stately march back down Virgin Gorda had to be accelerated when calculated arrival time at the next stop was moving past midnight. Ever fickle winds. We motored into Little Harbor on Jost Van Dyke and were on the safely on the mooring ball in time to grill tuna before bedtime due primarily to Jim's outstanding flashlight handling. The next day, we set off in search of the rumored "Bubbling Pool". The man we bought our dinghy davits from had told us that he sometimes took his guests there. He gave very vague instructions on how to find it. Other cruisers also described its joys but were equally unclear on exactly where it was. It is unmentioned in the cruising guides and the tourist pamphlets. We headed back up to the narrow shoals separating Jost Van Dyke and Little Jost Van Dyke and had lunch while examining the lay of the land. We decided that a dinghy ride to the beach on the JVD side and a hike out to the Atlantic side of the Island would put us in the right general area. After we landed we spotted some people hiking back from that general area and were given an elaborate and enthusiastic description of how to reach the fabled Bubbling Pool. This involved much pantomiming of bending over as you duck under the sea grape skirting the salt pond; high stepping as you climb the rocks and a vivid description of the little red dog who would attempt to lead you astray when you approached. Unfortunately, it was somewhat unclear on how to find the place. Sure enough, it all worked (except for the dog - he showed up as advertised but we did not fall for his tricks). What we found was a 40 foot diameter half circle of steep sand beach facing a jumbled wall of volcanic rock. Behind the rock crashed the northern swells coming down from storms in the Atlantic periodically filling the basin with foam and bubbles. Voila, "Eaux Vives".
     We came down to Great Harbor and caught Foxy's show. I gave Foxy the Latitude 38 which had a picture of him in it (actually, a picture of a mask carved of him) and Susie gave him some new jokes. The heavy rains had washed out much of the beach road and the harbor turned almost entirely brown from run off from the steep hills around it. We motored out the next morning into a haze of mist and rain. Unable to see our goal, we set our course and made a wet but not blowing approach to the mooring in Maho Bay. It was Susie who discovered that the dinghy had once again tried to run away just as we made the final turn to pick up a mooring. Fortunately, recovering our wayward dinghy in the still bay was a snap. Had it decided to make a break while underway, we might have faced sterner challenges finding a grey dinghy in the grey seas and grey skies of the crossing.
     We put on our rain jackets and took a damp dinghy ride to Maho Bay Camp, and had happy hour and dinner at the restaurant with it's spectacular view, 164 stair steps up from the beach. The next day we took Jim to Trunk Bay and Cruz Bay and finally, to American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook on St. Thomas, where we showed him how many bars are within walking distance. In the morning, we had Jim in a cab at 7am, sleepy from a night of listening to all the noise on land. Then we went to the laundromat and washed all the towels which had developed a musty odor after being used to sop up leaks, without a sunny day to dry them out. We got ourselves out of the marina and back to Maho Bay. Today, I hung cloths up to give shade in the cockpit, as it is hot, muggy and not breezy. The boat turned completely around, so that my shade was in the wrong place, so I moved it. The boat turned around again in light breezes. I was too lazy to move my shade, so I moved around in bits of shade, until, the boat moved around again, in reversed breezes so that the shade was again correct. Susie goes "Island".
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