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March 2007

For about 15 years before we were Livin the Dream we were working and “Dreaming the Dream”.  During that time we would take at least one vacation a year as a bareboat charter.  Several of those charters were to the Virgin Islands and a couple of them were to St. Martin/St. Barts.  During March, we were able to take our own boat to those favorite chartering destinations.  We have a lot more time to explore these places at our leisure than when we had a one week vacation.

Dolphins in Crown BayEarly in the month, we traveled from the Spanish Virgin Island of Culebrita to St. Thomas on a short but eventful and rough passage.  In a cruise reminiscent of Gilligan’s three hour cruise, we had ten foot seas and squalls with winds in excess of 30 knots.  We had our main sail halyard cleat come loose causing our main sail to fall down.  Our engine’s alternator and cooling pump belt broke causing the engine to overheat and the alarm to go off.  John was in the engine room trying to install a replacement belt while the boat kept dropping away beneath him.  He decided he prefers to do boat repairs when the boat is still.  We recovered quickly from each event, but decided to stop and relax in St. Thomas rather than continuing on to St. John.  We anchored off Water Island in Crown Bay.  We watched gigantic cruise ships arrive each morning at first light and leave each afternoon around sunset easily maneuvering in the crowded harbor.  We were surprised to find turtles living around the boat and were treated to a show by two dolphins one Sunday afternoon. 

Dolphins in Crown Bay, St. Thomas

Annaberg Sugar MillMooring our own boat in St. John’s Maho Bay was a dream come true.  This anchorage is one of our favorites. We enjoyed the beautiful waters of Maho Bay, Francis Bay, and Leinster Bay anchorages in the Virgin Islands National Park and took advantage of hiking and snorkeling.  We hiked to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins and were amazed that many of the structures were still standing after 250 years of weather and neglect.

Since we are expecting guests in the Virgin Islands in mid-April, we decided to sail a little circle around to visit St. Martin, St. Barts, Statia, Saba, St. Croix before returning to St. John to meet our guests.  We had a great overnight passage to St. Martin with about 10 other cruising sailboats and arrived in St. Martin at sunrise to heavy cloud cover.  After any passage like that, we love to have a rain to wash off the salt so we were happy to have it rain in St. Martin.  We were not happy that it did nothing but rain for three and a half days after we arrived.  We finally saw the sun in the afternoon of our fourth day and took the dinghy to Mullet Bay beach.  We enjoyed a beach picnic of French wine, cheese and fruit with fresh baked wheat baguette.  John had an opportunity to play beach volleyball for the first time since Georgetown.  We left St. Martin without exploring the many great beaches we had seen on our previous charter boat vacations but we knew we would be back in a month or so.

Annaberg sugar mills ruins, St. John

Grand Saline beachOn the way to St. Barts, we made an unscheduled stop at Ile Fourche so John could climb the mast and deal with a wayward radar reflector.  When we arrived in St. Barts, we picked up a mooring at Anse de Columbier where we said goodbye to our friends Mark and Jackie on Kardia who are heading further south.  We are hoping to meet them again in the fall as they continue their cruising plans.

One of our favorite activities on St. Barts is to visit the many beautiful beaches.  The beaches are all topless here but of course John doesn’t notice the beautiful young French girls lying around without their tops.  We hiked from Columbier to Anse Flamandes and enjoyed a great afternoon on that beautiful beach.  We later rented a motor scooter to ride around the island and visited Shell Beach, Gouverneur Beach, Grande Saline Beach, Grand Cul-de-Sac Beach, and Point Milou.  We also enjoyed watching the airplanes come in for a landing at the short St. Barts runway.

Grand Saline Beach, St. Barts

Quill Crater, Statia

 

We sailed west from St. Barts and anchored off the island of St. Eustatius (Statia), dodging squalls along the way.  We anchored near the commercial dock and close to shore to get protection from the swell in the anchorage.  The island of Statia is small, but has wonderful natural resources to explore.  We hiked up the dormant Quill volcano in the Quill National Park rising to 1,970 feet and then hiked down into the floor of the volcano crater.  It rained as soon as we arrived at the top of the crater, and the tops of the crater were shrouded in a cloudy mist.  The floor of the crater was filled with lush rain forest vegetation and giant ficus, banyan and silk cotton trees.

 

  Looking into the Quill Crater, Statia

Statia is also lucky to have wonderful underwater diving sites, protected by the Statia Marine Park.  The Park maintains moorings at numerous dive sites which are a short trip from shore.  Divers must be accompanied by a Statia licensed dive operator, and divers are not allowed to wear gloves or spear fish.    John dove with a local dive operator.  The dive was a drift dive where they put you in at one spot and you get out at another.  It was along a ridge of coral called Barracuda Reef that was 55 to 70 feet deep.  The visibility was terrific (150 feet) and he saw schools of barracuda, a dozen huge lobsters, sponges that were four feet around and lots of beautiful reef fish.  The lobsters were all three to five pounds and were just teasing him because they know they can’t be caught while in the park.

Ladder Bay steps, Saba

Ladder Bay steps, SabaOur next adventure stop was the island of Saba.  The island is another dormant volcano and rises steeply from the sea.  As we approached our Fort Bay, Saba waypoint, we could not identify any type of harbor or entrance.  Once we were adjacent to the waypoint, we could see a small harbor for small boats (dinghies), but very little protection.  We hailed the harbor master and were directed to pick up a mooring ball in Ladder Bay and then take the dinghy back to Fort Bay to clear customs.  We picked up the last mooring ball available (there are only five for the whole island) and were shocked to see the depth gage read 98 feet!  It’s a good thing we didn’t have to anchor.

A visit to Saba reminds us of the determination and hard work of the early and recent Dutch settlers.  With no natural harbor, all goods were brought to the rocky shore in settled weather in small boats.  If it was rough, no boats could land.  Goods were unloaded from boats and loaded onto the backs of “porters” who climbed up more than 1,000 steps on a very steep grade to the island village.  These steps were hand-carved out of the natural stone.  When the island was ready to build its first road for motor cars, the Dutch government sent an engineer from Holland to design the road.  He returned home after telling the islanders it was impossible to build the road because the terrain was too steep.  One man on Saba didn’t like that answer so he ordered a correspondence course in road building and based on his design, the islanders began to build the road on their own by hand.  A similar situation was encountered for the request for an airport.  The Dutch government did not believe there was enough flat land available to accommodate an airport.  Once again the Sabans proved the Dutch officials wrong and built their own airport.

We had one day to explore Saba, so we took a wet dinghy ride over to Fort Bay and started to walk up the steep road from Fort Bay.  We had been told that hitchhiking on Saba was common and completely safe.  After a few steps, we were given a ride to the town of Windwardside by an off-duty police officer and his two young sons.  The island is clean and the well-kept houses have white siding, red roofs, green shutters and gingerbread trim.  After a quick look around town, we decide to hike back through the rain forest to Fort Bay. The trails are well maintained and well marked.  We saw beautiful tropical flowers and foliage along the trails and were surprised to pass several houses with access only by trail, since there was no near-by road.

Windwardside, SabaTropical flowers

 

 

 

Looking down on Windwardside, Saba

Tropical flowers along hiking trail


After a short afternoon rest in Ladder Bay, we released the mooring line at sunset and sailed west to St. Croix.  We arrived at the Eastern point of St. Croix in early morning light and anchored in Gallows Bay around 8:00 am.  We were anxious to catch up with Joe and Tracie, our friends from Sea Loco who are spending extended time in St. Croix.  Joe gave us a tour of the harbor and provided us with helpful information.  After a nice afternoon nap, we met Joe and Tracie for dinner and made plans for the week.   Unfortunately, we had several rainy days in St. Croix, which gave us a great boat wash but dampened some of our planned activities for a few days.

Beer drinking pigOnce the rain cleared, we rented a car and driving on the LEFT toured the island and the beautiful coastal vistas.  We made stops at the Cruzan Rum Distillery, Frederiksted, Salt River Bay the only place where Columbus landed on U.S. soil and Point Udall the Eastern most point in the U.S.  We were also lucky to make a stop at Mt. Pellier and buy a non-alcoholic beer for their pigs.  The Mt. Pellier Domino Club has four large pigs that enjoy non-alcoholic beer.  You buy a beer for the pigs and as you get near the pen with the beer, the pigs begin to climb out of their pen with their head and front feet exposed.  The pig reaches out and “snaps” the can out of your hand, crushes the can with his teeth, drinks the liquid from the can, and spits the can on the ground.  Maybe this is common where you come from but this is the first time we had seen beer drinking pigs.  It is a very unusual tourist trap.  We also enjoyed a morning hike, snorkel and swim to Jack and Isaac Bays.  The snorkeling was disappointing, but the beach was beautiful with very few visitors.

Beer drinking pig on St. Croix

We said goodbye to Joe and Tracie, our Sea Loco friends after they taught us Baja Rummy on our last night.  We plan to catch up with them later in the year after hurricane season.   At the end of the month, we sailed back to St. John and plan to enjoy the British Virgin Islands for a while before meeting our guests in mid-April.