Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gallows Bay, St. Croix, USVI

The crew at Point Udall, St. Croix, USVI.  Thank you, Patti & Peter!

The beauty of returning to Puerto Rico for hurricane season was being able to stop at two islands we skipped on the way down.  In particular, St. Croix, USVI.  You see, St. Croix is 50 miles southeast of Vieques, PR and 34 miles south of St. John, USVI.  For cruisers headed southbound, the prevailing trade winds make it a less than desirable stop, with many planning on stopping on the way back.  However, you will probably miss the BVI's or Sint Maarten if you take the detour.  Maybe it was our timing (May 22nd, many need to be out of the box by June 1st) but we enjoyed the quieter atmosphere.  Perhaps because we were no longer on a time table.  Or maybe just because we liked the casual vibe.  You are also in the US (A decent order of nachos and a long walk to McDonald's, but doable!).  We saw lots of retirees here, but also quite a few younger people perhaps from the university?  We hope to return.  Here's a rundown of our 13 days on the east end (Fredericksted and the rum factory next time!):

Main sail cover is OFF!  Stand by.  We're about to get crazy!
Departing from Nevis to Statia, we took the main sail cover off for the first time since...the Turks?  A long time.  We were pretty excited about a day of downwind sailing.  No bashing into waves!  As we motor away from the mooring field, I spot a HUGE turtle.  I'll take that as a good omen.

"Sailing.  Genoa and main.  Engines off.  15-20 kts downwind doing 6 kts.  Now we're having some fun!  Statia here we come!"

"Sailing 101.  Sometimes the autopilot has trouble downwind & occasionally we get a wind shift.  Autopilot off.  Hand steering :-)"

Sails are up!
We had a relatively uneventful sail back to Statia, our overnight stop.  However, a theory was confirmed.  The venturi effect between St. Kitts & Statia was still uncomfortable.  Despite sailing with the prevailing wind and waves behind us, we were still getting confused waves with the big waves behind us and small choppy waves coming on our beam.  Phew!  The advantage to returning to a familiar anchorage is we knew exactly which mooring ball we wanted and already had the wifi password :-)  We had to additional treat of being neighbors to s/v Totem ( for an evening.  We'd been texting back and forth, in an attempt to meet-up and although we didn't get a chance to get together, I did get to chat on the radio with Behan.  Next time!

Stats:  Total time 5:47, average speed 5.2, total mileage 30.0 nm.  Sailed main & genoa 4:47.  Motor sail 1:00

Passing Saba
It's a 100 miles from Statia to St. Croix, so one.more.overnight...Sigh.  We manage to restrain ourselves and delay our departure to 9:00 am so we'll roll into St. Croix with good sunlight for anchoring.

"Still sailing.  No engines.  Quiet.  Making up for all that motoring lately!  66 miles to go."

"Blue moon...there's a country song in there somewhere.  Help me out.  Leann Rimes?  No, that's not it.  KY?  No, that's hills.  52 miles to go."

"Only seen 2 other boats.  Lonely out here.  29 miles to go!"

"Internet!  Can't see the island yet but 14 miles to go and we have INTERNET, so we must be close."

"Sunrise.  St. Croix in sight.  And a "jibe ho" just north of the island that laid us perfectly across our course line.  That never happens.  Happy, happy, sleepy, sleepy."

Sunset on the last overnight

St Croix in sight!

"I don't care that you're anchoring.  I don't know where St Croix is.  BREAKFAST!"  Yeah, that face says it all.  Now THAT's the last overnight for awhile, we hope.
Stats:  Total time 23:00, average speed 4.6 kts (no engines, genoa only w/ sheets run outside, timing to arrive after sunrise), total mileage 105.4 nm

Marina closed.  Pile of flip flops on the dock.  Who leaves without their shoes?  They were gone the next day.
We tidy up, take a nap, then head into town.  The St. Croix Marina is closed on Sundays, so turn around and head for the boardwalk downtown.  The guidebook has The Captain making a bee line for the Fort Christian Brew Pub, hoping for a draft beer.  No go.  (Apparently, the brew master just quit.)  The nachos were an improvement from what I've had recently.

Fort Christian Brew Pub with a view of the "town" anchorage
A stroll through downtown and it's unique, historical Dutch architecture
One of the five "yellow" buildings in the National Historic district
On Monday, we head into the marina and are pleasantly surprised that for $20/week we can use the dinghy dock, showers and wifi.  They have a nice chandlery and cheerfully pointed us towards the grocery store and a recommended stop for lunch at The Bistro--something about toffee frappes & pastries.  The Captain left at a jog.

(Facebook post) "Random thoughts from St. Croix:  Paper maps are useless in the Caribbean except as a prop to get a local to stop and give you directions (required at least twice per destination).

You know you're a cruiser, when you stop to take a pic of the first self-serve laundromat since the Bahamas (Is that right?)"

A wonderful grocery with all sorts of beautiful things we don't know what to do with--Dragonfruit & Tamarind.

Gallow's Bay anchorage, with breathtaking sunrises daily

A fabulous lunch at 40 Strand Eatery followed by creme brule--orange, I think it was.  Gorgeous & yummy!

Sunrise.  WOW!
The "first" tropical weather outlook email arrives (not counting Alex in January that we experienced as a pre-tropical in Black Point, Bahamas) about an area north of the Bahamas.  Yeah, this one will be #Bonnie people--hitting the east coast on a holiday weekend.

And another gorgeous sunrise
We met up with the crew of s/v Glory of Christiansted through a Women Who Sail Facebook forum.  They give us a tour of their home marina, Green Cay and Tamarind Reef Resort.  We had lunch at Deep End Bar & Grill, a beautiful spot by the pool and beach.  Then they took us on a driving tour of the east end of the island: by the dish, views of Buck Island and the East End Marine Park, and ending at Point Udall, the easternmost point in the United States.  What a treat!

National Radio Astronomy Observatory's VLBA, 82 ft large radio-telescope antenna.  "The Big Dish" controlled by an operator in Socorro, NM.  Yes, you can see it move!

Sunset.  We're not in a hurry to leave.

A large artistic community here as well.  A mural in the laundromat
And of course, errands.  Laundry.  Water.  Bookstore (Not a lot of bookstores in the Caribbean.  I just wanted to lay down on the floor and hang out.  The Captain said, "Um.  Get up!").  Groceries.  "I hate grocery shopping.  I'm not going grocery shopping with you when we get the RV.  I'll pull up and park and then I'll be right there, watching TV!"

Downtown.  Tiny paintings (12" high?) at sidewalk level

Every day a little different...

Our favorite hang out--wifi, a/c, frappes and the standard group of "old geezers" in the corner talking about airplanes...
On our last day, we head downtown for one more lunch on the boardwalk.  We're greeted by a tourist asking about our dinghy.  He peppered us with questions, leaving us giggling with his enthusiasm and new found knowledge.  "Do you live on a boat?  Where do you keep it?  Where did you leave from?  How did you get here?  What about groceries?  Where do you buy boat parts?  (We explain sailboats and wind is free--mind blown!)  I didn't know people could do that!"  Turns out he's from San Diego, so we give him some advice on finding a boat and he jogs back to a group of tourists with a grin on his face, turning around to furiously wave goodbye.  I think we're famous.  And yes, our life is pretty cool. 

Angry Nates on the downtown waterfront for lunch.  The resident feline looking aloof while waiting for The Captain's lunch to arrive

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