Friday, March 10, 2017

Errands in St. Thomas, Brewer's Bay

Getting around St. Thomas on the Safari buses

One of the advantages of our leisurely pace this year is getting to know the areas where we stay.  For my cruiser friends, here are the basics for Brewer's Bay mainly a locals beach with few tourists.  There's not much around, only a few food trucks and the university (and the airport!) but it's a short safari ride into town.

Anchorage notes:  "Not busy" according to the cruising guide was 20 cruising boats when we arrived (not including the small moored boats near the University dock).  We reached 26 in the last blow.  It dropped down to 5 boats at one point.  The anchorage is sheltered but winds can swirl over the hill, with a current/tidal shift of 2 feet (we were here for two 360 degree wind shifts and were comfortable but spent the rest of the time swinging from NE to SE despite the easterly forecast), it is otherwise pretty flat water and dry dinghy ride.  Avoid the northwest side because of rocks and coral heads that will will get wrapped around your chain.  Watch for buoys marking the fiber optic line (I don't know about the fiber optic line but there are two pipes down there verified while snorkeling)!  Good sandy patches up near the swim area.  It can get deep QUICK--snorkeling off the swim beach and we suddenly couldn't see bottom.  A cruiser said they found a 15 ft sandy patch out in the middle.  SNORKEL YOUR ANCHOR!  You may see a turtle or a ray or my new favorite fish with a delta fin, the Smooth Trunkfish.  Bonus.  Some people complain about the airplane noise.  WE LOVE IT!  You will also see some of the biggest cruise ships heading in & out of Crown Bay (Oasis of the Seas--from a distance!)

Parking with a view

Dinghy parking:  As usual, follow the other dinghies but just in case you catch a slow day--To the right of the swimming area is a stretch of beach where we can reach a few trees with our painter & security line (2 ft tide).  Watch for rocks.  There's a nice drop off so you may not have to tilt outboard until you're on the beach.  Beware of the prickly sea urchins in the deeper water or near rocks.  Rinse your feet at the showers on the way in.  There is a second spot to the left of the swim beach with a tree that is also used, it's just rockier.  We haven't tried it since it's a longer walk to the showers & safari stop.  The university staff told us they've had some minor thefts (taking things out of dinghies) so use common sense and don't leave anything out.  Lock it up.

One of the many infamous Safari buses

University bus stop

Safari:  From Brewer's, turn right and go up and over the hill.  The bus stop will be on your right (before the entrance to the University, but it stops there also).  This is geared towards locals so info is hard to find & although the drivers watch for riders, they don't always roll down the window to chat.  Locals may be able to help or not.  It's just an open-air truck with bench seats.  Be sure to ask if it's the $1 bus.  
Our main stop is Nisky (shopping) Center. (KFC is your landmark) Crown Bay Marina (chandelery) & Pueblo grocery are also here.  
Frenchtown is also a good stop for restaurants or the Post Office.
Next stop of interest is downtown Charlotte Amalie
If we ride this far, we're usually going all the way to Yacht Haven Grande marina and the second Pueblo & Kmart (and cruise ship shopping & WashBoard laundry.)
If you continue on over Raphune hill it becomes $2.  Cost U Less, Movie Theatre, Home Depot. 
Tutu Mall (big Kmart, auto parts, etc)
Ferry marina
On to Budget Marine in Red Hook and several marinas
Then it circles back.
Links:  Google Map of Safari Route,  TripAdvisor Safari, FaceBook USVI Cruiser's and Boaters

Our primary stop, Nisky Shopping Center...

Packages:  MailStop at Crown Bay was $30/month.  We had multiple packages delivered, so this was a good deal for us.  Fellow cruisers said general delivery at the Post Office was also reliable or $10/package at Yacht Haven Grande.  Some things were cheaper because there was no tax but other things were more expensive because of shipping cost.  Ask before you order.  (PS.  Amazon Prime sucks.  Prime doesn't apply here.  One shirt took a month.  Two more items weren't shipped for 5 days--until I complained)

The Nisky area:  Pueblo, Crown Bay Marina, AT&T store

Wifi:  Very weak open wifi in the anchorage (south side is supposedly better).  T-Mobile data was very slow in the middle of the night and then useless during the day (somewhat better in town--turn roaming off and watch for it to switch to Innovative network).  We paid $60 for prepaid 10GB, talk & test sim card at Crown Bay AT&T store.  Wok Express at Nisky Center (bus stop near Crown Bay & Pueblo) was our fastest wifi.  Emerald Bay tiki bar at Lindberg Bay is a fun stop. Betsy's in Frenchtown was a great lunch & fast wifi (get off at the Post Office--Rum Shandy not confirmed), or Bad Ass Coffee at Yacht Haven Grande (The Captain had trouble downloading videos here, but it was fine for uploading photos.  The other coffee shop is not confirmed).

A dumpster with a view
Trash:  dumpster at the beach can get full.  Emptied on some Thursdays but not others?

Water:  Fellow cruisers advised us the showers outside the beach bathrooms are desalinated water.  We became know for carrying 1" head hose down the beach.  Great conversation starter. 

Groceries:  1 mile walk is Happy View Market with a decent grocery selection.  Some prices are high but some aren't.  The main grocery stop is a Pueblo 2 miles in ("Nisky" safari stop--watch for Scotia on the right).  There is a larger Pueblo (& KMart) across from Yacht Haven Grande.  I was advised Cost U Less near Tutu Mall is the best bet but we haven't made it that far yet.

Laundry:  $6.25/wash plus $1.25/dry at laundromat across from Nisky and at Crown Bay Marina.  The better option is the WashBoard (take the Safari to the stop just after Yacht Haven Grande, across from Pueblo) and pay $2.75 wash + $1.25 dry (45 min).  (The dryers are large so I was able to get two loads into one dryer, dropping the price even further & making it worth bringing a load of clothes instead of just sheets & towels).  They told me the wifi wasn't working.  Good opportunity to catch up on your Matlock reruns.  Update:  There is a laundromat at the intersection of Airport Rd & the main road (next to the Puma gas station).  Tons of washers & dryers and also inexpensive ($2.50 for a small washer & $0.25 for 5 min/$1.25 to dry).

Turtles:  People come to this beach to swim with the turtles!  The University has a Turtle Club that does turtle counts weekly or so.  I've also seen numerous rays.  Snorkel the line along the swim area buoys.  Lots of fish along the north shallows with limited coral.

Vet:  Dr Jack Boden at Imperial Veterinary Hospital is excellent.  He's very busy but worth a stop if you need a Health Certificate (VERY knowledgeable) and will work in animal emergencies.  (Safari to Banco Popular then walk up the hill)

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