Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Let's go to St. John!

A view of Waterlemon Cay, Leinster Bay, St. John, USVI
St. John, USVI:  Last year we mostly did the south side of St. John 1) to hide from some weather & north swell 2) because the north side is all National Park and they had just raised the mooring ball rate from $15 to $26, a little rich for our blood.  From Christmas Cove we went Fish Bay, Lameshur, Round/Hansen Bay & then cleared in to Sopers, BVI.  This year we're checking out anchorages recommended by, PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE, which includes the north side.

The Narrows...

Departing Christmas Cove, we have to clear Current Cut.  There is a 3 kt current so you want to time either slack tide or going with the north current (when it looks rough, the tide is going north & it's wind against waves with a prevailing east wind, I think.)  None of our charts showed the times for this, so we spent two days observing boats coming & going to get a feel.

From Current Cut, we cruise along the north shore of St. John:  Caneel, Hawksnest, Trunk, Cinnamon, Francis & Maho before entering "The Narrows" between Great Thatch, BVI and St. John to enter Leinster Bay.  We are znxiously counting boats, to see if all the balls were full (anchoring discouraged & it's mostly 30 ft of water!), when sv Encore calls to let us know there is a ball right up near the beach (Waterlemon Bay).  Score!  We had a decent ride with a helping current until we rounded the northern most end of St. John.  

Welcome to St. John/BVI, whole other class of boaters

History:  The Danish sold the islands to the United States in 1917 for $25 million dollars.  Ruins from the Danish sugar plantations dating back to the 18th century dot the island.

It's a volcanic and very hilly (jeeps not scooters) and {gasp} has no airport!  There are 39 beaches (depending on who you ask).  The main port used to be Coral Bay but is now Cruz Bay, thanks to the ferries.  The terrain varies from the desert-like Ram's head (reminds us of hiking in Arizona) to the mangroves of Coral Bay.

The two main roads are North Shore Road (Cruz Bay to Annaberg Ruins) and Centerline Road (Cruz Bay to Coral Bay) but apparently the VITRAN bus runs to Salt Pond which isn't on the map!

The National Park on St. John was established in 1956 and now covers roughly 60% of the island (depending on who you ask) and includes the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.  Snorkeling off the white sand beaches and hiking the tropical forest are the main activities, making it the most popular tourist destination in USVI.  Some of the island is still privately held (some homes in the park are grandfathered). However, all beaches are public but you can't cross private land to get there--meaning some beaches can only be reached by boat!

Our mooring ball with a view of the beach

We have an unrestricted view of Waterlemon Cay (BVI, Great Thatch in the background). I still have time today to nap, lunch, snorkel, SUP!  

Waterlemon Cay from on deck


As advised, we were picking up Flow cellular from BVI and my T-Mobile was suddenly 3G, faster than St. Thomas!  Remember that cellular booster next year.

While catching up on FB, I get a message from sv Encore that it's afternoon snorkel time.  I paddle over with the SUP & my snorkel gear, tie it off and jump in.  We do a complete circle--turtles on east side, no sharks spotted on the north side, and a fabulous healthy reef full of fish on the west side (apparently a storm caused some damage to the north side always most obvious by the health of the fans).

My snorkel buddy

(I'm not happy with my Nikon Coolpix, despite all the rave reviews. My pics are dark, even in shallow water with high overhead sun & "underwater" mode. I'm taking advice!  Oh, and now it's leaking, corroding & won't turn on.  Fail)

We've been in some wonderful anchorages lately, but woefully lacking on sunrises & sunsets!  Here's your sunset from St John!

Summary:  Total time 1:49, avg speed 4.5 kts, total mileage 8.2 nm, 2-engine motor.

A view of the anchorage from the Guard House ruins

The Captain posing for a pic...

This is where you can insert the blog about our hike from Leinster to Coral Bay:  http://planesboatsandbicycles.blogspot.com/2017/03/special-report-hike-leinster-to-coral.html


Local street art on the way into Coral Bay, St. John
The Annaberg hiking path

The boats definitely leave earlier on St John.  The mooring field is clearing out by 9:30 am.  As soon a someone drops off a ball, someone else picks it up.  As sv Encore heads around the corner, I take a shorter hike over to Annaberg Windmill & Distillery Ruins (to drop off trash at the NPS dumpster). 


Panorama from the Windmill

Coral, ballast brick & stone make up the walls of the distillery

3 out of 4 days, we've have the dreaded head problem.  It's finally solved when The Captain discovers that every time he wiggles the hose, calcification is breaking loose inside & clogging the hose.  (Full head overhaul complete!)
(insert your imagination here...)  Three wild burros have appeared on the beach & they're chowing down on the all the snorkelers treats while they're in the water.  People on the beach are trying to shoo them away, but you know, burros. Hysterical.

Good morning!  The water is so clear & calm, I can see a ray swimming on the bottom!
A second snorkel with The Captain is equally fantastic, even though we didn't find the rumored spotted ray or octopus, but we did find the nurse sharks!  Check out the pics below & go to our Google Map to zoom into the area:  


Our tour guide.  He picked us up as we approached the reef & stayed with us the whole time, doubling back when we fell back.

A school of fish









Smile for the camera

Wouldn't smile for the camera

Wow!  Beautiful colors didn't show in the pic

"Here sharky, sharky..."  As bashful with us as we were of them!

Just after sunset & anchor lights are starting to twinkle. Even with all the moorings full, it's a quiet, peaceful evening in the National Park.

Stay tuned for a quick jaunt to the British Virgin Islands!

References:
NPS website:  https://www.nps.gov/viis/learn/index.htm
St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer
St. John:  Feet, Fins and Four Wheel Drive by Pam Gaffin


No comments:

Post a Comment