Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Something Old & Something New in St. John

Routing on Garmin BlueCharts app

Hansen/Round/Coral Bay, St. John, USVI:  Hansen Bay comes up a lot in discussions about anchoring in St. John (also good snorkeling). We agree to give it a second chance based on good protection and a town nearby. (Here's our post from last year:  http://planesboatsandbicycles.blogspot.in/2016/05/virgin-islands.html). We are happy to see fewer boats and more room north of Pelican Rock this time. However, it still takes 3 attempts to get anchored. A south wind blowing into the bay isn't helping.

More "Crazy boats of the BVI"

How do we know where we're going?  Here's a snap of one of our guidebooks.

My corrected chart of anchorage depths

We'll probably return here again, because there is good all-around protection, but here's my notes on anchoring in Hansen:
1). The first problem is it's much deeper than charted--see above. What is supposed to be 15 ft is really mostly 50-30 ft until you get very close to the beach.  (We vaguely remembered this). This is one of those instances when The Captain gives me the "She be crazy" face..

"Depth?" 50 ft

"Depth?" 30 ft
"Depth?" 30 ft
(Just off the beach) "DEPTH?!!!!" 20 ft
{crazy face}

2). The second problem is a hard-packed sand and coral bottom. The first drop never bit.

The second drop holds but leaves us closer to some rocks on shore than I like for the possible west wind.  We wait & contemplate until the neighbor in front of us lifts anchor & motors away.   Score! We move forward, drop the anchor in 30 ft of water and the boat settles in 15 ft of water.  If we drag, it will be uphill! I jump in & follow the chain out to check our anchor, and suddenly our chain just disappears!  It's down there somewhere, I hope!

Note:  Option two is Long Bay (south of Pelican).  Fellow cruisers text to say they had good luck farther south & farther off the beach than where we were last year.

I became convinced last year that the reason for all the moorings may be justified:  a crowded anchorage in poor holding is bad for business.  Cruisers just shake their head and say, "No, no, no. They just want our money."  Yes, maybe that also.  It is easier for charter boats and the hard packed sand/coral bottom looks like sand from on deck until you snorkel.

Summary: Total time 1:27, avg speed 4.9 kts, total mileage 7.0 nm, 2-engine motor.

Our beach view from the cockpit

The Captain sitting on the back steps, prepping for a snorkel to Pelican Rock

Hi, Dude~

"Oops, she saw me."  Second pic, after he started changing from white

"Now she can't see me!  I'll just scoot over by this plant."  Second to last pic as he turned brown and snuck into the plants

Zoom in to see the abundance of tiny fish living here

{Context: Missouri girl...} 
Two fawn scampering down the beach with Mama looking on!
What's wrong with that sentence?!
(I believe we had a deer sighting here last year on a different section of beach!)

A view of the mothership from the SUP

More info about the Hansen Bay area:

Another St. John sunset

While here, I was writing a blog about using the US Customs Small Vessel Reporting System after, for the first time, effortlessly filing a float plan from the BVI to USVI.  It's enabled us to go into ports where customs is not available & clear in with a phone call. However, when I tried to replicate the feat so I could get screen shots & verify my tips, I was told "Last itinerary entry must be return to US location" even though I tried USVI and PR.  Disregard.  Back to regularly scheduled programming.  Who wants to go to the south coast of St. John? ME, ME, ME!  (I finally got it done.  PITA:  http://planesboatsandbicycles.blogspot.com/2017/03/small-vessel-reporting-system-svrs.html)

We're leaving before exploring the beach (honor bar & a dive instructor?), Haulover Beach & Angel's Rest (a floating bar on weekends), the NPS moorings in "hurricane hole", and revisiting Coral Bay from the water side.  It seems there is always something else to do!  At least we have that to look forward to next time.

After 3 nights in Hansen, we're off! Headed for Salt Pond. A grand total of 4 miles!

Heading across Long Bay

It's not often our direction coincides with good light for pics of land, but the sunrise was in my favor.  Approaching Ram's Head, southbound

Photography on the boat is challenging. My favorite 70-210 zoom lens is too long for underway. The boat motion makes it too difficult to focus. We have a small digital camera but it can be difficult to see the screen in the sunlight. The iPhone has become the primary but will only zoom out so far before it gets grainy. And the biggest problem, it seems, is the sun is never in the right place--not like on land, where you can move around and take pictures from different angles!  Therefore the wonderful geography/geology we've seen while sailing along the coast is largely undocumented.  However, this morning I was able to photograph Ram's Head, a scheduled hike with the morning sun behind me.  Watch how it changes colors...

Rounding the south side of Ram's Head.  Looking back north.

A panorama or Salt Pond

Salt Pond Bay, St. John, USVI
Departing by 9:00 am for the 4 mile trek around the southeastern tip of St. John to Salt Pond National Park Service mooring field. We couldn't decided if we wanted to revisit Lameshur or try somewhere new and as luck would have it, we pick up the last ball in Salt Pond. (Guide book says enter to starboard but snorkeling showed that side shallower and full of delicate wildlife?). The beach is full of tourists. Our new neighbor and a mutual friend from Hau Pana quickly pops over to say hello and invite us over for drinks. A spotted ray swims by and neither of us had our cameras handy.  She tells us about the huge barracuda under their boat and when we jump in to snorkel, there he is!  All teeth and eyeballs...

Our beach view from the cockpit (Eco resort on the hill)

Scott's, "The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands"

Our swimming pool just off the back porch steps

The Captain decides to snorkel the middle reef.  The snorkeling has been fabulous this year.  Every reef seems to have something to offer:  a new fish or coral, bigger fish or coral, or more fish or coral!

The reef here is healthier therefore the growth is TALLER!

Pic 5:  "I will not sit still for your picture!"  And then the current swept we on to the next thing...

Underwater photography has also proven challenging.   Scaling is difficult.  Colors don't pop on my camera.  I love coral but it hasn't photographed well for me.  Some fish are experts at camouflage so they are difficult to photograph before they change colors.   Everything is moving including the water and the fish.  I can't just sit and wait for the shot.  You may only get one or two clicks before the water carries you off.  Although I have followed several fish for long distances,  it has it's own inherent dangers ie.  not paying attention to where I am or things around me.  Apparently,  a dive certification and a better camera is in my future if I want to pursue underwater photography.

Giant elkhorn coral from above

Giant elkhorn coral from the side

Courtesy of Hau Pana.  A pic of the resident barracuda during happy hour

Happy hour on sv Hau Pana.  We've never met a cruiser who didn't have a fascinating story to tell.  After "where did you come from & where are you headed", charts are pulled out and future stops are marked.  Then we move on to batteries, solar, wind generators and boat projects.  Never a dull moment.  Always lots of laughter.

Summary: Total time 0:53, avg speed 4.7 kts, total mileage 4.2 nm, 2-engine motor.

Sunrise over Hau Pana

Panorama of Salt Pong from the beach

"Special Report" blogs mean, "Oh my GOODNESS!  I can't wait to tell you about this..."  Insert Ram's Head hike here:  http://planesboatsandbicycles.blogspot.com/2017/03/special-report-hiking-ram-head-from.html

The view from the beach is just as stunning as the view from the boat!

Hi, Odin!  Don't go anywhere.  We'll be right back!

A highlight from our hike

Another view from the top of Ram's Head towards St. Croix

A coral and rock beach.  Unique

Love the patterns & textures

Hey, the boat is still there!

We see a local charter power boat drop anchor in the bay (no anchoring here).  Soon after we get a visit from Alister, our bay host, who was very helpful including bus info & info about volunteering as a bay host (and yes, taking a picture and emailing to the Park Ranger is the best way to deal with offenses you see in the Park).  We learn later from cruiser friends he is a chemist who works from his boat.  Wow.  You're my idol!

Beautiful end to a wonderful day in St. John

Our time in St. John has come to an end.  A weather window to St. Croix has arrived and our bay host confirmed the north swell will drive more people to the south side.  We're outta here!

1 comment:

  1. How amazing is that journey you're on? I'm not a boat person, but I love adventure, and the ocean and scuba diving... and rocks. :-) It looks so beautiful!