Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What The Heck Now?

St. Thomas in the distance
OK so we stayed around the VI's/Puerto Rico and missed our chance to get down to Grenada before Hurricane Season... so that we could hang out with friends from home.  They're gone... so what the heck are we doing NOW?

Well we've lured one more visitor down to the Islands... that's what!  We are heading to St. Thomas to take delivery of one JD from Kansas.  We haven't seen him in years and coincidentally called him up to invite him for a visit just DAYS after his retirement.  He has all the time in the world to hang out with us!

Hello St. Thomas!
We left our anchorage at Culebrita with a straight shot to St. Thomas.  The 25 mile sail took us over 5 hours!  It's amazing that with perfect wind and wave conditions, the force of an adverse current is a silent killer of speed!

See our yellow track?  CRAZY!
We started out under sail alone... always the optimist here on Dos Libras!  As you can see from our track, we would probably STILL be out there tacking had we not given up and just started the engine... again.

That last tack to SE brought a hail on the VHF from a work boat.  NOAA was out there doing depth soundings to update the charts (cool) and they wanted to know our intentions.  We told them we were headed for Charlotte Amalie and just trying to make progress against the current.

Closeup of our track into the anchorage
They asked if we would hold that course and I refused.  I told them we wanted to hang close to the islands for protection from the wind and that we would just alter course and motor right at St. Thomas.  They understood and actually never got close enough to us to be a problem.

Haulover Cut

Never having been here before, we were a little anxious about winding our way in through the islands... but it turned out to be pretty easy.  Even going through the VERY narrow spot between Hassel Island and Frenchtown ( Haulover Cut) , reportedly a high traffic area for the ferry boats AND seaplanes... was not a problem.


The next morning...
We were excited to be here finally... Friends on S/V Smart Move were awaiting our arrival in Long Bay... It's nice to have people to help show us the ropes.

We got settled and met up with Robyn and Barry for happy hour and made plans to spend the following day together.

It was kind of funny really.  We had never met before, just through Facebook... Throughout the evening I kept catching little eye messages between Robyn and Barry... "Do we like these people? Should we bail or do we invite them to hang out with us all day tomorrow"

Charlotte Amalie Waterfront
I guess we passed... and Bruce and I were feeling the connection too.  We like these people!  Let's move to the next level and accept that invitation for a day ashore!

They took us ashore in their big fast dinghy and showed us where to dock for town access.

There were vendors set up selling tourist trinkets... Maybe we'll come back by here later in the week with JD...

There are buses that run loops for $1 or $2 (depending upon how far you're going) each way.

We rode the bus all the way to the eastern side of the island to visit Red Hook.  Let me just tell you that careening along the narrow streets that cut through the hillsides is quite an experience.  We walked around Red Hook and then rode back to Charlotte Amalie to explore the tourist district there.

We had a nice lunch and then walked the streets just soaking in the feel of times-gone-by.

It's like the land that time forgot... These old Colonial era buildings just amaze me.

While ambling along the narrow broken sidewalks we were approached many times by hucksters trying to lure us through their dark doors...

There were no cruise ships in port so we were the target!

How many times can a person say NO!  Until finally one of them got to us...  He was awesome.  He invited us into his jewelry store for water or rum punch... FREE!  No. No. No... well OK!

He told us that if we came inside we could have a free gift.  Even if we didn't buy anything... We relented.  The free gift was a small black pearl pendant... and for $10 we could get a silver chain AND matching earrings!  Bruce... give the guy $10.

Bruce and I remained near the doorway talking to the huckster while Robyn actually browsed the displays while drinking her rum punch... Notice Barry watching closely...

We laughed and joked with the huckster while enjoying a free water and standing in the draft of their very cold air conditioning!  But we held firm and bought nothing else... and were finally allowed to make our escape back out onto the humid streets of town.

Crown Bay Marina
Back on the water, we sped (gawd I love big dinghy motors) over to Crown Bay Marina to take a look around.  We parked at their awesome dinghy dock and did a little provision run in their store.

Since we were so close to Honeymoon Beach and our hosts had never been there, we sped over to the beach at Dinghies for happy hour!  It was nice to be able to show THEM around someplace new...

Strange.  No idea what this is about...
Robyn and Barry left us alone once again to await the arrival of our guest.  We were sad to see them go because we REALLY enjoyed their company.  So much in fact that we have tentative plans to buddy boat with them down to Grenada in the Fall!

Before we came here I really had no desire to visit Charlotte Amalie.  Big anchorages full of boats aren't really our thing... we prefer the more remote, non-town type anchorages... We've seen the view of St. Thomas at night from Tortola... It lights up the sky like a cruise ship on the dark sea.  Too many people, too much crime... But after our visit here, we realize that this place is really OK.

It's a great place to provision for liquor... booze is cheap in this duty-free port.  Grocery prices weren't as bad as the BVI's and selection was great.  And there's an airport with reasonably priced flights from the States... A ticket to St. Thomas is much less expensive than one to Tortola.

Gorgeous sparkling town.
We had planned to move over to Lindberg Bay, which is right next to the airport, and pick JD up on the beach by dinghy... give him the "real" Cruiser experience.  But then we got real and decided to stay put and have him just take a taxi from the airport over to where we were already settled... That cost about $12 and was much more civilized.

A cruise ship arrived overnight
It was funny... we were putting the finishing touches on JD's quarters when I heard an airplane fly over.  I told Bruce "That was JD, you need to head for shore".  It was about 20 minutes early and Bruce questioned my superpowers... Moments later we got the message that he was on his way...

After that our lives were once again thrown into Charter-Mode.  Only this time we weren't following a charter boat, we were acting as if WE were the charter boat.  Our guest had two solid weeks during which we would explore the US and BVI's.

Our first stop once we collected our guest, was the grocery store.  We would have done it before JD arrived, but we wanted him to have some input on menu choices... and of course... beer.

From the moment JD arrived, our jobs were cut in half.  JD stepped up and took over many of the duties we each normally do.

He wanted to reduce the burden a guest puts on the "crew"... but even more, he wanted to embrace the life of a Cruiser and experience it all from the most basic level.

That's a heavy load!
It was really very nice having someone so eager to assume responsibility for the more mundane aspects of life on a boat... including washing dishes!  I never washed another dish after JD stepped aboard!

I laughed about becoming his manager and renting him out to other Cruisers who need a break from chores but we couldn't settle on the $ cut.

Very soon JD had learned where everything belonged and was busy asking questions about the day-to-day running of the boat... He was absorbing it all like a sponge and took immediate charge of things.

By nightfall we were ready to relax and plan the days ahead.  There were a few places JD wished to re-visit in the BVIs but other than that, he left the route to us...

The next morning we motored out of Long Bay and retraced our path through Haulover Cut and back to Honeymoon Bay (aka Druif Bay).

We made a brief stop, anchoring among the permanently moored boats in Elephant Bay.


I stayed aboard while the boys dinghied over to nearby Krum Bay where they could dock the dinghy and walk a short distance to get our propane bottle filled. It didn't take long and we were on our way again, just a short hop to Honeymoon Bay.

The anchorage is beautiful even if it is full of moored boats and we wanted to show JD the little beach bar that is becoming one of our favorites... Dinghies.

I wanted to find a spot closer in toward shore in more shallow water and picked a spot that I thought would do even though we were kind of close to an empty mooring ball.  My hope was that the mooring ball would remain empty...

We went ashore and enjoyed drinks and dinner on the beach where conversation and laughs flowed freely.

The sunset was subdued by the clouds but there were still plenty of potential sunsets remaining  to dazzle our guest...

We returned to the boat to find that our hopes for the mooring next to us remaining empty had been dashed with the early evening arrival of the owner of the mooring. He was very cool about us being there and even advised us to stay, thinking we would be alright there for the night.  I left the boys to their talk in the cockpit while I retired to my room.

After dark, Bruce mentioned to me that we were getting a little close to the boat next to us.  I looked out the window and saw that we were REALLY too close... so I got up and went on deck preparing to move us out to the deeper anchorage.  The wind had died and the swirling currents in the anchorage had boats moving every-which-way...  We probably would have been fine... but I was done being "that boat" that comes in and anchors too close.  It was time to move.

The boys pulled up the anchor and had a bit of trouble as the chain jumped out of the roller.  In total darkness I had to keep the boat in place while Bruce struggled with the anchor chain.  The owner of the boat on the mooring came over in his dinghy to see if we needed help and to offer us an unused mooring closer to shore.

He even guided us over there in the dark and helped us get secured to the mooring.  He told us that as long as we were gone by 11 am the following morning we would be fine there.  What a nice guy!

So after a bit of excitement, we were securely settled for the night and even though I felt a bit guilty about starting the whole mess by trying to get away with anchoring too close to the moorings... It all turned out well enough and I've learned my lesson.  Really... I have!

The next morning the sky was bright and the sun was brilliant!

And coincidentally... the crew of S/V Brilliant came over for breakfast!

We hadn't seen Carrie and Carl since they bought their new boat and returned to the Caribbean... We heard them on the VHF the previous day and knew they were in the neighborhood.  The only time we could work out a meeting was breakfast!

So I cooked and the four of us caught up on Cruiser gossip while JD cleaned the galley!

All too soon our 11 am checkout time loomed... We said our Farewells and vacated our borrowed mooring to continue showing off our home to JD.

I will stop here and pick up with our next stop...

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