St John, USVIDecember 11, 2016 on the U.S. Virgin Islands
New boat, new country, soon to be new crew...
We awoke the next morning with a feeling of confidence in our new electronics. However, Dave had slept on it (and likely consulted his boss) and arrived bright and early in good spirits. After explaining the electricians doings from the night before, Dave wholly overlooked all factors and announced his predetermined decision: we're getting a new (read: different) boat.
Mixed feelings welled in as we gratefully accepted. Anne's Turn is a 2005 Hunter 40, newer and 10 feet shoter than our previous ship, Windseeker. We were happy to leave any potential unresolved problems behind, but had a sneaking suspicion that we would miss the luxury of space, lots of space. Especially with the impending arrival of her highness, Felicity.
Further inspection reinforced this. Anne is well equipped for blue water sailing and live-aboard cruising. Perfect for us. So well equipped in fact, there is almost no room for anything else. She's now well packed, with a bathroom full of travel bags and windsurf gear, and we've yet to put her highness aboard and do the food shop. Hmmm. The good news is that so far, Anne's batteries have offered little concern. She's a huge step up in manoeuvrability, handling, speed and ease of sail. Truely a delight in the water. A good result to date, fingers crossed.
Yesterday we, all three of us, experienced our first migration by 'private vessel'. Customs in JVD, BVI was just as expected. A man in uniform sat behind a well used desk in a quaint two storey police building. No computers, no phones, just paper and stamps. Conversation was nil, as I handed over our papers and got more grunting than Grant himself on a day of DOMS. After paying our dollar (literally), and 40 cents for paperwork, receiving no passport stamps or formal emmigration documents, I left a nervous man. USVI here we come.
A short sail later and a salute to no man's land we arrived to a heavily congested Cruz Bay at St John's island. Now we're getting used to anchoring in some tight spots, but this was something else. The bay was divided in three sections by two well marked channels. The northern most anchorage was well above our draft, and the northern channel left us under a foot clear, so we were already playing with fire. The other two anchorages had back to back private moorings which covered almost all of the available anchorage. Oh, and the whole bay was enclosed by a reef which plummeted to 60+ feet behind. After intially being booted off a spare (private) mooring we snagged, we squeezed into a narrow gap on the edge (read: in) the channel. What a polava.
US customs, as expected, was the complete opposite of BVI customs. Four enclosed booths, with computers, camera's, fingerprint scanning and of course wonderful, wonderful AC. The only thing different to mainland US customs were the staff. Apparently local, they toned down the intimidation of a mainland official and for a moment I almost felt welcome. We passed in with our existing US visas like a cool breeze through the open hatch. Let's hope clearing out is just as simple.
USVI and BVI are geographically intertwined. The water border weaves around islands like spaghetti on a plate, and it's not unusual to be checking a chart to determine an island's nationality. Despite this, the cultures differ dramatically. America is alive and well in the USVIs, with fast food chains, obnoxious stereotypical american tourists, tipping, sales tax and of course - the american flag. On every building. Just in case you forgot you where you were. The harbours a more developed, more congested and almost entirely private, we soon found out. Fortunately we found a less congested anchorage for the night and were able to witness an incredible sunset!
Red Rock is supposed to be one of the main harbours in the area. We approached in the mid morning, after a nights sleep beside the pizza boat (fantastic idea). An 18kt tail wind ensured a swift entry into the harbour (even without sails), and the rising chop ensured Jools recieved his daily beating (Jools versus boat is an ongoing saga). His back is looking like a battlefield after being tossed across the kitchen into an immovable stove. One hand for the boat, lesson learned. Oh and if he tries to blame me for it he's having a laugh. I digress - we couldn't find a mooring or a slip even remotely accessible by land. We had no choice but to moor in the wind and chop, until we found all the moorings were private. So we anchored, and it dragged. And we narrowly got out of a sticky situation before taking a risk on a mooring again. Fortunately whilst enquiring about moorings, a lovely lady offered is her friend's, which we enthusiastically accepted, and remoored. Meanwhile, Scotts knot tying had let him down. Heading aft to get in the dinghy proved problematic when the dinghy wasn't there. In a strike of good fortune, it had washed up onto the beach amd was retrievable with a short swim of shame. Bowlines only from now I'm guessing. Oh and all that was just to get ashore so we could get some food.Read more