U.S. Virgin Islands
Saint John Island

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    • Day 407

      Maho Bay, St John USVI

      May 13 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ ☁️ 82 °F

      We arrived her this morning, took a hike to the top of the hill and then went for a snorkel off the boat. We were greeted by two turtles and thousands of little fish in a bait ball doing their underwater ballet staying just out of reach!Read more

    • Day 173

      St. Johns Reef Bay

      March 11, 2016 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      At Reef Bay:
      There are ruins of an old sugar mill in great condition complete with an old steam engine built in Glasgow, Scotland. Being the hiking fans we are, we chose to keep hiking and explored the petroglyphs of Reef Bay. These stone carvings are thought to represent a spiritual place for the Taino, Arawak people from pre-Columbian times (anywhere between 600-1,000 years ago). As a kid, I like most, wanted to be Indiana Jones. So crouching down on this uneven rock near a flat pool of water, it was… exciting… to think; 600 years ago someone in this exact spot was carving this image into the stone to honor the spirits and that’s how they spent their day.Read more

    • Day 178

      Scuba Time St. James USVI

      March 16, 2016 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

      Again alone on Gaia, we provisioned diesel, dinghy fuel, water, laundry and refilled scuba tanks in Redhook, St. Thomas. We made a quick motor around the bend to Christmas Cove on St. James and partook in the novelty of Pizza Pi, a steel-hulled sailboat that will serve pizza via VHF & dinghy. A nice and fun treat! We fell in love with Christmas Cove and since the moorings were free… stayed a few nights. We dove on Calf Rock (3/4 mile dinghy ride WSW). It was a fun little dive where beginner divers become certified, actually, where Mike got his very own PADI cert years back. We ended up navigating through some narrow valleys in the rock, which proved to be really fun UNTIL… Mike picked up a broken off piece of coral with a neat little brittle star crawling on it, then dropped it. The shell swirled and swiveled round and round ever so delicately skimming my lower thigh just below where my shortie wetsuit cut off. For such a slight and momentary contact, it felt extremely sharp but I paid no attention to it for the first few minutes. My leg began stinging immensely and the area of contact felt tingly. I’m no expert but I know the words tingly and stinging don’t belong when you’re 40 feet underwater in a rock slit. So I motioned for us to return directly back to the dinghy something was not okay. On our return we followed a turtle, saw a grouper, and Mike even touched a trunkfish!

      Back on the boat I cleaned the wound with salt water and vinegar. I had read somewhere you should use salt water as opposed to fresh and vinegar will reduce the sting. It worked but I had a patch of bumpy irritated skin, which lasted for a few weeks. We ended up identifying the cause of the irritation as fire coral. Fire coral can grown on anything. So watch out!

      Once I got over the trauma of my scuba buddy slashing me with fire coral…. We went diving again. We dinghied due south to an extended point of rocks called The Stragglers; hooked onto a mooring and descended next to the rocks. At 25 feet we heard a boat engine. I looked at Mike & tried to decompress my BCD so I’d sink further to the bottom and closer to him. Hearing the motor get closer, I looked behind me and to the surface and I’ll be damned! A medium-sized powerboat went right over our heads! I was more angry than scared that time… We continued onward and sure enough I heard another engine. This time I kept turning in circles to see if I could locate the boat. No sighting of it but I was breathing hard out of fear. I reminded myself we were in 30 feet of water and floating close to the coral heads and continued the dive until I was cold. Those two encounters served as a strong reminder that the safest place to descend and ascend is on your mooring ball line; that and there are a lot of stupid and oblivious boaters out there. (Respect dive flags, and popular snorkeling/dive spots boaters! And don’t be wanker watch where you anchor!)

      The caves are from Normans Island where the dreaded Willy T resides
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    • Day 174

      St. Johns Rams Head & Coral Bay

      March 12, 2016 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      We spent the rest of our day grabbing a mooring in Salt Pond Bay and hiking Rams Head and snorkeling crystal clear waters. Rams Head is a high jagged bluff on the south east side of St. John and has a bloody past. In 1733 a great slave rebellion took place on St. John, lasting for several months. French & Swiss troops eventually arrived putting a stop to the insurrection. The grim denouement of the rebellion ended with a group of 300 slaves jumping to their death at Rams Head point instead of returning to the overlords and torturous life of a slave. We arrived at the SW summit and looked around at the steep and dramatic cliffside and jagged rocks below. An impending rainstorm brought strong winds tearing over the summit so we looked around silently and quickly returned to the boat in awe. A tiny lizard attacked me on the way back, jumping onto my hand for an instant before flinging itself off into the bushes. Taking me by surprise, I screamed. Mike laughed and recounted the time a flying fish almost hit me in the cockpit on our passage to Bermuda.
      Our next anchorage was a sporty sail into Coral Bay where we made an impromptu stop at a floating bar. We were only going to check it out but the proprietor was so damn friendly…. And how do you say no to rum punches at a floating bar, I have not yet found the strength or craziness to say no …. So out of the dinghy onto the floating pontoon. There was a bed on the other end with a long curtain to partition his room off and in the center there was a circular glass floor under a glass table. At night, you could turn on underwater lights and watch the tarpon swim underneath. There was a full kitchen/bar setup, bathroom, and even a second floor to sunbathe on. He explained how he built the entire set up from scratch and wanted to put it up on a B&B site. He plans to offer a package deal where he’ll captain the vessel out to anchorages around St. John and leave you with a couple kayaks, then he would return and move you to a next destination. For a more adventurous demographic, I could see this working out beautifully.
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    • Day 55

      St John, USVI

      December 11, 2016 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ 🌬 27 °C

      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.
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    • Day 87

      St John, USVI

      January 12, 2017 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

      We're now four and although Dave will be missed, you and I both know the world is designed for fours. I'm feeling some heated rivalry of cards and dice coming up. This boat's nay short on competition!

      The boys are currently below the boat diving Santa Monica rocks - lots of speak of dinner, lets hope they walk the talk! We've got plans for St John and St Croix but the weather turns wild tomorrow and I'm not sure we want more forestay drama just yet.

      We've also booked Cuba for the end of January and our return flight is to Mexico, where we'll look to mosy south as far as dollar (or peso) allows. If you fancy a charity donation I take cash, card or bookings in my name! In the meantime, we'll turn the page on the Pirate phrasebook and pick up a Spanish one. Hola Senõr!


      The swell has come in strongly and is battering exposed north and east coasts. The worst of the wind has passed but there's said to be more to come... We're holed up in St John, looking forward to some land based exploring and top notch snorkelling. Last night's anchor-dive-turned-crayfish-hunt proved successful and forced us to alter our dinner plans. I will never forget Scott with two arms clamped on a crusty under a rock. Looking for assistance, but unable to signal, Jools read his mind, swam down, and tugged him out by his chest, cray in hand. Hysterical tomfoolery at the ocean floor.

      Customs are again playing games with us. Hopefully I can extend my Visa to get off these islands!

      Second update: Terry's bay Crayfish Massacre

      That evening's underwater shenanigans were the start of many more in Rendezvous Bay. Combined efforts of boys and girl saw crayfish for dinner four nights in a row - an underwater massacre instigated by none other than Scottfish himself. By the time the fourth night rolled around, the infamous canned chicken was looking like a roast bird on Christmas day!

      But the treats did not come without consequence. We were hunting in terrain rich with spiny urchins (you know the black ones? Super spiny!). All four of us were spined (some more than others) at various underwater locations (remember we're just wearing shorts and gloves). The worst off was undoubtedly Jools who, after staking out an urchin free hole, was duly surprised when his decent sized catch dragged him through a nearby bed of the spiny buggers! His wounds were a sight to behold. That evening was spent with a pair of tweasers and two bowls of warm vinegar. The next day Jools tried to avoid further injury by sticking to windsurfing, only to return to the boat with more blood - nobody was surprised. Meanwhile, I was dropping catches left, right and center as we had crays swimming backwards for their lives as we got increasingly creative in our hunting methods - even so far as to incorporate the boat oars! All of our dives took place on the same stretch of coast (south of St John), over no more than 2nm of it...and only one dive was with SCUBA. The thrill of the hunt has us hooked, but we're still playing by the rules and there's been an increasing number of catch and releases as we mature as hunters. Scott however, won't pass a bug without giving it a cheeky tug on the antler...child...

      Rendezvous bay had more to offer than just food. Having really just stumbled across the place, we were delighted in what it offered. The water was flat, super flat. The bay was largely deserted, save for the odd day trip charter. The anchorage was free (few and far between on St John). The water was clear, I'm talking at least 20m vis on the good days. And the snorkelling was epic; we made friends with the resident turtle, Terry, whom we literally watched eat breakfast every morning - same spot, same time. Eddy and Elma the eagle rays also made regular appearances, along with Steve the stingray and his parasitic fish friends and of course, the many members of Terry's family. Quite the underwater zoo! Oh, and if you think I've gone crazy by naming all my aquatic friends, you're right. But you should hear me talking to them!

      Now you can see why our accidental night at Rendezvous turned into four. The only drawback was frequent, heavy and frustratingly short downpours which kept the hatches closed and boat hot.

      We ventured along the coast during a few of the days to explore the National Park that is, largely, St John. A 'top five things to do' list had us hiking the Reef Bay Trail on a blustery day. After ascending for a good few sweaty hours, we reached the top of the trail. Unfortunately for us, the top of the trail finished a few hundred yards short of the peak of the island. Somewhat dumbfounded we asked around and discovered there was no way to get to the peak, or any nearby peaks, and our best bet was to get on a bus and go climb a headland. It was impossible to see the ocean from anywhere, save for a glimpse from atop a brick wall. National Park you say.

      Bitterly, and in denial, we continued to ask around. A local assured us of "Great views" on an alternative route back to the boat. We followed it and arrived at the beach, again with little more than a glimpse of the ocean. We loitered through a mosquito infestation and had our packed lunch on the beach in the pouring rain. Not quite how we planned it, and thoroughly disappointed, but it's hard to make us unhappy when we're eating orzo pasta.
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