Tag Archives: #hawksbillturtle

Wow – The Virgin Islands

We have been in The Virgin Islands for just on a month now and they are stunning! There are over 100 islands, both large and small, inhabited and uninhabited and they are a cruiser’s delight! It is very quick and easy to sail to other islands or to find a protected bay if needed.

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To the east are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and to the south and west lie the US Virgin Islands (USVI). There are three larger islands in each country and lots of smaller ones dispersed throughout. We are currently in St Croix (bottom of the map) in the USVI and really enjoying this low-key island.

These photos are just a quick snapshot of our month here. Most islands satisfy our basic needs: good hiking, interesting flora and fauna and fabulous snorkelling.

We started on Virgin Gorda in the BVI:

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A rest from hiking, overlooking Saba Rock.
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Spotted Eagle Ray

We swam with Spotted Eagle Rays who seemed to feed under our boat! They have beautiful markings and the tail is three times longer than the photo shows. Absolutely majestic and not worried about us.

After much toing and froing through Facebook we were able to coordinate a gathering at Norman Island (six boats) so we hightailed it down the Francis Drake Channel, which I liken to a water super highway and reminds us of the Australian Whitsundays. It was great to catch up  with friends and we did some fabulous snorkelling off the back of Izzy R at a rocky outcrop known as The Indians.

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L-R: Gorgeous but crazy girls, Gagi, Sunny & Gwen
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Snorkelling preparations!

Then it was off to Peter Island for a night before heading to Jost Van Dyke Island (JVD). We were lucky to catch up with Jo and Gregg from s/v Serenade and their guests.

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Enjoying the famous BVIs Painkiller at One Love on Jost Van Dyke Island

The next day we walked to the Bubble Pool on JVD. Looks pretty calm…..

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L-R: Gwen, Guillaume & Mal waiting for the bubbles!
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Here they come…..
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Whoa, get me outta here!

Off the next day to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. A very pretty anchorage and we enjoyed a few quiet days here.

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Very typical of the bays on many Caribbean islands.
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Pristine beach on Sandy Cay

Over to Sandy Cay, near Little Jost Van Dyke. This is a tiny island that Laurence Rockefeller owned and gave to the Brits. It’s home to the biggest collection of hermit crabs I’ve ever seen! It’s also totally untouched and a pleasure to take the short trail around the island.

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We then cleared out of the BVIs and entered the USVIs at St John. What an amazing island. Again, thank goodness for the philanthropy of Laurence Rockefeller. He bought huge tracts of land (almost 2/3rds of the island) and bequeathed it to the US subject to it gaining National Park status. It is now a National Park with fabulous hikes and underwater marine parks. This is where I swam with an endangered hawksbill turtle and saw my first nurse sharks.

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Not worried at all. Green turtles are more skittish but the Hawksbill is much more relaxed.
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Apparently it’s common practice for nurse sharks to sleep under ledges.

As with most Caribbean islands, St John has had many ‘owners’; Spanish, British and Danish. It was built on slavery and had a substantial sugar industry until sugar beet came on the scene and slaves were freed in 1848. There are lots of sugar mill ruins and plantation estates throughout the island which make for very interesting hikes. We often caught a glimpse back in time and got our minds imagining what life may have been like with some of the estates looking very grand. The US purchased the islands from the Danes in 1917 for 25 million in gold.

On St John we stayed at the following bays: Caneel, Maho, Waterlemon, Salt Pond and Little Lameshur. Each had their own beauty with hikes and snorkelling – what more could you ask for?

This cactus is common throughout The Virgin Islands and has a wonderful little fruit very high in Vitamin C. Check out the pics.

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Turks Cap Cactus at Rams Head, Salt Pond Bay, St John.

Then it was a hike to the Petroglyphs, the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the ruins  of the Reef Bay Estate atop a hill. The Petroglyphs are attributed to the Taino Indians and date to between 900-1500AD.

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Fabulous rock walls litter the whole island.
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Rock carvings are attributed to the Taino Indians.

Then it was Mal’s birthday. He had a breakfast fit for a king, enjoyed his present and shared a beautiful meal at night with Gwen & Guillaume.

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Birthday breakfast!
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Birthday present,  a Stand Up Paddleboard, sure comes in handy when doing the rubbish run!

Below are some underwater pics I just love taking!

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Reef Squid
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A Red Hind harassing a Spotted Moray Eel.
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The well camouflaged Peacock Flounder

We are now six as Dalynn and Glen from S/V Amoray have joined Kool Kat and Slow Waltz and we are spending a week or so here in St Croix.

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S/V Amoray
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Gorgeous corals on the Fredriksted pier in St Croix.

This is a month’s worth of news so I’ll stop here. St Croix has heaps of interesting bits and pieces too so that will have to be in the next update!

Throughout Antigua and Barbuda, and now The Virgin Islands, we have been boat buddies with Canadians, Gwen and Guillaume from s/v Slow Waltz. They have been a delight to travel with and we have shared some amazing times together and created incredible memories.

Until next time, stay well, Sue and Mal. xx

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Barbuda

Barbuda is an island in the country of Antigua. It is such a contrast to all the volcanic islands we have previously been to; it’s low with the highest point just 125 ft above sea level. It is also very undeveloped and boasts a population of only 2,000. It is surrounded by shoals and reefs with beautiful long beaches, two of which we visited were 11 miles and 16 miles! We travelled with Gwen & Guillaume from Slow Waltz and had a beautiful few days.

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What can I say? Beautiful Barbuda!

The island is about 30 nm from Antigua and we had a lovely sail, averaging 6.5 kts with ENE winds up to 15 kts. We had a reef in as the forecast was for greater winds but we didn’t need it. Gwen took photos of Kool Kat and I took photos of Slow Waltz 🙂

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I’m taking photos of Slow Waltz
Good conditions
Good conditions
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Slow Waltz

On arrival we anchored in Low Bay and soon met the locals.

The next day we hired bikes and rode to Two Foot Bay on the north-east coast of the island.

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Bike owner Johnathon slept through our knocking so we rang him from outside his home and woke him up. Always ring otherwise I may not hear you!
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Easy riding with no hills.

Following our yummy hamburgers for lunch we then went with our guide, Clifford, or Guinness to his mates, to the frigate bird sanctuary. They are currently nesting so there were thousands either sitting on nests, attracting a partner or building a nest. The male can have a wingspan up to 7.5ft and even though they are a sea-bird, they can’t swim so they can’t land in the water. Clifford mentioned that they co-feed with the brown booby bird who plunges deep into the sea, herding a school of fish to the surface where the frigate bird swoops down and picks up dinner. Sounds like a good arrangement for the frigate bird!

To attract a female the male inflates his red-coloured throat pouch and makes a drumming sound with his beak. If that’s all he does she’s not particularly interested. She also requires him to gather twigs for the nest. She only lays one egg per season, both will sit on the nest and gestation lasts 44-51 days. At birth the chicks are naked but they develop a soft white down soon thereafter. It was a great experience to see these magnificent birds breeding.

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After a big day we’ve earned a Wadadli, or two!

The next day we navigated our way around the reefs to the south of the island, Cocoa Point. You definitely need your polarised lenses when coming into these areas. We spent a few days here anchored off the 16-mile beach snorkelling, collecting shells, reading and enjoying sundowners on the beach with other cruisers.

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Hawksbill turtle below sea fan coral
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One of my favourite shells, Bleeding Teeth – can you see the little teeth in bleeding gums?
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Sundowners and frisbee on the beach

During the sail back to Jolly Harbour on Antigua, Mal caught a barracuda, which we threw back, and a wahoo, which we didn’t! This is our first major catch on Kool Kat and he attributes his success to a new system of arranging the lures which Josh from s/v Cavu explained to him (the gorgeous young guy in the green/orange shorts above). Thanks Josh, we owe you!

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Mal with his 3ft+ wahoo. Woohoo!

Whilst in Jolly we caught up with friends we hadn’t seen for a few months, met some new ones and replenished our larder before heading around to investigate the eastern (windward) side of Antigua. But, that’s in the next post!

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Old friends Izzy and Jeff, Gwen and Guillaume, new friends Carol and Paul enjoying 1/2 price pizza night at Al Porto Restaurant.
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Anne and Tony from Pavo Real with Gwen, Guillaume and Mal on board Kool Kat having just finished Wahoo fish tacos! Yummmmm!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as we had living it 🙂 Sue & Mal xx