It’s been a long time between drinks, well blog posts anyway and we’ve got a bit of catching up to do.
We’ve been busy with festive season celebrations, guests and generally just hangin’!
Christmas was in St Barths with friends aboard Kool Kat and we had a blast!
New Year was in Sint Maarten with friends and Aussie guests, Jo and Bob, who had just flown in for their second tour on Kool Kat! Another blast!
Then it was off to the Virgin Islands, British, US and Spanish, with Jo and Bob, for three weeks of fun. We snorkelled The Indians, Long Bay, Anegada, Christmas Cove just to name a few; hiked Virgin Gorda; drank Painkillers at Saba Rock, Foxy’s, Pusser’s, The Soggy Dollar, The Greenhouse and many more; played Rummy Tiles ad infinitum and basically had a ball.
We had an awesome time together and felt more homesick than usual as we waved them goodbye at Culebra airport on our last time together on Kool Kat. Hang on, did Jo yell something about The Bahamas…..?
We spent a few more days in Culebra before heading to Puerto Rico where we stayed in the Palmas del Mar Marina – a bit of luxe whilst we provision for The Bahamas but that’s a whole other story….
Since our last post we visited the northern-most point of our journey for this season, Puerto Rico, and have now started our trip home to Grenada. In our last post we had just arrived in St Croix, the southern-most island in the USVI (United States Virgin Islands).
We spent about 10 days on St Croix with good friends Gwen & Guillaume from Slow Waltz and Dalynn and Glenn from Amoray. Initially we anchored off the pretty township of Christiansted but after a few days moved around to the beautiful anchorage of Fredriksted. We hired a car for a day tour and, given the driving is on the left-hand side of the road, I volunteered to drive. The strange thing is they have American cars so the driver sits on the left! Crazy! When it came to returning the car it was evident we were subject to the ‘GG curse’: a flat tyre only to be replaced by a flat spare tyre! Note to self: don’t hire a car with Gwen and Guillaume.
We enjoyed a wide variety of cultural activities: rum sampling, hermit crab races and Art Thursday, which is where we heard about “chaney”. Apparently, during a slave uprising in 1878, plantation houses were attacked, set on fire and valuable items such as china bowls and jugs were smashed. Crucian children found the broken shards and used them as play money. The term chaney is a combination of “china” and “money”. They have been found across the island and created into jewellery. Dalynn and I purchased two pieces and were also lucky enough to find a piece when scouring the beach in Fredriksted. Cool!
The diving under the Fredriksted Pier was sensational. We had two very special finds: two seahorses and one baby octopus being harassed by a blue-headed wrasse. Whilst enjoying a beach BBQ organised by Lynne and Eric of s/v Amarula, we discovered there is a ‘friendly’ green turtle called Charlie near our anchorage. Apparently a local has been feeding him sardines so we went to meet him. He was pretty friendly and swam amongst us but when I stupidly put my hand out he bit my finger! He wasn’t too happy with the taste so didn’t hang around too long. We were super lucky to also experience swimming with dolphins in this location too. How good is that!
Leaving St Croix behind, we sailed north-west with Slow Waltz to Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands. We discovered Culebra is part of Puerto Rico and that there isn’t really a “Spanish” Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is part of the US but, for some reason, we had to clear-out of the USVI in St Croix and clear-in to Puerto Rico, exactly as if it’s another country. Anyway, Culebra was great and we loved it. Playa Flamenco is a beautiful beach and down one end there are abandoned tanks once used by the US for target practice but now decorated with funky graffiti. Apparently there is unexploded ordinance on the island so we ensured we stayed on the walking tracks thereby avoiding any unwanted explosions!
Again, we had another ‘special’ find: a mobile octopus. We see them hidden in crevices but very rarely out and about so this was a good sighting. Check out our Team Kool Kat Youtube Channel for a 36-second video of his amazing variety of camouflages.
Street art on the tiny island of Culebra was gorgeous.
Whilst in Culebra we took advantage of the $1US fare for the 1.5hr trip by ferry to mainland Puerto Rico. Again, we hired a car and spent the day in the capital, San Juan, and doing some much-needed shopping at the fabulously-priced US malls. Given they drive on the right-hand side, Guillaume offered to do the driving. No arguments from us there and we’re delighted to say the ‘GG curse’ has been lifted – no flat tyres!
Old San Juan was a pleasant surprise – so European and very elegant. The streets have blue cobblestones, there is a majestic fort and the city villas were stunning!
We enjoyed our taster and vowed to return to Puerto Rico next season for a decent amount of time.
So now we need to turn around and go back down the island chain. Back to the BVIs to clear-in and out at Jost Van Dyke. We stopped at The Baths on Virgin Gorda and left for Sint Maarten from Cooper Island. Check out our video of The Baths on youtube.
We did an overnight sail to Sint Maarten which means with 80+ nm to cover we left Cooper Is at 5pm anticipating a 14hr sail. Normally we’d have a schedule of two hours on and two hours off for each of us. Unfortunately, I was ill and Mal had to do the whole night without any help from me! Needless to say he was exhausted when we arrived in Simpson Bay. I was well enough to do the anchoring but egads the remote control for the windlass wasn’t working so I had to motor around for almost an hour whilst Mal worked out what was wrong! A broken connection! Mal did a quick temporary fix joining the wires back together and we eventually dropped the hook 15 hrs after leaving the BVIs.
Aah, the joys of sailing! I’ll put a halt here so until next time, keep well, and warm if you are in Oz.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The next day we walked to the Bubble Pool on JVD. Looks pretty calm…..
Off the next day to Cane Garden Bayon Tortola. A very pretty anchorage and we enjoyed a few quiet days here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below are some underwater pics I just love taking!
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.
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
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.