New Country Flag Hoisting Ceremony after checking in to the BVIs at Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke.
We had a great week of sailing, snorkeling, hiking, and dinners out, anchoring at a different Virgin anchorage every night with our long time friend Todd Reinke who flew in from Seattle via Orlando. Anchorage Map
Jeff and I pulled up our anchor from Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas on Wednesday and had a brisk seven hour sail on a close reach to St. Croix where we dropped the hook for the night east of Protestant Cay in Christiansted Harbor after being chased out of the anchorage closer to town by Crabby Pants Grouchy Man.
The next day we watched the student crew on the Schooner Rosewood hoist the sails as we were heading into town with the dinghy. We then poked our noses into a few stores around Christiansted, located the post office where we picked up our mail from general delivery, found information on the activities and events happening on the island and savored a cold beer and wings at the brewpub on the waterfront boardwalk. Our last task, was to apply for a permit and jump through all the hoops required by the National Park Service so we could anchor overnight at Buck Island. Fortunately, Jeff has more patience for these ridiculous requirements than I do and was able to secure the necessary permission to get Mezzaluna "put on the anchoring list".
Friday morning we moved Mezzaluna a few miles east to Teague Bay where we anchored off the St. Croix Yacht Club, traded stories with people we met at the Friday night happy hour, and discovered a couple with whom we had mutual friends, Dave and Linn Woodard from South Shore Yacht Club in Bay View, Wisconsin. Small world.
Todd arrived at SCYC bright and early Saturday morning. Jeff met him at the dock with Beamer, the dinghy, and whisked him back to Mezzaluna. After a round of hugs and hellos we stowed his duffel in the aft cabin, pulled the anchor and headed to Buck Island an hour away. We all donned snorkel gear and were quickly in the dinghy on our way to explore the underwater snorkel trail that meanders through coral grottoes out to the elkhorn coral patch reefs scattered along the fore reef on the east end of the island. The reef was teaming with schools of blue tangs, barracudas cruising the fringes, parrot fish, french angelfish, many other typical reef fish, fan coral with flamingo tongue sea snails, brain coral, and numerous other colorful corals. Next, we pulled Beamer up on the beach and followed the hiking trail over gentle hillsides to the island crest, then took a side trail to the observation deck overlooking the coral reef and darker, deeper water further out. Small switch backs led down the hillside to Diedrichs Point and an easy walk along the shoreline back to the beach. BBQ ribs were cooking on the grill while we sipped sundowner gin and tonics and watched the sun sink into the sea.
Sunday morning we unfurled the sails and returned to Christiansted Harbor for some land adventures. Everyone we had spoken to earlier in the week gave rave reviews of the annual Virgin Islands Agriculture Fair saying it was a must do so we hailed a taxi for a ride to the fairgrounds. What we found resembled a county fair with a tropical flair. While walking about the venue we sampled food and beverages, perused vendor's stalls and farmers' market, collected information from the education and business booths, came face to face with farm animals, and marched in time to the drum corp from Tortola. Upon our return to Christiansted we did a walkabout the town and got a bit of a history lesson while visiting Fort Christiansvaern. Being quite parched after the day's activities we revisited the brew pub for icy cold draught beers then strolled down the boardwalk to Rum Runners for dinner, which included the cab driver's recommendation "best conch fritters on the island".
Monday morning we headed out early, following the rhumb line for 35 miles on a close reach from St. Croix to the east end St. John. We anchored in Coral Harbor, took Beamer to the dock and went ashore to get our bearings about town. We met some fishermen cleaning their day's catch while walking along the harbor side road and browsed in a few shops eventually finding our way into Aqua Bistro for happy hour where we had a beer, talked with the locals and feasted on snapper and mahi for dinner.
The next morning we hiked a couple of miles on the historic Johnny Horn trail from the Emmaus Morivian Church up very steep and rocky hills, through upland dry forest and scrub across the ridges, and past ruins to Waterlemon Bay on the other side of the island. We pulled out the snorkel gear, waded into the water, and kicked across the bay to Waterlemon Cay which is ringed by a comprehensive variety of fish, corals, and gorgonians. On our hike back we took a short detour to the Annaberg School Area to see the ruins of one of the Caribbean's oldest public schools and stunning views of Tortola, Mary Point, and Leinster Bay. Being famished after our strenuous hiking and snorkeling we stopped at Skinny Legs for burgers and beers. Upon returning to the mother ship we pulled the anchor and motored a couple of miles across Coral Bay to a calmer anchorage in Hansen Bay.
The hiking continued Wednesday morning, this time on the flat Haulover Cut trail. Wave and wind conditions proved to be a bit much along the rocky shore facing Tortola for snorkeling on the north side. Not to be deterred, we hiked backed and did some snorkeling in the calmer waters on the Coral Bay side of the narrow isthmus.
An afternoon sail took us on a reach over to Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs. After checking in and holding the requisite flag hoisting ceremony Todd and I had a swim in the bay while Captain Curly played guitar aboard. Painkillers and dinner at Foxy's, the iconic island beach bar, heralded the end of another great day.
Thursday morning we left Great Harbor and dropped the anchor off Sandy Spit, swam to shore, walked around the tiny island and had a snorkel adventure along the reefs and coral heads between Sandy Spit and Green Cay. Then, Jeff and Todd rescued a runaway dinghy that was miles away from it's mother ship and returned it to some grateful charter boaters who motored over from Soper's Hole to retrieve it after we hailed them on the VHF radio. An afternoon motor sail took us to Cane Garden Bay where we strolled through town and along the beach, sipped icy cold Mt. Gay and tonics while watching the sunset from chaise lounges and then enjoyed a nice dinner of chicken with shrimp and ribs at Myetts Garden and Grill before returning to Mezzaluna for Bushwhacker nightcaps.
It was up and at it in the morning when we took the dinghy out of Cane Garden Bay, under cloudy skies and through three foot seas, past Du Bois Point and Martin Point, and onto the beach at Brewers Bay. Sneaking up some stairs past a private residence we walked along the road to the sugar mill ruins at Mt. Healthy, then backtracked to the trails leading to Anderson Point and the Bat Cave. To cool off after the hike, we snorkeled in the bay where seemingly endless clouds of small fish nearly blotted out the coral heads and colorful fish hunting and hiding there. Dozens of pelicans were in the area diving into the water just a few feet from our heads and big tarpon, alone and in schools of up to a half dozen, slowly cruised the reef, sometimes coming with in a couple of arm lengths. I attempted to swim with one of the schools but the tarpon did not want me in their school. Upon exiting the water, we each collected a couple of rocks for a short game of Boccie Rock on the beach and Jeff came back from behind to become the Brewers Bay Boccie Rock Champion. Feeling some hunger pangs, we took a long dinghy ride through the rain back to Mezzaluna in Cane Garden Bay.
After lunch, we put out the fenders and mooring lines, pulled into the fuel dock, filled up with fuel and water then headed back to St. John. We snagged a mooring ball in Caneel Bay late in the afternoon, secured things down on Mezzaluna, then took the dinghy over to Cruz Bay for a night on the town. A leisurely stroll though the tourist town of Cruz Bay took us to Mongoose Junction, the priemer dining and shopping destination, where we found a brew pub to slurp down Island Summer Ales and sandwiches.
Saturday morning found us motoring Mezzaluna over to Cruz Bay to collect information from the National Park Service Visitors Center and get our daily dose of walking and swimming. A hike to the Lind Point Overlook provided a great view of Cruz Bay and further along the Lind Point Trail on our way to Salomon Beach we caught a glimpse of two deer in the woods as well as three donkeys on the beach. We had hopes of seeing sea turtles and rays while snorkeling along the reef that grips the shoreline but they didn't show up for us. Retracing our steps we hiked back along the trail and buzzed across the harbor to take quick showers aboard Mezzaluna and share farewell beers before dropping Todd at the ferry dock. We hugged him heart to heart before he boarded the ferry to St. Thomas where he was catching a flight back to the cold north. Our last glimpse of him was doing the big "Al Wave" as the ferry sped out of the Cruz Bay. Farewell my friend. I hope to see you again soon.