Leaving the Virgin Islands (still virgins?)
02 May 2016
Time to leave the Virgin Islands. We have been here for about 5 weeks. Looking back, it is hard to realize what has transpired in those 5 weeks. And all good! We had a boisterous sail from the Bahamas with Rick helping sail the 5 day passage. Calling “Land Ho!” seeing the misty mountains of the Virgin Islands is something I will treasure.
We enjoyed our down time in Charlotte Amalia with thousands of our closest friends on cruise ships. Really, we were anchored only a ¼ mile away but felt worlds away. Going ashore with Sophie was a clear signal that we were not from the “Something of the Sea.” The town is quite historic and we certainly enjoyed the area.
Next was a reach to Culebra and Vieques to sail with Jeff and Terry. I'm not sure the Spanish Virgin Islands were on our bucket list but we are so glad we got to go there. Thanks Jeff and Terry for inducing us to pull the anchor and head back west. The SVI has a Spanish flavor, friendly people, good food and some of the best beaches. This is a small area that I would recommend for a week charter. We liked Culebra more than Vieques but enjoyed both.
Red Hook became our pick up and drop off spot for the next sets of Uproar guests. Logan and Dave Whitford came for a week of fun. Logan flew from Milwaukee and Dave from Nome, Alaska! Quite a weather upgrade isn't it Dave? Good thing because Dave was recovering from Pneumonia! Just what the Dr ordered. Dave did seem to improve as the sun and salt infused his very pale skin. Dave and Logan are cousins and really enjoyed each other's company. Lisa enjoyed feeding the boys to excess, a mother's pride. We discovered Newfound Bay on St. John. This is out of the regulated park system and a remote anchorage we recommend.
Three days later, laundry done (at the drop-off-and-pick-up) and Ken Grupe and kids came aboard. Kara, Kevin and Meredith are 19 thru 25. They are busy with school, jobs and job hunting but Ken was able to lasso them onto the same airplane headed south. Imagine how hard it was to get everyone together. It sure became easy once they stepped aboard Uproar. All we had to do was sail, swim, eat, drink and do it again. All three kids were counselors at Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake, Michigan. This is the UM alumni camp which I understand is more of a resort than camp. They had friends who were also counselors at Bitter End Yacht Club. Corine, manager at BEYC, knows where to recruit good staff.
After a quick snorkel at the Indians and evening at the Willy T, we headed for Virgin Gorda. We had a glorious sail there. Kevin and Meredith were sailing staff and Camp M. But all of the 100 boats in their care had tillers. There were a few anxious moments when Uproar's 60” destroyer wheel was swung like a tiller. They got the hang of it and sailed well on the close reach.
Uproar hadn't been at a dock for four months. I had some apprehensions about actually going to a dock where we can plug in the shore power and step off the boat. These apprehensions evaporated with the humidity in the cabin when we got to turn on the long idle AC. We had a spell of humid, hazy weather and Uproar stayed cool. We used plenty of water because the hose was right there. Lisa did test the water and declare it unfit for use on Uproar. We still had plenty for the week. Let's pay homage to our 30 gallon/hour watermaker.
Nick, dockmaster at BEYC, was a great host. He sent us on a scenic hike up the hill, made Hobie Wave cats available for our use and was a great tour guide. There was a group of about 25 kids who work at BEYC and other spots in the area who hung out each night. Our kids were welcomed in the group and had some adventures only they can divulge. We did join them one evening for volleyball on a remote beach. What a fun and great bunch of kids (OK they were in their 20s but kids none the less).
I have to say Uproar did just fine at the dock. Sophie's routine changed and she is now reluctant to poop on the boat. Way to hold it Sophie!
Ken and family were dropped off at Red Hook yesterday and Lisa and I are left with a strange feeling, missing family and friends again. It is a familiar feeling we have felt throughout. We know it is a price we are paying.
So, one big question, how does the Virgin Islands compare to the Bahamas? They are quite different. The Bahamas are low islands in more clustered groups. One island, Mayaguana is 30 miles long. From an abandoned 3 story building you can see the entire island and only 350 people live there. We love the Bahamas. The people are the true treasure along with the turquoise water. Weather in the winter was surprisingly tough. There are more small islands and bays to explore in the Bahamas than the VI.
The Virgin Islands are more populated and that means better provisioning, restaurants, etc. There is a beauty to the Virgin Islands that is breathtaking. We love the steep hills and deep bays. Sailing here is quite easy with few hazards and more settled weather. Most of the charter business had moved to the BVI. Charterers tend to stay in the BVI. I think they are missing out on some of the beautiful spots around St John like Newfound Bay and Coral Bay.
Bitter End Yacht Club has been around for a long time. Their grounds and facilities are first rate. If planning a shore based vacation, I would sure recommend it. There are plenty of activities in this unique location.
Stand by for a blog on chartering recommendations.
One disappointment with the Virgin Islands is that we didn't meet the cruisers like we did in the Bahamas. This is partly or mostly our fault. We had a lot of visitors and didn't reach out to other cruisers. There was also a high percentage of charterers who we will not meet down island. The vibe is a bit different here. In the Bahamas we always got to know those anchored around us. We often got together for cocktail hour and even dinner. We will put more effort into meeting our neighbors as we travel.
Our five weeks here have been a sail in paradise. That just confirms, home is where the anchor sets.