8 May 2011, St. Thomas, USVI to New York

Marine Forecast: not applicable, sigh.

Where to find breakfast, or a taxi, on a Sunday morning after Carnivale? Breakfast at Gladys’ on Great Dane St.: fried fish and grits for The Skipper; salt fish and chop chop for Ginger.

A quick shower and re-pack and an early taxi to the airport just in case. We hang out with painkillers and books and get one last round of chicken, beans and rice, and macaroni and cheese to go. I think we’ve eaten a barnyard’s worth of animals on this trip. At least we ate veggies and fish on the boat.

Bonus on the return flight is that the only mileage point seats available were in Business. We’re plied with food and drink and blankets, and I have tea and a bloody mary with my cheesecake. When we land at JFK, it’s suddenly spring again (at least it’s not snowing), and everyone is too fast and efficient. Our apartment seems huge, and the sky is small and empty without stars. That night we’re up several times to check the mooring lines. I think we’re about to hit land until I see the street out front.

As I sit at the computer to write this trip report, the screen and words seem narrow in every sense, flat and lifeless. There is no horizon. Better to be on a boat looking at the line where sky meets sea and to know there’s more beyond it.

7 May 2011, Norman Island, BVI to St. Thomas, USVI

Marine Forecast: excellent!
Actual: winds 9-16

Up early with last-day jitters, we have tea and are off at 7:30. It’s a beautiful day for a sail, and we make it to Road Town by 9:30 and are docked by 10. We’ve done really well at eating all our food and disposing of trash along the way, so cleanup and packing are done quickly.

We avail ourselves of the BVI YC showers, which are the second most-welcome sight since the showers at Leverick’s, and make it in time for the noon-ish ferry. Bomba Charger!!! The Skipper racks out to the jet engine drone. I eat the last of the boat snack pretzels washed down with a Carib and watch our progress through the Drake, a greatest hits of the last 9 days. I’m sad to leave the boat, roll-y nights notwithstanding. We’ve had a great time with one another, and we would do this again tomorrow. But, I’m also happy to have a respite from sun and heat to sort out this mystery rash. However, our adventures are not over….

Today is the last day of Carnivale in Charlotte Amalie, and there are no taxi drivers willing to drive to our hotel, The Green Iguana, which lies on the other side of the parade route. To get there by car would involve going around the backside of St. Thomas, which no one will do. We spend more time hanging out with the parking lot chicken at the ferry dock, contemplating options, and finally decide to walk. Even with only three medium-sized duffle bags and two backpacks, this will be a slog in the heat. We make it to the Green Bar where a taxi driver assures us he can make it to the hotel. After 20 minutes of driving around, he admits defeat, puts us out right at the parade route, and wishes us luck.

While snaking our way through families and food carts, The Skipper slips off a curb and skins his knee, winning a pretty bloody surface wound. Luckily, all the medical supplies are at hand. Bandaged, we climb a big hill behind Government House, climb the 99 Steps, and run into Suzy and Bill of the Green Iguana – with a car! Our bags ride up the final hill, and Suzy gets us to our room asap. More showers, more neosporine and bandages, and we’re back down the hill for dinner before it gets too late.

The parade is amazing, a total family affair. The West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn, New York, is huge with a lot of sound trucks, but no dancing women in feathers! Here, it seems they put the best dancers at the front and everyone else follows along, even the littlest kids. Carnivale was almost over, so our choices of street food were limited. Finally, we found a truck on Main Street that was billowing smoke out of a grill attached to the back: BBQ chicken, beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, and Heinekins. Back up the hill for more showers and a fantastic view of the fireworks. The bed was so clean and soft, but still, I dreamed that St. Thomas wasn’t properly moored to St. John, and The Skipper kept mumbling about tightening the sheets.

5 May 2011, Mahoe Bay, USVI to Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Marine Forecast: perfect!!

While Ginger is plucking her eyebrows during a moment of personal hygiene in the pre-dawn hours, she notices that there are small clear blisters under her eyebrows, on her cheeks and forehead and throat. After shaving, she finds small itchy red dots on her legs and stomach. Hmmm. More thorough face-washing, less sunscreen.

Over breakfast, a lone dolphin cruises in and out of the bay, and we decide to walk to the Annaberg Sugar Mill. Then it’s either Jost Van Dyke or Leinster Bay, but we can’t decide. One thing at a time. Having perfected our 2-person dinghy beaching drill in big surf at Cinnamon Bay, Mahoe Beach is a cakewalk (9:30). The Cruising Guide says it’s a brisk 30 minute walk to the Mill. I’m not sure who walks briskly up a steep grade in the tropical heat. And I forgot to bring a seltzer.

We took a brief side trip to see the ruins of the Annaberg school (very cool) and finally made it to the top of the ruins at the Mill just as a wonderful park service employee put out a cooler of water and cups. Hooray US tax dollars! The ruins were well-preserved with lots of signs to read and great views of Leinster Bay. I could have stayed for hours, but somewhere during our walk, we decided Jost was the next destination, so we beat a quick-ish retreat to the boat (11:30). Motoring out, we saw a turtle in the water, and I was sad to leave this little bit of paradise.

After a *very* leisurely sail (12-2:45; winds from 12 to 4 knots), we made it to Great Harbour and were pleasantly surprised to find a mooring ball. After the lowest-stress C&I process I’ve ever experienced, we had a drink at Foxy’s, enjoyed the happy hour musician, strolled the main drag to consider dinner options, and went back to the boat for drinks and snacks until the sun slipped behind the hill.

Then back to Foxy’s for jerk chicken wings (tasty!) and BBQ baby back ribs. These were like Uncle Joe’s ribs, with a sweet, tomato-based basting sauce and then more to cover. The different cut of ribs meant more blackened crunchy parts! The bugs were out, so we didn’t stick around for the DJ. For bathrooms al fresco, Foxy’s is only a close second to Pirate’s Bight, and both were clean and large. More rum and tonic on the boat ensured a sound sleep despite the swell that worked inside the harbor.

4 May 2011, Caneel Bay to Mahoe Bay, USVI

Marine Forecast: beautiful!

Even after a sleepless night, Ginger couldn’t help but be a little smug while writing postcards and watching the sun rise over Caneel Bay. And the day only got better. Over breakfast, we decided to check out the Caneel Bay resort. Since it was built in the 1930’s, I’d thought it would be art deco but it was more of a Frank Lloyd Wright aesthetic with long low buildings open towards the water.

The red-striped taxis in Cruz Bay were eerily like the golf carts in The Prisoner, and the manicured grass at the resort just added to the genteel incarceration effect. We were welcomed cordially, though, and instructed *not* to sit on the beach chairs. But the gift shop was good: postcards, more sunscreen, but no sunglasses even though the backs and insides of Ginger’s ears were a raging itch. The bathrooms were good: AC, tile, nice hand towels. It really is amazing how welcoming of boaters the resorts are, especially in the low-ish season. Definitely not a privilege to abuse, but an interesting way to see places we normally wouldn’t go (Caneel Bay 9-10).

We motored up to Mahoe Bay (11-11:30), had our pick of mooring balls, and geared up for a dinghy trip to Trunk Bay (1pm). Unfortunately, we turned in one bay too soon, so we practiced our 2-person dinghy beaching drill in Cinnamon Bay. We shared a sandwich, then ran it out into the surf where Ginger practiced her shallow-water-dinghy-start magic and zipped over to Trunk Bay. Tied up at the dinghy line (thanks US National Parks!) and swam in to look at the underwater snorkel trail. Very cool but not as many fish as The Caves. Lots o’ sea urchins, though.

And then we thought, why not eat lunch on shore? So The Skipper swims out, dinghies in the food to Ginger waiting in the surf, parks and swims back. Honeymoon! We share a sandwich and some very warm Caribs under the trees, look at the white beach and light blue water and the afternoon rainstorm blowing through behind Jost Van Dyke, and keep poking one another to make sure this isn’t a dream.

The Skipper retrieves Ginger and the food from the surf zone and we make it to the boat just as the rain starts (4pm). Nap, drinks, sunset, dinner: one of those Indian foil pouches of chick peas over boiled potatoes. The rum and tonic and lime come out as does a huge sky of stars and we watch the Big Dipper wheel around the mast.

3 May 2011, Norman Island, BVI to Caneel Bay, USVI

Marine Forecast: It was going to be nice for the rest of the week, so we stopped listening.

This was the big travel day with BBQ in Cruz Bay, St. John as the prize at the end. We had a nice hour of downwind sail to Frenchman’s Cay (9-10), then motored to Soper’s Hole Marina for fuel, water, and more ice, then picked up a mooring ball to finish with provisions and C&I. Ginger drove the big boat and the small boat all morning (except for docking).

After getting our third and final case of beer (Carib), we zinged to customs for checkout only to find that the copies of our entrance cards were wanted before they would let us out of the BVIs. Another to and fro, with fraying nerves, and we were finally underway. (Time at Soper’s 11-1.) Ginger made tuna wraps with cheese while The Skipper drove, and after a moment’s testiness navigating around Johnson’s Reef, it was a smooth ride to Caneel Bay in a light rain, arriving at 2:15. To ease the way through US C&I, as instructed, we tried to make ourselves as presentable as 6 days on a boat with minimal showering would allow. Thank goodness we snorkeled the day before.

We dinghied to C&I through some swell and chop off the point and since there weren’t too many boats, tied up at the US C&I dock. Yes, the National Parks dinghy dock was just across the cove (and very full), but we wanted to do the right thing, at least this time. Paperwork was all good, and when it came time to pay the docking fee at the second desk, the woman couldn’t find our boat name in her machine, so waved us through! After a chat with the nice Agriculture Officer that had me wondering about the status of our fruit, we drove around the corner to find a dinghy dock in town.

Scored a parking spot at a dock in front of the bars and scored a well-earned beer. We were the first customers when Uncle Joe’s opened at 5, and we tucked into our combination platters (chicken and pork ribs) with two sides. Like the BBQ at Leverick’s, this was cooked over hickory but instead of a spice rub, Uncle Joe’s used a spicy, tomato-based sauce to baste and then cover the meat. Add the flaming pepper sauce from the table, and yes, it was totally worth the trip.

I didn’t fancy driving around the point in the dark, so we dinghied back to the boat for the last of a fantastic sunset with drinks. After a long day, we were treated to yet another roll-y night. We moored at the outside edge of the field and closer to Cruz Bay so were exposed to the vagaries of the Caneel ferry and other boat traffic plus a solid north swell. If there were enough daylight left, we might have moved the boat further up the bay, but I noticed everyone was rockin’.