Saturday, 25 May 2013

24 Virgin Islands (VI'S), reunions, wet tropical rains here ……… May 2013

Wet is wet is wet on a boat, close all hatches, stay inside, no going in the dinghy ashore- it’s “ pissing down” buckets in ST Croix, US Virgin Islands-thunder day & night today!    

Locals speak American English here on the street; Good morning or some say Good mahnin! Check yoh latah, t’anks. We say Hello, how are you? see ya later crocodile!                                    

Reunion with friends in the British VI’s
Keeping in touch with sailing friends on the radio/email network is fun. For weeks we heard Steve & Carol, on Innamorata and John & Linda before our rendezvous in BVI's Great Harbour. 

Kool Kat leaving..
 J&L plan to sell their home of 6 yrs, Kool Kat (sistership to Wyuna) and head back to Houston.  

Since we came to Grenada they've adopted us and taught us about sailing a Leopard.  Sharing their Texan spirit, Xmas lunch, music jams, dinners and playing Mexican trains- lucky us! Sadly, we waved them goodbye.

Surprising us Steve and Carol, English mates we met last year, sailed in the next day with Ian & Wendy on Outsider, lifting our spirits. 
We were excited to catch up on their year’s adventures to the Bahamas, US east coast and Haiti. 

Carol, Gina & Wendy ?

Next day we moved bays, going to Carol’s birthday in the rain.  
We hired cars to tour Tortola island with steep switch back turns but worth it for dramatic sea vista's.                 

Bill’s arrival party
The welcoming party for Bill’s ferry arrival in Roadtown,16 April was us and the BVI sports team, home from the Caribbean Games.

Great seeing him looking relaxed and hearing his news & RMYS Dalliance, Mt Gay crew tales.

We sailed to meet S&C and spent the week snorkeling, exchanging sail tips, dived the Pinnacles, BBQ’d (this word comes from the Caribs - Kalinago's), showing our fish videos and telling hilarious sailing stories.  

Steve & Carol with kanga
Like any campers, on water, we had What international flag is this? happy hr.  Afterwards Bruce decided to fly the Boxing Kanga, our torn red ensign is relegated to the upper stay. Relief too, we now have a new sun cover expertly made by Carol

We had a last farewell dinner with S&C to wish them many fair winds and cheers. Unfortunately they're sailing home crossing the Atlantic to Brighton UK, back to work and to save for their next cruise!  
Bill & Bruce after lunch
Bill was yet to see tell tales fly so we headed for Marina Cay to visit Pussers Rum bar and put our feet in the sand.   

Lunch on The Royal Mail Steamer Rhone                                                 

Our last lunch destination with Bill was snorkeling on The Wreck of the Rhone, a 310ft ship that hit the rocks in 1867 in a hurricane on Salt Is.!  All 260 passengers drowned as it sunk, except the only guy who wasn't tied into his bunk!

It’s enormous steel hull, broken in half, is now home to fish, coral, some relics – a porthole, rum bottle & biggest steamed propeller ever made.
Rhone stern - Gina dived the next week inside the bow- "it,s haunting but exhilarating to swim in"- with a dolphin watching!    
Hawksbill Caneel Bay

USVI’s parks and turtles
The US bought the USVI’s for $25mill from the Danish. The National Parks Service & Lauren Rockefeller have re-created marine reserves on ST Thomas, ST Croix, and especially ST John’s. Protected beautiful sandy bays, turtle breeding & fish sanctuaries and walking trails make for a peaceful and very expensive getaway (an island home is $400k-4m).

In the 1800’s the Danish colonised all 3 islands into sugar plantations, bringing slaves from Africa later burnt or destroyed by hurricanes.

Only wind mills & crushes remain - which we hiked to see.
Annaberg Sugar Mill
Friends Roni and James, of Harlequinn were luckily in the harbour when we arrived to clear customs and met us in town. We tagged with them to quiet bays, after hearing how gr8t their time ashore was we took the guided hike in Rain, rain, rain!
Reef Bay trail rock carvings- Taino people

Wise sailors haul out in Puerto Rico in May, they go home to Seattle. They gave us a wave passing by til next season, (we haul out June at the same marina).  

Harlequinn crew
May 2up cruising around ST Thomas
Ready for a slow down (from moving every 2-5 days for 6mths.)  We chose ST Thomas for a break, anchoring off town for a week to shop for food and a TV screen for watching movies. Saturday night we caught the local bus to the hills, to a small community theatre, wooed by  a black jazz singer performing Billie Holiday’s songs and life stories.

The windguru site warned us go Nth to escape the swell, so we did. In Magen’s Bay 1 mile deep harbour we dropped the anchor, content to “do what we do well”, (no dinghy dock).

We donned our masks and flippers to go ashore and dropped our kayak in to explore the surrounding cliffs. On the back deck we cracked champagne for Gina’s birthday, no other boats nearby- only stars, lovely!

Columbus in St Croix – Danish history & turquoise sea reefs
We had a fantastic sail for 4 hours for 35nm’s at a speed of 7knts to ST Croix.  Arriving at the harbour we saw no other cruisers, only the largest coral reef in the Caribbean, a 1200 ft. wall drop off. A little nerve-racking for Bruce on the helm!

Christiansted is the historic Danish sea port we moored in and a National Park. The whole town is full of 18c buildings, seafront fort, steeple tower, churches, governor’s house, auction yard for slaves and cobblestone streets line the waterfront.

How did Columbus navigate to come ashore across the reef in the 14c to look for water? Our guess is he ordered crew to row ashore to find the opening. Too bad if they washed up on the beach. 

Really it’s so like South Pacific islands without the palm trees. Except roosters & chicks roam the streets & parks freely.

The cane plantations run by the Danish for sugar and molasses ceased in 1848 after a long struggle for liberation.

On our visit to the old Whim Estate House plantation run from 1735, which had 103 slaves working 130 acres, we saw a collection of slavery photos and records.  Over 11 million people from West Africa were enslaved by Europeans & English, were brought by boat and auctioned in Caribbean market squares. 

Today cruise ships, resort guests and divers make up most visitors.

We sailed to the east coast to get out of the winds & swells & snorkel the Fredriksted cruise ship pier. Next we'll try ST Kilda pier on a hot day!

Our favorite backstreet transport & bar - local creations!

Last stop is Spanish Virgins, 40 miles away, then haul out time is June Puerto Rico.

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