St Thomas to St Croix

Our Anchorage
Our Anchorage

After leaving Culebra we had to start making our way to St Thomas.  A break in the weather occurred on the Sunday so we decided to take our chance and complete the 20-mile motor back to Red Hook Bay to top up with water.  We cleared the reef but the wind and swell had not settled.  We were beaten up in the first 3 hours with Troskala struggling at times to maintain a reasonable speed when slamming into 2.8-meter waves.  I was dogged throughout with seasickness, which has only ever once happened before.  I do not wish seasickness on anyone and it is so debilitating.  I was flat out for most of the journey and Carlotta took over the watches.  About 3 hours in we decided to make our first stop at Honeymoon Bay on Water Island; 8 miles short of our planned destination, but to be honest I did not care and once we dropped the anchor I was back to normal.

Approaching St Croix
Approaching St Croix

It was lovely being back in Honeymoon Bay.  We met with some friends on our first night that we had met in Tortola and another lovely American Couple.  We joined them in the evening for cocktails and smoked Oysters; a lovely evening.

We were in no rush to set out and spent another day enjoying beach life,  Our friends on Yacht Demeter kindly loaned their 20 horse power dinghy so that we could get to Charlotte Amalie to stock up on provisions without having to move Troskala.  We had Demeter over for drinks in the evening with their lovely children Max and Anya.

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We departed early the next morning and circumnavigated Water Island before heading back out to sea.  We motored another 2 hours to Red Hook where we filled with water and disposed of garbage before taking a mooring in Christmas Cove just off St James Island, a secluded and beautiful spot.

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It is easy for most people to miss St Croix and not give it another thought.  The island lies in splendid isolation 40 miles south of the other Virgin Islands.  It is surrounded by the largest barrier reef system in the Caribbean.  St Croix is said to be rich in history and the Capital (Christiansted) is said to be the most beautiful town in the Caribbean.  We also learnt that on one spot of the island you are on the closest land to the deepest water in the world. How could anyone miss this place based on what is written.  We had to go and the nest morning we set off at 07:00 to complete the 40 miles south that would take us from 18 degrees Latitude back to 17 degrees.

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Our passage went well at the start.  We had to reef the genoa and the main by one but Troskala held a steady course and when we reached the island we were only 2 miles west off our rhumb line, which is not bad considering the cross current and leeway that took place.  I suffered again from seasickness, which is a bit of blow so I will need to take seasickness tablets for the next voyages.

We approached a lush and large island, it looked beautiful from the sea and we could not wait to get in and explore.  I would not have wanted to complete the approach to Christiansted in wind over 15 knots.  The place is strewn with reefs and although there are numerous buoys, this only aids to confuse you even more with the two channels.  A couple of sunken yachts was a stark reminder of how dangerous the entry can be.

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We survived and entered the harbour at a safe 2 knots.  The guidebook recommends anchoring in Gallows Bay.  This did not look that nice so we went around Protestant Cay, a small island in the harbour.  You are not meant to anchor here due to a large mooring field that is used by many cruisers who forgot to leave the island, so really it is a homemade mooring field and not listed this was on the charts other than it being an anchorage so we used it with not a single bit of guilt.  I have to add that do be careful upon taking my advise.  I went snorkelling the next day and found that our anchor had only just missed several mooring chains, two car engines and a tyre.  The bottom is littered with debris, which is a shame as the water and the harbour are stunning.  If you do manage to anchor and avoid all the metal the holding is good, in fact we are still here with the wind gusting to 30 knots at times and we have still held.

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What shocked us the most when going to land was the friendliness of all the people.  As soon as we entered by dinghy local cruisers were there to help Carlotta off and advise us where best to leave the dinghy.  We went to a great bar, which used to be an old windmill.  We met several locals who were informative, kind and funny.  We played bar games with another lovely American couple who were staying in a hotel locally. Were given free shots of Whiskey and Rum and after becoming slightly intoxicated we departed but invited Ed and Danielle over the next night for drinks on Troskala.

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The next day was spent in Christiansted.  Yes, the town was everything we expected, in fact it was more than we expected.  I would say that the town is the most interesting, beautiful and well appointed town in the Caribbean.  There is very little tourism so it maintains its charm as a small village.  Everyone is friendly and will talk to you on the street for no apparent reason.   We felt at home and I can see why cruisers do not leave after reaching this place. I think after a few days and a few whiskey shots you could call this place home and never go back to your previous destinations.

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We loved the architecture, the small streets, shops and lovely café’s.  The history is all around you and encompassing.   St Criox does have its problems.  One of its largest revenue generators was a oil depot situated on the North coast.  The Oil depot closed down this year and an island that has only 50,000 inhabitants lost over 2,000 jobs, which has been crippling.  There is desperation and it is not recommended to walk the streets after dark.  I never at any stage felt intimidated and enjoyed my time wondering around the small streets.  There is still a very Danish feel.  The Danish ruled the island for 200 years and made the town what it is today; a relaxing, calm and beautiful.   I would say that is you want to see a Caribbean Town as it was before being messed around with mass tourism, such as St Maartens, and St Kitts, visit Christiansted before it is too late, you will not be disappointed.  Our photos do not do it justice and there is no doubt we will be back.  In the evening we had the friends we met the previous night, Ed and Danielle.  Danielle had made a made a fantastic punch and they had very kindly brought us some beers and wine.  We had a lovely evening learning about them and sharing numerous stories. It could not have been a better ending to a great day and I hope we get to meet them in New York in the future.  It is evenings like this that I think we will miss the most when our adventure comes to a close.

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The following day we decided to rent a car to tour the island and visit some of the old sugar plantations.  I have recently read a couple a books related to the history of sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean and was therefore eager to explore some old ruins.   So our new car would be a Ford Fiesta that we picked up from Centre point car rentals.  We headed firstly to Frederiksted.  Fredericksted is a quaint, charming and laid-back town with a mixture of Danish and Colonial and Victorian architecture.  It is another lovely town but much quieter than Christiansted.  We had a late breakfast at Polly’s, located on the sea front and then headed to the north of the island.  It was similar to driving in Wales or Scotland.  Steep cliffs were covered with lush green foliage.  The roads were winding and the views were spectacular.

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Two hours in to our drive the car felt slightly odd and on further investigation we found that we had a flat tyre.  We were in the middle of nowhere but two cars past and offered a hand, which I kindly declined.  Twenty minutes we were on our way and after a short drive we found the plantation.

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It was eerie to be walking around this site, which is the site of Sugar Mill Base, dated 1765.  There was a tomb nearby but we did not know whose is was and why it was there,  We then realised that we were standing on the spot that has the closest land to the deepest water in the world and that the site was used for research for Ocean Temperature Energy Conservation.  We was a lovely site and we spent some time reflecting and enjoying the glorious scenery that St Croix offers at every possible angle.

After the plantation we drove into the rain forest and stopped off for a smoothie at a small zoo, where we were looked after by the staff and spent some time holding puppies, kittens and watching tortoises make love; not on purpose, but they were all at it; must be the time of the year or something.

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The rest of the island did not disappoint.  There are relics and history at every turn and we could have spent much longer enjoying such sights but we were tired, hot and needed a swim.

We had enjoyed another lovely day on this very special island.  We are now stuck due to high winds and swell but expect to depart Christiansted in the next couple of days to head to Buck Island, which is the first underwater National Monument; so of course, we have to go and hope to send you photos of this paradise shortly.

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On a personal note, our plans have changed yet again.  Our circumnavigation on Troskala will be shortly coming to end as we pave a career in Chartering. I had hoped to keep Troskala in the BVI’s with the idea of sailing her into the Pacific but I cannot kid myself that this will be a few years away and I cannot bear the thought of leaving our beautiful yacht to rot in a marina as so many do.  We have therefore decided to sail her back to Northern Spain in May next year as it is a  place close to our hearts and the best cruising ground we have encountered during this trip. In our holidays next year, which normally occur in August and September we will sail her from La Coruna back through Portugal and into the Med as we have wanted to do this area since the start and at least this way we can use her yearly and putting her in the water here during the high hurricane months does not make sense.  That said, there is still so much to wright about and new adventures and just around the corner.

Best wishes,

Oliver

Sint Maarten’s to The British Virgin Islands

 

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So, all was in order.  The wind had decreased and we were set to leave Marigot Bay for our sail to the British Virgin Islands where we would meet up with a friends onboard Rafiki.  The journey was 80 miles and the winds favorable with a lovely Easterly pushing us from behind.  We lifted anchor at 02:00 in the morning and sailed off into a full moon and calm sea.  An hour into our sail we poled out the Genoa and I managed top get some sleep whilst Carlotta took on the first watch.

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The journey was pretty uneventful, which is just what we needed after a few hard sails in previous weeks.  The journey took 15 hours to complete 83 miles, we were certainly not rushing and the winds went light as we approached Virgin Gorda; the first Island of the BVI’s. As we rounded Virgin Gorda and Ginger Island we were greeted into a new world of calm sees and stunning scenery.  It was very much like enetering a forgotten world with islands doted around us in every direction and lush green mountains dropping down to golden sands below; it almost looked fake and nothing like what we had expected.  Our first stop would be Savannah Bay, which is located just North of Spanish Town, which is the main town in Virgin Gorda.  We radioed Rafiki and let them know that we were approaching the reef-strewn bay.  Kindly Rob and the children took to their dinghy and met us at the entrance to guide us into the bay, which was absolutely gorgeous.  We had settled down and had dinner with Rob, Cally and the children whilst catching up on the past months events; it was so nice to be with friends again and to be surrounded by such bewildering beauty.

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The next day we needed to check in so we sailed, or rather motored, to Spanish Town and whilst the Rafiki’s took the chance top victual along with Carlotta I began the process of filling out 4 different forms and being nicely questioned by several members of Customs & Immigration.  All of this done we set off to Trellis Bay to join in on one of their Full Moon Parties, which take place every last Saturday of every month or the closest weekend to the full moon.

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We had a great sail from Spanish Town to Trellis Bay making sure we took photos of each other as we went.  The thing about Trellis Bay, especially near party time is that the anchorage gets very busy but we found space and were settled.  We headed to the party around 18:00 and were in for a great surprise. The atmosphere of the party hits you as soon as you arrive.  There are plenty of craft stores, bars and restaurants on the side of a white sandy beach.  Later on the music got going and the atmosphere increased.  They have metal sculptures dotted around and filled with wood, which the light after 21:00.  It seemed like a bit of a hippy set up with plenty of odd people dabbling in crafts of all kinds, but it was pleasant and we had an amazing evening with friends, beers and great entertainment.

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The night unfortunately went sour.  When we reached Troskala we found a Catamaran was trying to make love to her and had damaged her Pull-pit and navigation light not to mention a lot of damage to our rubbing strake.  The damage caused to the catamaran looked far greater and we dreaded speaking to the owners the next morning.  We finally re-anchored and had a sleepless night.

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The next morning I went to investigate the damage and speak to the owner.  He had sustain a lot of damage to his port side and bow and I expected the worst with insurance companies and the like.  We had come in last the previous night but were located far away from the Cat, the only thing we can assume is that he had way too much chain out and as the wind died he came to greet us.  Anyway, we were in luck and met a lovely Greek gentleman whoi was very understanding to the situation and did not want to exchange details.  We felt much better and decided to continue our journey.

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We were heading to Cane Garden Bay http://www.bvitourism.com/wtd/cane-garden-bay-beach on the North side of Tortola.  As the winds were light we had to motor but the scenery made up for the noise of the motor and soon enough we found ourselves anchored in a glorious bay.  We went for a swim after the rain had ceased and walked up to a view point to get a better perspective of our surroundings.  So far we love the BVI’s.  It has a Caribbean feel but the people are more friendly and the scenery is much more diverse than previous islands.  The BVI’s have also to succumbed to mass tourism so places feel like they would have been twenty to thirty years ago.

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We were joined later by Rafiki and after swimming with Emily and James we had a lovely meal onboard Troskala whilst the moon moved slowly across the sky; it was a perfect end to a perfect day.

The next morning brought more sunshine.  Carlotta and I went to get some ice and were joined by some other friends on Easy Rider who we had met during the ARC.  We departed Cane Garden Bay Shortly after and decided to head to Sandy Cay Spit, which is a small island just off Tortola and Little Jost Van Dyke.  It was, as you would imagine from the films, a small island with white sand and a few palm trees.  We both picked up a mooring buoy and went for a swim in crystal clear waters.  We decided later to investigate the island but after a tricky entrance with a confused swell and then followed by a full-on attack from sand flies we decided to make a quick exit.

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We sailed on to a small anchorage just off Little Jos Van Dyke.  Nearby you could see the angry swell of the Atlantic crashing on coral reefs but we were tucked in close to some rocks and forest; it was a blissful spot and the moon again provided the evening entertainment followed by a lovely meal on Rafiki.

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The next day we were joined by another yacht and a few of us decided to explore Little Jost Van Dyke. The main attraction is a bubble pool, which is basically a rock pool that is ravaged by the Atlantic swell.  After a short work through scrubland and forest, and being careful not to touch any poisonous tress we reached our destination.  The pool was literally a bubble pool and every so often huge waves would crash through a small gap in the rocks filling the pool with white spume and bubbles.  It is a dangerous place if not respected and two people had already dies this year after being swept through the gap and into the Atlantic beyond.  Unfortunately we had no battery power in our camera but Rob took photos, which will be posted shortly but if you cannot wait please see the following link: http://www.virginislandsnewsonline.com/en/news/update-us-tourist-dies-after-bubbly-pool-incident-at-jvd and a nice one: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g580449-d2461948-Reviews-The_Bubbly_Pool-Jost_Van_Dyke_British_Virgin_Islands.html

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After our lovely visit to Jost Van Dyke we set sail for Sopers Hole on the north east side of Tortola.  This was a lovely place although anchoring is very limited and the harbour very deep.  If you do not want to pay the $30 dollars a night your only option is to anchor in the far corner, which is not so idyllic.  We however managed to grab a spot and spent the afternoon looking around the shops and stocking up on some wine at the supermarket.

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The next day we were in baby-sitting mode and as Rob and Cally had work to finish off before setting sail to the Azores we offered to take Emily and James for a day sail to Peter Island and visit Deadmans Cay.  Unfortunately the wind was on the nose and we had to motor all the way there but as we are in the BVI’s the distance is not more than 7 miles.

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The motoring was worth it and at around midday we entered Deadmans Bay.  Again it was idyllic with beautiful sand and green mountains.  We had a fantastic swim with the children and we enjoyed our time in their company although I was completely worn out after two hours of ‘lets push Oliver out of the dinghy’.

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We sailed back to Tortola to drop Emily and James off at Nanny Cay where Rafiki was now located and then we sailed on to Road Harbour where we anchored for the night after a few attempts.

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Anyway, the plan is to stay in the BVI’s for the next month before we decide on our next plan of action.  We will post more photos shortly and will keep you updated on all the islands visit.  We wish you all the very best and we look forward to posting more soon.

All the best from the BVI’s J

 

 

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Deadmans Cay
Deadmans Cay

 

 

Rob and Emily on Sandy Spit Cay
Rob and Emily on Sandy Spit Cay

Carlotta with Emily & James
Carlotta with Emily & James