Home page

The Virgin Islands, called the "crown jewel of the Caribbean" by our friend Kathy, were absolutely exquisite.  The crystal clear water lapped at white beaches then quickly dropped off into hues of pale green, green-blue, and deep blue. The wind blew constantly, making it feel cooler than the 90 plus temperature.  Billowy clouds passed gently overhead.  We were on a free mooring in 44 feet of water at Francis Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Much of St. John is managed by the Park Service so this island was less populated than St. Thomas.  In the late afternoons, wild donkeys roamed the beaches, braying loudly.

The next bay over in full view of our mooring was
Maho Bay, a campground of sorts.  Wooden steps led from the beach up the steep hill to landings where wooden deck walkways branched off to other steps leading to "campsites" perched on the hillside.  The structures were wooden plank floors with tarpaulin roofs and screened porches with a million dollar view of the bay. The higher you went in the maze of walkways and steps, the cheaper the rent.  Extensive foliage afforded a sense of privacy.  Off-season, a work program was in effect where residents could work four hours a day for free board and half their meals.  When I first heard of this arrangement, I thought it would be mainly young people but, surprisingly, there were a lot of middle aged people and some older than that!  We walked up 400 steps and had breakfast at the restaurant one morning.  From the restaurant's height, we took some photos of our boat and of the campground.

Along St. John, the reefs are just off the beach so you can walk into the water without waves knocking you down, put on your fins, snorkel and mask and, at your own leisure, immerse yourself in the warm salty water.  The sun shines through the rippling surface as through a prism, creating a fluid mosaic of light on the white sandy floor.  As you propel yourself with gentle kicks, you glide along and come face to face with fish swimming just out of reach.  Millions of minnows swim by, reflecting the sunlight on their silvery sides.  Bob constantly dove down and poked around the coral, peering nose-to-nose with the flora and fauna.  He found wrapped around a broken piece of coral a tiny baby starfish with long furry legs the circumference of needles and body a quarter the size of an M&M candy. 

We went to Trunk Bay to check out the snorkel trail for beginners.  Concrete markers were affixed to the bottom with plaques describing soft coral, hard coral, markings of fish, predators, etc.  Colorful fish of purple, yellow, and turquoise were interspersed with striped silvery ones blending into the sand and others marked in brown colors like snakeskin, camouflaged for protection to blend into the browns and tans of the coral.  Hard coral was shaped like brains or fingers reaching up toward you.  The gentle surge of the water caused the sea fans and other plants to sway back and forth as if dancing to a silent waltz.   One creature had a couple of layers of feathery stuff like a circular feather boa undulating in the water when suddenly the entire mass disappeared.  Apparently it had caught something to eat and just sucked its prey and itself into its one inch cylinder to ingest it.  A strange and beautiful world.

After a couple of days at St. John, we headed for Jost Van Dyke to check into customs in the British Virgin Islands.  What a zoo.  Four huge catamarans landed at the dock just before us and raced Bob to customs.  They knew the drill since they make the trip on a daily basis with dozens and dozens of paying customers.  With Tupperware boxes full of passports, one of each crew took their passengers' papers to check them in while the passengers ate and drank and bought tee shirts.  We stood in line behind the designated crew and chatted with other cruisers as we waited.  The island teeming with tourists, we decided to return to the boat and do the island after the itinerant throng left.  After the tourist boats departed, the town returned to its sleepy status and we returned for a walk and ice cream.  Jost Van Dyke is home to the famous Foxy's restaurant and bar along with a few other small restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.   Bob commented that we had returned to the Bahamas.  We decided that the native people in the Virgin Islands have the same sullen attitude as those in the Bahamas, in stark contrast to the happy Spanish people of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  A bit of frivolity was the Christmas tree, a dead tree in front of a pink and purple restaurant, decorated with empty beer, soda, liquor, and juice bottles and cans.  Perched on top in place of a star was a can of Off insect repellent.

Pier to Customs, straight ahead

Creative Christmas tree
at Jost Van Dyke

Our original plan was to spend several days in the BVI and then head for St. Martin, but when we got up the second morning, the weather was perfect for a passage.  Bob and I have each chartered in the BVI a number of times and, though reluctant to pass through quickly, we were anxious to move south.  We prepared the boat and departed at 11:00 a.m.  We passed Green Cay and Sandy Spit, an outstanding snorkeling area in the BVI.

By 3:00 p.m. we were passing Virgin Gorda, the eastern-most point of the BVI, and moving out to sea.  The wind was 10-15 knots and we were sailing.  Late afternoon in the Anegoda passage, Bob spied birds in a feeding frenzy.  He took the boat off autopilot and headed toward them.  Tuna were feeding on other fish and the birds were diving in for their share.  Bob circled and pull lures through the chaos, but despite three passes, he didn't catch anything.  We got back on course and continued into the evening, taking a photo of the glorious sunset that evening with Virgin Gorda in the background.   We enjoyed a perfect passage all the way to St Martin.

Beach bar

Tuna feeding in the Anegoda Passage

From the Anegoda Passage, looking back at
Virgin Gorda, BVI and the setting sun

Home page