Dec. 6-Dec. 15: St. Croix
We left St. John's Coral Harbor on December 6th, St. Nickolas Day, after speaking - again - to GMPCS, the people who provided our Iridium phone and its data connection - nothing works yet... The trip of about 36 nm was pleasant, good winds, sailing on a broad reach. We spent two nights at the St. Croix Marina - a rather uninteresting spot with a lot of exposure to the elements. The winds were blowing so that we could not sleep during the first night. The second - last night - was not much better. We walked into town, had lunch at the Blackbeard Restaurant and walked back home. We had visited the Fort before - with lots of history... This morning, we observed another sailboat coming in, almost running into us - just because the wind pushed them. A motor boat, wanting to go on a fishing trip, did not dare leave until almost two hours after scheduled departure - the ferry left with a few hour delay only. In the end, we took the 3plus nm trip to the other marina, Green Cay Marina, much more protected from the elements with jetties to both sides and well equipped docks. We tied up and went straight to the "Deep End", the bar, located right next to the hotel pool and almost on the beach - we call it Paradise...
We met some interesting people - a gentleman who used to be the navy attache for the US in Bonn where he lived for three years. He has owned houses on St. Croix for many years - since 1960 - used to own a large real estate company - sold by now. He recently wrote a book about St. Croix's history - 1770- 1776. We will purchase it as it seemed interesting. He showed us his version which he used for a presentation to the historical society in Philadelphia not too long ago.
We also met a gentleman from Tom's River, retired from the Navy - Juergen enjoyed his conversation with him. We met a woman from another boat, across from Impromptu at the dock. They are preparing their boat with Christmas decoration and invited us for dinner tonight on their boat - about five minutes after we arrived.
We are looking forward to spending a few days in this glorious spot, enjoying more rum drinks - we had three each at lunch today - meeting more interesting people, seeking the 2 m iguanas which are supposed to roam the beach area, and waiting for better weather for our trip to Dominica - a 220 nm journey.
We spoke with Gabriele, Finola (a dear friend) and Lippi today - Ulli was at a seminar, Juli busy having dinner. Guenter and Waltraut were also pleased to share our enthusiasm about this gorgeous part of the planet.
December 10 - Well, a number of things have happened since I wrote last. We spent a wonderful evening talking with boat neighbors, enjoying some food and wine, talking about whatever. They had decorated their boats for the Christmas parade which - due to the strong winds - had been postponed till next Saturday (?) - the day has not be reset, as far as we know. Sunday was quiet. Most of the boaters - who really are more or less permanent residents of St. Croix - seemed to have to tend to things other than their boats. We did our laundry - it was due after about two weeks of bumble-beeing around in the USVI's, read, then I went to the "Deep End" (the bar of the Tamarind Reef Hotel which is connected to the Green Cay Marina where we are staying) to gain internet access. In the meantime I know that, up on deck, I can even get internet access right from the boat. I double-checked our website, checked emails and a few other things, including flights back to New York for mid-January. Juergen joined me about an hour later. We had a typical rum drink, checked whether we could find any of the 2 m iguana (we did not), then went back to the boat. Dinner was "sticky rice", shrimp in a sauce of white wine and heavy cream, some mesquite spice, a little salt, and curry. Juergen liked it a lot. We had a nice bottle of Sancerre to accompany our meal.
During the night, it rained rather heavily from time to time. Juergen closed the hatch - or I - to open it just a few minutes later. This morning, we read before getting up. It was gray and still blowing. We rented a car for two days and drove around the island a bit - first visiting the airport, just to check who was flying in and out and how often. Then we took a quick drive through Frederiksted - a rather unimpressive accumulation of houses - some restaurants or shops, most seemed either residential or vacant, delapidated. There was a nice little park - perfectly manicured, some docks - the former cruiseship docks occupied by what we assumed was a research vessel. We each had a slice of pizza - delicious - and a Corona before we drove back to the Cruz Rum Distillery for the tour. At $ 4 each, we were not too disappointed at the rather uninterested and uninteresting explanation of the process of distilling rum. We were intriguied by the huge vats of bubbling liquid which is to become rum - not covered with anything, the GESeaCo tank containers (one of my former clients) and the explanation of how it all fits together, how long each process takes, etc., etc. Then, the more interesting part was being offered a beverage of our choice, of course, with (or without) rum, and the top of the line rum just on the rocks, no pineapple juice, no coconut milk. We actually purchased a "six pack" of top of the line rums to take home, took a few more pictures, and continued driving - mostly along the Southern part of the island until we reached the most Eastern part - Point Udall - with rather impressive vistas over the North and the South-Eastern shores of this beautiful island. We had seen some impressive homes, on fairly sizeable properties. We of course also had seen some rather mediocre places not worth mentioning. There was some shopping, food and otherwise, but nothing like in St. Thomas where one just could not avoid it. Here, the focus does not seem as much on tourism as it is in St. Thomas or even St. John.
We decided to have a fancy dinner at The Galleon tonight - the restaurant right in the marina, next to the marina office. The food was excellent, the atmosphere enticing, the live entertainment up our alley, if you know what we mean. It was hard to leave, but we really did not want any more alcohol, and sitting in the bar without a drink did not seem to be the right thing to do. We met the new chef, Scot Hill, who developed an interesting menu with delicious items, all a little asian-flavored - wonderful. Juergen loved his tuna and his seabass, I enjoyed my spicy seafood soup and the chicken scallopini, accompanied by sweat potatoes, carrots, onion, etc. An espresso rounded our meal, and we walked back to the boat, about 100 yards - if that far. The wind has been projected to be extremely strong as a tropical storm is raging in the BVIs ("Olga" which we know in the meantime even killed people in the Dominican Republic). After days of blowing, it is totally calm - eery feeling. Tomorrow, we are supposed to have very strong winds and lots of rain - not great for driving, but we need to reprovision - let's see how it really will go. We also hope to receive our Iridium phone (a replacement after we could not get our phone to work with data transfers). We are in suspense...
December 11 - a day which started out with a lot of wind and even more rain, just as predicted. Over time, the weather improved, and around 1100, we decided to start our drive around the island, this time into Christiansted and from there Northwest, as much as possible along the shore and then back towards Route 70, Center Road - is not really in the center of the island, but that is what it is called - we needed to do some more provisioning, and then wanted to go back to the boat. Well, the view was breathtaking at times. There was one harbor - I did not take a picture because it was all very tight - but the boats had to manoevre themselves through a very narrow passage in the reef before accessing protected waters - an amazing site as we watched a small motorboat negotiate its way in. Juergen took part of it on his video.
We stopped wherever we saw something noteworthy. One time, a polilce car stopped right next to us and asked whether we needed help - we had pulled over so I could take pictures. We declined, offered the reason for our slow driving and repeated stops. He smiled, wished us a good day and drove off.
We bought a few things at Kmart which we had seen the day before. Then we needed a supermarket and initially found one that was closed - we think for good. In the end we found one that had an incredibly large selection of items, very fresh produce - I did not care for their meats. We even found Campari - which was so far unavailable in whatever liquor store we checked, more juices, milk, eggs, butter, lettuce, mushrooms, etc., etc. All in all $ 200 later, we drove back to our marina, unloaded and stowed everything away. Then we rushed over to the "Deep End", the bar located right next to the pool and the beach of the Tamarind Reef Hotel which also owns the marina we are docked at. I am sure I mentioned it before. We had our obligatory rum drink - just one each - and a hamburger as we were "in between lunch and dinner" and could not get what we really wanted. Our batteries were a little low, so we had turned the generator on - plugging in is a lot more expensive than using the generator. This way, we can also make a little water - the water maker needs to be used at least once a week, and we had not used it in almost this long.
The Iridium phone did not come - we really had not expected it today as that would have meant a 24 hour travel time from the Ft. Lauderdale vicinity to St. Croix. We also have not heard from GMPCS - something that worries me much more. Kelly, the woman we normally deal with, had sent me an email yesterday late afternoon indicating that her warehouse was to inform me of the tracking number. No such thing happened. Unfortunately, our cell phones don't get a good signal today, so I could not call her to find out the exact status of our arrangement. Hopefully, it will work tomorrow again. Unfortunately, we will have to return our car tomorrow which means that we will not be very mobile any more. But we still will need to check out at Customs, except that we cannot do so unless we have received the phone and it works. We also don't want to arrive in Dominica (or Martinique) on a weekend, because then local immigration fees double (or more) for "overtime". So, in the end, all is up in the air at this stage. Still, we enjoy this spot very much and will keep you posted.
December 12 - we finally received our replacement Iridium handset and immediately connected it. It worked!!! We got a data connection and even could retrieve four emails which a few family members had sent just to test whether our new system worked. We were elated. We quickly packed up the old unit, drove all the way to the airport which is near Frederiksted to deliver it to the DHL office. Before this drive - about half an hour long with no traffic as we took a backroad - we went to the Deep End, had our obligatory rum drink and a crab cake sandwich each, spoke with Bob Johnson, the writer of "St. Croix 1770 - 1776" which, meanwhile we purchased. He promised to sign it for us - now it is a matter of meeting him again, but he confirmed that he had lunch at the Deep End about three times a week. So, our chances are good...
We also drove back to Point Udall where we had gone yesterday towards the end of our car travel and shopping. Some of the photos I had taken just had not come out, and I had forgotten to check while we were there. It is a 6.5 mile (statue, not nautical) one way trip on a rather winding road, up-hill, few if any guardrails - but it is beautiful. Of course, today, when we went, it started raining. The good thing is that here, the rain normally does not last very long, and before we knew it, the cloud laden with water had moved on towards our boat and the Green Cay Marina while we enjoyed some phantastic scenes. See for yourself.
Back at the boat, we ran into Cathy, the woman who had invited us to their Christmas lighting party last Saturday. She invited us to dinner for tomorrow night. We had checked Windfinder.com before. The weather did not look enticing for a departure prior to Saturday morning. While "Olga" had passed, there is some other system brewing further South - exactly where we want to go. By the time we reach it, if we depart on Saturday morning, the system should have dissipated, and we should be ok. We will continue checking before making our final decision. At least Iridium is no longer our hold-up.
December 13 - Johanna's 8th birthday. We called twice until we reached her. She was happy about all the gifts she had received,and she was chatty. Nice to hear given what is going on in her life. We played Backgammon on Deck for quite some time this morning. despite the heavy rain and the very strong winds. Meanwhile, the sun is out, we took the dinghy on deck as we don't like to tow it while we go longer distances (this time between 220 and 300 nm, depending on whether or not we will stop over at Dominica or go straight to Martinique - the latter is preferred at this stage though it will mean two nights of watches rather than the one we had initially hoped for). Once we are in Martinique, we can take it easy and, after customs and immigration clearing, we can leisurely sail over the Le Marin, the harbor where Impromptu was supposed to have arrived last January - remember? From there, we might go who knows where - it depends a little as to where Brit and Axel will have to go for customs and immigration clearance. We want to celebrate New Year's together and spend some time before they head South and we, possibly a little further South and then back North.
We were supposed to have dinner with Cathy and Bob, the people who had invited us to their Christmas lighting party last Saturday. Unfortunately, she is not feeling well, so we will have dinner aboard - unless Juergen changes his mind about that. He is fixing one of our mast winches which seemed totally frozen. He soaked it in alcohol, greased it, and, of course, it is working again. I have been cleaning up a little, marking the map of St. Croix as to where we have driven around, checked emails, etc. Unfortunately, the internet connection is terrible today - was so last night as well, so I have still not been able to upload our latest photos and this write-up.
December 14 - our last day on St. Croix. We took another tour through town last night, parked the car right near the Fort we had visited on our first day of roaming around. As we returned around 1730 or so, i.e., only about half an hour after we had arrived, the parking lot was locked and the woman at the Fort nowhere to be found. There was some activity on the front lawn - various tents were being set up. I approached a policeman who was wondering how we had managed to do that, that we were supposed to have vacated the lot by 1630 (we had not even arrived by then) and how we had managed to avoid being "booted". Well, we were not the only ones. There was another tourist couple in the same predicament. They opened the locked gate for us and off we went.
Today, we checked out at customs, returned our rental car, did a couple of errants on the boat and walked over to the Deep End for one last time. I had packed the two books about St. Croix which Bob Johnson wrote, the gentleman who we met at our first lunch at the Deep End. I had hoped that he would have lunch there today again and that he would sign both books for us. Well, he already had finished lunch with a friend but invited us over to his table. We chatted for a while. He signed both books. Then he invited us - tentatively - to have dinner with he and his lady friend tonight at the Cormorant. We left it open for him to call us after talking it over with his friend.
We also finally saw iguanas, actually, only one, the others went into the water as they saw Juergen. I never made it as far as to see them - too bad. But we got a few good shots of the one that was left. I think I also caught one swimming near a stone - you must look real carefully at the photo with the greenish rock - above the rock, you can make out the body of an iguana and, to the right of the rock, under water, you can make our something swimming with rather wide "feet". I could not make out what exactly this was - can any one of you???
Juergen checked out at the marina office, topped off our dinghy tank and packed it away for our trip to Martinique. We meanwhile decided that this is the best thing to do, particularly since the distance, if we turn towards Martinique right from past St. Croix, is just about 10-15 nm longer than going to Dominica's Portsmouth. Brit and Axel should be arriving on Barbados this coming Monday, i.e., the same we will arrive in Martinique. They already scheduled repairs in Le Marin, one of the ports of Martinique, the same one where we plan to staying over Christmas. It all fits well. The next write-up will be from Martinique, assuming that we will have internet access there as well. Enjoy your weekend!!!