December 1-6: St. John
December 1 We finally left St. Thomas - actually Water Island, right across from St. Thomas, to go to St. John. We had received the cable from Ocens, Inc. - our new email service through ocens.net via Iridium still does not work. The signal conked out on us all the time. We need at least three bars for data to be transmitted. It often fell below that. So, I will try my luck on Monday again - of course, we will have to wait until about 1300 as that is the time they are starting to work in Seattle (we have a four hour time difference).
The weather seemed nice, the wind was on our nose. We started motoring, but after a short while, we decided to get both sails out and sail albeit at a slow speed as we were pinching. Over time, things got better, and we managed to sail most of the way - except that we saw this incredibly black and ugly cloud over the island. We even could see the rain. Once we knew we were getting fairly close, we decided to take both sails in and turn the engine on. It was not far any more, and we just did not want to get the sails wet. We missed the rain entirely, having slowed down sufficiently. We entered Great Lameshure Bay which had fourteen moorings - no anchoring permitted in Virgin Island National Park (a donation by Rockefeller after he purchased the land for preservation). Only four were occupied. Thus we had our pick. Tying up was easy. They had a great set up where one could easily pick up the line with the "eye" through which we needed to feed our own line and tie both ends to the cleats on the bow. There was no current, not much wind. It all worked smoothly.
We enjoyed sitting in this beautiful bay, went ashore by dinghy to pay the ranger for our overnight fee (actually for two nights) - nobody there, but we found the box where one could even pay by creditd card - the forms and all were there neatly stored in a ziplock bag. We filled out the form - paid for two nights - and went back to the boat. We went swimming - five times around the boat - it was beautiful, warm, gorgeous. The water is so clean. You can see all the way to the bottom which is about 20 feet or more.
After our exercise, we decided to have a glass of wine and enjoy the scenery. A small motor boat arrived and tied up to a mooring buoy next to ours - still everybody was far apart - a nice arrangement. Another sailboat arrived. It did not enter our bay but the small Lameshure Bay right next to this one. They were the only boat in that particular bay - an interesting thought. We watched what we think was a turtle (or two) swim through the waters as we saw some head sticking out of the water from time to time. We wished we had had a better chance to see it in detail. Then, there was the big splash - we have no idea what it was.
We called Joep (de Koning) to wish him a Happy Birthday, called Luise - no anser - called Silvi, Brad answered, and we spoke with him for a while. We had dinner (Kilbasa, carrots and broccoli, some pecan pie and espresso or dessert). Now, we are both ready to go to bed and read for a little while. The boat is rolling - not too badly - but still. We hope it is less awful than at Water Island.
December 4 - The past few days have been quite interesting. We took a hike through the mountains of St. John's National Park, initially purchased and then donated by David Rockefeller for the preservation of this beautiful piece of nature. Luise had told us that the petroglyphs we had read about were phenomenal and that we had to go see them. Well, we knew it was quite a way up from Lameshur Bay, but what the heck. The ranger, thank God, strongly recommended to take water and insect repellent with us so we "would be happier up there". We actually even went back to our boat to get both. Then we were on our way. It was hot, the usual 82 plus degrees Fahrenheit, but the trail was mostly inmidst of trees and bushes, leaving us well protected from the sun. Occasionally we stopped for a tiny sip of water, not much. We wanted to preserve some for the return trip. About an hour later, we arrived at what seemed a rather strange place. So far, we had not really seen anything but some of the native trees of the island, the occasional bird, a soldier crab (takes over other crustaceans' shell and lives therein, looks reddish in color, not the shell but the crab, and lives far away from water, at least that is where we saw it). There was soft ground, some rocks, not many, and all very small. As we had gotten closer to the site of the petroglyphs, we noticed a fairly large wall built of natural stone - beautiful and in almost perfect shape. At the site of the petroglyphs were pools of fresh water that were fed by a trickle of a water fall (we assume that there are times when there is more water running than there was during our visit), but the boulders forming the waterfall and the surroundings of the pools were huge. Into these boulders, the Caribs or even their ancestors carved roundish symbols typical for their tribe.
We also observed a mongoose - which we initially took for a weasel. Unfortunately, he (?) ran away as I was readying my camera. We rested for a few minutes. Juergen took his shoe off because it hurt - well, now I know why, he had an open blister and decided to keep the shoe off, walking barefoot with one foot, over all this gravel, etc. The poor man suffered greatly but said nothing until we finally made it to the dinghy dock - where he took relief by soaking his feet in the beautiful turquoise water of Lameshur Bay. We will not be walking any meaningful distances for a while as we are both hurting - I with my left leg, he with his foot but also his hip.
This same day, we stopped by to greet the people on the Tartan 46 which had arrived earlier that day - generally not much of a reason to mention, but they were from Mystic, CT. Thus, the proximity of their home port to ours clearly justified the special attention. It turns out that they live right near Milford (actually in Shelton), just keep their boat in Noank. They are both pilots, he (Andy) flying for United, she (Susan) flying for Continental. We invited them over for a glass of wine, exchanged contact information and agreed to meet again when we are all back "home" with our boats. We had mentioned that our boat neighbor, David, your ears must have been ringing, has a Tartan which we admire much. They wanted to know who this Tartan owner might be and claimed to know you, David. True???
Today, December 4, we left after breakfast for the barely 6 nautical mile drive over to Coral Harbor. Not only was it written up as an interesting albeit laid back place but, one can also catch the bus from there to go to Cruz Bay and, we had hoped, other places on the island. So far, we only made it into Cruz Bay - a major disappointment, at least from our vantagepoint. Tomorrow, we will try to find another bus - or a taxi - to get to Cinnamon Bay (so we can have a look) and also to Caneel Bay. Of course, we had stopped at the famours "Skinny Legs" bar for a drink and a cheese burger - well justified after not having lunch or dinner yesterday after our hike.
And then, weather permitting (some rain is forecast for the next four or five days), we may want to start moving South to St. Croix.