Voyage of Traveler / Blog

February 28, 2010

Traveler Postcard From the US Virgin Islands

Filed under: Year 3: July09 - July10 Greece to Newport Beach, CA, Caribbean — mrlawlerjr @ 9:32 am

Hi, Everyone,

We had two great weeks in the US Virgin Islands, although much of our time in “the American Paradise” (as they like to be called) was spent on boat repairs.

The Top Ten Highlights:

1.  Clearing back into the USofA.  Homeland Security actually looked good, especially compared to some of the unprofessional customs and immigration officers we have had to deal with around the world.  And Yansen got to use his US Visa!

2.  My sister Melissa, her husband Charlie, and their 15-year old daughter Eliza visited us here for a week.  It was good to have them back on board Traveler, and they were thankful to escape the winter storms back home in New Hampshire.  This was Melissa’s third week-long visit during the  voyage.  With my son Brian, daughter Kellie, crew Yansen, and me, we had a full house.

3.  St. John.  This island is the unspoiled gem of the USVIs.  Two-thirds of the island is protected in the US Virgin Islands National Park, most of that a gift from Lawrence Rockefeller in 1956.  We hiked along a forested trail to a gorgeous beach lined with coconut palms for a swim in 78 degree water. Nice.  We then spent the night at anchor at Little Lameshur Bay and, a week later, another night at anchor at Coral Bay with Melissa, Charlie and Eliza.  Way cool.

4.  The St. Thomas Yacht Club.  The members, staff (especially the GM Bill Canfield), bartenders, dock crew, the facilities, all very nice.  They made us feel so welcomed.  And it was fun to watch the Olympics on the TV in the bar.

5.  Our overnight anchorage at Honeymoon Cove on Water Island, and taking the dinghy ashore at sunset to listen to guitarist Eric Stone perform.  The next morning included a walk around the island and dinghying around the cove, followed by snorkeling on an old ship wreck just ten feet deep.  Water Island is just south of the St. Thomas capital of Charlotte Amalie (pronounced ‘amalia’).

6.  Swimming and walking along the beach at sunset at Magen’s Bay on the north shore of St. Thomas.  It is consistently voted by travel writers as one of the top beaches in the world, and we had the place (almost) to ourselves.

7.  Getting our new water heater!  We have been without one and taking cold showers since December 1 when we were on the Atlantic crossing and the old one, still under warranty, failed.  I just had to pay for shipping. And I installed it myself.

8.  Watching the world’s newest and largest cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas, arrive at dawn and dock at Crown Bay, just a few boat lengths away from us.  What a monster!  5,000 passengers!

9.  Engine and other boat repairs here included: a nasty exhaust leak (the third time) on the Yanmar engine, the Yamaha 8hp outboard impeller for the water pump failed, the spare Yamaha 2.5hp engine had a dirty carburetor, and the DSB 8-man emergency life raft had a factory recall (the auto-inflation system was defective–good thing we didn’t need it!)  All of the above were costly repairs, to be sure.  But I’m thankful we were in a place that had competent mechanics, and they spoke English!

10.  Visiting the castle of Bluebeard, the famous pirate who made is home here.  Charlotte Amalie was a free port with a no-questions-asked trade policy, making it the favorite place for the real life pirates of the Caribbean to come and sell their booty, and then do what pirates do best.  Arrrrrgh!

Did you know the three main islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix (pronounced ‘croy’) used to belong to Denmark?  When the slaves were freed in 1848 the lucrative sugar industry slowly declined over the next sixty years to the point where the Danish crown decided to sell the group of islands.  America’s need to protect the approaches to the Panama Canal (opened in 1914) coupled with the threat of German naval activity in the Caribbean in WWI prompted the US to purchase the Danish Virgins in 1917 for $25 million, about $300 per acre, considered a huge amount of money back then.  As a US territory, initially, the island was run by the US Navy and the governor was appointed by the president.  Since 1968 the islanders have been allowed to elect their own governor.  The islanders are US citizens but, oddly, cannot vote for president and pay no federal income taxes (but the local income taxes match the federal rates.)

Next stop: The Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques, and Puerto Rico.

Living the Dream,
and Team Traveler

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