Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
We’ve been away from any wifi for the last several days on St. John, USVI, so sorry the web site and blog have been idle for a while. This update is via our satellite phone.
We sailed west to the US Virgin Islands on December 8th to wait for a weather window to go East to St. Martin. We reached our 30 day limit in the BVI so we had to leave or pay a $200 fee to stay longer. Since we haven’t seen the USVI yet, we decided to explore St. John for a few days. Most of St John is a National Park donated by Laurence Rockefeller in 1956. In 2001, by presidential proclamation, George W Bush added almost 13,000 acres of adjoining submerged land to the reserve in an effort to preserve the coral ecology surrounding St John. It was badly needed as the snorkeling and diving I’ve done so far has shown that the coral has been heavily damaged. Hopefully the new rules will be followed and the coral will slowly recover. The coral in the Exuma Cays of the Bahamas was in much better shape, but it’s a lot harder to get to the Exumas, so it’s experienced a lot less damage from tourists and cruisers.
For those of you wondering why it’s harder to get to the Exumas than the Virgin Islands when the Virgin Islands are a 10 day offshore passage and the Exumas are a few overnight hops, it’s a matter of logistics and infrastructure. The Virgin Islands have two international airports, deep water harbors for cruise ships and an enormous charter fleet. The Exumas are a collection of 350 islands and cays that have only a handful of airstrips suitable for a small prop plane, no resorts, no charter industry, and only a handful of cottages to rent if you come by air rather than boat. The only deep water access for a cruise ship was abandoned in the 1980’s as it wasn’t navigable whenever a cold front blew through. So, visitors are limited almost exclusively to those who come by private boat.
We’ve really enjoyed our stay in St John. The beaches are very nice and free of any garbage (as in the BVI) and all beaches have public access (not like the BVI). The snorkeling is very good as far as seeing cool fish. We’ve seen several sea turtles and sting rays of all sizes, barracuda, blue tang, purple squids, a blowfish, and all sorts of reef fish.
We went on a longish hike yesterday with Susan Williamson to get up to Rams Head Point, which a 200 ft bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. A great view. Quinn wanted to try climbing down the cliff, but we declined.
Tomorrow we’ll head back to the BVI and pay our $200 so we can stay longer. The Christmas winds are in full swing and it’ll be a rough beat to windward to get to St Martin without the help of a low to stall out the trade winds. We had planned on spending Christmas in St Martin, but aren’t willing to take a beating to get there, so we’ll hang out in the BVI for a while more and maybe shoot south to St Croix (USVI) for a few days. As soon as our low shows up, we’ll head for St Martin and points south.
Randy and Susan Williamson came to the USVI at the same time as we did so we’ve been exploring the island together. Jen dusted off her cribbage skills and beat Randy by 2 games (skunked him twice) after a lot of trash talking from both sides. Was a lot of fun to watch, even though I have no idea how to play the game.
Expect a big update to the photos on the web site in the next few days as we’ll have better access to wifi when we get back to the BVI. The USVI National Park doesn’t have much in the way of wifi hotspots.