Monday, 6 January 2014

Christmas in St John

Christmas in St John

We finally managed to escape from Charlotte Amalie Christmas eve; we are bound for Francis Bay on the North shore of St John. Our plans are to share Xmas with ‘Badgers Sett’ and another OCC boat ‘Eye Candy’.
Strange customer in a bar! "Two pints and a packet of crisps please"
The winds and swells have dropped and we manage to sail almost all the way. An interesting note is that the alarm panel on the engine has stopped working so no overheat, oil pressure or charging alarms or lights; yet another job for the skipper to fix. Hopefully it is only a loose connection. (Not so, it has turned out to be a faulty electronic module so will have to run ‘blind’ until one can be carried out to Antigua in January).
Our Christmas anchorage - Merry Xmas in signal flags on the mizzen

A full Christmas lunch in the tropics, avocado for starters followed by roast turkey, roast beef, roast potatoes, plenty of veg with Xmas pudding and rum butter or apple crumble and custard for dessert. Phew! We still managed cheese and biscuits as well. All washed down with Champagne, wine and a bottle of port to finish! Just a light Christmas lunch. We managed to get back home as it was getting dark. A very good lunch in excellent company, even though we were missing family and friends back home.
Even 'Skipper' got in the Christmas spirit 
 On Boxing Day, we had a walk to Leinster bay and the ruins of the old plantation and sugar mill at Anneberg. We see a white tailed deer cross the road, a mongoose and as we walk back through the mangroves several white cheeked pintail ducks, the first ducks we have seen in the Caribbean!  A swim and ‘Sundowners’ on the beach rounded the day off nicely. The snorkelling in Leinster bay is reported to be good so we will go round there tomorrow.

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Leinster bay has a little island (Waterlemon cay) which has a ‘no boat zone’ surrounding it. Snorkelling off the island we see the usual reef fishes, lots of bar jacks and a southern stingray.
We dinghy to the beach for ‘sundowners’ and see another stingray in the shallows, then a Jack leaps out of the water closely followed by 1.5m Barracuda! In the trees there are Banded Kingfishers, Pelicans diving for fish, a Solitary sandpiper on the shore and a mongoose foraging on the beach. Never a dull moment here!

St John is almost all marine and nature reserve, managed by the US National parks service, anchoring is discouraged so you have to use the moorings at $15 a night. If it keeps the bays and the marine life healthy you shouldn’t complain and there is certainly a lot of life here.

Our plans are to visit the bays on the SE coast (Hurricane hole/Coral bay) but first we have to negotiate The Narrows between the US and BVI’s. This narrow strip of water always has the current flowing west and with the wind from the east was a very hard sail short tacking to get around the eastern end of St John.
The old harbour of Coral bay (previously called Crawl bay as they used crawls to keep turtles in for food – not politically correct now!) was the original harbour used for exporting the sugar from St John, not the prettiest but easy to see why it was used. From the small village here we can ride the bus $1 each way across the centre of the island to the capital of Cruz bay on the western side, which we do.
Coral Bay Anchorage
We thought that we should visit customs to check out but they couldn’t have been less interested! The BVI’s is our next stop and we will be there for New Year. Our plans are to sail to Road Town Tortola and check in there then explore some of the smaller islands and anchorages on our way to Virgin Gorda. From Virgin Gorda we will sail SE weather permitting to either St Martin or Antigua. The Anagada passage between the BVI’s and St Martin has a reputation that needs respecting so we will wait for suitable weather before crossing it.

New Years Eve was spent quietly in Road Town Tortola after a good sail across, but a stressful time trying to anchor with very little room. A yacht already aground did not help, so eventually we picked up a mooring ball. While we were having dinner we watched as two boats eventually managed to get the yacht afloat again and safely onto a mooring.

Refuelling stop
After filling up with water and diesel at Fort Burt Marina we sailed south again to Great Harbour, Peter Island, a lovely anchorage in bright blue water against low densely forested cliffs. Good snorkelling along the edge, lots of fish, a Flamingo tongue on a rock and a Hawksbill turtle feeding. On the cliffs we watched smooth billed Anis feeding and an American Kestrel hunting. Another new bird , an American Oystercatcher appeared the second evening poking amongst the rocks on the waters edge with his solid deep red bill.

Swimming with Turtles
There are no shops here, just one restaurant on the other side of the bay, but you don’t have to worry about running out of anything. A great motorboat “Deliverance” is a mobile shop that calls  every day with a great variety of foods and they will even take the garbage.

We had planned to leave on Thursday for Fat Hogs Bay to do the laundry and some shopping, but it was blowing hard and we could see how rough the sea was outside the bay, so we stayed until Friday and had a nice sail north again! We picked up a buoy at 1100, they are free in the daytime, and by 1430 we had done all the chores and set off to go round the corner to Trellis Bay. We had to motor  until we were round the headland as it was directly into the wind, a brisk sail up the Bluff and by 1630 we were neatly anchored amongst a maze of moorings and boats.

Trellis Bay Anchorage
As we write this it is blowing 25-30kts with some very nasty squalls! We are anchored in Trellis bay on the eastern end of Tortola. The bay is pretty with an island in the middle with a bar/restaurant plus bars and a grocery store on the beach. The bay is filled with mooring balls at $30 a night, but we are anchored for free in 3m of water. Everything we need at the moment is here although the airport is a bit intrusive but the aircraft are all fairly small if fairly regular.

The forecast for the next week makes it unlikely that we will even be able to reach North Sound, Virgin Gorda, our starting point for the Anegada Passage, until the weekend.
Local Forecast!