Sunday, March 22, 2020

ST Thomas USVI

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands


Charlotte Amalie and Benner Bay, (The Lagoon)

After a short 23 nm motor sail, yes the wind was again on the nose, we passed the anchorage on Water Island and saw several dismasted boats and a few sail and power boats high on the rocks. We yielded to a small container ship crossing our bow on his way to the commercial docks and we passed through the narrow and shallow Haulover Cut arriving on the western end of St Thomas Harbour. The Customs and Immigration officers are located at the ferry terminal on the concrete quay side. It is a lee shore and the harbour traffic sets up a choppy set of wakes with ferries arriving constantly from St. John and the BVI’s. Our first surprise was the speed of the traffic on the road beside the quay and the horns blowing were quite unnerving. Our 26 days on the anchor in quiet anchorages had not prepared us for city life. With six bumpers out and doubled bow, stern and spring lines set we left Kanilela to quite literally fend for herself as were headed off to find the immigration and customs. We arrived and received a form to fill out which I dutifully did and waited to be interviewed. Another officer who acknowledged he was not the guy to take the form but did not want to see us standing waiting took the form and stamped our passports. We were feeling good as we started to leave only to be called back by our original officer who had given us the form. “Where had we come from?” “Culebra” “Oh, give me your passports, you don’t need to clear in here.” Whereupon he proceeded to cross out our not yet dry stamps and sent us on our way. So, we had tried to clear out of Culebra and were not required to do so and we had tried to clear into the USVI and again were not required to do so. We do not know if the rules have officially changed or just a whim of the moment. People often ask us about the difficulties of clearing in and out of foreign countries with language differences and varying policy issues but our neighbours to the south of us are often the most problematic.
Our neighbour in the anchorage. His main mast half gone and several mast parts on deck,
the 21' sailboat behind was tied to him. It looked like a scene from a Patrick O'Brien 
novel. The ship returns with battle scars and a "prize" in tow.
Back at Kanilela all was fine but without a bow thruster moving off a wind driven concrete quay is always a challenge. With some bumpers moved to the aft and getting the bow well off the concrete before going into gear forward all went well as we slipped the final stern line and headed out to the anchorage close by.
The old Prison and the hills behind Charlotte Amalie.

It was an entertaining slow trip through the anchorage seeing mock pirate ships, large day tripper catamarans and mega yachts, both power and sail. There were a few international flags on some typical cruising boats but definitely in the minority. Also, we were again reminded of the 2018 hurricanes Irma and Maria with the number of dismasted boat in the main anchorage. We found a spot out on the western edge of the anchorage and had a quiet night surrounded by the lights climbing the hills around Charlotte.
The only cruise ship in Charlotte Amalie, we knew cruises were being cancelled but this
was a surprise. In the past there would have been several.

One of the benefits to arriving into a larger town is the opportunity to buy specialty marine items. We have a pump in the galley that brings in sea water we use for rinsing dirty dishes, always looking for ways to save good potable water. This particular pump is operated by a foot plunger therefore requiring no electricity, another plus in our battery challenged world. Unfortunately ours was leaking and even after stripping it down and silicon greasing all the rubber seals it was still trying to sink Kanilela in slow motion, one drip at a time. I had found Budget Marine on line and their web site said they had the same model new pump in stock. My email from Culebra to confirm stock went unanswered but we are pretty laid back down here and I am the eternal optimist so we headed to The Lagoon further east along the coast where Budget Marine is located.

The Lagoon, as its name implies is a small very shallow mangrove lagoon with numerous marinas of varying sizes from medium to minute. They were all devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria 2018. We were arriving on Sunday and there were no berths available at Compass Point Marina until Tuesday. There is an area in the entrance bay where you can anchor in a maximum of ten feet and if particularly brave you can venture over some six foot shoals to a more protected area in front of False Channel. We draw six feet and with the recent hurricanes possibly silting in some of the shallows I favored discretion. Also, our newly painted bottom had not been dragged over any sand bars since painting in Jamaica. If it had been before the repaint we may have gone for it as we had dragged through numerous sand bars in the Bocas Archipelago in Panama, shallow North Bay in the Caymans and in the shallows throughout the Jardinas de la Reina in Cuba. As it turned out I should have tried to go further in as we had two very rolly nights with the swell wrapping around the corner and in to the Bay.
This was a scene repeated too often. The boat in the mangroves was Kanilela's size.

From the anchorage we could see a few large sailboats washed high into the mangroves. It is always sad seeing a boat sunk but as we dinghied in and saw the number of large sailboats on the shallow bottom and many more afloat but without masts we were dumbfounded. Conjecturing the size of sunken power boats by the size of the flying bridge projecting out of the water was staggering. But the resilience of the people was evident everywhere. Docks being rebuilt, boat reconstruction taking place and the ubiquitous collections of salvaged materials stacked on hulls requiring monumental efforts to return them to their former glory.
Our "Local"

We met some wonderful people at Compass Point Marina, from my first visit with Lindy the office manager to many of the owners and crews of boats moored in the marina, they were nice neighbours. Jennifer and Michael from the Columbia Valley in Oregon were an amazing young couple who insisted we use their car to go to the laundromat about four miles away. We had a great visit hearing about the catamaran and home project on an island in the Columbia River. Lots of hard work and innovative ideas. They also shared some great stories of the life of a charter captain and a gourmet chef.
Those are 2x6's that he/she is on. Well fed and not afraid.

But, cruising tales often have “buts”, when we went to Budget Marine the question regarding the pump was met with blank stares. We did pickup numerous other items as it was the best stocked marine store that we have seen in a long time.

A night heron

The front that drove us into the marina had started to recede so we decided it was time to take the last leg of our trip to the British Virgin Islands for our long anticipated Spring Break visitors. We would be arriving with a few days to spare.

A Sailor's Delight

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