Friday, December 16, 2011

USVI, Here We Come

As it happened, we decided to clear out a day earlier and start the crossing from the “Bight” at Norman Island the next morning. I wrote my extensive plan on a notebook, which my dear friend Jose had given as a parting gift. I will remember her every time I use it. She and I connected at the lowest points in our respective lives some time earlier, although we are two completely different individuals, with no apparent common ties. She claims that I had some influence on her rebound, and I know she had on mine. We both are now at much better places thank God, so hail to you Jose!

Anyway, I made my plan for our first target, Cruz By, St John, and we let the mooring buoy go at about 07:00 hours. The US Virgin Islands, here we come. It was a smooth ride with no winds, so we motored there for about two hours. Al used a trick we had learned from our dear friend Balamber a month earlier, who owns a much bigger an newer version of our catamaran in Turkey; we turned only one of the engines on the way, which reduced our speed a mile an hour, but cut our diesel consumption to one half. I think it makes sense in calm waters, when one is not in a hurry to reach somewhere. It was a short ride anyway; “smooth sailing” so to speak, until it was time to anchor. I think I gained some more gray hairs on my head, looking at the close proximity of the sail boats around us, while dropping the anchor according to the skipper’s instructions. I could feel the sweat running down my back, not because of the intense heat, I assure you. We looked at our position for half an hour, after which, Al decried that we were just clearing the new and old boats around us, while swinging wildly after each passage of the small ferries blasting their ways through the narrow canal just in front of us. We lowered our weathered dinghy down, and rushed to the US Immigration at the end of the canal. We did the paperwork, learned about the places to approach for detailed information, and found ourselves in a small mall to buy the most important commodity in our lives; a US SIM card for the cellular, Al’s life line to the world. If you ask me, I think I can live without it, but I know it is a necessity, albeit a very expensive one, mind you. We called our daughter and send text messages to our son and friends, to give our new number for US and maybe Puerto Rico, and returned to our boat. On our way back, I saw a sailboat anchoring at the area reserved for hourly anchoring. You know, it was clearly marked in the chart I had looked at, but who can trust it, if all the boats are huddled at the other side? It would have been much easier to anchor there, but we like living dangerously. I spent no time pulling the anchor, and we found a very nice bay (Caneel Bay) where moorings bounded. We stayed there two nights, took the dinghy to a resort at the beach for drinks the first day, and breakfast the next morning.

It is interesting to note that, after my first impression of the Caribbean people as being unresponsive and aloof towards strangers, I think I started to understand them a little better in time. They only need a point to connect with others for opening up. We observed this in many occasions, first at the AT&T store, where the clerk was from St. Vincent, and of course Al stroke a conversation about the area, where we had sailed before. The poor young man tried his best to find the cheapest deal for the telephone chip and the data plan Al bought. Same thing happened at the resort. The head waiter, who came to serve us, was from Road Town, BVI. We almost exchanged imaginary cards, convinced that we would see each other in the future. At the end, he causally pointed out that we only had the cold breakfast (only true for me), and charged half the price, which was considerable. By the time we realized what he said, it was all over, so Al could not correct him. I think for what we had, it was a fair price!

St John has nice beaches, and the moorings are cheap, but not very exciting for us, so we headed to Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas after two days. It was a very smooth motoring / sailing trip of about two hours, after which we dropped anchor close to the Yacht Haven Grande. I think when they made the huge investment in that marina, they were having grand dreams. It does not seem feasible for a “very” mega yacht and a smaller one to shoulder the expenses of running that monstrosity. The free anchorage at the bay was full of sail boats, but the rows after rows of concrete docks, with full service, were completely empty, except the two megas. Of course, the dinghy dock was overflowing.

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