Monday, March 25, 2013

Pleasantly Surprised

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

The last time we visited the St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) was over 15 years ago when we bare boat chartered from Red Hook.   We were not impressed, with St. Thomas, so we sailed over to the British Virgin Islands where we spent our vacation.

Haulover Cut

Our guidebook recommended catching one of Frenchtown Marina’s moorings.  That was a mistake.  The ferries and their associated wakes come very close, but that was not the scary part.  The sea planes use the cut for their landing area.  We were able to see the passengers’ happy little faces while enjoying our morning tea on the back of the boat.

The next day we moved over and anchored off of Yacht Haven Grande Marina and the cruise ship terminal.  The half a mile move put us closer to town and where we could watch all the action.

Part of the action was the “pirate” ships getting ready for day cruises.

There were plenty of boats available for people to get the pirate experience.

Bluebeard’s Castle tower

Evidently, every pirate that plagued the Caribbean passed through Charlotte Amalie at some point.

Charlotte Amalie works at keeping the legend alive.

The modern pirates of Charlotte Amalie are the duty free high-end stores.  It is hard to believe that many jewelry stores can survive, or that people on cruise ships do that much shopping.

99 Steps

Once past the jewelry stores, Charlotte Amalie was fun to explore.

Small shaded allies connect the main streets.  Interesting shops and restaurants can be found off of the allies.

Pollie’s favorite place was the Amber Museum.

Hotel 1829

After the 99 Steps, I was happy just sitting in the shade.

On the way back south we plan on stopping at St. Thomas again and doing some more exploring.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

%$#@&! Google has been produced using Google's Blogger.

Previously, I was using Photobucket to build slide shows that I would link to the site.  The free version of Photobucket was slow and cumbersome, and recently they "improved" their site so that it would no longer build slide shows.  So, I bit the bullet and went over to Google's Picasa. 

After Picasa finished taking over, all of the pictures at were replaced with the icon above.  Evidently I am not the Lone Ranger.  On Google's Blogger message board, there are some very irate Blogger users.

Over the next few weeks I will be re-posting all of the pictures on the site.  Thank you Google, I owe you one. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Golden Age Card

Blue Boundaries: No Anchor Zones
Green Boundaries: Mooring Areas

In 1956, Congress established the Virgin Islands National Park.  In 1962, park boundaries were expanded to include 5,650 acres of submerged lands adjacent to the island.  A presidential proclamation created Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in 2001 and added 12,708 more acres of adjoining submerged land.

In the 1980’s the park became a popular cruising ground for pleasure boaters, too popular.  Anchors crushing coral and anchor chains sweeping and scouring areas caused heavy damage to plants and animals.  So the park’s staff had to devise a plan to preserve the park’s resources for future generations while allowing the opportunity for boaters to enjoy them as well.

Over 200 hundred moorings have been installed around St. John.  Boats 17 to 60 feet are required to use a mooring if available/anchoring is prohibited.  Boats over 60 feet are only allowed to anchor in sand away from the mooring fields.  Anchoring and mooring is prohibited in areas off the southeast corner of the island where the park service has decided that the marine life needs to rebuild.

Use of the moorings during the day is free, however for night use (5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.) there is a self registration fee of $15 per night.  Overnight stays are limited to 30 nights in a calendar year and no more than 7 consecutive nights in one bay.  The revenue is used to offset the cost of maintaining the moorings.

Golden Age Passport holders pay half price.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Francis Bay, St. John, USVI

Two-thirds of the island of St. John, United States Virgin Islands is under the stringent control of the National Park Service in an effort to maintain its pristine appearance.  On the northern shore are a series of bays that are fun to visit when a north swell is not a problem.

Because it is National Park, most of the island is not developed, but occasionally you find property with “grandfathered” uses.  Connected to Francis Bay is Maho Bay, home to, “The US Virgin Island’s renowned eco-resort.”

There are 114 “affordable” tent-cottages that provide the guest rooms.  During high season (November through April) prices range between $165 per night for an “Efficiency Futon,” to $230 per night for the “Full Kitchen Queen.”  Let’s see: 114 tents at an average of $195 per night – hmmm….

Also included are a small store, guest registration facility, restaurant, and a small beach café.  We attempted to try the restaurant, but the surf that evening was too much for a comfortable dinghy landing, and the noseeums were out in force.

Guest tent-cottages and resort facilities are connected by miles of board walks through the jungle.

Because it is built up the side of a hill overlooking the bay, there are also stairs.

A lot of stairs.

Dogs are not allowed at the resort, so there are some very laid back cats.


Some of the facilities seem a little primitive, but what-the-hey, you are here to commune with nature.

Privacy does not seem to be an issue, as most of the tent-cottages are isolated from the others.

Activities include: swimming, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, hiking, outdoor dining, art classes, glass blowing, yoga, massage, and of course just enjoying the Caribbean sun.

The kids also find other activities at this family friendly resort.

Maho Bay eco-resort has lost its lease on the property and will be closing in May.  Future plans for the site have not been disclosed.  For more information, visit:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Full Moon Party

Moon Rise Over Fire Sculptures

Aragorn’s Studio, an arts center in Trellis Bay, B.V.I., along with restaurants and bars lining the beach near the Beef Island Airport put on 12 Full Moon Parties each year.

Knot Bad anchored over a charter boat’s anchor

Probably 200 to 250 boats were tightly moored or anchored in Trellis bay for the event.

Beach Fire Ball

The parties are billed as, “The B.V.I.’s top culture event of the month.”

Bill, JoAnne, Izzy, Jeff, Mo, and Pollie
Part of Grenada, Class of 2012

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with cruiser friends.

Too much help lighting the fire sculptures

The party is kicked off by the lighting of the fire sculptures.

 Filled with cardboard and wood, the sculptures burst into flames and burn for a long time.

Kodak Moment

The flaming sculptures with sparks flying and the anchor lights in the background brought everyone’s camera out.

Next we were treated to shadow dancers behind an opaque moon on the roof.

Raised by a crane, the shadow dancers became sky dancers.

No Caribbean party would be complete without the appearance of the Moko Jumbi dancers.

Morning After

Trellis Bay had changed since the last time we were there (15 years ago).  The Loose Mongoose Café was still there, albeit with a new paint job, and the little mini-mart seemed to have a better selection.  There were a couple of new restaurants, but the nicest addition was Aragorn’s Studio, an outlet for local artists and locally grown food.  Trellis bay has improved, but managed to keep its funky nature.  For more information see:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Split Personality

At barely 7 miles across, the dual nation of St. Martin/Sint Maarten, is the smallest island in the world to be divided by two sovereign powers.  Legend has it that the French and Dutch being more civilized than some of their European neighbors did not fight over the island.  Instead, a Frenchman armed with a bottle of wine walked in one direction and a Dutchman equipped with a flask of gin in the other.  Where they met became the boundary, and the French ended up with a bit more because the gin was stronger than the wine.

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten (6 cruise ships)

Today St. Martin (usually used when referring to the whole island) is the best known holiday destination in the Leewards.  The island hosts about a million visitors annually.

Philipsburg, Dutch side

The island went completely duty-free in 1939, so now it is the Caribbean’s number one shopping mall.  The Euro is the official currency on the French side, while the Guilder is the official currency on the Dutch side.  Both sides however, gladly accept the U.S. Dollar.

Orient Bay (on the French side, of course)
Photo by Izzy St. Clair

St. Martin boasts a multitude of beautiful white sand beaches to suit everyone’s taste.  The nude beach once again proved the adage, “those that shouldn’t do, and those that should don’t.” 

Maho Beach, Dutch side
Photo by Izzy St. Clair

While some visitors go to the beach to get that all-over tan, others go to watch the jets land.

Photo by Izzy St. Clair

Watching departures can be even more exciting.

Grand Case, French side
Photo by Izzy St. Clair

Dinning is another St. Martin treat.  While the Dutch side claims the better duty-free shopping, the French side claims the better dining opportunities.  The little town of Grand Case has restaurants lining the beach with each claiming to be better than the others.

The Butterfly Farm, French side
Photo by Izzy St. Clair

Although the island is rather small, there are numerous activities to keep everyone, even Pollie, entertained.  Once checked-in on either side you are free to roam on both sides by dinghy, car, taxi, or bus.

Sandy Ground Bridge, French side

Boats can enter the protected water of Simpson Bay from either the French side or the Dutch side.

Palapa Bridge, Dutch side

The bridge on the Dutch side has a wider opening and can accommodate deeper drafts.

2012 photo, there is more damage now

But evidently, the Dutch bridge is not wide enough for some of the mega-yachts.  Watching the mega-yachts navigate the bridge opening from the Yacht Club deck is a very popular activity.

Mega-yacht facilities, Dutch side

Because of the wider bridge and facilities, you can’t swing a dead lobster on the Dutch side without hitting a mega-yacht.  There is a nominal charge for using the Dutch bridge and they charge a weekly anchoring fee.

Simpson Bay, French side

The French fees are less and they do not charge for the bridge, so you find more cruiser boats and unfortunately, derelicts on the French side. 

A bridge across the Simpson Bay is under construction that will probably separate the character of the two sides even more.  Traffic jams in paradise, both on the French and Dutch side, prompted this project.