Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Happy New Year -- St. Thomas Jan 2008
Picture: Murray with his part of the Wahoo
Our company arrived Dec. 28th, exactly as planned. Since the airport is very close to Charlotte Amalie, and the main harbour anchorage is very convenient to town, we made arrangements for Debbie and Murray to meet us at the Green House Restaurant on the waterfront. Our experience with meeting guests has shown us that bars are the best place, taxis don’t need directions, and we can enjoy a drink while we wait for the cab to show up.
We are always very careful who we invite to visit us. RAFT doesn’t offer our guests, or us much privacy; no private staterooms, heads or showers. So we always want our guests prepared that their getaway is closer to "camping in paradise" than a five star resort. Fresh water is rationed, we don’t go to marinas, and we tend to live with the sun. We actually didn’t know Murray and Debbie all that well, but Ross’s parents and Murray’s parents had been close friends for thirty-five years, starting as neighbours when both families were growing up in Toronto. But we knew that Murray and Debbie liked camping, had a summer cottage (a real one with no running water), and lived in Northern Ontario for the past 20+ years. That meant they must love fishing, snowmobiling, and roughing it. Murray had taken a keel boat sailing course and participated in their local yacht club races as crew this past summer. They had been following our trip on this blog and contemplating getting their own boat, but wanted to make sure they were compatible to the lifestyle.
We chose to have them come to St. Thomas, because we were concerned that with strong Christmas winds, we might get blown about in big open anchorages. We were confident in the US Virgins we could find some quiet anchorages, great snorkeling and fine sailing even if the wind blew strong.
Over our first breakfast, we discussed with M&D as to what they were interested in doing while they were with us. As expected, sailing, fishing, snorkeling and hiking were activities mentioned, while enjoying the sun and beautiful islands. Based on this list of priorities we decided on the sailing adventure right away. We sailed off the anchor and headed off to Christmas Cove. The winds were 15 knot trades, and the eastern swells were considerable.
We put out our 2 fishing lines, and within a few minutes the clothespin alarm jumped off the life rail. We were towing the dinghy with the motor on, and the line had gotten caught on the motor, so we thought it was a false alarm. The sea state was rough enough that Ross didn’t think he could free the line without getting into the dinghy. Then the other line also got caught on the dinghy motor, or so we thought. Not a great start for our fishing expedition. Debbie also wasn’t feeling great, so the decision was made to retreat to Charlotte Amalie. We turned around and Murray started to pull in the lines, Ross got in the dinghy to assist, and Bev was on the helm trying to keep RAFT steady. Murray thought his line was really hard to pull, but it wasn’t fighting like a fish. We soon found out why, as he pulled in half a Wahoo. Obviously something else had enjoyed the tail portion, but had left us more than enough for a great meal. There wasn’t another fish on the other line, but it had managed to get wrapped around RAFT’s prop. Good thing we are sailors, and sailed back into the harbour and anchored under sail. Bev went in the water to free the line, and managed to save the lure.
We thought we had thoroughly upset our guests, but we were wrong. They were very excited about the fish, and that overshadowed the rest. The fresh Wahoo steaks for supper were fantastic!!
Picture: Debbie, Murray and Bev at brunch in Red Hook
The wind conditions were similar on Sunday, so we went took the $2 safari (bus) across the island to Red Hook. After walking the docks and having brunch, we got back on the safari, and enjoyed the tour of the southern anchorages. Bev thought that we could get a safari up to Magens Bay Beach, but a local resident on the safari told us otherwise. He also informed us that we could take the safari to the end of the line at the Universtity and walk to Brewers Bay which had a lovely beach. This also gave us the opportunity to see how close the safaris pass the airport. (Not close enough, a taxi is necessary) We followed the instructions and ended up at a very nice beach, which we shared with a handful of local families enjoying their Sunday afternoon.
By Monday, the winds were coming down, and we wanted to go explore St. John. We went out prepared for the upwind passage to Current Cut, motor sailing in the lee of St. Thomas as much as possible. Once through the Cut we were able to sail to Trunk Bay. After grabbing a mooring, Debbie, Murray and Bev went to enjoy the beautiful beach and snorkel trail. Later we moved up to Maho Bay for our New Year’s Eve celebrations. We did enjoy a lovely Italian meal, but completely missed the celebratory champagne toast when 2008 arrived.
New Year’s day was spent hiking around the north end of St. John, visiting the old sugar mill and Annaberg Schoolhouse and snorkeling Waterlemon Bay. It was a delightful day as was the next one, when we stopped at Cruz Bay to allow M&D to tour the town, before sailing to Christmas Cove. Bev was anxious to snorkel here to see if it lived up to her memories of 18 months ago. The manta rays were there to greet us, another green turtle, plus lots of fish were present in the trench, just as she remembered.
D&M’s week was approaching its end, so we down wind sailed back to Charlotte Amalie. We wanted to give them some time to check out the "fairy land" that greets the cruise boat guests, and see how many diamonds are sold in the numerous stores. Fortunately their flight was not so early, that we didn’t need to find a taxi at "O" dark 30, so they had ample time for some last minute shopping before going to the airport. Our week together had been very enjoyable, and all of our initial assumptions about compatability worked out. We are quite confident that D&M had a great time, and we would welcome them back anytime.
Now that we have RAFT back to ourselves, we get to plan our next couple of weeks, before we must get to Culebra, and Bev’s trip to Florida.