• close family • small boat • big world •

Saint Thomas

March 16, 2015

by Paula
On a mooring, Elephant Bay, St. Thomas, USVI
(from our backlog of posts... we are currently in St. Martin)

We heard so much about the dangers of St. Thomas that we skipped it when we cruised in the late 1990s. But this time through we gave it a chance, and we were pleasantly surprised.

The cruising sailor community is a hospitable bunch, and a friend connected us with another friend who welcomed us on arrival and offered us a mooring we could use in Elephant Bay on the west side of Water Island, just south of the mainland. The harbor is fairly big, and it was a long and wet ride in our tiny dinghy. But St. Thomas turned out to be pretty convenient and fun, and we spent longer there than expected.

Stan, the friend-of-the-friend, is charismatic and fascinating with a colorful past (and present). An entrepreneur and stock guy in his past, he’s currently part writer, historian, philosopher, inventor, unofficial harbor mayor, and serious pack-rat.  He’s been aboard his boat in the harbor for 25 years and he was full of great stories and ideas.

We had difficulty getting internet on the boat, so Cash spent much of his time doing his online History and Biology schoolwork at the restaurant/bar on nearby Honeymoon beach. He was mostly successful, except for the times when a live band started to play. That (and the women in bikinis) doesn’t do much for the concentration...

Greg finally received windlass parts from New Zealand but then got impatient (with a ball-peen hammer) and broke
another piece of it. Which had to be ordered. From New Zealand. After being cast. And machined.

So we took advantage of fast shipping from the states and good local hardware and marine stores to do lots of boat projects.He installed DC charging ports for the laptops, and did numerous rigging projects. I replaced all the sanitation hose in our head when not creating and reviewing schoolwork. (Side-note to cruising wives: your husband will do absolutely anything for you if you are replacing sanitation hose....)

New friends Larry & Letty (ex-Mainers with a beautiful old-world sail-training ketch took us to visit Hassel Island, now designated a National Park. We saw the remains of the Creque Marine Railway, British and Danish forts, and wandered around the small hippie-commune-sailmaker community that has been on the island for decades. (details in an upcoming post).

We took the safari bus to the "big city" of Charlotte Amalie to spend time taking in the rubble-masonry warehouse buildings and trying to avoid all the jewelry shops swarming with  like cruise-ship tourists (details in an upcoming post).

We went to a free concert on Water Island, hosted by a local radio personality in his eclectic home on Honeymoon Harbor.  He's an avid collector and each room is filled with paintings or train sets or doll houses or anything else. Every year he brings in world-renowned musicians for a three-day concert of classical and jazz music held in his home. Inside seats are limited, but much of the town turns up to hang out on his lawn (near his massive outdoor train set) to watch and listen through the open windows.

We watched the huge cruise ships come and go. Most would arrive in the early morning and leave at sunset. Our favorite was the Royal Caribbean, whose off-key horn would belch out the Love Boat theme on departure. We listened to a comedy-of-errors lifeboat drill by the Norwegian Cruise Line ship that went on for over an hour ("my engine has died" and "the rope snapped " and another "my engine has died" and "all the ropes are so disintegrated that they all keep snapping" and "none of my people know how to open the gate" and "I’m dead in the water" and "we can’t get the gate open" and "take the axe out of the lifeboat and bang it on the gate"). Yikes!!

We had our first on-board visitor come for ten days (Paula’s mom). St. Thomas is an easy spot for guests to come and go, with the airport within sight of the anchorage. We hopped over to St. John for a few days and then back with her. She did incredibly well given the rolly anchorages and transit via dinghy.

We didn’t venture out at night, or into the tougher neighborhoods. But venturing to mainland and its nearby islands proved to be a lot of fun. St. Thomas was worth the stop.