Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1979 (5) - St. John

Sunset from Caneel Bay, St. John

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

August 1979
After Ed's parents flew home, we spent a couple months anchored in the same spot in St. Thomas Harbor.  We accomplished quite a bit on the boat, working on the paint, chipping the rusty scuppers, varnishing all the teak on the outside of the boat, replacing the alternator, and doing some "interior decorating" in the form of new carpeting and bedspreads.  They were a peaceful two months, but finally the work was done and we were getting the urge to go sailing.  One day we hauled up a rather murky anchor and headed out of the harbor for the very first sail by ourselves.  It was hard to believe we'd been living on Tropic Moon for eight months and this was the first time we'd sailed her without anyone else aboard!

During the next two weeks, we explored the small island of St. John.  St. John is one of the U.S. Virgins, and most of the island is a national park.  The island was beautiful and wild and very sparsely populated.  Our first anchorage was at Hawksnest Bay.  We had a book picturing the Virgin Island anchorages (courtesy of Tony who missed it when he packed to go home), and I looked up Hawksnest Bay.  I knew that it would be a bad anchorage because, although it was pictured with a big anchor, the bay wasn't discussed in the text of the book.  My other clue as to what it would be like is that Ed had a penchant for picking rolling anchorages, and, sure enough, this was one of them.

View from Leinster Bay, St. John

With the wind holding the boat in one direction and the swell rolling in against our beam, Tropic Moon rocked from side to side.  Things fell off counters.  The remedy (partial at best) was to set both bow and stern anchors and point the bow into the swell.  Then the boat more resembled a rocking horse, rather than a drunken sailor, and I'll take the rocking horse over the sailor any day.  It's a kind of seesaw effect - the ends of the boat move up and down while the center stays stationary, making comfortable places of the galley and saloon, which are amidships.  Sitting out in the cockpit eating dinner was another story - we went up and down, up and down....

Despite the rolling, we stayed for three days at Hawksnest.  It was a spectacular bay, fringed by five sandy beaches.  The water was clear and nice for swimming, and we found some interesting coral for snorkeling.  It was a busy place during the day with people coming by car through the park to the beaches, and boats coming in to anchor.  But, by sunset, all the people would go home and, thanks to the rolling, all the boats except us would leave to find other overnight anchorages.  We'd have the whole beautiful bay to ourselves.  The quiet and the total darkness were in great contrast to St. Thomas where, in the middle of the night, we could still read the clock on the wall by the lights from the city.

View from St. Francis Bay, St. John

When we decided to move again, we simply motored around the corner to the next inlet, Trunk Bay.  This was definitely only a day stop - the rolling was so bad it made Hawksnest Bay look calm by comparison.  Trunk Bay was a popular day stop because it's the sight of an underwater trail - our first experience with this phenomenon.  People snorkel the trail.  There were signposts underwater explaining the different types of coral.  My favorite sign was the one that read, "End of Trail."  There I was, floating facedown in the water.  I looked around because I never actually saw a trail, only a bunch of signposts.  The coral off to the side was impressive.  I spent most of my time off the trail looking at the fish swimming among the coral formations.  Their intense colors, their size, and their faces fascinated me.  Some fish swam right up next to me, but would dart away when I reached out to touch them.  The only species you had to watch out for was a large, white-bellied fish, Genus Tourist.  They tended not to know where they were going, and could bump into you.

We left Trunk Bay to motor around another corner to a very good anchorage at St. Francis Bay.  The trouble with good anchorages is that everyone goes there.  The bay, besides being crowded with sailboats, was invaded by a fleet of noisy powerboats with hordes of people aboard.

Annaberg Sugar Mill, St. John

When we had chartered in the Virgins Islands on Fine Feather, in 1976, we had anchored one night in Leinster Bay on St. John.  We had hiked to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill.  This time, we found a sign that said we could also get to the mill from our anchorage at St. Francis Bay, by following a 1/4-mile trail that led out to the main road. The sign neglected to mention that once we reached the main road, we would still have to walk a mile uphill before reaching the turnoff for the mill.  After navigating a muddy trail, and gingerly making our way past the cows that were blocking the path, we hit the main road.  We hiked along, eventually passing a tourist bus that was stopped by the side of the road.  The busload of people were standing around, admiring the scenery, and drinking large cold drinks.  I was very tempted to try and bum a drink.  The bus was obviously going to the mill, as that was the only place the road went.

The bus passed us as we were climbing the last hill.  We arrived as the passengers were disembarking, and Ed spotted a fellow who had worked down the hall from him at Ford Motor Company!  I asked which one, but Ed wouldn't tell me because he said he couldn't remember the man's name.  Likely story from an antisocial hermit crab!  I decided I wanted to meet these people.  I knew the man couldn't possibly recognize Ed with his full beard, bushy hair, and tattered shorts.  So we joined the tourists, half-listening to the guide, and carrying on the argument in an undertone.  We walked ahead to the lookout at the top of the hill.  I shed a few tears (ineffectual).  I threatened to go up to each man and ask him if he worked at Ford.  Ed was getting angry, and I was working on a good pout when the group reached our spot.  A woman approached Ed, asking him to take a picture of her and her husband.  When Ed was returning the camera, he asked, "Are you the Lovelace's from Detroit?"  I got to meet them after all.  We had a nice chat through the rest of the tour.  They even took a picture of us.

We stood and waved as everyone climbed back on the bus.  As Ed turned and headed back up to the ruins, the tour guide looked at us, pointed down the hill, and said, "Home is that way."  I gave him a big smile.  I'm sure people wonder about us as we wander around with no vehicle, no group of people, and no guide.  We then had the ruins to ourselves, with the exception of one workman with a shovel, who was cleaning the cow dung off the trails.  Cows obviously have no respect for historic sites.

St. Francis Bay was followed by a few days at Leinster Bay.  Though it was, once again, only a short hop from our last anchorage, we felt like sailing.  We went by way of a circumnavigation of Jost Van Dyke, a large island to the north of St. John.  It was an eight-hour trip, and we anchored in Leinster Bay just before dark.  In two weeks, we had managed to work our way around about a quarter of the small island of St. John.

No comments: