To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.
While Tony and Joyce were sorry to see the trip end, I was admittedly overjoyed to reach St. Thomas, and have the chance to settle in one area for an indefinite period of time. We had planned to have Ed's parents visit sometime during the month of May, and we called them the day after our arrival. We were more than a little surprised to hear they were holding reservations, and would be down the following day. What with the suddenness of the trip's end, we hadn't even begun to set the boat to rights. We spent a frantic day cleaning Tropic Moon, changing beds, washing clothes at the Laundromat, and stocking the boat with food and beverages. Since Tropic Moon was at anchor, we ferried ourselves back and forth in the fiberglass dinghy. We had to rely on our rowing skills, since we didn’t have a dinghy engine.
Ed's parents were with us for ten days. We spent that time cruising the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands are grouped closely together, with short sails from anchorage to anchorage. After our recent experiences coming up the island chain, it was pleasant to cruise in protected waters around these beautiful islands. After leaving St. Thomas, we visited Caneel Bay on St. John. Our anchorages in the British Virgin Islands included Cooper Island, The Baths on Virgin Gorda, Road Harbor at Tortola, and Jost Van Dyke.
When we entered the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, it would have been hard to miss the burned out hulk of a cruise ship near the main wharf. We learned the ship was the Angelina Lauro. On March 30th, the ship was berthed in St. Thomas when a fire broke out in her aft galley. It spread rapidly. The crew wasn’t able to contain the fire, and soon flames roared high from her top decks. The vast majority of her passengers and crew were ashore when the fire broke out. All those still on board managed to disembark safely.
Most of the ships in port were on the final day of their seven day Caribbean cruise, having started from San Juan. As a result, passengers from the Angelina Lauro were divided into groups between the various ships in port, and were taken aboard for an overnight voyage back to San Juan. Most of Angelina’s passengers had been ashore in shorts and tops, and had lost all their belongings in the fire. The Sun Princess took 400 of Angelina’s passengers, and provided them with a buffet dinner, and a continental breakfast the next morning before they disembarked in San Juan. From Puerto Rico, they were flown home to the States.
The Angelina Lauro was declared a total loss. She remained dockside for months. A number of attempts were made to tow her away from the wharf. These failed, mostly due to the massive weight of the water that had been pumped into the ship to douse the fire. She ended up sitting on the shallow bottom, listing to port.
June 4, 1979
We are comfortably settled in St. Thomas. We’re anchored off the Sheraton Marina. I spoke with someone in the office. They’ll be happy to receive mail for us, even though we’re not docked at the marina. They’ll hold the mail for three months, in case we go off for a while. The Sheraton shows movies on Sunday nights. A week ago we saw ‘The Adventurers,’ with Ernest Borgnine and Candice Bergen. It was funny to watch. The movie was made for a wide screen. The hotel showed it on a home movie screen. All the people were tall and skinny, and the cars looked like they belonged in cartoons. We went in again last night, but they ended up not showing a movie, thanks to a power outage on the island. People were hanging out of the hotel windows because there wasn’t any air conditioning. Anyway, it wasn’t a wasted trip since we had dinner at McDonald’s, where, for some reason, they still had power.
We invested in a new alternator. Ours kept overheating; it smelled like we were burning down the boat! Ed spent hours working on it. He had to make a new bracketing system, since the new alternator is a different size from the old one.
Some barges arrived from Sweden to start work on the Angelina Lauro. We can’t tell what, if any, progress is being made.
June 11, 1979
Charlie’s Angels and the Love Boat are going to be filming a joint two-hour episode here on St. Thomas! Part of the show will be filmed in town, and part will be filmed on the Pacific Princess, a cruise ship that stops at St. Thomas. This cruise ship is a sister ship to the Sun Princess I went on in Grenada. The other day, when we were taking care of the boat registration at the Commerce Department, I saw a sign saying they were auditioning for extras for Charlie’s Angels. I went in and applied. I doubt I’ll be called – I said I just wanted to be a body in the background. They’ll be filming the end of this week. Maybe we’ll see an “Angel.”
We had a bad storm on Saturday that lasted about half an hour. The winds were unbelievable. We were glad we had two anchors out. We held our ground, though several boats didn’t. Two boats not far from us started banging into each other. There wasn’t anyone on either of them. We saw a boat drag, running into another boat. One sailboat broke a spreader off the mast, trying to get untangled. Several boats pulled up anchor and motored out of the harbor to get out of the way. Scary!
June 26, 1979
Well, I didn’t get called for Charlie’s Angels, but I talked to a lady who did get called. She’s an older woman whose husband runs the electronics shop at the marina. She was hired to be a passenger on the cruise ship. She was told to dress elegantly, and wear high heels. She would be filmed walking down the gangplank. She said she walked up and down that gangplank for 2-1/2 hours! She got to meet the Angels. It’s possible Tropic Moon may be in the show. We saw a helicopter flying around the harbor, filming.
More tugs and barges with large cranes have arrived from Sweden to work on Angelina Lauro. They pulled up her anchor a couple days ago. They were working late last night, with big spotlights shining on the ship. Ed heard on the radio that she’s to be re-floated, and then towed to Taiwan to be cut up for salvage.
I got Ed off the boat Sunday night to go to Pizza Hut. It was the first time he’d been to shore in a week. I’ve gone in three times for laundry and grocery shopping. The wind has been strong, making rowing to shore difficult. It discourages me from going in without a good reason. Rowing back to the boat is much easier. One day I took the dinghy in to shore to scrape the bottom. Lots of seaweed and stuff was growing there. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe. While I was working on the dinghy, a man came by – with a horse – and they both went swimming.
July 8, 1979
My sewing machine is now operational. Ed installed the converter that changes the boat’s 12 volts into 120 volts. We just plug the cord into this box, and flip a switch. Besides the sewing machine, it’s also been used for the soldering iron and the electric drill. In Grenada we had shore power, which isn’t an option when you’re anchored. We’re going to be making sail covers as soon as we get organized. We’re buying new carpeting for the forward and aft cabins. It’s fun to do small decorating projects. I want to hang a needlepoint picture I had brought down from the States. I have to figure out a way to secure it to the bulkhead so it stays in place when we sail. The problems of having a movable home!
Progress continues on the Angelina Lauro. She is almost erect now; they're still pumping water out of her. The radio informs us a tug will be coming for her on July 11th. Then the tug will be picking up another wreck in Venezuela that is also being towed to Taiwan for scrap. That should be some funny-looking trio, crossing the Pacific Ocean.
July 20, 1979
I thought we were ready to leave St. Thomas, but Tuesday we heard Tropical Storm Claudette was on her way. We set out two more anchors and waited. Almost nothing happened here, except for rough waters in the harbor. It rained most of Wednesday. Well, that’s three down – Ana, Bob, and Claudette. So far, no problems for us.
Before we leave Charlotte Amalie, we have to go in to the marina dock to fill up with fuel and water. That makes me a little nervous. It will be the first time we go in to a dock by ourselves. This reminds me of when we left Grenada. Ed was at the wheel, Joyce was on board, and Tony and I were on the dock, casting off the lines. Ed called us to get on the boat. Tony did, but I froze. Tropic Moon got about four feet from the dock. I would have had to jump, catch onto the boat, and pull myself aboard. I didn’t have the nerve to try. Ed was pretty pissed. He had to drive back into the boat slip to pick me up. Stumpy came over from his boat. He held the bow, and helped me climb aboard. It was rather embarrassing.