Trip Highlights
February 1998

Tuesday 2/24

    The date has finally arrived for the sailing trip to the Virgin Islands. In addition to my cloths, I packed a dozen meat balls in sauce in a cardboard box and placed the box in the freezer over night. I left for JFK airport at 5:30 AM and boarded the plane at 7:30 AM. Bob and Jim arrived shortly after and their assigned seats were right next to me! This seems like a good omen. We arrived at St. Thomas at 1 PM and Lynn arrived at 2:30 PM. We traveled to Red Hook by cab and met Dave from Island Yachts. He showed us aboard Hawk Spirit while Sherry and Linda took care of the paper work. We also met Skip who I believe is one of the owners of Island Yachts. We bought groceries and after loading them on board, we went to dinner at Duffy's Heart Beat restaurant. Jim, Lynn and Bob lit up cigars which was the start of a routine that would repeat almost every evening, and we all relaxed under the stars before going to bed on the boat.

Wednesday 2/25 (Ash Wednesday)

    We were up by 7 AM and by 10 had taken care of everything in preparation for departure. We had many questions about the rigging which was complicated by the addition of a sta-sail in addition to the main and Jenny jib. Dave answered all our questions in a 1 hour checkout session on the boat. We left Red Hook at noon and headed for the north shore of St. John.

    There was not much wind so we took advantage of the opportunity to shake down the rigging. We set all the sails and then took them down and motored to Leinster Bay. We managed to catch a vacant buoy and decided to stay here over night. We had sandwiches for lunch and then took the dingy to Water Lemon Cay. We snorkeled all the way around the cay and became reacquainted with the beautiful under water spectacle that makes the Virgin Islands so special. Swimming through a giant school of neon fish, observing the panorama of fan, brain, and antler coral, and gazing at the variety of colorful fish, is a breathtaking experience.

       After returning to the boat, Lynn and I took a short swim to investigate the coral near the boat. We should have stayed longer because right after we got back, 2 manta rays were seen by other swimmers near the boat.

    We took the dingy to the nearby ruins of a 18th century sugar mill. It was a short hike to the Annaberg ruins from the rocky beach. We finally returned to the boat and had a wonderful meal of vegy cheese burgers and franks cooked on our fantail grill. Drinks included beer, wine, and Manhattans made by Jim. Dinner was served on the fantail, cigars were lit, and a philosophical discussion ensued under a beautiful star lit night.

Thursday 2/26

    We left Leinster bay at 9 AM for West End, Tortola where we cleared customs and arranged to spend 5 days in the BVI. This took about an hour and after replenishing our supplies of food and ice, we set sail for the eastern Virgin Islands in the BVI. The wind reverted to the normal easterly direction. At about 2 PM, a solar eclipse began and lasted for over an hour. An earry darkness prevailed when the eclipse reached its peak of 90% coverage. We headed for Peter Island but got there just after the last buoy was taken. Rather than anchor out we took a space at the dock and connected to the pier services. Peter Island is a first class resort and marina. We hiked to Dead Mans Cove and found the snorkeling good there. Rumor has it that the snorkeling at the other coves is even better. We may try them tomorrow.

    While we were in West End, Jim picked up a piece of blue cheese. We enjoyed it with crackers and cocktails while I prepared the pasta and meatballs that I brought from NJ. After taking showers, the rest of the evening was spent casually with drinks and cigars at the pool-side bar.

Friday 2/27 (Lynn’s Birthday)

We left Peter Island at 11 AM and headed out to sea. Lynn wanted to see what it was like in the open ocean. We found the sea a bit rougher but it was a beautiful day and excellent sailing. As we reentered Francis Drake Passage, we noticed a spectacular surf pounding the northern shore of the islands. When we got to the yacht harbor at Virgin Gorda, the powerful surf caused heavy turbulence in the channel entrance to the harbor. We made it into the harbor and tied up at a dock for the night. We jumped in a cab with our snorkeling gear and headed for the Baths and some of the best snorkeling in the islands. When we got there, we found the normally crowded beach deserted. There were no boats anchored at the buoys either. The reason was immediately apparent. The high surf made snorkeling treacherous if not impossible. We were disappointed but decided to hike along the shore to Devil's Beach. The winding path through caves and around giant boulders was an adventure in itself. The thunderous surf came crashing into the caves and gave a spectacular display of natures power as it pounded the giant boulders and sent fountains of spray in the air. We got wet but it was exciting to see the surf so close up. After the hike, we had a drink at the Mad Dog Saloon and then returned to the marina.

    We took the recommendation of a woman we talked to on the pier and ate at the Old Yard Inn. It was an excellent meal after which we retired for the night.

Saturday 2/28

    The surf had subsided somewhat over night. We left the yacht harbor after replenishing our food, and motored back to the Baths to try snorkeling again. We hooked a buoy and were able to swim in to shore from the boat. The water was stirred up though and the snorkeling was still not very good. We had lunch and set sail for Gorda Sound. It was a great sail and we made port and took a buoy just as the storm clouds rolled in. We took the dingy to shore at Leverick Bay and had Pain Killers at Pusser's. After returning to the boat, I made linguini and red clam sauce from a recipe that Alice gave me. It turned out well and we all enjoyed our fill with plenty of red wine. We had a long discussion after dinner that covered everything from health issues to work place philosophy. After clearing the table, we played several hands of poker using our community change. After all was said and done, we threw the coins back in a heap and retired for the night.

Sunday 3/1

    Breakfast was eggs and sausage today. After breakfast we took the dingy to Mosquito Island and snorkeled at the reef there. The beach was beautiful and we met several people from other boats there. After snorkeling, we returned to our boat and set sail for Marina Cay on Tortola. It was a great sail with part of it down wind. After we were secured at a mooring, a young lady pulled alongside in a dingy. Her name was Anouk and she was selling costume jewelry from her dingy. She was French Canadian and she told us about the snorkeling in the bay. We bought some of her merchandise and she was on her way to the other boats in the harbor. Dinner was cheeseburgers and franks on the grill. After that we played cards.

Monday 3/2

    We snorkeled until 10:30 and then replenished our fresh water supply. Our next destination was Norman Island and we arrived at the Treasure Island caves at 1:30 PM. The water was clear and we enjoyed some of the best snorkeling of the trip here. While climbing in one of the caves, I stepped on a sea urchin and got 3 spines in the heal of my foot. They penetrated right through the heavy rubber heels of my flippers but at least it kept them from going in very deep. After snorkeling, we motored into the Bight and I was surprised to see rental buoys here. After the boat was secured, Bob and Lynn dug the spines out of my heel with a needle and tweezers.

We noticed another establishment on the beach that was not here the last time I was here. We took the dingy over and discovered a restaurant/bar called Billy Bones. It was built and opened in January by the people who own Norman Island. We had rum drinks at the bar, and learned that the floating restaurant, the William Thorntan, wad destroyed in the last hurricane but was since replaced. We made dinner reservations by radio earlier in the afternoon. Although it was quite different from what I remember, we had a good meal there and the atmosphere was very lively and friendly with lots of boaters out for a good time.

Tuesday 3/3

    We sailed out of the Bight for Cruz Bay to reenter the US and clear customs. Our 5 day stay in the BVI was complete but we could have used one more day to sail to Jost Van Dyke but we agreed to skip that port rather than try to deal with customs to extend our stay in the BVI. Entering and anchoring in Cruz Bay is always an adventure because of the heavy barge and ferry traffic in and out of the harbor. We managed well though, and spent most of the day on shore. After taking care of customs, we all made phone calls and then had a good lunch at Pussers. We left Cruz Bay at 3 PM and sailed back to Red Hook so Lynn could get an early start to the airport in the morning to catch his 10 AM flight. We had time to replenish our supplies and have a light dinner at Duffy’s.

Wednesday 3/4

    We said our good byes to Lynn and left him on the pier where he got a cab to the airport. We set sail back to St. John and anchored in Trunk Bay. This is a beautiful beach and very popular. There is a snorkel trail here with plaques that identify the coral and different types of fish. We snorkeled until noon time and then returned to the boat for lunch. After lunch, we motored to Maho Bay where we expected to meet Bob and Carol Ann Faucett. We snorkeled for a while and noticed that a group of pelicans were herding a school of fish and getting them to swim back and forth in the bay. They really had the fish spooked and gave them no rest. A ray was spotted from the beach and a crowd traced his progress along the shore.

    Bob and Carol Ann showed up and we took them out to the boat to show them around. We had a nice visit and agreed to try to meet at Coral Bay tomorrow. Bob said they were negotiating to buy a house above Fish Bay on St. John and were confident that they would close soon. Bob drove us to the camp store at Maho Bay camp site. We bought a few items and then walked back down to the beach.

Thursday 3/5

    We left Maho Bay for Coral Bay which was a long up wind sail. We motored most of the way and stopped at Haulover Bay to snorkel before getting to Coral Bay.

    We anchored in Coral Bay around 3 PM. Coral Bay has an odd mix of people and establishments. There are a lot of “drop outs” here and very free spirits. They give the place an interesting aura that has a 60’s Woodstock kind of feel to it. We found the restaurant/bar/gift shop that used to be Don Carlos and had a drink. After looking at the menu and talking to some of the people there, we were tempted to try dinner there. Since we had chicken that had to be cooked, we returned to the boat. The chicken smelled a little ripe and that made up our minds for us. We tossed it over the side and headed for the beach for dinner. The dinner turned out to be excellent and would hold its own at any 5 star restaurant. The chef turned out to be trained at the Culinary Institute in NY.

Friday 3/6

    We left Coral Bay and sailed around Ram’s Head to Salt Pond Bay. Bob and Jim went for a walk while I snorkeled the east end of the bay. It was our last day and very relaxing. As we were doing our thing, another sail boat sailed around and around the bay. A nice looking young lady in a thong bikini was busily sailing the boat while another man filmed her. Soon she took off the top of her bathing suit and the filming continued. At that point, we got out the field glasses and enjoyed the show too.

    Since the weather report for tomorrow did not sound good, we decided to return to Red Hook tonight to avoid any delays tomorrow when we had to catch our plane. We pulled into Red Hook at 4 PM and had a repeat meal of Linguini and Clam sauce. After dinner, we began to pack our things for the trip home tomorrow.

Saturday 3/7

    After breakfast, we called Island Yachts on the radio and prepared to bring Hawk Spirit into the pier. We off-loaded our gear and washed down the boat with fresh water. By 9 AM we were on our way to Charlotte Amalie to do some last minute shopping before going to the airport. At the airport, we cleared customs and took off on time for JFK. The flight was uneventful.

    It was good to get home to Alice and the trip is already taking on the quality of a pleasant dream with memories that will linger. Alas life goes on with its harsh realities. In the 12 days that I was gone, one good friend lost his job, and another died of heart failure. I am thankful for one more pleasant adventure in paradise.

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