We had intended to spend several weeks in the Virgin Islands and were especially looking forward to hiking on St John, 60% of which is a National Park under the exceptional management the US Parks Service. Many of our boat neighbours from Grenada arrived in the area at the same time which made for a festive and social atmosphere regardless of where we decided to drop our hook . Like most things in the Caribbean, our best laid plans took longer than anticipated and we ended up spending almost three months poking around, fixing stuff, meeting friends and relaxing.
Parked at Peter’s Island in the BVI’s
While the hiking was not as dramatic or strenuous as in the French Islands, we did endeavour to pry you away from your books and take you hiking around the different islands. Your smiling faces in the photos belie the encouragement required to get you to come with us.
We were waiting for some parts for the generator so we ended up hanging out on Norman Island for a week. Alex took to the paddle board like a duck to water and we loved watching her putter around the anchorage. We met a couple at Norman Island and invited them for drinks to find out that she was from Brockville and her father had bought your grandparents Shark from us in 1979. He still has her and sails regularly. Small world.
Although we arrived in the BVIs with great anticipation, the official administration of these islands was more than my limited patience could bear, and we left for St John and Cruz Bay. When we arrived in the customs office the officers were efficient, polite and friendly; no “presents for Mama”, “a little something for my hard work…” etc. What a breath of fresh air compared to what I had encountered in the other islands.
In St John we were able to access WIFI signals from various resorts on shore and we were also able to get a US phone. Groceries were plentiful and the rum was cheap. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy we had hit the mother load!
We were joined by Del Max, 4 Coconuts, Endless Pleasure and Picaro, so there was lots of opportunity for hiking, swimming and dinners, both ashore and afloat.
Our newest friends from Endless Pleasure (they didn’t name her…) Steph and Tim Mauer were gracious hosts and we shared many dinners and games of dominoes together. They would eventually follow us to Puerto Rico so we were able to spend several months together which was great fun.
Often while at anchor we would be visited by a Barracuda who would lurk in the shade of the boat for days on end. While evil looking with an impressive set of teeth, they didn’t bother us. You and your mother did not wear shiny earnings while swimming… just in case.
I was able to order in parts to fix various systems that had been dogging us and, we needed to try and figure out the source of an allergic reaction that Alex had developed since Christmas. All this while doing school and working through Mark Twain. One of my favourite memories is of Kathryn reading out loud, animating Ol’ Jim from Huck Finn while Alexandra played the Edmond Fitzgerald on the guitar in the cockpit.
With the sudden access to Internet, you two were able to download books to your Kobo and would disappear for days on end until you would surface to download another book. Both Mommy and I are amazed, and delighted, at your appetite for reading and you churn through books at a fierce rate.
I received an email in January from the Flemmings in Kingston informing us that they had booked a trip to the USVIs in March although we thought that we would be long gone by then… As the date got closer we decided to adjust our very busy schedule and we ended up spending a super two days together. One of the highlights for us was to spend the afternoon at the Ritz Carleton hotel where they have electricity, hot water, a pool and “fru fru” drinks with those little umbrellas in them…
Throughout the islands there remains evidence of the sugar trade and the USVIs had some of the best ruins that we have seen. The cane was collected by slaves and crushed using windmill driven grinders before the juice was extracted and turned into sugar and rum. The plantations required enormous manpower to operate and when slavery was outlawed in the nineteenth century most of these sugar plantations became unprofitable and were abandoned. The plantation on St John was restored by the US Parks service and provides a wonderful lens into the past.
Besides Grenada, we have not spent as much time anywhere else in the Caribbean, and when we finally built up the inertia to leave, we did so with a certain melancholy. It had been a relaxing and fun several months (head, generator, hatch, plumbing repairs aside) and these beautiful islands and clear turquoise waters truly are the Disneyland of the Caribbean.