In November of 2008, we blogged about Gaia and her crew. While things didn't work out quite as planned and Mike is now sailing solo, he is safe and happy, anchored in a peaceful cove somewhere in the Virgin Islands.
Mike was in Boston recently, and began telling us of his thoughts of potentially sailing Gaia north, where he would resume a 9-5 job and live his life with cruising all but a memory. Of course, Justin and I took this as an open invitation to come visit Gaia while she was still happily sitting upon blue waters, basking in the sunlight and warmth of the tropics.
So, in a somewhat spontaneous motion, Justin and I purchased plane tickets to St. Thomas, where we would live with Mike for the week and get a small glimpse of what his cruising lifestyle had been all about.
In a whirlwind, we left Boston and made the hop to Puerto Rico, then onto St. Thomas from there. The 25 minute PR to USVI was the most hair raising experience we had ever encountered in flight, but the islanders were so kind as to greet us with shots of rum as we stepped off the plane.
Mike was also there to greet us, and as I gave him a hug, I noticed how sickly pale I had become with living in our bubble home over the past few months.
We arrived oceanside about 45 minutes later, and I immediately saw some fish skirting around a megayacht. The water was clear and blue, and I quickly noticed how warm it was as we dinghied to Gaia on her anchor. Sadly, it was raining when we arrived, and didn't appear as though it was going to let up any time soon. We had to grocery shop the next day, and in the meantime found some food on land, at a place called Tickles Dockside Pub. Tickles is a pirate themed bar... I don't know about you, but I can't imagine meeting a pirate named Tickles. I'm just sayin.
The next morning it continued to rain. Part of our daily routine became making plans, then altering them as the rain refused to let up. We had planned on sailing to St. John, but instead went grocery shopping and then motored to a new anchorage on St. Thomas, where we made dinner for some fellow cruisers that Mike had met in Luperon. Keli and Stuart are aboard Beannacht, and Brian, Alicia and Louie are aboard Sarabande (they also had a friend visiting at the time). We had a wonderful evening chattering on about cruising, living aboard, sailing, and "plans". It was interesting to hear the plans of cruisers, as I often think of cruisers as not having any plans at all. Really, I'm not sure why. Regardless, Justin and I later discovered this to be the most pivital point of our whole trip, and we'll never forget about the new friends we made that night. We also are quite certain that we want to give cruising a try. We've always talked about it as if this is what we wanted to do, but we've also had our hesitations along the way for various reasons. The evening gave us a chance to realize that we're sitting in a nearly perfect position to raise the sails and go, returning only if we choose and not because we have to return to work the next morning.
The next morning, we awoke to more rain. But it was time to move on for sure. We chose Cruz Bay as our first destination on St. John, as it was fairly close and I was seasick and not wanting to go further. We found a spot near the car ferry, and there was something of a bird sanctuary situated near us - I haven't quite figured out exaclty if that's what it was, but it was spectacular indeed. The anchor dug deep, and we set off. I needed to get on land and put the sea sickness at bay. We also needed some food. After wandering the streets of the small town, we found Crazy Crackers, and realized the rain had let up just enough that we could sit outside. The food was amazing, but portions were small. We were determined to eat well, and so we went back to Gaia and made hummus! Along the way, we spotted a man atop a coconut tree, pestering the tourists.
The next morning, we awoke to yes...more rain. We decided that our plans for the day would be to motor to Reef Bay, a quick little jaunt from Cruz Bay. I had read about a nice hiking trail there and we all agreed that hiking in the rain would be far better than swimming in it, so off we went. Reef Bay Trail allowed us the opportunity to see much of St. John's wildlife, and it started with flocks of bats in the old sugar factory. Shortly thereafter, we saw a mongoose, who somehow failed to see us for quite some time. It was awfully amusing when he finally looked up from whatever it is that he found to be so entrancing, and you could see the fear in his eyes as he scurried off into a hole. The trail was home to many many deer, and while some sites say that they are simply white-tails, I believe they were much too small and seem to be some other breed. I may be wrong. They were friendly and unafraid - this was national forest and it appears as though they have no predators and nothing to worry about. They looked well fed and happy, and I don't think we spooked a single deer until the end of our trip. The anoles were also amusing, and one challenged Justin to push-ups. Justin knew that he had no chance of defeating this little guy, so we went on our way before he really put Justin in his place. The rain finally let up just enough for me to snap pictures, and this was the only place that we got a picture of the three of us (good thinking, Justin!) Otherwise, I was taking pictures with my camera safely enclosed in a ziplock...which made for some strange shots.
The next day, we woke up to SUN! We couldn't believe our luck, so we quickly stowed our things and sailed our way to the north end of St. John - destination: the beach. We chose Cinnamon Bay, and were not disappointed. The beaches here were beautiful, serene, and somewhat surprisingly empty. There were just enough people to make it feel like a real beach, but not enough to make it feel packed. We grabbed a mooring and instantly saw sea turtles checking out the boat. There were two large ones and later on we saw a smaller one. They were just amazing...one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. They seemed so very curious, but have such frowny faces. They're amusing and beautiful all at the same time.
We chose to walk the beach for a bit before snorkeling, and who did we see but Alicia and Kate! They were also taking advantage of the sun and took a ferry over from St. Thomas to lay in the sun. It was pretty amusing, considering the vast amount of beaches that they could have chosen. We spoke with them for a bit but didn't end up meeting back up with them before they left.
The snorkeling was amazing, and I'll never forget the crazy looking worm/snake/centipede looking thing that Justin pointed out to me! It took some time to get used to breathing with a snorkel (and longer to feel comfortable hearing myself breathe), but it was well worth it. We saw lots of fish and sea life - it's amazing how colorful everything was!
We did some more snorkeling and swimming the next day too. We decided that since it was our last day, we'd try to find some civilization and a little town. We definitely didn't get to do anything too touristy, so we figured this was our chance. We also knew that this was our last chance to sail and so we really took advantage of that, and I'm glad we did. We sailed far more west than necessary, which gave us a chance to pull out Mike's spinnaker and sail with that for a good long while! It was such a peaceful sail, and none of us were the least bit seasick that day!
That evening we made it to Red Hook and the town was a bit smaller than anticipated, although Mike said it seemed huge compared to some of the places he's been in the past year! We ate Amigo's Restaurant and the food was amazing, affordable, and the servings were HUGE! Very very tasty. We went to the bar downstairs afterwards and Mike talked to the locals for some time. We also did a dock walk at the marina in town, and there were some huge Tarpon swimming in the water. We were all pretty exhausted, so we went back to the boat and called it a night.
We woke up the next morning and packed our bags. Mike was happy with his anchorage, so we decided to take a taxi back to the airport instead of sailing back to Charlotte Amelie. The taxis there are amusing - trucks with bench seats in the back. They all have handles in front of the benches for a reason, and the woman who drove us to the airport was flying around corners and we made it in record time. And I thought Boston drivers were crazy!
All in all, it was a fantastic trip. It really made us realize that we'd like to try cruising sooner than later, so we've been talking about that a LOT over the past week!
A slightly inaccurate map of the places we visited...
View Our trip to the US Virgin Islands, January 2010 in a larger map