Guides to St. John and the Virgin Islands

While charts and cruising guides helped us plan our destinations and get there safely, there were a number of other books and guides that allowed us to enjoy and understand the history and ecology of the Caribbean and Bahamas, specifically St. John and Leinster Bay, where we spent two months as volunteer bay hosts for Virgin Islands National Park.

Much of our exploration of St. John began with Gerald Singer’s St. John Off the Beaten Track, which offers a lifetime of local insight on the beautiful island. The book includes bits of folklore, history, ecology, and anecdotes that Singer intersperses with a more traditional guide to the trails, beaches, and snorkels around St. John. Even after a couple months on the island, we still have a long list of things to see and do on St. John, nearly all of which we came across in Singer’s book. And I will never forget the story Singer relates about the family of four who ate the fruit of the toxic manchineel tree, mistaking them for genips. But there are dozens more interesting anecdotes in the book.

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Cruising Guides for the Caribbean (Now that we have been there)

In a post last week, I revisited our pre-sabbatical thinking on charts for the Caribbean and Bahamas in light of our experiences sailing there. This week, I take a look at the guidebooks.

We ended up buying all the guides, including all the Doyle guides for the Eastern Caribbean, that we had mentioned in the original post. And we enjoyed making use of all of them. However, it would be hard to say that any one of these resources were essential. That being said, we certainly could have used a guide to Puerto Rico, and, because we borrowed our friends on Pegasus’s, we know just the one we would purchase. We also found another guide that we had aboard, Les Weatherill’s Caribbean Passagemaking, which did not even make the original post, far more helpful than we imagined.

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Charts for the Caribbean (Now that we have been there)

Before we left on this sabbatical year voyage to the Caribbean, I had written posts about the charts and guidebooks that we were planning on purchasing and using on the trip. Now that we are coming to the end of our year in the Caribbean and Bahamas, I thought I would update those posts, reflecting on the resources we had initially purchased and letting you know about what else we either bought or wished we had with us. This week, I will start with the charts.

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Closing the Loop

Today we finished our second circumnavigation of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.  We made our first clockwise tour in November, just after Jeff and Felipe brought the boat down from the Chesapeake, and before we started our stint as Bay Hosts for the Virgin Island National Park Service (USVI).  On our initial trip we hit up anchorages on Jost Van Dyke, Trellis Bay, the Dogs, Virgin Gorda, Peter Island, and the West End. 

First Tortola circumnavigation. We left from Nanny Cay (red X) and checked out at Soper’s Hole (green x).
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Back to being tourists.

After two months of Bay Hosting for the Virgin Islands National Park, we are now officially just plain-ole tourists again.  Our time living in Leinster Bay was not only rewarding and fulfilling, but also just flat out fun. From making new friends and hosting the morning broadcasts of the Leinster Bay Radio Net to epic snorkel runs right off the back of our boat, we felt a real connection to this place. We both have said, in separate conversations and together, that we hope to return to “our bay” as Bay Hosts again soon. 

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In Memoriam: Bill Trayfors, s/v Born Free

While Margaret and I were using some of the free internet today at Pirate’s Bight, she turned and said, “I just got some sad news.” And, while telling me about the passing of our friend, Bill Trayfors of s/v Born Free, she turned her computer towards me, which had Bill’s ever-smiling face adorning a Facebook remembrance. He had passed “unexpectedly” on February 15th. Even writing it now, my tears are just at bay.

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Heading West

Over the last couple weeks, Margaret and I have been talking about where we might go after our stint as bay hosts with the National Park Service is over on February 15th. 

People we have met in the bay have already headed down island to Antigua and Grenada. And we had some new and dear friends leave for St. Marten the other day. Thoughts of cheese in St. Marten, hiking in Dominica, and island hopping in the Grenadines have us dreaming of sailing the Lesser Antilles. 

Our last day hanging out with the crew of SV Contigo.
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Provisioning: Lessons Learned

Provisioning: Lessons Learned

We have now been away from the continental US for 3 months, enjoying the British and US Virgin Islands.  While we stocked up on a what we thought was a ton of food before we set sail for the Caribbean, we are now able to better assess our eating habits while cruising.  There are several factors that have made provisioning different this season – each of which has affected our stores and consequently, our meal selection.

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The Government Shutdown and Our Bay Host Duties

With the government shutdown, the National Park Service suspended the bay host program, temporarily releasing us from our role. Consequently, we no longer need to be in Leinster Bay. And, when we are, we are not supposed to engage in any of our normal activities as bay hosts.

When the shutdown first began, we headed to Red Hook to take care of some boat chores. We stayed at American Yacht Harbor marina to top off our batteries and fresh water, provision, and get a few other jobs completed. While there, we ate some tasty nachos and burritos at MeLT.
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Seven Days on St. John, USVI

Our friends, Sasha and David, will be our first visitors down here in the Virgins. Some of you may remember them from our Abacos charter before we even purchased Bear. In anticipation of their visit, we put together a list of places to see and things to do in Leinster Bay, on St. John, and in the nearby area. We figured we would share the list here on the blog.

To put the list into perspective, Sasha and David are staying at an inn in Cruz Bay, and we do not know whether they will spend a night aboard. So we are not contemplating going far into the BVI should we go at all. And we do not know if they will want to or can come all the way out to Leinster every day. Likewise, Sasha and David are divers who may or may not be diving while they are here, but have already indicated that they are interested in doing a lot of snorkeling.
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