Last night at 5pm, Margaret and I started our new “job.” We are now volunteer bay hosts for Virgin Islands National Park. For the next two months – at a minimum – we will be living on a mooring in beautiful Leinster Bay on the northeast corner of St. John.
As bay hosts, our duties include greeting boaters, tending to the moorings, and making sure folks know the park rules. We are expected to give forty hours every week. That will still leave us lots of time to continue to explore the BVI and start to get to know the rest of the USVI. But Leinster Bay has some of the best snorkeling on St. John and trails and ruins line the shoreline, so we might just spend most of our time exploring and relaxing here.
Looking out from the ruins of the former big house of the Murphy plantation. Bear is on a mooring just off Watermelon Cay.
Yesterday, we went through training with the National Park Service. The three-hour session introduced us to the park’s marine rules and regulations, typical issues we may face, and some of the rangers and staff members that we will be working with. We also received our official “arrowheads,” the NPS symbol on our cool uniforms. Now all we need to do is get to intimately know the surrounding water and land along with the flora and fauna so that we can better assist guests.
The two of us in our new uniforms right before we went out on our first round (to a single charter cat) yesterday evening.
After some potatoes and eggs this morning, we are going to get started enjoying our new surroundings and performing our official duties!
Chart of Leinster Bay
And here is a photo essay of our first exploration this morning (all photos taken by Margaret with her trusty iPhone, except when she handed it to me):
After those eggs and potatoes, we dinghied ashore. And immediately, we started climbing to the ruins above. This is from the ruins of an old hospital turned fortification.
As we continued upwards on the trail, we passed interesting Caribbean trees and shrubs and some beautiful flowers, including this clitoria, which is a type of flowering pea plant.
Here is a yellow cedar, which is the national flower of the USVI.
Finally, we topped out overlooking the bay on the ridge where the ruins of the Murphy plantation house are. Spanish creeper covered large portions of it. And the place was just buzzing with hundreds of bees as butterflies danced over top of it all.
Jeff standing on the remains of one of the walls, taking in the view.
And something like what Jeff’s view was. Bear is all by her lonesome in the center of the mooring field.
It will be a pleasure to hike up here regularly to take in the view and learn more about the flora, fauna, and history of Leinster Bay.
Jeff looking like a dork posing with a pipe organ cactus we saw along the trail.
Margaret found a crab claw amidst another set of ruins in the drainage off the Leinster Bay beach. It seemed like birds might have used the ruins to help them crack into their meal.
We watched a pelican preen itself on a rock off the beach, thinking Jeff’s dad would enjoy seeing another one down in the Virgins.
A piece of brain coral on the beach also entertained us for a while. Shortly after seeing this, we also saw a small shark feeding in the shallows.
Walking along the beach, we finally made it over to the Annaberg sugar mill, which had been part of the plantation. The mill overlooks Leinster Bay from the center of the bay, while the Murphy house remains are up on the eastern corner.
At the mill, we met Wendell and Ellie, who are also Virgin Islands National Park volunteers. They have been at Annaberg once a week in season for the last thirteen years, minus 2017-18 after Hurricane Irma basically closed the park.
Wendell and Ellie welcomed us to Annaberg, oriented us a bit, and provided us with a lot of history of the plantation. We are looking forward to walking down the beach to meet all the daily volunteers at Annaberg over the next week.
We are excited to help protect, fund, and care for Leinster Bay while welcoming others to this place and getting to know it intimately. And, of course, we are happy to be calling this corner of the world home for the next several months.