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Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Travel discussion for St. John

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Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby RickG » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:55 pm

Here's a quick trip report for our March 2014 sailing trip. Three of us rented CYOA's Hunter 36 Island Angel for the second time. This boat works great for three/four people, with a giant cockpit for entertaining. My lady sweet Christine and daughter Lizi were along.

We have some GoPro videos of snorkeling spots to add soon. Photos are at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 723e541892

Starting from St. Thomas, we overnighted at:

* French Town Marina, St. Thomas
* Maho Bay, St. John
* The Bight, Norman Island
* Scrub Island Marina
* Saba Rock, North Sound, Virgin Gorda
* Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke on anchor
* Caneel Bay, St. John on anchor

Enroute, we visited:

* Sopers Hole, Tortola
* The Indians and The Caves at Norman Island
* Pirates Bight and Willy T, Norman Island
* Wreck of the Rhone, Salt Island
* George Dog Island
* Prickly Pear Island/Eustatia Sound
* Saba Rock Happy Hour and tarpon feeding
* Bitter End Yacht Club Pub
* Monkey Point, Great Camanoe Island
* Soggy Dollar, White Bay Jost Van Dyke
* Foxy's, Great Harbor Jost Van Dyke

We ate two dinners and all breakfasts and lunches on the boat. The places we ate out at, plus a subjective rating:

* Pie Whole, French Town, St. Thomas - (A)
* Tierra Tierra, Scrub Island - (B)
* Fat Virgin Cafe, North Sound Virgin Gorda - (A+)
* Corsair's, Great Harbor Jost Van Dyke - (A)
* Jewel's, White Bay Jost Van Dyke - (B+)
* Cruz Bay Landing, Cruz Bay St. John - (A+)
* Fatty Crab, Cruz Bay St. John - (B+)

We provisioned at Gourmet Gallery in Crown Bay Marina. The up charge over the Pueblo grocery story was about the cost of a taxi ride back, plus we were able to leave the ladies at Tickles and we had a ride back with Capt. Jay & Debbie. We brought a few items in a cooler to keep the shopping load down. Most of what we bought were beverages. Capt. Jay lightened our load a lot by picking up 12 gallon jugs of water for us at K-Mart. Three of us ending up drinking 10 gallons over eight days.

Some highlights, thoughts and comments:

Frenchtown is a great place to start a sailing trip. Plenty of options for provisioning and restaurants. Checking in and out with CYOA is brisk, the boat was very clean and ready to go. Island Angel was in better shape than November, with fresh batteries - made me happy. Having a freezer onboard this small boat really helped keep our need for ice way down.

We love the St. John North Shore anchorages. Sleeping at Caneel Bay is a bit challenging after the ferries start their runs with all of the rolling their wakes cause. But, Maho/Francis Bays and Leinster Bay are quiet and beautiful. Checking in at Sopers Hole and Cruz Bay is fast and easy. The counterclockwise route around the USVIs and BVIs gave us lots to do and visit between each anchorage.

For snorkeling attractions, we had fun at the Indians. The Wreck of the Rhone was great, with a couple of snorkelers and boat loads of divers; we could see the panorama of the dive site from the surface. George Dog had great snorkeling around the dive buoys. The Eustatia Sound side of Prickly Pear Island has a lot of promise. Snorkeling at Monkey Point was fine, similar to a dozen St. John sites. On future trips I'd like to hit Cistern Point at Cooper Island, Fallen Jerusalem and Chimneys at Great Dog.

We did a night in the marina at Scrub Island. The staff were great. The marina was good, if a bit shallow. The amenities were quite resorty, with large private marble bathrooms for the marina guests. But, we're not really resort people and felt a bit like we didn't fit in. We had left behind the camping out feel of sailing that we love so much. Comparing it to the Leverick Bay Marina, I think the biggest difference was that Scrub Island was a bit more formal and structured. Leverick is a lot more fun and authentic and we definitely prefer the atmosphere there. Scrub wins on bathrooms. Leverick wins on everything else.

We hit some dining favorites on this trip, and have a new one. Pie Whole has a killer beer selection and very good pizza and salads. Tierra Tierra, after dinner on the boat two nights in a row, was a bit of a disappointment; we left saying it was good, but we could do just as well ourselves. The service was a bit tentative and the drink service was slow. Corsairs was solid for a very good meal with some tentative service. Jewel's has my favorite beach hot dog. Cruz Bay Landing is a new favorite, with some great appetizers, good drinks and a great team running things in a wonderful setting. Fatty Crab was a bit of a let down after previous very impressive showings; we did not recognize any of the staff and the dishes were less adventurous with less of a Malaysian influence and more Thai - sweeter, less sour and spicy.

Fat Virgin Cafe for dinner was the standout meal for this trip, especially after eating at Tierra Tierra the night before. We had Goat Stew, Kingfish and West Indian BBQ Ribs with sides like christophenes with pumpkin, fungee and peas & rice. The Kingfish was beautifully sautéed with crisp skin. I asked about the fish options and Ratty, our server, said "Kingfish come off the boat this morning. That's what I'm having for dinner!" Christine's Goat Stew had a lot of savory spice in dark gravy (my mouth is watering as I remember the flavor) and I would go back for that. Lizi's ribs were classic West Indian style with a sweet sauce and falling apart tender. I love my Kansas City and Memphis style ribs, but this is a different style. Ratty gave us great service, the beer was cold and the setting was quite fun.

After Sailing

We extended our trip to do some boat shopping and stayed with Capt. Jay and Debbie for some play time. Lizi was not happy about going back to a snow storm, but the last semester of college is not optional. Standouts for the St. Thomas land-based four days were dinner at Mafolie Restaurant and speeding the day at Honeymoon Bay, Water Island. St. Patrick's Day was a marina tour/pub crawl and some St. Patrick's Day parading in Red Hook with dinner at Tickle's Pub at Crown Bay.

Jay and I headed over to Tortola the day after St. Patrick's day to meet with a broker at BVI Yacht Sales. We looked at eight different boats and came up with our favorite layouts and designs. The results of that exercise is another story to tell.

Cheers, RickG
S/V Echoes - Coral Bay - St. John, VI
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby shoemak38 » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:58 pm

:D :D
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby inuny » Thu Mar 27, 2014 10:24 pm

Thank you for the detailed sailing trip report. I will be forwarding it to my sailing buddies. The info on the snorkeling spots will be very useful.

Have you posted your report on the ttol sight?
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby michigan girls » Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:13 am

Those conch dishes alone are enough to make me want to visit Salt Island - yummy

Looking forward to the snorkeling vids!
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby Wolfhound » Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:31 am

Sounds like an amazing trip Rick. Can't wait to hear about the boat shopping. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby ccasebolt » Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:20 am

Great report! (I still haven't posted ours :oops: )

What did you think of Saba Rock? Joining three day in, I missed that portion of our itinerary, unfortunately. I'm told it's definitely worth a return trip.

We rented a Lagoon 42 from Catamaran Company, Hodges Greek Marina (previously located at Nanny Cay). Due to the new location, we changed up the itinerary a bit, starting out at Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island (I missed this too). Typically we would have spent the first night at the Bight which is pretty popular on a Saturday night. This trip it seemed easier to pick up mooring ball at subsequent stops; we lucked out with our first choice each day, never having to resort to the "bail out". I'm guessing the change-up put us out of synch with the bulk of the others - definitely a plus. I know you anchored, but how did you find availability of moorings?
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby RickG » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:27 am

ccasebolt, I love Saba Rock and the ladies did too. We picked up the mooring closest to the Eustatia Sound, so were uphill from the mooring field's noise and the rest.

I love Cooper Island Beach Club, but the moorings can be rolly if there is any swell. It has the benefit of being dinghy distance, with reasonable conditions, of Cister Point snorkel, Salt Island and The Wreck of the Rhone.

It was spring break season, moorings were tight every where except North Sound. We had to anchor at Great Harbor and Caneel Bay. Caneel Bay anchoring is only allowed when the moorings are full, and we did not see an open mooring anywhere on north shore of St. John.

Funny about picking up moorings, slow easy really does win the race. Taking the time to come up from downwind and just barely idle up to the ball certainly helps. The low freeboard on Island Angel helps too with visibility from the helm. Having the hooker remember to give hand signals helps even more, we're working on that.

Michigan girls, those Scrub Island conch dishes were pretty, but low flavor. We definitely prefer the more West Indian interpretations. I tell you, a wedge of lime would have made the ceviche a LOT better.

Cheers, RickG
S/V Echoes - Coral Bay - St. John, VI
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby papabou » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:27 am

great job rick. you are true to your later yr roots, the vi's, though you seem to have slipped toward the sea. I had figured you (well until last couple of years) would have been talking to someone about a villa on stj.

know you have mentioned sailing Chesapeake so perhaps you have boat back home. if not, words of caution given to me by some wise old man: the 2 happier days of your life are the ones you buy a boat (or horse) and the day you get rid of that sucker. boat lives are like dog lives when compared to humans, 1 for 9.

little tongue in check and jealousy here as we have had pontoon boats and ski boats at lake hartwell for over 40 yrs. they are essential to place 4 generations have enjoyed. perhaps your daughters will become boat captains and you can go along for the boat ride in the not to distant future BUT remember the bills will always be covered by dad. both our both boats currently in for work and it ain't cheap!

keep up the good work and hope you find the right boat. the vi economy needs you.

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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby PA Girl » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:41 am

Count me in as looking forward to the boat buying story! Are you putting it out for charter?
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby RickG » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:46 am

papabou, I've been looking at buying a villa since 1999. Bottom line, prices are too high unless you work very hard to make it very rentable. Sounds like a job.

Used boats are 1/10 the price of a villa, and you can move it if you don't like the neighbors. With maintenance, they'll last a very long time and retain good value. I can get more value out of 40' sailboat than out of a villa. Sweet Christine and my girls have fallen in love with sailing. That's how I get to spend eight weeks a year in the islands and keep my day job. I'll be able to report back on how it works for me, soon come. We won't put a boat in charter, that favors big catamarans and new boat$$$$.

Cheers, RickG
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby Barb Y » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:48 am

Rick as always your trip report is awesome Thanks so much for sharing and best of luck with your possible new venture. I can't wait to get lost in your pics next!!!
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby Puddlejumper » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:15 am

Sounds like a good trip and a productive one. Will be patiently waiting to hear what you choose.
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby ccasebolt » Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:29 pm

That settles it then -- I'm going to look into splitting our next landlubber trip between Virgin Gorda and St. John.

I guess we were very lucky re moorings availability. To give you an idea, our plan was to stay in Great Harbour for Mardi Gras. We were at Cane Garden Bay the prior night (I joined the group at CGB); the plan was a short sailing day - bubbly pool, lunch at Taboo, Sandy Spit, then on to Great Harbor. We ended up at Great Harbor between 2 and 3 in the PM convinced we'd either have to bail out or drop a hook. Much to our pleasant surprise, there were still several balls available. Granted they didn't last long; there were several disappointed parties who came up empty an hour or so later, but we lucked out. That's pretty much the way things played out for us the entire week.

Stayed in a slip at the marina in Spanish Town, VG for the first time this trip. Nice marina, not too fancy - quick hop to back to Hodges Creek on the last day. It was a nice way to wrap things up; definitely recommend.

Sailing out of the BVI, we've never stayed in US waters. Sounds like a nice way to change things up a bit next time. :)

I should probably write my own report, eh?
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby seagrape » Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:56 pm

Glad you guys had so much fun!! We enjoyed STJ around the same time...maybe we'll see you this summer?
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Re: Trip Report - Sailing March 8-15 2014

Postby loria » Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:26 pm

Great stuff-- speaking from recent experience i have to say .....houses are a lot to handle.... looking forward to your stories of boat ownership!
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