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Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Travel discussion for St. John

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Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby RickG » Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:02 pm

Photos at: http://dinghylife.wordpress.com/2017/02 ... n-the-vis/

We’re just back from two weeks of sailing the US Virgin Islands and Culebra. No visits to the BVIs this trip. The first week started with decent weather, but the wind and swell picked up per the weather forecast. We saw gusts of 25+ knots and 2-meter swells routinely for over a week. What to do?

For the first week, our crew of six did a circumnavigation of St. John and stuck to mostly sheltered and well sheltered bays. Two nights in Maho Bay before it started blowing, followed by one night in Leinster Bay as the winds and swell were building. Lots of snorkeling and swimming in these beautiful bays. Then around the east end of St. John into Coral Bay and the inner bay of Hansen Bay for more of the same. Our fifth day statted in Hurricane Hole’s inner bay of Princess Bay for a mangrove snorkel with the wind howling in this very sheltered cove.

This crew are backcountry campers and long distance bicyclists, so we did fine on cooking on board, managing water and amusing ourselves. We also had St. John friends visiting us for happy hours. “What can we bring?” Ice! Still, after four nights with no ice or provisions we needed some essentials. Coral Harbor was our anchorage for our fifth night. We hit Dolphin Market ($$$$) and had dinner on land at Indigo Grill. After that, it was off to Lameshure Bay and Christmas Cove for the last two nights with this crew. Christmas Cove was still blowing 20+ knots, but we have good holding in sand for our anchor.

It was a great week on the boat with Sweet Christine, Bill & Wendy and Gordon & Holly. They headed off for a week on Vieques next. Visits with Jim and his family for happy hours on the boat were great. Dinner with Steve and Marcia in Coral Bay was excellent.

Decision time for RickG and Sweet Christine - where to go with the winds and the swell still big? Upwind to the BVIs, or St. John, or sail downwind to Culebra. With the winds and swell expected to abate Wednesday night, we left for Culebra Monday after spending the night in sheltered Brewers Bay on St. Thomas.

The sail to Culebra was fun. We put the genoa up double reefed and left the main down for the rest of the week. With gusts to 24 knots downwind, we made great time and were in Culebra and were anchored four hours later. The swells got a bit hairy once was passed the west end of St. Thomas and got out of the shelter of Savannah Island - 2-meter+ on our stern quarter tossed our rear end around. We towed the dinghy on a long tether and it did a good bit of surfing on those big swells; We agreed that was the limit of what we could do with a towed dinghy, but we could not get a 15HP outboard on deck without a crane.

The anchorage at Dewey in Culebra was still blowing for our first two nights. Thankfully, no swell. We had three great days on Culebra and hit our favorites - Dinghy Dock Bar, Zacos Tacos, Heather’s Pizzeria, Milka’s Grocery, Flamenco Beach with its big beach and lunch kiosks. Culebra is very laid back and we feel very relaxed there. The staff at our favorites recognized us from our November visit and we caught up on the local gossip. Culebra has that wonderful Puerto Rican culture with very happy people. The lower prices there help too.

Wednesday night the weather calmed. Thursday morning dawned with very little wind, conditions that persisted for the next four days. We motored back to St. Thomas, catching a big barracuda on the way. Thursday and Friday nights at Lindbergh Bay near St. Thomas’s airport. Both nights there were 2AM private planes coming in. Lindbergh Bay is much noisier than Brewers Bay. Friday night Jay & Debbie came out to play for a Lindbergh Bay pub crawl. They stayed on the boat and we headed for fun at Water Island’s Honeymoon Beach on Saturday.

On Honeymoon Beach we saw evidence of a growing trend for USVI day charters - the USVI beach bar tour. I spoke with a couple of the captains. The captain from Busy Bee mentioned that it was cheaper and faster to hit Pizza Pi at Christmas Cove, Abi Beach Bar and Dinghy’s Beach Bar at Honeymoon Beach instead of the usual circuit in the BVIs. We ran into multiple groups over from St. John on Honeymoon Beach and they all mentioned the same things - hassles at BVI customs and immigration and crowding with lower quality and higher prices at the BVI beach bars.

On reflection, is it better in the USVIs than the BVIs? Geographically and socially, they are very close. The BVIs have more islands. The USVIs have the Virgin Islands National Park that has left 70%+ of St. John pristine. The USVIs also are very close to the Spanish Virgin Island to increase the geographic and cultural diversity as well as lower prices. The increasing customs and immigration barriers between the USVIs and BVIs are a growing problem. We’ve gone through the process many times as private boaters, but we are starting to think twice before we dive into the paper work and hassle.

Cheers, RickG
Sailing the Virgins July 15-31 2017
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby northerngal » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:53 pm

LOVE reading your posts! In our next life, we will own a sailboat and sail everywhere. Thanks!
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby Bigcheeze » Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:28 am

TY captain and love the new boat! We did a powerboat day charter to the baths and Pussers and then to Soggy and after it was all said and done it was about $500 per couple...I asked my friend how that $500 Painkiller tasted...lol. It was fun and the kids loved it and we had Captain Ben as our guide that day but I could see how a USVI Beach Bar Pub Crawl could be fun too.

Cheers
Dave

Enjoy the Journey
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby hoosierdaddy » Thu Feb 02, 2017 10:34 am

Thanks for the report Rick. Sounds like an unbelievable time.
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby Suziekue » Thu Feb 02, 2017 2:45 pm

Really enjoyed your trip report Rick, sounds like another amazing adventure, thanks so much for sharing.
Soarin' with the eagles all week long, and this is all that we've learned about living - VACATION!

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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby jmq » Thu Feb 02, 2017 4:12 pm

Nice! thanks for sharing.

We may have to look at the "Spanish Virgin".
How would you characterize the main town? Does it have any charm, and enough fun bars and decent eats? Comparable to any towns in the USVIs/BVIs? And any impressions about accommodations and getting about for landlubbers?

PS I am thoroughly entertained by how hard you got bit by the sailing bug and how quickly you gained your new skill sets. You can now give any of those long timers over there on TTOL a run for their money!
When we come to place where the sea and the sky collide
Throw me over the edge and let my spirit glide
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby RickG » Thu Feb 02, 2017 4:57 pm

jmq, both Dewey on Culebra and Esperanza on Vieques are smaller than Cruz Bay. Both have a good mix of restaurants, but are less developed than Cruz Bay. Esperanza is probably closer to Cruz Bay with its shore-side Malecon with restaurants and bars along the waterfront. Dewey is more like Spanishtown on Virgin Gorda, without a real center of gravity or organizing principle. You can find beachfront or in-town accommodations on both islands. We love Culebra and want to spend more time on Vieques.

I'm a restless traveler and like to do things. My lady likes to relax. Sailing lets us do both! We got to spend a week at our favorite St. John spots on this trip - falling asleep and waking up there. Its a whole lot easier on a boat. This was my 48th trip to the Virgins. St. John is still my favorite.

Cheers, RickG
Sailing the Virgins July 15-31 2017
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby shoemak38 » Fri Feb 03, 2017 1:02 pm

:D :D :D :D
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Re: Trip Report Jan 6-Jan 22 - It's better in the VIs

Postby Wolfhound » Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:19 am

Thanks for the report, Rick. I love reading about your sailing adventures.
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