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First Timer's STJ Trip Report: Final Days

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First Timer's STJ Trip Report: Final Days

Postby chicagoans » Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:25 am

My final trip report! Days 7 - 10

Day 7: Kayaking in Hurricane Hole, Great Lameshur
This is the first morning that has been overcast and a bit rainy. No worries, we were planning on kayaking anyway, and the cooler morning is nice for this. Hubby and I with our kids, and CJ and his son Michael, will go kayaking. The rest of the group heads to Cruz Bay. (It's good shopping weather!)

We rent the kayaks from Crabby's in Coral Bay. We get 2 doubles (Rick and Nathan, Delaney and me) and 2 singles (Michael, CJ.) We don't want to put in right there by Crabby's, as we'd have to kayak across the harbor and it's fairly choppy and windy. For a small fee, Doug drops the kayaks at Princess Bay for us and we follow him over there. There's a small opening in the trees that gives access down to the water, and we can park right there at the side of the road. In the water just a few yards from the access point is a small red buoy, which helps us find it again on our way back.

Here we are kayaking:

Rick and Nathan:

Delaney and me:

CJ and Michael. BTW CJ's hat is from Crabby's. His wife Nancy didn't like it when he first got it, but it was a great hat and by the end of the trip we all wanted one!

My boating babe. Check out the road visible in the background right over her head. It goes practically straight up!

We enjoyed a quiet and fun paddle around Princess Bay, Otter Creek, and Water Creek. It was windy and choppy around the points, so we don't try to make it around the bigger point into Elk Bay, because it looked really windy out there. But inside the bays it was really quiet, and we're the only ones out there. We have a few races and play kayak tag, and generally just have fun! We did a 2 hour rental, which was just right for us. On a warmer, sunny morning we might have done 4 hours and taken time to snorkel, too. (We brought our snorkel gear on the boats with us.)

We left the kayaks back at the access point at the designated time for Doug to pick up. Then CJ and Michael went off in search of fries to satisfy Michael's French fry jones, and Rick, the kids and I headed over to Vie's for lunch. Yum! Rick and I shared the garlic chicken, conch fritters, rice and beans, and the kids had hot dogs (they were feeling less adventurous.) Vie was busy - the place was hopping!

Here we are with a new friend at Vie's:

The day had cleared up and was sunny again, as you can see from the next shot. We had seen this sign on our way over to Hurricane Hole in the morning, and had to get a shot of it on our way back. Of course we were wondering how many snow emergencies take place on St. John, but at least we know where we need to be in case one happens!


We went from Vie's back through Coral Bay and south on 107. I was hoping to go to Little Lameshur but I had forgotten to take my guide books, and we ended up at Great Lameshur by not going far enough down that interesting dirt road. Apparently Little Lameshur has a nice sand beach, as opposed to the very rocky beach at Great Lameshur. I'd love to hear from anyone who has been to Little Lameshur, as we never did get back there. (I'll search the Forum, too. I'd like to see pictures and my books don't have any of Little Lameshur.)

Great Lameshur:

We did some snorkeling - it's nice once you get past the rocky shoreline. Access from the road is near the east end of the bay, so we stayed near there and snorkeled along the eastern shoreline. We saw all kinds of cool coral and fish, but didn't go any further than the first point in the shoreline, as it was a bit wavy.

Back to the house to meet up with our friends. The kids played in the pool; we hung out on the deck, and eventually made dinner. Later that night, Nancy taught us how to play Canasta. Another fun, relaxing day!

Day 8: Snorkeling with Sadie Sea,Trunk Bay
Here's a big shout out for Sadie Sea! I had booked a private half day snorkel for our group way back in the early summer. I know there are many good options for boating on St. John, and I was looking for one that could take all 10 of us, was a reasonable price, and was friendly. Sadie Sea was terrific! Our crew was Captain Ben, and Sky, a marine biologist. Here they are:


They met us in the morning at the dock by the National Park Service visitors building. This was my first time back to Cruz Bay since our arrival to St. John. Nothing against Cruz Bay, but I didn't miss it! It was very busy.

We got on the Sadie Sea, a nice, big, very clean and comfortable boat. (They can hold at least 30 people, so our group of 10 had plenty of room.) Ben would have accommodated any requests we had for destinations, but we wanted to follow his suggestions since he knows the great snorkeling spots. We pulled out of the harbor and made our way through Pillsbury Sound. It was a sunny, glorious morning, and we felt very spoiled! I thanked Capt. Ben for making me look good in front of my friends, because I had planned the trip and they were all really excited to be on board.

Ben entertained us with tales of Lovango ('Love and Go') Cay. OK I know it was probably named after a region in Africa, but I like Ben's version better. He also pointed out other interesting sites like Thatch Cay, which is for sale for something like $25M. Darn, just out of my price range.

Our first snorkel stop was on the south side of Congo Cay. This is a protected bird sanctuary; no land access allowed. We enjoyed some great snorkeling here! It was wonderful to snorkel with a marine biologist; Sky pointed out things that I would have missed without her. Some of my favorites were sergeant major fish guarding their eggs. The eggs look like purple patches on the sides of rocks. The male sergeant major's pale stripes turn to deep blue. (One of the ones we saw looked almost solid black.) He becomes very territorial, and it was fun to see him chasing away any fish that got too close to his eggs. We also saw some schools of Blue Tang, an absolutely huge brain coral, parrot fish, and of course lots of other cool fish and coral.

Our other stop was at Henley Cay. We saw a ton of cool fish here, including a moray eel, four eyed butterfly fish, goat fish, and a big puffer fish. After our second snorkel, we retired to the boat for some boat drinks. We learn that Henley Cay was once the site of a very posh guest house (part of Caneel, I think.) The rich and famous, including Jackie Kennedy Onassis, stayed there, and were waited upon by staff coming over from St. John. At one point, some guests (not Jackie O) were apparently forgotten about and no one came over to wait on them for a few days. So they lit a signal fire, which carried on the wind and burned down the house. No more staying on Henley Cay.

Chillin' on the Sadie Sea:


Our time with the Sadie Sea ended all too quickly. As we headed back to Cruz Bay, we all wanted to stay on the boat and tried talking Ben into staying out with us longer. (We also tried bribing and begging.) This probably happens to everyone! (I thought a full day out might be too much for the kids, but NONE of us wanted to get off the boat!) However, Ben had the integrity to stick with his prior commitment, which was picking up some hikers in Reef Bay as part of the National Park Service hike.

On our way back, we talk with Ben about his possible plans to sell the business. Oh no! I would definitely go out with them again on another visit to STJ, and I would highly recommend them to anyone planning a trip. After a few boat drinks, hubby Rick decides that WE should buy the Sadie Sea! I point out that we already own a business - two thousand miles away! - and that we know nothing about boats or fish. No problem, he'll keep the staff for that and run the business from home. I'm usually the one with the way out ideas and crazy plans, so when I'm the voice of reason, you know it's bad! This line of thinking continues throughout the day.

Here we are in Cruz Bay after our boating fun:

After the Sadie Sea, we decide to head to Trunk Bay for the afternoon. Is it touristy? Yes. Is it crowded? You betcha. But it's beautiful; we find a spot and have a great time. Here we are at Trunk Bay, looking out at Trunk Cay.

That night, we had dinner at Shipwreck Landing. We had a great time! Live music, good food.

Rick is still on his buying Sadie Sea kick. I appeal to CJ, who once owned a boat with a friend, for help. CJ insists that it was one of the best things he ever did, and it was a great investment. Sure, until it burned to the water line, Nancy reminds him. Rick ignores all this and mentions buying one or two other Coral Bay businesses that "just need a little marketing." OK honey, have another drink and we'll discuss this in the morning! (Sobriety put an end to these thoughts the next day, as you probably suspected.)

After dinner, Rick gets into a conversation at the bar with Ken-the-long-haired-architect. ('Last names are unimportant.') Ken is a very nice guy and we talk about the island and his work there. He seems surprised, and even grateful, that as first-timers we chose to stay in Coral Bay. We assure him that it is exactly what we wanted - we love the laid back vibe and don't feel that we're missing out at all by not being near town. Ken is building some homes in the area, I think they're south on 107. There is a stone wall with a circular, brick-lined opening in it and a steep drive. We remember passing that, and hope to stop by to see the houses. Unfortunately, we don't pass by it again before we leave STJ.

Rick and Ken:

Day 9: Trunk Bay
Our last beach day! :( It was hard to pick the final beach to visit, but since we only had a half day at Trunk we decided to go back. We head out in the morning so that we can get a full day there.

We did some snorkeling out by Trunk Cay. We saw some really big parrot fish and the giant barracuda that the books call Charlie. His jaw is huge! I was comfortable being pretty close to him; he was sidewise to us and just hanging out. Then he started turning slowly toward us... this was like watching a cruise ship turn, he's so long. When he was almost facing us, I imagined I saw a hungry gleam in his eye, and decided that we should be on our way. We also saw some rays on our way back in.

On this, our last full day, Delaney finally got some girl time after being with 3 boys for so long. She met a really nice girl, Megan, who is the same age. They lounged in the water and talked for the whole afternoon.

Cute girls:

Later in the afternoon, Trunk Bay got some really big swells. The kids had a blast body surfing. I realized that this was my last chance for a long time to enjoy the salty sea, so I got in on the wave riding. Some of those waves really knocked me around! We were there until 5:00 or later, getting the kids out of the water when the waves got huge. We heard they expected even bigger swells the next day (Jan. 5th). Were any of you on the North Shore on 1/5/08? I'd love to hear about the waves!

Life is good:

Our last beach day for awhile:

On our way home we stopped at the smoothie stand for the first time. I liked the wine bottle stoppers with the glass tops that they had for sale. There was a really pretty one shaped like a hummingbird that I'm regretting not buying. I thought I'd see something similar in Cruz Bay the next morning, but never did.

Nate with his smoothie. Yep, that's the Forum tee I'm wearing:

We had our final dinner at the house, laughing about this trip and sharing ideas for our next trip. The next day was my birthday, and I was touched and surprised when the kids came out singing with frosted brownies and birthday candles! (Nancy and Laura masterminded the surprise.) They had used M&Ms to write '29!' in the frosting. Sure!

After sharing some birthday brownies, we sat on the floor and played Spoons - a simple, silly game and Nathan's request. Heated competition and lots of laughs!

Day 10: 46 and the W.O.W.
As mentioned above, today is my birthday. I'm now 46 - closer to 50 than I am to 40. Doesn't seem possible! It's a great way to start a birthday, being on St. John, but sadly it's also the day we do the Walk Of Woe back to the ferry to start our trip home.

I had booked our return flight for 5:30 p.m., thinking I'd eke every last bit of St. John fun out of our last day. What I forgot was that we had to return the car by 10 a.m., so we had some time to kill in Cruz Bay. St. John Cars was very nice and let us stash our luggage at their place while we hung out in town. We really appreciated not having to lug it around!

We had breakfast at JJ's. It was a long wait, and Rick said I should go buy something for my birthday. (Gee, if you insist!) I wandered with Nancy and Laura through some jewelry stores. Columbian Emerald had some absolutely beautiful jewelry, but I didn't want to spend that much money. In another store I found what I wanted: a really pretty peridot ring, and a peridot and pearl pendant on a silver chain. It's not my birthstone, but I've always liked the color.

Here I am at breakfast with my birthday bling:

Our friends' flights are earlier than ours, so we see them off to the ferry with sad hugs good bye. Then we hang around in town for awhile. This is the first time on this trip that the heat bothered me. There was no breeze and we were just wilting, plus we were bummed out about going home. We finally dragged ourselves over to the ferry, planning on taking the 1:15 to CA. For some unexplained reason that ferry was cancelled, so we stuffed ourselves onto the 1:00 to Red Hook with a zillion other people. We were cranky and hot waiting for the ferry to leave the dock and I think everyone else was, too. (After all, we're all going home.) I amused myself by marveling at the huge pieces of luggage some people brought. Did they really change clothes that often? Who were they trying to impress? Naturally, this didn't amuse me for very long, so mostly I just sat there sweating.

The STT airport was absolutely nuts. We figured it would be, on the Saturday after New Years, so we had plenty of time and didn't let it bother us. I was going to try using a porter based on the tips on this forum, but there were none in sight. It was just too busy to find one! I had booked through United, but our return flights were operated by US Air. This seemed to completely baffle their printing system, and I watched the agent print and tear up several copies of boarding passes. I kept my mouth shut and just leaned my sweaty bod against their counter. I figured they'd want to send me on my way asap.

Happily, our flights were on time, and we made it all the way home a bit after midnight.

And so ends my trip report. Let me do a final shout out to: St. John - truly a gem! Coral Bay - great location! Starlit Escape - great house, great hosts! Sadie Sea - a special day in a trip full of wonderful days! Crabby's - thanks for the snorkel gear and kayaks! All the wonderful people of St. John - you make the island a relaxed and friendly paradise! And of course, all you forumites for your advice and fun ideas!
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Postby California Girl » Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:50 am

Excellent, excellent report! I loved every word! Your new bling is beautiful! I love Peridot, too.

Here's a shot of Little Lameshur and you can find a few more starting here:

California Girl

Postby linne » Tue Jan 08, 2008 6:51 am

It has been so entertaining to read your reports and see the photos. I have especially enjoyed seeing the pics of the happy children. I envy you the trip with Sadie Sea. Sounds perfect!

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Postby Carolyn » Tue Jan 08, 2008 8:17 am


Thanks for the time and energy you spent to put together an absolutely delightful trip report.

The pix add so much!!

Your organizational skills are impressive. I can only aspire to such an accomplishment...WONDERFUL!
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Postby cptnkirk » Tue Jan 08, 2008 8:19 am

Great trip reports sounds like you had the perfect vacation. Kids look like they had a blast. Time to start planning your next trip to paridise.
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Postby Coden » Tue Jan 08, 2008 8:20 am

Thnx so much for sharing your trip with us. We too stayed in Coral Bay for our first trip and Loved it.
Little Lameshur is just a bit farther than Great L. It was our home away from home. We loved that beach. We saw lots of little deer back in there too. :)
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Postby mbw1024 » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:02 am

great report! thanks for sharing it.
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Postby waterguy » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:24 am

Great report so as first timers will you go back
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Postby sea-nile » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:34 am

Wonderful report! It sounds like you had a great time.
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Postby jayseadee » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:47 am

Glad that your first trip was so perfect!! You inspire me to be more active and adventurous next time :wink:

Did you put the kayaks in Princess Bay by the mangroves? I was wondering how accessible that area is by road; we've only snorkeled the mangroves by boat.

How was Starlit Escape without A/C?

thanks for sharing!
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Postby jmq » Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:19 am

Nice job. Well written. Thanks for time and effort involved. Nice give back for all the good info you mustve gotten here. A first timer could not have done it better.

A little turtle at Little Lameshur.

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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Postby MarciaMarciaMarcia » Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:58 am

Thanks for the great report. Having lurked for years (posting occasionally) I have read hundreds and hundreds of trip reports. Those that are presented in "chapters" as you have done are just so enjoyable to me....especially when accompanied with photos. It's kind of like taking a little virtual trip of my own. Well, it seems that we have a few more St John lovers in the world. It only takes one visit to seal the deal. You'll be back!

39 days and counting for us!
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Postby Ksea » Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:14 am

Great trip reports, and wonderful pictures of the family and friends! Thanks for taking the time to share!
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Postby Kentuckygirl » Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:34 am

I'm sorry to see your trip reports come to an end. I have enjoyed them so much. We stayed in Coral Bay our first time too, and we definitely prefer that side of the island. We are staying in Catherineberg next time, but I can still see us going to the market and dinner in Coral Bay as opposed to Cruz Bay. We haven't taken our kids with us to St. John yet, but I really want to next winter. Your reports have made me want to even more.
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Postby augie » Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:20 pm

What a great first trip, and trip report!

We will be staying in the Coral Bay area on our next visit, looking forward to that!

Hope you can get back again soon!
Come see us!
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