Friday, June 1, 2012

Virgins Galore

Alianna in Francis Bay, St Johns USVI's
We have spent the last two weeks blasting through the United States and British Virgin Islands. Every couple of days we would move on to a new place and with the exception of Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands in St Thomas which is more built up with a Danish slant to it - all the bays have been palm tree lined and beach fringed with the most sparkling crystal clear water in the Caribbean. Everyday we have snorkeled and barely ever been disappointed with what we saw. Huge conservation efforts have been put in place to protect the marine environment and it shows.

View of Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas
As Sim and I slowly inched our way east; and I mean slowly sometimes battling wind and current (under engine,a 33hp westerbeke) at 1.8kts, we marveled at how beautiful this area is. Sure, it is filled with charter boats and tourists all scrapping to get into the next popular bay and fees that are charged on a nightly basis just to be there. But there are so many islands to choose from you are spoilt for choice.
Caneel Bay, St Johns

Without wanting to waffle on too much about blue seas and beautiful anchorages, here are our favourite spots.


Downtown Charlotte Amalie
The main anchorage at Long Bay right by the massive cruise ship docks has good holding so we were happy leaving the boat while we explored the historic district with all its old buildings and churches. It’s a busy and commercial harbour. Everything is convenient with the big supermarket at Pueblos and the cheap launderette opposite. Fuel and water are easily available at the Yacht Haven Marina where you can tie up your dinghy. When the wind or seas moved to the southeast and the bay became uncomfortable and we moved back behind Water Island to a beautiful spot in Honeymoon Bay. As usual all the best places are taken by mooring buoys that charge per night but you can still anchor outside of these if there is room for free.


Spotted Eagle Rays
One of our favourite spots. This is one of the only places with free moorings. There is nothing much here except a stone beach but the water is always crystal clear and the snorkeling wonderful, especially around the small island in the middle. The coral is relatively healthy and there are plenty of fish. We saw Queen angel fish, Butterfly fish and spotted drum as well as magnificent Spotted Eagle rays.

Christmas Cove

Colourful Taxi, Cruz Bay, St Johns
Cruz Bay is the main town on St Johns. It’s small, colourful, quirky and fun. Funky beach bars, boutiques and restaurants line the small sea front. It’s a lively and vivacious place. The bay itself is impossible to anchor in as the whole place has been taken over by private moorings so we took a mooring in Caneel Bay further east and dinghied the mile or so back around to have a mooch around town and grab a spot of lunch.

Sim at Anchor, Francis Bay, St Johns
This is a huge bay with several different anchorages in it. A beautiful sandy beach joins them all. The steep hillsides are verdant green after all the recent rain. We met a lovely Brit couple Nick and Mel on Borne who were on their way home, having their boat shipped back to England from St Thomas. We had a couple of evenings with them and a daytrip snorkeling at Trunk Bay to a rather unimpressive snorkel trail where the most abundant wildlife we saw were the masses of tourist snorkelers all wearing bright orange life vests. Although further out in deeper water and away from the horde of day trippers we saw more eagle rays and many turtles.
Pay Station, St Johns
Both Caneel Bay and Francis Bay are with in the area of the protected park so moorings have been laid and are charged 15USD per night paid by an honour system where you post your money in a lock box on a floating raft. If you don’t stay the night they are free.


Benures Bay, BVI's
The colour of the water was amazing; you could see the white sandy seabed below but the water was deepest turquoise. The green hills surrounded the bay and despite the wind it felt so serene and peaceful. The only other boat in the bay was an expensive looking classic wooden yacht that only added to the ambience; at sundown they fired a gun (and scared the life out of us) and took in their ensign – V posh! I wonder how they felt to have their solitude disturbed by the little green boat. The snorkeling was fabulous and we wished we had more time but a weather window for us to turn the corner back to the East Caribbean was approaching and it was time to stage ourselves at Spanish Town in Virgin Gorda.
Beautiful shells in the BVI's
Posh yacht - Benures Bay

Francis Bay, St Johns
Great Snorkeling
Lovely Coral Gardens
Scary sea creature

Large inquisitive sea creature

Ray in shallow water

More birds!

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