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Exploring Cruz Bay and the Virgin Islands National Park

Six days on St. John


View Chartering a Sailboat in the Virgin Islands in 1997 & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

In 1995, Bob said that we would to to Bermuda for Thanksgiving and the Virgin Islands for Christmas. We did go to Bermuda for Thanksgiving. After we went to Barbados for Thanksgiving in 1996, we finally made it to the Virgin Islands but not at Christmas - we went in January 1997.

First we were going to stay on St. John for four days and then we were going to charter a sailboat.

Chart - Dive sites in Orange, Track of our Sail in Blue

Chart - Dive sites in Orange, Track of our Sail in Blue

For the first trip we had two goals. Well Bob had one goal and I had one goal.

Bob's goal was to see if I could live on a boat. So he asked me to look in chartering a boat for a week. Although there are many bareboat options in the VIrgin Islands, I thought since I didn't really know anything about sailing that a crewed charter would be better.
{Spoiler Alert}
Bob liked the boat we chartered so well that before I really decided whether I could live on a boat ... we had bought a boat.

My goal was to get certified in SCUBA. I tried scuba diving in 1967 in Key West and loved it but didn't think it would be right to use money for something that I was the only person in the family who could participate. But by 1997 all the children were married and out on their own, so I took a scuba course at home in October 1997 and then arranged to charter a boat where the charter captain could do my checkout dives.

Thursday 30 January 1997

We left our house in Brooklyn Park about 5 miles from the airport on in a taxi which cost $9.00 for the trip to the airport plus $1.00 tip. There wasn't actually any snow on the ground when we left, but it was cold with the temperature below freezing.
Our house in town

Our house in town


The first part of the flight was BWI to Miami - leaving at 7:10 and arriving in Miami at 9:39. We left Miami at 11:10 and in those days you still got lunch on the plane.
Islands from the plane

Islands from the plane


The taxi to Red Hook was $15 plus $2.00 for the luggage. The taxi driver crammed more people into the taxi/van that I would have thought possible. We wanted to make the next ferry so he dropped one person off, and then went directly to the ferry dock. The ferrymen took our bags away from us and we bought tickets ($3.00 each) and boarded the ferry. The luggage was stacked on the back. I went up to the top deck for the trip over, right next to the pilothouse. The captain was steering the ferry with his feet. We saw the boat we were going to be chartering as we went through the anchorage.
Arriving at Cruz Bay

Arriving at Cruz Bay

94130_46-051.jpgFrom the ferry dock

From the ferry dock


Cruz Bay is the major town on St. John and is where the ferry docks. It is on the west end of the island facing Red Hook in St. Thomas. It is connected by paved road to most of the bays and beaches and to Coral Bay, the picturesque yacht harbor on the east end of the island. We retrieved our luggage when we got to Cruz Bay. We are not renting a car, so anywhere we go, we either walk or get a taxi.

When we stayed on St. John, I had a choice of camping (two campgrounds with various types of accommodation) or staying at Caneel Bay (a fancy hotel) or renting a house which usually had to be rented for a week. I searched for an alternate place to stay which would be available for less than a week. We got the information on the Cruz Inn from a friend who worked with Bob. He had been camping at Cinnamon Bay, and got tired of it and came here. He said it was just as cheap here, and you got hot water.
Ferry dock

Ferry dock

Cruz Bay ferry dock area

Cruz Bay ferry dock area


We decided to walk to the Cruz Inn. We walked (carrying our luggage) up the hill, past the gas station, and past the fire station and past the tennis courts
Parking near the Cruz Inn

Parking near the Cruz Inn


and eventually got to the Cruz Inn. (which is no longer there - it was torn down).
Sign on the Inn

Sign on the Inn


The Cruz Inn was a small place with two sets of rooms some of which shared a bath. I booked the 'suite' which was a double at street level with a private bath
Entrance to our room

Entrance to our room


and it was A/C and had a kitchen.
Kitchen area

Kitchen area


We were under the patio where we had breakfast
Steps up to the main part of the hotel

Steps up to the main part of the hotel


Coins embedded in steps

Coins embedded in steps


Every morning there was juice, coffee, rolls and fruit (included in the price) and we would eat on the patio and watch the birds. We could also see the water and the dump from here. We paid $300 plus $24 tx and $4 extra for four nights, which was and is extremely reasonable.

Unfortunately there had been a misunderstanding and the lady in charge thought we were getting there earlier in the afternoon than we did, so she was a little annoyed with us because she'd been waiting all afternoon. Even though she was annoyed with us, our landlady gave us wonderful information about things to see and do. She said to go to Joe's BBQ for dinner, and to go early, because if they ran out of something, there wouldn't be anymore.
Sign

Sign


Early is not a problem for us - we are old people and always eat early if given a choice.
Cooking

Cooking


We had the BBQ chicken. Dinner for the two of us was $18.10 including tip.

I also got some gifts (a Shell Frame $15.00 and set of four coasters with shell impressions in a sandy base $15.00
581783812509738-Another_coas..h_Cruz_Bay.jpgShell coasters

Shell coasters


plus $5.00 for them to mail the stuff to me) from a shop called Tropical Visions for my son and daughter-in-law's anniversary next month.

We had no taxi expense today that could have been avoided with a rental car

Friday 31 January 1997
View from the veranda of the dump

View from the veranda of the dump


After breakfast Cruz Inn, we went shopping at Mongoose Junction.
Mongoose Junction

Mongoose Junction


Our landlady at the Cruz Inn told us that there were two main shopping mall areas in Cruz Bay - Mongoose Junction and Wharfside Village. She said Mongoose Junction was better shopping with more local stores and I did find that to be the case. It seems to be a little more commercial now (there is the ubiquitous Little Switzerland), but in those days there was a book store and various shops where local people were making things.
T shirts

T shirts


2 pens & picture $14.50
A hat with iris on it for my mother $19.00
Boat books $107.50 plus $35 shipping
acd14240-f1f8-11ea-b4af-853547f23875.JPG
One of the books I got was Fins, Feet and 4 Wheel Drive which had been published three years prior to this trip - it detailed the trails, roads and beaches of St. John.

We got some groceries and had lunch in the room.
From the back of a taxi

From the back of a taxi


Then we got a taxi to Annenberg ($12.00) for the ranger talk there.
View from Annenberg

View from Annenberg


Part of the ruins

Part of the ruins


Bob in the ruins

Bob in the ruins


The ranger talk (which was free) explained about the the Danish plantation and how the sugar mill worked.
Bob and two other men enacting a mill wheel

Bob and two other men enacting a mill wheel


The ranger gave us a lift to Cinnamon Bay Campground.
A big aloe

A big aloe


There, I tried to rent a locker to put my land cameras and clothes etc in, but two of them were so full of quarters that they wouldn't operate. Eventually I found one that worked. I rented a pair of flippers for $2.50 and went snorkeling. In addition to snorkeling equipment, you can also rent kayaks, beach umbrellas, chairs and various other items from the shop located right on Cinnamon Beach. There are life guards.

Snorkeling at Cinnamon is best along the small cay just off shore or along the east end of the bay. You will find coral, grasses and sea life along with the occasional turtle and stingray. Cinnamon Cay, located just off the apex of the beach, offers some good structure and plenty of hard and soft corals and colorful Caribbean fish.
Fish and sponges

Fish and sponges


I apparently only have one photo taken here. The showers were not heated, but the water was luke-warm because the water tank was warmed by the sun.

After I went snorkeling at the beach and we had dinner at Cinnamon Bay Campground, we went to a ranger lecture in the amphitheatre. The talk was "What Makes a Sponge Smile?: It was FREE. A taxi back to Cruz Bay afterward was $8.00

For this day we spent $20 on taxis. If we had rented a car we would not have had that expense - we would just have had the rental car charges (and gas) and parking problems.

Saturday 1 February 1997

View of the water from breakfast

View of the water from breakfast


After breakfast at the Cruz Inn we went down to the NPS headquarters.

Back in the day, I had to go to the Visitor's Center to find out when the various hikes and tours would be. There are several guided tours available in the Park including; hikes, shore walks, bird walks, even snorkel tours. There is even a self guided snorkel trail located in Trunk Bay. Now you can do a lot of this on the internet.

But the Visitor's Center is still a good place to go. There is a little museum which shows examples of reef fishes and coral Other exhibits show the cultural history – from the pre-Columbian Tainos, sugarcane plantations during the late 1700's and early 1800's, to slavery emancipation.

When I looked at the schedule of hikes and walks, I decided that I wanted to do the Reef Bay Trail. (Reef Bay is the name of the body of water at the bottom of the trail. It isn't a trail that goes from a reef to a bay.) Reservations are required. All hikers must be at the park's visitor center with their vouchers by 9:15 AM on the day of the hike. We were to bring lunch,1-2 liters of water per person, any special medication (taken daily), and a swimsuit for a quick swim at the trail's end and to wear good hiking shoes and cool, comfortable clothing. Light colors are less attractive to mosquitoes.

First we took taxis to the trail head (you pay for your own part of the taxi ride which was $9.00 for us).

We started down the trail with the NPS Ranger. She pointed out the various trees and plants along the way and also gave us a history lesson. She asked where White people had been kept as slaves, and I knew (because we had just been there and I read a diary of an early settler before we went) that it was Barbados.
Group ahead of me on the trail

Group ahead of me on the trail


Some people took a side trail to look at petroglyphs. I let Bob go and look but I didn't go. When we got to the bottom (Reef Bay) where the old plantation house was, we ate a packed lunch.

After lunch, we could either get onto a boat, or hike back up the trail. We got onto boats. The boat back cost $20.00. When we did it the sea was rough and I dropped my bag into the water and also lost a roll of film that was exposed and ready to be processed. So I have almost no photos of this part of the trip.

J J's outdoor tables

J J's outdoor tables


When we walked down into Cruz Bay we saw that J.J.'s had a special on frosty drinks. So we sat down outside to eat. We each had a virgin strawberry daiquiri. They were delicious.
Bob at the restaurant

Bob at the restaurant


I don't remember what else I had to eat, but Bob had two of them, and afterwards he broke out in a rash, so he has to be careful how many strawberries he eats now. Cost $47.00 + $5.00 tip

The cost of the taxi ride today was a charge that a rental car would not have helped us to avoid unless we wanted to walk back up to the trailhead.

Sunday 2 February 1997

In addition to the Reef-Bay Hike which takes all day, there are several other NPS lead group walks and hikes throughout the week. This morning we We took an early (7 am) taxi ride to do the beach-bird walk which is currently called Discover Bird Watching. It is free.
Early morning Beach-Bird walk

Early morning Beach-Bird walk


Francis Bay is a good place to see the different species of birds found in a dry tropical forest, salt pond, and shoreline environment.
Heron through the mangroves

Heron through the mangroves


The taxi was $18.00+$2.0 tip for the round trip.
Driving on the left (from the back of a taxi) Note the goat on the road

Driving on the left (from the back of a taxi) Note the goat on the road


After we got back, we had breakfast on the terrace. Then I went shopping again.
Door of one of the shops

Door of one of the shops

Postcards, clothes and gifts

Postcards, clothes and gifts


Bowls

Bowls


Shopping - bowl $52.00
Tie & head bands $58.40
Spoon $34.00
Shirts for grandchildren $131

We went back to the Cruz Inn and had lunch. Then we started out again to walk around Cruz Bay.
Building near the Cruz Inn 1997

Building near the Cruz Inn 1997


Church in Cruz Bay in 1997- The sign says "Thou Shalt Not Park Here"

Church in Cruz Bay in 1997- The sign says "Thou Shalt Not Park Here"

Car ferry on left

Car ferry on left

Crane with people in buckets

Crane with people in buckets


Down at the docks, they were taking down the Christmas lights
91214_04.jpgTaxi on the right and the Crane taking down Xmas decorations

Taxi on the right and the Crane taking down Xmas decorations


We had a cranberry juice at dockside bar (cost $3.50) and watched people getting on and off the ferry (free)
large_91214_34.jpgWatching people coming off the ferry

Watching people coming off the ferry

Then we had dinner at Cafe Roma.
- Cafe Roma

- Cafe Roma


We came early so we got a table by the window. I don't remember much about the food, but I DO remember being enormously entertained by watching the things going on in the street below (the restaurant is on the 2nd floor). I also remember that the window was dirty - so dirty that I couldn't really take photos through it. Cost $32.50

They DO have a web page which says: Cafe Roma has served St. John since 1981. Excellent Italian Trattoria-style cuisine with an extensive menu. Offering in-house specials and traditional recipes (including vegetarian selections.) All in a casual cafe setting with a heavenly mural... In the summer of 1995, a mural was painted by Ted Efremoff (a Russian artist, now teacher, in Philadelphia) with scenes of Italy.
I remember the mural.

Another day with a $20 taxi charge which would have been avoided if we had a rental car.

Total for taxis where we could have used a car $40 in four days. The car rental would probably have been more than that.

Monday 3 February 1997

We had breakfast as usual on the veranda of the Cruz Inn. Then we packaged some stuff up to mail home, packed, and ate the rest of the food we had for lunches and checked out of the Cruz Inn. ( Tip of $30.00)

We went to the post office and mailed a package home ($4.00). We went down to the docks and I bought a camera battery for $8.00 plus tax, and then we sat at the bar near the dock and had cranberry juice and people watched. ($2.50)
Ferry terminal in Cruz Bay

Ferry terminal in Cruz Bay


Don and Gwen picked us up at the dinghy dock in their dinghy SHOUT
large_7296472-Dinghy_Dock_Cruz_Bay.jpg
and motored to where WHISPER was on a mooring off Cruz Bay to start our seven day boat charter.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 17:54 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged shopping snorkeling hikes st_thomas usvi st_john cruz_bay Comments (0)

Getting Acquainted with WHISPER

Starting the Charter


View Chartering a Sailboat in the Virgin Islands in 1997 & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Monday 3 February 1997 (continued)

large_00309532298720110308182109252.jpg
The boat was on a mooring - in Cruz Bay, you can't anchor you have to take a mooring. Gwen gave us the drill on how to work the marine toilet, and showed us where everything was.

Before the charter, we had been sent a questionnaire about our food and drink preferences and Gwen and Don had provisioned the boat accordingly. I had also made arrangements with Gwen to do my Open Water checkout dives. I paid extra for the diving.

Whisper was a 44 foot sailboat in the configuration known as a Walk-Over. She was made for charter in the Virgin Islands in the 70s - massively overbuilt and very sturdy. Her dinghy was named Shout

Gwen and Don (the crew) slept in the aft cabin which had its own head (bathroom) with a toilet sink and shower. The companionway from their cabin led up to the cockpit. Under the cockpit was the engine compartment which is why it is called a Walkover. The other configuration of the CSY (called a Walk-Through) there is a passage alongside the engine so you can get from the stern to the bow without going up into the cockpit.
00001502.jpgMy side of the bed with James Michener's "Caribbean" that I am reading before our trip to Belize

My side of the bed with James Michener's "Caribbean" that I am reading before our trip to Belize


Our cabin was in the bow of the boat (the pointy end) which is why it was called the V-berth.
We also had our own head with a toilet and sink,
Sink in our head

Sink in our head


and in addition there was a separate shower room.

Looking down through a hatch - closet on left, toilet bottom, sink right and shower top

Looking down through a hatch - closet on left, toilet bottom, sink right and shower top


In the middle of the boat was the main saloon with settees which could sleep another four people. There was a double bed that pulled out from one of the settees and the back of it lifted up to form a bunk. There was another single bed on the other side of the cabin. In between was a table for dining.
Flowers in the passageway

Flowers in the passageway


Main saloon from our cabin

Main saloon from our cabin


There was also a galley (kitchen) with a stove, sink, refrigerator and freezer.
Galley - stove, sink and passthrough to the cockpit

Galley - stove, sink and passthrough to the cockpit


We had lunch on the boat. We usually ate in the cockpit - there was a table which fitted around the binnacle (where the compass and steering wheel were).
Sailing to Waterlemon

Sailing to Waterlemon

St John from Whisper

St John from Whisper


Then they took us out to Waterlemon Cay (near the Maho campground) and we went snorkeling.
large_94130_56.jpgBright blue fish

Bright blue fish


ad056440-f23d-11ea-a4a0-09a473d5b8a6.jpgCoral

Coral

94130_64.jpgFish

Fish

Yellow fish

Yellow fish


Surf on the rocks off St. John

Surf on the rocks off St. John

Old customs house on the way to Hawknest Bay

Old customs house on the way to Hawknest Bay


We anchored for the night at Hawknest Bay

Posted by greatgrandmaR 18:58 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged snorkeling yacht charter Comments (2)

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