Hello again. If you all know Brian you know that he has always been go go go but now that we have Rachel aboard, she is just the same. So needlessly to say we have been going non-stop and staying really busy! We’re currently in the BVI’s with no phone or internet access. So it’s been hard trying to get this together to share with you! We have so much to write about. Last we left you were were in Saint Thomas, Charlotte Amalie Harbor to be exact.
The US Virgin Islands are in the Lesser Antilles also known as the Caribbees. Together with the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico), they make up the Antilles. Add the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands to the above and you have the West Indies. So we are traveling in the West Indies. Sounds much more exotic doesn’t it? OK so Brian says that most of you already know this but for me this is all a learning experience!
Our first stop was the town of Charlotte Amalie the capital of the USVI and on the island of Saint Thomas. This town is incredible! It’s what I envisioned when dreaming of the Virgin Islands, beautiful blue waters surrounded by high mountain peaks dotted with colorful houses.
If you like hustle and bustle then this is the town for you. Lots…lots of places to shop, eat drink and sight see. We even saw six cruise ships in port when we were here, now that’s a lot for this little place! And the history here is something else! From Indian tribes to pirates, buccaneers and Danes this deep water harbor has seen it all!
For hundreds of years this island chain was inhabited by small tribes of Taino (or Arawak) and Cairb Indians. When Christopher Columbus arrived…well we all know what happened to the local population when he arrived anywhere….he kind of took over and not nicely! Although he named the islands Las Islas Virgenes after St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins, the name did not reflect the attitude!
This natural deep water harbor made Charlotte Amalie a popular trading outpost. Of course that also made it a popular hangout for the rough and rowdy crowd! Think pirates like Blackbeard (Edward Teach), or the fiery redhead Anne Bonny, Capt. William Kidd or Sir Francis Drake. One can only imagine the havoc that they caused here!
Eventually a Danish settlement grew here and the town was renamed in honor of the Danish Queen. After the Danish abolished slavery in 1848 the town had a downfall with many Danes abandoning their farms and estates. Threatened by by the Germans during WWI, the US bought what we now call the Virgin Islands on March 31, 1917 for $300.00 an acre….can’t touch land here at that price now!
So, anyhow like we said this place is full of history!
We took a walking tour and went shopping in the historic district of St. Thomas, where jewelry stores and boutiques are set in a maze of stone alleyways that the Danish built from the ballast stones of the ships back in 1672.
Now for something really groovy! It’s groovy because this is some history from the late 60’s 🙂
A band that my dad was in in the 60’s “The Painted Faces” actually played here in Charlotte Amalie at the famous Trader Dan’s, billed at the time as the only saloon in the Caribbean. OK, he had told me this before but it really sunk in when we got here…too cool!
It’s said that Trader Dan’s was the focal point and meeting place for American expats, local hustlers, pirates and serious drinkers. The New York Times had referred to St. Thomas as “a sunny place for shady people,” and said that nowhere was that more obvious than in Trader Dan’s.
I had a goal…it was to find out where Trader Dan’s was or where it had once been!
Our search took us to Creeque Alley (or “Creque’s Alley, pronounced “creaky“).
It is part of a narrow area of alleys that spiderweb the docks which historically carried ship cargo and pirate booty to the warehouses lining the waterfront of St. Thomas.
Creeque Alley also boasts a much different, more recent notoriety: it’s a rock ‘n roll historical landmark. Among many famous bands the ’60s group “The Mamas & The Papas” spent time in the Alley. Their time there also gave life to one of their most popular songs, aptly called “Creeque Alley.” A local told us that The Mamma and Pappa’s were asked to leave the island because they were too wild and were growing pot in the large waterfront planters. Sounds like I had found the right place!
We searched Creeque Alley high and low but Trader Dan’s was no more. We asked any local that we could find walking the streets and most seemed to have heard of Trader Dan’s but had not known what had happened to it. One person said that it was destroyed in a hurricane in the early seventies. We did however find the famous Creeque Alley and the gated sign that was just outside the entrance to the building that we were told that the“The Mamas & The Papas” stayed at. Just below the deck is now what is called the “Side Street Pub”. It was really neat to be in such a far away place that once as a kid…or young adult…my dad had lived it up! Way cool or um, groovy!
Other than reminiscing and being entranced by all of the history in this wonderful town we were also able to catch up on much needed things like laundry (in a real laundry mat…woo hoo!) and shopping in a big but expensive grocery store…like $8.60 for a lb of butter, $7.00 for OJ and $7.50 for a box of cereal…you get the point. Needlessly to say we spent a lot but did not get much! One thing that was very cheap was liquor, the least expensive that we had seen anywhere!
We loved our time in Charlotte Amalie but were ready to head out and see more of the Virgin Islands.
Next stop for us was Water Island. This is a small (496 acre) island is located very close to Charlotte Amalie. So close that it’s just a hop skip and jump away. Water Island was not officially part of the USVI until 1996. They say that it got it’s name from the pools that pirates used to stock up on freshwater that were here when they were near the island. Strange but it does not have any freshwater pools anymore. We were told that all of it’s water is either caught via rain or brought in by boat…no more freshwater pools to be found!
We anchored in front of Honeymoon Beach a popular day trip for tourists and just a all around fun place to be. There were turtles everywhere…we loved seeing them! There was also another Searunner trimaran here just like ours! We don’t see boats like ours very often so this was cool. We got to meet the owners Bob and Sally, really nice people. After talking to them we learned that they were locals and lived in St.John…hmmm, placing subliminal messages in our heads…we’re thinking we could live here too!
We hung out at the “Dinghy’s Beach Bar” a great place to people watch.
Time for us to move on again and this time on to St. John.
While the other US Virgin Islands are all about hustle and bustle St. John is much more laid back. Two-thirds of the island was donated in 1956 to the US by Laurance Rockefeller for use as a National Park. It’s main attractions are hiking trails, plantation ruins, breathtaking beaches and snorkeling. We skipped the biggest city in Cruz Bay in favor of anchoring in a more natural setting since we had stocked up on supplies in St. Thomas we were good to go. Along the way to St. John we anchored in Christmas Cove at Great St. James Island where we ran into some cruising friends of ours. It’s always nice to see familiar faces!
In St. John we picked up a mooring ball in the most beautiful bay that we’ve ever seen…Maho Bay. Once again were were surrounded by high mountain peaks and crystal clear blue waters but this time no city.
The stars at night were just incredible! We walked trails and saw old plantation ruins and checked out nearby Cinnamon Bay.
It is so beautiful in this bay that they limit the amount of time that you can keep a mooring ball to fourteen days. It’s beautiful but we can’t imagine staying here that long! Where would we get fresh veggies from?? And Brian would long be out of beer by that time! Anyhow we stayed for two wonderful nights and decided to head out of the USA once again. Tea anyone? We’re heading to the British Virgin Islands 🙂
Stay tuned for future adventures. Until then –
Jennifer, Brian and Crew Rachel