When we initially roughed out our routes for this voyage we thought to skip Charlotte Amalie altogether. After all, it is primarily a tourist attraction, you know, where guys wander around town wearing pressed cotton shorts, white socks pulled up high, and shiny black leather shoes – those types. Yeah, well, anyway, the harbor is perfectly located right at the mid point of St. Thomas’s southern shore, and there are a lot of facilities for the yachtie, pricey though they might be. Joy had me zip ashore, and I felt a bit like Gulliver in his travels; I didn’t “fit right in” here. Not quite that bad, but I quickly realized the town was no place Joy would want to visit. I managed to locate the nearest “Pueblo” grocery store a couple blocks away and purchased a few fresh items for the next couple of weeks.
We left the harbor and sailed east planning to spend the night anchored in the “lagoon” at Benner Bay, a hurricane hole at the eastern end of the island. The lagoon has several marinas, a Budget Marine store outlet (one of the largest chandlery chain stores in the Caribbean), and lots of room to anchor according to the charts and the cruising guides. Well, as we’ve mentioned, the cruising guides are sadly out of date in this regard. In many recommended spots, there’s barely room to anchor a dinghy; many boats anchored here were high and dry at low tide. We anchored for a few minutes in the roadstead you see on the chartlet to the left so I could visit Budget, but with an east wind at 20 knots, this was not an overnight anchorage.
We motored across Jersey Bay and St. James Bay to anchor north of Fish Cay at Christmas Cove. Here we were treated to the first flat-calm anchorage we’d found in weeks. Across the water is Cowpet Bay, home to the St. Thomas Yacht Club. I dinghied over to explore a possible visit to the club, and in the process I was treated to a waterfront rendition of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Not this week, I guess.
From here on our route was entirely flexible. After all, we only had about 20 more miles to sail to reach the marina that would be “home” for the next six months, and we could sail with the wind as much as possible. We had never been to St John, so we wanted to explore this island, and we planned to retrace some of our steps from thirty years ago when we chartered a boat in the British Virgin Islands. Joy asked me to sail north first to check out Red Hook Bay. One quick peek down into the harbor was all it took for her to say, “I don’t want to go there; where else can we go today?”
That was an easy question to answer; sail over to Cruz Bay first just to check in with the authorities, then wander along the north coast of St. John to the first harbor we liked the look of.