As you wander through the numerous bays and coves, you’ll find these Pay Stations in many, but not all of the bays. There’s a waterproof box containing National Parks Permit and Pay forms, and even a pen to fill in the forms. As of 2011, the cost for a mooring is $15.00 per night. Remember that I mentioned the Golden Access Parks ID? Well, there’s a spot on the form where you can enter your Golden Access ID number and other pertinent information, and the mooring fee is cut in half, so if you qualify, it is well worth the time to obtain this GA card. As a little note, the platform is very stable and has numerous mooring cleats to secure your dinghy while you take care of business. I was pleased to find the locked fee box stuffed full with the pay envelopes. Boaters obviously are being honest and paying the fees as they should.
We had stayed in touch with our cruising buddy, Steve Schlosser, along the way, and he emailed that his favorite spot was Maho Bay, a cove forming a corner of the larger Francis Bay. We decided to spend some time at Maho as it looked to be a nice safe location to hide from the 20 plus knot winds for a few days.
Rustic campsites are tucked into the hillsides at Maho Bay, basically tents on a wooden platform, all forming part of a larger community of eco-tourism facilities. There’s a small, well-stocked store, a dive shop, canoe and kayak rentals, and all the things you might expect in a back-to-nature sort of place. The camp sites were all full.
I wandered up to the store one afternoon talking with a couple people I met along the way. The store is all the way at the top of the wooden stairs that cut up through the hills, and without directions from the people I met, I might have wandered a long ways before I ever found it. There are no signs pointing to the store, but its location makes sense as the store has to be supplied from Cruz Bay, and delivery men are unlikely to hike down the hills to carry the goods.
I found one little treat I knew would score points with the crew – rock solid ice cream bars! Just before I left the store with my other purchases I had the clerk ring up a couple bars, and I hustled back to the boat with those goodies wrapped tight to keep them cold. Brownie points for Captain Steve.
After a couple days at Maho Bay we decided to work our way east to Watermelon Bay which would place us almost due south of West End, in the British Virgin Islands. The next day’s forecast called for south to southeast winds of 20 to 25 knots, and I figured a northerly heading in those conditions would be easy to manage. You might be wondering why we were sailing in those conditions, but at this point I have to remind you that we are squarely in the trade winds belt. You can count on the wind blowing somewhere between 15 and 25 knots most of the time, so, you get used to it.
We motored up to Watermelon Bay in the early morning calm because I didn’t want to take the awning down just yet. We probably looked a bit like a gypsy caravan I’m sure, however, we weren’t alone. In fact, except for the charter boats, we fit right in. Seems like all the cruisers leave the awnings up on these short little jaunts.