Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Sun 15 Feb 2015 20:00
Continuing with our tour of the lesser visited islands, we sailed over from Statia to St Croix. We left at 2pm for an overnight sail, but the wind was higher and more angled than we anticipated (20 knots from the north-east) which meant we arrived at 4am and had to drift with bare poles along the lee of Buck Island, waiting for dawn.
St Croix is less visited by cruisers than the other US Virgin Islands because it is set apart from the other islands, putting it a little off the regular cruising routes. Even so, the main town of Christiansted has a good anchorage, if a bit swelly at times. The town is small but has all the facilities you need, although you really need a car to get to the big supermarket. There is a new boardwalk which houses a variety of lively restaurants. This backs on to the tourist area, where there are numerous opportunities to buy “frock of the day” or locally made jewellery.
We were in St Croix at the time of the Superbowl and Marty and Lisa persuaded us to join them at a restaurant to watch the game on the big screen. Not being big football fans we watched the first half and then headed back to the boats. The restaurant had a sweepstake on the game, where $10 bought you a square in a 10 x 10 matrix, to which they assigned scores at random. Our square was assigned 8 and 4, so when we woke up the next morning we found that the final score of 28 – 24 had netted us the $500 first prize, which was a nice windfall. Of course, being easy money, a large part of it went on eating out, but we can feel good about feeding it back into the local economy.
While in Christiansted we rented a car and spent a couple of days driving around the island. Here is a bit of trivia for you. The eastern tip of St Croix is the eastern-most point of the US territories. We thought it should have the southern-most point as well, but American Samoa wins by a couple of miles. The western-most point is in Guam and the eastern and western-most points of the US are both called Point Udall.
St Croix hosts two distilleries, so naturally we had to visit both. The larger one is Captain Morgan, which is a high-volume, high-tech distillery that was recently moved to the island. They import molasses and export rum, cattle feed and fertilizer. They even use reverse osmosis to recycle the bulk of the water used for fermentation. There was not much to see on the factory tour except huge stainless steel tanks. A large part of the tour involved watching a film of the various Captain Morgan adverts and PR events. And then to the cocktail bar for the two complimentary cocktails. There was an older couple already there when we arrived. Andrea reckoned they were locals who skipped the tour and went straight to the bar. At $3 for a senior citizen ticket, it is worth a visit just for the cocktails.
The Cruzan distillery is a much more modest affair, but the factory tour is more interesting because you get to walk around and view the fermenting liquor and the barrel storage area. No senior discount here, I am afraid, but $8 for the two cocktails is still reasonable. And at $7 a litre for the rum, it is a good place to restock the cabinet.
We also visited the St George Botanical Garden, set in the grounds of an old sugar mill. This is an interesting place because you are walking through the ruins of the mill as you are viewing the flowers. It is not a thriving business so they have taken a “low maintenance” approach to the gardens, but in many ways this fits with the location amid the ruins. And when it comes to walking through the rainforest section, it really feels like a forest walk.
We didn’t use the parasailor on the St Croix leg, but True Colors gave us this photo from the Statia run
St Croix has some spectacular reefs
Cruzan in the making
Waiting for cocktails at the Cruzan distillery bar
Orchids growing in the trees at the botanical gardens.