22 Jan - St John and on...

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Thu 31 Jan 2019 12:33
17:45.12N  064:41.75W

We spent the night across the Sir Francis Drake Channel at Peter Island and on Thursday sailed west and south to Cruz Bay on St John, US Virgin Islands.  St John is largely given over to National Park and has a fine reputation for walking trails and diving.  We re-entered the US at Cruz Bay and after clearing Customs had a wander around.  Compared to the towns and villages in the British islands, it’s immaculate with a clear focus on tourism.  Hurricane damage has almost all been removed and there is no rubbish lying around, despite the Government ‘shutdown’.  We found in St Thomas that if you wandered ‘off piste’ a few hundred yards, you quickly found evidence of Irma destruction and widespread poverty that predated it. A few months on and whilst Cruz Bay is not back at full strength, most of the reconstruction around the town is complete and it looks attractive.  Perhaps it’s the Danish architecture, but somehow it seems more welcoming than Road Town, or Spanish Town, or Cane Gardens.  I’m not certain that the frenzied reconstruction activity that surrounds you when you visit Road Town today is particularly well coordinated and I fear that the new town that emerges may lack that unique Caribbean character.  I hope the cruise ships continue to call, as they provide important income for a huge number of local people who are not working in the ‘offshore finance’ sector.


Lunch at Cruz Bay, USVIs

We spent a few nights on the north coast of St John, gradually making our way east along the tranquil collection of sandy bays, enjoying the absence of charter boats.  We had a fine walk up Caneel Hill out of Cruz Bay, climbing to the highest point on St John and looking across at St Thomas, St Croix and the British Virgins.   At Francis Bay we walked east to the Annanberg Sugar Plantation and wondered about the life of a slave and his Danish master working in such hostile terrain to produce sugar and rum in the 18th century, when the whole island was under cultivation. It must have been impossibly hard and little surprise then, that the plantations did not survive the emancipation of slaves in 1848.  Instead, the US Government bought the islands from the Danes in the early 20th century and turned them into an American holiday destination.


Annanberg sugar mill, St John, with Tortola in the background


Looking north from Caneel Hill on St John, Jost van Dyke is top left

On Monday 21 January we finally broke free of this part of the Virgin Islands and sailed south some forty miles to St Croix, also a US possession with Danish heritage.  The town of Christiansted is regarded as the prettiest town in the Caribbean and it certainly compares well with Road Town!  Whilst the harbour is safe, tucked inside a barrier reef with water two miles deep just a few hundred yards offshore, we could not get out of the swell and chop coming around the headland from the east.  It wasn’t untenable, it was absolutely safe, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either.  We needed to collect a new Raw Water pump for the generator – the current one was working, but a small leak was gradually worsening.  It was easy to get a replacement sent out from the US to the USVIs – much easier, cheaper and faster than sending something to the BVIs (note for next time) or Guadeloupe, which was another possibility. We were determined to make the most of the time there, so set about exploring the town and sourcing a hire car to see more of the island.


Christiansted harbour, St Croix