St Thomas, USVI

Lynn & Mike ..around the world
Mike Drinkrow & Lynn v/d Hoven
Tue 28 Apr 2020 14:02
18:20.15N 64:55.76W  Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas

We arrived in St Thomas on Sunday afternoon 29 March, after a fairly quick  28 hour trip from Guadeloupe.  With more and more countries closing around us due to Covid, we decided to get Time2 into US territory, so that we would be able to get her up the East coast as planned for hurricane season.

The "check out" of Guadeloupe was easily done by email, and we had called ahead to Customs & Border protection in both the USVI and Puerto Rico to confirm that we could still enter USA territory. Our first choice had been Puerto Rico, as we knew the marina owner at Marina Pescaderia and Jose had a space for us. But given the longer distance, we decided en route, to first stop at St Thomas. 

And, THANK GOODNESS for that, the "sea gods" were on our side.

We arrived in Charlotte Amelie and immediately went to CBP, only to find it closed. We are always very careful to comply with Customs & Border protection, and in the USA you need to register in person/ or by phone immediately on landing.  So I then called the regional office in Puerto Rico, who  were now very hostile (most unusual) , telling me I must deal with  St Thomas.  We then called the local airport, and they told us that due to Covid, the office would only be open on Monday.  So back to the boat we went.  We then started receiving messages from other cruisers about the fiasco in Puerto Rico. Foreign vessels that had called and received the assurance that they could sail to PR (the same confirmation that we were given), were denied entry.  They were told to leave the country immediately, and basically sent out to sea.  We were horrified.. was this what awaited us the next morning? That we too would be told to leave, and with surrounding island denying entry to foreign vessels, would be in a perilous position.  Totally freaked out, Mike and I shared a sleeping pill, skipped dinner and got some sleep, so we could be strong in the morning,  to deal with this unfolding nightmare.

First thing in the morning we rushed off to CBP and were thrilled to discover that the US Virgin Islands were accepting visiting yachts. Seems the Governor of Puerto Rico went into full panic mode with Covid that weekend, while the Governor of the USVI took a far more measured and humanitarian approach. How thankful were we that we stopped here?! In the month that we spent in St Thomas, we were very impressed by the Covid protocols put in place, while still trying to keep essentials going. Governor Bryan spoke regularly via podcasts, keeping not only his people, but visiting yachtsmen up to date on the situation. Thank you sir!

For the month, we confined ourselves to the yacht, other than our walks for exercise and grocery shopping.  Charlotte Amelie is a beautiful old town, usually overrun by hordes of cruise ship passengers. They easily got 10 000 visitors every day. But none now, and with very few water taxis or float planes either, the anchorage was very calm. It was so strange to see the main tourist shopping street closed - and how beautiful to appreciate the colourful architecture during this quiet time.

One thing we did get done - remarkably easy, but not cheap, was to replace our house batteries. We had them shipped down from Florida - from order to delivery in under a week. Thank you James Knight of Yacht Tech and Tropical shipping.  Thes batteries are massive - 8 x 70+kgs each.  Mike and I had to do all the heavy lifting ourselves, using our crane, but once again his extraordinary engineering ingenuity came to the fore.

We stayed in St Thomas for a month - and here are a few of our pics.  The champagne was for my 57th birthday - I have had a lot of birthdays on TIME2  - Cuba (2011); Mexico (2012); French Polynesia (2013); New Zealand (2016); Bahamas (2017 & 2018); Antigua (2019)