Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Visiting the US Virgin Islands: St. John

One of the boats anchored in Soper's Hole, Tortola, BVI
 When you leave the British Virgin Islands, you must go to the customs office to check out. We spent a night at Soper's Hole on Tortola's West End before checking out. I found another nice market there. As you may have guessed, good food markets are hard to come by! Many people check in at the West End as it is easier than going into Road Town, BVI. Here you see a variety of vessels in Soper's Hole.

There are many multi-masted boats in the islands. They are always interesting to see - especially under sail. Some a very large and others are smaller. I can never remember which are schooners and which are ketches or yawls! And I don't know what you call those with more than three sails.
Another multi-masted beauty!
After leaving the BVI, we sailed down the Windward Passage to Caneel Bay, St. John, US VI. Since it was late in the day, we grabbed a  mooring ball for the night and then took the dingy into Cruz Bay to clear US customs the next morning. We then learned they were open until 6 PM so we could have cleared in the night before.

For US Customs you can clear in and out in the same visit but they make everyone come inside to be processed. In the British VI, only the Captain goes into customs with all of the passports, but you must clear in and out each time. The operating hours never seem to be what is printed in the guides.

Dennis at the Pay Station in Caneel Bay, St. John, US VI

The mooring balls in the US VI are only $15 per night (unless you are a Senior Citizen, then you only pay $7.50 with a special National Park Pass which you get at the National Park office in Cruz Bay). It is an honor system, however, there are "hosts" who visit your boat and welcome you. And they record the name of your boat - just in case you don't pay or stay too long.

You can stay a maximum of seven days on the same mooring ball and up to a total of 30 nights on park system balls. The cost of mooring in the BVI is $25-$30 per night. Mooring is recommended because there are fewer and fewer places to anchor due to the preservation of the coral reefs. One also gets a much better night of sleep when hanging on a mooring ball. There is no need to worry about your anchor holding or too much swing in the wind.

A visitor stopping for a rest! Or maybe for a handout!

Three quarters of St. John is national park property and the park system has a number of tours, hikes, classes, etc. We did not have time to take part in any of these as we were trying to get to St. Thomas before dark. We plan to spend more time there next year.

We had a visitor who sat on the bow for quite a while. This is a type of sea gull. You don't see the species that we have in Michigan.

After checking into the US VI, we sailed down Pillsbury Sound, around the Dogs and then west on the south side of St. Thomas.

Here's a map to help you get your bearings!

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