Monday, January 15, 2007

Hiking across St. John

Francis Bay, St. John, USVI
18.21.847N; 64.44.864W

On Friday evening we hosted a small cruiser pot luck dinner on our boat.  Ken and Cindy on S/V Secret O’ Life and Douglas and Nancy on S/V Spiritus joined us for a fun evening.  It was good to visit with other cruisers again.  Spiritus and Secret O’ Life came down a couple of years ago in the annual 1500 from Hampton, Virginia to the BVI.  Both couples cruise the Caribbean only during the winter months and return to their US land homes for the rest of the year, leaving their boats on the hard somewhere in the CaribbeanAntigua is the  favored spot to leave their boats in “hurricane proof” cradles.  S/V Secret O’ Life is a Beneteau 461, the same model boat that we used to own; but this one has in-mast furling mainsail and one electric winch to handle the mainsail and one electric head.  Our 46-ft Beneteau didn’t have those luxuries.

Yesterday we motored from Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island to Francis Bay on St. John.  Winds were pretty high and OTN (on the nose), so we just motored instead of dealing with tacking back and forth in order to sail.  Winds were 30 knots and gusting 36 kts when we got on the mooring ball here in Francis Bay.  We have not been to Francis Bay since November 1993.  If Pam or Jerry or Barbara are reading this, they will remember that this is the place where we dumped the Omaha Steaks overboard when the grill tipped over.  

We do not have fond memories of Francis Bay, but it has changed since then and is much nicer now.  There are many more mooring balls and the National Park Service is doing a great job with upkeep.  There are now volunteers called bay hosts that help in the collection of the mooring ball fees, so you don’t have to go walking all over the beaches looking for a box to deposit your payment envelope.  There is also a small boat on a mooring ball where you can deposit your payment envelope.  This is far more convenient than in the old days.  Moorings are now $15 per night.

Today we hiked over the hills to Coral Bay with Ken and Cindy, Douglas and Nancy, and Deb and Jeff from S/V Daydream.  That is quite a hike!  It isn’t very far in distance but the inclines really got to Judy.  She just does not do will with altitude changes; was huffing and puffing on the climb up the hills.  Going down was easy and the few flat surfaces were easy, but those upward inclines were murder.  Judy managed to get blisters on one heel and on the bottom of 3 toes during this short 2 mile walk up these hills.  Of course, it didn’t bother Bill one bit.  But Ken and Nancy also were having trouble with the upward inclines so Judy had company in bringing up the rear of our little group of 8 as we did this hike.

We followed the Francis Bay Trail, passed the ruins of the Annaberg School and and Annaberg Sugar Mill , past Watermelon Bay and Leinster Point on the Lenster Bay Trail, then the Johnny Horn Trail to the top of the hill where we found an old dirt “road” that we followed down to Coral Bay.  We saw many stone ruins and saw the back side of the stone arch that Theo had seen last week when we sailed from Norman Island to Soper’s Hole.  Unfortunately, the vegetation growth was so high on the back side of that arch that we couldn’t get around to the water side to take a photo.  But there were stone ruins of many rooms behind that arch.  If you are into stone ruins of sugar plantations, this is a good hike.  If you are like us and don’t give a flip about old ruins of stones, it is still a good hike.

We had hamburgers at the infamous Skinny Legs.  Burgers were cooked a little too well done for everyone’s taste but still tasted good.  While eating lunch Judy happened to look down at her shoes and realized that the soles were coming complete off!  This is the same thing that happened to the sneakers that she wore in the Amazon Jungle back in September.  After lunch Ken and Cindy, Deb and Jeff, and Douglas walked the trail all the way back to Francis Bay.  Nancy, Judy and Bill chose to take a taxi to Columbo’s ice cream and smoothie shack at the top of the hill and meet up with the rest of the group – let them do that uphill climb all by themselves.  Then we all walked together down the hills back to Francis Bay.  All the others were complaining that the walk downhill was the worst part of the hike, but Judy wasn’t bothered by the downhill walking – it was only the uphill climbing that bothered her. Judy dumped her sole-less sneakers into the nearest trash can by the beach and continued barefoot back down the beach to where we had anchored the dinghy. 

Some of us were tired puppies after that hike!  Judy definitely wants to buy a couple of walking sticks if we are going to be doing any more of this uphill hiking.  We understand that a lot of people hike the trails in the hills of Dominica, so maybe we can find some walking sticks for sale somewhere on St. Thomas before we leave the USVI.

Only bad thing about Francis Bay is that there is no WiFi internet.  Well, to be entirely truthful there is one WiFi internet connection available but it costs more than we are willing to pay.  So we still have not been able to upload photos and update the website.

January 15, 2007  Monday
Soper’s Hole, West End, Tortola, BVI

This morning we made a trip over to Soper’s Hole; needed to exchange a defective DVD that Bill purchased here last week.  It is a movie from 1958 that is set at Marina Cay.  Sydney Portier is in this old movie; never heard of any of the other actors.  We are curious to see how much the area has changed since then; not like we expect this to be a good movie, we are only interested in the scenery. 

We have a very limited internet connection but will try to upload some photos and get the website updated while we are on this mooring ball.  Don’t plan to stay here very long.  Not sure where we are going this afternoon.  Weather predictions are not favorable for the passage to St. Martin this week, unless it improves greatly by the weekend.  Maybe we will spend a few days around various bays on St. John.

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