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St. Croix Shark Week

Daah Dum ,Daah Dum, DAAH DUM!

So, here we are in St. Croix, USVI diving with sharks! What a couple of weeks we have had. The last time we met we were in Antigua awaiting the Classic Yacht Regatta. Wow! there were some beautiful classic boats: schooners, ketches, yawls and even a couple wishbone ketches, probably the finest rig yet imagined. Oh, yeah, there was WIND. Torn sails, a dismasting or two and 30′ Dragons racing in the harbor using us as targets. Some fun!

140′ Schooner Columbia heading out
159′ Wishbone Ketch Rhea
Schooner Columbia, a replica of a Grand Banks fisherman
Sweet sloop under jib alone
159′ wishbone ketch Chronos. Sistership to Rhea
More Columbia, too nice not to show more of.
The Blue Peter, 1930 Alfred Mylne Teak Sloop
Check out the beveled-glass windows!
Some old guy drooling over all the wood.
Fishing dorys from Columbia. Note their names all you Captain’s Courageous fans.
Food market before the racing, adds ballast for the rail sitters.
There be DRAGONS!
A near pass through the anchorage.
Racing downwind! These boats are similar to the Shields we used to own.

After the excitement and the wind died down we sailed up to the tiny island of St. Barthelme, or St. Barth. This is a very POSH spot in the Caribbean with lots of rich and famous wandering around buying duty-free watches and designer clothes from the same duty-free shops that are in any airport. It is a bit late in the season, so it was mostly not-so-rich and not-at-all-famous Americans wearing designer T-shirts and DG flip flops. Oh well. At least there was excitement in the anchorage. Not only was it crowded but it was another French rolly anchorage. We were out with the super yachts. At one time there were 4 yachts with helicopters on them and one 400 footer that had it’s own 160 foot support boat that carried a helicopter in a hangar on deck! When called, the helicopter would fly over and land on the big boat’s deck, pick up passengers and fly them to town, 1/2 mile away. then return to the hangar.

For real entertainment we did some diving around the island. There was a good site that had a narrow canyon which drew you in and spit you out the other side, that was fun! Another worked around a piton of rock where the current wrapped around from really deep water and the large fish, barracuda, tarpon and others would mass just sitting stationary in the current waiting for breakfast to come their way. We swam through the midst of hundreds of them. The photos don’t do the scene justice.

Nancy showing her best “Jazz Hands” in St. Barth.
Yo Ho little fish.
Don’t cry don’t cry.
You’ll be a whale by and by.

After spending all our Euros we weighed anchor for the USVI. While trying to set the code zero sail the halyard fouled in the sheave again! We diverted to a small rock called Ile Fourche between St. Barth and St. Martin to effect repairs. The anchorage was cozy and the island was uninhabited. Nancy dragged me up the mast kicking and screaming to free the halyard. Actually, it was a bit rolly and I was flailing around trying not to get flung out to sea. I felt like a lure on the end of a fly rod. The halyard freed, we sat down to dinner and cocktails, whew!

The next day we headed out again for the Virgin Islands. The wind was right up our chuff, of course, so we ran off on a starboard run with main and jib with the wind at 155 degrees. The wind stayed pretty steady at 18-20 kts and we sailed right along the south coast of Sint Maarten within 1 mile of shore. It was beautiful! Past Phillipsburg and Maho Bay at 8-9 knots. We sailed without touching anything until the 2100 watch change when we were about 8 miles from Virgin Gorda where we tacked, put a reef in the main, traded the jib for the staysail and headed for St. Croix. We raced along at 9+ knots on port tack the rest of the night. We were hoping the wind would drop so we wouldn’t get to Christiansted in the dark. It is one of the trickiest harbors to get into, with lots of shoals and reefs. The wind didn’t cooperate, so at 0300 we were 12 miles away doing 8 knots, so we dropped the main and jogged along at 4 kts and arrived at the outer buoy as the sun came up at 0615. Probably the sweetest sail we have had this trip. We sailed from the anchor to the harbor entrance, no engine! The anchorage is cool and breezy. We are open to the east wind, but the outer reef runs all along the harbor so there is no swell, big relief, and the wind generator keeps the batteries topped up.

Anchorage in Christiansted. Our protective reef.
Scenic Christiansted from Zephyr. Only a slightly damp dinghy ride away.

I won’t get into the machinations we undertook to get cleared into these U.S. territories. I’ll just say that the 180 Euro Covid tests we were required to have for entry weren’t even asked for or actually necessary, and the customs office at the airport, where we were told to report, after a $70 taxi ride, told us they don’t do that anymore. “Get the ROAM app, and have a nice day” they said. Several hours and key-strokes later we were legally sitting in a bar with a G&T in hand.

Which brings us to SHARKS. There is phenomenal diving around ST. Croix. The water is 4-500 feet deep right up to the island, with several barrier reefs. Unfortunately, the wind has been pretty strong and steady lately so it is untenable to venture out to the dive sites in our venerable 10′ dinghy. So, we signed on to do a couple of dives with the local operator. Matt and Curtis from St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures took us out to Rust Op Twist and Love Shack. Both dives took us to 70′ and while the visibility was only 40′ or so, the action was pretty good. Early in the first dive several reef sharks came to take a look at us. They are graceful and sleek, but not to be too concerned about. Later there was a great bat-wing coral crab lunching in his cave. The second dive began with a green turtle and ended with not only more sharks, one a sandbar shark, but two very large remoras. They are nasty, prehistoric-looking fish that suction onto a host for the free ride. You often see them on sharks and other pelagic slow movers. Well, these two wanted to be MY friends! They were right in my face for quite a while. I kept kicking them away and pointing out the other guy in our group, who was much bigger and easier to hook onto than me. But they weren’t buying my sales pitch. Finally, they left me and took some interest in Curtis. I tried to get their profile but you can see they were ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Nancy being “assisted” into the shark-infested waters!
Nancy’s first shark sighting ever!
A gentle 5′ Black tip Reef Shark.
A graceful fly by.
A colorful Sea Rod.
Purple Stove-pipe Sponge
Compare the true colors at left (illuminated by the flash) to the drab colors you actually see at a depth of 65′.
Tiny Blue Chronis fish.
My all-time favorite: Vase Sponge. About 14′ tall. The colors are translucent and mesmerizing!
The revolting Remora. The ridges on the top of their head grip and hold like velcro.
Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

So, today will be tours of forts and shops. Nancy has her eye on a cute dress and I have mine on some cute dive weights. In a few days we’ll head up to St. John and the BVI’s. Check out the new additions in the Book nook and the Studio.

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4 Comments

  1. Karen

    Reply

    Amazing!!!I am so happy you guys are having an incredible journey!! We also saw some reef sharks snorkeling in the Surin Islands, but your visibility was better than ours. Keep posting photos and information so we can all live vicariously through you and Nancy. Love you!!

  2. Rick Blake

    Reply

    Recently returned from a sail around the Bahamas and onto Fort Pierce FL aboard an Amel Santorin and some instinct guided me to check in on you two – must have sensed a halyard stuck in a sheave and Randy flying the bosun’s chair. Enjoyed reading of your travels since our very short sail in the bay back in November. Enjoy your summer season and let us all know where you’re heading next.

  3. chris

    Reply

    Do you think you might be investing in one of those megayachts? I hear they’re gonna be going pretty cheap these days, with the oligarch fire-sales.

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