Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 121
January 1, 2002

Last Update December 30, 2001

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ST. JOHN: BY BRADFORD FELMLY

Note: Edited for content by CTR Editor

Trips 7/01 - 8/01 (and 11/01)

(c)2001

This  report  details  a  trip  taken to St. John, USVI from July 26, 
2001  -  August  6,  2001.   Caroline  and  I  are  a  married couple 
traveling  with  our  16-year  old  son,  David.  

We are all experienced 
Scuba  divers  with  various  levels of diving certifications, and we 
all  love  snorkeling.   We  did a lot of research before-hand, so we 
had  a  list  of  the  bays,  beaches  and  snorkeling  sites that we 
identified  as  most  promising for snorkeling and beaching.  We were 
able  to  snorkel  and  skin-dive  all  of  the  sites  on  our list.  
Snorkeling  was  so  terrific  that  we  had no desire to Scuba dive, 
although   there   are  two  dive  operations  on  the  island.   For 
snorkeling,  sheer dramatic beauty, and the friendliness of the folks 
who live there, we cannot recommend St. John highly enough.  

Thursday 7/26

We  took  a  taxi  from  the airport in St. Thomas to Red Hook, where 
ferries  depart  hourly  for  St.  John,  about  three  miles  across 
Pillsbury  Sound.   The  taxi,  a Ford Windstar, was over-crowded (10 
people),  hot,  (no  A/C)  and  expensive ($10 pp).  It made multiple 
stops  on the way to Red Hook, so we missed the 1:30 ferry and had to 
wait  at  Red Hook, where it is very hot, with no areas of shade, for 
nearly  an  hour.  

After  changing  into  shorts  and tee shirts, the dress of choice on 
St.  John,  we  went  to  Cruz Bay to find an air conditioned eatery.  
After  a  quick walk around town, we quickly discovered that Cruz Bay 
has  only  one  air-conditioned restaurant, "Paradisio", whose prices 
were  steep  even  for  St.  John.   We  settled  instead for "Chilly 
Billy's",  a  Mexican  eatery near the Lumber Yard in Cruz Bay.  This 
restaurant  normally  serves  only breakfast and lunch, but its owner 
decided  to  expand  its  offerings by serving dinner on Thursday and 
Friday  nights.  The Tex/Mex good was good by Taco Bell standards.  A 
meal  for  three  was $70 without the tip, and with no cocktails.  We 
ate  at Chilly Billy's for breakfast one day, and the food was almost 
intolerable  -  greasy,  tasteless.   Most  of  it  went  uneaten.  A 
standard  breakfast  for  three  ran $35.  We cannot recommend Chilly 
Billy's.

Friday 7/27

Cinnamon Bay

We  decided to get in the habit of no morning shower.  We jumped into 
our  bathing  suits,  threw the snorkel gear in the truck, and headed 
to  Cinnamon  Bay  - David's choice because it has a food concession, 
beach  shack,  and  General  Store.   These  serve  the  Cinnamon Bay 
campgrounds.   Cinnamon  also  has  an ongoing archeological dig of a 
pre-Columbian  Taino Indian settlement. The dig is staffed largely by 
volunteers,  several  of  who were girls around David's age, and with 
whom  he struck up a fast acquaintance.  Needless to say, Dave became 
enamored  of  Cinnamon  Beach  and  spent several days there while we 
went on to explore other beaches.

Cinnamon  Bay  is  a  beautiful  beach  with  gin-clear  water.   The 
snorkeling  is average off of the beach itself, but a short (.2 mile) 
swim  to  Cinnamon  Cay  (pronounced 'key'), just off shore, revealed 
quite  fine  snorkeling  around  the north and west sides of the cay.  
We  saw  several  manta  rays,  a  juvenile  octopus,  several  adult 
barracuda,  and  schools  upon  schools  of juvenile reef fish in and 
around the plunging coral reef that girdles the cay.   

We  quickly  found that the most precious commodity on this (and most 
of  the  other  North  shore beaches) is shade.  Sea grape trees line 
the  beach,  and  every shady spot beneath the trees had been claimed 
by   10:00   a.m.   Just  as  importantly,  we  learned  that  having 
possession  of  a shady spot in the morning did not guarantee a shady 
spot  in  the  afternoon.   On the North Shore beaches, the sun casts 
shade  on  the west side of the trees in the morning, and on the east 
side  in  the  afternoon.  We made sure that we staked out both sides 
of the tree!  Beach chairs were generously provided by the villa.

After  arriving  'home'  and  cooling  off in the pool, we drove (the 
truck  had A/C!) to town and the Fish Trap Restaurant, where we found 
seating  to  be immediate, service to be wonderful and attentive, the 
food excellent and the prices reasonable (for St. John).

St.  John  doesn't  offer  a  lot of nightlife, and everyone turns in 
early.   However,  for  us, nighttime was the high point of the day - 
we  got to take SHOWERS!!  I'll admit - I did cheat a little - I left 
the water on between the various phases of the shower.

Saturday 7/28

Trunk Bay

We  decided  to go to Trunk Bay, since it was a weekend and the beach 
would  not  be  crowded  with  cruise  ship passengers on land tours.  
Trunk  Bay  is  known as the best beach on the island, due in part to 
the  National  Park's innovative snorkel trail, a 225-yard underwater 
tour  through  the  coral  and  marine  life,  marked  by informative 
plaques.  We had read that the snorkeling trail had been decimated by 
over-snorkeling,  so  our expectations weren't high.  This beach also 
has  a  food  concession,  a  beach  shack  and  fresh water showers.  
Unlike  any  of  St. John's other beaches, the Park Service charges a 
$4  per  person  entry  fee.   We  found  that we could buy an annual 
National  Park  family pass for $15, which also included admission to 
the  Annaberg  Sugar  Plantation Ruins.  The ruins, on the north-east 
side  of  the  island  near  Francis  Bay,  also charge $4 per person 
admission.   David  returned to Trunk Bay once, and we returned there 
for  a  day  in  November.   We  all  went to Annaberg, too, so saved 
several dollars by buying the annual pass.  

We  found  snorkeling  at Trunk Bay to be quite good.  The snorkeling 
trail  is  in  good  shape, despite what we had read to the contrary.  
The  snorkeling along the east side of Trunk Cay and around the point 
of  rocks  is very good with lots of tropical fishes hiding among the 
rocks,  and  larger fish awaiting their chance to snag a smaller fish 
that  strays  too far from the coral and rock reef.  Trunk Bay itself 
is  a breathtakingly beautiful knock-down gorgeous beach, and a great 
beach for limin' and beaching.  

We  headed back to the apartment for a fresh water rinse in the pool, 
then  dinner  at  the Lime Inn, a charming open-air restaurant in the 
center  of  Cruz Bay.  Its menu includes local fresh sea food, steaks 
and  pasta.   The  price  is  moderate.  We recommend this restaurant 
highly  for  their quality food and quick courteous service. Early to 
bed  following  a  cool  shower,  in  anticipation  of another day in 
paradise tomorrow.

Sunday 7/29

Solomon Bay

Rain  is  welcome  in St. John.  It fills the cisterns, greens up the 
island  and  cleans  the landscape.  After raining all night, the sun 
poked  through  in  the  morning.   David,  who  had  listened to the 
weather,  warned  us  that  a  tropical  wave  was  moving across the 
region,  and  that  more  rain was predicted.  Nonetheless, we packed 
our  gear  and  set out for Solomon Bay Beach.  This has a reputation 
of  being  the island's "official" clothing optional beach.  We chose 
it  because  it is secluded and reportedly had lots of shade and good 
snorkeling.   It  is  accessible  only  by  foot,  via the Lind Point 
Trail.   The trail head is behind the National Park Visitor Center in 
Cruz  Bay.  It is the closest beach to Cruz Bay, so it's popular with 
the  residents.   The  Caneel  Hill Trail, which intersects the North 
Shore  Road  at  the  top  of  the hill (at the blue VI National Park 
sign)  just  past  Mongoose  Junction, is a shorter but steeper walk.  
We  chose  this trail, which intersects the Lind Point trail spur and 
branches off to Solomon and Honeymoon Beaches.  

The  sky  had  clouded  over  again so the walk down the trail to the 
beach  was  not  too  rigorous.   A  young couple, maybe in their mid 
twenties,  passed  us,  panting  and sweating heavily, going up as we 
were  going down.  I remarked that the climb back up would be tougher 
than  the walk down.  Upon arriving at the beach we found that we had 
the  whole  place  to ourselves!  A middle-aged couple was departing, 
up  the Lind Point Trail, just as we arrived from the spur.  Signs on 
both  ends  of  the beach proclaimed "No Nudity Allowed."  The clouds 
were  roiling, black and angry looking by then, but the beach and the 
turquoise  blue  water  were beautiful.  It took no time to ditch the 
gear under a tree and jump in the water.  

We  found  the  snorkeling to be average along Solomon Beach and east 
around  the  small point to Honeymoon beach.  However, the snorkeling 
was  excellent  to  the  west of Solomon Beach, along a rock face and 
several  points  of  rock that eventually led into Cruz Bay.  An hour 
or  so  later,  when  coming  back  onto the beach from the water, we 
noticed  that  it  had  started  to  rain  again.  We quickly threw a 
poncho  over the dry gear, unfolded our beach chairs, and sat waiting 
for  the  shower  to  pass.   The tree seemed to provide a nice cover 
from  the  rain.   We  took  several dips to warm up, as the rain was 
quite  cold  while  the  water was warmer - in the mid 80s.  A figure 
approached  from  down  the trail - it was a Park Ranger.  He tarried 
only  long  enough to tell us that he was on patrol for swimmers sans 
suits,  and  showed  us  his  citation book, explaining that the Park 
Service  had  begun  to ticket the nude bathers - a change that began 
under the current (G.W. Bush) administration.  Then he was off.  

We  waited patiently for the rain to let up, knowing it was not going 
to  be  easy heading back up the trail in the rain.  If anything, the 
clouds  became  darker,  and then darker yet, casting a strange gloom 
that  reminded us of a solar eclipse.  The rain fell harder, first in 
torrents  then  in  drenching  buckets  of  cold water.   Rivulets of 
water  crept beneath the poncho, carving streams in the sand and then 
into  the  sea.   The  tree  that we had relied on to shelter us soon 
began  dripping  black  droplets onto us, our hair and the poncho.  I 
guessed  that  some  type  of oil was being washed from the tree.  We 
moved  beneath  another tree, but the black droplets continued.  They 
left  a  fine grit all over us and the gear.  After two hours with no 
let  up in sight, we made our exit up the trail, carrying our snorkel 
gear,  backpacks  and  beach  chairs,  slipping,  sliding and pulling 
ourselves  up  the muddy, drenching hill by whatever means possible - 
trees,  vines,  rock  ledges, each other.  All of the trees seemed to 
be  excreting  the same black droplets.  Reaching the truck, we found 
that  it, too, was covered with black grit.  We got in and turned OFF 
the  A/C,  and  drove  back  to  the  apartment, where we found David 
curled  up  on  the  couch - dry and warm as toast.  Thankfully, he's 
not the kind of kid to say "I told you so"!  

The  rain  continued  much of the day, and we took the opportunity to 
go  to  the  Laundromat  ($6  per  load) in Cruz Bay, and to Starfish 
Market,  the  grocery store just down the road.  It was still raining 
heavily  at  dinner time, so we drove back to the Fish Trap, where we 
were  able  to  park  next to the entrance and get in without getting 
too  wet.   The  food  was  good  and  plentiful,  as  usual.  Before 
returning  we  stopped  next  door  in  the  Love City Surf Shop, and 
bought an umbrella.  Naturally, we never had another need to use it.
.

Monday 7/30

Salt Pond Bay

We  had  never  seen a snow storm in the Caribbean before, but that's 
what  it  looked like on Monday morning.  A fine white powder covered 
every  surface.  The snorkel gear and poncho, that we had draped over 
the  deck  railing  to  dry,  had  a  fine  talc all over it.  I went 
outside  to  find  Gerry  rinsing  the  dust  off rental truck with a 
hose.   We  wondered  what  it  was,  and  I told him about the black 
secretions  from  the  trees at Solomon Bay yesterday.  We speculated 
that it could be some kind of pollen spawned by the heavy rain.  

Today  we  decided  to  visit  Salt  Pond Bay, on the east end of the 
island  near St. John's second largest settlement of Coral Bay.  It's 
a  thirty minute drive to Coral Bay, six miles as the crow flies, but 
a  good  fifteen  miles by road.  Centerline Road, or Route 10, winds 
up,  down and around Camelberg and Bordeaux mountains using dozens of 
switchbacks  that  involve hairpin turns and ninety degree verticals.  
There  are  several  overlooks  along  the  way that afford panoramic 
views  (and  great  photo opportunities) of Coral Bay and the British 
Virgins.   David  complained  of  hunger  pangs  so we stopped at the 
Seabreeze  Café  on  Salt  Pond  Road  for  lunch.  I noticed a small 
crafts  barn  next  door,  tended by a weathered looking woman, while 
her  husband  stacked  wooden  frames alongside the door.  While Dave 
ordered  his  lunch  I  wandered  over  to  admire  their  wares.   I 
commented  that  they  were  fine  looking  frames.   I asked the man 
whether  he  sold  prints  to  go  with them.  He looked me over and, 
recognizing  me  for  the  tourist I am, said, "I replace these every 
ten  years  or  so.   These  are  window frames, not picture frames."  
Appropriately  chastised,    I  told  him  thanks  and  good luck and 
returned  to  the  Café,  where David's order was ready.  The TV news 
there  announced  that  the Montserrat volcano had erupted yesterday.  
It  had  erupted while the tropical wave was passing over Montserrat, 
so  the  soot,  smoke  and  volcanic ash were carried over the Virgin 
Islands.   Of  course  - that explained the black water dripping from 
the  trees,  the grit all over the car, and the white powder all over 
everything  this  morning.   We  also learned that all flights in the 
region  had  been  grounded  due  to  danger of volcanic ash and dust 
being  sucked into the turbines.  We resolved to fold the poncho, ash 
and  all,  and return home with it as a souvenir of this most unusual 
event.

Our  research  had  recommended  Salt  Pond  Bay  as  one of the best 
Snorkel  and  beach areas on the island.  The beach itself is crushed 
coral  and  rock  with very little sand.  Foot ware is a requirement.  
Some  picnic  tables and porta-johns are the only creature "comforts" 
there.   Still,  the  beach  seems  quite  popular,  as it is usually 
crowded.   It seems especially popular for families, with quite a few 
children  in  the  shallow  waters.  We managed to stake out a picnic 
table  under  a  tree  just  before  a hoard of people arrived at the 
beach.   Snorkeling  along the left (east) side of the bay is average 
to  good,  with many sea urchins, sea anemones, and soft corals among 
the  submerged  rocks.   Some  of  the  few  coral  heads are in poor 
condition.   The middle of the bay, and especially around the mooring 
buoys,  is  frequented  by  dozens  of  sea  turtles.  This in itself 
raises  our  evaluation of Salt Pond Bay from average to good, and we 
recommend   snorkeling   there  for  its  many  sea  turtles  and  an 
occasional  barracuda.   However,  the  beach is not too conducive to 
liming  around,  and  it's  a  rocky entry into the water, out of the 
water,  and  on the beach.  It's a ten-minute walk down hill from the 
parking  area  to the beach . As usual, returning up the hill is more 
difficult than going down!

Tuesday 7/31

Frank Bay
Hawksnest Bay

We  walked  down early in the morning, donned snorkeling 
gear  and  jumped  in.   Despite  my  doubts  -  brought  on  by  the 
occasional  odors  wafting  from  the  Little  Pond, just inland from 
Frank  Bay, that sometimes made the area stink most ripely - this was 
very  good  snorkeling.   The left (south) side of the bay encloses a 
live  reef  that  extends  past the point of land to Turner Bay.  The 
reef  begins  immediately  at  the  shoreline.   We  quickly observed 
schools  of  tangs,  sergeant majors and angelfish.  We were shadowed 
throughout  the  dive  by a bold barracuda about four feet in length.  
Later,  when  Gerry told the story, the barracuda grew significantly, 
developed  large  fangs  and took on an evil sneer.  Gerry thought he 
might  be  eaten for breakfast, so we made a quicker departure than I 
would  have  normally.   On the way back to shore we observed several 
turtles.   I  had  to  hand it to Gerry; this was an unspoiled area -
made  so  by the more spectacular beaches that lure the tourists away 
from  this  reef.   Besides having good snorkeling, Frank Bay had the 
best sunset views on the island, looking due west over St. Thomas.

David  was  later  told,  by  one of his myriad of new-found friends, 
that  Cruz  Bay  itself  is  one  of the best snorkeling sites on St. 
John,  because  it  is  not  often  visited,  and marine life such as 
mantas  and  turtles  have learned that they can usually find a quick 
meal  there  from  bait  tossed over the side.  We did not check this 
out ourselves, but it's on our list for next time.

David  was  in  a funk.  His wrist was swollen, his head hurt, and he 
did  NOT  want  to  go to the beach.  He wouldn't be able to snorkel, 
and  threatened  to  pout  all day.  We took him out to Breakfast, at 
Chilly  Billy's  in Cruz Bay.  This restaurant is "famous" across the 
island  for its breakfasts.  All of us ordered a different menu item, 
and  none  of  us  could  take  more  than a few bites.  The food was 
greasy,  limpid  and  cold.   We  paid  the  $35  bill  and walked to 
Mongoose  Junction,  one  of Cruz Bay's two shopping arcades.  Prices 
here  were  even  steeper than those at Havensite Mall (at the cruise 
ship  dock)  on  St.  Thomas.   We  found  the  same  to  be  true at 
Wharfside,  the  second shopping arcade in Cruz Bay.  Residents favor 
a  ferry  ride  to St. Thomas, where prices are more reasonable, over 
these  malls.  We  dropped  Dave  back off at MTV, where he curled up 
with  a  book  and the television.  We decided to go to a close beach 
so  we  could  check  back on David, so we ended up at Hawksnest Bay.  
Hawksnest  is  perhaps  the  most popular beach on Saint John because 
it's  the  closest  taxi  ride  from  the ferry dock.  It's typically 
crowded  with cruise ship passengers.  Today was no different.  It is 
a  beautiful  beach - no doubt one of the prettiest in the Caribbean, 
and   its   reefs   are  very  shallow.   However,  because  of  that 
popularity,  and  because  of  the novice snorkelers that the shallow 
waters  draw, the reefs are dead.  We had last snorkeled Hawksnest in 
1996  and the reefs were not healthy, but they were alive and teeming 
with  fish.  This time, nothing; just an occasional juvenile sergeant 
major  -  another  case  of  a reef that's been kicked and plodded to 
death.   The  area  around  the  point  of land between Hawksnest and 
Gibney  beaches  (the  east  end  of  Hawksnest) is healthier and has 
better snorkeling, but all in all, Frank Bay was much better.

We  again took Gerry's advice and tried the Banana Deck, in Cruz Bay, 
for  dinner.   They  have  a  varied menu and unremarkable food.  Two 
dinners  and  a  salad  (Dave didn't eat, he hadn't been hungry since 
his  fall  from  the gazebo roof) ran $60.  

Wednesday 8/1
Carrie's Birthday

Leinster Bay
Waterlemon Cay

For  as  long  as  we  have  been  married,  our  family  has  always  
celebrated  my  wife's  birthday while on holiday.  Over the years it 
became  the  focal  day  of  our  vacation,  and we tried to save the 
perceived   "best"  of  something  -  dining,  attraction,  place  or 
activity  - for Carrie's birthday. Sometimes we had been disappointed 
with  a  mediocre  day,  but more often than not we did have the best 
day  of  our  vacation.   And it became a family tradition.  With our 
daughters  now  on  their  own,  it was just we two and Dave.  We had 
planned  on the "best" snorkel of the vacation - Waterlemon Cay - and 
again, we were not disappointed!  

The  day  was sunny and bright.  The flat emerald and baby blue water 
shimmered  against  the  olive  brown  hillsides,  and  promised good 
snorkeling.   We ate breakfast at the apartment, as on most days.  We 
had  brought a supply of  single portion cereals in zip-loc bags, and 
with  the  excellent  muffins  from  the  Starfish Market they made a 
satisfying  breakfast.   Disposable paper plates and bowls made clean 
up  painless.   We also brought a supply of our personal coffee blend 
(shouldn't  start  the  day  without  it) in a large zip-loc, so were 
able to enjoy our favorite jet fuel every morning.

David  elected  to  stay  at the villa.  His wrist was still swollen.  
He  was  going  to watch television and read again.  So the two of us 
were  alone  on  Carrie's  birthday for the first time in many years.  
We  drove  up  the  North  Shore  Road  until  it  ended, at Annaberg 
Plantation.   The  trail  head  to  Waterlemon Beach is located here, 
where  we parked and  collected our snorkel gear, backpacks and beach 
chairs.   A  flat  trail hugs the shoreline of Leinster Bay, which is 
very  shallow  by  the  shoreline,  where  the  coral comes to within 
inches  of  the  surface.   After  a  30-minute  hike  we  arrived at 
Waterlemon Beach.  

The  beach  itself  was  uncrowded, with perhaps twenty people in the 
shade  of  the abundant sea grape trees on the shore.  Another twenty 
or  so  were  clustered  near  the rocky point at the east end of the 
bay,  where  it  lies  closest to Waterlemon Cay, about 0.1 miles off 
the  point.   We  chose  a  sea  grape tree on the beach, dropped our 
equipment  in  the shade, pulled on our snorkel gear and explored the 
bay.   Although  usually  referred  to  as  Waterlemon  Bay,  this is 
actually  the  east  end of Leinster Bay.  The water was 30 feet deep 
here,  with a number of turtles and eagle rays.  Many of the rays had 
remora  attached  in  a symbiotic relationship.  As at Salt Pond Bay, 
most  of  the  larger  life  forms  would be found around the mooring 
buoys.   We  snorkeled  directly  across  the  bay to Waterlemon Cay, 
about  a  0.2 mile snorkel over a sandy bottom and against a moderate 
current.   It  was  well worth the trip.  The western side of the Cay 
is  literally  an  octopuses  garden - alive with forests of hard and 
soft  corals in pristine condition, teeming with schools of amber and 
horse  eye  jacks,  wrasses,  tangs,  angels,  groupers, puffers, and 
aquatic  life  so  densely  concentrated  that  it was overwhelmingly 
beautiful.   Nurse sharks, rays, turtles, school masters, 30 inch sea 
bass  and  barracudas  flashed  silver  against  the  moving walls of 
teeming  smaller  fish  to  produce  a  true  cacophony of colors. We 
snorkeled  the  west  side  and stopped at the small beach facing the 
island  so  Carrie  could  catch  her breath.  I had to see more, and 
returned  to the west side, and around the northern point of the Cay, 
entranced.   This  was  the  ultimate  snorkeling  adventure  - truly 
better  than  any  dive  I  have ever experienced.  I returned to the 
small  beach  to  find Carrie pacing worriedly.  I had been gone, she 
told  me,  for  almost  an hour, during which time it had rained in a 
drenching  cloudburst.   I  was  unaware  of  both  the  time and the 
weather, so mesmerizing was the incredible panorama below. 

We  arrived  back at MTV in a euphoric reverie, still enthralled with 
the  experience  at  Waterlemon.  During our fresh water rinse in the 
small  pool,  we chatted with the couple from Northern California who 
had  arrived  the  day before.  They wanted to talk country clubs, so 
we  left  them  in  the  company of Gerry and his favorite drink, the 
"painkiller".   We  decided  to  go  back to the Lime Inn for dinner.  
The  owner,  Jack,  recognized  us  immediately and sneaked us past a 
fairly  long  line  to  a  great open air table, in honor of Carrie's 
birthday.   The  food  was great and typically inexpensive (about $80 
for  three  of  us) for St. John.  Cruz Bay was somewhat more crowded 
tonight,  due  to  the  arrival  of   tourists whose flights had been 
delayed since the eruption of Montserrat.

Back  at  the  villa,  the  mosquitoes  had become downright vicious.  
Despite  bringing  Deep Woods Off we still had welt size bites across 
all  exposed parts.  The heat and humidity had become oppressive, and 
shortly  overwhelmed  the  best efforts of the small air conditioner.  
The  pool  became  our  solace  where we could stay cool and keep our 
submerged  bodies  bite-free.  Dave still wasn't quite his usual good 
natured  self.   We  remarked  that he seemed a little "shocky" since 
his  fall,  with  little  or no appetite, kind of despondent, and had 
not  been  out  of  the  villa, except to walk to Cruz Bay, since the 
fall.   We determined to get him out and about tomorrow, so asked him 
where he wanted to go.  "Cinnamon, of course"!  He actually smiled!

Thursday 8/2
Cinnamon Bay

If  you  ever want a place to float and dream, Cinnamon Bay in August 
can't  be  beat.  With it's blue gin-clear water contrasting with the 
white  sand,  the  puffy  silver clouds and the pale blue sky, it's a 
glimpse  of paradise that is one of life's peaks.  David got over his 
cabin  fever fast.  At first sulky, he began gently testing his wrist 
and  deemed  it  fit to hang in the water while he snorkeled.  He was 
in  for  just  a  few minutes before he was off to the archaeological 
dig  to  find his new girlfriend.  We snorkeled the entire bay, first 
west  then  east,  against a moderate current, and fried a bit in the 
meantime.   I always wear a light tee shirt while snorkeling.  I am a 
big  fan of the sun but not so much a fan of sunburn.  Carrie was not 
so  inclined,  and paid for it more so than I later, although we both 
suffered  from badly burned calves.  The snorkeling was adequate.  We 
still  had  the  clear  visions  of  Waterlemon  Cay,  so the average 
snorkeling  along  Cinnamon  Bay  became sparse in comparison.  I was 
aware  that I was too burned to swim to Cinnamon Cay again, so sat in 
the  shade  and read a novel.  After returning home for a fresh water 
rinse  in  the pool and a forbidden shower for my legs, we had a very 
good  meal at the Fish Trap.  We all concluded that this was the best 
restaurant   in  Cruz  Bay,  for  its  value,  friendly  service  and 
consistently good food.

Martha  departed  suddenly,  after  learning that her father, back on 
the mainland, was sick.  Gerry was left to his own devices.


Friday 8/3
Haulover Bay
Lameshur Bay

There  was  no  sign  of Gerry in the morning.  We finally got Denzil 
Clyne  Rentals  to  agree to repair our headlight and brakes.  It had 
only  been eight days; average for 'island time'.  The day was partly 
sunny, but as we drove (sometimes vertically) across the island, 
  rain  showers  came and went.  We passed through Coral Bay and east 
past  the Brown Bay trailhead, then on to the East End.  We went over 
a  peninsula,  with  bays to both the right and left, then up a steep 
hill  and  down  the  other  side, only to find a dead end .  Turning 
around,  we noticed a message written in red spray paint on the right 
side  of the road:  STOP MON STAY LEFT!  Back over the hill, we found 
a  wide  sandy shoulder on the west side of the peninsula, and a path 
leading  in to some light brush on the east side of the road.  A herd 
of  six  goats  munched  away  oblivious to us as we left the car and 
walked  about a hundred yards down the path, past a small pond and on 
to  a  rocky  beach.  The British Virgins seemed within arms reach to 
the  west  across choppy Drake's Passage.  Snorkeling Haulover Bay is 
akin  to  snorkeling  Waterlemon  Cay, except without the swim to get 
there.   After entering the water the rocky beach immediately becomes 
a  hard  coral shelf that drops off within yards to a depth of twenty 
feet.   Most  striking are the forests of Gorgonian fan coral - solid 
structures  of  the  utmost  delicacy,  in vivid hues of purple.  The 
reef,  which extends a half mile north of the beach entry, plunges to 
fifty   feet  at  points  before  leveling  off  to  a  sand  bottom.  
Snorkeling  over  its 200 foot wide undulating topography, rising and 
plunging  from  through  to  peak,  put me in mind of flying over the 
Rocky  Mountains  in  miniature.   In  this  case  the  mountains and 
valleys  sheltered  masses  of  sea  life.   Funnels  of  silver fish 
shimmered  among  the  Gorgonian fans and hard corals in a rainbow of 
colors,  soft coral, anemones, fire coral, sea urchins and schools of 
shrimp.   As  if  punctuating  that backdrop, curious sergeant majors 
and  blue  tang darted among us as a variety of  colorful fish passed 
below.    Too  soon,  it  began  to rain in a deluge that blurred the 
water  and  felt like cold sleet on our backs.  The current runs from 
north  to  south,  so  it  was an easy float to get back to the entry 
point.   By  the  time  we  climbed  out over the coral shelf  it had 
stopped  raining.   We  dried off, packed the gear and headed back to 
the  car, destined for Lameshur Bay.  By the time we were back on the 
road to Coral Bay, the sun was shining again.

Lameshur  Bay  is  fairly  deserted  due to the steep and rutted dirt 
road  that leads there.  Because it's on the south side of the island 
and  sheltered  by  the mountains, it has shade all day and the water 
is  usually  smooth  here  even  when  it's  rough on the North side.  
Donkeys  frequent this beach and tend to claim the shadiest spots for 
themselves  as  they  sleep  away  the  day.   There  are  no  public 
facilities  here,  but  there  are barbeque grills and picnic tables.  
Snorkeling  is  world class here, but due to the distance of the swim 
required  and  the  strong  currents,  it should only be attempted by 
advanced  and  confident snorkelers.   Snorkeling is best to the west 
side  of  the bay, where the seascape is a dramatic vista of canyons, 
rooms,  caves,  huge  coral  heads  and boulders.  Around the western 
point  of  Lameshur  Bay  lies Eurpoa Bay.  Here incredible towers of 
coral,  plunging  to  deep  valleys,  and   filled with all sorts and 
colors  of  soft  corals  overlaid by vast schools of reef fish, make 
the  swim  around  the  point  and  against  the  current worthwhile.  
Barracudas,  sea  turtles, nurse shark and jewfish abounded.  We were 
again  amazed,  as we had been earlier at Haulover Bay and Waterlemon 
Cay  before  that.   Only  the  rain, which finally arrived in force, 
drove  us  out of the water and in to the car.  Dinner this night was 
at the Rolling Pin, which had average Italian food and pizza.  

Saturday 8/4
Frances Bay

We  had  heard so much about Frances Bay, on the North shore, that we 
decided  to  give  it a try and at the same time look at the ruins of 
Annaberg  Plantation,  which  is  adjacent  to  Frances.   The  ruins 
provide  good  insight as to what life on the islands was like in the 
1700s,  when sugar was king and slave labor made it profitable.  Only 
the  foundations  and  a  few walls exist today, but the Park Service 
has  gone  to  great  lengths  to  put up signs identifying different 
parts  of  the  plantation  and  describing the sugar making process.  
The  views of the British Virgin Islands from this location are truly 
incredible,  and  this  is  one of the best spots on the island for a 
"Kodak moment".

Frances  Bay,  down  the road from Annaberg Plantation, has plenty of 
parking  and  public  toilets.   It was the most crowded beach we had 
seen   on   St.   John   aside   from   Trunk  Bay.   Snorkeling  was 
disappointing;  after hearing so much about the abundance of sea life 
there,  we  observed only the usual sergeant majors and grunts - none 
of  the  proliferation  of  life  that  we were expecting.  The right 
(east)  side of the bay consists largely of dead or dying coral.  The 
left  (west)  side  is somewhat healthier.  We did observe four large 
turtles  with  remora  in  deep water at the center of the bay, and a 
spotted  Moray  eel.   However,  the  water  was cloudy with a lot of 
plankton  in  suspension,  so  others may find better snorkeling at a 
different  time.  A strong current sweeps from the shore directly out 
to  sea  so  care  is  recommended in going out (seaward) as you will 
have  to  fight  that strong current to come back to shore.  Overall, 
Frances  Bay  is  a very pretty place with a good, wide, clean beach, 
but disappointing in general for us because of the poor snorkeling.

On  the  way  back from Frances Bay we stopped  at Jumby Beach on the 
North  Shore  road.   This  is  generally  inaccessible  as it's only 
served  by  four parking spots.  We weren't there long before we were 
driven  off by hordes of mosquitoes that seem to infest the plentiful 
piles of sea weed on the beach.

Dinner was again at the Lime Inn, and as usual it was excellent.

Sunday 8/5
Lameshur Bay

This  was  our  last  day  on  the island, so we decided to return to 
Lameshur  Bay,  first  dropping Dave off at Cinnamon Bay to visit the 
archaeological  dig.   We  had  shade  all  day,  a lot of snorkeling 
around  the  healthy  coral  growth, and good relaxing.  Lameshur Bay 
was  deserted except for a couple of yachts at anchor, and we found a 
number  of  Southern stingrays, turtles and many very large sea stars 
around  the  anchor  buoys.  After dinner at the Fish Trap, we packed 
our  bags  and  vowed  to  come  back  again  to  this  true American 
Paradise.

November, 2001

Our  intent  to  return  came  more  quickly  than  we  had  thought.  
Following   the   terrorist   attacks  of  9/11/01  we  came  to  the 
realization  that  life is just too short to be spent on the drudgery 
of  making  money  grow.   We  returned in November, 2001, for a real 
estate  expedition, finally settling on a beautiful house overlooking 
Rendezvous  Bay.   We  went  to  every corner of the island and got a 
better  appreciation  of  life  on St. John, versus a vacation on St. 
John.   The  island  was  very  quiet with next to no tourism, and it 
rained  almost the entire time we were there (and we didn't bring the 
umbrella!).   We  stayed at the Westin St. John, which we found to be 
typical  of  a stateside four walls / TV / A/C hotel.  The food there 
was  expensive  but  not  remarkable.  The Westin's beach is good for 
sunning  but  not  for  snorkeling.  We did manage to eat at both the 
Fish  Trap  and  the  Lime  Inn, where Jack, the owner, remembered us 
immediately.   Once  we  sell our house in the States we'll be off to 
live  there,  although it will still be necessary to work off-island.  


For  an  excellent overview of what's involved in moving to St. John, 
and  of  island  life  overall,  we recommend "Desiring Paradise", by 
Karin  W. Schlesinger.  For good detail about the various beaches and 
trails  of  St.  John,  "St.  John  Off  the Beaten Track", by Gerald 
Singer, is a must read.


Recommendations

The Best St. John Snorkeling:

1. Waterlemon Cay
2. Lameshur Bay
3. Haulover Bay
4. Trunk Bay
5. Frank Bay

The Best St. John Beaches:

1. Cinnamon Bay 
2. Trunk Bay 
3. Lameshur Bay 
4. Solomon Bay 
5. Hawksnest Beach

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