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Koukla Charters at www.sailkoukla.com

It’s been a year since we’ve been back, and Koukla is all spiffed up and now available for day or overnight charters out of Rockland, Maine

For anyone looking for info about charters, day sails, or overnights, go to www.sailkoukla.com

This page is the blog of the trip to the Caribbean aboard Koukla from 2013 – 2014

Northern Grenadines / Bequia

Hello faithful readers, yes we are still posting about the islands that we never had a chance to post about during the trip.

After leaving the Tobago Cays, we briefly stopped at Canouan, which was notable for being not ‘touristy,’ but really wasn’t very interesting, so lets move on to the main attraction of this post and our last stop in the Grenadines, Bequia.

The harbor on Bequia

The harbor on Bequia

We had heard good things about Bequia from many cruisers and we were all looking forward to getting there, but we didn’t really know much about it. Ultimately, what made Bequia special wasn’t any particularly amazing attractions, but just the pleasantness of everything: a nice-sized town, good restaurants, not too crowded or built up, and most important, a popular cruising destination where we reunited with friends we’d made elsewhere. It just had the feeling of the perfect island community.

Whaling is traditional on Bequia, an a limited number are still caught each year. Thus, the whaleboner restaurant

Whaling is traditional on Bequia, and a limited number are still caught each year using traditional methods. Thus, the decor at the whaleboner restaurant.

There was a unique grocery / provisioning store with odds and ends shoved into ever nook and cranny. They make their own chocolate croissants there, which were ultimately the best of the trip (even better than the French islands). After trying them, Ted put in a special order for a dozen to pick up the next day, and informed the crew that four were for himself, and we could figure out how to divide up the other eight.

One neat attraction on Bequia is Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary on the other side of the island. We decided to walk the couple of miles over to go check it out. On the way we saw many great vistas and beaches along the northern shore.

Isaac pets a turtle

Isaac pets a turtle

The turtle sanctuary sprang out of decades of effort and the dedication / obsession of one man without any public funding. His idea was to gather turtle eggs from the beaches and raise the turtles in captivity for the several years it takes them to reach maturity, and then release them to the ocean. This avoids the high-mortality period when the turtles are small and have many predators.

He has raised and released thousands of turtles over the years and the operation has grown into a small warehouse full of pools of different aged turtles. There isn’t much in the way of tracking or follow-up after he releases them, so it is hard to know for sure the impact, but regardless it was neat to hear the guy’s story about how he has dedicated his life to raising turtles. Note that these are a different species than we saw in the Tobago Cays (Hawksbill vs. Green). The hawksbill turtles raised at the sanctuary are critically endangered, because they were formerly harvested for tortoiseshell.

So, everything is going great on Bequia, it sure is nice here… *CRASH* in the middle of the night. Everyone scrambling up on deck, in pajamas, a couple hours before dawn, a light rain is falling, and a boat is smashed t-bone style across our bow, our bowsprit broken through their railing.

“IS THERE ANYONE ON THIS BOAT!” shouts Horatio. It takes time for them to appear, dazed, unhelpful, one just curled up and clutching his head. I guess it was up to us. Their boat’s weight in the wind and current pushed us tight on our anchor, the chain was straining and we couldn’t back up. Danica and Horatio jumped in the dingy, maneuvered into position against their port side, and let loose with the 25 hp outboard motor. They expertly push the other boat straight sideways, getting them off without getting our bowsprit any more tangled up in their railing or rig.

Oddly, their boat then began to drift slowly out towards the sea. Ted decided that we better go find out their name for insurance. And so he and I (Isaac) got in the inflatable and chased them out of the harbor. The dingy is bouncing along as we’re approaching more open waters, it is still dark beyond the range of our flashlights, and with the misty rain and lack of clothes, cold. Their name is hidden behind a swim platform, and they yell at us to come back tomorrow. It was pretty odd, so we wrote down their hull number and left.

While on Bequia Horatio carved a new bit out of a piece of lumber. Pretty good!

While on Bequia Horatio created a new cleat out of a piece of lumber. Pretty good!

Ultimately everything turned out okay. They hadn’t really been running away… we later learned they were all hungover (which is why they were no use during the crisis), and I still don’t really understand why they had seemed to be leaving, but they eventually came back and re-anchored. Though part of their rail was destroyed, Koukla sustained no real damage. But one thing we did come away with was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.

The view on the walk to the turtle sanctionary

The view on the walk to the turtle sanctuary

Southern Grenadies

Hello faithful blog followers. As you probably know we’ve been back in the US for some time now. There are a few places we never got to in our blog, so we will roll-out some belated posts to fill you in on the missing islands.

Happy Island

Happy Island

In the Caribbean, the ocean is constantly changing from one vivid shade of turquoise to aquamarine, to purply shades of dark blue in deep open waters.  I thought I had seen every shade possible until our final approach to Union Island, the southernmost island in the Grenadines chain.  As we entered the harbor, the ocean turned an unbelievable shade of vivid, electric blue.  It was like the ocean was glowing.

Kite surfers doing tricks right in front of us

Kite surfers doing tricks right in front of us

We anchored in between two coral reefs, one of which had a tiny manmade island on it, home to a bar called Happy Island. That evening we sipped drinks there and watched the harbor fill up with acrobatic kite surfers, doing tricks right in front of us. One of the kit surfers placed a GoPro in a dinghy to video their arial tricks, so we had a front row view.

The next day we were off to another island–Mayreau. It was such a short sail from Union Island to Mayreau that even though Scott grabbed a banana right after we got the sails up, he hadn’t finished eating it before dad gave the order to start flaking down halyards.

Once the anchor was down, it was off to the beach. Isaac and I headed off to explore the island, fully prepared with our bathing suits on under our clothes.

Off we went up a steep cement road, lined with ramshackle houses and Rastafarian eating establishments. One of these was completely and artfully covered with nautical bric-a-brack and other assorted flotsam and jetsam. We continued up the hill to enjoy the scenic overlook. The view was spectacular. Nothing but white sand, green palms, and ocean in various shades of turquoise as far as the eye could see.

The Tobago Cays as seen from Mayreau

The Tobago Cays as seen from Mayreau

On we pressed, in search of Salt Whistle Bay. When we arrived more than a little hot and sweaty, the bay did not disappoint. This place was picture perfect. The water was swimming pool calm, clear as glass, and refreshingly cool yet still pleasantly warm. We spent a glorious afternoon in relative solitude floating around and lazing on the beach.

Salt Whistle Bay

Salt Whistle Bay

After we were good and pruney we headed back to Saline Bay, where everyone else was swimming and then back to Koukla. That evening, we invited aboard one of our neighbors who we had seen off and on throughout the trip. The swiss gentleman was single-handing a specially designed yacht so he could comfortably sail himself around the world. But we thought he might like some company, so we invited him over.

Danica in a palm tree "forest" near Salt Whistle Bay

Danica in a palm tree “forest” near Salt Whistle Bay

To look at him and his boat, it would seem like he has it all. But he had a rather sad tale. He had basically just realized his dream–to sail his own boat around the world, but it was costing him in other ways. He had the misfortune of falling in love with a woman who was very much not a sailor. And now he must choose between the love of his life and the life he loves. Hearing his story, I think we all felt incredibly fortunate that we did not have to make such terrible decisions, and had been able to take our adventurous, reasonably seasickness-resistant significant others out on this amazing voyage. We were truly the ones who had it all.

But we also had rather a lot to thank this man for. The next island in the grenadines, or rather collection of islands, was the Tobago Cays. We were all itching to go there and visit the sea turtle sanctuary located there, except for the captain, who thought it would be too tight a spot for Koukla and not worthwhile. Thankfully, after talking to this man who’d just been there, he was convinced otherwise. So next stop, Tobago Cays!

The pristine sandy atolls of the Tobago Cays

The pristine sandy atolls of the Tobago Cays

As they were described to us, the Tobago Cays are what people picture when they think of the Caribbean–perfect sandy beaches, half a dozen different shades of turquoise, and palm trees. With no settlements, they are the classic image of island paradise. The Tobago Cays are so close to Mayreau we didn’t even bother putting up the sails, and just motored over. As soon as Koukla was settled on her anchor and the standard afternoon rain shower had passed, we hopped in the dinghy to head to the turtle sanctuary, snorkles in hand.

Just so that you know, snorkeling with wild sea turtles in the sanctuary is not only legal, but incredibly popular. The tiny coves were jam packed with boats. It was amazing how many people were in such a remote location. I guess island paradise attracts a crowd.

Snorkeling with sea turtles in the Tobago Cays is pretty high on the list of amazing things we did on the trip. It was incredibly peaceful, almost surreal, watching these graceful creatures munching sea grass and swimming around. The way they moved, it almost looked like they were flying. But it was almost a bit eerie how close you can get to them.

Along with the turtles, we saw a couple of huge manta rays. Isaac and I were swimming back to shore at a decent clip, and all of a sudden there’s this huge ray right in front of us, and we had to suddenly put on the breaks and try to swim backwards, which is a bit tricky. Ever since the whole Steve Irwin incident, I think people have had a much more healthy respect/fear of manta rays, myself very much included.

The solitude of the Tobago Cays

The solitude of the Tobago Cays… boat access only

That evening we enjoyed the significant lack of light pollution thanks to the uninhabited islands we were anchored next to. Isaac had been studying our field guide and had learned to identify several constellations, and we could see a good portion of the Milky Way. We spent quite a while laying down on top of he doghouse enjoying the sights and sounds of that balmy night.

Grenada

The next island-nation south of St. Lucia is St. Vincent & the Grenadines. However, St. Vincent itself (not the Grenadines) has a bad reputation among the cruising community, for both being unsafe and uninteresting, so we made the jump all the way down to Grenada.

Going all the way back to New Jersey, our overnight passages have been nothing but trouble, and sure enough, it was another sleepless night of storm-tossed seas… just kidding, this time it was actually gentle and pleasant. Danica and I woke for our 8 am watch to the calm and islet-studded waters of the Grenadines archipelago. The southernmost of the Grenadines happened to end up under Grenada’s jurisdiction, and so our first destination was actually the island of Carriacou. Carriacou wasn’t much, so we soon sailed the rest of the way down to Grenada’s southern coast.

The flag of Grenada. Note the nutmeg.

The flag of Grenada. Note the nutmeg.

The most memorable thing from Grenada was an excellent, daylong taxi tour, which I think the rest of the crew would agree, was our best tour of the trip. But first, you should know that Grenada is famous for its nutmeg. It is their number one commodity. Beyond just nutmeg and mace (a second spice from the same plant, made from fibers around the nutmeg), on the island they make use of every part of the nutmeg. The nutmeg’s fruit is turned into nutmeg syrup, nutmeg jelly and jam, and even used to sweeten barbeque sauce. Nutmeg husks are used like woodchips to cover walkways. Many billboards advertised medicinal products made from nutmeg, called Nut-Med (supposed to ease joint pain). There is a nutmeg on the Grenadian flag.

The demonstration at the spice estate.

The demonstration at the spice estate.

So, now you know why our first destination, and one of Grenada’s main tourist draws, is going to visit a spice estate. The estate we visited did not let you see the actual fields, but they have a showroom where demonstrations are given of the spices they grow. In addition to nutmeg / mace, they grow bayrum, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, and anise. The demonstration showed us the spices in their raw form, including a very strongly scented branch of cinnamon wood.

After the spice estate, we drove to the northern tip of Grenada, a cliff known as Carib’s Leap. It was here that after losing in their war against the French, the remaining Carib Indians all leapt to their deaths rather than be captured.

Our guide presenting the freshly harvested cocoa pod

The tour guide presenting the freshly harvested cocoa pod

Next up was the Belmont Estate. The previous spice estate produced cocoa, but only in the raw form. Belmont is the only chocolate-producing facility in Grenada. An extremely energetic tour guide took us out to the orchard, where mango and citrus fertilize the trees to flavor the cocoa. He then climbed a tree and broke open a cocoa pod for us to try the raw seeds, still covered in white pulp. The taste was very strong, but of fruit and citrus, not chocolaty at all. Was this from their special fruit fertilizers? Since this was our first taste of raw cocoa, it’s hard to say.

Cocoa drying in a greenhouse. You can't tell from the photo, but it was suffocatingly hot in there.

Cocoa drying in a greenhouse. You can’t tell from the photo, but it was suffocatingly hot in there.

The tour continued through the various stages of chocolate production, which includes a long fermentation in wooden bins covered with burlap and palm leaves, then drying in the sun or greenhouses, and finally roasting. The cocoa beans can then be sold, or turned into chocolate right there (by grinding and mixing with other ingredients). At the end we were served strongly spiced Grenadian hot chocolate. It was delicious.

Belmont Estate also had goats

Belmont Estate also had goats

After a buffet-type lunch where we were able to try “oil down,” a local dish, we went to a very unique attraction: an airplane graveyard. First, some background. In 1979, Maurice Bishop came to power in Grenada through a coup. In 1983, other members of his party, favoring more radical policies, seized power and executed him. The US then invaded, the main reasons given being protecting US students at the medical school and concern about Cuban participation in construction of a new airstrip. Ultimately the country returned to the pre-1979 system of democratic government. How do Grenadians feel about this? I suspect he would avoid saying anything disagreeable to customers, but according to our taxi driver Grenadians had “loved Maurice Bishop,” so after his execution they were in favor of anything that would get rid of the people responsible, and so most people view the invasion positively.

Cuban planes left to deteriorate in the fields

Cuban planes left to deteriorate in the fields

A strange result of all this was that, at the time of the US invasion, a couple of Cuban airplanes were stationed in Grenada. Afterwards they were not allowed to leave, and left to molder away in a field outside of the old airstrip. There they still sit, surrounded by goats and other animals that local farmers graze on the land. They are not fenced off in any way, so we were able to go right up and examine the exposed engines and broken dashboards.

Molly at Annaberg Falls

Molly at Annaberg Falls

Finally, we drove back towards the boat, but only after first passing through the forested center of the island. This offered us some good views, but unfortunately no sight of monkeys, which are usually around earlier in the morning. There was also a neat waterfall just a short walk off of the roadside, which also includes a small garden, and a group of guys that wanted us to pay them to jump off the waterfall. To cap off the excellent tour, our driver agreed to swing by a grocery store so we could use his van to load up on provisions to bring back to the boat.

Walking through the tunnel

Walking through the tunnel

Other than the tour, we did visit the capital city of St. George’s, which has an enormous Saturday market with a large variety of produce and spices for sale. Also in town, a stone tunnel runs under a hill to connect the waterfront to the rest the city. It is just big enough for one lane of traffic and one lane of pedestrians, nervously squeezing against the wall to stay out of the way of the cars.

We had enjoyed our visit to Grenada, especially the island tour, but it was soon time to leave. As we rounded the ‘toe’ of the vaguely boot-shaped island, after many months of cruising, we turned north. We still had a few more places to visit, but we had officially reached our southernmost point and were now headed in the direction of home.

But wait, there was one other attraction to see before we left Grenada. Halfway up the coast is a sunken sculpture garden for snorkeling and diving. We tied up to a mooring, dingied over and went snorkeling around the fish and statues. Conditions were not ideal (the water was slightly murky), but it was still pretty cool, and definitely worth stopping for.

Fish and sculptures

Fish and sculptures

Martinique

St. Pierre, beneath the volcano

St. Pierre, beneath the volcano

After leaving Dominica, our next stop was Martinique, a French island. The northern harbor on the island is St. Pierre, the capital of the island until 1902. In that year, the nearby volcano Mt. Pelee (which looms over the landscape just outside of town) erupted and wiped out nearly the city’s entire population of 30,000 people. To this day, it is the deadliest volcanic eruption since Krakatoa.

St. Pierre, though no longer the capital, was rebuilt into a mid-sized town. We found it to be a nice place to stay due to the many attractions in walking distance. For one, the beaches were simply packed full of seaglass of all varieties and colors, extending into unusual things such as a fair amount of sea-smoothed ceramic tiles (remnants of the former city?), and even some seaglass marbles.

A short but steep walk south of town takes one to an excellent viewpoint of the harbor. At the site is a large statue of the Virgin Mary labeled ‘Notre Dame de Bon Port’ (our lady of safe harbor).

The volcano-proof cell

The volcano-proof cell

In St. Pierre, you can still go see many ruins of the disaster, including a ruined theater, several crumbling walls along the waterfront, and the wreck of nearly a dozen ships that were in harbor when the disaster struck (we didn’t actually get to see those because you need to scuba dive). Most interesting, you can also visit the jail where one of the two eruption survivors was safely confined within a thick stone, bomb shelter-like solitary cell. It is still standing. Afterwards, he joined Barnum & Bailey’s circus.

DSCN5227Finally, one day we made the longer trek to the nearby Depaz Rum Distillery. On the way up the road, the town development drops away to be replaced by rolling fields of sugar cane—as it turns out, all part of the Depaz estate. On arrival, we were met with a strange, smelly mixture of alcohol and burnt sugar. The distillery provided an excellent free self-guided walking tour of their facilities, where with very little restriction you get to see the whole factory operation. After harvesting the cane, crushers extract sugar, powered using a one-hundred-year-old steam engine (see video). The crushed cane stalks are then burnt as the heat source for the engine’s boiler, and when spent as fuel, are returned back to the cane fields as ash scattered for fertilizer.

The Eiffel Library (note: not actually called that)

The Eiffel Library (note: not actually called that)

From St. Pierre we motored down the coast to the big city of Fort-de-France. After the months of small island towns, it was quite a change to be in a congested, gridded metro again. We spent a day just wandering around and seeing the sights: a big park with many food vendors, a tiny chapel on a hill, and a library designed by Gustave Eiffel.

 

Horatio & Molly on one of the rope bridges

Horatio & Molly on one of the rope bridges

We decided the next day to take the bus to the nearby Jardin de Balata. It had many amazing landscapes of manicured plants, including some interesting cactus-like things, and tons of hummingbirds, but what really set it apart was a pathway of rope bridges suspended between the trees. It was pretty neat to go walking above the gardens below, while the bridges rocked and swayed under our feet.

But, the main thing we had come to Fort-de-France to see was Carnival. This is the festival that occurs just prior to the start of lent. It is most well known in Brazil, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but it is also a part of Caribbean culture and is celebrated on many of the islands.

One of the many marching bands (note: we have a lot more Carnival photos, but due to slow internet, we'll wait until we're back in the US to put them up)

One of the many marching bands (note: we have a lot more Carnival photos, but due to slow internet, we’ll wait until we’re back in the US to put them up)

Going to the parade on the first day, we didn’t know quite what to expect. People in costumes and feathers? Big floats on slow-moving flatbeds? It turned out there were only a couple of those, with most of the “floats” being just cars covered with paintings and designs. These would usually be packed with about a dozen guys, some riding on the roof, hood, or trunk. Every once in a while, they would all start jumping up and down and shaking the car while the driver would rev the engine to make it backfire and spit. The people in the parade were in costume, though usually without feathers. For most of the crowd Carnival-dress meant crazy neon colored clothing, with lots of mismatched pieced all piled on top of each other. For men, it frequently also meant wearing women’s clothing. Back in the parade, the thing other than painted cars that there was a lot of was marching bands, which usually included coconuts and bamboo in the percussion section.

Carnival in Martinique wasn’t really anything like what we expected or had seen before. We were all glad we got to see something that seemed to be mostly a local celebration with only little tourist influence. But, after three days of backfiring cars and marching bands, we decided that was enough parades and we didn’t need to stay through the end, so we sailed off to St. Lucia.

A perfect sunset off of Martinique

A perfect sunset off of Martinique

British Virgin Islands

Danica looking out from Jost Van Dyke

Danica looking out from Jost Van Dyke

Shortly after Molly’s parents left, we set off for the British Virgin Islands, which are are right next to the USVIs. Other than being British, the biggest difference is that they are generally smaller and less populated. However, there are a lot of them.

Our first stop was Jost Van Dyke, home of the legendary Foxy’s Bar and Restaurant, which is practically the only thing of note on the entire island.  On our first trip twelve years ago, I had particularly enjoyed meeting Foxy himself and listening to his singing and jokes.  Unfortunately, we weren’t as fortunate this time, and didn’t get to see him perform.

Trudging up Jost Van Dyke

Trudging up Jost Van Dyke

Shortly after we arrived on the tiny beach-lined harbor of Jost Van Dyke (pronounced yost), Scott, Molly, Isaac, and I set off up the steep, almost ladder-like hill overlooking the harbor.  Twelve years ago, we did this same hike, and I had remembered it as being hot, sweaty, difficult, yet rewarding.  And it was pretty much the same this time around, only perhaps a little more difficult.  The dirt road often gave way under foot, which often added up to two steps forward, one step back.  But the view of the harbor and neighboring islands was quite spectacular.  During the hike, we were constantly running into groups of goats grazing on the grassy hillside.

Sailing the BVIs

Sailing the BVIs

After we left Jost we hopped over to Great Camano Island for the night.  In our anchorage it seemed as if we’d left the Caribbean and were transported back to Maine, with it steep rocky shores and gravely beach, and peaceful evening silence with just a handful of houses visible up on the hill.  The biggest difference was the wildlife.  Flocks of pelicans flew in formation, hovering over the water.  Every so often, one would plummet into the water after a fish, splashing water far into the air.

The next morning, as we pulled up the anchor, I heard an eerie scream of someone in distress.  I looked around, saw no one in imminent danger, and realized it was the goats on shore, with their near-human-like screams.  On our way out of Great Camano Island we had to go through the narrow Camano passage. We lacked detailed charts for this area, so Scott was sent aloft to look for water color changes indicative of sudden depth changes, while Isaac, Molly, and I were on the bow doing the same.

There were several shoals in the vicinity, but we made it through intact.  That evening, we anchored in Spanish Harbor, the main town on Virgin Gorda, and treated ourselves to wifi and nachos ashore.  It had been a while since we’d had internet access, and we all pulled out laptops, iPads, smartphones, etc. and munched silently and checked emails and whatnot, completely ignoring the scenery.  Another bar patron, clearly on vacation and not suffering from internet withdrawal thought we were a comical sight and took our picture.

 

Exploring The Baths

Exploring The Baths

The next morning it was off to the Baths! Thousands of years of wind and waves had sculpted unique rock formations out of a tumble of enormous boulders from past volcanic activity to form unique landscapes and breathtaking seaside caverns and passages. Climbing and swimming around the boulders was like crawling through an excellent natural jungle gym.  Inside the dimly lit sea caves, tiny white fish would play about our waists and jump if we moved too quickly.

Hanging out on the boulders

Hanging out on the boulders

We crawled in amongst the gian boulders.  They were everywhere.  Along the sandy path, on the shorline, partially submerged, creating labyrinthine pools in the water.  We swam in amongst the giants and scrambled up among them chasing scuttling crabs.

You are not allowed to anchor at the Baths overnight, so after we were done exploring, we set off for Peter Island.  We anchored in a pleasant bay, surrounded by nothing but a few other sailboats. But, it wasn’t quite as peaceful as you’d expect, since the everpresent goats were soon bleating ashore. Shortly after we’d dropped anchor, a floating grocery store came along side us.  We had provisioned recently, so we didn’t need anything, but we couldn’t say no to ice cream bars, a rare treat for us due to our inability to keep frozen treats onboard.

As if the day hadn’t been perfect enough, that evening we were treated to some fantastic bioluminescence.  We could see comet-like streaks of light left by fish darting through the water and we splashed about with an oar, filling the ocean with starts.

The tumbled down houses of Salt Island, on a thin strip of sand between sea (left) and salt pond (right)

The tumbled down houses of Salt Island, on a thin strip of sand between sea (left) and salt pond (right)

Next up was Salt Island.  As the name implies, the island was once used to manufacture salt with the two salt ponds on the island.  The island seems to no longer be used for this purpose, as it reeks of dead fish in the high salinity ponds.  The island is now all but deserted.  The few small, ramshackle houses on shore were slowly breaking down, with doors missing and rooms empty of all but scattered debris.  The highlight of Salt Island was the snorkeling.  We were surrounded by creepy schools of squid or cuttlefish (we aren’t sure which), and Scott and Molly found an octopus atop his garbage heap of empty conch shells. But since there was little else to see on Salt Island, we quickly moved on.

Fish everywhere off of Norman Island

Fish everywhere off of Norman Island

Norman Island is almost synonymous with pirates and buried treasure.  Many locals call it Treasure Island as supposedly real pirate treasure was buried there at one point.  On our first trip, we had set out in our dinghy to snorkel the famous sea caves on Norman Island, but rough weather and outboard motor troubles prevented us.  But the 12 year wait was worth it.  It was easily the best snorkeling of the trip thus far.  We saw blue tang, small-mouthed grunt, sergeant major, rainbow parrotfish, squirrel fish, and fairy basset.  (I looked them up on our fish ID card as soon as we got back) The aptly named rainbow parrot fish was my favorite, with its bright plumage and beak-like mouth.

Entering the Norman Island sea cave

Entering the Norman Island sea cave

The sea caves themselves were a unique experience.  We’d read that it gets quite dark, so we’d come prepared with a waterproof flashlight, but even with that it was extremely creepy.  The narrow cave was quite deep–deeper than we cared to venture.  It is the sort of place you might see at the start of a horror film, where vacationers are slowly picked off by a human-fish hybrid monster.  Something very primal pricks up in dark, enclosed, natural spaces and tells you to get the heck out of there.  So we did.

After our whirlwind tour of the British Virgins, it was back to the USVIs for reprovisioning before continuing our voyage south.

St. John, Part 2

Soon after Issac’s mom left, it was my (Molly’s) parent’s turn to visit from Maine They had quite an eventful trip to get to St. John. A few days before they were supposed to arrive, my mom contacted us urgently to tell us that they had moved their flight a day sooner to avoid a massive snow storm that was going to hit New England. It’s a good thing that they did too.

Even moved ahead a day, their flight was scheduled to leave just as the first edge of the storm was reaching Boston. They got onto the plane and taxied to the runway. The pilot announced that they were third in line to take off. A plane took off. Another took off They taxied up to the start of the runway. And they sat there, and sat there. Eventually the pilot announced that a truck was coming by to deice the engines. They sat some more. Eventually they had to go the deicing station and get the rest of the plane deiced. Then it had to be deiced a second time. Finally, the weather cleared briefly and they managed to take off. The pilot announced as they reached cruising altitude, “boy, did you guys pick a good day to leave Boston!” Their flight ended up arriving well over an hour late, and they had been one of the last flights to leave from Logan airport.

My parents in St. John

My parents in St. John

Horatio and I met my parents at the airport on St. Thomas. After that, we had to take a taxi to a ferry to get to St. John where to boat was. It was too bad my parents hadn’t taken a train somewhere in there, because then they would have used pretty much all the major forms of transportation to get there.

While my parents were around, we saw some of the sights on St. John. We took a trip to the Annaburg Sugar Mill ruins, which was pretty neat. This is one of the places that Issac and Danica visited when Issac’s mom came to visit, and Issac did a pretty good job of describing it in his post, St. John, Part 1.

Me and my dad at the Petroglyphs

Me and my dad at the Petroglyphs

We did a lot of hiking too. There are some nice trails on St. John and lots of things to see on them. One trail that we went on was a boardwalk through a mangrove swamp. There were also numerous trails that went by ruined buildings, many of which weren’t even marked on the map. My dad, Horatio, and I also went on a long hike to the petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are by a freshwater pool fed by a small waterfall. They are carvings in the stone here which were made thousands of years ago by the Taino Indians in the area.

Horatio, Issac, my dad, and me playing in the sand

Horatio, Issac, my dad, and me playing in the sand

When we weren’t hiking, we usually went to the beach. St John has lots of beautiful white sand beaches with lots of nearby coral for snorkeling. One day we built a fairly elaborate drip sand sculpture. The snorkeling was great too. There is a huge number of brightly colored fish in the water, as well as lots of coral. It feels like swimming in an aquarium. My dad, who has had a large beard for at least as long as I’ve been around even thought about shaving his mustache so that the snorkeling mask would fit better. My mom vetoed that idea though, because she thought it would look weird.

It was fun having my parent’s around. We’d been in the Caribbean for over a month at that point, but getting to show it to someone else made everything seem new and that much more exciting. I’m glad that they had a chance to visit.