Monday, May 17, 2010

Annaberg Plantation, St. John

In March, during our visit to St. John, we spent several days in Leinster Bay.  Located on the north side of the island, Leinster is a beautiful bay with great snorkeling.  During our visit we hiked the shoreline trail to the Annaberg Plantation ruins, an easy walk of about a mile.  Annaberg Plantation was an estate and mill built in the 1780's.  The windmill tower of the sugar mill, slave quarters, vats for making molasses and rum, storage rooms and part of a dungeon are still visible.

The buildings were constructed with ship's ballast, stone and coral.  The beautiful patterns of the coral are visible in these bricks.

While walking through the grounds we spotted this beauty, an American Kestrel.

There's a small garden on the grounds where we saw sugar cane, papaya, banana, limes, herbs and more.  The garden is there to educate the school children who come on field trips as well as the adults who visit.  The gardener gave us some sugar cane to chew on, always a favorite treat!

East from the anchorage is a short trail up the hill to the ruins of a house.  What a spectacular view!

If time permits, we'll visit St. John again on our way east.  We love the anchorages, the snorkeling and the hiking trails.  It's one of the prettiest places in the Caribbean! 

The weather in the Virgin Islands has been windy (15-20 knots out of the east) with some rain so we are waiting for some improvement before we head out.  It looks like conditions will improve next weekend.  We are headed east to St. Martin and then south through the islands to Grenada for hurricane season.  The hurricane predictions are for an active year but it's the locals who we've been listening to.  Several people have said that it could be a bad year because of the warm water temperature, a factor in hurricane development.  A friend told us she talked to a scuba diver who said that the water is very warm even at a depth of 60 feet.  We are feeling like we should get moving!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

St. Thomas Thoughts

I know there are some who are surprised that we’ve spent 2 months in St. Thomas. Quite frankly, no one is more surprised then us! Don’t get me wrong, we love the Virgin Islands. Our first visit was 30 years ago on our honeymoon. Over the years we’ve visited many times staying for a few days at the end of a sailboat charter or sometimes just passing through on our way to other islands. When we came through 2 years ago on Merengue we only stayed in St. Thomas for a few days, anxious to get farther down the island chain. Perhaps that’s why when rigging problems and dental appointments kept us here for so long this time, we found we were quite content to stay. I have found that after 4 trips up and down the windward and leeward islands I feel less inclined to have to keep moving. I kind of like living in one place for awhile.

So what have we been doing all this time? Well, lots of things and very little. Days fly by with boat chores and reading, running errands and gazing at the water. Hours passed yesterday with us just watching the fish feeding under our boat and the birds that were attracted by all the splashing! We’ve been playing bocce ball on the beach with our friends on Sea Lion and Where II and getting together for dinner or dominoes. It’s all good!
St. Thomas is different then the other Caribbean islands. As a U.S. territory it is certainly “Americanized”, for better or worse. For example, after 2 years “down-island” it was a rude awakening to be hit by all the rules and regulations. When we crossed from St. Martin to St. John we anchored in Cruz Bay to clear customs. We barely had the hook down when the Park Ranger boat pulled up alongside and told us we could only anchor there for up to 3 hours, did we know that? Yes, sir, we see the sign stating that, we are just going in to clear customs. Well, where are you headed and then did you know you must take (and pay for) a mooring in the National Park? Yes sir, we have been here before, we understand. I realize they are just doing their job educating people on the use of the park and I really don’t mind but it did feel very “regulated” after being in the other islands. That was followed by our trip to customs where we were asked if we had any meats, fruits or vegetables on board and told not to dispose of any of those things while in the Virgins. They seemed particularly concerned about the meat because it might have come from Europe. Haven’t they heard that the U.S. has it’s own documented cases of Mad Cow? Believe me, I understand their caution. I am old enough to remember when many of the streets in my home town where lined with majestic Elm trees. Then a freighter coming from Europe brought Dutch Elm disease and the beautiful Elms are all gone. The Great Lakes are dealing with a number of invasive species brought by boat so the concerns are real. Still, it left us with a Toto, we must be back in Kansas again feeling!

The accents in St. Thomas are Caribbean but also from New York, the Midwest and the south, everywhere across the United States. You can shop at Home Depot and K Mart and if you want to, eat at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway and Hooter’s. I had a hard time finding the vegetable market but the open-air market in Charlotte Amalie sells designer handbag knockoffs. I find myself thinking that you have to go farther south to find the “real Caribbean” but that’s ridiculous. This is the Caribbean, just a different version of it. St. Thomas is very different then say, Dominica which is very different from Martinique which is different then Grenada. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’ve only been to St. Thomas you’ve only seen one aspect of the Caribbean. A very Americanized version. That has been nice for us in many ways. But don’t make this your only stop in the Caribbean because you’ll be missing so much!

(Above is a 360 degree view of Brewer's Bay and left, yesterdays rainbow.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

St. Thomas Carnival 2010

Bacchanal Again in 2010!

This is the theme for the 2010 St. Thomas Carnival.
According to Webster's Dictionary Bacchanal is "a drunken orgy."  I going to guess that through the years the word Bacchanal has become synonymous with carnival and is meant to mean a great party but then who am I to argue with Webster's.

The Virgin Islands loves pageants and the first part of the parade was all Kings, Queens and Princesses.
This is the 2010 Carnival Queen.

2010 Miss Photogenic

Miss Virgin Islands

Miss St. Croix High School

Looking a little bored.
The problem with this parade is that there were long gaps between the groups, sometimes as long as 15 minutes.  There was a definite American feel to the festivities.  People arrived early to stake out a spot along the parade route setting up chairs, umbrellas, coolers, even some barbecue grills.  I guess they knew about the long delays and were making themselves comfortable for the day. 
Double-deck trucks carried steel drum bands.
This young group proudly displayed their creed.

Mocko Jumbie Stilt Walkers are a favorite.

By this time we were starting to feel like this lady, a little tired of waiting.  What we saw was great but 4 hours of standing in the hot sun was starting to take it's toll.  We called it quits.  Later that night we were treated to a fabulous fireworks display over Charlotte Amalie Harbor.