Archive for March, 2012

Sailing

 

So, Pete and Lindsey came all that way to see us.  What better way to see the islands, than from a boat?  Plus, once you go sailing, I think it becomes a part of you.  We were also so excited to take the kids for the first time.  We are hoping to get them in a sailing program in order to learn such a cool sport.

 

 

The Fantastic Four

 

We drove down to the American Yacht Harbor.  We walked along the wooden pier admiring the different boats parked in their slips.  We heard a shout from across the way.  That was our captain.  Rumbaba, the name of the trusty sailboat that would hold our lives in its hands so to speak, was our destination.

 

 

Rumbaba

 

After walking up to the vessel, we were relieved of our shoes.  You don’t want to trip on your flip flops at sea.  Captain Chad and his first mate, Lori, introduced themselves.  We were greeted with homemade banana nut bread and fresh fruit.  After casting off (I may have some of my nautical terms wrong, so, bear with me), we cruised out of the marina into the open body of water between St. John and St. Thomas.

 

 

Here we go....

 

Because she has lived here for over 20 years, Lori regaled us with stories and legends of the islands while also pointing out the interesting geography as we sailed into deeper waters.

 

 

Capt. Chad

 

With the wind at our backs and our cocktails full, we set off on our adventure.  Captain Chad even had the kids try their hands at steering the boat.  He would explain why we had a certain sail up and the basic premise of a sailboat.

 

 

Lindsey and Pete

 

Why would any of the adults work if you can get the kids to do all the work for free?

 

An actual sailing race

 

As we were just drifting along, we heard a horn blare.  It was the start of a sailing race to the east of us.  Capt. Chad explained that some of the boats were doing circles because there really isn’t a way to have all the boat line up at a starting line.  So, for the minutes right before the start, everyone is jockeying for the best position.  It was just fascinating.  We speculated that this could be a smaller race to prepare for the big Rolex Regatta next week.

 

 

Capt. Joaquin?

 

Joaquin just took to sailing like a duck to water.  He was so serious about his assignment.

 

 

Cameras ready

 

So, serious!

 

Since we had visited St. John the day before, we chose Christmas Cove to snorkel in, which is off of St. James.  This is supposedly where Christopher Columbus spent one Christmas while we was discovering the Virgin Islands.  How different it would have looked back then?  Just this intimidating, dense jungle with soft, white sand beaches.

 

 

Lunch Time

 

Everyone snorkeled.  Joaquin was having a little difficulty getting the grasp of snorkeling, so, Captain Chad rescued him in his small dingy and took him to shore to explore the island.  They discovered a baby sea urchin, which could easily fit in the palm of your hand.  Isabella just swam off leaving her mother behind.  They grow up so fast!

We swam along the coral reef at Christmas Cove and saw at least a dozen different variety of fish.  I was very impressed by Isabella.  She didn’t even seem frightened when a school of fish kept following us up and down the shore line.  There were several times I would try to clear my tube and would swallowing some salty sea water, and those fish would rub up against my legs or back.

 

 

Surf & Turf

 

Then it was lunch time.  Lindsey had ordered the Filet and I had ordered the Mahi, so, we could sample each dish.  We sat back with the tunes playing, the sun sparkling of off the water, and boat gently rocking.  After everyone was pleasantly plump, we jumped back in the water and continued the snorkel trek.  This time, Joaquin seemed more interested.  So, we thought we would let him try again.  He did great.  His sturdy legs kicked and propelled him through the blue water.  He would occasionally look up with excitement to mumble through his mouth piece, “Mummy, I can see the fish!”  Isabella did fantastic just like in the morning.

 

 

Sunset at Secret Harbour

 

After our very successful day sail, we pulled into the marina.  We unloaded and walked to the truck still with the bobbing sensation like we were still on the boat.  Lindsey suggested, “Since we still have our bathing suits on, let’s go to the beach!”

 

Secret Harbour, of course, what other beach would we go?

 

 

Dinner Time

 

After our hard relaxing afternoon, we drove into Red Hook, which is five minutes away from Secret Harbour and selected dinner.  Something quick, something cheap, something satisfying: Pizza!

 

 

Waiting for Pizza

 

We went inside and ordered our pizza and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Red Hook from our perfect spot on Senor Pizza’s deck.  A good time was had by all. It was definitely one for the books.

 

 

Orange Soda

The Car Ferry

 

It was very hard to know that it was my birthday today because it normally snows on my birthday!!  Which would have been very strange, if that had happened down here.

My good friend from grade school and her husband flew into St. Thomas the day before, and we planned an exciting adventure for today.

 

They like to load them in tight.

 

What better way to celebrate this occasion than to take the car ferry over to St. John and beach hop!  If you ferry your car, you do not have to pay the taxis in St. John, which can be quite expensive when you have six people.

 

St. John

 

We landed and drove our car off of the barge and winded our way up the roads and stopped at the scenic overlook to Trunk Bay.

 

 

The turn off spot

 

You can't get tired of that view.

 

We had trouble finding a parking spot at Trunk Bay and headed over to Cinnamon Bay.  Cinnamon Bay is quite beautiful, but the sand is a little coarser and little more “cinnamon” colored than Trunk.

Upon reaching the water, we noticed how rough the surf was.  This may not have been the best day to go to St. John.  The waves crashed into the beach with such force that they had caution signs on the beach that swimming may result in injury or even death!

 

 

Trunk Bay with Rough Water

Surfing Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did that stop us?  No, instead, we looked danger in the eye and said, “Bring it!”  You can’t keep our kids out of the water.  Plus, the kids enjoyed themselves since the beaches are usually quite calm.  One wave did take out Lindsey, who thought she might drown in three feet of water.  I went down once with the power of the wave knocking me into the sand and scraping my hip along as the wave tossed me up on shore.

We did make it to Trunk Bay, but the water had churned up the sand that visibility was low.  So, we didn’t snorkel.  We had a relaxing and entertaining day in St. John despite the unsettled ocean.

 

Car Ferry with Palm Trees

 

We caught the car ferry back to St. Thomas.  Because we had used the great facilities at Trunk Bay to clean up, we were able to come back into Red Hook and go to dinner.

 

 

My Birthday Party

 

We decided to do Amigos, which should be obvious by its name that it is Mexican food.  We shoveled in the chips and salsa and guacamole while recalling the days ups and downs.

 

Surrounded by friends and family

 

 

Yeah Mexican food!

 

Since we weren’t able to eat at my parents Mexican restaurant, Sundance, in my hometown, we thought it would be fitting to at least stick with that theme for dinner.  We all really enjoyed our food.  Then they tried to order me dessert, so, I could have a candle to blow out, but the waitress said that they were completely out of anything sweet.

 

 

Happy Birthday!!

 

So, we asked for the birthday candles and went back to the house to eat a chocolate cake from the grocery store, which was wonderful!!!

 

 

No cake?

 

I opened up my gifts.  It was a great day with family and friends, and it didn’t snow on my birthday!!  A first!

 

 

My present from Jonathan

 

 

 

The Ferry next to Tickles

Jonathan had suggested that we try this particular attraction.  We would catch a water ferry to Water Island and enjoy “Movie Night” on the beach.

 

We had scouted the location of the dock for the ferry to Water Island several days in advance.  After picking up the kids from school, we drove to Crown Bay, another location for the cruise ships, and found Tickles.  Tickles is the casual restaurant next to the slip for the water ferry.

 

 

The Ferry?

 

Upon seeing how small the boat was, I will start referring to it as the “water taxi.”

 

 

We are on board.

 

We loaded up with several others who seemed like they were residents of Water Island.  There were three school age kids in uniforms on the boat with us because there are no public nor private schools even on Water Island.

 

 

The Harbor

 

We cruised along and left the harbor with St. Thomas growing smaller in the rear view.  It was a nice relaxing ride that only lasted for about 15 minutes.

 

 

Leaving St. Thomas

 

 

People boarding the ferry to return to St. Thomas

 

The water taxi has scheduled pick ups and drop offs in St. Thomas and on Water Island.  That schedule can be found online and is helpful when making your plans.  As we arrived, a group of people had formed to board the taxi back to St. Thomas.

 

 

Welcome to Water Island

 

Intentionally arriving early, we set off on a little walk to get ourselves acquainted with the island, seeing that it was our first time on it.

 

 

Their PO/Library

 

We walked up from the docks to discover what may serve as their post office and makeshift library.  At least, that is what our theory is.  We also observed that many of the passengers hopped into golf carts as the main source of transportation on the island.

 

 

View of St. Thomas

 

 

Exploring Water Island

Golf Carts in the driveway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a leisurely pace, we made our way over to Honeymoon beach where the movie would be displayed.  We admired the different charm the island had to offer compared to St. Thomas or St. John.  We weren’t able to explore one of their main attractions, Fort Segarra, which is a military fort constructed by the US  during World War II.  That just means we will have to come back.

Beautiful

 

Today was the day after our 3.5 mile hike.  So, I admit.  I was a little fatigued.  I was elated to finally gaze down at our destination.

 

 

Honeymoon Beach

 

Honeymoon Beach is a short walk from the docks, but does have a pretty sharp incline at the beginning.

 

 

Cool!

 

Our plans were to grab some snacks from a local establishment and let the kids play on the beach.  A good way to turn around an ordinary Monday.

 

 

The Beach just follow the music

 

 

 

Joe's Beach Bar

Seating area

 

 

In the distance we heard Jimmy Buffet playing.

We knew that we were heading in the right direction.  We wandered up to Joe’s Beach Bar which serves several fried essentials like chicken strips and fries.  We grabbed some potato chips for the kids and some cold refreshments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3...2...1....

 

 

He is easily entertained.

 

The kids jumped and raced along the beach.  Jonathan, who had been caught by some “salty sailors,” was told all the history of Joe’s Beach Bar, which boat to start with when purchasing one, and all the perks of island living.

 

 

View from Joe's Beach Bar

 

 

And they are off.....

 

As the sky grew darker, we made our way over to the middle of the beach to have our dinner.  Heidi’s Food Cart pulls up with wonderful selections of cheeseburgers, pizza, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and a large drink selection including beer and cocktails.  The best part is she serves fresh popcorn as well!!!

 

 

The sun is going down. Almost time for the movie.

 

 

The Setup

 

The crew, which I believe consists of locals, sets up the seats with plastic chairs and strings up the movie screen, which is a large sheet tied between two coconut palms.

 

 

Putting out the chairs

 

With the addition of the locals bringing their golf carts, they had created “theater seating.”

 

 

Dinner as well as the golf carts

 

 

Let's get a seat!

 

We ordered some popcorn and sodas just like we would have at home and selected some seats in the middle.  We had brought our light coats because it can be a little breezy along the water at night making it a bit cool.

 

 

The Big Screen

 

When they started the movie, they played the old commercial of the big hot dog singing “Let’s all go to the movies and get ourselves a treat.”  Then they played a Looney Tunes episode just like how they used to before previews.  Finally, it was showtime.

 

 

Oh, and a cruise ship

 

Right before the movie presentation started, a huge cruise ship sailed past in the distance as it was leaving St. Thomas.  I’m sure I looked like a tourist as I stood up and ran over to the side to snap a quick shot.  I thought it was totally neat!

 

 

Awesome

 

During the movie you could lift your eyes to the black sky that twinkled with the stars.  The ocean breeze was our air conditioning.  It was the best way to watch a movie.

 

 

Tokens for the return trip

 

After the movie ended, we fished in our bag for our tokens, which were given to us when we paid the round trip cost on the dock in St. Thomas.  It was $10 for an adult and $5 for a kid.  Joaquin was obviously disappointed to find out that he couldn’t keep the golden tokens

 

 

About to board the ferry to go home.

 

The last taxi ride from Water Island is 6:15PM, but they always have one last one on Monday nights after the movie.  They told us to just follow the crowd back to the docks to catch it.  The movie wasn’t that great, but the experience was very memorable.  This is definitely a hidden gem.

 

Tip:  You can call a cell number, which I am pretty sure it is Heidi’s, to find out the movie selection for that night.

 

Ferry Ride

 

Jonathan had said all weekend, that we would do a nice hike and also the beach, which suited both Joaquin (the hiker) and Isabella (the water girl) and me (….the mom).

So, we left the house at a decent time and headed for St. John, which meant we needed to ride on the ferry.  This was the first time for us on this type of boat where you could sit on the front, which is the “best seat in the house” in my opinion.

 

 

Trail head

We landed in Cruz Bay and set off for the Visitor Center to secure a map for our hike.  We had read someone’s post on a different blog, so, we sort of knew where we were going.  We wanted to hike up to Caneel Hill, then over to Margaret Hill, and back down to Salomon Bay.

We had read from the other blog that the first part was the hardest!

 

 

Are you ready?

 

Of course, I had to make everyone stop for a couple of photos because this was the time when we were going to be looking our best!

 

 

Let's go!

 

Okay, I thought I was going to die.  The trail was steep and unforgiving.  Joaquin raced ahead of the rest of us, bragging about his abilities since he hikes all the time with his Papa in Red River, NM.  Isabella did pretty well.  Jonathan had a couple of moments, but I definitely brought up the rear.  Eventually, Jonathan had to be behind me to encourage me.

Joaquin, who was a good 30 feet ahead of me, would yell out, “Oh no, it is about to get harder again!”

We told him that if he wanted to be a good leader, he is suppose to keep up morale amongst his troops.

 

 

Worth It!

 

We finally reached “the bench”.  According to the blog, it marked the end of the hard steep part.  We sat.  I collapsed.

Joaquin pointed out that my backpack was stained from all of my sweat, which it was.

 

 

The Bench

 

 

Just hangin'

 

We took in the views and enjoyed the cool breeze.  Then it was off to Salomon Bay, right?

Wrong.  We quickly realized we hadn’t made it to the top of Caneel Hill yet.  Needless to say, I was upset, but we finally reached the top of the hill (although I would call it a mountain).

 

 

Cruz Bay

 

There is a wonderful platform to stand and take in the nearly 360 degree views.  The photo above is of Cruz Bay, where the ferry comes into port to drop off people from St. Thomas.

 

 

Views from Caneel Hill

 

Because my legs were shaking, I convinced the group to stay here as long as we could to enjoy the scenery.  We looked to what I think was north and saw one of the British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke.  I swore I could almost hear the music coming from the bars and restaurants on Jost, but I think it was just my head pounding.

 

 

Jost Van Dyke in the Background

 

 

xxxx

Nice viewing area

 

Joaquin, “Let’s go already!!”

Me, “No, slow down.  Life will pass you by if you are in such a hurry.”

Joaquin, “Mommy, why are you breathing so hard.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, after we rested, took in the sights, and snapped a couple of photos, we were off to Margaret Hill.  Jonathan looked up the blog post again to check the details and realized that she said that the platform was the signal of the end of the steep part.  The rest of the hike was quite enjoyable.

Bursera simaruba

 

We were trekking right along when we saw this peculiar tree.  I listed the proper name above, but it is also referred to as a tourist tree, since the bark appears red and is peeling like a typical sunburn on a tourist.

 

 

AKA Tourist Tree

 

Eventually, the trail winds its way down to the main road.  Across the street is the security post for The Caneel Bay Resort.  You just need to say “Afternoon, we are heading into Salomon Bay.”  Although, when we said it, the nice security guard replied, “Oh, okay.  It is quite a ways still.”

 

 

 

The Ruins

 

These ruins are on the property of the resort and definitely worth seeing.  We continued through the ruins, past the gift shop, and up a small road to the left.

 

 

More Ruins

 

The kids were complaining asking why we couldn’t just stop at Caneel Bay and play on that beach.  Jonathan answered, “Because our final destination is Salomon Bay.”

 

 

Caneel Bay Resort

 

We will definitely have to come back to Caneel Bay Resort and have lunch and play on the beach.

And then……we finally made it.  And it was everything we had hoped it would be:  Soft, white sand with barely anyone there.  Salomon and Honeymoon are two beaches you have to hike into because you cannot take a taxi into them, making them a more private pick.

 

 

Salomon Bay

 

 

Or so we thought!

 

After we had lunch and consumed five water bottles, we rested on the beach and soaked our tired joints in the cool, blue water.  We had encountered other hikers on the trail.  One of them said they were going to town to reward themselves with smoothies.  We agreed.  What a wonderful way to end the day.

So, we started hiking back out of the bay on Lind Point Trail.  Then we saw a sign and realized that we had spent the afternoon at Honeymoon Bay instead of Salomon Bay.  Oh, well.

We also discovered that the trail spits you out at the Visitor Center behind the bathrooms, where we had originally started our adventure.  Next time, we will just hike Lind Point Trail to Salomon Bay and skip the fun stuff.

 

 

Passionfruit Smoothies

 

 

Mongoose Junction

 

We ordered our smoothies and found a nice spot to sit and enjoy them.  Mongoose Junction is also a great place to grab a bite to eat or shop, but we couldn’t go into any place smelling like we did.

 

 

 

Outside of Mongoose Junction

 

I felt sorry for the people near us on the ferry, but at least we were outside with plenty of fresh air.  So, let this be a lesson.  Even if you don’t end up at your final destination, enjoy the journey and enjoy the loved ones who braved it with you!

 

 

Our way home

 

 

 

Bluebeard's Castle

 

As the cruise ships float into port, the passengers see white buildings with red tile roofs.  What I didn’t realize is some of these buildings belong to Bluebeard’s Castle.  Bluebeard is supposedly a fictional pirate, but several resorts carry his name making me wonder if there might have really been a fearsome character who plundered the Caribbean Seas.  We went to dinner there a few nights ago because they had three choices, two upper scale restaurants, called Room with a View and The Banana Grille along with a small casual restaurant.

 

 

Downtown in the Distance

 

We went in the evening and got to see Charlotte Amalie twinkling in the distance.  I think you should normally have reservations, but they were able to find us a table.

 

I didn't see that I caught Joaquin's arm until now.

 

The Banana Grill is located by the resort pool and has great water views.  You actually walk through the casual restaurant to get to The Grill.

 

Yummy

 

We ordered our food and talked about our week with the kids and school and work.

 

 

The salad was pretty too!

 

 

 

Lemon Chicken

 

Joaquin’s dish was the best of the night, which is shocking that chicken could be prepared in such a way to be everyone’s favorite.

 

 

The Ahi Tuna

 

Jonathan and I were to split the Ahi Tuna.  Usually I don’t like tuna, but I thought that maybe I just needed to try it again.  No, I actually don’t prefer that dish served any style.  So, the kids had to offer up a portion of their meal to their mother.  Then Jonathan shared his dish with each one.

 

 

Lobby

 

After dinner, we strolled around the grounds of the resort.  Even the lobby had a grand welcoming area for check-in.

 

 

The Kids

 

We stopped in a cozy little nook to snap a few photos to remember the evening.

 

 

Isabella is getting good at taking photos!!

 

Then we stumbled upon the open area to the west of the lobby and restaurants, which obviously serves as a superb location for a large gathering or a wedding.

 

 

Looking down on Yacht Haven Grande

 

We heard steel drums playing softly in the background, the harbor was sparkling with the lights, and the sea breeze moved past us, making us realize why we live here.

 

 

 

Not a bad backdrop for your wedding album.

 

 

Sand Man

 

Joaquin is an usual little boy who can become fixated on anything.  He has been sad several times thinking about the fact that he is missing out on making snowmen in Red River.  TA DA….The St. Thomas version:  A SandMan.

 

Joaquin made this little guy on Secret Harbour on Saturday.  We might try Snow Angels next week!