Destination U.S. Virgin Islands with Wally and Bob
Trip Start Dec 09, 2006
220Trip End Ongoing
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The four of us must not have been very tired from our passage from Norfolk to Tortola, because we got going again the next morning, Sunday November 20, after a quick trip ashore for an internet connection, a beer, and some ice. Our big picture strategy for the next few days was to see some nice sights before Bob and Wally's departure from St. Thomas. So we slowly made way towards Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, from where they would fly out.
Around 1100 we departed Soper’s Hole for the short sail to Coral Bay, St. John – an area of St. John not within the National Park that forms the largest portion of that island and its surrounding waters. We sailed on genoa alone on winds NE at 15. None of us had been in Coral Bay previously, so this was all new. Arriving and anchoring in Coral Harbor around 1230, we immediately noted the large number of "experienced" boats (read: well used) anchored and moored there--most uninhabited--and several sailboats without masts. Our cruising guides did describe Coral Harbor as “home to wonderfully eccentric and dedicated cruising sorts.” Hmmmm….
Dave’s plan was to take the crew to a “thank you” dinner at the famous Skinny Legs Bar and Grill – established long enough to be shown on the official nautical charts. We went ashore in the dinghy around 1600 to stroll around before Happy Hour and to perhaps connect with some of the advertised cruising free spirits we read about.
“Eccentric” indeed. The rickety dinghy dock was the first clue. There were at least twenty “experienced” dinghies seemingly permanently tied up there, companions no doubt to many of the boats in the harbor. With raised eyebrows and eyeing several waterlogged examples exhausted of air, Donna remarked “…It’s a dinghy graveyard!!!”
We found Skinny Legs close to the dock, dropped in for a peek, and mutually agreed this was an “experienced” bar and grill that appeared filled with folks having a good time. Some looked like they’d been having a good time there for many years! It did have a welcoming personality, and we agreed we would return there for dinner and more local flavor after our stroll to see the town….
We wandered down the only road, past the Donkey Diner and its placard advertising “kick ass good food” and past the historical Moravian Mission. We turned left at the first junction where a very large billboard highlighted mostly places to eat in the direction we were headed. It seemed to underscore what the cruising guide had indicated that “Coral Bay has become the place to eat in St. John”. It was Sunday so we weren’t setting our hopes too high for finding many places open.
We passed the drainage swale across the road with its preceding warning “Dip” sign modified by hand to read “Stinky Donkey” Dip and soon came upon three guys lounging in lawn chairs on the side of the road across from several dumpsters large enough to service the entire island. They greeted us in a “wonderfully eccentric” sort of way and we happily waved back but weren’t inclined to stop to chat this time around—dusk would be falling soon. We stopped into the Island Blues Seaside Bar and Grill overlooking the harbor to sample their Happy Hour Pain Killers and to confirm that Pas de Deux still had a mast. Donna didn’t have a drink as she was too occupied counting the number of sinking boats that had not weathered well here. We chatted with a couple from Virginia vacationing on the island and encouraged them to use their rental car to visit Salt Pond Bay for snorkeling nearby.
After our drinks we reversed course back towards Skinny Legs, passing the friendly on-duty dumpster watch and Stinky Donkey Dip as dusk was approaching. Once in Skinny Legs, the crowd had thinned a bit and we picked out seats at one end of a (local bar and grill-appropriate) long, vacant wooden communal-style table with matching long wooden bench seats – enhanced with years of visitors’ initials, dates, and other assorted carvings – and soon had beers and famed burgers on order. We had selected this vantage seating to view the whole place to people watch and maybe catch some Sunday football action on one of four obviously popular big screen TVs hung over the bar area. The menu included the colorful history of this favorite local spot--the waitresses were friendly and the beer was cold, the burgers good. For us, at least, Skinny Legs achieved its curious business slogan promising “Same Day Service.”
During our meal a lone guy who looked to be in his twenties sat down towards the other end of our table, setting a small backpack on the bench beside him. He didn’t appear interested in ordering a meal—and within a moment had pulled out a knife and began contributing to the table carvings. It didn’t take long, however, for his “Crocodile Dundee” knife to catch the attention of the waitresses as well some patrons (ourselves included). Hmmmm. We didn’t need a clearer definition of “wonderfully eccentric”. Bob, who’s always looking out for special photos (to capture the local flavor of his wanderings no doubt) decided to discreetly take a picture of this natural kind of guy. We don’t think he even noticed.
It was a short while later that he got up to leave the table—we learned later from the waitress that they had asked him to put away his knife as some other patrons seemed concerned. He made his way out from our table, and in doing so, stooped toward Wally, began to speak with him, prefacing his conversation with a somewhat scary hypnotic gesture that reminded us of a bad movie. We think he chose Wally because he was sitting between us at the head of the table and would have been the person most likely to make eye contact with him as he passed toward us.
Having seen (and recognized) the knife, Wally was diplomatically polite and Dave, Donna, and Bob managed a light, separate conversation while observing that Wally was handling a delicate situation. We don’t know whether Bob was beginning to wonder if he should have taken that picture…. When he finally departed, Wally filled us in on the history of the knife he recognized from his father’s experience in the Korean War. Apparently, this person wanted to share the history of his grandfather’s special knife in the same war. Imagine—four generations connected through a particular style of knife! We were thankful that Wally could actually “connect” with this person who otherwise had a few screws loose as his conversation appeared to indicate. Dave was happy to find the dinghy without slashes when we headed back to the boat after dark.
We departed Coral Bay at 0815 the next morning for two stops en route to Christmas Cove on Great St. James Island, located between St. John and St. Thomas. First stop was one of our favorite harbors in the St. John National Park from last year, Salt Pond Bay. This was a short distance just around the southeastern tip of St. John. Bob hadn’t been there before and we knew we would have time for a swim before moving on. We arrived at 0930 and picked up the mooring ball we knew to be closest to the snorkeling reef. The snorkeling was as excellent as we remembered and Bob had a chance to see a shark. After our refreshing swim we departed Salt Pond Bay at 1130 for an “ice stop” in Cruz Bay, the biggest town on St. John located on the west side. We stopped into the Customs office where Bob could get his passport visa stamped. We were in and out by 1315. By the time we moved the short distance to Christmas Cove, the beers were cold in the cooler….
The following day of Bob’s departure, November 22, we departed Christmas Cove at 0800 for Crown Bay, between the airport and Charlotte Amalie, arriving at 1000 at Crown Bay Marina to refuel. We would refuel and drop Bob off to do his laundry (always thinking of wife Beckie!) before moving out to the nearby anchorage. We got Bob back to the boat to pack his clean clothes and then back to shore in plenty of time to get a taxi for the airport and its welcome air conditioning. The next day, we did our own laundry in the morning and took Wally ashore in the afternoon for his return flight.