01 March 2020

Back in the US, Sort Of

Argon has been been easing her way out of the deep Caribbean in to more American-feeling territory ever since about St. Martin with its commerce and infrastructure as well as Anguilla accepting US dollars and completely English-speaking. We were welcomed back home with the ease of clearing customs in US territory upon arriving in St. Croix as well as the plethora of Americans inhabiting St. John (both US Virgin Islands). It feels as though we may have swapped exotic adventure for comfortable familiarity at these latitudes. But it's still grand.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Argon sailed and explored about 160nm in total over the past two plus weeks from Anguilla to St. Croix (USVI) then on to and around St. John (also USVI).

A difficult downwind overnight passage from Anguilla to St. Croix USVI was followed by a grand daysail due north to St. John (also USVI, just southwest of British VI).


Overnight Sail from Anguilla to St. Croix, With Crew

Anguilla is a narrow island a mere 5 miles north of St. Martin. Its topography is nondescript but with gorgeous waters. Locals seem happy to be largely overlooked by their bustling neighboring island with just enough high end tourism to keep the economy healthy. Anguilla seems to have the most mixing of races we've seen in the Caribbean perhaps due to what appears to be an overall higher standard of living for locals compared to other islands where there is a clear divide between locals and ex-pats. The locals were among the friendliest we have encountered in our travels.

After a week at anchor working day jobs, tending to boat logistics and a bit of land exploration we welcomed our dear friends, Lori and Colonel Todd, to Anguilla to celebrate their impending retirement from nearly 30 years in the Marine Corps. Lori and Todd started sailing in Newport a few years ago and were keen to get some experience in big waters, on a larger boat, and to experience the cruising lifestyle.

An overnight westward passage would be a downwind sail in 15-18kt winds. Seas proved to be the most challenging factor with confused 4-8 foot waves bashing our stern quarter requiring constant helm attention and resulting in uncomfortable motion of the boat the majority of the 100nm sixteen hour overnight passage. We had to stay off the wind more than we would have if the seas were calm requiring us to jib a few times and add some miles to the rhumb line. The sea state finally became more rhythmic and comfortable around daybreak as we welcomed the view of St. Croix.

After a week of work and boat logistics, we welcomed dear friends to Anguilla.


Preparing for the 100nm overnight sail from Road Bay, Anguilla to Christensted, St. Croix.


Ready for an evening departure from the windy anchorage at Road Bay, Anguilla.


Lori practicing helming and getting used to the feel of Argon in the lee of Anguilla before dark sets in and seas roughen. (They were both happier than they appear in this photo.) We were mostly double-reefed with just the 90% jib which enabled us to maintain 6.5-7.5kts.


The morning after... A challenging, successful night sail was celebrated with strong coffee as seas calm on the approach to St. Croix.

Christiansted, St. Croix - USVI

Americans clearing in to customs upon returning to the US have the option of using the new Roam App. A bit of time was spent a week prior setting up the account and profiles for about a $30 fee. When in St. Croix, I simply logged our arrival when anchored and waited about 30 minutes to receive an acknowledgement from Customs and Boarder Patrol (CBP) and permission to be back in the US. So convenient! I will try using this again when we leave US territory and return again.

We quickly loved the town of Christiansted with a myriad of beautiful buildings and interesting side streets and art galleries. However, it is not an ideal cruiser's destinantion. The anchoring options are limited and we had an extremely rolly night (but with good holding) after being asked to leave our first anchoring spot. After making our way to an antiquated fuel dock in high winds the next morning to top off diesel and water, we were introduced to the pervasive friendliness of Christiansted. Miracle was a joy to chat with and one of the boat yard workers kindly offered us his mooring in a much more protected and comfortable part of the harbor. Thus after a rough initial introduction, Argon and crew were able to settle in and enjoy the pearls of Christiansted.


Very uncomfortable and rolly anchorage a long dinghy ride from town.


Mircacle, from St. Croix Marina, was a gem. She got us connected with a co-worker who offered up his mooring to us.

On day 2 we were able to get a great mooring behind a tiny island in crystal clear water and a very easy dinghy ride to town. There are ample tie ups for dinghies along the boardwalk but a stern anchor is advisable to prevent the tender from constantly bashing in to or under the docks.


Bob installed this cleat to the transom of the dinghy which facilitated securing the stern anchor rode.


A little bit of partying and celebrating in St. Croix at BES Craft Cocktail Lounge.


Downtown Christiansted, St. Croix.


St. John - USVI

After three nights in St. Croix we released the mooring lines at 0900 for a 35nm close reach sail in 14kts, reasonable seas, with full main and jib landing in a lovely southern bay of St. John by early afternoon. It was great to arrive to a new island and not have to bother with customs (since we were already cleared in to US via St. Croix).


St. John is on my list of top 5 favorite Caribbean places to sail. The numerous gorgeous bays and concise circumference of the island enable one to find a lovely cove to tuck in regardless of the conditions. With a majority of its 20 square miles national park there are numerous hiking options. We enjoyed the following harbors on this trip:
  • Little Lameshur
  • Rendezvous Bay
  • Waterlemon Bay
  • Francis and Maho Bays
  • Lindt Point, Caneel Bay and Cruz Bay
The National Park Service (NPS) maintains moorings requesting $26/night in park waters comprising much of the south and north coasts. While this can add up and impact ones cruising budget, it is well worth it as the moorings are excellent quality and the prohibition of anchoring contribute significantly to the quality of the harbors by protecting the sea beds. Recently slashed NPS funding  in addition to recovery from the devastating hurricane Irma in fall of 2017 is negatively impacting NPS activties including enforcement of fee collection (which will eventually lead to less funds for mooring and trail maintenance). Let's hope that funding and associated activities are restored soon.

More than a week was spent jumping from one harbor to the next around St. John. Favorites are the coves on the less traveled south coast especially Little Lameshur and Rendezvous Bays.


Lori and Todd sailing with us on a close reach from St. Croix to St. John - much more favorable conditions compared to the overnight passage a few days prior.


Argon spent several days in Little Lameshur, sometimes alone. This view is from Yawzi Point, one of the several hiking trails surrounding this cove.

St. John was ideal for regular exercise swims. One morning in Little Lameshur a large barracuda was hanging out around the boat (they seem to enjoy the shadow of the hull). It took me a while to muster up the nerve to gently slide in the water and start my swim. Barracuda are common and not overtly aggressive but they have enormous sharp teeth and one does not want to inadvertently startle a barrack in to attack mode.



Fun impromptu meet up at Francis Bay with a former sailing instructor (Brenton of Blackrock Sailing School) and his current class on their Foutaine Pajot 40 catamaran. A big surprise was that one of the students is a work colleague of Bob's - small world.

Johnny Horn Trail.



Argon moored in Waterlemon Bay.

Eating Aboard

With all the secluded harbors, we were happily eating aboard quite a bit. Although the last provisioning run was only about a week ago in St. Croix, our stores were getting lean. We were still able to muster up some satisfying meals as the cabinet and refrigerator became sparse. Finding fresh vegetables and good quality meats is a challenge along many of the Caribbean islands. Cooking with various types of legumes has become commonplace. Canned mushrooms are a regular in my cooking as good quality fresh mushrooms are non-existent. Cabbage is wonderful for its shelf life and versatility including using in place of lettuce which is difficult to find fresh and does not keep for long. Weak fishing skills prohibit us from relying on fresh fish but we keep going at it.

Crispy tofu with spice Thai noodles.


Braised beef with polenta.

Beef and bean burritos made with Impossible Beef (plant based meat product).


Scrambled eggs and sauteed potatoes with paprika and brie cheese.


What About St. Thomas? And the BVI?

We have enjoyed the lovely profiles of the lively and bustling British Virgin Islands and St. Thomas in the near distance of St. John but have decided to by-pass these popluar island in exchange for more time in the quiet coves of St. John. We will soon set sail westward for the Spanish Virgin Islands (also US territory) first stopping at the secluded island of Vieques.



View from one of the many spectacular hikes on St. John. This one from atop Lienster Point with Tortola and Little Thatch (part of the BVI) in the background.




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