The sunrise in Soper’s Hole is spectacular this morning. Our first task of the day is a short dinghy ride to the Customs and Immigration office to clear out of BVI before entering the U.S. Virgin Islands later today. While this is a formality, the process is taken quite seriously by local officials. We are about to cross an international border. The Customs officer approves our paperwork and hands us an invoice in the amount of one U.S. dollar. We leave the Customs office and walk next door to the Finance office where we cheerfully pay our indebtedness. In return, we are given a receipt. We return to the Customs office with receipt in hand, which is sufficient to complete the clearing out process.
Back aboard Cutter Loose, we slip away from our mooring and sail west towards the USVI. Our destination today is Cruz Bay on the island of St. John. Still in the BVI, our course takes us past Great Thatch Island with its steep terrain and lush green vegetation. The backdrop of these verdant volcanic islands is in sharp contrast to the colorless, low-lying islands of the Bahamas.
Once into the open waters of Pillsbury Sound, Cutter Loose is sailing nicely at 4 knots on a close reach towards Red Hook Bay on the island of St. Thomas. Approaching Red Hook, we tack and lay a course directly to Cruz Bay on St. Johns. The sailing today is quite relaxing…a reminder of our purpose here in the Caribbean.
Cruz Bay is a busy harbor. Nonstop ferry boat traffic from St. Thomas and Tortola along with harbor tour boats and charter vessels account for most of the activity. Unfortunately, there is limited space for private boats to anchor, and this space is occupied by vessels that have not moved from their location for a long period of time, as evidenced by the buildup of marine growth along their waterlines. We decide to drop the hook outside of the ferry channel near the National Park Service Office. From here, it is a short dinghy ride to the U.S. Customs office near the ferry dock. The fee to clear USVI Customs is six U.S. dollars. Interestingly, the 60 cent per foot fee is based not on the length of Cutter Loose, but rather on the length of our dinghy (10 feet) currently tied to the Customs dock.
After clearing USVI Customs, we tie up at the dinghy dock near the National Park Office. Over half of St. John is protected as a National Park. As it turns out, the NPS encourages the use of its moorings that have been strategically placed throughout the park to prevent anchor damage to the coral reef. With our National Park senior card, we are entitled to a generous 50% discount on the $15 overnight mooring fee.
As we leave the Visitor Center, an NPS employee reminds us that Cutter Loose is anchored in a restricted area. We are admonished to move the boat as soon as possible. This rebuke thwarts our plan to explore the town on foot and spend the night at anchor in the harbor. Above all else, we are civilized, compliant cruisers. If the National Park Service feels that we should leave, who are we to question authority? After all, we are the beneficiaries of the NPS senior discount on mooring fees. We have no grounds to complain.
The anchor is up in the restricted area at 5 PM under threatening skies. In moderate rain showers, we depart Cruz Bay for Caneel Bay, just a few miles to the east. At 6 PM in near darkness and a steady rain, we tie Cutter Loose to an NPS mooring and settle in for the night.