On Wednesday morning, we retrace our steps from Caneel Bay to Cruz Bay, but this time by dinghy. At 9:30 AM, there is plenty of space at the public dinghy dock near the NPS Visitor Center. Our mission is to explore the streets and shops of Cruz Bay, including Mongoose Junction, a multi-story retail/restaurant complex near the waterfront. Workers are busy stringing garland to the bannisters while Christmas music performed to a reggae beat reverberates in the background. The streets in town are narrow, hilly and filled with traffic. Tour guides are busy organizing groups of morning hikers to sample the trails in the National Park.
A stop at Dolphin Market produces sufficient provisions to stock our galley for another week. The selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, seasonings and wine at this market is surprisingly quite good. The aisles are filled with holiday shoppers in search of last-minute ingredients for their Thanksgiving feast. There is only one cashier today. She inspects the carts of each shopper in the check-out aisle and invites those with only a handful of groceries to move ahead in line. No problem. We are thankful to have found this well-stocked little store and we are in no hurry to leave.
Back aboard Cutter Loose, we leave our NPS mooring at Caneel Bay and travel east another five miles to Francis Bay. In doing so, we are staging for a Thanksgiving outing. One of our fellow Caribbean 1500 sailors has made a group reservation for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at the Maho Bay Campground, a short dinghy ride from our NPS mooring. This is an awe-inspiring setting. Cutter Loose is tucked deep into Francis Bay, surrounded by steep green mountains atop a white sandy beach. Schools of fish and sea turtles are clearly visible alongside the boat, as is the sandy bottom of the Bay some 30 feet under our keel.
Tonight, we are generously invited to a pasta dinner aboard Comocean owned by Toby and Joanne from Houston, TX. We are joined by single hander Joe aboard Keep It Simple from Annapolis, MD, another Caribbean 1500 boat. An hour before our designated arrival time, the skies open with yet another deluge of rain. The downpour continues throughout the evening. By the time we arrive at Comocean by dinghy, we are thoroughly soaked…an accepted aspect of the cruising lifestyle. After dinner, our evening entertainment consists of a Mexican train domino competition in the cockpit of Comocean.
On Thanksgiving Day, we take advantage of strong AT&T cell phone coverage from nearby St. Thomas to catch up on e mail and to ring family with Happy Thanksgiving wishes. There are many things for which we are thankful, not the least of which is a safe ocean passage and the opportunity to be exploring such an attractive cruising area aboard Cutter Loose. Beyond the beauty, there are other perks associated with being in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including an NPR station at 107.3 on the FM radio, access to a strong digital public television signal from St. Thomas and US-style NOAA marine weather forecasts on the VHF radio in both English and Spanish. With creature comforts such as these, it is no wonder that so many cruisers make the USVI their home for the winter.
Thanksgiving Day is a time for relaxation aboard Cutter Loose. After an afternoon swim and a shower, we gather together aboard the spacious cockpit of the catamaran, Escapade to socialize with a small group of our fellow Caribbean 1500 sailors. At dusk, we all dinghy to a beach landing at the Maho Bay Campground, then climb the stairs to the rustic outdoor pavilion where Thanksgiving dinner is served cafeteria-style. After dinner, we linger to chat with our cruising friends. We agree to meet again on the 28th at Trellis Bay, BVI to attend the popular full moon party in this community.
It is 9 PM by the time we descend the stairs to the beach in total darkness. Launching the dinghy from the beach requires a concerted push into waist-deep water, a well-timed hop into the dinghy and a dash to start the outboard motor once in deeper water to avoid being washed back onto the beach by the surf. Thankfully, conditions are calm tonight. Thanksgiving Day 2012 comes to an end as we clamber aboard Cutter Loose and secure the dinghy on the davits for the night. While there is no substitute for being with family on Thanksgiving Day, it is comforting nonetheless to be in the company of new friends as we take time to contemplate and be thankful for our abundant blessings.