As usual, Francis Bay rewards us with a restful night’s sleep. The wind is finally taking a holiday and is now in the 15 to 20 knot range, which makes for a pleasant downwind sail to Caneel Bay. Cutter Loose remains on a mooring while we dinghy into Cruz Bay to clear USVI Customs. No visit to Cruz Bay would be complete without a stop at Dolphin Market and Deli Grotto for provisions. Back on board, we are sailing downwind once again, this time en route to Charlotte Amalie on the southeast coast of St. Thomas. Our course takes us west through Current Cut, a narrow opening between the treacherous-looking Current Rock to the north and Great St. James Island to the south. True to its name, three knots of current push Cutter Loose efficiently through the Cut.
From Current Cut, it is another 6 miles west to the well-marked channel into the protected harbor of Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of the USVI and the primary port of call for the big cruise ships. The City is named after Charlotte Amalie, queen to King Christian V of Denmark in the 17th century. Today, St. Thomas is home to about 19,000 people.
At 5:15 PM, the anchor is down in Long Bay next to the mega yacht marina at Yacht Haven Grande. This is a large harbor with dozens of pleasure boats at anchor and on moorings. There is no shortage of activity in this harbor. In addition to cruise ships, there are sea planes taking off and arriving from St. Croix, ferries to St. John and Tortola, container ships, fishing vessels and several charter fleets. Charlotte Amalie is also a port for Dockwise Yacht Transport…ocean-going carriers with wide decks that move yachts to and from major ports throughout the globe, including the U.S. east coast, west coast and a variety of destinations in the Mediterranean.
Saturday is consumed by a marathon 5 hour hike along the waterfront from the extreme eastern side of the harbor, through the expansive retail district to Crown Bay Marina on the extreme western side of Charlotte Amalie. Luckily, there is no cruise ship in the harbor today and the sidewalks are empty except for the persistent shopkeepers urging a visit to their store. Returning to the dinghy dock at Yacht Haven Grande, we pause in the tiny neighborhood of Frenchtown for a late lunch. Frenchtown has become an entertainment district unto itself with several restaurants and bars located adjacent to a marina and a commercial fishing pier.
Sunday morning provides yet another opportunity to interface with our hosts here in St. Thomas. The worship service at Memorial Moravian Church begins at 8:45 AM. The early Moravians were followers of pre-Reformation martyr John Hus of Bohemia (now Czech Republic), who was burned at the stake in Switzerland in 1415, 102 years before Martin Luther began his Reformation work in Germany. Moravian missionaries began arriving in the Caribbean in the 1700s to minister to slaves. To this day, there is a substantial network of Moravian churches throughout the islands of the Caribbean.
This morning, this historic 1884 church is packed with families and older adults. There is not an empty seat in the sanctuary. The dynamic and energetic Pastor and all of the elders are female. In attendance at this service is a newly-elected USVI Senator who also happens to be a member of this church. Part of the sermon is an admonition for the Senator-elect to serve the people of USVI in a manner that reflects his Moravian upbringing. After the sermon, all visitors are invited to stand and introduce themselves. Being the only two Caucasians in a sanctuary of 300 some parishioners, there is no mistaking the fact that we are visitors. Afterwards, there is an exchange of greetings which lasts roughly 20 minutes during which time every person in attendance shares handshakes with every other person in attendance. We are received warmly by this congregation. Even the Pastor swings by to welcome us. The final hymn and benediction conclude at 11:15 AM. Today’s service has been a most interesting and enjoyable experience.
After lunch and grocery shopping at Gourmet Gallery near Havensight Mall, the anchor is up in Long Bay. Cutter Loose is bound for Christmas Cove on the lee shore of Great James Island where the National Park Service has placed a dozen moorings. From here, it is only a few miles to Red Hook, which makes Christmas Cove a perfect staging area for our meeting with the local Raymarine dealer in the morning.
By mid-morning on Monday, we are docked in our customary slip at American Yacht Harbor Marina in Red Hook. This is our first marina experience since leaving here on December 18th . Cutter Loose is in dire need of a bath. Since our stay here will be just 24 hours, the task list must be attacked with vigor. First and foremost is the installation of the re-programmed chart plotters and the rebuilt wind instrument. To our amazement and relief, each of the units functions perfectly with just a simple re-connection of cables. A phone call to Evelyn, the local canvas expert, produces instant results. The canvas bimini that provides shade in the cockpit has been inadvertently damaged by the boom. Evelyn picks up the bimini at our dock and returns to her shop where she stitches a nifty leather patch over the damaged area. She returns promptly at 5 PM with the finished product. This level of service is unheard of in the industry. In the meantime, our empty propane cylinder (used as fuel for the stove/oven) is refilled at the fishing shop. Finally, after two haircuts, we reward ourselves with dinner at the local Chinese restaurant.
On Tuesday morning, we re-install the canvas bimini, change the engine oil and filter and make the final touches to the above-decks and below-decks cleaning of Cutter Loose. After a stop at the fuel dock to top off the tank, we are underway in Pillsbury Sound once again. Our visit to Red Hook has been most productive. It is time to return to the relaxing cruising lifestyle, and we have just the perfect place to spend the night…on a mooring in Francis Bay, of course!