In the protection of Francis Bay on Wednesday morning, the wind seems benign. However, once through Funghi Passage and into the Narrows, the adverse current taken together with 20 knot easterlies on the bow makes for slow going towards our destination of Coral Bay. Cutter Loose powers into wind-driven waves, kicking up a spray of seawater on deck. The re-programmed chart plotters are back on the job after their prolonged Christmas break in New Hampshire. It is a pleasure to have them on board and functioning properly once again.
The objective for the next few days is a clockwise circumnavigation of the island of St. John, USVI. Still motoring east, we pass by the familiar territory of Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay on the northeast coast of St. John. A turn to the southeast along the east coast of St. John places the wind on the port beam, easing the pitching motion and increasing boat speed. Now under sail, we pass Privateer Point and Long Point before turning northwest into immense Coral Bay. In the protected northeast corner of Coral Bay is Hansen Bay. Cutter Loose is tucked in for the night at Hansen Bay just north of Pelican Rock.
With a little coaxing, the anchor sets firmly. The initial reluctance of our 88 pound Rocna anchor to set becomes understandable once we settle into this anchorage. The bottom of the Bay is rocky. The chain rode makes a scraping noise as it drags across the bottom of the Bay when wind shifts and tidal current cause Cutter Loose to swing around her anchor. A noisy night is in store for us in Hansen Bay.
This anchorage is not without amenities. Hansen Bay is served by its very own floating beach bar… a colorful pontoon boat that features both indoor and outdoor seating. One may swim to the floating bar or take the dinghy and dock alongside. The entrepreneurial spirit of the proprietor is admirable, but his market research leaves a little to be desired. This is an isolated area. There are no competitors, but the universe of potential customers is miniscule. There are just two other boats at anchor in Hansen Bay and only a handful of beachgoers. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day for business.
Thursday morning the anchor is up in Hansen Bay. Cutter Loose is en route to nearby Coral Harbor, the historic center of plantation life in the 18th century. First impressions from the water are not positive. There are a few dozen derelict, abandoned, aground and/or sunken boats in the harbor. Another dozen or so derelict dinghies are tied to the dinghy dock. Coral Harbor seems to be a place where owners irresponsibly drop an anchor and walk away from their boats for years or perhaps forever. This blight seems incongruous with the pristine nature of St. John that we have come to know. In fact, it is a unique phenomenon in our travels thus far in USVI and BVI. Coral Harbor is one of the few places on the island that lies outside of the National Park boundary.
Thankfully, there is more to the tiny village of Coral Harbor than the view from the harbor. Skinny Legs (or “Skinny’s” as the locals refer to it) is a popular restaurant and bar near the dinghy dock which sports a Steelers logo on the porch railing. Aqua Bistro serves up a sumptuous lunch in an attractive courtyard setting. Several attractive shops complement the assortment of restaurants and beach bars.
The wind has shifted to the southeast. The exposed harbor has become rolly…not suitable for an overnight anchorage. Cutter Loose is underway from Coral Bay on a beam reach through Sabbat Channel and past Ram Head en route to beautiful Great Lameshure Bay on the south coast. There is just enough protected space in this harbor to buffer us from the southeast swell. This placid body of water with its semi-circular beach serves as our home for the night.
On Friday, a downwind sail from Great Lameshure Bay takes us west along the southern coast of St. John to Cruz Bay. Reluctantly, we douse the sails and start the engine for the final leg east to Francis Bay, thus completing the circumnavigation of St. John that began just two days ago.