Fun in the USVIs

We had not planned to go to the USVIs, but after struggling to find good places for Saltair to anchor in the BVIs, we followed our buddy boat Happy Sees - Shannon, Ed, Everett (9) and Sierra (7) - to the USVIs and have been delighted by the natural beauty and wildlife diversity of St John. 

Saint John is the smallest of the three main US Virgin Islands (Saint Thomas and St Croix are the other two). The United States purchased the U.S. Virgin Islands for $25 million from the Danish government In 1917, during the First World War. It was intended to prevent expansion of the German Empire into the Western Hemisphere

Most of the island’s coast is a National Park (Virgin Island National Park) and many bays have well maintained moorings that boats up to 60ft can use (for a nightly fee). At 57 ft Saltair is under the limit (whew) and there are not many other cruisers, allowing us to stay in many of the bays we read about and wanted to explore.

No anchoring and secure moorings in the NPS allows the seagrass and coral to thrive and the sea life has been amazing. Turtles with remora fish attached, schools of blue tangs, french angelfish, trunkfish, barracudas, squids, rays - including a spotted eagle ray - to name a few. We even spotted a sand shark lying in a deep valley. Some bays have a dinghy dock or some dinghy moorings close to the beach allowing us to go to shore to explore inland and hike.

The mongoose is actually not native to the Virgin Islands, but was brought here in the 1800s to control rat populations on sugar plantations
Sharksucker on a green turtle. A member of the Remora family, sharksuckers do not attach permanently, they scoot around easily. They are attached by a suction disc on their head. They eat ectoparasite on the shell of the turtle.Most turtles we have seen in the USVIs have at least one!
French angelfish - This is the first place we saw these underwater.

Our shore visits so far included  Annaberg, a former sugar plantation exploited by danish settlers and worked by slaves, the NPS visitor center in Cruz bay where the kids took their oaths as junior rangers of the Virgin Island national park, the waterfall at Cinnamon Bay where petroglyphs and artifacts  indicate a Taino presence on Saint John from about 700 to the late 15th century and Ram’s head trail.

Seth and Everett working on their underwater world junior ranger booklet

Seth, Everett and Sierra taking their oath as Junior Rangers of the Virgin Island National Park

Photographs of the signs in the NPS Visitor center in Cruz Bay

The wildlife is quite diverse and plentiful, wild donkeys, goats, deer, mongooses, birds, bees, lizards, iguanas, dragonflies, spiders. Vegetation was lush and tropical forest like on the Reef bay trail and stark and desert like on the Ram’s head trail with hundreds of cacti on the hillside.

A few pictures below from the Reef Bay Trail from Lameshur Bay, a 3 hours hike (in and out) to the waterfall and petroglyphs

Sandbox Tree, also known as possumwood, monkey no-climb, and  dynamite tree because its fruits explode when ripe

These little lizards were not shy

Everett, Shannon,Sierra, Seth, Guillemette & Ed at the Waterfalls Sierra checking out the Taino petroglyphs


See the little blue spider hanging out?

The bays in which moored have had beautiful turquoise water and little traffic. Seth, Everett and Sierra have been spending lots of time in the water, playing on Happy Sees pop-up dock (a large inflatable dock) or snorkeling. The boys accompanied Ed in some of his lobster hunts and were quite thrilled to find two lobsters, a small one that eventually got released and a very large one that ended up on the grill. 

Lounging on the back of Happy Sees in great Lameshur Bay

Above: Ed grilling a large lobster, below: ready to eat

Saltair and Happy Sees in Lameshur Bay

In Saltpond bay the boys also went on a night snorkel with Ed and were a little spooked by the large tarpon fish following their lights. Their eyes glow in the dark and while completely harmless they are quite large.

Getting ready for the night snorkel. Thanks Ed! 

Most nights we have dinner together or gather to play games. Coloretto, No Thanks, Code Names and Werewolf have been the most popular so far (Special thanks to  Timo & Hilari for bringing some of these games onboard).

Here are some highlights from our hike to Ram's Head 

Walking by the saltpond

Views of the bay from the trail

Turks Head Cactuses - it gets its name from its 'Red Top' as it resembles a turkish fez hat

The entire hill was covered by hundreds of Turk’s Cap Cactuses.

Growing on a rock on Ram’s Head Trail

Top of Ram’s Head Trail

On most hikes we find lots of treasures, we do not take any with us, just pictures! Here are a few of our favorites

Last picture is Shannon giving Seth a much needed little trim!