St. John, USVI

U.S. Virgin Islands consist of three main islands, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John and many small islets. St. John is just across the sea channel from the more densely populated St. Thomas. Two-thirds of St. John is a USVI. National Park, formed out of land that once belonged to the Rockefeller family.

Under crystalline blue skies Gail and I basked in the tranquility of St. John, US Virgin Islands. The warm, azure waters washed our feet as we waded through the gentle waves. The unhurried pace and friendly banter with the locals were a welcomed respite from our hectic Californian lives. What a relaxing spot! Everything was perfect until . . .

One evening, we strolled down to the swimming pool to view the glistening harbor lights. After we sauntered back to our unit, I fished through my belt pouch and pockets for the key but couldn't find it. All week I had used extreme caution putting the key away. I peered through the kitchen window and saw the key sitting on the counter. "Oh, No! There's no night manager. How will we get in?" The Key.

Hawknest Beach is the first large beach you encounter as you drive Northeast from Cruz Bay. The snorkeling is quite nice with many colorful fish and coral. Sometimes the surf can be kind of rough, because this beach is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. The roads are very hilly and have many tight hair-pin curves. A 4-wheel drive vehicle comes in handy. The terrain offers some spectacular views.

Cruz Bay is the major port and town on St. John. One might say that it's the only port and town on the island. But on the eastern side is Coral Bay, which consists of a few dive shops, souvenir huts, and Serephina Restaurant (very good!).

Cruz Bay also has a number of good restaurants and cafes, including the Fish Trap, Lime Tree Inn, and Asolare.

C a n e e l B a y

One of the most beautiful beaches on St. John is Caneel Bay, directly on the Hotel. The snorkeling was spectacular. I saw a large starfish, squid, stingrays, a sea turtle, and a shark! The sea turtle must have been 4 feet in diameter. Despite hearing stories about some divers grabbing onto turtles and swimming with them, this one wouldn't let me get very close. It just casually fed along the sandy bottom. It came up for 3 quick gulps of air and went down for 20 minutes. I saw the shark on the left side of the bay, close to the deep-water pier. At first, I wasn't sure what it was. It looked like a large gray fish. But, I kept on swimming toward it until I could got a good look. I recognized the pointed dorsal fin and swept back tail of a shark. I didn't panic and kept on observing it. The shark was about 5 feet in length. Later one of the local people said, "That was a nurse shark. They're harmless. I grab their tails and play with them all the time. Further out beyond the coral reefs are dangerous reef sharks that grow 15-20 feet in length."

Caneel Bay Resort has many amenities, including regular ferry service to neighboring St. Thomas island and use of kayaks, snorkel gear, wind surfboards, and Sunfish sailboats. I decided to try my hand at sailing one of the Sunfish. It had been a long time since I had last gone sailing. I thought, "what could go wrong?". I was doing all right for a while when a sudden gust of wind capsized the small craft. After struggling a bit, I managed to right the boat and got back on board. However, I realized that my prescription sunglasses that I purchased just a month earlier had fallen off my face and into the drink. I later donned some snorkeling gear and went out to try to find those sunglasses, but to no avail. What an expensive sailing experience.

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