Learning to Sail a Catamaran Through the Virgin Islands
We started the trip by flying into St Thomas, then taking the ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay on St John's. We had a friend there who we wanted to see so it was a perfect way to start the trip! We ended up camping in a 'permanent tent' at Cinnamon Bay which was pretty cool.
As we walked out the front of our tent, the beach was 20 feet away! The snorkeling right out front was very mediocre, but as we learned later in the week, if we went out another 100 meters, it got much better. We saw turtles, small sharks, big grouper and lots of other sea life. After walking/hitchhiking back to Cruz Bay, we hopped on our ferry back to St Thomas to get on our boat.
We met our sailing instructor and Captain, Jose and he seemed like a pretty cool guy! We really got to know him over the week and he ended up being really fun...plus, we taught us to sail including navigating through the ASA (American Sailing Association) 101, 103, 104 and 114 courses so it was a win all around. We had to take tests throughout the week and verify that we were actually learning so there were only a few nights of craziness, including drinking games, poker and possibly even some skinny dipping (but I won't say for sure).
The first leg of our sailing journey took us right back to St John's where we took a mooring in Maho Bay. When we previously camped in Cinnamon Bay, we did a little hike to overlook a bay and it happened to be the bay we were staying in now! Here is the overlook we hiked to:
The next morning were were off to The Bitter End on Virgin Gorda but we had some pretty rough weather getting there. We had winds in the high 20's and lots of surface chop. Four of use got sick, but only one person threw up (sorry to rat you out Sarah!). The seas got smoother as we got closer and it ended up being a great learning day with all the challenges of pushing through when not feeling well. We ended the night eating at Saba Rock which is a restaurant that just sits on a rock in the bay. The food wasn't super great, but it was a cool location and only accessible by dingy so that made it kinda exciting.
After we all took some time practicing docking with the dual props, we headed off to the Baths. It was crazy to see all these huge boulders just hanging out like they dropped right out of space. We hiked through them to Devils Bay and on the way back, tried to stay off the beaten path as much as possible, climbing over rocks and finally making our way out as the waves rushed in and pulled us out to the bay.
We found a bunch of sand dollars about 25 ft deep right near the boat, then made our way to Norman Island where we would grab another mooring for the night in Bight Bay. As we all learned more about sailing and navigating through the islands, Jose gave us more control in the routes we chose and let us take more control. We practiced tacking, jibing, picking up a man overboard, docking, and all kinds of other things to solidify what we were learning.
The next morning, we cruised over to The Indians, which is a stellar snorkeling spot. Definitely the best snorkeling on the trip. There were swim-throughs and so much to see in both shallow and deep water. After exhausting our lungs, we headed to the Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke where we slept and grabbed dinner. We ate at Ali Baba's which ended up being the best dinner of the trip. So fresh and not crazy busy and loud like the other watering holes in this bay. We enjoyed it thoroughly. We also loved how they had a list of dishes and they were all the same price; all written on a blackboard. Super simple and quite perfect all around.
The sailing part of our adventure was coming to a close and we were all feeling quite accomplished in what we had learned along the way. We sailed back over to Cinnamon Bay to practice picking up mooring balls and snorkel a bit more, then finished our sail heading back to St Thomas. It's a pretty neat feeling to go from place to place just by a natural forces given to us by nature.
Just when we thought the trip was over we got back to St Thomas as Carnival was really heating up! Needless to say, the rest of our time was spend having waaaayyyy too much fun.
Takeaways from this adventure:
--Jose Miranda is a great teacher and Captain! We can't wait to sail with him again. http://www.moversandshakersboatdeliveries.com/
--Great cell service all through the islands...maybe we could spend some time there working???
--We loved the 44' Leopard, and may consider a shorter version as a starter boat for us.
--If you are going to St Thomas during Carnival, plan on spending a lot of money on a hotel, but having loads of fun drinking and dancing. Also, a lot of shops are closed so don't plan on shopping too much.
--Camping at Cinnamon Bay is definitely an experience to remember. http://cinnamonbayresort.com/
--Boat life is definitely for us.
For the more well written version of this adventure, check out Her version: www.aliareimer.com
And here are some more pictures to sum up the good times. Now if I could only get a boat...