Take a Boat Ride in the USVI:  Views From the North Shore

Take a Boat Ride in the USVI: Views From the North Shore

Good Morning, Good Morning!  And a Happy Wednesday to you!  We had the lucky opportunity to spend the day motoring, and then sailing, along St. John’s gorgeous North Shore from Cruz Bay all the way to Waterlemon Cay yesterday.  Rarely do we do this trip on Asante as the straight into the wind traverse along our beautiful shorelines prohibits sailing…unless you want to take several hours tacking back and forth to do it!  But, our lovely guests for the day have been dedicated St. John visitors for many years and getting out to snorkel the cay from the beach has become a bit of a trek for them.  And we always enjoy mixing it up a bit for a fresh perspective.  So, we set to motoring towards the farthest reaches of the North Shore of St. John in order to get them out there for a beautiful snorkeling adventure.   And I dedicated a lot of my afternoon to gathering images of the beautiful day to share with all of you this morning.

Before I get into these snapshots from the sea, I want to briefly touch on a subject that has been bewildering all of us.  It is a topic of conversation between USVI Captains, crew, charter company owners and ALL of our guests.  The British Virgin Islands.  First, I want to say that I DO know there is an arduous and expensive process (starting on November 1, 2021) that the USVI charter businesses are being tasked with in order to operate as a foreign vessel in the BVI.  I’ll be posting an in-depth look at that process next week as soon as I gather the rest of the information in order to fully explain this to all of you.  In the meantime, DO NOT hesitate to book a St. John based charter boat the next time you visit.  Many established boat companies are feeling the financial burn of cancellations and lack of bookings.  Why?  Because folks don’t want to go on a boat if they can’t go to the BVI.  I know, weird right?  US Virgin Islands Nice!

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Mary Point – Between Francis and Annaberg.

Oh, and we share your sentiments!  We miss the BVI too!  But, I want to point something out to you in this post.  I am coming up on my ten year island-iversary this fall.  I am on the water nearly EVERY day.  And not a day goes by that I don’t find something new to see and appreciate (above AND below the waterline).  Something previously overlooked and beautiful that blows my mind.

My point?  Even though you can’t go to your favorite locales across the channel right now and even though you don’t want to do the “same thing” you did last year, do not hesitate to get out on the water while you are here!  Talk to your preferred charter boat operator for your upcoming trip and let them know you would like to explore something new.  Tell them where you have been before and things that you would like to see on your next trip.  Pack a lunch or ask them to arrange for lunch on board so you aren’t tied to a lunch stop location.  It’s time for all of us (charter operators AND guests!) to get creative and come up with new and exciting USVI itineraries…it’s time to find something new-to-us in our own “backyard.”  Think about all that we have been missing that is right in front of us!

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Trust me when I say, it’s likely going to be AT LEAST next season before our lil mom and pop, St. John based operations get these tasks (and financials!) accomplished in order to head over to the BVI.  And even then, there are vaccination requirements, additional COVID tests, custom fees, etc.  Please remember, even though they are RIGHT THERE, the British Virgin Islands are comprised of foreign soil and they have their own sets of rules and regulations.  And, as business owners in a foreign country, there is a lot of compliance for USVI boats to now go through in order to head that way for a commercial trip.

So, hop on board and look a little closer at the wonder around you that is St. John…

And, that’s my rant for the day 🙂  Let’s take a look at some beautiful things shall we?

Have you every seen the old customs house on Whistling Cay (pronounced KEY)?  According to the Library of Congress, the Whistling Cay customs house was constructed in the early 1800’s as a guard house in order to patrol escaping enslaved laborers between the US (then Danish) and British Virgin Islands.   It was part of a chain of three guard houses:  Whistling Cay, Leinster Bay and Mary Point (pictured above).  The Leinster Bay guard house was recently listed in the Underground Railroad “Network to Freedom” historic sites.  After slavery was abolished in the USVI, the guard house was used as a customs house to guard the shipping traffic between the two territories.

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Whistling Cay is located right across the channel from Francis and Maho. It is accessible from the water but you’ll need an experienced guide or captain to get you there. But, in my opinion, it is just as impressive from the water.

While we are on the subject of historic buildings…Do you recognize this one?

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This iconic little white house on Cinnamon Bay is the oldest known structure on St. John.  It was constructed in the 1600’s, according to the Virgin Islands National Park website, and still stood fully intact until Hurricane Irma hit in 2017.  Prior to the storms, Friends of the Park and VINPS used the structure as an Educational Center and Archaeology Laboratory.  The small structure housed exhibits that documented the human occupation of St. John from the 1600’s through the founding of the Virgin Islands National Park in the 1950’s.

In another glance of Cinnamon Bay, you can see the newly developed cottages on the right.  They were set to be opening up this month and, from this distance, seem to be right on schedule!  I’ll check into that this week in order to update you all soon!

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Can you guess what beach this is?

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I did notice that Trunk Bay (you guessed it!) was not insanely busy…There were a lot of folks there but it appeared there was plenty of space on the beach in between parties.  I’m sure the parking lot was another story.  But, hey, this post is ALL about perspective, right?  🙂

One thing that I always take a moment to focus on during this floating trek along the North Shore is the sobering image of Annaberg Plantation from the water.  This visually striking development was once the home to enslaved laborers village and the factory site for the working plantation that was established in 1722.  The close proximity of Great Thatch Island and Tortola in the BVI inspired the fight for freedom in the enslaved workers at this and neighboring plantations.  Many attempted escape between the years of 1834, when slavery was abolished in the BVI, and 1848, when it was abolished in the USVI (then Danish).  Imagine taking on the quest for freedom in the form of a swim across the treacherous channel with brisk currents and winds.  If you have never been to Annaberg, you can visit it the next time you are on island OR take a virtual tour with the link above.  I believe it is very important to learn and appreciate some of the history of a place, no matter how unsettling, in order to fully understand it.

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Annaberg Plantation Est 1722 – Lower Left Corner.

This is one of my favorite beaches on island.  Accessible only by hiking trail, it remains pretty quiet even during the busiest times of the year.  I’m not going to tell you which one it is though 🙂  If you know, you know.  Shhhhhhhh.

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As we enjoyed a beautiful downwind sail back to Cruz Bay, a nearly full moon was rising over Caneel Bay.  No updates recently on that front since the Public Comment Period ended on March 4.  But, there probably isn’t much rush for updates because you won’t see much action on the property until the RUE (Rockefeller’s contract) expires in September of 2023.  In the below image, directly behind the black catamaran, is Zozo’s at Caneel Bay.   Another great boat day stop for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays!  At the top of the hill to the left, you’ll notice the clearing…That’s the campground at Neptune’s Landing.  The Windmill Bar is tucked just behind the hill in the foreground, out of sight from this angle.  Oh, and that big house up there on the top of the mountain to the right?  Well, I’ll give you three guesses as to whose that is 😉

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After arriving in back in Cruz Bay and dropping off guests, Teddy and I enjoyed a “shift drink” at High Tide, one of our favorite after work stops when we are “just having one.”  Afterwards we enjoyed a private sunset ride back around to Great Cruz Bay for a beautiful grand finale to the day.  It was one of those breathtaking sunsets that fills the sky with color and casts a reddish hue across everything.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

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5 thoughts on “Take a Boat Ride in the USVI: Views From the North Shore”

  1. Great photos. And I DO think I know which is your fave beach accessible my hike only.
    Mine is accessible from the road, but there are only three parking spots and it *looks* private.
    Can you guess?

  2. Thanks for the article, Hillary ,very informative. My wife and I have been to St. John 8 or 9 times, I kind of lost count between Irma and Covid breaks.
    My question relates to your comment about snorkeling waterlemon, we have wanted to do that for a while, and suggested it on a boating trip a couple of years ago, but were discouraged from going there due to coral damage from Irma. Is that still the case, or are those reefs recovering ? They are right along the channel edge, so I’m sure they took a beating . Would appreciate any info you have on that for our next return trip. Thanks for all you do !

  3. Hillary,
    Thank you for these great pictures. Love seeing beaches and points of interest from the water.

    Debbie in Indiana

  4. Please Cinnamon Stones Villa, I really need a vacation that provides fun, sun and mental grounding. Trying to navigate the universe after the loss of my husband has been difficult and I can feel that there is exactly what I need. I can be packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I’m ready !

  5. Any news about how BVI businesses that the USVI day trippers usually frequent are doing? We really wanted to take our boys to the Baths & snorkel in the caves, but were happy to spend our money on 2 boat trips around STJ our last time there. I’m sad to think that I may never go to BVI again due to the way their government is treating USVI businesses and tourists. Guess they don’t want or need our money. It can’t be about Covid at this point.

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