Christmas in the USVI

We timed our sail from St Marteen to St. John, one of the US Virgin Islands, so that we would arrive in the morning, giving us enough time to find a place for the boat as well as to go and check in. Almost the whole island is a protected national park, where you are not allowed to anchor, so we found a mooring not too far from Cruz Bay, and soon we were on our way in the dinghy to check in to the United States. The US is the only country on the whole journey for which we need a visa, and considering all the trouble to get it in Suriname, we were quite happy once we had the entrance stamps in our passport. Our visa will run out on the 19th of June, so we will have to make it to Canada before then.

After getting an IPA in one of the cafés, we headed to the store to check what we would be having for our Christmas dinner. In St Maarten we had only seen the Chinese owned supermarkets, which tend to be a bit sparse in their selection, so we had been a bit worried that we would end up having noodles with curry sauce for Christmas. But we had no reason to fear, the supermarket had pretty much everything you could wish for, including cranberries – Christmas dinner was saved.

Back in the boat we finally had time to look around, and realized that we had come to an amazingly beautiful place, with clear water and small green islands all around us. We spent the next couple of days in that same anchorage, making a couple more trips to town, and snorkeling on the reef next to the boat. We have been anchored for so long, and somehow it was really nice to be on a mooring that you trust, knowing that nobody will anchor right on top of you and no one will drag their anchor into to you. Very relaxing.

A couple of days before Christmas, we moved around the corner to Maho Bay, which was a bit more protected from northerly swell. In our Windy map app, we found a trail that looked cool, so we packed food and water and headed for the beach. Lots of Americans seem to use their sparse holidays in the USVI, so we landed between friendly beachgoers, pulled the dinghy high up on the beach, where we could lock it to a tree, and headed out on the street. The USVI is not part of the US for nothing, and we were overtaken by a number of 4x4s, with people in them looking at us as if we were crazy choosing to walk in the heat.

Halfway up the first trail, we began to wonder as well. This trail was clearly not used very often – in the beginning we weren’t even sure if we were actually on the trail or in a dried stream. And it was steep and full of clinging, stinging plants. The view was breathtaking of course, and in the end we finally we had made it to the top of the island. The next part of the hike was longer, but a lot easier. We hiked on a well kept trail, with little signs along the way telling us about the plants and the ruins of the former sugar plantations that we passed. The USVI was under Danish rule until 1917, so this place made the slave history a bit closer to our lives, which is probably healthy. In Denmark, we don’t exactly see identify as responsible for the slave trade, but we actually played quite a large role back then, both in the trade and in owning slaves. Nature has taken back most of the remains, but a few houses from the sugar plantations were still standing, complete with familiar red stones from Denmark.

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Sugar plantation ruins

After 5 kilometers of hiking we made it to a small pool with petroglyphs carved into the rock around us. A beautiful place, and perfect for having lunch and playing a bit before starting the trip back. And somehow that trip was much easier, so all in all we had a very nice day of hiking.

Another day, we went to see the Anaberg sugar mill, which has been somewhat restored. Again we had a beautiful view.

On the way there, we found a small path upwards to a former school for slave children. This school was one of several other schools, which governor von Scholten had worked hard for. His plan was to educate the kids, making them able to live as free people. Unfortunately, the whole school project took so long that they were only finished a few years before slavery was abolished in 1848 (by von Scholten, without permission from the king). The school we saw had only been used for a few years, but school was mandatory for all children on the islands, so some other were in use for much longer.

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Ruins of the school

And then it was Christmas! We had many dishes to prepare, as well as presents to wrap and a tree to make pretty. We bought the tree last year in IKEA on the Canaries, and it takes a bit of love before a plastic tree that has been in storage for a year looks good again. We hadn’t had many chances to get presents for each other, but while in Decathlon in Martinique, I managed to keep the kids’ attention while Esben sneaked away to buy two surfboards. And my sister saved our Christmas when she went out last minute to get two LEGO sets for my parents to bring to Tobago. We had somehow managed to keep both LEGO and surfboards concealed from the kids, and they couldn’t have had a better Christmas. Especially as they were well aware that we hadn’t been anywhere near a toy store for months, so they weren’t 100% sure that we had gotten them presents. In the end, we had a very nice evening, with good food and good company, though we ended up keeping the dessert for the next day – it was just too much food.

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Merry Christmas

To see our most current position, click here.

 

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