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Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

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Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

We just returned from an almost two week trip to magical STJ. It was our 18th year in a row on island and we still, as always, found it to be intoxicating, providing just the tonic we needed to revitalize and heal from both challenges at work and this past New England winter. The workman and painters took over our home, while we were away repairing many areas of ceiling damage caused by the roof ice damns as a result of record snow fall and ice build up in the months past.

Over the years we have traveled to STJ with our young, pre-teen, teenage, and finally young-adult children and, at times, their friends, varying combinations of extended family, together as a couple and the past two years with another couple who are dear sailing-friends of ours. They have come to love STJ as much as us; and we just mesh together. Our children wonder when we are taking them back...they are busy working hard in the real world:)

For the past 15 years we have stayed in the Rendezvous Bay area(encompasses both Hart and Klein bays, for those of you who are not as familiar with the island) and the past two years at Villa Anansi, which over looks mesmerizing Klein Bay. We love to snorkel that area, as we did, at some point, almost every day. We relished breakfast and many dinners on the villa deck, while being entertained by the early morning and late in the evening light shows; breath-taking to say the least, as we were surrounded with the pink, mango and papya colors streaming across the sky. We were blessed with a full moon rising. And, the nights that the moon delayed it's appearance, the stars cascaded from heaven to sea in front of us. We ooed and ahhed, from our sanctuary perch.

We enjoyed cooking together in the kitchen that looks out to the vast stretch of Caribbean sea, presenting as a multifaceted opal. Kitchen time was particularly fun while listening to Enya in the morning while "Kiss of Jumbie" coffee, from St John Spice, was brewing, and Van Morrison or Jimmy in the evening, while we were tearing and chopping island greens and grilling steaks of fish for a delicatable meal. We danced and sang and celebrated our relationships and friendship in this very soulful setting. We took dips in the pool.

The air was so clear this year, so abscent of moisture beads, that we felt as it we could reach out and touch St Croix... we could see it end to end. . However; for most of our days on island the weather was very dry and the seas unusually calm. The island is craving rain. There were some heavy night down pours on the last days, and so the night creatures were out in celebration as the sun set and the birds awoke with grand chorus at sunrise. One day two rainbows formed at either end of the bay. We felt as if we were sitting in the pot of gold, so blessed.

The bay below offered up wonderful snorkeling with turtle and ray sightings almost daily. For several days we watched a huge eagle ray jumping almost 4 feet out of the water; he made an amazing splash with each return. We also saw him while snorkeling; impressive! There were many schools of fish so the pelicans were presesnt for dive shows. We saw many more large fish this year, including two healthy size Baracuda in Hart Bay. And the reefs in that bay were as alive as ever. The snorkeling in this area is forever changing.

We spent early morning time on Trunk Bay Beach, which we had not visited for years; and almost a full day there another day. It was heavenly. Entrance fees waved for Easter Weekend. We spent a day at Hawksnest , which is always a favorite; but the snorkeling was less impressive this year compared to last. However; as stated and is typical the snorkeling changes from year to year. We swam over and spent time on Gibney beach. Walking that beach always gives me such a deserted island feel. And, we spent a day at another favorite, Cinnamon Bay. The water was choppy the day that we went, so we did not snorkel, but enjoyed watching the group of guys trying to launch kite boards in a very stiff breeze with gusts to at least 25 knts. We snorkeled and beached at Salt Pond twice, more on that, in a bit.

Favorite experiences, including some that were new for us:

Renting kayaks at Cinnamon (not new for us, but a first for our friends)and kayaking out to and snorkeling all the way around Whistling Cay. Snorkeling the left side (as you face the ruins, where we pull out) )of the cay is magnificent, as is much of the far wall and half way down the right side. After lunch on the cay, we kayaked along Mary Point with many turtles, and then on to Frances Bay beach, where we took long naps in the shade. We then kayaked to Maho Beach and hiked up the stairs to the glass and pottery works and they specially opened the craft store for us; we vowed to return and shop. In the late afternoon we kayaked back to Cinnamon; this is truly one of my most favorite on island experiences. It was an all round lovely and sparkling day out on the water. We ended it at the Beach bar in Cruz Bay. We had wonderful island drinks and several appetizers and watched the activities and sunset. Does it get any better than this? We slept, oh, so well, that night!

A first ,for all of us, was Sunday Brunch, with Jazz on the side, at Miss Lucy's. We arrived early enough to almost have our pick of tables, under a seagrape tree, 6 feet from the water, whilst pelicans dove. I would highly recommend this outing to anyone, from the ambiance, which included sipping mimosas, while listening to soft music, and eating delicious food; it was just a picture perfect experience all the way around. We returned the next night for the "Full Moon" party and to listen to the on island band "Ish." Great muisc! We were happy to greet Jared, who plays guitar, and who has also, over the years, captained wonderful days for us on the sailing vessel "Breathe." This was another first on island for us and we would do it again in a heart beat; it was festive and fun and everyone was dancing and celebrating life. I found some colorful sea glass on the beach to the left of Miss Lucy's. My friend has influenced me to become an an avid collector.

Following our brunch at Miss Lucy's we snorkeled Salt Pond, where the reefs, out a ways, in the middle are alive with wonderful textures and color; more stunning fish. On the way home we had drinks and appetizers at Shipwreck Landing; we would choose this option again!

Another first: snorkeling for us was Haulover North. Many years ago we had hiked into that area, with our children, but it was too rough. On the day we were there it was calm and spectacular day, The snorkeling was exceptional, except for the huge shark that I saw....phewwwwwwwweee, a few heart palpatations there, and I am not scared of much underwater. I would snorkel there again! We had drinks and lunch at Skinny legs on our way home. It is an island must for us. We have been going there almost since it first opened.

Another first and absolutely exceptional experience was hiking Ram's Head and snorkeling off Blue Cobble stone. Everything about that day was a ten plus! The reefs were teaming with fish, including varieties we had never seen before, and the abundance of coral was almost overwhelming; the more you looked the more you saw. It is true, that this experience is much more like snorkeling off shore reefs. It was, perhaps, the best snorkeling that we have ever done around STJ; and we have done a great deal. I loved Blue Cobble Stone beach (reminds me of East beach on the island of Frenchboro, Maine....any one ever been there?). We were very taken by the dramatic and varying scenery of Ram's head; never expected it to be such a thrill....thought that it would just be more like Ditliff, before it was developed. After lunch and naps at Salt Pond Beach, we snorkeled the reefs at the far end of the bay again, they did not disappoint, and on the way back in we swam with two loving turtles and several rays for a long time. We rested again and then hiked over to Drunk Bay (another first)....simply magnificent....the waves were intnese with motion, the stone people were out and about in such variety and the scenery reminded us somewhat of the Northwest coast of Scotland. Walking around the salt pond we saw many humming birds in the vegetation. This was such a spiritually fulfilling day.

Another first for us, was walking early in the morning on Trunk Bay Beach, while the shadows of palms were cast across the sand, then we went to breakfast at the Maho Bay Camp ground pavillion. It was very good, and we would go there again for the atmosphere and food. It was then that we shopped at the craft store. I spent too much money, and it was so worth it. They shipped our purchases and mine already arrived, but I was not here to receive, so must go to the post office on Monday.

Following that earlier in the morning experience at Trunk and then Maho, we hiked to Leinster Bay beach and snorkeled Waterlemon Cay; just love that underwater garden, it never disappoints. As usual the parade of star fish were sliding down the front side of the cay. We snorkeled with turtles and rays in the bay and had lunch, naps and reading time on the beach. Yet another lovely day.

We dined on the deck of Morgan's Mango restaurant at sunset (a favorite of our friends) and the food and especially the drinks (they make great mojitoes) and music did not disappoint. We always go there when on island. We dined at Waterfront Bistro at sunset, at a table by the beach....has become a favorite of ours. We had hoped to dine at Rhumblines and La Tapa, but just never made it because dinners of salad with fish or chicken, fish or steaks, on the villa deck, is just all too perfect at the end of our sun, sand and sea days.

We do most of our grocery shopping at Starfish ( we found their produce to be exceptional this year), but for certain things (like beer) we stop at Pine Peace and for quick and easy (like on our first day) we stop at St John Market. Most days we make sandwiches for the beach, except for one day, as usual, we purchase them at Deli Grotto; yummy!

Cateredto, who manages, Villa Anansi, were easy to work with and when we have had concerns or questions they have responded in record time. We would have rented Anansi again, except for the price increase, so we are booked for two weeks,

April 2012, into Leeward Villa. We think that Carefree is another exceptional on island managment company, and we have visited Leeward, just up the hill from Anansi, a couple times now.

Cateredto arranged a jeep rental for us through Bougainvillea Leasing. Renting there always gives us cause to visit Schnell's studio in the Amore building. And, we had a place to park in the evenings.I have a collection of pottery from him and added another piece this year. We were fascinated by what he has done to the Amore building; like stepping into Little Italy. Such a talented and interesting family.

I would already be counting the days until our return, but tomorrow we head to our club to start preparing our 36 foot sailboat for launch and soon enough we will be sailing to Block Island, and all around that area. One of the waitresses at Skinny Leg's calls STJ, Block Island south. We do love summer by and on the water in New England.

So, as much as I am missing STJ and all the healthy and healing experience it offered us, it is spring in New Engalnd, and we came home to green grass and blooms every where. Tomorrow we will work on our boat by the water. . Our skin has been kissed all over with cinnamon and nutmeg and our bodies stretched and toned. While on island Mr. and Mrs. Iguana lived in a tree next to our bedroom deck and the rhythm of their lives intrigued me; and I will strive to keep this STJ state of mind at least with me through the summer.

To all of you, who are counting down your days, to being on island, the anticipation adds such length to the days in that very special place. ENJOY!

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1. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Fantastic trip report thanks for sharing. You are a talented writer and it made for a fun read. It amazes me that even after 18 years for you there were so many firsts. I think that is what I love about St John is so many different things to do. We still have to snorkel Whistling cay. Where did you snorkel on Haulover North? to the left or right. It has been to rough whenever we have been there. We did do the rock scramble and that was much calmer and a good snorkel there.

We also like to walk trunk bay early in the morning. It is almost magical.The lifeguards told us from one edge of the beach to the other was 1/4 mile.

Thanks again for taking the time to share.

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2. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Great report! We have been going for 20 years and still find new things to do each trip. Last year we hiked down to Denis Bay but it was too rough to snorkel. Hope to try again this year. Also hope to take the Reef Bay Trail hike with the NPS, which we have never done. Want to have lunch at Caneel and walk the grounds and snorkel too. Haven't been there for at least 14-15 years. I'm not making any set plans other than the NPS hike because we fall into "island time" pretty quickly. Hoping for good weather, but know the island NEEDS rain! We will have fun no matter what.

8 days to go!!

Allen, Texas
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3. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Love your excellent report! I can envision myself there while I'm reading your words! We are getting ready for our 9th trip this summer and there are so many places we have yet to explore! Always a reason to go back again and again! One week a year is never enough~ Thanks for sharing!

Hartford, CT
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4. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Thank you so much for this great report! We are back from a long trip as well. We too are so relieved to see some of the coral and fish life making improvements. I'm glad to hear you had a good experience at Haulover North this time around. Last year, I think a boat load of garbage must have floated ashore from Drake's Passage and it was a bit traumatic for me so I'm glad to see things were cleaned up.

Wilmington, DE
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5. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Loved your report and you are in fact, a very talented writer! You bring out the magic of St. John for all of us who love it so. We are pretty much newbies having only been once, but are headed back in February for 2 glorious weeks and can hardly wait. Thanks for sharing your experience and love of St. John. Enjoy the spring and summer:)

San Antonio, Texas
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6. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Thanks for the trip details ...we are heading to St John for our first visit in June. We will be there for 9 days with our "kids", ages 21 and 24. If you have any suggestions on the places/activities/things to do that their age enjoys that us 50-somethings don't find all that appealing, I'd love to hear it. Also, I've heard some suggestions to rent a dinghy one day and hop around on it ....have you experienced that? Any full day sailing charters you would recommend? We are big on snorkeling and hiking, so I'd love to hear any hikes you recommend.


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7. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Thank you all for your warm messages in regards to my thoughts and feelings about STJ. We have, over the years, enjoyed that special place with many different people, whom have all gathered equal memorable experiences from their time on island. We are so grateful that there is such a place and we are thankful to the many people who work so hard there to instill a sense of community for the island.

Bluewater43 ~ The Reef Bay NPS hike is very worth it. Like you we make few plans prior to landing on STJ; we let them unfold with each day or depending on wind and weather plan the evening before; it is great that there are so many options.

Tuxedocat; the last time we were at Haulover (many many years ago) we were taken back by the trash as well. This year we saw a few items that were a bit discouraging, but it was at the end of our snorkel. It is unfortunate, if boaters or otherwise are dumping. I can relate to how that would be a "traumatic experience."

TeachinSA ~ I am so excited that this will be your first trip to STJ with your family. I agree that Woody's is a fun place for young people to hang-out. Our children always loved doing all the things we like to do; hike, kayak, snorkel and swim. I would suggest that you purchase a copy of "Feet, Fins and Fourwheel Drive," as it is a great read about the various places to snorkel and hike around STJ. My first trip there many many moons ago I had done considerable research with what was available back then through Fodors and Frommers, and really had a good sense of the island before we traveled there...it paid off as our children were young then and looked at me to be the "Cruise Director." If you are up for (an early morning, before the heat) a rugged hike; we thought that Ram's Head was spectacular. We love snorkeling Whistling Cay, Rendezvous Bay, and Waterlemon Cay, and just about everything in between can be interesting as well.

Cindygad ~ We snorkeled both sides of Haulover North, found the left side to be the most vibrant. That is where I saw a huge shark....not anything I want to see again. We were fortunate to have such calm seas. We have never done the rock scramble, but sounds like an interesting experience...in our mid-age we seem to becoming even more adventurous:).

Portsmouth, New...
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8. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

What a great trip you had. Makes me long to be back there. And how blessed you are to have a sailboat and the time to use it here at home. Enjoy!

Hudson, Florida
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9. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

Excellent trip report. Felt like I was there. You truly are a very talented writer! My first trip to STJ was in Oct/2010 & I am now headed back again in July! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience!!

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10. Re: Trip Report 4/16-4/29 / Very LONG...I had to get it out:)

What a beautiful piece to read. Truly inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share.