Nine of Cups
Island Hopping in the Caribbean - the Virgin Islands
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From the Spanish Virgin
Islands we sailed on to St.
Thomas in the American
Virgin Islands.  The SVI's,
as part of PR, fly the PR flag
while the AVIs have their
own territorial flag to hoist.
In contrast to the hustle and bustle of St. Thomas,  
the island of St. John was quiet and laid back.
Two thirds of the island is National Park land,
with nearly 6000 acres donated to the U.S.
government by Laurence Rockefeller in 1956.  
Pictured above is Cruz Bay.
The National Park in St. John maintains over
200 moorings which are free of charge.  
Anchoring many times damages delicate coral
reefs and sea grass beds.  Moorings help to
protect the marine environment and were also
quite a treat for us!
The British Virgin Islands consist
of 4 main islands and a myriad of
small islands.  It is one of the most
spectacular cruising areas in the
world.  Since we have spent a
number of weeks cruising these
islands in the past, we spent only a
few days here this time, opting to
spend more time in the Leewards
and Windwards.  
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Virgin Islands info...
The Virgin Islands were first “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493
on his second voyage to the New World.  Seeing the numerous islands, he
named them Las Virgenes “the Virgins” in honor of St. Ursula and the
11,000 virgins who, threatened by the marauding Huns in  4th century
Cologne, sacrificed their lives rather than submit to a fate worse than death.
The Virgins have been owned or occupied by the Spain, France, England,
Denmark, Holland, the U.S. and for a short while, the Knights of Malta!  
There are three Virgin Island groups today and each maintain a distinct
heritage based upon their history :

Spanish Virgin Islands  are part of Puerto Rico and include Culebra &
American Virgin Islands  are a separate U.S. territory and include St.
Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.  These islands were purchased from
Denmark in 1917.
British Virgin Islands are still a British territory and include the larger
islands of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Anagada and Virgin Gorda as well as
numerous smaller islands.
One of the first buildings noticeable
when you go ashore is Ft. Christian, built
as a harbor fortification by the Danes in
1671. The clock was added in the late
1800’s.   Ft. Christian is the oldest
building still in use in St. Thomas and
today is an historic site with a museum.
We took a cable car to the top of a hill
overlooking the harbor. Pictured above is
the harbor at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
as a rain squall approaches.
Culebra and Vieques are part of Puerto Rico and as such are distinctly Spanish. Vieques is known most notably as a site of contention
because of the U.S. Navy’s continued use of the island as a naval aircraft bombing range.  In order for cruisers to stop at Vieques, they
must first make sure that the range is “cold”, i.e. no bombing exercises are planned.  We opted to pass by Vieques, but stopped for a
day and overnight at Culebra.  It is known for its beaches and miles of shoreline.   

After the longer passages we've made, travelling in the Carribean is a treat.  Although a couple of the passages are longer (75+ miles),
most are pleasant dayhops from one island to another.  The distance from St. John, AVI's to Jost Van Dyke, BVI's for instance, is only
five miles.  In that short distance, we travel not only to another island, but to another country, another round of customs/immigration,
new culture, different foods, different currency, sometimes a different language... but all part of the adventure
We spent a day or so exploring the town of
Charlotte Amalie. Government House was built in
1867 for meetings of the Danish Colonial
Council. The little red guardhouse still stands. The
building is now used as the offices of the
Governor of the Virgin Islands.
The 99 Steps…(but actually there are
103, I counted) built in the mid-1700s,
they lead from the lower city to  
Government House. Danish architects,
who had never been to St. Thomas,
insisted that the city be laid out in orderly
grids, despite the hilly terrain. Hence,
there are a number of sets of stairs
throughout the city built to facilitate the
climb. The steps are made of Danish
brick brought from Denmark in the holds
of ships where they were used as ballast.
Climbing up even more stairs, we came to
Blackbeard’s Castle built in 1669.  Legend
has it that it was built by Blackbeard the
Pirate (Edward Teach), but more historic
authentication indicates it was a military
fortress built to augment Ft. Christian and
was originally called Ft. Skytesborg
While exploring, we happened upon a
basket weaver. Among other bits of
sage advice, she told us that reeds for
baskets were only collected “at the dark
side of the moon at low tide", otherwise
they would be bug-infested. Interestingly
enough, we heard this same story from
basket weavers throughout the Carib
and South America.
St. John’s early commerce was comprised
primarily of sugar production and bay rum oil
for the making the making of cologne.The best
sugar factory remains are those at Annaberg,
(pictured above) once owned by  William
Gottschalk, a planter-owner from St. Thomas.
One of the islands, Jost Van Dyke, is the
location of a famous cruisers' bar named
Foxy's, pictured above. In the "small world
department, the bartender at Foxy's went to
high school with my sister, Lin, in Leicester,
MA. Who would have thunk it?
Next, we head to Anguilla. If you care
to come for the ride, just click!
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Spanish Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands
American Virgin Islands
British Virgin Islands
A number of endemic anoles like this one inhabit St.
We'd visited the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin
Gorda before and decided to visit again. It's a classy,
expensive place, but worth the stop just for its charm.
On the Menu…
Roti – a filling of curried chicken, beef  
or fish wrapped into a  crepe-like shell.
Kind of like a Caribbean burrito.

Callaloo – a soup of callaloo greens (or
spinach), okra, garlic and spices
Virgin Gorda was named the “Fat Virgin”
by Columbus because of the island’s
seaward resemblance to a fat woman lying
on her back.  The island is 10 miles long
and boasts a populaton of about 8,000
people.  The Spanish mined as much as
10,000 tons of copper here from the mid-
16th to the mid-19th century.  
The Bitter End…the loose end
of any line that comes out of a
knot. Most “bitter” when it’s the
inboard end of an anchor rode and
not securely attached to the boat.
By law, the Britsh Royal Navy was
required to provide each member of the
crew ½ pint of rum per day. Yo, ho, ho
and a bottle of rum. In this place, the
rum would be Pussers.