We arrived in St Thomas after a bit of a bumpy ride. Since we are still facing the east winds and are trying to travel directly into the wind we have to motor. A die-hard true sailor would sail and tack all the way. We are not sailing purest. We don’t mind motoring now and then. Heck, we have an engine for a reason. Having to motor without the sails, the boat tends to roll around a little bit. It wasn’t a horrid ride. We’ve had worse. But, it was too bumpy to enjoy a nice breakfast along the way. We left early in the morning hoping to get some miles under the hull before the winds picked up for the day and made do with a couple of granola bars. The entire passage from Culebra to St Thomas was about 25 miles and took us about 5 hours.
Several years ago in the corporate life, I made a pact with some coworkers who were also into boating. Additionally, we also had ambitions to retire early and travel. During a corporate meeting while having a few adult beverages, a pact was made and we agreed to meet in St Thomas one day on our boats. We set a day and year to meet. I remember doing this and thinking the date seemed a very long way off in the future. For quite a few years, I carried a planner with a Post-it note stuck just inside the first page. The note simply had the date of the planned reunion meeting. It served as a reminded to save money and live within our means allowing us to afford to retire early, buy a boat and be able to sail to St Thomas for the get-together. I missed the date. That passed about 5 years ago so, I’m a little late arriving. However as far as I know, I am the only one of the three in the pact to make it here at all.
Both Cindy and I have always wanted to visit St Thomas. Neither one of us can really articulate why. Perhaps it just sounded to us like a nice place to visit. We were both a little giddy with excitement when we plopped the anchor down in Long Bay off the main town of Charlotte Amalie.
The first thing you need to know about St Thomas is they drive on the left side of the road. It always takes me a little getting used to this since I tend to have a couple of near misses with cars because I am looking the wrong way when crossing the street. I later noticed on the cross-walks they had “Look Right” printed on the street. Perhaps I should start using crosswalks more often.
Once ashore we encountered a new form of transportation, safari taxis. These are open air hop-on hop-off converted trucks. The privately owned safari taxis drive in a loop around the island; well it’s a sort of figure eight and takes a little getting used to. There are no planned stops. You simply wait by the side of the road, preferably in a safe area, and flag one down. They pull over and you hop on in the back. People will slide over to let you in. When you want to get off, you either ring the bell or bang on the roof of the bus. They pull over and you hop off. When you hop off you pay the whopping sum of one dollar each. We rode one the entire route which was only two dollars. It was a great way to see the island. We tipped the driver and gave him five dollars for the 45 minute ride. He looked very confused as to why we would over-pay. But then, thought it best to drive off with the money.
Another rare form of transportation is a sea-plane. From the boat we could see the planes landing in the western part of the bay. When visiting Frenchtown, we saw the terminal and managed to catch a glimpse of a plane unloading on the dock. Imagine having this as part of your commute. The sea-plane terminal was right next door to the ferry terminal. Some people hoped off the plane and onto a ferry. The ferries connect to all the surrounding islands. Wow! People have such different modes of transportation here.
We spent most of our time on St Thomas strolling around Charlotte Amalie. The town is influenced by Dutch architecture. There are countless alleyways to meander. The narrow allies offer shade and a nice breeze since they face the trade winds. Stores, restaurants, bars, and businesses are located down these tiny streets. The mailman has to walk to deliver the mail. Most of the windows and doors are arched and have massive shutters. When the store is closed it looks a little bit like a warehouse from the outside. But when the doors are open, a beautiful modern shop is revealed.
The duty-free merchants cater to the cruise ship tourists. I am assuming the cruise ship passengers have oodles of excess money to spend. I have never seen so many high-dollar watches offered for sale in one place. I am not kidding when I say this. There is store after store after store selling Rolexes, Breitlings, designer perfumes and purses. Because there are so many stores, many of them have a barker outside to try to lure people inside. One of the barkers asked very nicely if we arrived by private boat. We told him we had a sailboat anchored in the bay. He suggested I should buy a Rolex Nautical or Yacht-Master for ten thousand dollars to complement the boat. I had to laugh at this. Here I am in my flip flops, Wal-Mart shorts and a three dollar tee-shirt. And, this guy is trying to sell me a high-end watch. Good for him! I showed him my wrist and said, “I don’t wear a watch. I am retired; I don’t need to know what time it is. Heck most of the time, I can’t even tell you what day it is.” He didn’t have much of a come-back to this.