Wednesday, June 14, 2017

5 days of traveling/exploring the Virgin islands by Inflatable Part 1

   The plan was simple: travel the U.S. and British Virgin islands by living out of 2 bags (one containing an  inflatable SUP) and then paddle to Puerto Rico.  Everything needed to have a successful adventure would have to be packed into 2 bags, one checked in the flight and one carry on.


    A quick drive  to St. Louis's Lambert airport began the day at 4am. Flight check-in and 2 flights later I arrive in St. Thomas' Cyril E. King airport, a small airport where you land on the airfield and walk outside to the terminal. Upon entry I get some free Rum samples to help with the immediate face sweating from the climate.


    I grab my bags,  easy to spot coming off the conveyor belt,  and make way to find a way out of the airport. This trip is non-luxury and I plan on not spending $40 on a taxi for a 20 minute ride.  So from local intel I find there are safari rides. Not your typical safari rig in the bush, more-so these are pickup trucks modified to fit people into row seating 3-4 in a row.  If you have a mammoth SUP bag with you then you commandere most of the seat row yourself.  For $2 the safari will take me across half the island with multiple stops. At the end I can hop a second safari for another $2.  $4 for a ride to the waterfront= saving $38 and adding a little adventure.


    The kicker? Safaris are not allowed to roll up to the airport and pick people up. They are more geared for people getting around the island.  Safaris are individually owned and not part of the taxi system. So I have to walk about a mile to get one. No sweat. Or more like loads of sweat! Pulling a 50lb bag on wheels and carrying a 40lb duffel makes me sweat as I trudge down a hot asphalt walkway. I find a convenience store and stop for info and some bottled water.  A 20 minute wait and I hop my first safari.  Interesting group of people on it. People getting off work, Going to the market. Going who knows where. The fella I'm next to has come off a labor job and is stoned as can be. Island life! He's hilarious and I tell him what I'm up to. He starts to tell me about the dangerous crossing from St. Thomas to St. John. It's entertaining but taken seriously.

  I get to the the second safari and then finally get to the eastern end of St Thomas at Red hook. I walk about 5 minutes and I'm at the water inflating my SUP. Onlookers are wondering what's going on as they wait for their Ferry boat to come, the last of the night. I even convince a by-stander to pump a while.  Board inflated and loaded up I leave for St. John at the day's end.

  The fella from the safari wasn't exaggerating, the water gets rough quickly once in the main channel. It has a washing machine effect. The boats flying by combined with the ferry boats and the channel + wind makes for a hairy paddle.  The Worst part is it's now dark and some of these boats are without lights. I have to listen to where they're coming from and  make sure my strobe light is positioned so they can see it.  A knuckle biter of a 4.5 hr paddle and I make St. John. greeted by "The Beach Bar" I settle in on a beach table and nestle my board and gear on the tree nearby. A Mahi sandwich and local St. John brewers beer make the crossing worthwhile.  The best part is I put in a call to a friend who lives on the island, Chirag, co-owner of St. John Brewers, who is putting me up for the night at his place.


Day 2 on the island starts slow. Some morning yoga at the Westin Hotel with Chirag's wife and then back to the house to load the board and gear for a paddle.  Loaded up I catch a ride to the Eastern part of the island from Chirag and unload. A quick Pump up and I'm  prepped for the first big crossing. St John USVI to Jost Van Dyke BVI. A Caribbean sea crossing of about 10 miles or so.

  No easy crossing by any means.  It's a cross wind and swell. winds are blowing at 17mph. On top of that there's a shipping channel I have to navigate with heavy boat traffic. I Leave Leinster Bay  and make my way to Tortola BVI. This is the easy leg as it's only 1.5hrs of paddling. In the bay it's calm due to being somewhat protected.

. The pic shows Leinster Bay where I launched. It looks peaceful but once I paddled between the 2 small islands the raging Caribbean erupted. 

                             A quick stop Near Soper's Hole BVI. I don't think I could even call it a beach. It was the best spot I could find though on the western Tortola end to take a break. Everything else was private property.

 Unfortunately I didn't take any pics of the actual crossing from Tortola to Jost Van Dyke. It was a hard 5 hour paddle across the ocean. The winds were closer to 20mph with 2-3' chop.  I lost count how many times I fell off the board. I took all my wits and to keep looking in every direction for boats. The shipping channel was busy. Huge ferries, cargo transports, personal catamarans and every other tourist out there renting a boat.  
                                    You can see the distance was no short amount. I left on the far left of St John and paddled to where the blue dot is.
   By the time I made it to Jost Van Dyke the sun was just starting to get ready to set. The tourist boats were leaving and I had a beach almost to myself.
  I decided on renting a small cabin for $80 for the night. No frills.

Some nigh time exploration by foot

                                                              Foxy's bar
                                              On the beach of Jost

an empty soggy dollar bar

Old Jeep on the island

Next up is day 3 of the adventure. Paddling back to St John. Near death from a boat. Stopping an old outpost. And seeing a sea turtle.

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