Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Slice of the Cruising Community

Lameshure Bay was home to the Tektite Project in 1969/70 and today at the original basecamp there stands a little volunteer-run museum and an open-air camp run as the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station.

Back in '69, a group of four aquanauts lived underwater in a pressurized habitat for longer than anyone had before.  This was a combined project of the U.S. Navy, NASA, the Dept. of the Interior and General Electric (who built the habitat) and was designed in conjunction with studying crews for prolonged space exploration.  It was really interesting to read all the articles that were written at the time, in addition to viewing the actual artifacts such as a rebreather scuba tank that enabled a diver to stay under water for more than four hours at a time.  The most fascinating to me was the National Geographic article written about the four 'girls' who lived in the habitat for two weeks.  The team lead and second where highly qualified marine biologists and the other two were graduate students both of 23 years of age; I couldn't help but think of Caitlin doing this type of ground breaking work and yet being referred to as a 'girl' - how times have changed.  The displays and photos of the scientists and engineers in their shirts, ties and eager smiles in the late 60s took me back to photos of the same time when Dad & Mom went to Sudbury and Dad was doing cardiac research - why is it that so much scientific equipment at that time was coloured that horrible 'hospital-green'?

Once we'd completed our shore-side explorations we had a fabulous day sailing around the corner to Coral Bay.  The winds were light, we shook out the reef in the sail and once we figured out the confusing view of the islands ahead of us, we turned left to the east end of St. John.  The advantage of sailing in the Virgin Islands is that it is easy to do line-of-sight navigation.  The only problem is you have to be sure of which island you are 'sighting' before you sail to it!

Once anchored in Coral Bay we had a look around us and quickly came to the realization that this anchorage is totally off the charter beat.  The variety of boats in the bay and the various ways in which they are kitted out for life aboard (if occupied) was the equivalent of visiting an old established neighbourhood with loads of character compared to a new development where everyone's garages are still painted the same colour.  It was also obvious that many of the boats have not been touched since hurricane season and there were a few sad relics still underwater that may or may not be cleared out soon.

Ashore, Coral Bay is an interesting mix or harbour hang-outs with gift stores, a serious-looking marine mechanic, little grocery stores and bus-stops for those who are making the trek across the island to the main town of Cruz Bay.  We spent some time picking through one of the shops and in the process were offered a mooring ball and a personal tour of St. Croix the next time we are down this way!  Everyone we met is so friendly and has a story to tell of where they left 20-odd years ago before settling on the island.  Many of the local cruisers spend the high-season working on St. John and then head out of the 'box' for hurricane season, but none of them told of how they return to their original home further north.

We finished up the evening with sundowners at Skinny Legs bar and then back to the boat for dinner; we are now personally cruising through the leftovers (and eating very well, I might add.)

A couple of challenges to end this posting... the first is like the 'Where's Waldo' search with a twist:  in this one you must consume at least two rum drinks and then go about finding your dinghy in which to go home (oh, and by the way you have to know where to find your boat too!)  In the second you have to figure out which legs belong to you and which to leave behind... all part of the local atmosphere.