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Chutes and Ladders

Hi! Fiddle-Dee-Dee! The Cruising Life for Me

P4080235La Luna sailed!  And we remembered how! 

Right now, we’re back on our (sold) mooring and glad the new owner doesn’t need it until May, but last week EW and I returned to the cruising life.P4080240

  • We plotted a course to our destination – St. Croix
  • We prepared the boat and dropped the mooring line
  • We sailed for 6 or 7 hours
  • We dropped the hook in a totally new (to us) harbor
  • We played tourist, and stayed for three days
  • We hauled the anchor and sailed back, successfully handling one small squall with 40+ knot gusts

I liked all of it, even if I was a tad sea-sick on the way down.

We. Be. Cruisers.

I like being a cruiser, and being married to a cruiser. Most of all, I like being married to a cruiser who likes to play tourist. We enjoyed St. Croix, where we were the consummate tourists for two days. (On the third we did boat projects.)

Having arrived before sundown, we simply relaxed on board the first night but did call friends and former cruisers Martha and Peter who now have a home on St. Croix. They still have their boat, the S/V Lightheart, which Peter charters, and they’ve added a new family member of the standard poodle variety. Calypso is a joy and beautiful and much deserving of love and praise. (She told me to say that, but it’s all true.) We met Martha and Peter in Grenada and they have an amazing story to tell, including the re-emergence of Captains Courageous, Martha’s personal and professional development classes held at sea on the boat. They very nicely invited us to dinner on our first full day in St. Croix and we were delighted to spend time with them.

Earlier that day, we played tourist in Christiansted, a charming town on the water with actual public dinghy tie-up facilities. (Do NOT get me started talking about St. Thomas.) Here are a few things we saw:

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At left, a street view in the morning light.

Above, EW looking at the former Lutheran church, conveniently located across the street from where those pious types held their slave auctions.

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At left, a view from the fort. This cannon is not exactly aimed at La Luna, but it’s close enough.  The fort was ideally situated to provide excellent coastal protection. Still, the Danes surrendered to the British not once, but twice.

 

 

 

 

 

For Day Two we had a list of four places we wanted to visit on the island, and they all would all require a motorized wheeled vehicle. We could have hired a taxi, rented a car, rented a jeep, or rented a motor scooter.

Guess which one EW wanted to do?

Yep.

And since I love EW, I went along – white knuckled all the way.

Confession: Ever since I saw a Vespa ad somewhere when I was 9 or 10, I’ve always imagined myself wearing a full skirt and scooting along with a smile on my face.

Sort of like this ….. or like this.

Note that the lack of helmet didn’t bother me then.

 

 This is how we looked for real:

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Our four tourist goals were as follows:

  1. Travel to Point Udall and see the place where the sun rises first in the US – since it edged out Maine when the US purchased St. Croix in 1917.
  2. Visit the Botanical Gardens.
  3. Visit Frederiksted and the beaches on the west end.
  4. Give (non-alcoholic) beer to the pigs at the Domino Club in the rain forest, where we could eat lunch. (I did wonder whether lunch was ever a former beer-drinking pig, but wasn’t going to ask.)

First, we had to choose a scooter from the many on display. Pic-04102014-008I wanted the nifty orange one, so they hauled it out front for EW’s safety and security check. The horn didn’t work, so the orange one was rejected. The seat on the red one wasn’t secure. The young man helping us said that once EW sat on it “It wouldn’t go anywhere”, but (maybe because he had also offered to sell us some weed) EW didn’t believe him. We can’t remember what was wrong with the black one, but the pretty blue one was just right! It only had 230 miles on it and no one had dropped it. In fact, it was the only one that hadn’t been dropped.

I wasn’t getting a good feeling about this.

Our camera had stopped reading the card, so we got directions to Office Max to purchase a new card. That took over an hour as the camera still didn’t work so we went through the mall looking for a disposable. At that point I suggested we bag Point Udall since we weren’t going to get a photo. Our list was down to three items before we got started. We headed west on Route 70, a two-lane road with posted speeds of 35-45. I kind of got comfortable on the bike. Kind of.

EW would stop at lights, rev the engine (such as it was) and ask folks one lane over “Are we bad?”

We were so not bad. We looked like grandparents on a blue scooter.

The botanical gardens were an excellent stop and we highly recommend it. They aren’t the most spectacular gardens we’ve seen, but they are on an old plantation with much history thrown into the mix.

Our sprits were up as we were one for two and on our way to Frederiksted. We missed it. The map clearly showed a T in the road at which we were supposed to turn right. There is no T. We kept going and ended up doubled back on Route 66 – a four-lane highway with posted speeds of 60 mph. I was not happy, but EW liked the thought of driving Route 66 on a bike. (Get your kicks on Route 6 – 6.)

By the time EW figured out we were going east we were also nearly out of gas as none of the scooters had more than a 1/2 tank in them. We pulled into the Home Depot parking lot to get the map out of the storage bin under the seat and three young men offered their help. EW asked them if we “looked bad”. They didn’t respond, to that question, but drove very slowly on the highway so that we could keep up. They drove so slowly that EW had to apply the brakes so we didn’t rear-end them. Clearly, we did not “look bad”. We looked like grandparents on a motor scooter.

Ten minutes after we began to follow them, they led us to a gas station that was right across the street from Office Max! We’d gone in a circle. The young men suggested we get back on 66, but I didn’t like that road at all, and we were hungry, so we decided to go east on 70 again and take 69 into the rainforest to get to Club Domino for a late lunch. Fifty percent is a good average in baseball. Back in the country on 70, EW pulled over next to a produce truck and asked an old gentleman for directions. In St. Croix, everyone gives excellent directions. Good thing.

This man had been sitting up against a tree, but he stood up to talk with us. He was probably in his late 70’s, had checkerboard teeth and major indigestion. Each sentence was punctuated with burps and much rumbling from his abdomen, but he was very clear about where to turn right off of 70, and when to take the left turn into the rainforest. And he laughed when he playfully punched EW on the shoulder and said, “You goin’ to feed beer to dem pigs, ain’t you?”

Oh yeah, we were bad.

So we followed his directions exactly, and came to road construction. The flagger took one look at us, spoke into her radio, and waved us through. Here’s something that doesn’t happen on the mainland: the front end loader around the corner simply stopped for a minute and they waved us under the arm, between the cab and the bucket. Oh yeah, we were bad.

Up over the little mountain, down the other side, and there it was, Club Domino, just where the old gentleman had said. But it was curiously quiet. The few people there were loading big foil covered food trays into a van. “I’m sorry, we are closed today,” one lady said. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. Once I recovered, I said, “I thought you were always open.”

“We are open 364 days a year. The only day we close is for the Taste of St. Croix and that’s today.”

Seriously.

I asked where we could go for lunch and a tour on this bike and we got directions to head up over the mountain road (oh joy) and to the north end of the island where we followed the coastline back to town. Along the way, we had slices of pizza beside the Caribbean Sea and shared stories with other tourists who had gotten lost on the island looking for the T in the road to get to Frederiksted. Seriously.

Confession time: I back-seat drove pretty much all the way. “There’s a curve up here.” “Look out for that pothole” punctuated with “You are doing a great job, Honey.” and a few gasps and exclamations. My last boyfriend with a bike had a sissy bar for me and a real helmet. This blue scooter did not feel safe at all, but we returned it with 3/4 of a tank of gas and no scratches. EW really did do a good job.

We crossed one thing off our list (two if you count EW’s desire to rent a scooter), laughed, loved, and were bad to the bone.

I love this cruising life.

Comments

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Ellen

Great post - you guys are really bad! Every time my husband convinces me that renting a scooter or motorcycle is a good idea, I end up on the back keeping my eyes closed most of the time and digging my nails into his back so I can really relate to your description of riding white knuckled! Cheers - Ellen

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