Wednesday, February 04, 2015

USVI 2015 - Day 3 - A Couple Of Spots on St. John

The day's course. As usual, click on any photo for a better view.

1/18 - Another great day. With the engine workaround explained, we were good to go, so we started the day by just nipping around the corner to Leinster Bay.

Good morning Jacob!

Under sail

Kat and Jenn

Lenore at the helm, Dave and TQ on watch

Jacob also on watch - what's up there?

 We got in a little sailing on that leg, then stopped at Waterlemon or is it Watermelon Cay (my note to myself in my journal at that point was, "Check that, it's spelled both ways" - the chart says Watermelon , the pilot book said another, Jenn knew it as Watermelon Cay, Google really really seems to think it's Waterlemon, hmmm) for a short hike up to the Annaberg sugar mill ruins.

At the trailhead. Large-scale aloe? I should have asked Jacob what it was, he knows a lot about the environment and the flora and fauna here and was an excellent tour guide for us. I think it's actually an agave, there are several species that look something like this. 

Kinja, seen from the trail

Critters - Pelican, anole and BIG millipede! 

 Jenn and her Munster - that's his family nickname, she was a little worried he'd have grown out of it but hooray, he's still the Munster. 

 Stone-skipping break for Jacob and TQ 

 Heading on up the road to the plantation ruins.

Wild seeing at least one very big difference between the cane industry here and Hawaii -- back home, the plantations were mostly on flat lands (at least when I was a kid); here, the island is so small and steep that the cultivation was going on on hillsides in a way I almost can't picture - except that of course although in Hawaii, field laborers worked in hard conditions for very little money, here, the laborers were actually slaves. Sad to imagine the misery while walking around this beautiful area, but I couldn't help imagining the awful work of getting sugarcane to grow up these steep, steep mountainsides instead of on the gentler plains of O'ahu.
Windmill at the Annaburg Plantation

Jenn and Jacob head towards the Boiling House. That hillside in the back - it kept going up that steeply, and more for a long way, and in the days when this was a going concern, that was planted in sugar. I have such a hard time picturing that.

Lenore and Dave at the entrance to the Boiling House. The cane was pressed in the windmill and the juice ran from the mill to the Boiling House through a system of stone troughs. Here, it was boiled down into sugar in huge kettles that were mounted in the stone platform to the left. More grim work. 

Another view of the windmill

Another anole

After our visit to the sugarmill ruins, we went back to the boat and snorkeled for an hour or so. Beautiful site, I saw all sorts of fish, including a lovely peacock flounder, female parrotfish, filefish, trunkfish, and a very handsome moray eel, white with chocolate-colored spots. I tried to take pictures with varying levels of success - here are the best ones.

Peacock flounder

Spotted moray - very cool thing to see, usually they hide in holes in the reef (which is why you never ever ever stick your hand in a hole in the reef). Handsome fella!

Beautiful coral, I do love these purple sea fans. 

Juvenile bluehead wrasse

Juvenile beaugregory, I think - these guys are very cute, they're about 2" long and they look you straight-on like this, and then hide, and then pop out and look at you again, and then hide, and so on and so forth.

Lovely female parrotfish

Scrawled filefish (with another female parrotfish below)
I'm going to share a shot of TQ's now - 
when I first saw this I said "What IS that?" - I'd never seen a fish like this one, but it turns out to be a member of the same family as the Hawaiian uhu that I'm so fond of - after a little looking online this morning, I'd made a pretty positive guess that this was a Red Band Parrotfish, and after posting that on Facebook, Paul Sieswerda at Gotham Whale saw it and ran it past colleagues at the New England Aquarium; Les Kaufman confirmed my guess and added "This is the dark 'mood' of the red band parrotfish, subterminal phase". If you look these guys up on Google, you'll see that they can go through a whole range of colors as they go through their lives- I love the colors of parrotfish, but this was just so dramatic with the dark green body and the bright red and white fins, I never would've guessed parrotfish without the internet.

OK, time to get back on the boat now.

We were off of the mooring by 3, and on to our final destination of the day, Salt Pond Bay. St. John is a small island, 7 miles long, 3 miles wide, so we were there in time for a little more snorkelling, including TQ diving about 15 feet for a conch shell - it was something fun to dive for (he had tried to dive to the bottom as a bit of an experiment, since we had this anchor that was looking like it was going to require hand-setting - first time he dove, he didn't quite make it to the bottom, second time, when I'd pointed out the conch and he'd decided to go get it, he did, helped to have a goal). The shell ended up on the transom, and the idea was that we would throw it back in before we left (most of St. John is a national park and you're really not supposed to take anything but pictures), but we kept forgetting and it actually ended up staying with us for several days - we may even have brought it back to St. John at the end of the trip, but it did eventually get put back in the water.

I made the same dive a bit later after a mask that I'd knocked off the swim deck. Unfortunately TQ didn't know the pinch-your-nose-and-blow trick to equalize and he had water in his ears for days. Fortunately Lenore is a nurse and knows some good tricks for getting water out of ears, which did help.  More nice snorkelling here, I didn't get a photo but I saw a beautiful big male parrotfish - I love those guys, they remind me so much of snorkeling in Hanauma Bay back in small-kid time. Dinner and drinks on the boat again, after showers, and then we turned in just before 10. We had an early start planned for the next day, getting up at 6 AM for a hike up Ram's Head.

One shooting star spotted just as we went below, a good end to a good day. 

TQ's own shot of his diving trophy!


pia said...

Great pictures. Trip sounds great too

bonnie said...

It was fantastic, the only downside is that I am now particularly disliking winter! :D

Jennifer Adams said...

Nice! You capture the days (and nights so well). I wish we were back on the boat right now! Did you notice the nudibranch on the fan coral?

bonnie said...

Thanks! Glad you're enjoying this. I'm having a good time reading my journal, sorting through the pix and putting these posts together.

I noticed that there was something on the sea fan, but I couldn't figure out what it was, I'm glad you saw it.

I wish we were back there too. I gave myself last weekend to hide inside and cook things, but this weekend I think I need to talk myself into doing something outside, even if it's just a walk on the Coney Island boardwalk. Can't spend the rest of the winter in hiding!

LauraEhlers said...

what beautiful pics! I am keeping a list of all these places for our next trip to the islands. thanks for being my virtual travel guide!