Building a Better Boat Day 7 Part 1–An Inter Island Odyssey.
30 Sep 2018
The Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel is a lovely 10 room bed and breakfast in the heart of the “action” in Cruz Bay, St John, USVI. This morning I awoke on top of the sheets, not under them. From the very comfortable queen size bed I scanned my body and was unsurprised to feel a slight headache, pinchy arms, and itching calves. That’s the undeniable evidence of a day spent on a Northside beach and an evening out and about in this little bohemian utopia…
I shall recall in detail an eventful Saturday. If you don’t want to read it here’s the TLDR version:
Made it from Virgin Gorda to St Thomas, bought boat stuff, met cool people on the ferry to St John, went to the beach, met up with the cool people for HH and hung out with them for the evening. Woke up with slight hangover and moderate sunburn.
Yesterday started early on Virgin Gorda as my alarm got me out of bed at 7 for my planned 8AM ferry to Tortola. Normally on Saturdays there is a “shopping boat” that leaves VG for St Thomas at 8 and comes back around 5. It’s for the locals who make bi-monthly pilgrimages to the meccas of Home Depot and Price Smart to stock up on all the things they can’t get in the BVI.
When I called the ferry service on Friday to inquire about this trip I was told “No mon! No boat on Saaaataday!” Fine. I just figured I’d take the 8 AM boat to Road Town on Tortola and from there catch one of the fast ferries to Charlotte Amalie. A time consuming, if not scenic, way to make it back to St Thomas.
When I got to the terminal at 745, I was surprised to see that the customs office was open and there was a large crowd milling about the docks. With suitcases. And empty shopping sacs. This looked like a St Thomas crowd to me….
I asked the rotund and pleasant security guard if there was indeed a boat. “Yessir. But ya gat to pay ya depaaarture tax before I let you in!”
I wasn’t going to pay a 10 dollar tax just to get to the ticketing girl sitting in the “secured” area and find out that there’s no room, or no boat, on Saaataaaday. As then usually happens, the guard ran into someone she knew and they animatedly started talking about Sunday’s church picnic.
“I make da poootatooo saaalad!’
“No Bernice! You bringing da chicken taaamorrow!”
“No, I made da chicken last week!”
As they animatedly discussed the details of today’s barbecue, I saw my chance and snuck into the seating area where another pleasantly rotund woman was selling tickets and holding court with her friends from the second row of chairs.
“Can I buy a ticket?”
“Ya want to go to St Thomas?”
“No, just one way.”
“Hmmm, ok. Forty dawlers. But ya have to pay ya departure tax first!”
I went to the office and paid that tax. On a separate note, I also paid 10 bucks to get into the country on Friday. That one was an “environmental tax.” I’m not sure where this money is going but 20 bucks roundtrip certainly seems steep to me. When I got to the ticket girl, she gave me a disinterested look when I handed her a 50. To her lady-in-waiting she said, “Give da Man ten dawwwlers!
“Ya don’t got no 10s!”
“Look in my purse!”
“I said ya don’t got no tens!”
“Then give him fives!”
“Ya just got a five and some ones!”
“Then give him the change! Mister, ya get ya ticket on the boat but ya good ta go…”
I walked away with my 5 and 5 ones and joined the milling crowd. I’m always surprised at how worldly these seemingly provincial islanders are. There was a couple exciting talking about their first cruise from Miami starting tomorrow with a woman who was on her way to Sydney.
“Ya gonna love ta cruise! 7 days on Caaaarnivaal. But ya gonna get fat!”
“I know! I brought my big leggings for the flight home!” Scary. I thought she WAS wearing her big leggings….
Another couple was on their way to 2 weeks in Tuscany with weekends in Rome on either end. Many others were headed to various cities in the states and some were, yes, on their way to Home Depot…It was certainly an eclectic an interesting crowd at 8 in the morning.
Normally ferries run on time in the VI. In fact, my original 8 AM boat to Road Town loosed the lines and headed off precisely at the top of the hour. But our boat, scheduled for 815, was nowhere to be seen. We kept milling about. Someone called a friend on Tortola. “They see da boat at West End! Should be here in an hour!”
At 910 the ferry–actually I’m told a “scheduled charter”–showed up. (I guess if you call it a charter you don’t have to fill out a US customs declaration and you don’t have to show up on time..). We piled on board and rocketed out of Virgin Gorda precisely one hour late. As we jetted along the coast of Tortola I saw my original ferry pulling out of Road Town about 10 minutes ahead of us.
So all in all, I ended up paying 20 bucks more than I’d originally planned to be at least 10 minutes later. But at least I ended up on the correct side of St Thomas (Red Hook). When you factor in that I didn’t have to take a Taxi from Charlotte Amalie to Red Hook it probably ended up being the same cost and a little bit quicker….
Oh, and they had a beverage service and snacks on the ferry, err, charter. So there’s that…..