Monday, December 19, 2022

St. Thomas lures vacationers to its sunny shores

St. Thomas, one of the U. S. Virgin Islands, became a tourist mecca in the 1950s—and it retains that distinction today. 
Perfect spot for a bit to eat--and drink.

As the Caribbean territory that lured more foreign nationals than any other, a variety of cultural influences are evident: Danish red tile roofs and architecture, Dutch doors, French iron grillwork, and Spanish-style patios. The flags of six countries have flown over these islands, which have been inhabited since 2500 B.C. During WWI the U.S. bought the Virgin Islands, located 40 miles east of Puerto Rico, for $25 million in gold. 
Catamaran fun!

Once the home of notorious pirates like Captain Kidd and Bluebeard, St. Thomas offers plenty of modern-day booty. The largest of the trio making up the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is clean and well-developed with many high-end resorts and shopping spots. It’s the commercial capital of the Caribbean, rich with history; and its azure waters on soft-sand beaches make it a prime destination for vacationers. 

 A few years ago my husband and I decided to sample the beautiful landscape of St. Thomas with a full day sail and snorkel excursion while cruising in the Eastern Caribbean on the Emerald Princess. We boarded the Dancing Dolphin catamaran, part of the fleet from Top Sails Company, where we met Christie, a twenty-something crew member originally from Connecticut who came on vacation and fell in love with the island. 

Docking at the beach

The sun was high in the sky at 9:00 am, keeping us warm as we headed away from shore. Just a few small swells and splashes came over the front “trampoline” as the crew put up sails and headed to Buck Island and Turtle Cove. The ride took about 45 minutes during which time Christie admonished a few impatient souls to “Get on island time.” 
Iguanas are also found on these islands.

At Turtle Cove we observed numerous large turtles on the ocean floor. Christie led the group to the reef where she explained different types of coral—fan, branches, balls. Some sting, so don’t touch, she warned. Snorkeling in clean, clear water, we could easily observe sea creatures and plants on the bottom, especially when the sun was shining. Many varieties of fish--yellow and black striped called Sergeant Major, small blue iridescent, larger silver (more than a foot long); small black, and others swam around the reef, in and out of underwater rock caves. 
Bright coral shined in the sun.

When the area became crowded with other boats it was time to head to remote Water Island and Honeymoon Beach. The crew raised sails and used wind power to slide the catamaran within a few yards of the beach. A freshly prepared Caribbean barbecue lunch (pork, chicken, pasta salad, green salad, bread, drinks) awaited us at water’s edge. 
Beverly found a sea urchin.

For more than an hour we walked on the soft sand, splashed in the clear water, and sipped plenty of “pain killer” (rum punch) to keep cool. Water Island is accessible only by ferry or dinghy, so not too many people go there. But for us it was the perfect retreat for a relaxing day on St. Thomas.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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