2006 12 01

 

SHIBUMI sails to Venezuela in 2006

2006 began with the end of our charter endeavors, or at least we thought it did.  We decided to forego the joys of paying guests aboard SHIBUMI after the U.S. government enforced their requirement that any commercial vessel, no matter what the size, had to electronically check into and out of U.S. waters within 24 hours prior to their arrival or departure. 

This was inconvenient or impossible for private charter boats as there are few reliable internet cafes in the islands.  No one  knew how tightly the U.S. would monitor ship movements.  Our first experience using the fifteen screens on the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) web site fulfilling this requirement lasted over 30 minutes.  Someone needs to educate those government folks on processing efficiency and effectiveness

In addition, the British Virgin Islands created a whole new system of charter boat requirements designed to drive any foreign charter vessels out of the region.  We were 90% through those requirements when we faced the DHS entry/exit ones.  And so we threw up our hands and bid farewell to chartering. 

Later we heard a rumor that the U.S. Virgin Islands had passed a new rule that everyone on a boat in their waters had to wear a life preserver – at all times.  Vacationers on charter yachts will love that boating experience, believe you me. The rule will be repealed, but it is an example of un-necessary  government action and misdirected safety requirements.

But the New Year’s Day rainbow portrayed good winds and fair sailing for 2006.

January:   St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Immediately after the New Year’s guests departed, the famous Christmas winds arrived and we spent the next three weeks riding from harbor to harbor in St. Thomas anchored in 25 mph winds which gusted to 45.  A little advice to anyone thinking about chartering in the winter in the Virgins:  wait until at least late February.

Happily Chris encountered old friends from his teenage years on Philadelphia. Here at dinner courtesy of Cindy are Jeff and his dad, Pat, aboard Slipstream. We were best of family friends through a bit of college until we entered our professional careers, me as a physician and Jeff and his wife Cindy in a successful charter operation with several boats that lasted more than 15 years.

We met by chance after more than 30 years in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. We’ll try to keep in closer touch from here on.

February:  Spanish Virgin Islands

During February, 2006, we explored the Spanish Virgin Islands which are actually out-islands of Puerto Rico.  The eastern end of Vieques is world-famous as a major bombing target of the U.S. Navy.  Culebra is an upscale residential island for the rich, but not necessarily famous.  The waters here are pristine and beautiful, and the islanders very laid back.

Vieques claims to be the home of two of the largest bio-luminescent bays  in the world.  Culebra hosts the largest natural lagoon within protective reefs that we have seen in the islands.  Unfortunately neither island has the commercial infrastructure to attract us for more than a visit. 

After a romp back through the BVI with Chris’s cousin Gary and his wife Rosemarie during last two weeks of February, we sailed to St. Croix. 

Nobody in St. Thomas or St. Johns ever said anything positive about St. Croix.  Both of us were pleasantly surprised to discover a quiet, off the beaten path, bustling island with a still evident Danish heritage.  The island has an active art and yachting community,  park reserves for hiking and an offshore marine preserve, Buck Island.

The only negative is that there are only a few protected anchorages, the best being Christiansted, but it is still worth a look in the future. What St Croix lacks in anchorages, it makes up in natural beauty.

March:  St. Martin

Heading south again, March  found us back in St. Martin, as charter boat again, this time to host the Boorsteins for a second time.  Yes, we were chartering one last time.  Allen Boorstein called Chris to schedule the boat and when he heard that we had stopped chartering, Allen simply said, “OK, so when can we come?â€