America's lonely virgin
Would you like fresh banana in your smoothie?” asked the woman at the roadside smoothie shop, nestled in the higher elevations of St. Croix’s rainforest area. “It’s sweeter with banana.”
I readily agreed, and Mark Jones, my tour guide, and I strolled through the establishment’s collection of native fauna. Mark explained that the smoothies take a little while to prepare, as the woman had to go and pick the fruit fresh from her tidy orchard, but the results were well worth the wait. Call me a sailing traitor, but no rum drink has ever tasted better than the virgin fruit smoothie that the dreadlocked woman handed me. Paradise.
I found the word “paradise” to be a constant companion during my stay in St. Croix, the largest—and least known—of the United States’ Virgin Islands. Forty miles from St. Thomas, the island is 28 miles LOA north to south, with a maximum beam of seven miles. Its western side is cloaked with lush vegetation, while the eastern, more arid side is home to various species of cacti and succulents. Point Udall, St. Croix’s eastern-most point, is the eastern-most point of the United States (aside from geographical tricks involving the international dateline). An “M”-shaped statue was built to commemorate this site as being the first bit of the U.S. to have seen the first light of the new millennium. Standing by the statue on a high, ocean-side promenade, one can—according to Mark—see the curvature of the earth on a clear day. My viewing was shrouded by small squalls, but the view of the island’s reef system, its off-soundings waters, and its spiny mountain ridges were spectacular.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, St. Croix was formed via tectonic-plate activity, not through volcanic action. In fact, the island was once two separate landmasses that were joined by an aggressive mangrove system that, over time, wed the two islands into one (perhaps it’s not so virgin after all?). Even today, you can see the remnants of the thin river that “bisects” the island.
Two towns, Frederiksted and Christiansted, house the island’s population and speak to its Dutch/European legacy. President Woodrow Wilson purchased the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917 from Denmark for $25 million in gold, lest they fall into German hands (thus giving Germany a WWI toehold near mainland USA). Even today, the island is speckled with now-defunct windmills, a throwback to a time when St. Croix was a major sugarcane and rum producer. Today, Cruzan Rum makes some of the finest rum in the islands, and is a point of pride to all Crucians.
The island houses several fine hotels, including the Divi Carina Casino where I stayed; smaller accommodations are also available. The island has a wide variety of fantastic restaurants, ranging from the higher-end Duggan’s Reef, to hole-in-the-wall-locals-only spots like Paulina’s Bar. The St. Croix Yacht Club is one of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean, with some accommodation available to visiting sailors. The St. Croix International Regatta, which I was fortunate enough to participate in, is held in late February and is great fun.
Most of the major bareboat charter company bases are located in the nearby British Virgin Islands, but St. Croix hosts a few crewed charter companies.
Charter Advertising Information
Conch Charters 800-521-8939.
CYOA Yacht Charters, 800-944-CYOA.
Horizon Yacht Charters, 877-494-8787.
Fair Wind Charters, 866-380-7245.
Footloose Charters, 888-852-4666.
The Moorings, 888-703-3177.
TMM Yacht Charters, 800-633-0155.
Le Boat, 800-734-5491.