Second Time Around

From Puerto Rico, we decided to break away from our buddy boats and make a trip to St. Croix, for old times’ sake.  We were anchored there almost exactly a year ago, and had wonderful memories of our time there.  It looked like an easy run on the charts, running at a beam reach, so we set off, on our way to our first repeat anchorage.  Since we are entering our second full year on board, it is strange to think that we have not seen any place twice until now!  That realization makes me understand why I have days when I yearn for the known.  I remember when I was a kid, and we’d go out on a camping trip or vacation.  Being away was such an adventure that I rarely thought of home, until that moment I would walk back into our house after being gone and the simple smell of home would bring comfort.  Would this return trip bring that comfort as well?  Will it be the same as we remember?

When we arrived to Christiansted, we anchored in the same area we had before, right in front of the prominent, yellow, Dutch fort.  Right away we noticed a current that was not allowing us to let out our anchor chain lie straight in front of us.  We waited to see how things would settle, both of us asking, “Do you remember there being a current here last time?”  It made us giggle a bit, thinking of our naivety and all we’ve learned in the past year of cruising.  “We probably just didn’t realize it last year!”  But for the grace of God!

Rolling in St. Croix
The anchorage proved to be too much current for our liking, so we went further away from shore and out into more open water.  Once we got the anchor set, it wasn’t long before ‘the roll’ set in.  Now, if you are not living on water, you might not realize the dread of ‘the roll.”  Even being on a catamaran, we don’t fully understand how ‘the roll’ can really wreak havoc on our monohull friends.  There have been times when we have been comfortably anchored and watched other boats rocking violently back and forth, the mast making a huge arc in the air.  On our boat, things aren’t quite as violent.  Nothing is flying off shelves, but it makes everyone very cranky.  With the rolling motion, life is put on hold.  I can’t cook easily and the kids can’t do school without feeling very queasy.  Thus was our welcome back to St. Croix.

We immediately decided it was time to get to shore, so we hopped in the dinghy and tied up alongside the boardwalk.  As we stepped onto the dock, we were greeted by various “river rats” who had been enjoying their own 24-hour happy hour.  Other than that the town was a ghost town.   Over cold drinks we asked the waitress where everyone was, to which she said, “Oh, our season ended about two weeks ago.  Most people leave in early April.”  Hmmm, last year we must have hit St. Croix right before everyone moved on!  This was turning out to be a very different visit than we’d remembered. 

Drunken Sailor Welcoming Committee
Oh well, we were here, and we’d better make the most of having the island to ourselves!  We toured the fort again, and I could see Michael’s memory of the place coming back as we walked through.  Mark and I have wondered if Michael would remember any of this past year, given his young age, but as we see photos and watch videos he enjoys recalling his favorite parts of the adventure.  His memories just might be photo specific, so it is even more important that we document as much as possible.

Because it was the slow season, many shops and restaurants were closed; the Thai restaurant we’d enjoyed last year and the cute boutique where I’d found a few treasures.  Yes, we were alone, back to a place we’d been before, but it didn’t smell or feel or taste like before.  Would this be how each repeat visit would feel?  Was the magic discovered on our visit lost for good? 

Helping brother peek in the cannon
Strolling through history together
As we headed to rejoin our buddy boats in St. Thomas (another place we’d stopped last season) I vowed to find new things to discover and enjoy amongst the familiarity.  I got out the guidebooks and made a plan.  First stop, the natural foods market we’d found last time that had Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP).  TVP is a dried soy product that is a great substitute for meat.  It stores well and will last forever.  In fact, we still have a little left from our last visit!  We simply soak it in flavored broth or sauce, and it takes on the given flavor as it softens, while adding some protein and heartiness to a dish.  Elizabeth kindly refers to it as "cat food" because it does look a bit like something Purina would make!

Then, we headed to Kmart to grab more sunscreen, American magazines, and other knick-knacks.  It had been almost a year since I’d had a haircut, so I popped into a small salon and got a trim.  Right next door was the Laundromat we’d used last time, so we put that on our agenda.  There’s an older man working there who is the official “Folding King”.  He teaches everyone in there how to fold most efficiently, and is quite enthusiastic about it!  Considering the fact that I learned how to fold a fitted sheet by searching the web for an instructional video, this man had my respect!  When we met our friends for pizza that night, Dee shared about her experience with the “Folding King”.  She had the same amazement as Mark did when he’d come back to the boat with a newfound knowledge of folding that would ‘revolutionize our clothing storage’!  (BTW, the pizza place was awesome!  PIZZA AMORE in St. Thomas should be in all the guidebooks – huge slices and perfectly crisp crust!  This would be a place we’d revisit, for sure!)

The following day, after school, I decided we needed to be tourists.  It is strange how accustomed I’ve gotten to living aboard.  So much so, that I forget to forge out and see all the new places we land!  When we get settled in a new location, I’m not searching for the tourist attractions, I’m more concerned with finding a grocery store!  Yes, I have begun to take my surroundings for granted.  So, with new gusto, we set off to climb the 99 steps, sample rum, ogle over the displays of natural amber, and tour Blackbeard’s Castle all in one afternoon!  It was great to get out and stretch our legs and our imaginations for a while.  

Kids asking, "When can we go on a cruise??"  Really?
Climbing the 99 steps to Blackbeard's Castle!
Kids wishing for us to find another kid boat!!
The kids spoke to the statues of all the best-known pirates using their best pirate drawl.  Michael wanted to touch all of their swords and knives, and Elizabeth was intrigued by two female pirates,  Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who escaped execution by claiming to be pregnant!  I, however, had my eyes on a statue of Jack Sparrow – Shiver me Timbers! 

So, as we revisit many of the islands that we discovered last season, I am left wondering what the reunions will hold.  Will we be as enamored by the people and foods and landscapes that were all so new and exciting the first time?  And will I find a familiar comfort of being somewhere known the second time around?  


  1. Hi Mark and Sarah,
    Your post got me thinking about the washing machine. How much do you really use it? I would think the gray water would annoy others at anchorage, or at a marina, although it might improve the water at "Marina da Gloria" J


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