After spending the day exploring the wonderful little town of Christiansted it was time to see the rest of St Croix, which is larger than St Thomas, St John, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda…combined! To say there is a lot of ground to cover is an understatement. While it is possible to hire a taxi (expensive) or take the bus (inconvenient) I was thinking of renting a car for the day. Then I ran across Cruzin Scooters (www.CruzinScooters.com) right on the boardwalk and rented myself a snazzy orange scooter. As I headed east out of town I had a huge smile on my face, because driving that scooter was so much fun.
Udall Point at the end of the island is the eastern most USA point and had a monument built on it in 2000. The basis of the monument is that the Roman numeral for 1000 is “M”. Since the monument commemorates the year 2000 it was designed to be two “M”s on the main compass points. I thought it was very clever. Can you see it?
My next three stops were across the island on the southwestern section off of the main highway called Centerline. Since this island was settled for the rich agricultural land and sugar was a dominate export during the 18th and 19th centuries, it made sense to visit a sugar plantation. One of the best examples is Whim Plantation. This plantation is still relatively intact and you start the tour at the Great House. Under this vaulted ceiling are four huge rooms plus a full size cellar. There is a dry moat built around the house, but it is for ventilation instead of defense. Outside you will find the still functioning cook house, outhouse, village row house (where the slaves were housed), the caretaker’s cottage, and exhibits on the cruel and harsh treatment of the slaves. To me the most interesting aspect of the plantation was the horse mill, wind mill, and steam mill. Here in one photo you see the evolutionary process of extracting the juice from sugar cane. The only tragic thing at Whim is that the factory itself has been lost to time and all that remains is the foundation, chimney, and boiling pots.
Even though St Croix is covered in sugar plantations the only other one I felt the need to visit was just down the road. St George Village Botanical Garden took a different approach to presenting the history and ruins of years gone by. They have not tried to restore the plantation to museum status, but instead have left the ruins in a crumbled state and designed an absolutely gorgeous garden around it. The walking tour of this 16 acre site takes a bit over an hour, but can be done in 40 minutes as I found out since I got there late in the day and that is all the time I had once they broke the rules and let me in after the cut off time. As I briskly walked the self guided tour I was enthralled with everything, but the two spots that really stuck with me were the herb garden planted in the old cook house kitchen and the display of different types of palm trees.
Since the Caribbean is known for rum and the only brand I use when I make my “drink of the day” for my charter guest is Cruzan Rum, my final stop in this area is the Cruzan Rum factory. On this tour you will get to see how the molasses is fermented into “beer”, boiled in stills to get raw rum, poured into barrels to age, stored in racks (I thought it was impressive to see barrels of rum fill the warehouse all the way to the ceiling), and then loaded for shipping. The only disappointing thing was finding out the flavor mixing and bottling was moved to Kentucky 4-5 years ago. At the end of your tour you get two generous rum drinks of your choice.
Now that we have some history under our belt it is time to drive through the rain forest (although it is not a true one since a rain forest needs 80” of rain and this area only get 50”) and over the mountain to the north shore in order to do a 5 mile moderate to hard hike and see the Annaly Pool. This tidal pool is right at the water level, but is protected by a 10 foot natural rock wall. Here the seas can pound the coast while you enjoy a dip in a calm secluded pool. The pool is between one and ten feet deep and is longer than I expected. A picnic lunch and a date would make this a very romantic trip.
After that hike back it is time to go snorkeling and you are right next to Cane Bay with a nice beach and snorkeling. The claim to fame for Cane Bay is the wall dive where it plummets to 1000’s of feet near the shore. You really need to scuba dive the wall in order to appreciate it, because the top of the wall is between 30 and 90 feet deep. Instead my friend Peter, on Lightheart, took me to Frederiksted so we could snorkel under the cruise ship pier. I know what you are thinking because I thought he was daft also, but it really is the best snorkeling on the island. The water is 10-30 feet deep and each of the pilings is covered with the most colorful array of coral. Most of what I saw was sponges and every color of the rainbow was represented. It was phenomenal and I could have stayed for several more hours plus there is a beach nearby to rest after you are worn out.
On my last night I sailed the boat 5 miles west to go into Salt River, where you must be careful of white horse reef. Once inside it was calm and a bit buggy, but I was at the location of Christopher Columbus’s only land spot in USA territory. This historic event also contains the first hostilities between natives of the Americas and Europeans. At the mouth on the western shore you can find the remains of the 1650’s earthen fort. It is hard to find, overgrown, and you have to use your imagination since it is just dirt dug into a wall to enclose the area. By visiting Salt River I feel like I really saw the island and the only anchorages I did not stay at were off Green Cay (where there is a nice marina), the western shore (which is deep and open), and the southern shore (shallow and industrious).
As I left St Croix and sailed towards St Thomas with a beam to broad reach I reflected on how much I enjoyed this island. From the amazing scenery and fascinating historical sites down to the friendliness of the locals who would stop and make sure I was not lost when I was checking my map to see where I wanted to go next. I wonder which of my guest will want to go off the beaten track and have me take them to St Croix instead of the BVI.