Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Slice of Life -USVI National Parks

The turtle was grazing heartily, waving its front fins now and then to dust the sand off of the grasses before chomping a fresh bite. The remora on its back would occasionally release and take a lap through the dust clouds, snapping its mouth, before reattaching to the turtle shell for its slow ride to the next buffet. Neither of them seemed to care that I was still hovering above them, arms and legs limp and breathing comfortably through my snorkel.

Loud splashing and squealing alerted me that the next horde of snorkelers had been deposited from the local fast boat. They all had matching yellow snorkels and when they flailed noisily right past the peaceful turtle, the remora and me, I let out a sigh of relief for the three of us. A few minutes later I noticed a father and son at the back of the pack, also in yellow snorkels but swimming comfortably and quietly so I invited them to see my turtle and we shared the moment together. I swam back to the boat, rinsed down, and went back to my laptop to finish the rest of the day's work. It was, after all, a Tuesday and this was officially my lunch hour.

Ballast stones from Dutch ships of the 1700s blend with more modern bricks and concrete, documenting the passage of time as the ruins above Waterlemon Cay age and crumble.

Later that same afternoon, Lance was watching a pair of cuttlefish changing colors to match the background as they moved through the reef when he was surprised by a GoPro camera on a selfie stick being shoved in front of his face. The afternoon snorkel tour boat horde had snuck up on him while he was engrossed in fish watching. The spark of annoyance was immediately replaced by a giggle when he realized he could snorkel back anytime for more cephalopod viewing while these people were in a rush to cram all the fun into their short vacations as possible. In fact, we had followed the cuttlefish for quite a while the day before and had been treated to a completely different light show, that one more like flashing neon signs. So he swam back to the boat to get dinner started while I wrapped up my laptop work and downloaded something to watch that night under the stars before shutting down Starlink for the night.

Minerva rests on a mooring in the USVI National Park

We had arrived in the USVI burnt out, cranky and exhausted from the constant thorny path strategizing and night passages, and had agreed to spend a couple of weeks just resting and decompressing before discussing our next big passage, the jog across the Caribbean Sea from the USVI to Curacao, where we should be safe for hurricane season. We were just coming into the second week and finally feeling rested, finding renewed vigor for the next leg of our adventure.

Anchoring is prohibited in the National Park, and mooring balls cost $26/night. An iron ranger floats in each harbor and it's easy to paddle up and shove a check through the slot. This method ensures a healthy reef, since anchors are not randomly dragging across it, and also limits the number of visitors each night. The reefs here are some of the healthiest we've seen so far, and our stays have been blissfully peaceful.

The fresh groceries aboard the boat were dwindling, as was the fresh water and our selection of clean laundry. On Saturday we would need to leave the National Park and head into the nearest town to handle these matters. Undoubtedly as we schlepped our laundry up the hot concrete streets the planes above us would be winging the snorkelers of the week back to their normal lives, tales of turtles and cuttlefish and turquoise waters on their lips.


  1. I can't express to you how much I enjoy following your adventure.. Thank you for letting me follow along!!!!