Water Island


It began just after (the always expensive) grocery store stop, then out to the docks at Frenchtown, on the Caribbean Sea side of the island. We set out in 2 [two] 13 foot sea kayaks through the inlet between Hassel and Water Islands. Sea planes and ferries passed and we played on their wakes.

At 491.5 acres (1.989 km2) in size, Water Island is the smallest of the main U.S. Virgin Islands. It is administratively a part (subdistrict) of the St. Thomas District. Water Island is a residential island, with a population of 182 (2010 census)[1] and no significant commercial establishments. ~A reputable source [Wikipedia]

We paddled south, stopping to bushwhack in to one of the precious few pools of fresh water on which pirates used to rely for water. I now have a pretty good idea why they had such short life spans. I have drunk water from hot and scummy cattle troughs, collected from mossy desert trickles no larger than a pencil but there is not much which would convince me to drink this stuff.
Unless, of course, it was the only fresh water around.  .  .

As we broke from the leeward shelter of the island, swells rose around us. Travi disappears intermittently between the waves, currents cris-cross, foaming where rocks lay just below the surface. Broaching the tip of a peninsula, ragged rock cliffs of an earthen red project faces, watching brazen and serene over vast waters.

water island treeWe swung into Sprat Bay, to a wild island along the eastern wall. Beached our kayaks and trekked into the trees.

A scuttling rustle as hermit crabs move the ground, thousands of them. Interestingly enough these islands are arid, thus, non-native palm trees populate mostly the touristed beaches. We ducked amoung the kapok and fern, picking around the cactus. Travi plucked Genips and sea grapes had already been a regular part of our snacking habits. There in the shaded cool, a red spotted tortoise waited to greet us.

Note the hermit crab under his belly.

Note the hermit crab under his belly.

On an island of hermit crabs, tortoise is King.

Climbed some rocks, then snorkeled into the bay with the lobster snare.
The antennae are the first thing you see. Protruding from under and between rocks, these guys don’t have claws but the barbed antennae do function as whips.

Around sunset, Travi caught the second. As the snare tightened around its tail a sound resonated through the water, like someone scratching on the far side of a door with chalk. A cloud rose from where it pulled tight.

It wasn’t until much later, sitting around the campfire, watching succulent white meat roast in a reddening tail exoskeleton on skewers, that we admit the sudden sense of unease, which, as it turns out, had swept across both of us while we swam back.
It is shark season in the Virgin Islands and even if sharks find human decidedly unpalatable, we had been swimming with bleeding dinner on a stick.

With a beach, dinner of lobster and Doritos, and a fire between us and the experience, it was easier to relax. In the water, Bioluminescence lit green around our feet. Swirling in eddies of the paddles. Peace was alive all around us and it was not silent.

The heavens were as spectacular as I’d hoped, the orange light of St. Thomas hidden behind the island to our back.

Lightening struck in the east, shooting stars in the west. A low glow to the south was St Croix.

Sleep was uneasy due to waves of attack by screaming memes. Undeterred by the netting of the tent, the persistent little monsters feasted, disappearing only once, during a two [2] minute deluge.

On the upside, this motivated us to a pre-sunrise start.

The current pulled us quickly out of the bay, where we met with a bale of leatherback sea turtles with whom to welcome the sun.
It rose gloriously behind a pink sheet of rain falling in perfect symmetry. Possibly the same who had visited some hours before.

Tiny islands now dotted the horizon as we paddled westward. Rainbows shimmered everywhere above and around us. Rising out of the water, fading even as another sprang into being.

Breakfast amoung some rocks.
Lesson: when on the islands, fruit go really bad, very quickly if not refrigerated.

Bending back toward the north we were directly aligned with St. Thomas’ power plant; essentially a giant generator, belching smoke, keeping everyone comfortable and powered.

Into a boat parking lot, where residents were just waking, making plans, eating breakfast. One fellow stood proudly aboard a 35′ ft sailboat, once named Nuts and Bolts, now barnicled and rough after a decade under ownership by a hoarder. He was friendly and had a hammock tied to the mast. He was quite taken with her and committed to restoring her to glory. It was a wonderful feeling in which to bask.
I bet the screaming memes don’t get out here.
Open sea travel. Intriguing.

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