St. Thomas lures vacationers to its sunny shores

St. Thomas, one of the U. S. Virgin Islands, became a tourist mecca in the 1950s—and retains that distinction today. As the Caribbean territory that lured more foreign nations than any other, a variety of cultural influences are evident: Danish red tile roofs and architecture, Dutch doors, French iron grillwork, and Spanish-style patios. The flags of six countries have flown over these islands, which have been inhabited since 2500 B.C.

During WWI the U.S. bought the Virgin Islands, located 40 miles east of Puerto Rico, for $25 million in gold. Once the home of notorious pirates like Captain Kidd and Bluebeard, St. Thomas offers plenty of modern-day booty.  The largest of the trio making up the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is clean and well-developed with many high-end resorts and shopping spots.  It’s the commercial capital of Caribbean, rich with history, and its azure waters on soft-sand beaches make it a prime destination for vacationers.

Dancing Dolphin catamaran

Dancing Dolphin catamaran sails along the shore

My husband and I decided to sample the beautiful landscape of St. Thomas with a full day sail and snorkel excursion while cruising in the Eastern Caribbean on the Emerald Princess. We boarded the Dancing Dolphin catamaran, part of the fleet from Top Sails Inc, where we met Christie, a twenty-something crew member originally from Connecticut who came on vacation and fell in love with the island.

The sun was high in the sky at 9:00 am, keeping us warm as we headed away from shore. Just a few small swells and splashes came over the front “trampoline” as the crew put up sails and headed to Buck Island and Turtle Cove. The ride took about 45 minutes during which time Christie admonished a few impatient souls to “Get on island time.”

At Turtle Cove we observed numerous large turtles on the ocean floor. Christie led the group to the reef where she explained different types of coral—fan, branches, balls. Some sting, so don’t touch, she warned.

Snorkeling in clean, clear water we could easily observe sea creatures and plants on the bottom, especially when the sun was shining. Many varieties of fish–yellow and black striped called Sergeant Major, small blue iridescent, larger silver (more than a foot long); small black, and others swam around the reef, in and out of underwater rock caves.

sea urchin

sea urchin found while snorkeling at Turtle Cove

When the area became crowded with other boats it was time to head to remote Water Island and Honeymoon Beach. The crew raised sails and used wind power to slide the catamaran within a few yards of the beach. A freshly prepared Caribbean barbecue lunch (pork, chicken, pasta salad, green salad, bread, drinks) awaited us at water’s edge. For more than an hour we walked on the sand, splashed in the water, and sipped plenty of “pain killer” (rum punch) to keep cool.

Water Island is accessible only by ferry or dinghy, so not too many people come there. But it was the perfect retreat for a relaxing day on St. Thomas.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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