Held Hostage in St. Johns by the US Postal System


St Johns, USVI

We opted to forgo the constant rolly–polly anchorage in St Thomas and instead dropped the hook at Gallows Point in St Johns, just around the corner of Cruz Bay where the town is. There were three other local boats in the area, and like good anchorers we are, we adhered to our often loudly spoken rule of anchoring AT LEAST 5 boat lengths away from any other boat. (Unfortunately, many do not have the same rule, a classic example is of a French boat that anchored about 15 feet away from us in St Johns and I’m not exaggerating. Scotto practically whispered over to them and said, “Hey guys, I just want to let you know that you are invited to a raging party we are going to have on board with all the locals…there will be a lot of drinking involved, loud music and should last well into the night so it will be a blast.” I’ve never seen a boat haul anchor and get out of there so fast! Needless to say, we watched a movie and fell asleep at 9pm that night without another boat around.) The

Cath and Niko on "The Whale"

Now, during one of our last stops, I attempted to surf my Whale (my 11’4 stand-up paddle board or SUP), misjudged the height of a reef, and buggered my main fin. I searched all of St Thomas for a new fin but they haven’t caught up with the SUP craze yet and no fin was to be found. So, what does one do? Call mom back home and have one shipped to you, it is a US island after all, and they have the priority mail flat rate service. I went to town and asked around to find out the best place to get things shipped to, which happened to be a store called Connections, which specializes in mail, phone and internet services. I went in and got the low down on the mail service…outgoing mail only takes 2-3 days to get to the states, but if you want something shipped to you in St John and you want it by next season, you must have it shipped priority mail, and it will arrive not in the 2-3 days as advertised, but rather in about 6-7 days because for some reason, it has to go to Puerto Rico first, sit there for awhile, and then get shipped to St Thomas, sit there for awhile and then ferried over to St John when the postal service feels like it. Well, sitting in St Johns for 6 days didn’t sound like the end of the world, so I called up my mom, gave her the specs on my board and she called her friend at Longboard House in Indialantic. They had a fin that would fit my board and would get it out that day or the next day, priority mail. This was a Thursday, so we assumed we would get the fin the following Wednesday or Thursday. So na├»ve we were.

Island tour with Michael and Kathy

Joana attracts a lot of attention in port as she is such a unique boat, and we meet tons of people who swing by to check her out and get her story. Michael is one cruiser that we met this way. He dignied over one day and we invited him on board and had a great chat with him and he invited us over to his boat to meet his wife, Kathy, and have a drink. We complied with his offer that evening and had a nice time with them and learned all about the island as they have lived on their boat in St Johns for about 10 years. Michael does all kinds of odd jobs around the island and Kathy is a school teacher there. It was very entertaining listening to her stories about the education system and the kids. My favorite story is that in school, the teachers constantly have to remind the kids that in class, they have to speak “Tourist English” and not “Island English”! At end of the night, they offered to take us on an island tour that Sunday, as by now had bought a car to get around.

Ruins at Annaberg Sugar Mill

We hate to show us empty handed when people go out of their way to do nice things for us (which happens constantly in the islands – so much more so than in the states), so we decided we would grab a few conch that were below our boat and bring them a nice conch salad when we met them on Sunday. So on Saturday afternoon, I went diving for conch - you have to be very stealth and quick when catching these fast moving buggers. I managed to wrangle about 5 large conch and Maria cleaned them and whipped up a tasty salad. Sunday morning, we dingied over to Michael and Kathy’s boat and proudly handed them a large bag of conch salad and they very graciously accepted our gift, adding that conch is out of season. There is nothing quite like expressing your appreciation by giving illegal gifts! Se la vi! They still took us on the tour and we had a fantastic day touring the island and bought them brunch as an additional, legal, thank-you.

As we waited on the postal system, we spent the rest of our days exploring town, window shopping, and having an occasional cocktail at one of the many watering holes. It was at one of these establishments that Maria and I met Scotto’s new best friends. We had gone into town to get something done, I can’t recall what it was, but Scott stayed on the boat to finish up some work. It was hot in town so we decided to stop at a bar for a quick cold drink. At the other end of the bar, two guys around our age were standing at the bar, pounding cold beers, swearing and laughing loudly, wearing sport fishing shirts covered in fish guts and blood. Maria and I struck up a conversation with them, found out Chris runs a sport fishing / commercial fishing boat and Tyler helps him out. We went back to Joana, and told Scotto about his soon-to-be friends. Later that night, we all went back to town and Scott met Chris and Tyler, and as expected, the three became fast friends. At 6am the next morning, we hear a knock on the side of the hull and a loud “Good Morning Sunshines”…there were Chris and Tyler in their boat, wanting to take us out fishing. Maria and I stayed behind so Scott could have much needed “boy time”. Scotto once again proved that he is a great fisherman by catching a ton of tuna and blue runners. The three of them got back late morning and set up a quick fish shack on the side of the road out of Chris’s pickup truck and made a killing selling the fish.

Cath in front of the most photographed beach on St Johns

Finally Wednesday rolled around and I checked in with Connections to see if my fin was in…no luck. Thursday comes and goes, no fin. We are starting to get a little tired of St Johns and are anxious to get going to see our friends who live on Saba, a tiny island about 100 miles from St John, so we force ourselves to be hopeful that the fin will come on Friday. Again, no luck, and I think the ladies in Connections are starting to get tired of seeing my face. I politely asked if they got mail on Saturday and about what time… yes, they do get mail on Saturday but it could come at any time. Okay, well, we crossed our fingers that Saturday would be the day. Wrong again…which means the earliest it will get there is Monday. Our weather window is slowly closing…if we leave Tuesday morning at the latest we will still be okay for our overnight passage to Saba, but the conditions start to deteriorate on Wednesday…nothing dangerous, just not as comfortable. I was told that the mail should be in by 11am or noon on Monday, so Maria, Scott and I go into town to finish up last minute duties, expect to grab the fin and get underway. 11:15 am, I poke my head in, and by now they know me, and just shake their head and tell me the mail had not yet come in. When will it be here, I ask. We don’t know, they reply. 12:30 I walk in, they shake their heads again, no mail yet, and I walk out. 2:00 pm I send Scott in to see if the mail arrived yet (not thinking they would know he is part of this fin fiasco), and in an annoyed tone, they tell him to tell me the post office has the mail but hasn’t released it yet! We find a restaurant that faces Connections and have a beer and watch for the mailman to drop off the mail. By 4:00 pm there is still no sign of the mailman and the ladies at Connections tell us to try again the next day. We are now really tired of being on St John and getting grumpy. We check the mail on Tuesday and it still isn’t there! Now we are mad. Wednesday around noon we go in, the lady says you are in luck, your mail is here. And then she adds, “you know, it was actually here yesterday, but I was looking in the wrong place for it…sorry.” I attempted not to shoot daggers at her with my eyes…clutched my fin tightly and walked out. Taking a quote from our good friend Kathy from Saba, “It is paradise, not utopia!”

It was too late to start heading to Saba and a nasty storm was on the horizon, so we stayed one more night in St. Johns and took off for Saba the next morning in a brisk breeze and uncomfortable seas. It was a long passage, but so worth it when seeing Saba on the horizon for the first time.

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