Tuesday, April 29, 2014

St. John (Day 3)

Honeymoon Bay (from seestjohn.com)
Once we got completely disconnected from normal life, it was time to dive in. Literally! We started off this day with an spontaneous return to Honeymoon Bay. We had been here before, but it's so close to Cruz Bay and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back. Plus, with only one cruise ship arriving at St. Thomas, the odds that hordes of people would a) take a side trip to St. John, and b) spend that trip at Honeymoon Bay instead of the more popular Trunk Bay was small.

We were right! And we were rewarded with an almost deserted beach and a morning of excellent snorkeling. Honeymoon Bay is shallow and sandy all along the beach, so even someone totally unused to snorkeling can feel good about getting started. Off to either side of the bay are reefs that spread away from the beach into deeper water. Also, in the deeper middle area of the bay, is a grassy bottom. So you have just about everything for everyone. We tend to stick to the reefs over by Salomon Bay (on the left side of the bay as you face it).

Visibility was terrific and the water was pretty warm. Pelicans skim the water, sometimes gliding quite close to us. In waist deep water we were surrounded by schools of small fry with silver-neon stripes on their backs. Bigger fish darted in and out of the schools looking for an early lunch. Off by the reefs, we peeked into a crevice and saw a huge, colorful fish hanging shyly in the shadows. He had to be three feet long with a rounded head about the size of my own with puckered lips. No idea what that fish was, but it was an awesome sighting. There was also a sea turtle encounter in the grassy region but, unlike most turtles, this one was content to munch on his grass despite my presence. He was probably a bit bigger than my torso in size, and it was cool to just hang out watching him for a while. And of course, we enjoyed the usual host of sea critters. As for the coral, there was plenty of elkhorn, sea fans, some brain coral, and a few other varieties that I don't know the names for.

Jim enjoying a gimlet
After we were done with the bay, we hit the gift shop. This was to cancel out the $20 parking fee with a purchase. Last visit, we picked up a set of wooden bowls, and we got a larger version this time to go with them. During this trip to St. John I was determined to have some shopping successes. However, this was the only purchase we made. The shopping on St. John is just not very good.

Back at Andante, we sunned and swam. As evening came on, Jimmy made gimlets! It was very relaxing to sit on the deck with the sea breeze around us, 'getting happy', and enjoying the view.

More so than in past visits, there were a good number of large sea birds gliding past and above the villa. Since we're quite high up the island the wind is pretty strong here, and yet these birds go minute after minute without so much as a twitch of a wing. I think I recall reading in Oceanus magazine about how they manage to do this (have to re-read that article!).

Later, Jim won his sixth game of hand and foot in a row. Bad cards. Jim twice went out while I had still had my foot, which contained a red three. Grrrrr! I was officially pissed off. Not that I'm competitive or anything but...I vowed that before the vacation was over that Jim was gonna go down!

Villa View: Sunset over Chocolate Hole
We watched the sun set and then, later at night, did some stargazing. While my knowledge of the sky is not what it used to be, I was able to pick out several objects my own: Mars, Orion, Sirius, Rigel, and the massive red supergiant Betelguese. A tablet app helped us with the rest: Jupiter was brilliant near the zenith and we also located Arcturus, Castor, Pollux, Aldebaran, and a bunch of others. The stars always shine so beautifully on St. John, and we could definitely see the reddish tint of Mars and Betelguese with the naked eye.

What we did not see was the meteor shower. We had heard that the Lyrid meteor shower was happening and stayed up a little later than usual to watch but...nothing. As we researched a little, we learned that the best time for observing would be between 230AM and dawn. Forget it! I'm on vacation! Further, since we planned to hike on the hot and dry South side of the island the next day, we needed our sleep.

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