Sint Maarten – St. John, Virgin Islands

March 17th  – April 26th, 2020

Our official welcome to the USVI. Almost everything was shut down in the pandemic response….a lot like whereever you happened to be on March 23, 2020.

     Well, well – what a difference a few weeks can make, right? I’m sure that for all of us, these are scary, uncertain times and I hope all who are reading this are safe and well. Lee and I are doing fine and probably in a safer environment than we would be at home, since these small Virgin Islands are taking this pandemic quite seriously and only a handful of cases have shown up on St. John where we are moored. So if you have read through all those old, tattered National Geographics and myriad books on those dusty shelves or your Kindle for which you have finally found the time, spend a few more wasted minutes here and let us get you up to date on Apogee’s most recent adventures.

     We finally sailed out of Sint Maarten on March 19th , leaving before dawn to travel some 90 nautical miles (that’s about 104 land miles for you landlubbers), so we could get anchored in Tortola, British Virgin Islands before dark. Despite the length of the journey, the winds cooperated and it wasn’t a bad sail. We found out the next morning when Lee went in to check into the country that the BVI government had put the country on lockdown to visitors just the day before as we were sailing across. And they politely, but firmly, gave us an hour to get out of their country! So this was our first hint that our sailing journey was going to be a bit different from now on and not completely within our control. Luckily, we were only 15 miles from the US Virgin Islands and able to grab a mooring ball outside the town of Cruz Bay, St. John. Since home is a place where they have to take you in, we had no problems checking in with customs. And over a month later, this is where we still are – trying, as are you, to keep up with the sad news around the world of the havoc this disease is leaving in its wake.

We finally got to check out “Toppers Restaurant.” It is owned by a friend of our friends, Rick and Trish. The food was really good.
Finally headed west. We left Sint Maartin at 3am. This pic is just before sunrise.
Our one and only picture of the British Virgin Islands: while underway, they closed their country. When Lee tried to check in, the Customs Officer gave us one hour to get outside their borders.
A couple of hours later we are checking in to the USVI on St John.

     We were lucky, because since these were still the early days of the lockdown, we were able to rent a car for a day and drive around to see the sights of St. John. This beautiful paradise is the least commercial of the three US Virgin Islands (the others being St. Thomas and St. Croix) because two – thirds of it is managed by the National Park Service. We drove by many fabulous (but closed, because of the virus) beaches and explored several ruins of sugar cane mills from centuries back. We were pleasantly surprised to see the grocery stores were well stocked (toilet paper! Lysol!) – much better than we had heard the situation to be back in Tennessee.

On March 25, we were able to rent a Jeep and tour St John: although most everything was shut down, it is an absolutely beautiful island and we are glad we got to see most of it.
This is Caneel Bay where Apogee is moored. The resort has been closed since the last hurricane. It was a premier resort in the middle of the National Park. Now it is in the middle of legal battles which may keep it from ever opening again.
Ruins of an old sugar plantation.
Looking down on Coral Bay and the southeast corner of St John.
St John has lots of resorts and many of them look very inviting.
We call this a bird.


     And since then, we have been anxiously watching the news, celebrating our virtual church services from home, swimming some – but basically “staying home” as are most of you.  Because of the Caribbean island closures around us, we have slowly come to realize that instead of our leisurely island to island hop of a sail home, we instead will have to make a dreaded epic voyage of 1300 miles or so – about 9 – 12 days!  This new awareness, if you have been reading this blog at all, is about as welcome to me as passing a kidney stone – giving a bath to a dozen cats with anger issues – cleaning a million clogged toilets – or even sitting through a “Presidential” corona virus press briefing!

About three times every hour these big Green Turtles (3 foot across!) come up for air close enough to our boat to entertain us.
Going swimming to enjoy the water, get a little exercise, and clean the bottom of Apogee.
Sewing a face mask!
Ready to dinghy in to Cruz Bay: once each week ONLY!
This stupid chicken ate a part of my lunch! Can you see my egg salad sandwich smeared on its beak!
Oh well, I ate the rest of my sandwich anyway….I don’t guess this chicken has coronovirus.
Trying to be safe at the ferry dock.
Grocery shopping.
I think a Brown Booby is my new favorite bird. (Certainly better than a chicken!)

     But it has to be done – we have to get out of here and to a safer place for hurricane season that officially starts June 1st. And it’s time to be home, back in the land of the not-so-free and inexplicable toilet paper no shows.

Dreaming/dreading the trip home: just 1300 miles to the Chesapeake.
Getting to be our old friend – and you know sea turtles invented social distancing
Lee is (secretly) rigging the spinaker….Cathy says we can’t fly it in the ocean, but Lee knows she is going to want to get home faster and may end up letting us fly it (from Cathy – huh!)

     So we are now waiting for the best weather window to start our journey and have teamed up with “Salty Dawgs” – a great group who are generously helping a huge group of sailors in the same “boat” get home safely. We are hoping for an early May departure to leave here and head toward the Chesapeake. And, while I realize there are many more urgent needs to be brought before our Creator during this chaotic time – could I humbly ask that you add to that prayer list a safe passage for the good ship Apogee and its fragile occupants? Thank you!

     So, this Covid 19 – oh man! This is really bad stuff. But if there’s anything positive that can come from this nightmare of a pandemic, I hope it might be to bring out those “better angels of our nature” that Abraham Lincoln talked about.  Now is a time to have a little more patience, a little more understanding, a lot more gratitude for those in the front lines and a whole lot more kindness than most of us might want to muster during this crazy time. This hurting world needs a gigantic group hug right now – and maybe we will all eventually figure out our own way to be some tiny part of that!

Virgin Island stores are well stocked!
We appreciate how well the Virgin Island communities have responded to the pandemic.



Pretty place!

 And that’s the end of my sermonette – y’all stay safe and well and we hope to see most of  you – from a safe distance, of course! – very soon!

“Here, “Stay at Home Orders” look like this: work on the boat an hour or so, plan your trip home, swim a little, read your book, watch the same old sunset, eat one of Cathy’s delicious dinners, watch the News Hour, play a couple of card games and Farkle, watch a movie, look at the beautiful stars, go to bed and start all over….if it weren’t for hurricanes, I think we would just stay here!



Add yours →

  1. We remember the Virgin Islands fondly. Sorry you missed the BVI. In many ways we would love to be with you in those beautiful waters rather than under stay-at-home orders in a small town in Texas. Stay well, travel safely, and write about it all when you have the chance!


  2. The turtles are so cute!!!
    Love all the pictures and Cathy is such a great writer !
    Prayers for safety and good health on your return home 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻


  3. Enjoyed reading your blog, Kathy! You are a great writer! John and I think of you two often and can’t say enough about our wonderful adventure with you and Lee on Apogee!
    Praying for safe travels!


  4. Enjoyed our talk today and reading your post. Safe jouney.


  5. Not much fun going on around here and the views out the front and back doors are not as awesome as yours, but I will surely will be praying for your safe return. It is certainly going to take some adjustment of not wearing my pajamas to church but sure looking forward to seeing everyone. 🙏🏻🙏🏻❤️ Donna


  6. Cheryl Rutledge April 29, 2020 — 2:24 PM

    Loved catching up on your recent adventures. Looks like you found a beautiful place to wait out COVID-19. Much more fun than here in TN. Hopefully by the time you arrive back home it will be over. My fear is that the stay at home order is being lifted too soon and there will be a huge increase of virus cars and we will be forced to stay at home all summer. Safe travels home. Hope to see you while your back in TN.


  7. Looks like you might already be heading home.-Safe travels and smooth seas.
    Nashville has been having some pretty wicked weather so hopefully that will all be over before you get home.
    Love and prayers for your journey.


  8. Love reading your travel log and seeing all the photos. Safe travels back to the states.


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