This summer Troop 79 ventured to Sea Base in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Two crews boarded Celebration and Manukai, heading over to circumnavigate St. John.
Despite some initial nervousness, Scouts jumped in and easily completed swim checks to the satisfaction of the boat captains. We soon realized this was nothing compared to the lengthy snorkeling we did daily. Often tying up to buoys in particularly deep water, we would don our fins, masks, and fluorescent vests, “yeet” ourselves off the boat, swim across this deep expanse to outcroppings, and enjoy breathtaking wildlife. Trigger fish, parrot fish eating coral, squid that changed color as we passed, nurse sharks, blue flounder, swimming through sergeant majors in schools of hundreds, stingrays, a large number of sea turtles, and South Sea lobster. Celebration crew learned how to identify the lobsters’ hiding spots (not too difficult with their antennae sticking out), spooked them out, and successfully caught one. It turned their plain meal of mac and cheese into a gourmet meal of mac and cheese and lobster!
Speaking of food, the crews cooked on board most of the time, with the chance to visit the shore for a “hamburger” cook out over a charcoal fire. This was one of many opportunities to go ashore and play on the beach or go hiking. Land shoes and water bottles were critical, as the heat and terrain, often along rocky shores, made hikes a challenge. Both crews made their way to the Annaberg sugar mill ruins, and later, at a stop in Salt Pond Bay, we hiked to the southern-most point at the top of Ram Head. It was surprising to see so many cacti in what seems like a tropical area.
It was a rainy week. Celebration crew had gone to shore just before Manukai crew, and we all met at the Annaberg sugar mill ruins. Heavy rain seemed to be approaching, so Celebration crew headed back, but Manukai crew thought the rain would stay to the north. Celebration crew reached the shore just as the rain started, and made it back to their boat, but Manukai crew were caught out. With lightning hitting all around, including nearby Mary Point, Manukai crew were stuck on the beach. The downpour was so heavy, it was hard to see the boats from shore. In the rain, the crews danced and shouted back and forth. If there is one thing we learned from the trip, it is that when you are wet multiple times a day, being rained on means nothing.
Both crews spent time sailing, with such lean that the side rail would be in the water. Scouts helped tie up the boat to the buoys, let out/bring in the sails, and any other ways they could assist in sailing. Evenings were spent playing cards. Sleeping above deck was a challenge, as there was considerable rain nearly every night, so Scouts found spots on the floor in the cabins.
Crews went into Cruz Bay separately and enjoyed lunch and a chance for souvenirs. A tropical fruit smoothie where the fruit is just picked is a delicious respite on a muggy day.
The trip ended with the return to the Sapphire Beach harbor, cleaning of the boats, a quick meal, and brownie and ice cream treat at the resort up the hill. Except for a little sunburn, all ended healthy and happy.
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[PHOTOS] Sea Base St. Thomas @K Carter, E Schechter