March 9, 2015
St John, US Virgin Islands
Today we swam a national park service trail. I have hiked and canoed national park trails before but never swam one with my face down in the water. It is the Trunk Bay coral snorkeling trail.
We took the ferry from St. Thomas to Cruz Bay and had a good view of the British Virgin Islands in the passage between St. Thomas and St. John. An announcement on the ferry warned us that we were now in the cell phone range of the British Virgin Islands and to check our phones before using them because we may end up with some nasty roaming charges if our phones decided to pick up email or get a message while we were in the channel. (I was not carrying my mobile.) In Cruz Bay Suzi and I got on an open air taxi and headed to Trunk Bay. We were back in the area where road signs look familiar BUT on the US Virgin Islands driving is on the left. BUT they still have American cars so the driver is also on the left. This makes passing on the narrow roads a bit of a thrill ride, especially for the person riding shotgun. Virgin Island National Park is largely made up of two thirds of the Island of St. John. Lawrence Rockefeller owned much of the island and donated it to the Park Service. His resort at Canteel Bay is still in private hands although I am not sure it is still owned by Rock Resorts. All beaches in the Virgin Islands are public, including the exclusive Canteel Bay beach, but I noticed when the cab drove by that there was a $20 parking fee for that beach.
When we got to Trunk Bay the Park Service representative (first time I have ever seen a park service bathing suit) told us that there was some wind that had kicked up a little surf so the water was not as clear as it usually is, not a great day for snorkeling but we should still see something. The green flag was flying, which meant that the surf was safe, it just made the water cloudy.
As we were getting our snorkeling lessons from the National Park concessioner a man cried for help and the lifeguard was into the water with a rescue surf board before we heard the second cry. She brought him in and started giving him oxygen. He was not far out, just where the surf was breaking, and apparently was knocked over and had taken a lung full of air. Soon we heard an ambulance siren. She was taking his medical history, heart conditions, stroke history, etc. Very professional. The ambulance came and the beach returned to normal, although we all were a little more cautious.
Suzi and I hung our towels and t shirts on a tree branch and took to the underwater trail. I had not used a snorkel for a few years and had trouble at first. I kept wanting to breathe out through my nose, which is not a good thing for keeping the seal around my nose and eyes, but I got the hang of it and soon was swimming with my buddy (Suzi) between the buoys white to red to blue, trying to find the signs, which, when I did find them I couldn’t read. I didn’t have my glasses on. Note to Park Service, bigger letters on underwater signs. We enjoyed the swim and the coral and fish we did see. I took pictures of the signs and when we got ashore, after a swim unencumbered by snorkel and mask, put on my glasses and see what I missed. Digital cameras can be good tools for the nearsighted.