Caribbean Scrambles, Part 4, Finale

I’ll begin this final post in the island series by going backwards– from the end of our venture to one of the main events in our visit to St. Croix.DSCN8238

If you’ve followed me through this Caribbean scramble, you’ve probably surmised, correctly, that I caught no fish. I’m sorry to disappoint you fly-fishers out there, but I tried… like a wounded pelican tries. I fished with flies, of course– because I’m obstinate, and because fly-fishing is what I enjoy doing when on or near the water. I fished for tarpon, and actually had a couple of those well-fed bruisers checking out a streamer, but to no avail other than fulfilling the pursuit of pleasure.

white-crowned pigeon

white-crowned pigeon

Okay, I suck at saltwater fly-fishing but I learned a thing or two. Assuming that I may visit the island again some day, I’ll shout… Wait till next year!… like the old Brooklyn Dodger fans when their team failed them once more in the World Series. And look what happened to them. I’m old enough to remember the Dodgers moving to L.A… Sandy Koufax was my first (and maybe only) sports hero, which has little or nothing to do with St. Croix, but I thought I’d interject it.

One of Alyssa’s jobs is working with the island’s Humane Society. She quietly arranged for us to take four lovely dogs for a pick-up at D.C.’s National Airport where the animals would be taken to a No Kill Shelter for adoption. Paws from Paradise is a privately funded program giving island cats and dogs a chance for a good home and survival in the states. There are just too many homeless paws in the Caribbean.

gray kingbird

gray kingbird

So, the four dogs got their shots; they got their papers signed, and they prepared to become legal immigrants. They boarded the jet with us. A small one, a well-behaved pup named Mango, was a carry-on.

Initially I was apprehensive about this venture, but the transfer in Miami was seamless, and the animals were “adopted” immediately on our landing at National Airport in D.C.

I may have been skeptical at first, but I’m glad we had the chance to save some fine young pooches from demise.

On Sunday morning at Alyssa’s patio and yard I finally got to meet some island birds that I’d been looking for all week. I already had a photo of the Green-throated Carib (hummingbird) but now I also had an excellent look at the Antillean Crested hummer. Although I didn’t have the camera with me for that sighting, the Antillean paused just long enough among the flowering bushes to allow me a view of its emerald crest.

green-throated Carib

green-throated Carib

In our second Saturday evening together on the island, we made another visit to Turtles’ bar and restaurant in Frederiksted. Accompanied by folk music and a blend of Japanese and Caribbean drinks, we participated in a roll-your-own sushi dinner prepared by Alyssa’s friends and acquaintances. The people at Turtles’ seemed to represent an interesting and balanced mix of social classes and cultural backgrounds on St. Croix.

poolside iguana

poolside iguana

We took a morning drive to Christiansted Harbor and boarded a small powerboat for a ride to Buck Island. The legendary white-coral sands of Buck Island Reef National Monument lie about 1.5 miles northeast of St. Croix. Buck Island is about one mile long and a half-mile wide. Its famous barrier reef and underwater snorkeling trail are maintained by the National Park Service.

beach, Buck Island

beach, Buck Island

The snorkeling trail invites you to swim through a forest of elkhorn coral. Before you hit the trail in deep choppy water though, the guides provide you with an introductory lesson. They give you a swim mask, fins and snorkel, and some background information about a special marine environment.DSCN8533

The white beach and its clear calm waters were our first stop. The beach was recently voted as “one of the 10 most beautiful in the world” by some travel magazine. Getting a snorkeling lesson here, you start to see the angelfish and trunkfish swimming out beneath you, and you know you’re not going to argue with the verdict of a travel magazine.DSCN8540

On the beach, in front of the island’s forest, there’s a picnic table or two, but there are no buildings or concession stands anywhere on Buck. In the distance you can see a flight of frigatebirds, least terns, and endangered brown pelicans that plummet head-down for a fish. You know you’re in the right company here.

luxurious coral sands...

luxurious coral sands…

You climb back on board the motherboat with the small group of swimmers that you’re traveling with, and you head out for the park’s underwater trail. The sea is choppy there, and 10 to 30 feet deep. You’re required to wear a safety vest and to follow the snorkeling guide along the underwater trail where signs are posted at fascinating junctures. You swim behind the guide for a while and then he turns you loose for a long free snorkel.

long view, w/ sail

long view, w/ sail

Although I struggled with feeling comfortable at first, and fought the sensation that my mask wasn’t on correctly, I soon relaxed enough to enjoy the sights of brain and elkhorn corals and colorful tropical fishes. My wife and daughter did much better, and even saw the passage of a good-sized tarpon in their 100-foot field of visibility.

For a guy who spends as much time in the northern streams and rivers as I do, you’d think that I’d take to tropical waters more handily, but that’s not the case. However, the whole experience was extraordinary, and I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

to the left is Point Udall, the easternmost point of land in the U.S.

to the left is Point Udall, the easternmost point of land in the U.S.

In closing, I have to thank my daughter once more for being a first-class host and tour guide for her parents on the island. And I hope that you, oh valued readers, have enjoyed this four-part series from a northerner’s take on a different world.

"one of the 10 most beautiful beaches"

“one of the 10 most beautiful beaches”

leaving Buck Island

leaving Buck Island

reentering port

reentering port

bye, and thanks again

bye, and thanks again



About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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20 Responses to Caribbean Scrambles, Part 4, Finale

  1. Excellent Walt. I enjoyed the tour of paradise. I guess when all is said and done, what matters is the time you and your wife got to spend with alyssa no matter where it may have taken you.

  2. Brent says:

    While you may have come up empty in the tarpon department, you really hit the jackpot for overall experiences. The beach is stunning: postcard perfection with brilliant blue waters. And, seemingly, some isolation. If only all beaches offered the latter!

    • We did a helluva lot in just eight days on the island. If you ever go there, have your sister take you to the island and its beach and coral reefs. It’s stunning. Thanks!

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Thanks for sharing your Caribbean adventures – what a time of it you had! Seems to me, fishing aside, you’ve many great reasons to go back…and, ok, maybe for the fish.
    A wonderful series, Walt!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Very nice, Walt. I always enjoy reading about your travels, near or far, to locales exotic or the familiar. And I’m glad that you and Leighanne got to spend some time with Alyssa. The surroundings are a bonus.

    • Bob, I’m always thankful that you’re one of my main anchors, whether I pull up to report on a local fishing hole or if I’m battening down on some wicked ocean of the spirit. I’m indebted.

  5. loydtruss says:

    What a great vacation, and to spend it with your daughter had to special. The snorkeling, the super white beeches, beautiful scenery, and great food all made up for the fish void in your fly fishing. Thanks for sharing this adventure with all of us

    • Yeah a great vacation, Bill, for all those reasons that you list. If there’s a next time, maybe the fish will come, too. You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting throughout

  6. loydtruss says:

    Went back to my old account, I was actually thinking of transferring my blog to WordPress, but found out it was just too much trouble for a seasoned senior like me. I guess I will continue my career using blogger, with all its imperfections.

    • Bill,
      I don’t have any experience with Blogger except for commenting on posts, but from what I’ve heard lately, maybe WordPress wasn’t a bad place to start out and to stay with. At times it’s just seemed kind of ordinary, but maybe that’s a good thing.

  7. Ross says:

    What a great trip, thank you for sharing. The interesting culture and beautiful pictures. Looks like you had a great time.

  8. Les Kish says:

    Walt, Im with you. Never was much of a person for beaches or warm climes. Sand in the shorts just doesn’t do it for me. The beach and blue water photos are inviting though…..

    Koufax was an idol for me too. Had a mit with a Sandy Koufax stamp on it. I thought I was pretty hot stuff, even if I couldn’t play worth a darn.

    • We’re committed northerners, Les. I’d never been this far south before but the poet in me embraced the opportunity.
      So you were around during the Koufax era, too? More years than I thought! But those were special years in baseball, and I think it had more to do with than just being young. I lived for the series game with Koufax on the mound. And now I’m wondering, did I, too, have a “Koufax” mitt? If so, how could I forget.

  9. Salla says:

    So beautiful! I’ve never really been on a “real” beach with warm turquoise water and white sand. It’s mostly been either the cold Pacific Ocean or even colder North Atlantic so it would be nice to try. And so many different birds!

  10. Doug says:

    Happy snorkeling to ya.

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