From there, it's a swift departure from Jost Van Dyke, and this is the paddle I have not been looking forward to. Crossing back to St John through prime time in the shipping channel. Loads of boats hauling butt across and I'm going right through it. My goal is to make it to Whistling Cay (the circled spot on the map) lying just before St. John.
Leaving the bay is the easy part. Once out in the ocean is where I start falling off the board. 13-18mph winds sometimes gusting to 20+ have their way with me. It's a constant battle to stay in the direction I want to go. This means I have to paddle only on my right side the entire time. It ends up being less of a normal front to back stroke and ore so a sweep or C stroke. The wind and the chop continuously pummel the side of the board. This wouldn't be as big an issue without a fin. The fin "anchors" the board to go straight but there is no straight from the wind and chop. The nose of the board wants to fight to go with the wind. I fight to keep a line across to Whistling Cay.
The paddle across is mostly uneventful. Mostly me clinging onto the board, falling off, remounting, and paddling like a maniac to stay straight. I do come across a massive sea turtle. I followed him a ways but he didn't care for my company much and left within a few minutes.
5 hours later and I make it across the main open ocean crossing and am getting ready to enter the shipping lane. I float next to a large rock outcropping of a small uninhabited island watching the boat traffic. It's about 1 mile from the small island across to Whistling Cay, a small former outpost.
I see a clearing and paddle as fast as I can and get about 1/4 of the way across until I see a large ferry boat coming from the east. I keep a steady eye on it and paddle with a 90% effort cadence. I get half way across the channel and hear to the west some deep growling engines. A huge Catamaran is motoring full throttle towards me. I'm a blip in the water and he doesn't see me. I am all out in panic mode and at 100% paddling at this point. The boat steadily is closing in on me and It seem like death is now a possibility. No time to die, I paddle like an idiot and see that I'm going to clear the boat just barely. Get by and have 30 yards to spare. Seems like a lot but it's not.
So, death averted I'm happy to get to Whistling Cay. It was an old outpost way back in the day when the Virgin Islands were colonized. Troops were stationed here to look for invaders coming and they would warn the Government of St. John.
I entered Whistling Cay and beached right where you see here. The far island in the distance is where the shipping channel extends to. Doesn't look far but it is, trust me.
To the left you can see Western St. John. The fort actually faces the north shore of St. John. at Maho Bay:
From Whistling Cay it's a quick paddle to paradise, Maho Bay!
I spend a couple hours here joined by strangers from Wisconsin that conveniently have a cooler of beer. Later I get a ride from my friend Chirag back to his house to get cleaned up and relax before the night's activities.
At the St. John Brewers Taproom with Chirag that evening.
The following day was supposed to be me paddling to Puerto Rico a distance of about 60 miles of open water. The morning comes and the decision is to abort Puerto Rico. The "Christmas Winds" have arrived and are blowing 20+ mph consistently. On top of which the local paddlers tell me that the area between St. Thomas and Puerto Rico is heavily fished and that attracts lots of sharks. So the easy decision was to play it safe and stay on St. John. I decide on a North Shore paddle on my last day in paradise.
Leaving Maho Bay
Quick Stop on a Rock Beach
Cool pirate ship on Western St. John
Cruz Bay, gear off the board
Back at the beach bar.
The next morning I catch a ferry over to St. Thomas with my gear...
Then, it's a quick check in for Cape Air at St. Thomas Airport for my flight to Puerto Rico, then home to Missouri.
Seems it's a wee bit of a small plane!
Landed in Puerto Rico & transferring to my flight back to Missouri.
All in all, traveling and living out of 2 bags was a fun adventure. If you have an inflatable sup, don't mind a little sweat, and have an open adventure mind, you can have quite the adventure. No tour guides. No fancy hotels. No pampering.
Just TRAVEL. PADDLE. STORE