St Thomas Day 10
Row, row, row your boat?
Up at 6am again to watch the sunrise. I was rewarded with yet another spectacular view. It was just amazing!
After the sun came up, I watched as the workers were clearing out debris from the Sugar Bay Beach Resort. It's so sad to see this place still not up and running after so many years after the hurricane destroyed it. But, there's hope for the future. We learned that an investor had purchased it and it was apparent that something was going on over there.
Just a little back history on this resort. This resort was hit by hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017. St Thomas closely monitored the storm approaching as it increased in intensity. It was upgraded to a category 4 just 2 days before it would make landfall. As Sugar Bay Resort prepared for the storm, they closed the pool on 9/5 and gave their resort guests activities such as card and board games to play and running movies. The restaurant was prepared to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner that day before it would be time to retreat to the shelter for the night.
By the following day, Irma would be upgraded to a Category 5 with 175mph winds. A meeting was conducted on 9/5 with all guests and employees and they would move everyone to the Hurricane Shelter by 8am the following day. The reported they would be serving breakfast at 7am in the morning. But, things changed. Late night directions were that guests were to report to the Hurricane Shelter by 7am and they would get a box breakfast.
9/6 Everyone was in the shelter and winds were picking up quickly. Videos would surface of everyone sitting in the shelter playing cards or on the floor with mattresses lined up and ready to ride out the storm. Spirits were high at that point. They would have 4 nurses and a paramedic with them. They were creating a "wall of fame" for everyone to sign. Irma makes landfall with peak winds of 178mph. It was recorded as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic.
9/7 Sugar Bay would report that everyone was safe and sound post Hurricane Irma. Power was down and Sugar Bay was left in devastation. I remember watching every video I could as this was happening and it was so heartbreaking.
I can only imagine what the beautiful landscaping looked like and the awesome pools they had there. It would have definitely been a place I would have loved to have hung out at. Now it just sits in despair.
In less than 2 weeks after Irma completely destroyed most of St Thomas, another hurricane was on the radar. St Thomas was preparing for their second hurricane: Hurricane Maria.
September 19, it appeared as though Maria, another category 5 hurricane, may spare St Thomas from the eye of the storm, however, the tropical winds as it passed by, heading to Puerto Rico, would cause over 20 inches of rain. So you may be thinking "great, they are spared" but many of the homes in St Thomas were left without a roof thanks to Irma, so this would be a big blow to them again...including Sugar Bay.
September 20, Maria passed by St Thomas. Everyone at Sugar Bay was ok...maybe physically but emotionally...doubtful. There was even more damage to the property. Sugar Bay posted a video of "the end of the storm passing" on September 23. It was still devastating to watch even that.
This would be a devastation that they could never come back from. By November, they were only using undamaged rooms for companies and personnel working on the island's recovery. They estimated a reopen of 2019...2 years later. May 30, 2018 would be the last correspondence from them and the resort would never recover or open back up.
There have been many youtube videos of people walking around the resort in its current state, including the rooms where people left their belonging behind as if they were returning. It's sad.
But now there is hope for Sugar Bay and the property is under new ownership as of February 8, 2022. It was sold for $20 million to an investment group. There was a $1 million lien on the property owed by Sugar Bay, but all prior owed taxes on the property had been paid. So, I would say they managed to still come out with a fairly decent amount. All of the furniture in/on the property was liquidated in a "blowout sale" to the public and they were accepting offers. Hopefully one day it will be fixed up and be another option to stay at in St Thomas.
Now our place, here at Point Pleasant, offers a "small private beach" on the property. However, there is no actual beach on the property and they are advertising the beach that went to Sugar Bay. I wonder what will happen once Sugar Bay is back in business? I really wanted to go down there and at least experience it. It would be like a deserted beach you would have to yourself. They said the snorkeling was decent as well. However, once we made that trip down to the bottom pool (walking), I knew there was absolutely no way I'd be able to make it all the over and down to the beach without difficulty and probably 0 chances of my being able to make it back up...at least within a days time frame. ;) So, I just admired it from our balcony. The entire time we spent here I only seen one family there (a lady and her younger son). So it's not used very often for sure.
To the left, the dolphin trainers were out with the dolphins as people were onlooking around the edges.
Well I already knew that we didn't have any eggs and I wasn't about to put my family through another round of pancakes this morning. I suggested that we all just get ready and go down to the restaurant located on the property. I looked up their hours and it said they opened up at 9am. Of course we drove down because I knew after a big breakfast, I would not be able to make it back up and didn't want to have to wait on the shuttle service.
We drove down and parked and then started the journey of walking down the steps leading to the restaurant.
We arrived just before 9 and there were 2 tables already with people there. So, they sat us down, ask what we wanted to drink, gave us a menu and then walked away. It took them about 20 minutes to come back with our drinks and we were about 10' away from the bar where they were preparing drinks.
In case you wondered, we were at Shoreline Bar & Grill
We did watch as other people started to come and be seated. We had sat along the table by the waterfront.
The seagull was waiting for a handout.
As we sat at the table, everyone was just waiting around and on their phone. However, the need to hold the phone in your lap was very apparent due to this...
Nothing but stickiness on the table. The hubby said they probably had (at one point) some type of covering on the table that is no longer there and it left a residue. But geesh. You couldn't even put your arms on the table. You would think they would get something to scrub it off or put a table cloth on it or paint it or something. So unappealing.
We waited and waited and waited and an hour had passed by. I was getting irritated because people that came in after us had already received their food. I finally stopped our waiter and ask about our food and he said "it's coming right up". We seen him about 10 minutes later with our food.
Both the hubby and I ordered the Meat Lovers Omelet ($14). I ordered a side of hashbrowns (because I didn't see that it came with anything else. I was wrong. It did come with hashbrowns. Oops!
Sakari ordered a Breakfast Burrito ($12).
Kiera ordered French Toast ($12). Well when hers came we all looked at each other like WHAT IS THAT??? She literally got FRENCH <----FRENCH bread that was toasted!! This IS NOT what people want when you say you want french toast. We were all in shock.
How exactly is this acceptable? Especially for a child wanting french toast. The waiter should have explained exactly what this was. Do people of St Thomas really serve it like this? Just a toasted piece of french bread? I'm so confused. I tried to look on the bright side and ask the waiter for some syrup. Maybe that would make it better. He brought some, but that didn't work. No matter how to spin it or dipped it, it would not be french toast.
Also, if you noticed the toast on our plates in the picture above, it was just that...toasted bread. No butter, no jelly or anything. I had to ask for butter at least.
I will say the omelet was very good, the potatoes were good and Sakari said her burrito was good. In the end, Kiera refused to eat her breakfast bread and we had visitors now...they got breakfast instead.
Our service was horrible and slow and they gave new meaning of "Island Time" and only for the fact that people came in way after we had ordered and was receiving their food before us.
We received our bill and take notice...they added a 20% service charge to the bill automatically! I didn't like the fact that they do this either without telling you or assuming you thought they were worth 20% to begin with. We are not cheap tippers, however, if you do a crappy job...you won't get on the high end of what we would normally tip either. Maybe this is why the service is so bad? They know they are getting this amount no matter what? I have read complaints about their other "high end" restaurant on the property and having bad service and food. People said they automatically add the tip to the bill IF you have over 6 people in your party. Well I know I'm an oversized girl these days, but that would still only make us 4 people.
Yes, that FRENCH toast costs $12!!! Just insane!
We headed out and back up to the room. We had a little bit of time before our excursion so I wanted to do some packing. Our journey was coming to an end and I wanted to get a head start on it.
As I was packing, I was multitasking. I was texting some of my coworkers to give them the "bad" news about my resignation. We chit chatted for awhile and then it was time to leave for our trip. This time around we would only need the beach towels, mask and CAMERA/GOPRO.
So what were we doing today? We were going on an excursion with Virgin Island Ecotours and we are kayaking the mangroves, snorkeling and taking a hike. Woo hoo! Something different than a beach day so we were excited.
We headed out around 12:30 and down our twisting road off the mountain we resided in for this trip.
When we arrived at our location, just past Red Hook and right on the main road, we would discover that the parking there is absolutely ridiculous. It has very little parking and there's an area you can't park in because they are taking boats in/out of there.
The place was an area area with a roof over it. It really reminded me of our visit to Belize when we went cave tubing for some reason.
A guy named "Swish" came and introduced himself as our tour guide. He ask us a few questions here and there and said we were (not) a lively bunch. He would say things about how quiet we were and we were going to have fun no worries. Did we really look that down? The hubby made the comment "She's just hot"...which I have no idea where he came up with that at because I never said that but ok, I'll play along. Whew as I fanned myself yet looking back at him with a puzzled look as I rolled my eyes. Swish suggested we go out on the deck and wait. He said there was a breeze out there. So, out we went.
Sitting out by the dock. This area had tables and chairs under a roof and one of the tour guides that had just came back was eating lunch. Whatever he was eating, it looked good. This place does have food and they offer you the menu (if you want) and you can order food and they will have it ready when you return from your trip.
We were given our lifejackets. Another family of a mother and daughter was waiting with us. Swish told us that we were waiting on one other family to arrive. He said they were trying to call them and they would give them another 5 minutes. Well, we waited more like 10 minutes and they didn't show. Good! Less on the tour works for me! Little did Swish know, our family alone could present to be a handful. :) Swish did let us know that he would be taking pictures of our trip. I was glad and I always buy pictures when an excursion offers them because I never get in any pictures with me in them and I have no proof that I'm there with the family most of the time. Of course if any of my family tries to take a picture of me, I hide and complain about how fat I look in the picture these days and tell them to stop or cut me out of it. haha They just can't win. But anyhow, Swish would be taking pictures and he also had an Olympus Tough camera but had a housing on it. See, there MUST be a way to get these camera's somewhere on this island!
It was time to get in the kayak and let our journey begin. The girls went first.
The girls took off and was doing circles while we were getting in our kayak. We managed to catch up with them.
Ok, here's my proof. I took it of myself and the hubby
Then we were ready to take off.
We headed out to an open area and there were several ways to go. Thank goodness we had Swish with us to guide us. I guess I should mention that you can rent the kayaks and explore on your own but without the tour guide, I'm not sure you would make it to where we went. Just saying...
We were about to head through the mangroves. I was excited. I remembered the time we went through them on a tour in Puerto Rico to the bio bay. They are so neat.
Swish would stop and wait for us to go by to get pictures of us. Well, we had a different idea and ours was to have an uncontrollable kayak that would run head on into Swish. Oops! You'd think we've never done this before. No worries, he made it out alive.
We were coming to an area where they had jellyfish. Swish had told us about these jellyfish before we made it there and these were jellyfish that we were going to be able to HOLD.
Once we entered the area, we could see whiteish star looking items in the water. Swish said those were the jellyfish. They reminded me of snowflakes with each looking different. I tried to put my camera under the water to get pictures but wasn't as successful as I had hoped. Maybe it was because I had been taking pictures above water and I forgot to put the camera on the underwater setting.
Are they not the prettiest things you've ever seen? I didn't even know these existed like this. They do come in various shapes, but I was unable to capture more. Swish said he was going to get one and we were going to get the chance to "hold" one. I think Swish was trying to set us up! He was upset with us because we plowed into him with our kayak and this was his revenge.
He managed to bring one up and he explained to us that we could hold it in our hands and .....they do sting (see I told you that it was a set up) and that normally people will feel it on the top of their hands, not on the palm where you would be holding it. He told us that some feel it more intensely than others and it could leave you with a little redness. YEP! WE ARE TOUCHING IT! LOL He did say it would not hurt.
Of course Sakari is the first to hold it. She's always been up for just about anything risky and that would not change this time around either. Well if she's doing it, so am I. As you can tell, Kiera's answer was a definite NO.
Next up was my turn. It was a big blob and gooey and neato! No, I did not feel any sting at all. None of us received any reaction. The hubby said it felt like a buzzing on his hand. Maybe they just didn't like him. ;) Swish made sure to tell us to wash our hands in the water after holding it.
Kiera was feeling left out and she seen that we weren't screaming in pain or passing out so she changed her mind and decided to give it a go.
Ok, we were on our way again. Swish told us we were going to come to an area with a "stream" like water. We needed to really paddle our way through it. It might be hard so what ever you do, don't stop paddling.
Honestly it wasn't bad at all. Swish said it was a good day and the water wasn't as rapid. We were crossing across a wide area and coming up to an island with a small beach. I could see someone on the beach and we would find that a family had came there, by boat somehow, and was spending the day on the uninhibited island. They were swimming, having a drink and having a cookout. Oh how cool! Well, we are now invading their space...at least for a little while.
We pulled our kayaks onto the beach.
Now we were told that motorized boats were not allowed in the mangroves. This little island was not IN the mangroves but it made me wonder how they got there. As you can see in the distance, the waves are breaking over a bunch of rocks. There was no way in that way for sure.
So now we were off to explore the island. We started following a trail and before long, we came across an area that had this really weird sound. Almost like a clicking sound. Swish tells us to look around and we noticed the ground was moving. Wait, that's not the ground, that's the ground covered in hermit crabs! Whoa! There were so many of them. Swish would tell us that the are all over the island. He would later give us facts about them. They are scavengers and will eat anything. He said they dropped a 250+ pound pig on the island and the hermit crabs ate it all within 2 weeks or something like that. That included the bones and all. There was no evidence that the pig was ever there.
Swish had a cooler that had water and bite sized candy bars. Swish had brought some with him and he threw one down and they all piled on it like a sumo wrestler. All the clicking and clacking was insane. Each one of them fighting for that little morsel to savor their taste buds. Hey, it wasn't a pig but it would have to do.
We continued on our tour down the pathway.
We came across an area and Swish had us step over to the side. He showed us a tree...a poisonous tree he said. It was a Manchineel tree, which means "little apple of death". It is one of the most poisonous trees in the world and there were (I believe) 16 was planted on this island. He told us the history of them and how they were used to torture people years ago. The sap from the trees are poison and if you were ever caught in a rain storm, the last place you'd want to seek shelter would be under one of these trees. Never eat the small apple on them, it would bring a for sure death. However, he did say that hermit crabs can eat them with no issues or signs of toxicity.
One cool thing about the tree is that the leaves all point down instead of like most trees in the area that pointed up.
We continued our hike that led us along the water again.
Swish told us to look to the side of us and tell us what that hill looked like. We all decided it looked like a gorilla face turned up except for Kiera, she came up with something totally off the wall and we just stared at her.
Continuing on, we were no longer on a dirt path. It had become rocky and hard to walk on for someone like me.
We were coming up to an area that looked like the water was getting shallow. In previous pictures you could see an area that extended across to the gorilla island and waves were running up over the rocks.
Swish did mention it was a little more dried up than normal today. I wasn't sure at that time if that was a good sign or not.
We came across a blob in the tree. I knew this blob was a termite colony. I asked Swish if he had ever ate termites before. He gave me a look and laughed and said "No have you?"....well yes, yes we have. I told him about eating them in Belize and he had to know what they tasted like. I told him they were minty for me. He had said he heard that a lot of people will say either minty or like peanut butter. He also knew they were a good source of protein to keep you alive if it was all you had to eat for a few days.
He broke open a small part of the colony and said it would feed the lizards for awhile. He mentioned they could build the hole back really quickly.
So we made it to the rocky area and Sakari and Kiera were immediately on a hunt for critters. Swish said we'd find all kinds of things here and this!!! This is what the girls live for! They immediately went into search mode and started finding all kinds of critters. (They do this at home in the streams at the parks).
There was a piece of something laying on the rocks. Swish told us it was from back "in the day" (I can't remember from where or when...maybe the Christopher Columbus days) and had been left behind. Either way it was known to be really old.
Sakari found a small baby crab. It was so cute. She showed it around to everyone.
Then Swish brings us a black spiny sea urchin. Wait, these are the do not touch ones. But, I guess since it was a baby it was easier to hold? We told him how Sakari ended up with one in her hand once and by one I mean the needles and it was more like 4 or 5 of them. It was very painful and we wasn't able to get all of them out that was embedded in her skin that time. She learned quickly not to get near them in the water.
Then I found this thing. I wasn't really sure what it was. Looked like a worm. Swish was unsure as well. But if it looks like a worm, I'm NOT touching it. We've had experiences with fire worms and they are not pleasant (even though this did not look like a fire worm, I was not taking any chances).
I have to give mention to the starfish here. There were SO MANY brittle stars in this area!! They were everywhere. Each rock you over turned you would find several under them. I had never seen so many before. It was amazing. Kiera was having the time of her life. You kept hearing "They're so cute!" in her high pitched voice with every rock she turned over. Of course she says that a lot with things because she is such an animal lover.
Then Kiera says "Here's an eel" and everywhere ran over. She had found a baby moray eel hiding under the rocks. Kiera squeals "It's so cute!" and it was. It blended in nicely with the sea grass.
At this point Swish was ready to throw in the towel and give up on us. We are pro's at this. We were showing him up. LOL He ask Sakari "Are you looking for a job? You are finding more than I am and know what everything is" LOL Hey, we've been around the block a few times with all of these creatures.
The other family pretty much looked on in amazement with everything that was being found. They were pretty much scared to hold most of the critters that were found but took a chance every once in awhile. You could tell they were newbies.
We seen this sticking up from the ground and told Swish it looks like it was empty. He said what is it? I told him we see these all the time when snorkeling and they were clams. He pulled it up out of the ground and it had a pointed tip. He said he had never seen them before or knew what they were and he was going to look it up. When I got home, I found the perfect picture of it online, but can't find the exact one now.
They are a type of fan clam (I believe). They are usually seen along the shores and near seagrass. Most of the shell is buried under the ground with only a small portion sticking up to be spotted. The shell is usually thin but very strong. The animal buries itself with the pointed end down, and attaches itself to buried rocks and stones. Of course it's possible it is a Mussel as well because they have the pointed tips. So, who knows. I just know it was once an animal.
We found a baby West Indian Sea Urchin. Oh my gosh so small. I have never seen one this small. Sakari would show it around to everyone telling them "These are the friendly urchins. They won't hurt you." Then she would continue
on with her tour and was now the new tour guide of the day. LOL
Of course Kiera squealed "It's so cute!"
Next up on the find list would be a pencil urchin I found. See Sakari, I'm good at this too! Kiera: "It's so cute."
A whole lotta Periwinkle Snails grouped together. You would think they are after the chocolate like the hermit crabs.
Several red and black spiny Rock Boring Urchins lurking underneath
We spent quite some time in this area and it was time to move on. They really didn't want to go. They could have spent all day in this one location and been perfectly happy with it. They just talked and talked about it. If we ever come back, I will get a private tour to that island and just spend all day exploring that area. They would have a blast!
Up next was going to the "blow hole". It was getting rocky in the area.
This is what we are now dealing with...I was scared. I was actually trembling. I was holding on to dear life. Even the hubby was worried for me.
We were making our way to the "blow hole"
oh em gee wee!
Hey, the GoPro takes pictures too! (We never use this function but somehow Sakari took this one picture with it)
On the way back Sakari was exploring.
Time to climb back to the trail. I was not looking forward to this.
Well, leave it to me and I will find that one rock that the minute my bad foot steps on it, it would over turn. Ouch! That really hurt and now it was going to be a difficult walk back. I just knew I couldn't get away without some type of "hurt". I also had a new pair of shoes (that I bought specifically for THIS excursion because I knew I needed actual shoes and not sandals and I knew they needed to have a grip and ones that I didn't mind getting wet or in the water with) and they had now rubbed a blister on the back of my foot from the walk.
The kids were doing the Titanic and it was funny. ♪ ♫ ♪ Once more you open the door, and you're here in my heart, and my heart will go on and on ♪ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫
On that's a pretty rock! Sakari knew just what the name of it was but I forgot. It was the rainbow rock.
The rock climbing was over and we were headed back to the kayaks. It was a fun trip and we really enjoyed the area with all the sea critters. We stayed in that area a little longer than I think we were supposed to but Swish was patient with his "we need to move on". LOL
Once we made it back to the kayaks, Swish said it was time for some snorkeling. Hmmm, and here I thought the trip was over with. Let the fun begin...although I wasn't really sure what fun it was going to be because we were in a very grassy area. But, you know my saying, there's always something to see no matter where you are at. The only thing I didn't like about this was there were no fins to use. If I would have known that, I would have brought mine.
There were a bunch of Blue Striped Grunts and Yellow Tailed Snappers in the area.
A bunch of Juvenile French Grunts
Four-Eyed Butterfly Fish
It was definitely turning out to be an interesting area to snorkel for sure.
We came across a rock and Sakari discovered a Banded Coral Shrimp (but we always call them Candycane Shrimp). They are so pretty. It was hiding under a rock and I took so many pictures of it trying to make sure I got the shot.
We couldn't even tell at the time and once I got back home and looked at the pictures, there were actually two of them under there.