Former Waynedale resident Captain Neil Newhard was in Waynedale in early March. Neil charters a sailboat out of Cruz Bay on the island of St. John. He left his 50 ft. Columbian named Flying Circus at anchor in the Cruz Bay harbor while he visited a Waynedale friend that had fallen ill.
Neil happened to stop by The Waynedale News at the same time Boyd Tarney and I were looking for a little adventure. We Googled up some round-trip tickets from Detroit to St. John and found a pair for $360 each.
Neil said, “Sure, go ahead and stay on the boat. I’ll catch up with you next weekend when I get back to St. John.”
That was Monday morning. By that afternoon, we were headed to Detroit. We drove to the Motor City for a park-n-fly and by 7:15 am Tuesday we were on our way. After a brief layover in Charlotte, NC we landed at the St. Thomas airport. A quick taxi ride to the other side of St. Thomas and then a ferry boat to St. John and we were there.
Neil had phoned ahead to Captain Jini Lewis and his son Enzo and alerted them to our arrival. A short dingy ride later we found ourselves aboard Flying Circus, rocking to a gentle off-shore breeze.
Captain Jini Charters out of Cruz Bay on a boat called Dream Weaver. She is probably the first lady captain to ever own and charter a boat out of St. John.
Jini mentioned that she had a charter scheduled for Wednesday and invited me along. The next day the two of us, as wells as six folks from Connecticut, headed for the British Virgin Islands on a day sail. Boyd went ashore to begin exploring the island of St. John.
Jini is petite in every way but strength and endurance. She can single handedly hoist an anchor, raise and trim a mainsail and set a headsail. She is bronzed by the Caribbean sun and muscle toned to the task at hand. She sailed us over to the BVI with agility and grace. Jini collected the passports and checked us through customs as the rest of us walked down to Foxy’s Seaside Restaurant for some food and spirits. We then sailed over to the Soggy Dollar to enjoy swimming and sunbathing on a pristine island beach.
The day sailed by and before long we were back in Cruz Bay sharing our adventures at the BVI’s and Boyd’s long hike on the island of St. John.
St. John was formed by ancient volcanoes. It was first discovered in 1493 by Columbus. The Danes settled the Island in 1672 and by 1718 they had brought in slaves to establish sugar cane plantations. The slaves revolted in 1733 killing many of the plantation owners, and the Danes retaliated by bringing in the French Foreign Legion to retake the island in 1734.
Boyd and I fired up the Dingy and went ashore on Thursday morning for some breakfast at JJ’s. We wandered over to Neil’s on-shore shack where he keeps his various motorcycles, spare sails and other possessions. It is also a gathering place for many of the locals that may happen by. Captain Dan was there as well as a guy named Jesse Mann. Jesse is about six-ft five and tips the scales at over 300 pounds. He is from Harlan County, Kentucky (made famous by the feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s). He has been coming to St. John for over 20 years and enjoys exploring the old sugar plantations. He is an amateur archeologist and has spent a lot of time poking through ruins that only he knows about.
Back home in Harlen County, Jesse owns the mineral rights to a mountain full of natural gas and coal, but the environmentalists have been trying to stop him from mining.
“I have all this inexpensive coal and natural gas, and the country needs energy. Why should folks have to spend ten times the money on solar and wind energy? Why not burn the cheap stuff first and then use the high dollar stuff after the cheap stuff runs out?”
You can hear the frustration in his voice as the thought of his business pulls him away from the vacation he is trying to enjoy. His ringing cell phone is a reminder of the problems back home, but then he begins talking of exploring undisturbed plantation ruins and his disposition changes back to the lighter side of island life.
“You guys want to go along on a hike to explore some old ruins?” he asks.
Boyd and I jump at the chance and we make plans to meet up the following morning.
Boyd wanted to show me some of the trails he had discovered on the previous day so we took off on an overland hike that runs up over one of the mountains and down to a sun baked beach with volcanic outcrops. I think Boyd has evolved past his leatherneck days into being part mountain goat.
The next morning Jesse picked us up in his old pickup truck. We loaded up with water and fruit and then we were off to a sugar plantation from the middle 1700’s.
We hiked through dense underbrush to a plantation ruin of partial buildings and work areas. We found a Danish grave marked 1735-1765. The topsoil is so shallow that the crypt sat partially above ground. The Danish graves were made of cement and nearby was an unmarked grave of flagstone, probably that of a slave. Jesse was surprisingly agile for a big man. He hiked up and down the hills delivering a steady flow of information as to how people had lived and survived in a hostile environment. We found shards of china and pieces of glass bottles as well as an old rusty hinge and pieces of smoking pipes.
The following morning we took the dollar-bus to the other side of the island for a hike to salt pond and then up a mountain to a place Jini had recommended called Ram’s Head. We took a break when we reached the top and watched the wave’s crash in among the vertical cliffs.
Neil was delayed in Waynedale for a couple days longer than expected, and we never met up. Tuesday we had to say goodbye to the island and catch the Ferry back to Red Hook for the taxi back to the airport.
Editors Note: The Dream Weaver is a 45ft. ketch offering day-sails around St. John and into the BVI’s. The boat is very roomy and comfortable with lots of deck space to stretch out and enjoy the beautiful scenery which makes the Virgin Islands such a breathtaking place. Below deck is cozy and clean. Dream Weaver is a solid ship built for ocean crossings and handles the seas with grace and dignity.
Our host, Captain Jini, was like a breath of fresh air, down to earth and always gracious. She can take you to quiet little islands for lunch and snorkeling or on a nice sail out to Jost Van Dyke. She’s wonderful about teaching guests to sail and integrating them as part of the crew for as little or as much as they desire.
Jini is a first-rate guide and sailing teacher. And she is very patient! The Dream Weaver departs from Cruz Bay on St. John, USVI at 9:30am. Dream Weaver takes separate groups but can also be chartered as a private boat.
Dream Weaver Telephone: (340) 643-7170. Ask for captain Jini.