Jeff (center) of Friends of the VINP
We knew from our friends Ken and Janet on Aquilla, who volunteered multiple times in the park at the end of their circumnavigation, that working in the park clearing sites and trails would be something we would like. Ken obviously did, because we were told by the coordinator, Jeff, that Ken holds the record at 28 times in one year! We have only done 2 days so far, but we both have beautiful green park volunteer T-shirts to show for it. It is something everyone can do and it is a great way to see more of the park and to give something back at the same time. Hot, sweaty work, but fun.
All we had to do was take our dinghy to shore and Jeff came by the Maho Bay campground beach at 8:30 with a van and other volunteers. The first day we went to the SW of Coral Bay, where we cleared two trails. Crossing the beach we saw several donkeys lounging in the shade. They are feral and a big problem for the park, but controlling the population is not easy. The park neuters all the males inside the park, but since 1/3 of the island is outside the park, it is not totally effective. The second trail we did passed along a salt pond to Drunk Bay. It is a wild and rocky place facing windward, but among the black stones on the shore are pieces of white coral and scattered coconut husks. Visitors and locals pick up interesting shapes and make figures on the rocks. We saw Elvis, Merry Christmas, and hundreds of others. On our second work day, we cleared the battery at the fort where the slave rebellion on St. John began. When we arrived, we could not see the walls or any cannons at all. When we left, the walls were exposed and 5 cannons lay out in the sun.
On Friday, we decided to sail the 4.5 miles to the British Virgin Islands, where we plan to stay for about a week. Clearing in was easy, because they have mooring balls everywhere and they are free unless you stay overnight. So we picked up a ball at West End, cleared customs, shopped at the best grocery store we've found in either the US or British VI, and by mid-afternoon were at anchor in Benures Bay and having a swim. No wonder this is charterers' paradise. More to come about the British VI