Well 2010 has not been a very favorable dive year for me....at least until now. Liveaboards went belly up, wreck dives were blown out. I could go on and on but in preparation for a week of warm Caribbean diving, it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Travel was relatively uneventful with a stop in Charlotte, San Juan, and finally arriving at Christiansted, St Croix.
After getting settled in and baggage stowed at the Arawak Inn, we attended a "Meet and Greet" at the owners of Cane Bay Diving home near the dive shop. There we met the owners and their employees, each of whom introduced themselves with a brief summary of their training and experience. Then we were invited to do the same. Light snacks were served and we returned to the Arawak Inn.
The Arawak Inn is best described as a cross between a hotel and a bed and breakfast. They have 12 rooms but have an additional cabin that can be pressed into service for a small overflow. Rooms were clean and nice and WiFi was available. Owned by a man and wife (there name escapes me), a hot traditional breakfast is served featuring bacon, sausage, eggs, or if you prefer fruit and cereal.
Cane Bay Diving was the company we went with and their employees seemed totally committed to our having a great time.
The operation was a bit atypical from what I have experienced in the past. If you go to St.Croix thinking of something like Bonaire where you drive around to various sites and shore dive, you will be disappointed. Cane Bay is located on the North side of the island and I did not see any docks from the shore. The dive boat, a 36 ft Newton named the "IBIS" was moored a couple of hundred yards off shore. Divers and equipment were ferried from the shore using an inflatable boat called the Sea Wasp.
Our dive package included 3 tank day dives with options for more if we desired. Our day started with a hearty breakfast at the Arawak and then to Cane Bay diving about 9:00am. Cane Bay Diving is located about 3 miles west of Arawak, but they were more than willing to bring a van to the Arawak and transport us to and from. This proved to be unnecessary since our group had rented enough vehicles. Should you visit St.Croix, I would suggest renting a vehicle. It is relatively inexpensive (a little over $300 for the week for a mid-sized Toyota).
Gas costs about the same or perhaps a little less than on the mainland US. We wanted to see more of the island than just the dive operation and the rental vehicles allowed us the freedom to explore after a day of diving. Speaking of driving and vehicles, traffic drives on the LEFT side of the road, however all of the vehicles I saw were typical US vehicles and not right side drive as you would expect. This was a bit difficult to adapt to, especially when making left or right turns. I saw quite a few vehicles on the road with damage to the right front.
Our dive package also included a good sized sandwich for lunch. We would complete our first two morning dives, motor back to the Cane Bay Diving area where the inflatable would bring our lunch out to the boat. We would eat lunch on the boat, complete the 3rd dive and then head in, stow gear at the dive store and head back to the Inn to shower and plan for dinner.
Cane Bay, as mentioned is on the north side of St. Croix and is in a pretty rural area. This is pretty much off the beaten path for the typical tourists who may have just gotten of an ocean liner. The Cane Bay staff suggested several places to eat in the area. All were open air with no walls but the food and service were good. "Eat@CaneBay" restaurant is right there at the dive shop but is not affiliated with Cane Bay Diving. Food consisted of seafood, steaks, etc. "Off the Wall" featured pizza, and "Rowdy Joe's", with a biker theme, featured hamburgers and sandwiches.
We met some of the Cane Bay dive staff quite a few times at these establishments. Sometimes by plan but mostly by chance.
Each day of diving, we nervously watched the weather and ocean buoys for sea conditions. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Tomas was churning around about 250-300 miles southwest of us. It certainly affected the seas further out from the island but we were able to avoid most of the rough conditions in sheltered harbors.
Water temperature was a consistent 81-82 deg F and visibility was around 50-60 ft. Possibly stirred up to some extent from the storm. On one day when the North side of the island was fairly rough, we moved to the south side diving several shipwrecks reefs and the pier. The pier was by far, my favorite dive. Shallow (about 20ft), water was relatively clear and LOTS of marine life. If you visit St Croix, and could only do 1 dive, I would say dive the pier. We later did a night dive on the pier. An octopus put on a spectacular show which I captured on digital still and another diver got on video.
I was able to log 14 dives and got 12hrs and 22 minutes bottom time.
Friday was a non-diving day for us so we hopped in our respective vehicles and explored the island. We visited point Udall which is marked as the Eastern-most point of the United States. Friday morning brought us into downtown Christiansted to shop, look around and sight-see.
Saturday morning it was time to leave and as I was sitting in the St Croix airport awaiting my flight, sweat was pouring off of me. Upon my arrival in Virginia 12 hours later, I was greeting with temperatures just slightly above freezing. As a friend pointed out I went from 37deg Centigrade to 37deg Fahrenheit in 12 hours. (Well maybe 37deg C was a bit warm but not by much).