It’s easy to tell the difference between the Pirates of St. Thomas and the Tourists. The tourists wander around in groups of three or four, they look a bit confused, are usually overweight and their skin is shiny and pink from exposure to sunshine. They wear new designer clothing and smell of sweat, sunscreen and bug spray. The Pirates on the other hand, roam around individually. They swagger slowly and confidently in an “island time” gait. Their skin is tanned and leathery from years in the sun, their hair is pulled back and their clothing is worn and faded. Pirates smell mostly of Rum.
(Cruzan Rum is made on the nearby island of St. Croix)
Latitude 18 is a pirate haven dive bar in Red Hook on the east end of St. Thomas. The bar stools are starting to come apart at the seams, the rain leaks in through the roof and the dock out back won’t last much longer as holes work their way through the plywood! But the Rum flows freely, there is live music every night and the locals love coming here!
(Red Hook Bay looking east toward St. John in the distance)
We were in St. Thomas to see if we had what it takes to become Pirates. We had the idea that maybe we could buy a charter boat company of our own, run it as Captain and First Mate and earn our living taking tourists out to the beautiful beaches of St. John.
We met our first Pirate at Latitude 18 – and by Pirate I mean those intrepid souls who love it here so much that they would do anything to live here – including work multiple jobs, put up with whiny cruise ship tourists, serve, clean and by hook or crook eke out a living.
Taylor is a 19-year-old red-headed elfin girl with a personality the size of Montana! She has a mega watt smile and the energy to accomplish everything she chooses to do in life! Taylor came to St. Thomas for a visit and loved it so much that she moved back and has now purchased her own boat for $1,000! She has at least two jobs. She works as first mate for a charter captain and she also helps with the Airbnb boats that we rented as our accommodation for the week.
(The boat next to ours. Great use for an old book huh?)
Jeremy is Taylor’s boss and he is a Pirate with a capital P! Jeremy had the genius idea to buy older, run down boats and turn them into rooms for rent! Of course, because the boats are older they tend to have a few problems – A halyard acting as mast rigging, a few holes in the deck, a rudder that flops back and forth with the tide and even a boat with no motor. But that’s ok because they’re not really boats anymore. They are rooms for rent and they are the cheapest to be had on the Island so they are rented all the time! Genius, I’m telling you! I wish I’d thought of it!
We were eating lunch on our first day and a man leaned in really close to my Boyfriend and said, “You must be Barry?!” (The Arrrggghhh was implied!) We both leaned back and took in the sight of grey hair sticking up at all angles from a tanned head, wearing only a pair of trunks, a gravelly voice ( I might have imagined an eye patch) and a huge bleeding gash across his nose! Pirate to the bone! Captain Pat turned out to the be the broker we were supposed to meet the next day to look at the charter business. But at the time we had no idea how this stranger knew who we were! News travels fast between Pirates!
(Salomon Beach on St. John – I could live right here! It’s breathtaking!)
It’s easy to see why these folks work so hard to live here. It is unbelievably beautiful! The beaches are white and the water is the perfect shade of blue. The terrain is hilly and green and makes a wonderful contrast to the flat open ocean. It’s a dream really. Everyone wants to vacation in a place like this. It’s not a far stretch from wanting a vacation to figuring out how to live here to make it your home!
(The view from the beach bar on Tortola – Cane Garden Bay Beach)
(Two friends swimming along at Honeymoon Beach on St. John)
(Cane Garden Bay – I could walk this beach all day!)
We were able to visit St. Thomas, St. John and also Tortola in the British Virgin Islands during our short trip. They are all amazingly beautiful and fun. The people were welcoming and friendly but it turns out we don’t quite have what it takes to be Pirates yet. It was a close thing though…..We planned and schemed and tried to figure out what we could sell, trade or borrow to be able to make a living here. But in the end we realized that we still want to travel.
We’re not ready to settle down – Not even for THIS place. Wanderlust runs strong in us. We still have other places we want to see – beauty to be uncovered. We’re still tourists who want to go to The Bahamas next. But I predict that we will be back to the US Virgin Islands. It’s just too pretty a place to ignore.
(A sunburned tourist trying to look like a local!)