The St. Croix East End Marine park is becoming a little more yacht-friendly. Day moorings for small recreational boats are free (currently, though this may change in the future) and are now available in Cramer’s Park, Coakley Bay, Chenay Bay and Teague Bay on the north shore, and in Great Pond Bay and Turner’s Hole (proposed) on the south shore.
The north shore locations are dinghy or kayak distance from more acceptable anchorages or marinas, and yachts drawing more than six feet are strongly advised to watch the depth sounder and the bottom carefully! when approaching the white mooring balls. The sand-screw moorings have pennants and allow access to excellent snorkeling and beautiful beaches. All Virgin Islands beaches are open to the public up to the high tide line. At some locations, a salt pond or lagoon is a short hike inland, and birdwatchers will find many species to check off their lists.
Among the bays where yachts can anchor are Teague (Tague on some charts) Bay, Coakley Bay, Prune Bay, and Chenay Bay.
Teague Bay is a park-designated Recreational Area with many private moorings around the St. Croix Yacht Club. Yachts may enter at the Coakley Bay “G1” beacon (approx. 17˚45’59”N 064˚38’11”W) and keep to the middle of the channel until well into the large bay, approximately 1.7nm east. Watch for and avoid the patch reefs to either side. The continuous breakers of the barrier reef are easy to see and continue to Cotton Garden Point. The reef offers good snorkeling and keeps the water fairly flat except in a strong northeasterly wind. Entering at the Cotton Valley cut is only for those with local knowledge.
Once in Teague Bay, yachts may anchor overnight in six to18 feet of water. The St. Croix Yacht Club offers visitors a pleasant clubhouse, dinghy dock and famous Crucian hospitality. Swimming is permitted off the beach east of the dock.
At the southwest corner of the bay, park moorings are in shallow water in front of Duggan’s Reef restaurant. Snorkeling is good along the rock outcroppings. There are several wrecks in the bay to explore as well. Recreational line fishing from shore is permitted within 100 feet of the shoreline. Just east of Teague Bay, in Cotton Garden Bay, park moorings are in shallow water near Cramer’s Park, a public beach with some facilities.
Coakley Bay and Prune Bay are pleasant anchorages for snorkeling, swimming and playing on the beach. Depths run nine to13 feet close to shore, and anchoring is comfortable except when northeasterly winds bring in a swell. Anchor in sand, and watch for isolated coral heads and the patch reef between the two bays. Anchoring is not recommended near Pull Point at the western end of the Prune Bay (17˚45’57”N 064˚39’17”W), as the current is swift and the point is rocky. (The large house on the point with a bright green roof once belonged to Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb.) It’s a short swim, dinghy or kayak ride to nearly deserted beaches.
Some moorings at Chenay Bay are in water deep enough for a shallow draft yacht, but a better option is to anchor in six to 10 feet of water in front of the Chenay Bay Beach Resort or behind Green Cay. The Cay is a national wildlife refuge with a brown pelican rookery and is the only place left where the St. Croix ground lizard can be found. As an alternative, nearby Green Cay Marina is the best-protected marina in the area and has dockage, fuel, restaurants and clean showers.
From the anchorage or the marina, one can dinghy or kayak to the Chenay Bay moorings, snorkel the point north of the resort or just enjoy the beautiful beach. Conch, lobsters, snappers, stingrays, manta rays and barracuda inhabit the bay waters, while osprey, frigate birds, white terns and brown pelicans fly above. Endangered sea turtles use the beach berm for nesting, and hikers should avoid disturbing the area. Beach fires and vehicles are prohibited, but camping isn’t – just watch out for manchineel trees.
Several short trails lead south into the 100+ acre Southgate Coastal Reserve owned by the St. Croix Environmental Association (www.stxenvironmental.org). The reserve includes wetlands, mangrove forests and grasslands, which SEA uses for education and research. The large salt pond is a breeding site for resident and migratory birds, and early mornings are best for sighting various wetland species. Tiny fiddler and large land crabs share the pond with birds, mongoose, iguana and deer.
To protect spawning, nursery and residence habitat for various species, Coakley, Prune and Chenay Bays are designated No Take Areas: swimming, diving and boating are allowed, however, commercial and recreational fishing are prohibited.
Visiting cruisers are invited to swim, dive and snorkel in the park waters and to enjoy the beaches. To get the most out of the Marine Park, take a free interpretive tour with Ranger John Farchette III, usually on Wednesday mornings. Check the Marine Park calendar at www.stxeastendmarinepark.org or call (340)773-3367.
Ellen Sanpere has lived aboard Cayenne III, a refurbished Idylle 15.5, since 1998. She and her husband Tony started from Annapolis and have cruised from Maine to Venezuela. St. Croix is their home port.