Friday, 30 March 2012

Save Buck Island from government regulations!

This is a BIG departure from my regular posts about our adventures, but I feel the need to write this. There aren't many pictures, but I will include a video of some cool stuff. I promise.

I grew up here on St. Croix. My Dad got a boat when I was about 5 or 6 and some my earliest memories of life here on the old rock are of going to Buck Island with my family. Buck Island was and still is my favorite beach "on" St. Croix.

In the 80's there were a LOT of sail boats and people used to do spinnaker swinging. That is where you anchored your boat, attached your spinnaker(the colorful sail that is only used in racing) that had a seat on the bottom(no idea how they attached it), and you could sail up into the breeze and then plunge back into the water!  It was cool and I ALWAYS wanted to do it.  There were huge parties out there at Buck. People wind surfed, snorkeled, hiked the trail, little kids played in the Salt Pond(very messy, very muddy, VERY not allowed). People saw turtle hatching on the beach and made way for the hatchlings to get to the water. The beach sand was white like sugar, soft, deep, and just so AMAZING.
Only good photo I could find. Sorry about the watermark.

Buck Island was a magical place. It was a place that you fell in love with and it touched your soul.

If you were lucky enough you got to spend the night on your boat at Buck;  wake up to the fish splashing around, see the sunrise from the top of the hiking trail and know just how wonderful a world this planet is.  If you have ever been to Buck Island and snorkeled outside the reef on the North side, or even just outside the lagoon area by the trail you would see an amazing collection of fish, corals, and other sea life. There were times that the snorkeling trail was full of non poisonous jelly fish and it felt like you were swimming in jello! You could imagine that there were mermaids around the next head of HUGE brain coral.  You would feel peace, contentment, and a camaraderie for all living creatures around you.

Doing this would not be allowed under the new plans!

When the sun set and you were getting ready to go back to port, the water would turn pink, then purple, then green, and finally the dying rays of the sun would be reflected on the water around you. If you stayed too late, the stars and the moon would be your guide back to port and their reflections in the water  would lead your boat back home until another day at Buck Island could be enjoyed.

All of these things are going to be taken away from YOU, from ME, from GENERATIONS to come if we do not act now.  The National Park Service must by law come with with a General Management Plan for Buck Island and it's surrounding waters.  The MUST by law figure out a way to protect the threatened Elkhorn and Staghorn corals in the water around Buck Island.  The NPS, has a plan......... yes, this plan protects the coral; but it also removes TONS of liberties that you the user of this National Park should be able to do.  Some of the proposed plans seem reasonable, other bits just don't make a DAMN bit of sense.

Painting by Linda Mooreland

Here is the low down:

  1. The NPS wants to protect the coral - great. They have decided that if you snorkel around the coral it damages it, so they will allow you to swim around it instead. Umm, excuse me, but if I can't see where I am going aren't I going to hit that threatened coral and do more damage? Wouldn't it make sense to let people continue to snorkel around it for both the people's safety and the safety of the coral?
  2. The NPS - has decided that paddle boarding, kite surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, surfing, etc are damaging to the National Park and that none of that should be allowed to happen to anymore.  Hmm... no studies to back this one up, and as I don't kiteboard I can't make a comment on that one. I do however paddleboard and I know how to wind surf.  On both of those counts, I am going to stay FAR the heck away from coral. I don't like getting scratched or stuck - hey, maybe you do, but most sports people I know don't enjoy getting hurt on coral when they can avoid it.  The NPS also wants to prohibit people from landing at Buck Island with those water craft.  So say I grow a pair and I paddle board to Buck from St. Croix........ now how do I take a break and recoup my energy if I can't put my board on the beach? Oh WAIT! I don't. I just float around getting closer to that threatened coral because I can't drop an anchor!
  3. Anchors are BAD according to the NPS. Putting our anchors in sand kills coral and hurts fish. They are going to install moorings instead. I am ALL for moorings for larger yacht type boats, and for people who want them; but don't tell me that my 19 boat with it's puny anchor is going to damage the coral and kill fish or other animals if I put it in wet sand. Don't force me to compete with my friends for a mooring that isn't well maintained, that won't be secure, and that doesn't allow me to anchor near enough to the beach.  If I can't anchor close to the beach how are my children going to get to the beach, or back to the boat if they don't swim well? What if I have some who doesn't swim with me?  I have a small boat, therefore I don't have a digny. If I had a kayak I could use it - but oh, wait, I can't use those in the park either according to the new plan.  CRAP! I guess I can't go to Buck until my kids can swim 200 meters without drowning, my husband who doesn't swim well can't EVER go with me, and I can't leave a napping baby on the boat while I sit in the sand because at 200m it's too far away to see or hear if he's awake until he falls over board and drowns!

I know. You are saying, I don't live there what does it matter?

Well, it does.

This is a NATIONAL park. That means that every SINGLE person in the US has a stake in what happens here. This means that if you live in Alaska, are an expat in China, or are even thinking of visiting the US and going to a NATIONAL park you should care.  Why should you care? In this day and age of governments failing, of economic downturns, of depressions, any of these new plans are going to cost you money. This is another way of big government trying to take away something that is YOURS, that is YOUR right to enjoy, that belongs to YOUR children, YOUR grandchildren, and YOUR great grandchildren.  The ideas and sentiments behind the plans are great but there needs to be some common sense used here.
Photo credit:

We have until May 1, 2012 to comment on the NPS plan. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take 3 minutes of your time, click on the comment link on the left hand side of the page and fill out the form. Tell the NPS to either leave Buck as it is, or at least allow for snorkeling on the North side, to allow kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, kite surfing, etc within park boundaries, and to allow anchoring in the wet sand. PLEASE.  It's not just my plea to you as a Virgin Islander, but my plea to you as a human being. Do this for your fellow man, for your family, for yourself, for the generations to come.

I thank you and Buck Island thanks you. If you do this, drop me a comment. I'll buy you a rum drink and get you to Buck Island when you come visit so you can see what you helped to save.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Hula Hoop Love

I was never able to hula hoop as a child. I just didn't work right to do it. Not many of my friends could hula hoop either. Over the years I have bought a hoop or two for A to play with in the pool - makes a great way to practice diving. Other than that, hula hoops were not around until...... RACHEL!  Rachel is a friend from our homeschool group that does fantastic things with trash. She and her kids have the most beautiful hula hoops I have seen. They are huge thick monsters that have multicolored gilttery coloring to them.  She made me want one.  Her secret is that she MAKES them!  Yup, she MAKES them. Hula hoops are something that I never knew you could actually make. I mean, if I stopped to think about it, I would probably figure out that someone somewhere did make one once upon a time, but I have never know anyone who actually made their own before.

Rachel was kind enough to lend us a Hula Hoop for A and C and my niece L who is visiting.  We have had them since last Friday and before that, no one in my family could Hula Hoop worth a darn. Now:

See what I mean? It's the glittery hoops. Actually, I think it's just my kid. She's talented.

Makes me want to either buy a hoop from Rachel or figure out a way to import glittery tape and make some of my own.

Thanks Rachel! You have now created a Hula Hooping monster. Kiki, move over!

Monday, 19 March 2012

St. Croix Environmental Hosts the Homeschoolers.

 I am not sure if The St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), knew exactly what they were getting into we started speaking on the phone about doing a field day with the homeschoolers….. Whatever they expected, I hope that we surprised and impressed them with our kids depth and breath of knowledge.  Then again, maybe our kids were duds? Hmm, I will have to find out. 

What I do know if this…..We were on time, all the students were either wet or muddy, every single one of our students had big smiles on their faces at the end of the day, and the kids that I talked to thought it was neat and that they learned things.  I think that is a successful field trip.  SEA did a fantastic job of putting together activities for each of our age levels (K – 11), getting the kids to run around, touch, smell, and think about things that I am pretty sure most had not done before, and it was super well organized. 

I can only mention what I saw the kids doing, but the kids in K – 2nd went on a beach scavenger hunt, talked about animals living in ponds and looked at pond scum. The 3rd – 4th graders waded into the wetlands, looked at what lives in the wetlands, learned about mangroves, how to tag and observe turtles when nesting, and talked about marine conservation. The 5th – 6th graders did a wetlands activity, bird watching, and beach exploration.  The 7th – 12th graders went seining along the shore for fish.

A was well prepared and was able to answer questions and ask her own intelligent questions – which made me proud but also a bit embarrassed. Especially when she asked how Turtles reproduce. I will give the presenter credit though because she didn’t bat an eye and answered her with a simple explanation of how male turtles have hooks in their flippers and actually hook the females “shoulders” which is why sometimes females have scars in that area. New factiod for us all.  A also brought me a black mangrove leaf that was covered in salt and we licked it to taste the salt. It tasted –salty.  I can’t see harvesting salt that way, but next time I’m at a beach and need salt for my sandwich I know which mangrove species to use.
One of the older girls thought it was cool that she got to catch baby barracuda and other fish. Since she had never held a barracuda before it was interesting. She did say that the lecture got a bit boring since it was so long.  At the end she told her mom that she wanted to go home and shower since she felt slimy. I love high school girls! She didn’t seem too upset by it though and she was smiling; although she is one of the nicest, smiliest girls I know as it is. 

If you ever get a chance to participate in one of SEA’s activities, do so. They are a great organization and they do a lot of good for our little slice of paradise.

I also want to thank VINE, the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators for turning out on this field day. We look forward to doing many more things with them :) Check out their blog.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Altoona Lagoon revisted.

 Tuesday, we hauled ourselves down to Altoona Lagoon again to do some exploring.  Last week, as you can remember, we had a great time bike riding, fishing, playing around, etc. This week, my wonderful friends brought their Kayaks, and 3 inflatable Stand Up Paddle boards. Yes, you read that right, INFLATABLE SUP boards.

When the kids and I got there there was a group from See Through Kayaks starting their tour and it looked like it was ll tourists. Yeay for St. Croix, more tourists :) The kids and I beach combed while waiting for Tammy, Doug, and J to show up.   Once we all got to the launching site and got everyone ready to go we divided up the toys.  Seeing as I had the little guy with me, I grabbed a kayak, A and J grabbed SUP boards, and Tammy and Doug grabbed the other kayak and SUP board respectively.

We started up the river and it was AMAZING! It was quite - except for C complaining that he was getting wet.... he really and truly is a Crucian kid - he kept saying the water was cold. Sheesh, what will he ever do when we actually go somewhere cold that snows?

Anyway, the whole trip was amazing! I am using that word a lot aren't I? We saw a pair of West Indian Whistling ducks, that were moving too fast to get a good picture of; upside down jelly fish, pelicans, frigates, snowy white egrets, blue crabs, minnows, and an iguana. We talked about why mangroves are important, what types of mangroves we have, how mangroves propagate, and what it would have been like to be a Taino or Carib paddling through this gorgeous place and paddling from St.Croix to St. Thomas. We did decide that we wouldn't have cut it, as after 45 mins our arms were tired....

I can turn any fun filled time into school - it's quite impressive, even to me ;)  Part of the reason that we did this mini field trip is because we had a St. Croix Environmental Association sponsored field trip to the Southgate Pond Wetlands on Friday. I wanted to prep our kids a bit, and get them to see wetlands more than once in order to be better prepared for what they were going to see. Plus, at least in my opinion, seeing something twice helps it to stick.

After returning to the beginning, we played on the SUP boards, the kayaks, and C got to throw rocks and feed the fish.  A and her friend J played around on the SUP boards, and practice doing jumps off the bridge that connect the road from Gallows Bay into Altoona.  Us old folks, sat around, played on the SUP boards, and just chatted.  Since playing on the SUP board, I have become obsessed. I feel the need to own one of these wonderful boards. I can take both kids on one board, they are easy to maneuver, can be inflated and deflated easily, and are a great way to get exercise in the guise of fun times.

Anyway, if you want to do the same things that we did you have a few options.  You can take your own kayak or SUP down to Altoona and take a gander by yourselves or you can get in touch of Virgin Kayak Tours or See Through Kayak Tours. I have heard that both groups do a fantastic job and both offer alternate tours to other locations around St. Croix.

Just do it, you won't regret it.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Altoon Lagoon play date

 The other day another home schooling mom and I were talking about how we wanted our kids to get out and do MORE exercise.  Don’t get me wrong; both of our children are active. A swims 4-5 days a week, plays in the bush, participates in all the kids biking, running, swimming races, etc; but I just don’t feel that she gets out there and is active enough.  Apparently, my friend feels the same so we decided that we would get together once a week and let the kids, bike, run, or whatever as long as they were outside and DOING.  During this time, we get visit and C has a friend over to play.  We decided to meet at Altoona Lagoon because it is between both our homes, it is flat, and where they hold most of the kids’ races.

Altoona Lagoon is another one of our undiscovered St. Croix areas for many reasons.  There is a whole fishing community of old time Crucians who grew up swimming in the inlet to the lagoon, jumping off the bridges, fishing, and generally having a good time there.  It is a great place for walking, running, biking, limin’, and generally just enjoying the views of Christiansted from a different angle. Altoona Lagoon also has a GREAT playground and fun exploring beach for little ones.

Our day started early with us in the car, the trike in the trunk, and the bike(new big 26” bike) racked on the back of the red SUV. Water, and snacks were packed in the reusable shopping bag, and I had had at least 2 cups of tea by 7:30! We were set. Once at Altoona, and unloaded – I really do think we are related to Gypsys since we cannot seem to go anywhere without the entire contents of the house and the kitchen sink ---- Oh wait! It’s because I’m a Mom not related to Gyspsys!!!  ANYWAY…. A got con her bike and as soon as her friend showed up away they went. The two kids did about 10 loops, which I think translates to just about 2 miles! Then they took a break to go explore the beach, whereupon they stuck their heads together and decided that they needed to go fishing! Crazy kids!

The two kids, my wonderful mom friend and her equally wonderful hubby walked down with C to the inlet by the bridge. Once I got there, which was about 15 minutes later – I had to re-rack the bike, put stuff away, etc. I found both kids wading through the inlet, with fishing nets in hand, HUGE self satisfied grins on their faces and COMPLETELY, soaking wet.  During the course of the day, they caught Lizardfish, Coral Banded shrimp, regular shrimp, and Blue Crabs. We saw Blue Herons, a Great Snowy Egret, fishermen coming in with their catch and then it happened… the kids spotted a Lionfish! Turns out there wasn’t 1 Lionfish, but 3.  They were hiding in the Mangroves.  My friend’s hubby shucked down to his shorts and got in the water and caught 2 of the three. At first we though maybe we could eat them, but they were too little. What actually scared us was that the Lionfish were in the Mangroves, which are breeding grounds for other fish, and we all know Lionfish eat EVERYTHING so they were in the worst place possible for our native fish. Not, that having Lionfish anywhere in the Caribbean is good, but in a breeding ground it’s like an A bomb ready to go off at any moment. 
Photo by Jill Updyke.

One of the things I really liked about this day, was that both kids ended up wading around in only their shorts and never even batted an eye. They are the same age, and look exactly the same chest wise and for them it was super natural and not embarrassing to be that way. I love that our island still allows our kids to be kids and doesn’t make them aware of the opposite sex until later.  We are able to keep our children innocent of the societal pressures that other children face elsewhere in the world. 

We decided that the kids had such a good time – even C, that we are going to make this a weekly occurrence. We hope to go kayaking into the Lagoon next week. I’ll keep you updated J Sorry for the lack of personal photos but we were so busy having a good time that I didn’t think of taking pictures until the end.

I’ll leave you with a word from our kids: "Lionfish.. they taste like Chicken."