In 2001 I was transferred to St Croix by a start-up adventure vacation company called IslandQuest Vacations. As you may recall, in the fall of 2001 was that fateful day in US History Sept 11 which not only left a tangible scar on our country, but also had devastating effects on the travel industry. Since business was slow and I found myself with some time to explore the island, I started crewing forBig Beard’s Adventure Tours on the weekends. I had always loved the ocean, loved sailing and it was a great way to meet people on this little island I now called home. I was able to develop a true and deep love for the crystal blue waters of Buck Island National Park and the teeming ocean life therein. When IslandQuest’s doors closed in July of 2002, it was one of the things that tied me to St Croix and was one of the biggest reasons that when my boss said “pack it up and come back to Connecticut” I said “Too late, I’m an island girl.” But this story isn’t about me…
- Captain John Big Beard Macy with SunCelebrations’ wedding couple Michelle and James. Photo by www.kellygreerphotographer.com
With his distinctive “Big Beard” Captain John Macy has been a fixture on the Christiansted Boardwalk and within the sailing community on St Croix for almost 30 years. He made his way to St Croix via Oregon in January of 1979. He’d gone off to find himself and find himself he did… on St Croix. He began by crewing aboard a sail boat that took passengers out to Buck Island (sound familiar) and has been heading out there ever since. Captain Big Beard has also been an officiant on the St Croix wedding circuit and couples for over 25 years have included him as a part of their personal history. He performed a mock wedding on April Fool’s Day, 1985, with his first certified wedding service in January of 1986. Captain Big Beard performs ceremonies on land or aboard one of his fine vessels.
In June of 1983 Big Beard bought a share in one of the Buck Island company’s vessels – an old Nova Scotia built lobster boat called the Sea Spy. In the Spring of 1985 he purchased “Flyer”, a sturdy wooden catamaran that had sailed across the Atlantic from France. He got her certified and had her sailing by July. In 1993, came “Renegade” a 42′ foot sailing catamaran built by Gold Coast Yachts specifically for transporting snorkeling enthusiasts out to Buck Island National Park and the Sea Spy went into retirement. Renegade typically handles the full day trips (a GREAT way to spend a day enjoying Buck Island and St Croix). The full day tour includes your snorkeling adventure to Buck Island and then a casual beach bbq back on a semi-private, white sand beach popular with local kite surfers.
- Big Beard’s Adventure at Buck Island. Photo by www.mjsvisionsvi.com
In 2009 the youngest sister of the fleet was added – “Adventure” – replacing Flyer on the half-day tours. (Though she still remains in service as a backup boat) The Adventure, also built by Gold Coast Yachts, is a hybrid vessel offering a greener motoring experience and getting you out to Buck Island in less time. She holds 49-passengers and the hybrid nature is pretty cool. Her diesel engines power her out to Buck Island and while they are running, they also power a couple of electric motors. Once inside the park limits, the captain switches over to the electric engines. This allows Adventure to motor through the pristine reef silently and without pollution.
With his passion for sailing, Captain Big Beard has helped to create a tight knit family of able-bodied crew men and women who are equally enthusiastic about sailing and snorkeling in the brilliant blue water of Buck Island Reef National Park. He’s also developed quite a few captains, allowing him the ability to step back a bit and smell the salty air. By offering up the helm to his talented team of captains, he’s now able to spend a little more time on his farm in Oregon and with his family. But never fear, you’ll still see him often on St Croix. And when he’s here, each day he greets passengers, sets them sailing with a safety brief and his jovial smile and is there waiting on the boardwalk to welcome back the happily sun-baked, relaxed guests after their amazing adventure at Buck Island. When asked what keeps him going after all these years, “Its the guests, I truly love sharing St Croix, our beautiful beaches and the reef at Buck Island with them.”
If you would like to experience Buck Island for yourself, we recommend spending the afternoon or the day with Big Beard’s Adventure Tours … tell them “My St Croix” sent you or contact us and we’ll take care of all the details for you!
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