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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 11, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSt. Croix Shore Dives: A World Worth Exploring

St. Croix Shore Dives: A World Worth Exploring

Larry Howsare after diving the Anne Abramson Pier.The visitor to St. Croix who wants to dive, naturally, turns to the local dive operators. Why not? The V.I. Division of Tourism lists eight dive shops on St. Croix, and they are staffed by experienced divers who can carry the diver by boat to the best sites on the island.

However, for locals and the more seasoned visitor, the shore dive appeals. It is generally a more strenuous dive, but it is always less expensive one, cutting out the boat while providing a cardio workout. A diver who has all the equipment has to pay for nothing except the tank of air, which is generally $10 or less for the first tank of the day and about $6 for refills.

The first shore dive that most divers make is Cane Bay. Alejandro Castro, who lives in Newburyport, Mass., earned his certification at the Cane Bay Dive shop.

“When I think about diving, I don’t think of anywhere but Cane Bay. The local atmosphere is great; the people at the dive shop [are] friendly. On top of that you have the Wall,” Castro said, referring to the spectacular coral wall that runs along the entire North Shore.

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Most divers kick out for about 10 minutes toward the Wall and then plunge beneath the surface in about 25 feet of water. The kick-out itself can be enjoyable as the diver floats on her back and looks at the blue sky and the green hills of the unpopulated, western end of St. Croix.

Sometimes large waves can make the entry at the sandy shore by the old fishing pier across the street from the dive shop a little difficult, but most of the time this is not a problem and generally there is not a current worth mentioning.

The Wall drops from about 45 feet to 2,000 feet. Plenty of reef fish, turtles, barracudas, and colorful coral can be seen at depths of 40 tot 60 feet. Occasionally, looking out into the blue beyond the Wall, one will see a reef shark hanging around.

The Anne Abramson Pier is a very easy shore dive because there is no kick-out. During the daytime, when no cruise ships are in town—and a ship generally only comes once a week—divers can park right on the pier.

On the north side of the pier there is a nice place to sit down, set up and step off. The water is usually calm. The pillars underneath the pier are loaded with a variety of corals along with purple, orange, and red sponges. The variety of marine life is extensive: lobsters, arrow crabs, morays, octopuses, and seahorses.

Because of its shallow depths of 25–40 feet, the Pier is the island’s most popular night dive.

“I dove it during the day and at night. I can’t say which is best. They were both great dives. You see so much,” said Denise Malovich of Sharpsville, Pa.

Butler Bay is at the northwest corner of St. Croix, north of Frederiksted. This dive is exceptional. It is a long swim out (and sometimes the diver might be fighting a strong current). However, the exercise is more than worth it, because you will find some wrecks down below.

Suffolk Maid is a 144-foot trawler that ran aground during a 1980s hurricane. The Maid can be reached just by swimming out to the closest buoy to shore and going down. Locating the other wrecks without a guide takes a good deal of navigational expertise.
Novice and mid-level divers are probably not going to see the other wrecks in one dive.

The other wrecks include the Virgin Islander, a 300-foot oil barge sunk in 1992,; North Wind, a 75-foot oceangoing tugboat; Rosa Maria, a 177-foot steel-hulled freighter; and Coakley Bay, a former oil refinery tugboat.

The sandy, lovely beach at Butler Bay is isolated, being a couple kilometers north of the last beach bar on the West End, so warnings about leaving gear on the beach should be observed. The local dive club, CRABBS, has dived this site with panache. The club gets a group together, sets up a barbecue on the beach and makes a big day of it.

The North Star site has been called the best shore accessible "wall dive” by reviewers because at North Star the Wall makes a dramatic drop from about 40 feet to 90-100 feet before sloping sand begins.

The problem is that the entry off the North Shore Road a couple of kilometers west of Cane Bay is very rocky, and the advice is not to do the dive when the waves are big.

The Rust-op Twist shore dive also gets high reviews, saying there are bigger fish (lots of barracuda and black durgons) and a reef in excellent condition (fan coral, tube coral, sponges, etc).

However, again the entry (five kilometers east of Cane Bay) can be difficult due to loose bowling-ball-sized coral on the bottom in an area where the surf hits hard sometimes. It is more of an advanced dive due to the entry conditions and possible currents.

Probably the easiest Wall Dive of all from the shore is the Davis Bay Wall, just 100 yards off of the pristine sandy beach at Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort & Spa. Although visibility is generally good at all the aforementioned dive sites (that is, when the weather is not stirring something up), experience also indicates that it’s even better in Davis Bay. If divers are getting tanks at the on-site dive shop, Sweet Bottom Dive Center, the staff will help bring gear down from the parking lot.

More information about the dive sites on St. Croix can be found on local dive shops’ web pages. There is a list of the shops on the CRABBS Dive Club webpage.

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