New Hat (2016-2017)

Capt Wilson of Island Wilson Excursions

Capt Wilson of Island Wilson Excursions

Ahoy crew! Your captain here with an end of the season (beginning of the season) recap-what-all. This is in no particular order, so bear with me.

We are officially into the 2016-2017 season and I would love to say it started without a hitch but it ain’t so. Minor stuff and everyone left with big smiles at the end of the day. (Except for Joe who, I’m told, doesn’t smile.) Next week the Crazy Texans return, as the beginning of the season requires, and they have booked almost everyday. So it starts with a bang. (figuratively please! )

Despite starting last season 2015-2016 under a bit of a dark cloud we had an awesome season. Met some awesome people. Saw some awesome friends revisit. And had quite a few awesome experiences. Many awesome trips. So, if I had to sum up the last season in one word, it would, of course, be “super!” (insert smiley face)

One thing that the 2014-2015 crisis taught me is that we are not really prepared for emergencies and if you all hadn’t pitched in to save the bacon, things would have gone much differently. That is why 2016-2017 is seeing a price increase. Half Days are up by $40 and Full Days have increased by $70. Now, don’t get all moody on me. This is the first price increase we’ve had in 8 years and the R.O. dis is still in effect.

Scubapro Twin Jets

Scubapro Twin Jets


There was a memorial service for my Scubapro Twin-Jets. As it seems they were only built to last 16 years. These puppies were given to me by my OWSI Instructor in 2000 and have seen many places on the globe. So of course they got replaced another pair if the same. Different color.

Ok. On to more positive things. I have started what I can only refer to as “the project.” “The project” will take all season to complete and will involve everyone who takes a trip in the coming year. AND . . . it will be really cool. Everyone who has already participated in “the project” is very excited (read mildly amused) by “the project.” But the first rule of “the project” is that we don’t talk about “the project”, until you are in “the project.” And even then, only in whispers. But again, really cool stuff.

I don’t normally single out anyone (besides Margy and the Texans) because there are so many of you out there that make the year special for me (and Blue) in your own way. And If I started a list It would be long and I would probably leave someone out and I might even mist up. So I want to avoid that slippery slope. But this once . . .  ok. Shawn S. is my hero. Enough said.

Beautiful Blue.  Blue was on the hard in June this year for her yearly maintenance and bottom paint and she got a top-side make over as well. An awlgrip paint job on the aluminum and new cushions. And she looks fantastic. Some of you R.O.s who visited post June have seen the difference. We may implement a biodegradable sun screen only policy to keep her looking nice. Hmmm, I just came up with that, but I like it.

And finally, the edits are complete on this years Snorkeling Video for 2016 and we included it in this post. Hope you like it. (I mean) Like it!

And as always, Thanks to all of you for finding us, for being R.O.s  and for being part it even when you’re not here. Safe travels, everyone. Hope to see you back soon!

-Capt Wilson

St Thomas snorkeling at its best! (2016 style)

-More great [videos]
-Photos of sea turtles, common fish seen snorkeling and other reef stuff.

Sunscreen & Reefs. Who me?

Star Coral

Star Coral

The facts about sunscreens and their impact on our reefs are out there. And they are confusing. And until everyone starts agreeing and saying the same thing, it’s very easy for us to keep to our old habits. I’ve grabbed some of the more relevant tidbits that would be of interest to snorkelers and kind of compiled them. I too find this stuff confusing, frightening and simultaneously train wreck fascinating.

“Most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years”- GCRMN, IUCN and UNEP

About 5000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers and into our oceans every year.

Mexico has a federal law allowing only biodegradable sunscreen use during snorkeling, scuba or any water activity inside Cozumel’s protected marine park or at the marine parks of Chankanaab, Xcaret, Xel Ha, and Garrafon.  All non-biodegradable sunscreens are prohibited.

INGREDIENTS in Sunscreens to avoid if possible:

AVOID: 4 Chemicals that are linked to reef viruses and coral bleaching: (bad)

    • Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3)
    • Butylparaben 
    • Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
    • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC)

AVOID: 2 Chemicals that studies show are linked to creating hydrogen peroxide harmful to phytoplankton one of the most important food sources for ocean life. (less bad?)

    • Titanium dioxide
    • Zinc oxide

When choosing a product, Be aware of False Labeling – Reef Friendly, natural or eco-friendly labels may or may not be accurate. Read the ingredients. There are no organizations monitoring and rating reef friendly products. So be careful.

The EWG has a 2015 report and rating for all brands of sunscreen. But after finding a low rating you’ll still need to check for our unfriendly 6 chemicals. Environmental Working Group Sunscreen Help Check out your current sunscreen’s rating. (In the future choose something with a low (0 -2) EWG rating.)

Seems anything above SPF 30 is a concentrated waste of chemicals.

  • SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of all incoming UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 filters out approximately 97% of all incoming UVB rays.
  • SPF 50 filters out approximately 98% of all incoming UVB rays.
  • SPF 100 filters out approximately 99% of all incoming UVB rays.

Bad practices – Sun screen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going into the water. It needs time to be absorbed by your skin. If you are slathering up right before you go snorkeling, you might as well just dump the sunscreen right in the water as it will just be washed off. (Remember those 5000 tons)

  • Water-resistant sunscreens lose their SPF after 40 minutes in the water.
  • Waterproof sunscreens lose their SPF after 90 minutes in the water.

I am trying. But what am I left with? No one is saying stop using sunscreen. (yet.)

  • Try to avoid the chemicals mentioned. Or pick one with as few as possible.
  • Use lotion on the beach and a long sleeved rash guard (water shirt) when snorkeling.
  • Look for Reef Safe / eco friendly but make sure it is reef safe and not labeling hype. (Ingredients!)
  • Look for Biodegradable 
  • Most importantly no matter what brand, apply 20 minutes or more before going in the water to minimize wash off. Lets get that 5000 tons down to 4000.

LIST of Potential Sun Screens  Danielle put together a list of sunscreens and their ingredients that is very helpful. 

This is not a finger pointing exercise.  More of an educational undertaking. (Except for the bit about Mexico being way more protective of their reefs then us. I can’t help but feel slightly embarrassed about that.) SO, if you find or have found one sunscreen product you like. Please share your discovery here.

-Capt Wilson

Repeat Offenders: I stumbled across this quote from the EWG which made my day:

“EWG’s Sunscreen Hall of Shame draws attention to products that promise safe sun protection and don’t deliver. This year, one brand stands out – Neutrogena.”  

Can you say Umbrella Corp.

To see photos of coral that may or may not be around in 20 years click here.

Snorkeling St Thomas, USVI (2015)

I find myself with a bit of free time on my hands. Those of you who know why, know that this is not the giddy happy free time we all wish for. It is the worried agitated free time that usually leads to nail biting. My nails, are untouched at the moment. But the month is young, my friends. The month is young.

Last year with very little free time, I constructed a snorkeling video for you. It was and is awesome! I’m sorry, but It just is. I still watch and I still say “wow.” For those of you who haven’t seen just how awesome it is,  just click here for just the youtube video OR click here for the whole post and video. So, to start a little IWE (Island Wilson Excursions) tradition, I edited the video clips from our 2014-2015 season and put together a new snorkeling video for you. It has some really nice shots in it and I am tempted to say that the whole thing is “awesome.” But You’ll have to watch for yourselves and let me know. I can tell you that I will make a sincere effort to collect much more snorkeling clips during the coming season and try to top both 2014 and 2015 with 2016’s snorkeling video next year.

Ok. enough blah-blah. Here is the Snorkeling St Thomas video for 2015. Enjoy!

-Capt Wilson

St Thomas snorkeling at its best!

-More great [videos]
-Photos of sea turtles, common fish seen snorkeling and other reef stuff.

Snorkeling St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

It has been a wonderful two years of snorkeling. Revisiting our favorite spots on St Thomas and discovering some great new snorkel sites as well. But after a while the snorkel videos start to pile up in a folder labeled To Be Sorted. It became too big to even contemplate the idea of looking through months of underwater video. But Make Snorkeling Video kept finding its way to the top of my To-Do list and after shoving it back in the deck a few dozen times, I had to face the fact that it was not going away.

So I scheduled it my head. Do this Low Season. Or Slow Season if you prefer. But Low Season is almost as hectic as High Season. Repairing this, Registering that and all the while keeping one eye on the horizon for a hurricane.  And as Low Season came and went I realized that if I didn’t make a snorkeling video now, next year the To Be Sorted folder would have 12 more months of videos in it. That was the spark. The daunting task of watching 2 years of snorkeling videos or the daunting task of watching 3 years of snorkeling videos. Fear won over laziness and I dove in.

It really wan’t that bad after getting started. It did take a few days to put everything in order. And a few more to download, install, reinstall and re-reinstall the newest version of iMovie. There were also a few days of cursing iMovie when I found out all past videos would have to stay in the past. iMovie basically told me “You won’t be needing those.”  But it was fun. And looking through the clips brought back a lot of memories. And it got me fired up about snorkeling this coming season. And I am also super stoked to take Make Snorkeling Video off of the To-Do list. At least off the list until next year, that is.

So, enough blah-blah. Here is the Snorkeling St Thomas video for 2014. Enjoy!

-Capt Wilson

St Thomas snorkeling at its best!

-More great [videos]
-Photos of sea turtles, common fish seen snorkeling and other reef stuff.

Letter to Army Corps of Engineers.

This is in response to the proposed a Coral World expansion. Caged dolphins none the less. This is a timely issue so if anyone wants to react (see the bottom) react as quickly as possible.


Permit application number #SAJ-1976-89037
Regarding the permit for the proposed 2 acre dolphin enclosure INSIDE of Water Bay.

I am a  St Thomas resident.

And it appears that by granting this permit you are going to be messing with the eco system. An eco System that I depend on for my business. Reading about this project it does not appear that adequate research has been done in regards to this specific type of dolphin in this particular environment. That may or may not be. But you can always put this thing in later after real research is done instead of the cut and paste research that was attached to this. Water Bay isn’t going anywhere. Why rush this when you would have to be blind to see that the people behind this aren’t concerned about the environment?

You can’t unring a bell and this bell would make a doozy of a clang if you let it happen.

However, I am not writing about the research attached to this project.  I am writing about the coral. Montastrea annularis (now renamed Orbicella ) and Dendrogyra cylindrus,

Boulder Star Coral

Boulder Star Coral

Living on St Thomas I see a lot of natural, unintentional and intentional destruction of coral. Our Coral is dying faster and faster each year, as our tourist industry increases. Now you want to grant permission to “Relocate” some coral. Seriously? DPNR down here protects the mangroves like they are sacred. They are trees, you can’t cut them, you can’t kill them and you can’t “Relocate” them. They are also an endangered species. But we have far more of them than healthy coral. If that goes for the mangroves then the same should apply to taking a hunk of endangered coral out of its natural location and moving it somewhere else. And for the sole reason of constructing a dolphin pen.

I don’t know if a bunch of emails sent to you will make a difference on this issue. Probably just get deleted or make you irate. It’s my experience that decision for projects like these have probably already been made a long time ago. Deals were struck. Hands were shook and promises were made. But on the outside chance that someone with influence is reading this and there is still a chance to halt the project, think about not what the permit will allow but think about negative impact this will have on St Thomas. You can stop this or at the least postpone this pending thorough research, but you will never be able to take it back once it is completed.

How many people on St Thomas have actually shown positive interest in this? I can’t imagine many if any. Please deny this permit. The real St Thomas (not the greedy one) doesn’t want this.

Oh and if the permit for putting in a water slide from Paradise Point all the way down to the ship docks crosses your desk. I not in favor of that one either.

Best Regards,
Capt Wilson


OK. I feel all tingly for speaking my mind.

If anyone wants to tell the A.C.E. to deny this permit, <click here.> And it will automatically set up an email for you with an address and subject and body. You’ll just need to send it.