A Newbies Account of Sailing in the Virgin Islands
08.12.2009 - 16.12.2009
Saturday, December 12
We got up early and started the journey to Jost Van Dyke, wanting to get there as early as possible.
Boat Lesson #20: When the captain says “We’re leaving early tomorrow,” that means get your coffee made early.
As I sat on the counter in the galley next to the stove, holding my pot of coffee onto the burner with a pair of vice grips as the boat heaved to and fro…I realized what Mr. Scubagirl meant when he said, “Get everything done early.” Apparently, I wasn’t early enough.
Speaking of coffee, we had to make 2 pots every day because my coffee got “voted off the island” by every member of the crew on Day 1. Well, except our captain. On Day 2, as I was making my pot of coffee and asked if anyone else wanted to share it, just as everyone else shouted “NO!!!!!!” Mr. Scubagirl looked at me and said, “Yeah…I kinda’ like the swill.”
Well, because we had the whole vice grips issue going on this morning, we didn’t want to have to make 2 pots of coffee, so Scubagirl and I were trying to compromise.
“How many scoops do you put in for 10 cups?” I asked her.
“Six,” she said.
“I put in 12,” I said, “How about we do 12? You can add some water to yours.”
“That works,” she said.
I started putting the heaping scoops in the pot.
“If you’re going to heap them like that, just do 10,” she said.
“Fine, fine, fine,” I replied, “How many is that so far? Three?”
“Nice try!” she said, “That was 8!”
Hey, can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?
Thirty minutes of vice grip percolating later, my butt was hot and sweaty and my hand was in a permanent claw, but Vicki’s Supersludge Coffee was ready! Don’t let them lie to you either, they secretly liked it. I know they did. I could see it in their shaking hands and dilated pupils. I heard a rumor that Gromit went into Starbucks the other day and asked if they could use 16 scoops in her Espresso.
We made a quick stop at Marina Cay for fuel and ice and I used the time for more photo ops, during which I managed not to squat in front of any strangers but during which I did manage to annoy the hell of a pelican for about 15 minutes. Then we were on our way to Jost.
Boat Lesson #21: Sailing feels like you are flying on the water.
Sitting at the front of the boat, with the wind in my hair was like flying. I was tempted to do the whole “Titanic” bit, but I thought that might be a bit much.
As we neared Great Harbor, I couldn’t help but smile. This happy little island always greets you with a warm breezy hug and a salty kiss. I could already hear Mic putting the nutmeg on my painkiller and could feel the cool water of White Bay swirl around my feet. Gromit, Mr. Gromit, Matt and I headed landside while Scubagirl and Mr. Scubagirl decided to take it easy on the boat. After a quick stroll down Great Harbor’s sandy main street, we grabbed a taxi over to White Bay.
The first order of business was a visit to Mic for a painkiller. His smile alone is worth $6. Painkillers were followed by drinks from Gertrude’s “pour your own” bar. Another tip, never let Matt pour yours….unless you want it to taste like gasoline. Drinks were followed by a cool swim, lounging in the sun, and walking in the sand.
We even bumped into Cpt. Brandi at the Soggy Dollar and managed to make a video without any of us drooling or falling face down in the sand. When you have to be on video while inebriated, it helps to have one member of your party who is a PR Wiz so that the rest of you can just smile stupidly, nod a lot, and toss out the occasional thumbs up or stupidly intoxicated “woo hoo!” like some idiot girl on MTV Spring Break. Not that I did that.
Eventually all that relaxation made us hungry, so we grabbed some food from Gertrude’s kitchen. Gromit swears the wings were some of the best she’s ever had and my roti was so good I was licking it off my arm. Okay, that last bit might have had something to do with the fact that I am a messy eater after a Gertrude’s Pour Your Own Matt Style Drink.
While we were snacking, Matt made a new friend, a little brown Chihuahua with two gimpy legs. Have you ever noticed that there never seems to be a shortage of interesting dogs on Jost? Sucker for dogs that I am, he got about half of my roti…well, the half I didn’t have to lick off my arm.
When it was time to head back to the boat, we went looking for our taxi driver. We had told him to meet us near the Soggy Dollar at a certain time. Gromit and I walked (staggered) down the beach in search of him and I saw a guy in a red polo and I just ASSUMED it was our taxi driver. You know what they say about assuming, don’t you? And please, no jokes, I heard more than my share that day from Gromit.
Anyway, thinking this was my guy, I walked (staggered) up to him and said, “Is it time?”
In retrospect, and viewed in sobriety, this was probably not the most intelligent thing to walk up and say to a strange man who was, in fact, not my taxi driver. It could have sounded a bit propositioning. Could have.
Which might be why he then offered me some weed and said he thought it was time.
Gromit dragged me away, laughing, as I stared stupidly, still trying to comprehend why our taxi driver had just offered me weed.
As the red polo guy trailed behind us….we did find our actual taxi guy just in the nick of time. We piled in and were off to Great Harbor.
When we got to Foxy’s, Mr. Gromit, aka The Gadget Master, pulled out his 007 Walkie Talkie which was infinitely better than my idea of jumping up and down on the end of the dock waving my arms.
Sidebar: Mr. Gromit is truly the Gadget Master. Need a flashlight? He pulls out some supercharged light saber with a 400 foot beam. Worried your luggage is too heavy? Oh, he just happens to have a luggage scale in his pocket. Not sure what that plant on the beach is? Wait, Mr. Gromit has a plant analyzer in his pocket that will immediately break down its chemical components and tell you what it is. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating…but not much! He is a master of all things technological, I tell you.
Mr. Scubagirl made the pick up and we were back on Island Sister for a beautiful sunset and a great dinner of Gromit’s marinated filet cooked on the grill and plantains. That girl knows her meat, folks…that thing was so tender I could cut it with a butter knife. Sun soaked and full, it was nearing “boat bedtime” and we were all getting sleepy.
Boat Lesson #22: No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you get sleepy on a boat by 9:00 p.m.
We probably turned in at the late, late hour of oh….about 9:30 p.m. I drifted off to the gentle rocking of the boat and the soft sound of the waves.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!!
I jumped up.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Half asleep and 100% disoriented, my brain couldn’t figure out where I was much less figure out what that incessant beeping was.
Matt jumped up.
We both started scrambling, certain that we had some sort of important sensor in our cabin, like a carbon monoxide detector…knowing that we surely had only moments before we would all either die from inhalation or the boat would explode. We tore into our locker, pulling everything out….we scrambled in the small cabinet….we checked our phones, our iPods….where was that infernal beeping coming from????
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
I finally grabbed my little Roxy iPod speaker case and held it up to my ear.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Ah Ha! I found it! Somehow, we had accidentally set the alarm in the Roxy. Whew. We shut the thing off, got our cabin put back together, and drifted back to sleep.
Splat! Splat! Splatty splat splat!
Seriously? I sighed as I crawled to the windows to close them for rain. I waited …..listening to the rain pour for all of about 3 minutes…I reopened my windows and drifted back to sleep with the cool breeze blowing across my body.
Sunday, December 13
Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Gromit, Happy Birthday to you!
Today was Gromit’s birthday and we were spending it on Jost because there could be no better place to spend a birthday, could there? We made a birthday breakfast fit for a queen of bacon, eggs, and banana bread and cinnamon rolls that we had picked up at Christine’s bakery the previous afternoon. We “got ready” which, even for me and Gromit at this point, consisted of throwing on a swimsuit and grabbing a towel.
Boat Lesson #23 : Minimizing “stuff” is freeing….not having to worry about lots of luggage, clothes, shoes, curling irons, hair spray….is bliss.
After breakfast, Mr. Scubagirl took us all in to Great Harbor where we grabbed a taxi to White Bay.
Boat Lesson #24 : After being on a boat for a few days, you find that when you hit land, you will unconsciously stand and sway gently back and forth.
Gromit and I noticed early on that whenever we hit land, we’d stand and sway, back and forth, back and forth, unconsciously, apparently in an effort to cope with our new sea legs. If one person did it and the other one didn’t, we actually felt seasick. So…we stood….we swayed….we conquered.
We piled up in some rent-a-chairs at Jewel’s and let the limin’ begin. Matt and I wandered down to the Soggy Dollar to see what Mic could hook us up with. I had enough painkillers the day before and wanted to try something new….I ordered my drink. Mic actually laughed as he started to make it.
“One, two,” he said as he pulled out a bottle of rum and poured it into a glass of ice. He chuckled. He put it away and pulled out another bottle of rum.
“One, two,” he said again as he put it away, laughed, and pulled out a third bottle of rum. “One, two.”
Finally, I laughed and asked just how many bottles of rum he was going to pour into my glass.
“Ten,” he said, and started laughing again. “One, two.”
Ten flavors it was, with just a splash of grenadine on top. That my friends, is a Soggy Man. And it was delish. I don’t know how something with so much rum could taste so good, but I say it’s just the magic of Jost.
We bought some t-shirts, took a walk, soaked in the beautiful water, and lounged in the sun. It was hard work, but somebody had to do it. Gromit had brought us a jug o’ rum punch (thank goodness the Pink Painkiller had mercifully been thrown out by this point) and we had a glass under the swaying palms, watching the Sunday party boat armada as it made its way into White Bay.
Eventually, hunger took over and we headed over to Seddy’s One Love for lunch with Gromit and Mr. Gromit.
One of the girls in the bar was also having a birthday and they shared the birthday champagne with Gromit. We asked what their house drink was and were told they had the best bushwacker…so birthday bushwackers it was!
Matt ordered a lobster salad sandwich that I must say was one of the best looking things I have ever seen. I had the lobster which came with peas n’ rice, corn, and cole slaw. The food was excellent, the drinks were frosty, and we even had some live music for entertainment.
Seddy’s even gave us a round of shots in honor of Gromit’s birthday.
The party continued to arrive, filling the waters of White Bay, tanned bodies lining the sand and laughter filling the air around the Soggy Dollar. Scubagirl and Mr. Scubagirl headed over to the Soggy Dollar for lunch and Matt and I followed. Rueben was about to play and apparently, I felt like I needed another drink.
Drink count for Vicki so far: 1 Soggy Man (which is like….nine drinks….okay, for me anyway….), 1 Rum Punch, 1 Bushwacker, 1 Seddy’s Shot, and now another Soggy Man. To say that I can’t hang with the big dogs is an understatement. Hell folks, I can’t hang with the two legged Chihuahua.
I was getting soggy, man.
It was at this point that I decided it would be a good idea to walk the goat trail over to Ivan’s. Barefoot. And soggy. But then again, I’m the one that hiked the Reef Bay Trail up and down in flip flops and with no water.
FYI: Don’t take the trail from the Soggy Dollar to Ivan’s barefoot unless you want to have significantly less skin on some of your toes and at least one big bruise on the bottom of your foot when you’re done. Trust me on this one.
Somehow, I made it across what seemed like an infinite beach strewn with sharp rocks. Victory!
I think if you run those photos together really fast, you can actually see my above water happy dance, but I would not recommend it because it is so ugly it has been known to scare small children and make old ladies cry. There is a reason I was always the last one picked for dodge ball.
We did a little hanging (and swinging) at Ivan’s before heading back over to the Soggy Dollar.
When we got back, Gromit pulled out the rum punch and we headed for the water. Yes, it was classy, we were drinking it right from the jug at this point. But come on, we were next to the Woody’s boat and had a group with beer bongs in the water next to us. When in Rome, right? Anyway, I told you, I was soggy. I can’t be held accountable for my actions. Besides, it was Gromit’s birthday. No rules of propriety apply when it’s a girlfriends birthday.
Remember that I said we’d lost Scubagirl to pirates the day before when Cpt. Brandi had us on video without her? Well, it was at this point that I made a daring rescue, swimming beyond the party boats, risking life and limb to rescue Scubagirl from the dread pirates. I leapt aboard their ship, smashing two of my toes and bruising my foot in the process. I then heaved my beloved iPhone at them, shattering it, and threw my book at someone’s head as a distraction. I fought valiantly, suffering great personal loss and sustaining battle wounds, but we got her back.
Or….I might have had too much to drink, tried to walk the path from the Soggy Dollar to Ivan’s and bruised my foot and smashed my toes on the rocks because drunk people often forget things like shoes, lost my book, and dropped my phone under my chair where I proceeded to sit my butt on it and smash it’s screen…but who really knows.
Boat Lesson #25 : You can meet wonderful strangers from a sailboat.
When we finally headed back to the boat, Scubagirl told us that we’d had a visit and a great dinner offer from Cynthia at Harris’ Place in Little Harbor. Free mooring for the night plus the first round of drinks free. Harris’ Place is right on the water, next to Sydney’s Peace & Love. She made us an offer we couldn’t refuse and did it with such a beautiful smile, we didn’t want to.
We arrived at Harris’ Place and were immediately drawn in by the twinkling lights and warm smile of Cynthia, the hostess with the most-est. Mr. Scubagirl, Mr. Gromit, and Scubagirl ordered the BBQ plate and the rest of us asked for “the biggest lobsters they had.” Drinks arrived and we had some of the best painkillers and bushwackers on the island. These were quickly followed by our choice of lobster bisque or black bean soup and the best homemade bread EVER. Next up were salads. When the main courses arrived, she brought out a lobster that looked like something that should be on the Discovery Channel…so big it looked prehistoric…along with peas n’ rice and cole slaw. We were so full we thought we’d rupture, but the homemade desserts were too good to pass up: fresh coconut cake, caramel and banana pie, key lime pie, chocolate cake….it was bliss. She even brought Gromit’s with a birthday candle and a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”
I was tired but happy. It had been a long day. I was tuckered out from drinks, sun, sand, and I was starting to get “boat battered.”
Boat Lesson #26: If some of your body parts don’t hurt, you haven’t spent 6 days on a boat.
By this point, my butt was raw from sitting on the rough seats up top or from too much swimsuit elastic too much of the day; my head was sore where I kept hitting the same spot over and over on the low corner of my cabin roof; I had sand in pretty much everything I owned, including my skivvies; my back was sore from constantly leaning against the hard edges of the boat; and my toes were skinned and bruised from going where I shouldn’t without shoes.
I was getting broken in, and I found that I liked it.
We all turned in early, as was becoming standard practice, everyone retiring to their little piece of the boat and reading, watching a movie, or catching some early zzzzzzssssss. Since getting on the boat, I hadn’t known what time it was. I got up when the sun came up. I slept when the sun went down. I felt drawn by the sun and the waves, the tide and the stars. I was becoming unplugged and it was heaven.
Monday, December 14
Boat Lesson #27: You can shower with a handi-wipe. Oh, yes you can.
Early in the trip, I was all about the shower. You never feel 100% clean on a boat because your showers are brief and usually involve some clothing left on and within minutes of the shower, you are salty or sweaty again. In the first few days of the trip, I looked forward to those 10 minutes that I could feel fresh and clean.
On the morning of my seventh day, I had lost the need for that “shower fresh feeling” and realized I was pretty ok as long as my hair looked reasonably clean and I couldn’t smell myself. I took my shower that morning with a handi-wipe and I liked it.
We headed into Sydney’s for t-shirts before leaving Jost that morning. Sydney was in a chair stringing nets and someone was frying bacon and brewing coffee. We made our purchases, said our goodbyes to Jost, and we were on our way back to St. John.
We pulled into Cruz Bay to clear customs, but first things first, we went Customs AWOL and went to find the first lady of St. John. We headed straight for St. John Spice. RUTH!!! We popped in to say “hi” to Ruth and Ron and to soak in the delicious air conditioning for a minute. Gromit got the honor of wearing the birthday Chicken Hat and I got the honor of wearing Kelleana’s cowboy hat, as we swayed unconsciously back and forth.
We left to clear customs and came back so that Ron could take us on the Grateful Shed Tour. Ruth and Ron’s house is AWESOME and they were so sweet to drive us up for a look. We then spent our afternoons in Cruz Bay visiting our favorite haunts and saying “hi” to our favorite people. Scubagirl and Mr. Scubagirl joined Matt and I at the Beach Bar for some lunch. I am happy to report that, although it seemed smaller than normal, the Tuna Down Now was as good as ever. So were the Lime n’ Coconuts. I also had an amazing burger with bacon and gouda. I would say, “It tasted GOUDa,” but that would be corny. So I won’t.
We did some shopping and grabbed a coconut bar at Deli Grotto and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the boat. Scubagirl and Mr. Scubagirl had taken it on down to Francis Bay, so the rest of us grabbed a cab and headed that way. Mr. Scubagirl picked us up on shore in the dinghy and the water was rough. Getting in the tender from the beach was a challenge.
We all got quick showers (with more than a handi-wipe) on the boat, and we headed back to Francis Bay. As luck would have it, the owners of what I refer to as “my” villa, Sunnyledge, were there and since we were sleeping in their back yard, they invited us up for a drink and a gracious “hello.”
The water was rough, so we made two trips in the tender, Mr. Scubagirl dropping me, Scubagirl, and Matt off first. When he came back with Gromit and Mr. Gromit, I watched as the tender came to shore, Gromit and Mr. Gromit jumped out, a wave struck, and Mr. Scubagirl literally flipped backward up and out of the tender. At least a double gainer. I felt like I should hold up an Olympic scorecard… IT’S A 10!....but I was pretty sure that in that moment he would not find the humor in it.
Boat Lesson #28: Mr. Scubagirl, in addition to being an excellent captain, has the soul of a saint and the patience of Job.
I have to insert here that, no matter what stupid or frustrating thing we did, from using a $300,000 boat to find a $10 hat to jamming the outdoor table so that we all had to eat indoors to flooding the dinghy to flipping him out of the dinghy, Mr. Scubagirl always had a smile and took it all in stride. How he put up with us newbies, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.
While he headed back to the boat to dry off, the rest of us were met by a smiling face on Francis Beach. I heard a familiar voice, “You must be Vicki.” Dave!
Dave took us up to the house where we met the other voice I knew so well from the other end of the phone….Bonnie! They offered us cocktails and snacks and we chatted the evening away as the sun set over Francis Bay. Being in Sunnyledge is like being home for me, and I was so happy to see it while I was there. Added to that was now the knowledge that Dave and Bonnie and truly wonderful people.
As night came, we knew we needed to head back and a dry and still smiling Mr. Scubagirl came back to the beach to pick us up.
Boat Lesson #29: You can make some surprisingly good food on a boat.
That night, Scubagirl made her Kick A$$ Taco Salad, and kick a$$ it was. That was some seriously good stuff. Get the recipe from her if you can. It’s a keeper!
Tuesday, December 15
We woke up in Francis Bay to a beautiful sunrise. Tomorrow was our last day, and we still had tons of food. Hence, we pulled out what I like to call the “See How Much Random Crap You Can Eat For Breakfast Buffet.” Gromit won the Creativity Award of the morning with her peanut butter, jelly, and bacon bagel.
After breakfast, we swam from the boat toward Mary Point for a snorkel. The swim was good, but the water was so muddled up, it was very hard to see anything. Despite that, I was lucky enough to see my second octopus! He blended well with the surroundings, but he was moving about, so I was able to spot him quickly. I was rushing over to find Scubagirl to show her when I nearly ran into the biggest turtle I have ever seen! It was about that time that I started worrying about running into other things I couldn’t see and decided I was ready to head back to the boat.
After our snorkel, Gromit and Mr. Gromit headed to the beach to meet Pia. We were going to head into the beach too, but Mr. Scubagirl needed some extra fuel for the tender and Pia was sweet enough to drive him into Coral Bay to get some. By the time they got back, total laziness and lethargy had set in as we sunned ourselves on the boat.
Boat Lesson #30: The BEST boat day is when you spend 24 hours on the boat without getting off.
This day was when Boat Time clicked in for me. You know you “Get It” when you realize you’d rather stay ON the boat than get OFF. That finally hit Matt and I on the last day. We realized we had zero desire to leave the boat. We were totally relaxed and content to lay on the decks and soak up the glorious sun, watching the blue waters of the bay and the sugary sand of the beach from where we were.
Loathe to move a muscle, we declined when Pia, Gromit, and Mr. Gromit headed to the Tourist Trap for lunch. I don’t think I could have peeled myself off that deck for a million dollars at that point….and I loved it. Scubagirl made us lobster salad and egg salad on the boat.
Boat Lesson #31: Remora like lobster but don’t like peanuts.
Scubagirl provided the after lunch entertainment by baiting in a remora with the leftover lobster. She tried peanuts first, but it would just take them and spit them out. After the remora feeding, we did another snorkel to break the lethargy.
Sun drenched and sea kissed, I headed in for a nap. I loved not having somewhere to go, or something to do. I was more relaxed than I think I have ever been on any vacation. I also had time to grab my second “real” shower of the trip (the first “real shower” being the pathetic attempt at the marina when I pulled the curtain down around me feet). By “real shower” I mean that I was able to remove my swimsuit. I still had to shower in under 60 seconds, but at least I didn’t have 5 people watching me scrub my butt.
That night we pulled out hamburgers to grill and Gromit took the leftover hot dogs and crescent rolls and made us some darn good, darn big, pigs in blankets. I tried to get her to make a foot long….but the foot long pig in a blanket was a miserable failure and she and I are very sensitive about it…..so we just don’t want to talk about that, okay?
Boat Lesson #32: You cannot make a foot long pig in a blanket on a boat.