A second sailing adventure in the Virgin Islands
02.12.2010 - 13.12.2010
Day Six: March of the Penguins
We woke to the most beautiful sunrise I think I have ever witnessed. The sun lit the sky in brilliant reds and oranges and then, as quickly as it came, it was gone. Why is it that the most magnificent things are so very brief?
Maybe if they lasted too long, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much.
The fiery sunrise faded to a cool blue and the cloud cover gave the morning an eerie quality. The water seemed to stretch to infinity and a pale, pastel strip glowed dimly on the horizon, boats suspended in the haze.
I watched the changing sunrise until the sun rose to a brilliant orb and brought with it a blue sky filled with white clouds. After BLT bagels and a cup of Vicki Coffee, we were ready to hit the beach.
First stop was Pomato Point. It had been teasing us from the boat, a long slender finger of white sand dotted with slender pines that pointed out into a shock of light turquoise water that grew darker as it deepened.
The point was something to see. It was as if the water didn’t know which way to go. The waves were wild and tumultuous coming at the point from different directions. When they would meet, they would run across each other, twisting and turning, not knowing where they came from or where they should be going.
We walked the beach for a while and then loaded back into the “car” for a teeth rattling ride to Cow Wreck Beach. I knew I was in for something special just by looking at the sign.
Cow Wreck Beach was the very definition of “laid back.” A beach bar, a few scattered tables, and a beautiful stretch of sand were the only things in sight. We spread out and commenced to doing nothing but nothing.
The bartender had to run and errand so she pointed at a spiral notebook and told us to just get what we wanted while she was gone and write it down.
This would be when Vicki anointed herself Head Bartender Extraordinaire of Cow Wreck Beach and where I made up Vicki’s Rum Punch which was about 9/10 Rum and 1/10 Punch.
I want to be a beach bartender when I grow up.
When our drink to food ratio started to get way out of proportion, we ordered up Paradise Burgers and Lobster Fritters. There aren't many things, in my opinion, better than a hamburger on the beach. Particularly a Caribbean beach, washed down by a sweet rum punch. The soft warm bun, the juicy grilled burger, some tangy mustard and a side of crispy fries....it really is paradise, isn't it?
That’s when we saw a group of guys walk up, hands full of panty hose and coconuts. Intrigued, we had to watch. The proceeded to put coconuts in the toes of their panty hose, tie them around their waists and then used them to “whack” another coconut. I am not sure what they were knocking down…beer bottles maybe? Whatever they were hitting, they got our vote for most creative use of coconuts and panty hose.
After lunch, Keith and Syd headed back to the boat and Matt and I decided to head over to Loblolly and the Big Bamboo. I was also in search of the flamingos of Anegada, which I kept calling pelicans due to my 9 to 1 rum to punch ratio and somehow, as the day progressed, that turned into “penguins.” So, yes, I spent the afternoon looking for the elusive “penguins” of Anegada.
It’s no wonder I never found them. Every time I asked someone where to find the penguins, they just tried not to make eye contact.
On the way to Loblolly, we drove past the Settlement. Not much in the way of "civilization" here, but there were plenty of neat old abandoned (or not so abandoned, but maybe should have been....) homes, still beautiful in a quiet and diminished way.
At the Big Bamboo, we enjoyed the drinks, I swapped my already read book for another at their book swap cabinet, and we stretched out in the sun.
As the afternoon grew late, I decided we had to give those penguins one last run for their money. I was going to find me some penguins.
Pretty much the entire interior of Anegada is a series of salt ponds, and the elusive flamingos hide in the cover of the mangroves. We must have driven down every stinking road leading to the interior and never saw the first flash of pink.
Finally, on our last attempt, Matt spotted them. Bright pink bodies were dotted on the far side of the salt pond we were standing at. I could see them! They were so big and so bright, it was like they were just so close. There was no way to drive to the other side…so we tried walking across.
Okay, in our defense, it looked shallow. And it was…to a point.
With every squishy step, I had visions of mysterious mud crabs pinching my toes or imagined great holes of salt pond quick sand swallowing me whole. I reme]mbered the stories my grandmother would tell me of worms that would burrow into the soles of my feet if I didn’t wear my shoes outside and I was certain that if such a worm existed, it would exist in this very salt pond and I was probably already infected. I held my camera high over my head….like somehow that would save it when I fell face first into a pool of mud. I wanted to turn around, but then a flash of pink would taunt me…beckon me onward.
They were like a mirage, the more steps we took toward them, the farther away they appeared. We had to keep going…really….just a few more feet and I’d get that National Geographic photo that was dancing in my head…..
That’s when Matt took a step and sank to his knees in muck and we had to admit defeat.
To console myself, I decided that they don’t really exist. They are fake plastic flamingos, like the ones you see in front of a double wide in Panama City and they were just put out there to lure dumb tourists who wanted that perfect photo. Like me.
Damn penguins. I mean flamingos. Whatever.
When our Anegada land adventure was over, Keith picked us up, we turned in our car, now with salt pond mud added to it’s mélange of island ooze, and took us back to the boat where we watched a perfect sunset and grilled up chicken for a quiet dinner on the boat.
Day Seven: The Porpoise of Life
For the second day in a row, the sunrise on Anegada was a thing of majesty. I sat mesmerized by its changing colors as it blasted its way into the sky.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and went inside. It’s about this point in a sailing trip that the boat sort of smells like feet no matter how many dryer sheets you brought or how much Febreeze you spray and everything feels slightly damp. It’s when the lettuce freezes and the bread goes moldy if you don’t have it stowed inside the microwave. It’s when everything seems to have a fine layer of salt or sand…or both and where you look forward to that 5 minutes a day just after your shower, because it’s the only time you feel clean. It’s when the rock and the pitch are so second nature to your body that you sway slightly when on land because the sea has embedded itself in your very soul and calls to you, rocking you lightly on the breeze. I was truly on boat time now.
I swayed back and forth and raked my fingers through my salty hair as I made the coffee. None of us had slept well because of the rolling the night before. The morning was WINDY. Too windy. But we had to head out. We had a long way to go and were hoping to make it to Jost Van Dyke by lunch. As we headed away from Anegada, a trio of dolphins swam up beside the boat. The frolicked in the waves, going from the front of the boat to the back and then to the front again, jumping in the air and swimming under the bow, for about 15 minutes. And then like a magnificent Anegada sunrise, they were gone as quickly as they had appeared.
That’s the magic of sailing, my friends. That’s the magic.
The day’s sail was a long one and I seized the opportunity to nap while we travelled, trying to make up for the two rolling nights that had kept me awake. So, for me, it seemed like only an instant and we were pulling up to Great Harbor and I could see the palm trees of Foxy’s swaying in the wind.
We decided to have lunch on the boat before heading to the island and I am certain that lunch included cheese.
Before I knew it, I was making my way down the wooden dock in front of Foxy’s. Fishermen in small wooden boats were cleaning their catch and dogs roamed the sandy beach. Someone was asleep in the hammock beside the dock, one lazy leg dangling over the edge, dragging in the sand. The man himself was in and I could hear him telling jokes to the tourists as they stopped to get a famous “thumbs up” photo of their very own.
We did a little shopping and then went to find a cab. If you arrive by ferry, cabs are plentiful on Jost, as they typically wait by the ferry dock and know when the ferry arrives. If you arrive at any other time or place, good luck finding a cab when you need it. We wandered down the sandy main street and saw an empty cab parked outside one of the small open-air bars. The cab driver was inside and he agreed to take us over to White Bay.
Only on Jost Van Dyke do you drag your taxi driver out of the bar and only on Jost Van Dyke does he bring his open beer with him and another one to drink on the way.
We parked ourselves in some chairs at Gertrude’s and the afternoon was spent with Soggy Dollar Painkillers and One Love Bushwackers, with dreamy hammocks and rustling palms overhead, and with a front row seat to all the boat disasters and drunken mayhem that only White Bay can offer. There is not a more enjoyable way to spend a sunny afternoon thank watching two people who have spent all afternoon drinking Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar try to get into a kayak in a rough sea.
As the afternoon grew late, we had the bar call us a taxi. When the taxi arrived, two guys came running over from the bar with drinks in their hands and asked if they could share, knowing that it can take a while to get a taxi if you are anywhere other than the ferry dock. We didn’t mind, but the driver said they had to finish their drinks. The drinks were full so they told us to go on. Not being in any hurry, we told them to take their time and we’d wait.
When they finally got in the taxi, Syd looked at them and said, “Were you two on Anegada yesterday and did you bring panty hose and coconuts to Cow Wreck Beach?”
We laughed about it all the way to Great Harbor, where they were getting out. We were going all the way to Little Harbor, so we said “Goodbye” and continued on our way. When the cab driver dropped us off at Sydney’s, we knew we had about a $30 fare. When we asked him how much, he said, “Those guys paid your fare.”
So…to the guys with the giant coconuts, Here’s to you! And your big coconuts!
We wandered over to Sydney’s to look at t-shirts and pre-order for dinner. We needed to pre-order dinner and when Janet asked me what I wanted I told her I wanted the biggest lobster she had.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“I promise you the biggest lobster we have, Vicki.”
We cleaned up on the boat and returned to Sydney’s that night for dinner. I love the “pour your own” bar. I designed myself Head Bartender Extraordinaire of Sydney’s Peace & Love .......because I now had bar experience.
I mixed up some bushwackers and we waited for our lobster.
When my food arrived, the waiter asked, “Which one is Vicki?” I kid you not, that lobster looked like a sea monster, it was so big. It was delicious and came with Sydney’s amazing sides: peas n’ rice, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and the best potato salad on the planet.
The night came to a close with a slice of key lime pie and the sound of tree frogs singing from the distant hills.
Day Eight: Time For Cruz’in
It was our last full day on the boat, so we headed back over to St. John. Keith and Syd were headed back to St. Thomas the next day and Matt and I were returning to Jost for the weekend, so St. John was a good halfway spot.
It was a short trip and we were soon making our way to Caneel Bay. We found a mooring near Salomon Beach and took the dingy into Cruz Bay.
No matter where else I go, there is no feeling like the one I get as I grow closer and closer to Cruz Bay. When I see the familiar buildings dotting the landscape, see the same boats moored in the Bay, and see that ferry dock with the tangerine colored building with the big wooden shutters, my heart grows light. This place holds a special magic for me that no other shares. When I arrive, I don’t feel like a mere visitor, I feel like I am home.
As we went back through customs, they asked if we had any meat on board. We all immediately thought of the pack of ground beef we had thawing out for burgers that night and simultaneously answered, “Nope.” With our illegal international hamburger safe, we headed to St. John Spice.
The smell of that store hits me before I even reach the sidewalk. It’s a smell I have grown to love over many trips to this island and many trips to this, my very favorite store. We were lucky enough to find Ruth and Ron in and we visited and shopped before heading to the Beach Bar for some lunch.
A tuna down now and lime n’ coconut later, we headed back to the boat.
From the boat, Salomon Beach was beckoning me, bright and cheering, it’s palm trees waving like old friends saying, “Come on over. The water is just fine.”
Matt and I took the dingy over to spend the afternoon on the beach. It was wonderful being able to lounge on beautiful Salomon without having made the long walk down the hillside to get there. We drifted in the crystal clear water and lay in the warm sand.
That’s when we saw a Coast Guard boat pull up to Who Cares. OH NO! Someone told them about our illegal international hamburger! It was a Burger Raid! Turns out they were just doing a routine check, but I thought a Burger Raid would have been so much cooler.
Back at the boat, we grabbed some “back of the boat” showers and headed to Francis Bay for the evening. We spent a relaxing final night on the boat, with bacon cheese burgers and grilled lobster cheese sandwiches for dinner. Emphasis on the cheese.
It was our last night on the boat, and I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. That wasn’t meant to be.
Just as we were turning in, my stomach started ..well….turning in. You know the feeling I mean. This is not a feeling you want to get on a boat. Not when you have walls as thin as paper, a toilet the size of a Dixie cup that flushes through 900 feet of tubing before exiting the boat, and you have to put any used TP in a ziploc.
Oh no. This was not good at all. I was certain it was the curse of the illegal international hamburger.
Matt was laughing at my distress as he rolled over to go to sleep.
It hit Matt about 3 hours later.
It was a very long night.
There was one moment of panic, around 3:00 a.m. when I became certain that I had completely overwhelmed the boat’s very delicate plumbing system. I felt prickly with anxiety. I didn’t want to be “that person.” You know the one. The one everyone would always remember as the one that overflowed the boat at 3:00 in the morning on the final night. That’s a sure way not to get invited next time.
I jiggled the little flusher button. Nothing. Maybe it’s like the shower, I thought, which you have to run for a minute, then turn off and drain for a minute, then run for a minute, stop, and drain for a minute. So I’d pump, and wait. Pump. Wait. Eventually, I was in the clear.
I wiped the sweat from my brow and finally drifted into a brief, fitfull sleep around 3 a.m., filled with visions of waking to a “cloud” surround the boat in the morning when we woke. I made a mental note to suggest an early departure in the morning.
Like, before sunrise.
Hey, ship happens.
Day Nine: A Sunny Place for Shady People
Hollow. Depleted. Empty. Exhausted. That’s how I felt when I woke up, but I was happy to be alive.
The boat was due back on St. Thomas by noon, but Matt and I hopped off in Cruz Bay and Sydney and Keith went on their way without us. They were flying home that afternoon, but Matt and I had extended our departure to early Monday morning because it saved a significant amount on airfare.
We had decided to grab the ferry back to Jost and stay until Sunday afternoon. Keith dropped us off at the dingy dock near the Jost ferry and we hugged goodbye and wished them a safe trip home. Because no one was at the ticket office, we ran over to Deli Grotto for some breakfast.
I grabbed a Snickers cappuccino and a bagel with bacon, egg and cheese and one of their amazing crack bars and we sat to wait for the ferry. On our other trips to Jost, the ferry always took us directly to Jost where we cleared through customs. This time we went to Tortola first, cleared customs, then went to Jost. It took a little longer, but wasn’t really a big deal. Just different.
It was early morning when we arrived and we grabbed a taxi straight to the Sandcastle. Our room wasn’t ready, but they took our luggage, gave us towels, and sent us to the beach.
Today was all about power lounging, Soggy Dollar style.
We grabbed a couple of chairs and spent the morning swimming, reading, and listening to beach tunes. We had frozen mango daiquiris from Gertrude’s and bloody, bloody good bloody marys from Mic at the Soggy Dollar.
Lunch was at Seddy’s One Love where we found an amazing lobster salad sandwich and an equally good lobster quesadilla. Reuben was playing and there were some girls at the bar dancing and having a good time to his music. With my toes buried in the sand and the sounds of Rueben’s guitar playing, the waves crashing outside and the palms tall overhead, a cold drink in my hand and Matt’s smiling at me across the table, it was a perfect moment in a perfect place at a perfect time.
It’s the moments like these that I close my eyes and conjure up when a thick gray February sky is bearing down on me and my desk seems piled with an impossible load.
Life seems like magic on White Bay, doesn’t it?
After lunch, we waved “goodbye” to the girls and I stopped at Jewels to try her self proclaimed famous rum punch. I don't know about a "touch of class" but it sure had a touch of something and from the way I felt, it was probably something that should be considered a controlled substance. It was DELICIOUS, but deadly. I definitely reached my limit and we left the heat of the afternoon to retire to our cool, clean, air conditioned room. I grabbed a quick shower and slipped between the cool white sheets, smelling of coconut and took a decadent nap, the kind you can only take on vacation.
We woke up sun soaked and rested and decided to walk down to Ivan’s. The Soggy Dollar was hopping and we knew Ivan’s would deliver a little peace and quiet. We followed the goat path up and over and around until we saw the ramshackle outpost of shells and hammocks that is Ivan’s Stress Free. We kicked back Ivan-Style until the sun started to set.
We wanted to eat at the Sandcastle that night, but they had 3 dinner choices and not one of them appealed to either of us. Plan B was to hit Foxy’s Barbeque, something we had never done before. So, we grabbed a cab and headed back over to Great Harbor. The meal was at 7:00 p.m. You were given a ticket and were told that when they called “time to eat” you could go up and get as much as you wanted on your plate, but that you only got one trip.
While we waited, I ordered a Sleezy Breeze and we enjoyed the mix of locals and boat traffic coming in, drawn by the wonderful smell of smoked ribs floating on the night air. When the food was ready, I didn’t have to be told twice to get in line. They actually gave us two plates. One for “salad” which was piled high with a green salad with the most amazing dressing, pasta salad, fruits, cheeses and bread. Then, they heaped a larger plate with ribs, BBQ chicken, stewed fish and sides. It was delicious and it was more than I could eat. Which is saying a lot.
That night, I had my first night’s sleep in a “real” bed. Westin might have a right to the name, but I can promise you that after sharing a small boat bed with a 4 inch thick mattress with a 6’1” man for a week, the bed at the Sandcastle was a Heavenly Bed.
Day Ten: Seas the Day
It was our last day and we were going to make the most of it. We decided to spend the day on White Bay, perfecting the art of doing nothing, and catch the last ferry at 3:00 p.m. back to St. Thomas.
Early mornings on White Bay are amazing. There is no one around and everything is still and quiet. There aren’t any stirrers half buried in the sand yet, and no one is having a “battle of the boat speakers” competition yet.
I grabbed a cup of coffee from the kitchen and sat out in front of the Soggy Dollar. I told Matt to let me see his iPhone for a minute and I showed him us on the webcam. Ta Da!
We set ourselves up with some chairs under a palm tree and we sat and watched the Sunday boat parade roll into White Bay to the tunes of Bob Marley and to the taste of Mic’s bloody, bloody good bloody mary. The day seemed perfect, the way a last vacation day always is, making it so much harder to leave. I tried to memorize the way the green of the palm tree above me looked against the sky and the sound of the waves as they slapped the sand. I wanted to burn it into my memory so that I could carry it home with me, like a token in my pocket that I could hold onto on cold February days when my door locks are frozen and my teeth are chattering from the cold.
We decided to grab some lunch at the Soggy Dollar. The chicken roti had my name on it and Matt got a cheeseburger. We chatted happily with Mic for a bit and bought the girls from Seddy’s a round of drinks because they had told us we were a hot couple. At our age, it doesn’t take much.
We returned to our chairs in paradise and drifted on the sounds of the boat music until the party boats arrived.
When the boob shaped beer bong comes out, it’s time to go.
We packed up and said our goodbyes and grabbed a taxi to the ferry dock.
We were on the 3:00 ferry back to STT. In Red Hook, we grabbed a cab, made a stop at CYOA to grab our extra luggage (which Jay had been kind enough to hold for us so we didn’t have to lug it to Jost) and headed to our hotel near the STT airport.
We stayed at the hotel and had a light dinner at their beach bar, watching one final sunset. As the sun settled into the ocean, I could feel my warm skin, like the sun was hidden inside, glowing from the inside out, floating just beneath the surface.
Day Eleven: Snow Day
We were on a 9:00 a.m. flight home. When we boarded, the 80 degree breeze barely cooled the sweat on my brow. When we landed, the ground was covered in snow.
I thought of the past week and the wonderful places I had been. A place where boats rise in the gray of the morning, like ghosts, pale and white against the soft sea and the soft sky…the water the color of an oyster, a pearl, nothing more than a mist. A place where the sun melts into liquid and where it seems there is nothing between you and that setting sun but a sea of gold. A place where you can’t tell where the sea ends and the sky begins and your eyes aren’t sure if you see a cloud or a mountain or the tip of a wave as it all drifts into one. A place where the morning sun arrives in burning red, setting the sky and the water aflame with crimson and purple. A place where your heart begins to beat in time to the rhythm of the ocean and your veins move to the ebb and flow of the tide as your body sways to the invisible pull of the sea that now pulses through your veins. A place where the blue of the sky and the turquoise of the water are dotted with brilliant green, like gems in a satin pool of aquamarine.
As I walked off the plane, I shook the last little bit of sand from my pockets and hugged my jacket to me, smelling of coconuts and sunshine, feeling warm despite the chill of the winter air around me, and I smiled.