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Surviving Guana With the In-Laws

“What do you think about taking my family down to Abaco?”

He may as well have said, “What do you think about shaving your head?” or “What do you think about painting the house royal purple and putting on a glitter roof?” or even “What do you think about me tattooing a unicorn on my forehead?”

It’s amazing how 11 simple words calmly uttered by your spouse can make your heart stop, all your saliva disappear, and can make you consider suicide for the first time since you were 14 years old and accidentally turned your hair bright orange with a bottle of Sun-In.

I did what any good wife would do. I smiled and said, “I think that’s a great idea.”

Then I Googled “Painless Ways to Kill Yourself.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my in-laws. Actually, as in-laws go, I’m pretty lucky. They are pretty great. But, oh my….a vacation filled with 18 year old girl drama, 9 year old boy energy, and 75 year old lady…well….whatever 75 year old ladies do. I had visions of National Lampoon’s Vacation running through my head.

Let’s just hope Nana didn’t end up tied to the top of the golf cart before the trip was over.

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“Are We There Yet?”

I thought that question was a joke that kids say in the movies. In reality, they ask it every 7 minutes. On a 4 ½ hour flight, that’s exactly 39 times.

We had Nana Jo, the 18 year-old princess, the 9 year-old boy, and my two fat dogs in the plane. Sure, it’s a 6 seater, but that is more of a suggestion than a reality. In reality, it’s perfect for 4 people and some stuff. Put 5 bodies, 2 dogs, the boy’s backpack, Nana’s big beach hat, the princess’s MASSIVE purse which must have had 786 sparkling keychains, whatnots, and do-dobs hanging off it and it begins to feel a bit….cozy.

Matt’s sister and her husband were blessedly alone on a US Airways 747 and would meet us later. Never have I been so envious of someone on a commercial flight. Being felt up by TSA had to be better than enduring 5 hours of hot dog breath.

Survival Tip #1: On travel day, plan for plenty of needed breaks – rest breaks, bathroom breaks, crying-in-the-bathroom-for-you-breaks.

As I sat with 30 pounds of hot, panting dog on my lap, my knees pushed up behind my ears to make room for the backpack, the Juicy Couture luggage that my niece was trying to pass off as a purse, and Nana’s oustretched legs, I found myself thinking… “Are we there yet?”

Our landing at Marsh Harbor was our most memorable yet. Of course it would be when we had 2 youngsters, 2 dogs, and Nana. The bad flights never happen when we are alone...only when we have an audience.

It was storming. We heard the commercial traffic turning back to Nassau and we did the same. Just then, a small plane came on the radio and announced he had just landed at Marsh. We did a 180 and headed back in. We were only 10 minutes away.

With about 1 minute to go….the sky collapsed and the gates of hell opened, and I was pretty sure the Apocalypse was upon us. The sky was black, buckets of rain poured on us, thunder and lightning were crashing around us, and I could feel the wind pushing us back and forth.

I looked down at the wreckage of the small plane that lies in the water just before the Marsh Harbor runway and I began to pray. I’ve made a lot of deals with God just before hitting those runways.

The second we touched down, a thunder clap sounded that was so loud, the dogs jumped, I held my breath, the niece’s eyes were like saucers, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nana had wet her pants.

After sitting on the runway for about 15 minutes because it was raining too hard to get out, we made an escape with an airport worker who came out with a giant umbrella. The airport power was out, and it was steamy and hot inside….but we had made it.

We made the 1:30 p.m. ferry to Guana Cay with about 2 minutes to spare. By 2:00 we were stepping off onto the dock, the rain had stopped, and I breathed a sigh of relief because I didn’t have to hear, “Are we there yet?” one more time.

We headed to the house to get unpacked and take a breather until Matt’s sister and her husband arrived.

Survival Tip #2: Don’t get stressed out when you have to give the mother-in-law the giant King bedroom with the en suite bath because she has limited mobility. That tiny room at the top of the stairs with the very small bed will allow you and your spouse to spend some special quality time together, provided that one of you doesn’t kill the other one first. I find that nighttime beverage of warm milk, Nyquil, and Bourbon helps.

Matt and I got our things and carried them up to our small bedroom, with our small bed, and our small bathroom. I’m pretty sure I let an involuntary whimper escape as we passed by the palatial master bedroom downstairs where Nana Jo was putting her things away.

“Couldn’t you carry her up and down the stairs?” I whispered as Matt gave me THAT LOOK. If you have a spouse...you know the look I'm talking about.

We busied ourselves with settling in, getting groceries, and getting cleaned up while we waited for the others to arrive. Due to a flight delay, they didn’t get there until the last ferry of the day. I was relieved when they finally arrived. Not because I was worried, but because, after we got to Guana, “Are we there yet” got replaced by, “When do Mom and Dad get here?” and I was pretty sure that if I heard it one more time, someone was getting hog tied and put in the broom closet.

We were tired. We were grumpy. We were hungry. It was time to do something to jump start this vacation. We headed to Grabbers for sunset.

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Survival Tip #3: Just because it’s legal for an 18-year old to drink alcohol in the Bahamas, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s a good way to end up with your feet vomited on. Let’s just leave it at that.

T.G.I.F.

It was Friday and the storms had moved out, leaving us with amazing weather. I learned early that there was no such thing as a “quiet morning” when you have a teenager and a 9 year-old boy in the house. First thing every morning, the T.V. was on. Matt and I might turn the T.V. on once a week, so the constant blare of commercials, cartoons, and MTV videos was more than I could take before a cup of coffee.

Oh. My. God.

I really have turned into my mother.

Coffee in hand, we escaped to the beach for a little peace and quiet wherever we could find it.

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Remember the coconut toting wonder dog from our previous trip to Guana? We found him again.

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Survival Tip #4: Be sure to bring the essentials: Sunscreen, bug spray, beach towels, taser, Barbiturates.

Not knowing how everyone would do on the boat, we thought it best to stick close on our first day. We headed to Spoil Bank Cay (Shell Island) and North Guana.

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About halfway there, we ran up on the “giant starfish party.” The nephew wanted to see a starfish, but no amount of bribery with Oreos was getting him to jump off that boat in the open water, so Matt dove in and brought a couple up for him to gently look at before returning them to the sea.

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Shell Island was beautiful as always….plenty of insanely gorgeous water, white sand, and sea creatures.

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And of course, shells.

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When they’d had enough, we jumped back in the boat to head to the beach at North Guana.

As we neared the north beach, we noticed the water was a deeper, darker aqua than we’d ever seen it before. It is always beautiful, but that day, it was exceptionally beautiful.

There was some misty fog and clouds hanging over the water, and we attributed the unusual color to that…although Matt and I kept joking that Baker’s Bay must have started dyeing the water for their residents.

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While on the beach, we noticed a Baker’s Bay security vehicle approach. This has never happened to us before. The gentleman got out of his vehicle and came down to where we were on the beach and said, “Do you know that this is a private development?”

To which my husband, very politely, responded, “Yes, and we also know that all the beaches are public up to the line of vegetation.”

The guy stammered and finally said, “Uh….you’re right….just….um…don’t walk up past the trees.”

“We didn’t plan to,” Matt said as we all kept staring at him.

He left.

It’s unfortunate for folks that don’t know the rules because I guarantee that Baker’s Bay is successful at scaring a lot of folks into leaving. I enjoyed that beach before Baker’s Bay was there and I will continue to enjoy it now that they are there.

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The Conch Shack at Baker’s Bay was closed for a private event, and the nephew had replaced “Are we there yet?” and “When do Mom and Dad get here?” with “When can we go to Nippers and see the pool?”

I learned quickly that children become easily fixated and will repeat a question until they get what they want or you stick an ice pick in your ears, whichever comes first.

Survival Tip #5: Learn some carnival skills, like eating fire, hula hooping, or magic tricks; that way, when the kids get bored and you don’t know what to do, you can whip out a few pineapples and juggle. It eliminates those awkward moments for us non-parents and keeps the kid entertained. If that doesn’t work, get out those Barbiturates.

We needed lunch and the boy needed a pool, so off to Nippers we went.

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It was a gorgeous day for a frozen Nipper and a fried mahi sandwich. And a swim in the pool with the coconut toting wonder dog. We spent the afternoon alternating between beach and pool. There are worse ways to spend a day.

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The previous night, before becoming overimbibed and falling off her barstool, the niece had met a boy who invited her to go paddle boarding at Grabbers. We all decided to do dinner at Grabbers because 1) the sunsets are amazing, 2) we like the food, and 3) after last night's spectacle, she wasn't getting out of our sight...if she had a date, we ALL had a date.

Survival Tip #6: Watch the teenagers like a hawk. Be wary. Be suspicious. Be that relative you hated when you were 18. Don’t let them have a moment alone. Follow them to the bathroom. If you can get away with it, hide a GPS in their pocket or put one of those toddler leashes on them.

The sunset that night was off the charts beautiful. The princess did her paddle board thing. Matt took the boy out for a kayak run. Everyone found a hammock and rocked back and forth as the sky went from golden to fiery orange to cool blue.

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That’s when the UFO came.

Everyone started running out and pointed at the sky. People were taking photos. There were a couple of massive flashes and a streak of light. A mysterious flying object flew through the sky, trailing streams of light.

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Of course it was a space ship.

Yesterday was the Apocalypse, so today we were being invaded by aliens who wanted to wear our faces.

At least that’s what we told the 9 year-old.

That was so much more fun than telling him it was a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.

Survival Tip #7: To passively-aggressively repay your mother-in-law for scoring the big bedroom, leave her at the bar with a drunk stranger. She might make friends. Or get $20. Or both.

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We realized we had left Nana Jo unattended for too long and returned to find that she was making friends. Whether she wanted to or not.

We’d had a big night: paddle boards, kayaks, hammocks and rockets. It was time for some dinner.

Vowing to attempt to eat something other than french fries and mac & cheese on this visit, I went bold and ordered the sesame crusted ahi tuna. Yes, at Grabbers.

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I know. That was a risky move. It was like ordering a filet mignon cooked rare at McDonald’s. But to their credit, Grabbers has been upping their game in the past year or so. They had a newly built deck, they’ve added lots of games, watersports, and hammocks, they have expanded the dining area, and they have added some very good food to the evening menu.

The tuna was delicious. And the night was perfect.

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Hoping for Hopetown.

This trip hadn’t killed me yet. That was evidenced by the blaring of MTV videos as I opened my eyes on Saturday morning.

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It was our middle day and it was going to be our longest day. We had decided to make the trip to Hopetown for strolling and shopping, hop over to Lubbers Quarters for lunch (I was denied that Island Burger on my previous trip and I still had to have one!), wrap the afternoon up with the afternoon boat party at Tahiti Beach, and then join friends for dinner back in Hopetown before heading back to Guana late that night.

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Survival Tip #8: Do not overschedule your trip. This can lead to excessive whining and grumbling. Do not underschedule your trip. This can lead to excessive whining and grumbling. On second thought, forget scheduling and find those Barbituarates.

It was an ambitious day to say the least, but after discovering that time indoors meant listening to music videos and iPad games, I decided to use the tactic my parents always used with me and my brothers: keep them busy until they collapsed from exhaustion or cried themselves to sleep.

It was a beautiful boat ride over to Elbow Cay, the water putting on a spectacular show of color along the way.

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Before we knew it, that happy red & white striped lighthouse was welcoming us into the harbor.

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It only takes a few minutes to walk from the public dock to the Hopetown Harbor Lodge, but I am pretty sure my nephew asked “How much farther” at least three times and we had to stop twice so the mother-in-law could rest.

God love a duck.

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I had to cultivate the patience of Job. Sure, his livestock was stolen, his servants were killed, he lost his camels, a house fell on his family, and he was covered in boils and sores....but I bet he never went on vacation with his in-laws.

After 17 hours, 32 minutes, and 56 ½ seconds, we made it to the Reef Bar where a much needed adult beverage was in order.

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The views were stellar, as always. We threw the kid in the pool and grabbed some drinks. Even Nana Jo got in on the action.

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Afterwards, we took some time to let everyone see Hopetown.

At their own pace.

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Then it was off to Lubbers Quarters. I had discovered Lubbers Landing on our last visit and instantly fell in love with it. The laid back vibe of the place really appealed to me. It was just after a hurricane, however, and the tiny resort had lost its freezer and all of its food so we weren’t able to eat lunch. I was determined to make it for lunch this time.

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We arrived at the breezy dock and headed down the walkway to the bar and grill.

When we arrived, we realized they are closed on Saturdays.

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We had two hungry kids, so heading back to Hopetown was not an option. We also had an old lady that could only walk about 1 foot per minute, so walking next door to Cracker P’s would have taken us about 3 days.

That’s when the young lady behind the bar told us that she’d cook Island Burgers and make us drinks if we didn’t mind waiting. She was only there to clean up after a wedding and the kitchen/bar were not officially open. She was alone but she’d do what she could if we could be patient.

What luck!! In the past 2 days, patient had become my middle name.

Matt and I were IN. We put ourselves down for 2 Island Burgers.

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Survivial Tip #9: If you need some “me time,” just threaten the kids with a burger that does not come in a Styrofoam box, has no toys attached, and contains absolutely no beef. If that doesn’t work, you can always try the Taser, but that only gets you about 30 seconds of quiet time, compared to a tuna burger which can buy you up to an hour.

As soon as the kids heard the Island Burgers were made with ground tuna….they started to hyperventilate. I’m pretty sure one of them actually started to get hives at the thought of eating something that didn’t come out of a microwave or a plastic sealed package, so we immediately sent the family next door to Craker P’s.

And that, my friends, is how that lovely girl at Lubbers Landing bought my husband and I an hour of family-free bliss on a Saturday afternoon. That was worth a $10,000 tip.

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She went way above and beyond the call of duty. Not only did she jump behind the bar and make everyone a rum punch, when she saw how disappointed I was that she had no fresh lime juice for a saltwater margarita…she squeeze me up a lime so I could have one. Outstanding.

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The wait was short and within minutes, a thick, juicy island burger was in front of me. Ground tuna with spices, fresh veggies, creamy hot sauce….it was the perfect beach burger. The hand cut seasoned fries just made it even better.

Ah-mazing.

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With happy bellies, we spent the afternoon lounging at Tahiti Beach. It was a perfect time to relax and do nothing.

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What do kids do at the beach? Obviously, if you are an 18 year old girl, you put in your headphones and imagine you are alone somewhere exotic where parents do not exist. If you are a 9 year old boy, you run around pretending every object is a football, a bomb, or a missile.

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We were meeting friends for dinner at the Hopetown Hideaways Resort. Located on the lighthouse side of the harbor, it was somewhere we had never been. As we strolled up and saw the beautiful grounds, the gorgeous pool, and the impressive bar and restaurant, we decided quickly that we liked it!

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It was a great evening with family. The food was good, everyone was having a great time. Even the princess put the iPhone away and joined the family.

It was one of those wonderful evenings where you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I looked at Matt and said, “We should do this again next year.”

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Survival Tip #10: Stop and appreciate the peaceful moments when everyone is smiling, laughing, generally having a good time, and you are not looking for a bottle of Scotch. Savor the moment internally, but whatever you do, don’t be compelled to turn to your spouse and say, “This is great. We should do it again next year.”

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Sunday is Funday.

Survival Tip #11: Get used to the concept of NO PRIVACY. For the childless couple, a family vacation is a challenge. It means you will not be alone ever, you can’t drink out of the OJ carton and actually have to use a glass, you can’t walk downstairs in your underwear, and you will end up constipated because you are fearful that the second you poop in the bathroom, that 9 year-old boy is going to run in and say, “YUCK! What’s that smell?”

We made an early morning escape to the beach where we could enjoy a few moments of silence before launching into the madness of the day.

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Back at the house, I played a game I like to play on vacation called, “Let’s make up a recipe out of villa pantry leftovers.”

I like to see what’s been left behind by previous guests and (after checking the expiration date….lesson learned….) then try to cook something using what I find. I have made pineapple pancakes. I have made peach cobbler. I have made pasta with tomato and mystery ingredient sauce (if I told them what was in it, they wouldn’t eat it).

This time it was “Vicki’s Leftover Bisquick and Canned Apples Coffee Cake.”

Recipe:
However much baking mix is left in the box
Some oil...whatever you've got
A few squirts of mayo (don't knock it)
A handful of sugar
Top with a can of apple and cranberry pie filling
Sprinkle a layer of oats, butter, and brown sugar on top
Bake until it looks done

I may not be winning any contests with it….but it was pretty good.

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The family had never experienced a Pig Roast Sunday at Nippers, so we did the only thing we could do….we loaded them up and took them up that long sandy hill toward all things rainbow colored and fun and hoped that no one would end up vomiting on a lounge chair (yes, this really happened), diving head first into the 4 foot deep pool and hitting their head on the bottom (yes, this really happened….), or going home with a black eye (yes, this really happened).

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There was food, music, and fun. No one got hurt. No one got in a fight. No one got sick.

Only one person cried.

That’s a good day at Nippers!

We ended the day with pizza at Grabbers, which has become something of a tradition at the end of Sunday for us on Guana.

It’s a good way to wind down, enjoy the sunset, and thank God that all of your body parts are still intact.

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And…..We’re Out.

It had been a brief trip, but that’s the best kind with family. It’s a good idea to go home while you all still like each other.

Survival Tip #12: Don’t make the trip too long. Know the family’s limits. A full week might be a bit much. Shoot for something less ambitious, like 4 hours.

It was time for one last sunrise...

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...one last sandy nose...

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...and one last meal at Curly Tails...

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And then it was done.

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It was a good time. Getting to see the people you love enjoy a place you love is rewarding and spending time with family is something you can never place a price tag on.

Maybe we should do it again next year. (Please refer to Survival Tip # 10)

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Posted by vicki_h 09:21 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco elbow_cay guana_cay Comments (5)

Jost Another Week in Paradise

Sun and Fun on Jost Van Dyke

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If I told you Jost Van Dyke is Dutch for “incredibly tiny island,” you might believe me, given that this little island in the British Virgins is small enough to walk around in a day and is home to just a few hundred residents.

Actually, no one really knows where this island’s name comes from, although it is rumored to be named for a Dutch pirate who pillaged and plundered his way through the BVI.  This island is as obscure as its namesake, and it’s that obscurity that continues to draw me back.

This place isn’t off the beaten path.

There is no path.

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Despite the fact that it was April, we were entering into what felt like the 19th month of what I will forever call “the winter that would never end” in East Tennessee. The heat was still on, I couldn’t unpack my open toed shoes, and I still had my winter fat.

What? Winter fat? Every woman knows what winter fat is. Winter fat is that extra weight you gain during winter because you are so bundled up in 27 layers of clothing that no one can tell you’ve packed on a little since fall and because there are far too many holiday eating opportunities. Like Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And New Year’s. And Benito Juarez’s birthday.

Hey, if it’s on my calendar, it deserves a cupcake.

As I sat in my office at work one day, my illegal portable heater buried under my desk so that the Public Building Authority wouldn’t find it and confiscate it, damning me to the level of teeth chattering cold that can only exist in a government office building, I received a call from a friend providing me an opportunity to spend a week on Jost Van Dyke.

At the Pink House.

I think I heard angels singing.

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The Pink House.

You have to understand, while I dearly love the island of Jost Van Dyke, it's primarily regarded as a day trip destination. The few accommodations there are to choose from leave something to be desired. My previous options included a room with no view that was barely a step up from a Motel 6 for about $350 a night and an economy cabin that bore a striking resemblance to my dad’s plywood garden shed for $65 a night.

I thought back to my other 2 overnight trips to Jost.

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On the first trip we slept in a cabin with a door that didn’t quite shut – allowing the mosquitoes ample access to my body while I slept covered in sweat due to the lack of air conditioning or a working ceiling fan. The walls were so thin that I could hear the goats eating the tree outside and I began to suspect that the walls were actually made out of discarded cereal boxes. We had to avoid drinking anything after 7:00 p.m. to prevent waking up in the middle of the night and having to make a mad dash with a flashlight in the dark, avoiding lizards, crabs, and all manner of nocturnal hazards, to the shared freestanding bathroom that was about 200 feet away and was out of toilet paper more often than not.

On the second trip, we splurged on a hotel room that cost us almost $400 a night for a very basic room, but one that had walls made out of actual construction materials. We found ourselves staying out as late as possible because, while air conditioned, the room had cement walls and no view from the small windows. It was a lot like being in my grandmother’s basement, except that she had video games and a big screen T.V. and a bar with a peanut machine.

A peanut machine would have gone a long way toward making up for the lack of view.

But….the Pink House.

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I had seen it on every trip. A shining jewel of a thing at the end of White Bay.  A beautiful private villa right on the beach on an island where private villas are practically unheard of.

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Multiple bedrooms with en suite baths. Air conditioning. Ceiling fans that really work. An actual kitchen. Doors that shut all the way. An ice machine. Satellite T.V. Wi-fi. It’s own beach.

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I wiped the drool off my chin and booked 2 flights.

We were going to the Pink House, y'all.

===Saturday: Planes, trains boats, and automobiles.===

I won’t lie.

Jost Van Dyke is not easy to get to from Tennessee.

But the best and most worthwhile things in life take a little work, don’t they? Like my graduate school roommate’s dad used to tell us when we were grumbling about our dissertations, “If it was easy, they’d just throw one in your car window as you drove by.”

First there is the whole indignity of the airport experience. Once you’ve been sufficiently violated by TSA, you get to jockey for position with 200 other people in hopes that you are one of the lucky few that get to attempt to cram your obviously overpacked carry on into the plane before some flight attendant grabs it from you and informs you that you have to check your bag because there is no space left, leaving you to wonder if your bag will make it there before it’s time for you to return home.

After 2 flights and about 8 hours of your life that you’ll never get back, you land on St. Thomas. You then have to make a choice: taxi to Charlotte Amalie and get a ferry to West End, Tortola and then attempt to make another ferry from West End to Jost Van Dyke, or taxi to Red Hook and take one ferry from Red Hook, with a brief stop on St. John, then straight on to Jost.

Unfortunately, our early flight got us there about 20 minutes too late to catch the early ferry and about 3 hours too early for the next one. After studying the ferry schedules of 4 different ferry companies that leave from 2 separate places, I had the mind bending logistics worked out to determine the quickest way for us to arrive on Jost Van Dyke. I also had a medium sized headache. We would take the 45 minute taxi ride from the airport to Red Hook and wait a couple of hours for the ferry from Red Hook to Jost Van Dyke.

Besides, with a couple of hours to kill on St. Thomas, we’d no doubt be several rum punches into our afternoon by the time the ferry came, so getting on one boat and staying on it sounded like a safe plan anyway. That way there was no chance we’d end up on Anegada by the end of the day wondering how we got there.

I remember as a kid, there was a ride at Six Flags that I loved called Mo Mo the Monster. It was one of those giant beasts of a thing that had “arms” with little buckets on the ends, the entire ride resembling a giant spider. The arms would go up and down and my brothers and I would spin around violently in our buckets until we were crying for mercy, staggering off and vomiting like the family cat that time it ate an entire stick of butter that it secreted off the kitchen table.

Well, if you get in the right taxi, the ride to Red Hook is a lot like that.

And if it happens to be the last day of carnival, which it was, and there is a giant parade, which there was, it’s even better because it lasts longer.

After 45 minutes (which translated into car sickness time is about twelve years) of steep hills, ridiculous curves, passing on the wrong side of the road, and swerving to miss errant chickens, we finally arrived at the Red Hook ferry.

We had a couple of hours to kill and it was lunch time, so we had the taxi driver drop us off across the street at Duffy’s Love Shack.

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Duffy’s is an awesome place, despite the fact that it sits in the parking lot of a strip mall. It’s so “over the top” kitschy tropical that it’s cool. The seats are covered in leopard print vinyl and everything is made out of bamboo.

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The drinks are served in ridiculous tiki glasses and every time you get one, the waitresses cover you in plastic leis, necklaces, and stickers.

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Needless to say, by the time I left, I had so many stickers that I resembled the back bumper of a 53 year old Volkswagen Beetle. 

When it was our time, we walked over to the ferry dock and located the Inter Island ferry to Jost. I watched as hundreds of people crammed onto the ferry to St. John and looked at the 4 people waiting for the Jost Van Dyke ferry and smiled.

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It was 4:00 when we arrived on Jost. I had reserved a rental car, and despite having been through the rental car process numerous times on Jost Van Dyke, I was still certain no one was ever going to show up, even though they always did.

Why? Because when you rent a car on Jost, you call the office and say, “I’d like to rent a car please. I’ll arrive on such and such a date and I think I’ll be on the such and such ferry.”

They say, “Ok.”

That’s it.

Rental process over.

For the anal retentive type, this is difficult. I need a confirmation number. I need an email or computer generated piece of paper that PROVES I have a car. And I have nothing but….. “Ok.” How could I possibly expect someone to show up weeks or months after making that phone call at exactly the time my ferry arrives?

But someone always does.

Paradise Car Rental pulled in just as we arrived. Just like they always do. Like magic.

Jost Van Dyke magic.

Even though I had never been there, I knew exactly how to get to the Pink House. On an island that basically has one road and no town, it’s not really that hard to figure out where things are.

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I have to admit, when I pulled onto that drive that said, “Private Drive – Pink House Villas,” I felt special. I felt like a V.I.P.

A Very Important Pink house guest.

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The house was everything I hoped and more.

Perched on the hillside overlooking the entirety of White Bay, the view was something you can only dream of.

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The decks, the grounds, the gorgeous landscaping….it was a feast for the eyes.

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There are actually 2 Pink Houses - the original Pink House, Bougainvillea, and a newly constructed house, Oleander. We were in the original.

The house has a very cool set up – all the rooms have outdoor entrances. This is great for privacy if you have several couples. Each of the 3 bedrooms was large and airy, beautifully furnished, with cool a/c and views to White Bay.

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I was like a kid in a candy store, running from room to room trying to decide which one I liked best. That’s when I walked into the Peach Room.

Suddenly, I was like one of those seagulls on Finding Nemo, jumping up and down, “Mine. MINE. MINE. Mine.”

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I headed to the breezy living area, which housed the large den and the kitchen, to see if my grocery provisions had made it.

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That’s another fun thing about coming to Jost. Groceries. While we eat out mostly, I do like to have breakfast, drinks, and snacks on hand, but the grocery options on Jost are severely limited so you have to plan ahead.

Imagine a cross between a gas station quick mart and a small-town 5 and dime from 1978 filled with an odd assortment of random food and beverage items with a few weird housewares thrown in for good measure. Give it a Dollar General ambiance but imagine that everything costs way more than a dollar. Now imagine that it is sandwiched into a space the size of your bathroom and imagine yourself walking into it an proceeding to shop in a manner that is a combination of that TV show, "Supermarket Sweep" from the 90's and a scavenger hunt. Finally, visualize yourself walking up to the register, hot and sweaty, with a toilet brush, some dusty beverage cozies, an 8 track tape, a dented can of peas, 4 boxes of Twinkies, a root beer, and a frozen Hungry Man dinner.

You now understand grocery shopping on a small island.

The best bet is to contact Bobby's Marketplace on Tortola. They have an extensive online selection allowing you to order and pay online. Typically, you tell them which West End ferry you'll be on and when you arrive for the ferry, your box is waiting for you. However, since we were on the Inter Island ferry and wouldn't be stopping in West End, Tortola, Bobby's actually put my groceries on the morning ferry and the caretakers of the Pink House picked them up, took them to the house, and put them away.

I had a kitchen full of food and all I had to do was unpack my suitcase and start enjoying my vacation.

It was that Jost Van Dyke magic again.

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Within minutes, Matt and I had changed out of travel clothes and had a rum punch made with Callwood Spiced Rum in our hands and were walking down the beach watching the sun set.

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Our Pink House adventure was ready to begin.

===Sunday: How To See Pirates, Jewels, and Dinosaurs in a Single Day.===

As we always do, we established a routine for the trip early on. It started off with coffee on the deck and breakfast with a view.

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Because Matt tried to kill me on our last trip to Jost by forcing encouraging me to run up what I called "the hill of death" every day, I declared this a non-exercise vacation. That meant the next part of our daily routine was to choose which spot to call ours for the day.

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White Bay is a magnificent beach, and it's so large you can pick a different section of it to spend your day on and feel like you are in an entirely different place every day. Each section has its own vibe.

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There's the private end where the Pink House sits. No bars, no noise, just pristine quiet and a nice assortment of chairs that are shared by the Pink Houses and White Bay Villas, the houses that sit high up on the hillside above.

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I will admit, every time I saw someone from White Bay Villas come walking down that excruciatingly long, steep path to the beach, sweating from the exertion by the time they arrived, I felt delighted to be right where I was. We barely had to step off our deck before our feet were buried in that soft sand.

Moving down the beach, you come to Ivan's next. Ivan's section of beach is scattered with mismatched chairs in various stages of decomposition, usually with an assortment of empty bottles, deflated rafts, and abandoned shoes tossed in. It's a little rough around the edges, but it has character. It also has Ivan's Stress Free Bar.

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The middle section is natural and usually empty. Lined with shady seagrape trees and a few palms, this area has no bars, no chairs, but no people either. It's a great place to grab some privacy.

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Likewise, after you climb the stairs and cross the goat path to the "other side," you find a long, pristine stretch of empty beach.

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Walk far enough and you'll come to the center of all that is White Bay, the Soggy Dollar Bar.

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Soggy's has plenty of chairs and hammocks that they let you use as long as you are patronizing their bar and grill. They also have one of the most famous bars in the Caribbean and one of the best bartenders in the known universe.

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That would be Mic, of course.

If Soggy's is a little too lively for you, you can continue down the beach to Gertrude's. You can rent a chair from her for $5 or you can buy a rum punch for $6 and get the chair for free. Kind of a no-brainer if you ask me.

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Past Gertrude's is an assortment of beach bars, each with their own unique personality: Jewel's snack shack, Coco Loco, and Seddy's One Love.

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At the far end of White Bay it's feast or famine. By that, I mean it's either totally deserted or so covered with bodies that you do best to avoid it at all costs.

I believe the pavilion on that end is frequented by a giant party boat that shows up out of nowhere and dumps a plethora of life vested bodies, with their fanny packs and water shoes, onto the beach for about an hour or two. We only saw it in use once during our week on Jost. On a good day, it's a deserted slice of heaven.

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For our first day, we chose to call Gertrude's section of beach home for the day. There are always fewer people in front of Gertrude's and we were looking for a little quiet before all the Sunday boats arrived.

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Rather than spend $5 for a chair, we went inside to see Gertrude about some rum punch.

Gertrude's bar has a unique style. When you order your drink, she asks if you want the $6 or the $10 size. Well, duh. The $10 of course. Then she puts the bottles you need to make your drink on the counter and you proceed to make your own. The rum punch is my favorite: a bottle of dark spiced rum, a bottle of mango rum, and a jug of her secret rum punch mix. Mine is about 9 parts rum and 1 part punch. She even grates a little fresh nutmeg on the top when you're finished.

I love Gertrude.

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We settled in to soak in the beauty of White Bay.

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Gertrude's rum punch can only be appropriately followed by one thing: a bloody mary from the Soggy Dollar. It is, quite literally, the best bloody mary ever made.

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When we started getting lounge chair butt, we headed to Jewel's Snack Shack for her amazing burger and special rum punch.

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This is where we met Reginald who entertained us with his dinosaur while we waited.

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Sure, that looks like a blade of grass to me too, but I assure you, it was a dinosaur. Reginald said so. After Gertrude's rum punch, a Soggy Dollar bloody mary, and Ms. Jewel's rum punch, I would have believed it was a purple unicorn with sparkly wings if Reginald had said so.

For those that have read my other adventures, does anyone remember the Pink Painkiller that my friend Kala and I accidentally concocted on our BVI sailing adventure by mixing leftover painkiller with some fruit punch and extra rum?

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Well, I don't know about you, but I think the Rum Punch With a Touch of Class looks suspiciously like our Pink Painkiller. I think royalties are due. Maybe a free chair for life?

Just saying.

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There aren't many things better than a grilled burger on the beach. Jewel's hamburger is thick and unbelievably juicy.

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I can tell she puts something in the meat, too. It reminds me of the burgers my mom would make when I was a kid that she'd put a packet of french onion soup mix into. Except that my mom usually put it on slices of white bread that would get so soggy by the time you were halfway through the burger, you'd just have to peel them off and leave them on the plate.

The late afternoon was spent trying to keep the random beach dog off my chair, doing my best pirate imitation, and trying to figure out why this guy had on a headdress.

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Once the beach part of the daily routine was over, the nap part came in. The nap part is necessary so that you can sleep off the rum and sun and wake up fresh and ready to go eat some lobster.

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And go eat lobster we did.

We headed to Little Harbor for our favorite lobster dinner at Sydney's Peace & Love.

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What I love about Sydney's: the pour your own bar, the waterfront setting, the fresh lobster, and the delicious side dishes. What I don't love: how Strawberry always talks me into buying a bunch of t-shirts in her shop that I don't need and will never wear while I wait for my food. I resolved that this time I would not buy another shirt, particularly since I already have about 6 at home.

After pouring our own drinks at the do-it-yourself bar and writing our drinks down by our name in the little spiral notebook, I succumbed to Strawberry's foolproof sales pitch and ended up with a tank top, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a sarong.

I don't even wear sarongs.

She gets me every time!

The lobster was clean and fresh. The cole slaw was sweet and tangy, just like my Granny makes. The potato salad, corn on the cob, and peas n' rice all competed for favorite side dish as I washed it all down with my version of the perfect painkiller.

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Wow, what a day.

===Monday: How To Get Stress Free.===

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With such an amazing curve of private beach just below the house, we decided to take advantage of it and spend the morning on "our beach."

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Yes, I know. It wasn't "my beach," just like the Pink House wasn't "my house," and Mic wasn't "my bartender." But that's what we do on vacation, isn't it? Isn't that the whole point - to be transported? To be some place and some thing you aren't in your every day life?

Of course it is.

That's why I found myself, despite all good intentions to the contrary, fighting the urge to scowl at the couples that would wander too far from Ivan's and dare to pause too long on "my beach," wondering if it would be going too far to chase them back to Ivan's while waving a pool noodle menacingly at them.

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We mixed up Vicki's rum punch and hit the beach. My rum punch does not have touch of class like Jewel's, but what it lacks in class, it makes up for in "you can be buzzed by 10:00 a.m." goodness.

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You know you've had too much rum punch when you find yourself trying to balance a coconut on your head before lunch.

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Because it was practically next door, we wandered over to Ivan's Stress Free Bar to see how the Stress Free Punch compared.

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Ivan's is one of the most unique places on White Bay. Like everything on Jost, Ivan's is a meandering structure that seems more tossed together than built, more carefree than established, and more eclectic than fancy. There's nothing formal about Ivan's open-air structure, with a sand floor and walls covered with seashells. While the Soggy Dollar gets the notoriety and most of the White Bay visitors, Ivan's is frequented by those in the know, making you feel like you are in on a wonderful secret.

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There's something about this place that makes adults feel like big kids. Maybe it's the sandy floor. Maybe it's the assortment of colorful chairs where you can spend a lazy afternoon sipping rum punch on a beautiful beach. Maybe it's the offbeat vibe.

Or maybe it's the tire swing.

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Tip of the day: don't get on a tire swing in a white bikini. (You'll thank me for that)

It was hungry o'clock, so we made our way to the far end of White Bay. I'd love to be able to say the east end, west end, north…whatever…but, really, I have no idea which direction it is. I still haven't mastered the art of figuring out left from right without making that little "L" with my thumb and finger. I'm not a human compass, people.

Of all White Bay establishments, Seddy's One Love still gets my vote for best lunch. The food is seriously good and the view is unmatched.

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They make a pretty good painkiller too.

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Matt had the special of the day, grilled wahoo with the most amazing mystery sauce I have ever tasted. I am sure it wasn't really "mystery sauce," but at this point I was several punches into my day so I can't be expected to remember details like that. I only remember where I had lunch because I have a picture of it.

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I had the lobster salad sandwich, which was jam packed with tender lobster, crunchy-crisp veggies, and creamy dressing with a touch of curry.

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The only thing left to do was take a nap.

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Sunset came and painted the sky in gold as we discussed dinner options.

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Although we'd been to Little Harbor the night before for lobster, we settled on Harris' Place in Little Harbor because it was lobster night. I still have night sweats when I think of the great lobster famine that occurred while I was on Anguilla, so I decided to get more lobster while the getting was good.

But first, I insisted we visit the Beach Lounge.

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I had seen this place as we passed through Great Harbor earlier in the trip. It might have been the most half-assed excuse for a bar that I have ever seen, if you don't count the time we tried to go to Dune Preserve to find that they only two bottles of liquor and cranberry juice that day and proceeded to make me what will forever go down in history as the worst drink known to man.

Matt had that look on his face that he gets when I ask him to do things that he really doesn't want to do on vacations and that are probably ill-advised by any guidebook and that usually result in us missing a boat, getting food poisoning, ending up stranded in an alley in the middle of Rome, or finding ourselves in the uncomfortable position of being the only patrons of the night in a really scary restaurant. It's the same look my dog gives me when I tell it to go to the laundry room. It doesn't really want to...but it's weighing it's desire not to go to the laundry room against having to deal with me if it doesn't.

But to his credit, he always goes along, because more often than not, these things end up in some of our greatest discoveries and most cherished vacation finds.

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It was a bit of deja vu when we strolled up to the makeshift bar and asked what mixed drinks he could make and he responded, "I don't know. I only have a few bottles and I'm not sure what's in them."

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While those Jagerbombs certainly were tempting...ahem.....I was really looking for something less, oh, "18-year-old-with-a-fake-ID-trying-to-get-smashed" drink. I immediately spotted a bottle of Cruzan Coconut Rum and said, "That. With Sprite."

And what the Beach Lounge lacked in fine furnishings (or an actual floor, walls, or indoor lighting of any kind), it more than made up for with the view.

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Then it was on to Harris' Place for what I call the Lobster Death Match. It was me vs. the largest lobster in the known universe. When I told Cynthia I wanted the biggest lobster she had, I had no idea that she had a prehistoric beast lurking in the cage.

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Halfway in, I called for a time out. I sat, trembling in my corner of the ring, hands shaking, forehead beaded with sweat, breath coming in rapid bursts.
Matt slapped me on the back and I went back in.

Forty-five minutes and one extremely bloated stomach later, I knew I had been bested.

I waved my white napkin, grimy with lobster parts, and surrendered. There was still lobster on my plate and I couldn't eat it.

I'm pretty sure that leaving uneaten lobster on your plate is nearly as bad as breaking a commandment or backing over a box of kittens with your car.

===Tuesday: How To Lose an Anchor in Four Hours or Less===

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It was boat day. I had reserved a day trip with Jost Van Dyke scuba with the intention of going to Sandy Cay & Sandy Spit and then heading over to Norman Island for the afternoon.

We arrived early and had about 30 minutes to kill so we walked down "Main Street." Main Street on Jost is basically a sandy lane lined with every manner of structure. Some actual, some implied. The harbor is scattered with tables, hammocks, stools...any place a person can take a load off. And maybe grab one of those Jagerbombs.

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Sandy Cay is pretty close to Jost, so it seemed like a great first stop. Despite the beautiful day, the sea was angry, my friends. The short boat ride over to Sandy Cay was 15 minutes of jaw rattling, tailbone busting, sea spray enduring hell.

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Try to imagine you are on a mechanical bull in nothing but your underwear and instead of being padded, the seat is made out of fiberglass and while you ride, someone is dumping a bucket of salt water over your head. Now stay on for fifteen minutes.

It was worth the ride when I saw Sandy Cay like a jewel sitting in the azure water. Sandy Cay is just a dollop of sand dropped into the ocean, a scrumptious little cake floating in the sea frosted with a few waving palm trees.

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We swam in and located the interior paths, taking our time to walk through the dense foliage and gawking with wonder at the sea views that surrounded the tiny speck of an island.

If Sandy Cay is a dollop, then Sandy Spit is a sprinkle. Sandy Spit was a repeat, except that it was a fraction of the size, allowing us to walk all the way around it in about 3 minutes flat.

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When we managed to arrive at Sandy Cay without losing any teeth or requiring a spinal adjustment, we imagined what the long boat ride to Norman Island would be like and made the quick, and wise, decision to abort the mission and head to Tortola instead.

After Sandy Cay and Sandy Spit, we made a quick run over to Smuggler's Cove on Tortola. This kept us in moderately protected waters and didn't require a long boat ride.

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Once I saw Smuggler's Cove, I couldn't have been happier we made a detour.

I have been to Norman Island. I have snorkeled the Indians. I have dug my toes in the sand at Pirate's Bight. I have sucked down a ski shot at the Willy T.

Smuggler's Cove was not only something new…it was perfection.

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This gorgeous crescent of perfect beach was littered with leaning palm trees and had almost no one on it. We swam over and spent some delicious time on the beach.

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On the way back to the boat, Matt pointed out a rare sight: a good sized octopus swimming in the open. We watched it for a long time until it finally found a hidey-hole and disappeared.

It was remarkable.

Coming to this beach was the best decision ever.

Until we lost the anchor.

So, um, yeah. The captain was trying to pull up the anchor and the rope broke.

It was not awesome.

Since he was the only boat operator, he would have typically left the anchor and come back for it later, but Matt knows how to operate a boat, and it would be nearly impossible to find that anchor after leaving and coming back. So Matt powered the boat while the captain dove repeatedly, looking for the anchor.

I sat with a bag of chips and watched the whole thing like I was watching a movie. Well, it wasn't like I could do anything to help.

After a half hour of diving, drifting, rotating the boat, and chip munching - the anchor was found!

We decided to make our last stop of the day Cane Garden Bay for a late lunch. The captain recommended Myett's for lunch, so we headed that way.

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Myett's was great, like a giant, tropical treehouse on the beach. The food was good and was served with an incredible view.

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When the boat brought us back to Great Harbor, we checked out Corsair's and decided to return later for dinner.

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Before dinner, we strolled "our beach" (I was beginning to like the sound of that) with some pre-dinner cocktails and watched the sunset over White Bay.

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I had heard good things about the pizza at Corsair's, but I am really picky about my pizza. Good pizza on an island usually means that it doesn't taste like one of those frozen pizzas that you can buy 3 for $10 at Kroger. It doesn't usually mean "good" good.

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Corsair's was good good.

===Wednesday: How to Waste An(other) Entire Day Doing Absolutely Nothing===

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You know how, after a few days of laying in the sun, eating too much, taking too many naps, and drinking an abundance of rum, you just get plain lazy?

You start to wonder how you ever lived a life where you got up at 6 a.m. and worked all day just to come home and clean house, make dinner, go to the gym, buy groceries, and do some laundry when just walking from the bed to the dresser to get a tank top seems like such a great effort you seriously wonder if you could just wear your nightshirt all day without anyone at the beach noticing.

It was Day Four and the lazy haze had started to settle onto us.

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We decided to grab a couple of Mic's bloody marys (because early morning alcohol certainly helps with lethargy) and do nothing more ambitious than try to find a lounge chair before we collapsed in the sand.

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It was a good day for people watching. White Bay is home to some of the best people watching ever. It's like people watching at the airport if everyone at the airport was half naked and drunk.

The morning hours on White Bay are quiet. You mostly have the beach to yourselves, shared only with the few other souls lucky enough to be staying on the island.

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Around 9:00, a few people show up that came over from a neighboring island on the ferry for the day. You know them by their giant backpacks and Keens and by the way they look around nervously at the chairs before plopping down in the sand, unaware that the chairs are not off limits.

The next group in are usually the sailing people - the ones that spent the previous night in the harbor on a sailboat. They pull their dinghies up on short and provide tons of entertainment as they try to fight the waves and climb out of the inflatable without falling in the water, a feat which is easier said than done.

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The last group to arrive are the most fun to watch: the party boats. The charters start showing up from Tortola, St. John, and St. Thomas loaded with people. They stagger off in their Kenny Chesney cowboy hats, clutching their ziploc bags that contain a camera, a chapstick, and some dollar bills and hoping that they will 1) see a celebrity, 2) get on the webcam at the Soggy Dollar bar, 3) not be the one that ends up face down in the sand before the boat has to leave, and 4) spend the next hour like they are in a country music video.

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We saw everything from the great grandmother who waded off the boat fully dressed in a caftan and pants clutching her oversized leather handbag over her head to the bikini clad woman wearing a beauty pageant sash who was 70 if she was a day. There were several guys, so blindingly white that I feared I would go blind if I looked straight at them, and every one of them somehow managed to have a perfectly lobster red back, like sunscreen was only necessary on the parts they could see. There was the old dude in the too small swim trunks, holding his ample belly in so forcefully that I was pretty sure he was going to rip an abdominal muscle and groups of bikini clad girls with Coronas sitting in beach chairs at the water's edge until they were so pickled, their boyfriends/husbands/friends had to carry them back to the boat.

There was even one girl doing a perfect handstand on a paddle board out in the water.

Showoff.

I could do that if I wanted to.

Okay, no I can't. I can barely walk across the room without tripping over my own feet.

Showoff.

Yes, White Bay can be a party, but even on a crowded day, it's a laid back kind of party. The kind of party where someone's boat is always pumping out tunes just loud enough for everyone to hear but not so loud it's annoying, and where people sit in chairs at the water's edge laughing with their friends. It's the kind of party where you can smell ribs on the grill and a sea of Soggy Dollar cups waves in the air above pool floats where people splash about in the water.

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Eventually, we had to pry ourselves up and go in search of sustenance. A liquid diet can only carry you so long.

Having never eaten at Coco Loco's, we decided we'd give it a shot.

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Yes, apparently, at this point in the day, Matt was double cupping it. What is double cupping? When you get another drink before finishing the first one and you just dump them together and put the empty cup on the bottom.

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.

Do you know what you get when one of you orders the BBQ baby back ribs and the other orders the catch of the day sandwich?

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Lunch perfection.

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We then spent the afternoon doing nothing more strenuous than this:

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For dinner, we thought we'd make the drive out to Diamond Cay and eat at Taboo. It takes about 15 minutes to drive out there from White Bay, which, on an island where you can get to everything in a minute or less, is the equivalent of traveling to a different country, so we stopped at Foxy's in Great Harbor for a drink to break up the exceptionally long, arduous trip out to Taboo.

Foxy's was cranking. The music was playing and people were dancing.

I wish I knew how to dance. Like an actual dance that is recognized by other people and is, in reality, awesome and not just awesome in my head. In my head, I look like this when I dance:

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In reality, I look like this:

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And it's a toss up if Matt dances as badly as me or worse.

It was getting dark and we still had that cross-country drive to make that would require a white knuckle trip of at least 10 minutes trying to avoid making roadkill of a mongoose or running into a goat, so we headed on, leaving the dancing to the people that didn't look like they were having a grand mal seizure.

Taboo is probably the nicest restaurant on Jost. Not only do they serve your food on actual plates made of something other than paper, styrofoam or plastic, they have some selections that don't include fried food, the staples of most fast food restaurants, or sides the include double carbohydrates.

They have an appetizer that I love: a savory cheesecake made with herbs and garlic and topped with marina sauce. My only problem with it is that they need to serve it with some warm bread so that I don't have to pick up the plate and lick it to get to the last of that marinara sauce.

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For our entrees, Matt had the grilled fish and I opted for a coconut shrimp linguine. I'm not sure what possessed me to order shrimp on an island where shrimp are not a fresh food, but to Taboo's credit, the shrimp were plump and firm and didn't remind me of something that had been in the bottom of the freezer since 1994.

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===Thursday: How to Get to the Bubbly Pool===

I read a couple of months ago that a man had died at the Bubbly Pool when he was hit by a rough wave and was carried out to sea.

This made me nervous.

You have to understand, I am the kind of person that rides my bike with the breaks on, even if I'm not going downhill. When I snorkel, I am constantly looking for sharks as the JAWS theme plays in my head. I will never bungee jump. Dangerous things make me nervous.

So when Matt suggested we go to the Bubbly Pool, I felt my stomach clench a little in nervous anticipation, but the Bubbly Pool is a Jost Van Dyke institution and the last time we had tried to go, there were so many people in it that I felt like I was in a frat house hot tub during pledge week. We had to give it another shot.

The Bubbly Pool is at the end of the road. Literally.

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The only way to get there is to drive your small, slightly abused SUV up and down crazy steep hills next to vertical cliffs on badly paved roads that are narrower than Giselle Bundchen's hips while avoiding obstacles like goat herds, small children, and boulders that have fallen from the cliffs above the road. Go as far as the road will go (east? west? south?) and when it stops, park and walk to the Bubbly Pool.

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We were early and we had the place to ourselves.

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Under the right circumstances, the Bubbly Pool is pretty fantastic. Anything in nature can be dangerous. Just be smart. Use common sense. Don't go in drunk. Don't try to climb up on the slippery rocks where the waves come in. Don't get in when the swells are up. Don't swim too close to the opening.

The natural swimming pool is calm and clear until a wave washes in, and then it is instantly transformed into a fizzy delight.

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Before heading back to White Bay, we stopped and oohed and aaahed at the colors of the water from every view point.

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The weather had been perfect every day so far, but by the time we got back to the Pink House, the floodgates of heaven literally opened up onto White Bay. The rain was so heavy that you couldn't even see the boats in the harbor.

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We made lunch at the house and enjoyed the rain for an hour or two, knowing it was filling the cisterns and providing some much needed water.

The rain left as abruptly as it had come, and by early afternoon, the sun was smiling on White Bay again. We were able to enjoy a few hours of beach time.

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It was Thursday and Ivan's was hosting its beach BBQ. We've never been and I was eager to check it out.

We walked down to Ivan's early and grabbed a couple of Stress Free punches to sip while we watched the sunset.

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I was tempted to lick the outlet, but since they have a policy against it, I chose not to.

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As the sun set in glorious form, the smells of grilled meat drifted out of the kitchen. Tables were set up all higgled piggledy on the beach and everyone just found a seat and made it theirs. Thankfully, we didn't choose the seat that was apparently covered in fire ants. Another couple wasn't so lucky and within seconds, they were running to the water, twitching and flailing, their hands swatting at every part of their body they could reach.

Actually, they looked a lot like I do when I am dancing.

The food was laid out on a long table and was served buffet style. Unlike Foxy's buffet, it's literally all-you-can-eat, not all-you-can-eat-in-one-trip.

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There were grilled ribs and all manner of islandy side dishes. The food was plentiful and delicious, the atmosphere relaxed, and the conversation friendly.

We dined under the stars on the beach, everyone enjoying themselves late into the night.

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===Friday: How To Go Out With a Bang (or a Whimper, Depending on How You Look At It)===

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It was our last day, so we decided to spend it with sun, sand, and the Soggy Dollar in true Jost Van Dyke style.

And we did just that.

It was a day of beach burgers and painkillers, music and fun, chairs by the water and hammocks in the shade. It was a perfect day.

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By the end of the day, I was a bit pickled, opting to do nothing more than lay in a chair I had dragged to the water's edge.

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I don't think Matt realized how much rum I'd had, nor did I, when he mixed us up some rum punches at the house before dinner and I proceeded to drink mine.

I really felt okay.

I did.

We headed toward Abe's by the Sea, the 3rd lobster restaurant on Little Harbor and the only one we had never eaten at.

When we arrived, we were the only customers, but that was okay. That's not uncommon. We asked if they were cooking and they said, "yes," so we ordered 2 lobster dinners and had a seat at the table on the dock, overlooking the water.

That's when I went from 60 to zero in 2 seconds flat.

One minute, I was fine. The next, I was this:

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(I still can't believe Matt took my picture....)

"What's wrong with you?" Matt asked.

"I….I….I don't feel so good all of a sudden," I said. I had hit the rum wall. I peered between my fingers and gave Matt a look that said, "If you don't put that camera down and get me out of here in less than a minute, you'll spend the rest of your life sleeping on a futon."

He read me loud and clear.

That's how we paid $100 for a lobster dinner that was still in the kitchen being prepared. He handed the money to the waitress, said, "I'm sorry," and we bolted.

Remember when I described the ride across Jost Van Dyke? The twists, the turns, the narrow roads, the hills, the cliffs, the bumps? Now imagine doing that after spinning for about 45 minutes on Mo Mo the Monster. My insides were upside down and I am pretty sure my face was grey by the time we got back to the Pink House.

Even in paradise, too much of a good thing is…..well……too much of a good thing.

===Saturday: All's Well That Ends Well===

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I was elated when I woke up.

Elated because I wasn't dead.

The night before, I am pretty sure I prayed to be dead. Or at least to slip peacefully into a coma.

I actually felt reasonably okay. My mouth tasted like I had been sucking on a toilet brush and I was moving a little slow, but I was okay.

Matt made me some eggs and toast and by the time I'd eaten breakfast, I was reasonably recovered.

We were taking a water taxi back to St. Thomas at the gracious invitation of the family staying in Pink House Oleander, whose flight home was at the same time as ours. The boat was leaving at 1:00, which left us plenty of time to do some final sightseeing and grab some lunch before heading out.

We followed the road from White Bay as far as we felt comfortable, even after it turned to a dirt road, littered with loose rock and so steep that I was worried I would get a nosebleed. Eventually, it became too rough for even our comfort and we turned to take the side road back into Great Harbor. But, WOW, did we get to see some incredible views before we had to turn back.

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We strolled through Great Harbor, and it took all of my will power to resist that final chance at one of those Jagerbombs. I bet King Cockroach has had a Jagerbomb.

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We stopped at Foxy's for our final meal and the man himself was holding court.

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Foxy asked me where I was from and when I told him Tennessee, he proceeded to tell me a politically incorrect joke about picking cotton in Memphis and left me unsure whether I was supposed to laugh or act offended, but that's Foxy for you. The first time I met Foxy, he asked me if I knew how to tell that his dog, Taboo, was an Island dog.

If you ever meet Foxy, ask him to tell you that joke. Then you, too, can share in my discomfort.

You gotta' love Foxy.

I had waited all week for a roti and it was time. Foxy's is my favorite, stuffed with tender chicken a potatoes and served with a sweet chutney on the side.

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Before we knew it, it was time for one last beer (or a Diet Coke if you had a headache the size of Texas…) and then all that was left was a wave good-bye.

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Our week in paradise had come to an end.

I hope yours is just beginning.

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Posted by vicki_h 17:31 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged beach island tropical st._john virgin_islands jost_van_dyke british_virgin_islands b.v.i. Comments (9)

It's better in the Bahamas...but it's gooder in Guana.

It may be better in the Bahamas, but it’s gooder in Guana.

We just can’t seem to quit Guana Cay. We all want to find paradise don’t we?

I have found my paradise. It is a perfect streak of white and green amidst the bluest of sea. It’s got sand in all the right places, a beach bar exactly when and where I need it, and it’s alluringly empty. It’s balmy and sun glazed, soft to the touch and rich with impossible color and flavor.

Let’s go to Guana, why don’t we?

Shuffle through the sand with me and for a moment, forget your office chair and scoop up a handful of sea shells, feel the peace, and smell the sunshine above the hectic buzzing of your day.

DAY 1: HURRY UP AND GET THERE.

We arrived before 10:00 a.m. and in no time had our toes buried in that soft Guana sand.

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The flight to Marsh Harbor takes about 4.5 hours from where we live. It’s a quick and easy trip and when I see that water appear, my heart does a little backflip.

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We had 4 newbies with us this time – my aunt and uncle and friends of ours from Canada that flew down to join us. We had a great little house, Seaside, that sat right on the water with a nice dock and a huge boat. We were also on the island for a full week this time….something we rarely do. AND we were finally here during lobster season, something we usually miss.

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We were greeted at Grabbers, a great beachside bar and grill, by Sunny, the coconut toting wonder dog.

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Nothing starts a vacation better than throwing a slobber coated coconut to a sand covered dog, while perusing a menu filled with fried things.

One of the things I love about the Bahamas is that they see nothing wrong with frying lobster. The only thing that makes lobster better is frying it. Well…..or maybe putting some bacon on it.

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One lobster in da bag and 2 frozen grabbers later, we spent the afternoon doing nothing more exciting than unpacking our bags, watching the hermit crabs crawl across the deck, and grabbing some lobster bites at Grabbers for dinner.

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DAY 2: WHEN THEY KICK YOU OUT OF NIPPERS, MAN YOU’RE REALLY DRUNK.

There is no sight more beautiful than the beach on Guana on your first morning on the island.

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It was Sunday. Anyone who has read my blog before knows what Sunday is on Guana Cay.

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Sunday is Party Day at Nippers. There are frozen drinks, loud music, bad dancing, and an island buffet filled with BBQ pork and Bahamian mac n’ cheese.

As we made our way toward that rainbow fence leading to all things fun and hilarious, I only hoped it didn’t end like the last trip where I found myself at day’s end sitting in a too warm swimming pool filled with what appeared to be puke and floaties of cole slaw, too nippered to even think about moving, but instead, just shooing the cole slaw away with one limp hand, wondering who puked in the pool, and hoping it wasn't me.

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The key to the frozen Nipper is to count. Keep up with how many you have had. Once you lose count, well, it’s pretty much over for you.

We enjoyed the beautiful day, the sparkling pool (which appeared to be puke and cole slaw free this time), the fabulous food…and then somewhere in the afternoon….. I lost count.

Darn it.

Those frozen Nippers get me every time.

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It was a fun day, no one got hurt, no one got thrown out, and we all managed to make it back home with all of our limbs and teeth intact.

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I think I slept through dinner.

We’ll call that a good day.

DAY 3: FUN WITH BOATS 101.

This was our day to get familiar with the 26’ Hydrasport that we were going to be using for the rest of the trip. This was bigger than the boats we were used to and it had a few mechanical glitches that we needed to get figured out before there was going to be any smooth sailing.

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For that reason, we thought sticking close to home was a prudent choice.

We decided not to go any farther than Man-O-War cay.

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We ran into our first problem when we entered on the shallow side, like we are used to doing in our smaller boats. We noticed a man on the shore waving at us.

“These people sure are friendly,” we thought as we all smiled and waved back.

In reality, he wasn’t giving us a “Hey, how you doing?” wave, he was giving us his best “What the hell are you doing????? Get on the other side you idiots, before you run aground!” wave.

We figured that out when we found ourselves on the sandbar.

Can you believe that nice man jumped in his little boat and towed us back off?

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I got the impression he’d done this before.

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The boat was on empty and there was no gas on Guana, so we headed to the marina to fill up. After getting gas, the boat wouldn’t start.

Wouldn’t even turn over.

Well, this was just ducky.

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Forty-five minutes of cleaning battery connections, checking wires, and finally buying a brand new $235 marine battery later, we were in business!

We headed into the Dock and Dine on Man-O-War for what might, quite literally, be the best burger in the universe. It was good enough to make us forget all about that $235 battery.

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As we walked the streets of the quite little island, we realized it actually has several very nice shops.

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We found some hand printed fabric in one and of course, we had to visit the Albury Sail Shop where the ladies still turn out canvas bags sewn on old fashioned sewing machines.

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Despite it’s ….challenges….the boat was a super nice boat and was equipped with a GPS marked with all the local lobster houses. The boat’s owner had shown us how to find them.

What is a lobster house, you ask? Bahamians build habitats to attract lobsters. There are lots of them, but you’ll likely pass right over them without ever noticing them if you don’t know where they are. A lobster house might be a car hood, a piece of corrugated roof tin, or a storm shutter set in place and attached to a cinder block.

Essentially an artificial miniature reef, these types of structures are illegal in the U.S. but in the Bahamas, they are part of the regular program. Lobster season runs from August 1 through March 31 and you are allowed to have up to 10 lobsters on one boat.

Don’t dare have live caught lobsters and dive gear on the same boat, though. It’s not legal to catch lobsters using dive gear in the Bahamas. Only free diving is allowed.

We were about to go buggin’ in the Bahamas.

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Sooooo.........Our first lobstering experience was not exactly a success. It was getting too dark, the water was too rough, and we had no idea what exactly we were looking for. We must have gone back and forth along the shore for an hour without seeing the first lobster house.

We finally got frustrated, called it a day, and went to Grabbers for a lobster dinner.

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Bon Appetit!

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DAY 4: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

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Still not 100% sure how confident we were that we’d gotten all of the boat’s issues worked out, we still didn’t want to venture too far. We thought we’d just head to the north end of Guana Cay and visit Spoil Bank Cay, aka Shell Island.

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Because Shell Island is located very close to Baker’s Bay…we decided to wander in.

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There are many who were not supportive of the Baker’s Bay development or of what it did to Guana Cay and the potential lasting effects of that development on the reef. This is not a vote for or against Baker’s Bay and all that it stands for. We just decided to have lunch there.

And dang it, we enjoyed it.

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Baker’s Bay is a beautiful and exclusive development that land locked the most beautiful beaches on Guana Cay. You can still visit them, you just have to do so by boat. We also found that, despite its exclusivity, Baker’s Bay was very welcoming when we pulled up to their docks for lunch.

They have a very nice Market Restaurant, but it was a beautiful and breezy day, so we opted to eat down by the water at the Conch Shack. They made us some delicious rum punches and I had a lobster salad sandwich. Prices are higher than most places around Guana (about $15 for lunch), but we decided it was a nice option when visiting north Guana.

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After lunch, we headed toward Shell Island.

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Shell Island is a small uninhabited cay just off the shore of Guana. Formed as the result of undersea dredging to make a cruise ship channel, it now provides an excellent place to find an absurd number of shells. It’s a beautiful spot and you can literally spend hours here, just prowling through piles of shells or relaxing in the clear water just off the beach.

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I have been to Shell Island many, many times, but have never done anything more than prowl the beach near the boat. I decided to walk all the way around. This would, in fact, make me feel like a superhero or triathlon caliber athlete. Yes, I walked around an entire island.

I am going to pretend that you are impressed.

The far side was eerie. What must be the product of several hurricanes, it’s just a pile of sunbleached, leafless trees, piled in a twisted heap along the shore. I had to walk out into the water just a bit to get around, and as I stepped on what I thought was some rock, my foot sunk deeply into squishy clay.

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Gross!!!!

It made a huge sucking sound as I pulled my foot out and literally danced the remaining 40 feet across the clay lined shore, screaming, “Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!” the whole way.

I made my way back around to the boat and no one was there. Apparently, they had all followed me around and were now, no doubt, knee deep in that squishy clay.

Is it wrong that I thought that was funny?

As the others came around the bend, I could see that Syd had something big in her hand. I squinted and peered. What was that? Did she find a big conch shell? A coconut?

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She walked up to me with a 6 lb. mass of clay.

That she wanted us to rub all over our bodies.

Right that moment.

While Sydney was thinking, “Oh my goodness, it’s like a free spa treatment. Do you know how much a sea mud treatment costs? It will leave our skin all smooth and amazing…” I was thinking, “What the hell is in that? What if there are microscopic parasites? How do we even know what that shit is? It could contain some 30 year old toxic cruise ship waste. What if we break out all over? I don't want to end up on one of those Discovery Channel shows where they find thousands of spiders inside someone's elbow.”

But Syd had carried that giant ball of clay for 30 minutes, so I did what any good friend would do….I grabbed a handful and smeared it fearlessly ….all….over….my….body.

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Now, I realize that this probably doesn’t sound very smart, but I should point out that no one has accused me of being very smart.

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Friends at home: We are not trained professionals. These photos were taken of idiots who unwittingly smeared a mysterious clay-like substance all over their bodies without thought of the consequences. We do not recommend trying this at home.

It actually felt great. This was awesome. What a fantastic idea! It was silky soft and felt good on my skin. It didn’t have any smell and was cool and luxurious. I was just starting to think this was an AMAZING idea….when I started to itch. All over my body. I looked at Sydney and Susan.

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“Are you guys itching?” I asked.

“OH MY GOD, YES!” they screamed as we all plunged into the water and started scrubbing ourselves furiously with sand.

The good news is that we emerged with super soft skin and no one broke out. The bad news is that we’ll never really know what the hell we rubbed all over our bodies.

Ignorance is bliss, I always say.

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We decided to eat in that night and grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and tossed a salad. I found some apple crisp mix and canned apples leftover in the pantry and whipped us up a dessert.

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The sky put on quite a dinner show as we ate.

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DAY 5: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPETOWN.

I did not wake up with blisters and welts on my skins. No hives. No rash.

Praise the lord. We had survived the great beach mud adventure. Now it was time to decide what to do for the day.

A trip to Elbow Cay is a must on every trip to Guana. Not only is Hopetown a great destination all in its own right, but you can combine the trip with a stop at Lubbers Quarters and a visit to Tahiti Beach. It simply makes for a phenomenal day.

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We did Hopetown and all that it entails: a visit to Vernon’s, a cruise through all the shops, and a final stop at Hopetown Harbor Lodge’s Reef Bar.

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There aren’t many bars in the world with a view like this one.

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I wanted to eat lunch somewhere new, and we knew that Lubbers Landing over on Lubbers Quarters was open. We were headed to Tahiti Beach anyway, so it seemed like a great idea.

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It was a great idea…..except that they had no refrigerator since the hurricane and couldn’t make us anything but drinks.

Never mind the lack of food….this place was AMAZING. I have no idea how I have missed it up until now. If you are a regular visitor to Abaco and you have not been to Lubbers Landing yet, do yourself a favor.

Go.

Go now.

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It had the most perfect décor ….open and airy, with a chic, tropical bohemian vibe. Classy, but earthy. I am not sure how they pulled it off, but it was just right.

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We grabbed bags of chips off the boat and sampled their saltwater margarita. If everything else is as good as that margarita, I can’t wait to try this place again.

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They also had a pole. While your first thought might be, “Drunk girls dancing,” let me assure you, it’s not that kind of place. Okay, at least the day we were there.

The pole is a unique twist on the hook and ring game. You throw the ring around the pole and as it unwinds, it may or may not ring the hook, depending on how good you are. If you are good enough, you get a free shot of Patron.

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We were not good enough, but they did let me parade around in this dazzling hardhat, one of several that are required of spectators.

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Any beach bar with a fabulous margarita and a hard hat that I can wear is tops in my book.

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We ate enough chips to put off lunch for a while longer, so we motored on over to Tahiti Beach.

It was right at low tide and the sandbars were doing that thing they do so well.

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Everyone wandered around looking for sand dollars and sea biscuits, while I embarked on a margarita-fueled, one-woman endeavor to save every beached starfish that was stuck on the sandbar that day.

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They probably all died anyway, but Greenpeace would have been proud. I think I’ll tell them about it the next time I see them downtown. Maybe they’ll make me an honorary member and give me one of those cool jackets or something.

All that starfish saving made me hungry, so we stopped back in Hopetown to have a late lunch at Captain Jacks.

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This coconut fried lobster with a side of macaroni and cheese might have been my favorite meal of the trip.

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We spent the evening at the house, as Syd made her legendary taco salad. I had learned to love this dish on our first sailing trip with Sydney and her husband, Keith, in the BVI. Nothing tastes better than this taco salad after a day in the sun.

Well, except maybe bacon.

Or lobster with bacon on it.

Fried.

With a side of macaroni and cheese.

I’m going to stop now.

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DAY 6: LOOKING FOR TREASURE.

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It had been a windy week, which doesn’t make for the greatest boating, and we’d been waiting for a semi-calm day so that we could try to boat over to Treasure Cay.

Windy weather is tough when you want to go boating. In the Abacos, it can be brutal. With sea swells that turn a pleasant boating experience into an exercise in survival, I feel like calling up Mother Nature and telling her to fire Wind. Who gives a crap about Jack Frost or Father Time? Dammit, give a promotion to Sunshine or Beach Weather.

By Thursday, with only 2 days left, we figured out that we weren’t going to get a wind free day. She was going to blow and we were going to like it or go cry in our cocktail, it was our choice.

We chose to like it.

The passage from Guana to Treasure is a bit tricky, because it gets very shallow. The sea was choppy and we were in a much larger boat then we were used to, but we had a good GPS, our handy Dodge Guide, and an excellent description of the passage provided by Dr. Ralph (http://www.drralph.net/DontRockPassage.html) so we felt good to go.

The passage was no problem and the views of the water were spectacular.

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The problem came when we got there.

The water was just too rough. We couldn’t anchor the boat properly and there was no way to get ashore without getting totally soaked. I know because I tried. And I got totally soaked.

After the 5th wave struck me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to climb the ladder to get back on the boat, and I began to envision something like the scene in A Perfect Storm where the boat capsizes under a wall of watery doom, I looked at Matt and screamed, “Abort mission! Abort mission! Operation Get Ashore is not a go. I repeat – NOT A GO.”

We jumped back on the boat and motored around to the Treasure Cay marina, which is what we should have done in the first place. It’s literally across the street from the Coco Beach bar, so we were able to leave the boat tied to the dock and walk across.

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It was a beautiful day at Treasure Cay and we celebrated it with a round of their sky high frozen drinks.

These might be the weakest drinks in all of Abaco, but they are also the most delicious.

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Coco Beach bar will let you use their beach chairs and umbrellas if you are eating and drinking with them. I like this because it’s one of the only places on our vacations to Abaco where I can lay in a beach chair like a civilized human and not end up with a bucket full of sand up my wahoo by the end of the day.

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We left early enough that the boys could try their hand at lobster fishing again while there was still some good light. Now that we had figured out the GPS “direct to” function, it was easy. Find a lobster house on the GPS, tell it “direct to,” and go.

When we spotted our first lobster house, you’d have thought we just saw the real Santa Claus or found a suitcase full of money.

“There!” Matt shouted as he looked at the underwater camera screen, which gave us a perfect view of what was directly underneath the boat. Immediately, the boat was in neutral and the guys were grabbing masks and fins and plunging into the water.

Bill surfaced with a big grin. Thumbs up. They found the lobster house.

Matt grabbed the spear, the gloves and the lobster bag and down they went.

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We sat nervously…waiting….seeing nothing but bubbles come to the surface.

That’s when they both popped up with lobsters in hand! Yee-Haw!!!!! We had bugs!

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Once they got the hang of it, it got easier. They kept going until we had 6 lobsters, one per person. Or three for me and three for everyone else to split. Whatever everyone felt was fair.

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Lobster. It’s what’s for dinner.

I told the guys that if they would boil them, I’d grill them after. I felt bad enough stealing the little fellas from their homes while they watched Spongebob with their families, there was no way I was shoving them in that pot of boiling water.

Yes, I understand the obvious irony of my starfish saving frenzy the day before in light of my new found penchant for crustacean murder. I won’t try to explain that it’s totally different when it’s lobster, because that will make me sound like the hypocrite that I am. And Greenpeace might take away my cool new jacket.

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While the guys did lobster-killing duty, the girls fixed pasta and salad. It was a feast fit for a king.

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The sun set on another perfect Guana Day.

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DAY 7: FINALLY, MY PERFECT BEACH DAY.

What’s better than eating six fresh lobsters that you caught yourself for dinner?

Why, eating a lobster and bacon sandwich for breakfast.

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I told you the only thing better than lobster was lobster with bacon.

It was our last day and I had not yet been to my favorite place on Guana Cay…the north end beaches.

Yes, those coveted beaches that have been so needlessly cut off from us riff-raff by Bakers Bay. But I had a boat, and that beach was going to be mine.

We usually motor all the way around the northern tip, to the ocean side, before pulling up to the shore. There is a beautiful and deserted slice of perfect beach there that has become one of my favorite places in the world.

However, Mother Nature had not yet fired Wind. He was still doing his best to huff and puff and blow my house down, so the ocean side didn’t seem like such a good idea.

That’s when we saw this stretch of perfection.

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It had my name written all over it.

You know the only thing better than a beautiful deserted beach? A jar of homemade Tennessee mango moonshine to go with it.

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In a word….it was PERFECTION.

It was my perfect beach moment.

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It was a beautiful day, so we decided to return to nearby Shell Island, this time for shells, not mud.

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As we motored over, we were joined by a pretty large pod of dolphins. We counted about 6 of them. I am not an action photographer. I am painfully slow and I am not good at shooting moving subjects. Like dolphins. I usually end up with a photo that has some obscure black blob in it that I have to insist is a real live dolphin, feeling like the guy that took that grainy shot of the Loch Ness Monster or that blurry Big Foot photo.

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No, really. That’s a really live dolphin. Really. It is.

We stayed on the boat until the sun was low in the sky. We were loath to go in because it was our last day. It’s hard to let go of all of that sunshine and impossible beauty and head back home.

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We ended the day with a sunset at Grabbers and more fried lobster goodness at Nippers.

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Goodbye Sunshine. Goodbye Beach Weather. Goodbye fried lobster and sea mud. I will miss you all.

Goodbye Wind. I won’t miss you. You suck, really, and your super nature powers should be removed...or at least severely limited.

Thanks for going to Guana with me. I’m sorry the moment is over, but I appreciate you sharing it with me.

Now go shake the sand off of your feet, dig the swimsuit out of your butt crack, step back into your office, and get back to work.

I’ll see you next time.

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Posted by vicki_h 11:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (0)

Seagrove Beach, FL

Beauty in simplicity.

It’s no secret that I love the sleepy stretch of beach between Destin and Panama City. If you like resorts, high rises, lots of giant swimming pools and water sports, and big noisy chain restaurants, then the sweet coastal towns that litter Highway 30-A most likely aren’t for you.

They are, however, most definitely FOR me.

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With names like Seaside, Watercolor, and Grayton Beach, you can just feel the charm that they exude. They are a step back in time to a simpler place. They are places where kids spend the day body surfing in the waves and building sandcastles, not lounging on a fake lazy river in a 300 acre pool with fake palm trees and playing putt-putt golf underneath the feet of fiberglass dinosaurs. They are places where you ride your bicycle down to a simple market and order a basket of fried shrimp and hush puppies and eat it on a picnic table with a plastic fork and a giant glass of sweet tea instead of eating a burger out of a treasure chest inside a giant pirate ship restaurant with waiters wearing eye patches and shouting “Shiver me timbers!” every 5 seconds. They are places where the salty sea breeze isn’t blocked by a 64 story condo and where there is seaweed on the beach because no one from the resort is clearing it away.

These are places that are quaint and authentic. They are quiet and slow. They are the peaceful, simple beach towns of your childhood.

Seagrove Beach is tucked in beside Seaside, FL, so close that you really can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Blink and you’ll miss it.

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We spent Memorial Day weekend in a cozy beach house hidden in the live oaks. It had a rustic screened porch and was filled with mismatched tables and chairs and lots of soft white quilts. The upstairs bedroom even had a clawfoot tub tucked into the corner.

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We arrived early enough on a Friday to grab some lunch at the Seagrove Market. When you walk inside, you might think you are just in a convenience mart, but if you keep walking, you’ll see that there is a little café tucked in the back. Nothing fancy, just a cash register and some old tables, but they serve up some of the finest seafood on the gulf and the prices are right.

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It was too early to check in so we did a little beach shopping and grabbed some cold drinks with a view when it simply got too hot to move.

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Matt loves him some raw oysters, and he knows he can find them at the Great Southern Café in Seaside every day from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. for $5 a dozen. They also have a half price bar during that time, so I was content to sip my refreshment while Matt sucked his down raw.

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Unfortunately, this bargain price caused him to consume 8 dozen on that first day, which I am pretty sure is not a good idea. Ever.

About an hour later, he agreed with me.

I held out for the Red Bar, where we headed for dinner even though Matt was 110% certain that he couldn’t eat another thing, maybe for the rest of the weekend. I almost felt sorry for him as I ate my delicious plate of pasta topped with fresh gulf shrimp and crawfish. Almost.

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The heat of the day and too much food had made us lethargic, so we turned in ridiculously early and called it a day.

Seagrove Beach is about ½ mile from Seaside. Apparently, it is just far enough to give you a beautifully uncrowded beach with the same gorgeous water and soft white sand that 900 people are fighting over just a short walk down the shore.

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Seagrove Beach was sparsely populated and we were able to enjoy the crystal clear waters in peace.

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We were shocked when we walked down the beach toward Seaside later in the day and saw that beach chairs were 3 rows deep and so close together that it was hard to find a break you could slip through to run up to grab a cold drink and cool off in front of the fan at Pickle’s.

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It was a perfect beach day, with clear blue skies and incredibly calm water. I felt like I did when I was a kid, when you’d beg to stay at the beach so long that by the time you left, you were limp from the sun, your fingers were pruned from the salty waves, your shoulders and nose were crispy, and you had sand in every imaginable place on your body, even some you couldn’t imagine. We stayed all day doing nothing but taking turns letting the sun warm our bodies and then letting the waves cool them again.

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By the time we packed it up and headed in, we were starving. We had made reservations at Caliza, one of the coolest beach restaurants I have ever been to.

We had discovered it on our last trip down and had to go back to see if it was as amazing as we remembered. It was.

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Set in the beautiful community of Alys Beach, Caliza is a poolside restaurant where the delicious food and cocktails are matched only by the spectacular setting.

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We arrived early to have cocktails on the roof. A good thing to know is that cocktails are half price from 5:30 – 6:30 and when cocktails are $12 a pop, half price is a good thing! The cocktails were unique and fabulous. I even loved my straw.

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When we were seated, we started dinner with an order of the fried green tomatoes and the heirloom tomatoes with grilled shrimp.

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I nearly fainted when the waiter told me the special was a surf and turf with a crabcake over creamy corn, a filet over sautéed asparagus, and a lobster tail over cheese grits. Just go ahead and put me down for 2.

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For dessert, there was a wonderful strawberry shortcake in a glass jar. I adore things that are served in cute containers. They could have served me dog poo in that cute little jar and I would have loved it.

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Fat and happy, we waddled our way back to Seagrove Beach.

The next morning, we rode our bikes over to the Sun Dog Bookstore and Central Square Records, two of the cutest stores to ever exist. It was there that I found the shiny, cherry red ukulele.

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My summer resolution: Learn to play the ukulele.

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Day two was a repeat of day one: more beautiful sun, more incredible blue skies, and more perfectly clear water. It was a beach day at its best.

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For lunch I was craving a hot dog and ice cream so we walked up the beach to Seaside and headed to the Airstreams. The closest thing to a food court in Seaside is a line of old Airstream trailers that have been converted into casual beachside eateries.

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We chose Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs for a giant hot dog loaded with relish, kraut, mustard and their super secret Devil Sauce. It was beach day perfection.

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Followed by an ice cream cone, I nearly passed out from happiness.

To cool off that afternoon, we headed back to the Red Bar for cocktails and live music.

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The Red Bar is a funky place. An eclectic collection of old signs, music and movie memorabilia, chandeliers and string lights, and bar stools covered in duct tape, it looks more like a flea market than a restaurant and bar.

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With a live band, $5 bloody marys and $3.50 mimosas, we stayed so long we had duct tape marks on our behinds.

Matt had worked himself back up in to another oyster frenzy, forgetting the oyster disaster of only 48 hours earlier, so we headed back to Great Southern Café for more. This time he kept it to a modest 4 dozen and didn’t leave wishing he was dead.

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I had the sautéed blue crab claws and I didn’t leave wishing I was dead either. Those were yummy.

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We decided to try a new place, mainly because it had a rooftop with a view of the water and was named after an airplane, which Matt was certain was a sign of its awesomeness. The rooftop at 83 Whiskey Bravo was indeed pretty fine.

As was the food.

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We topped off the night’s eat fest with a giant slab of caramel cake from the Modica Market.

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Devine.

We had to head out early the next morning, so we stopped at the Donut Hole for a bag to go.

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I could see below the Seneca’s wings that it was going to be another beautiful day on the beach, but we’d had our fun.

It was someone else’s turn.

Until next time…

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Posted by vicki_h 09:09 Archived in USA Tagged beach florida seaside gulf_coast 30_a south_walton seagrove Comments (5)

Sun, Sand, and Sea

A quick trip to Elbow Cay

Everyone has that “go to” destination. That place you have been so many times that it’s like a second home. That place where you can get around with your eyes closed and where a trip requires virtually no planning. It’s that place you go when you have a few days and decide to take off at the drop of a hat. Abaco is our “go to” place, and we headed down for a quick getaway in early November.

Day One: Travel Day

Knowing the weather in the Bahamas is not as warm as the Caribbean in the cooler months, we decided to stay on Elbow Cay where there are more “out of the water” activities than our usual haunt of Guana Cay.

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This gave us the chance to rent our own boat at Marsh Harbor rather than taking the ferry which was a really cool change of pace! We stopped at Seahorse boat rentals, tossed our luggage into our boat and were on our way. It was a pretty quick hop over to Tahiti Beach on the southern end of Elbow Cay and we were amazed at how much time we saved by not having to wait for the ferry.

We had toes in sand and drinks in hand by noon.

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Ahh....bliss.

We stayed at Barefoot Bay, an AMAZING house near Tahiti Beach. The first thing everyone wanted to do was grab a cold drink and run up to the Crow’s Nest deck and take in the amazing views.

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And people wonder why we keep coming down here.

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We had brought newbie friends, John and Kelley, with us and Barefoot Bay provided a perfect set up. Not only did it have amazing views of Tahiti Beach and Tilloo Cut, but the house was split into 3 separate buildings, offering tons of space and privacy. The main building housed a beautiful kitchen, dining, living space with a great sound system.

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Then, each of the other two buildings had a large master bedroom and two smaller bedrooms. This place can seriously sleep a lot of people.

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Not to mention the pool....

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Once we had all settled in, we took John & Kelley into Hopetown for lunch and to grab a few essentials.

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By “essentials,” you all know I mean one of Vernon’s key lime pies and several bottles of rum.

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Seriously, do you need anything else? You have all the food groups covered. Fruit & Veges: Limes. Dairy: all that darn creamy stuff in the pie. Meat: Hello....merengue. What do you think it’s made out of? Eggs. Duh. Grains: I think graham crackers can be considered a grain. And don’t forget the rum food group, because it deserves one all on it’s own.

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We were sad to find the Reef Bar at Hopetown Harbor Lodge closed for a wedding, but happy to find that Cap’n Jacks was open. Hello, jackhammer!

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When I saw coconut fried lobster with mac n’ cheese on the menu, I was all over it.

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We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and, after seeing the condition of the road to town post-hurricane, decided maybe we’d stick close to home for dinner that night!!

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Besides, I was dying to try out a new place, Firefly. Like any good southern girl, I love Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and couldn’t help but notice the bar highlighted the delicious South Carolina libation in their cocktails.

It was a beautiful restaurant with a nice outdoor deck and sparkly sign. I love sparkly.

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The menu was small and seemed to highlight unique, creative, and fresh items. I ordered up a firefly cocktail and a curry lobster salad with papaya. Both were fabulous and refreshing!

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Travel day over, we retired to Barefoot Bay and watched the stars come out to play.

Day Two: Nippers or BUST (literally)

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What we didn’t know when we decided to head down to Abaco was that it was going to be UNGODLY windy the entire time we were on Elbow Cay. I think the wind averaged 25 knots each day we were there.

It was Sunday and that always means one thing: NIPPERS BEACH BBQ. Staying on Elbow, that meant a 45 minute boat ride to get there. When I looked outside our window and saw that the swimming pool was whitecapping….I knew we had a problem.

Not realizing the wind was a permanent fixture on our vacation at this point, we decided to head down to Tahiti Beach for a while to “give the wind time to die down.” (I laugh on the inside as I type this….ah….hindsight…you devil, you).

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Tahiti Beach is one of my favorites. A long curve of sand down one side, fringed with beautiful palm trees, takes you to a small point, where the beach then curves in, forming a perfect crescent beach with shallow water that goes so far out, you can almost walk to the next island.

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We noticed the sandbar had moved/vanished/shifted, I guess due to the hurricanes of the summer, but the beach was still magically beautiful.

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When we returned to Barefoot Bay, totally planning to boat it over to Nippers, we found the house owner’s brother, a super great guy we had met the day before, hanging out to see if we were heading over. He was down with a group of guys on a “guys’ maintenance week” trip on their other house. I put this in quotes, because we all know what this means. This means, they spend 4 hours drinking beer and then change a lightbulb. Spend another 2 hours sipping frozen Nippers and then rehang a door. Right?

They were also planning to head over to Guana that day and thought there might be safety in numbers. I mean, 9 idiots on the water who have no business being there is certainly better than 4.

We loaded up and headed out.

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HOLY MOLY. That was one rough ride. I think I would have fared better trying to stay on a mechanical bull for 8 minutes than trying to endure that boat ride. It was like trying to ride a really slippery, wet bucking bronco with nothing to hold onto as someone pours a bucket of cold, salty water over your head every 3 minutes.

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Our level of dedication should tell you how good that Nippers mac n’ cheese is.

Kelley and I held on for dear life. I made the mistake of thinking it might be easier to ride in the front. We were coasting along and I thought, hey, this isn’t so bad. I’ve got this! Just then, we hit the first big wave, sending me about 3 feet up into the air, after which I crashed down on the hard fiberglass deck of the boat and am pretty sure lost about 3 inches on my spine. I’m pretty sure I am now significantly shorter than I used to be…and I think a chunk of my tailbone is somewhere up around my ears.

I quickly jumped onto the padded seat, squeezed my eyes closed, and held on for all it was worth.

Soaked and salty, we finally pulled up to that familiar dock in that familiar town on that familiar street where all roads lead to Nippers.

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When we got to Nippers, I looked out at the ocean. What I have come to know as a tranquil sea of blue green that stretches calmly into forever, was a raging ocean of foam and waves. I have never seen it like that. It was pretty wild. Since there would be no swimming, I guess that meant we just had to do more eating, drinking, and dancing.

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We had our frozen Nippers and BBQ and sat back to enjoy the show. It was a pretty quiet start to the Nippers BBQ….until this guy showed up.

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Frozen Nippers have the ability to make even the most stiff legged stuffed shirt get out and bust a move and before long, we were all at it.

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We shook it until the sun started to go down and suddenly realized…Holy Crap…were not staying on Guana….we still have a boat ride!!!!

The group high tailed it out of there, hoping we had just enough time to get back before the sun finally set.

I think we made it with about 2 minutes to spare. Maybe one.

We grabbed dinner at Sea Spray and I think I had a chicken in a bag, but there is no photographic evidence and my brain was a little Nippers fuzzed by then, so I really can’t tell you much more than that. Bon Appetit!

Day Three: We Ain’t Afraid of No Wind!

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We had planned to see some beaches by boat but the wind and waves were even worse than they had been the day before. Rather than push our luck, we decided to head into Hopetown for a while.

The Reef Bar was OPEN…but there was no Gary. :(

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We enjoyed a little time on the Hopetown Beach. This has to be one of the most beautiful beaches ever. I never get tired of seeing it.

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There’s nothing better than a burger on the beach, in my opinion, so I dove head first into a Reef Burger and washed it down with a rum punch.

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Inappropriately confident, due to our previous day’s boating success, we decided that the weather wasn’t going to keep us off the water. We were smart enough to stick close, however, and only headed for Tilloo and the Pelican Cays.

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It was a pretty quick trip and relatively painless, but when we got to what I think was North Pelican Cay, the water was so rough, none of us had the heart to get in. Well, except Matt, but I am pretty sure he regretted it.

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Instead, we just enjoyed some tunes and rocked along on the boat, watching the incredible colors of the water.

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When we got back to Elbow, we just walked over to Tahiti Beach where we spread out in the sand with beer and chips.

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It was late in the day, so we settled in to watch the sky go from blue to gold as the sun dripped down into a golden haze on the horizon.

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Sometimes it’s the simplest things that bring the greatest pleasure.

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We ate in, throwing together a platter with some cold cuts, cheeses, olives, smoked salmon, and baguettes.

And pie.

Within minutes there was a knock at the door.

Our new friends stopped by to let us know that there was Karaoke at Ray’s that night.

Ha. Me? Karaoke? Fat chance. I sing like a badly scratched record and no one EVER hears me sing. No not ever. Never.

Not gonna’ happen in this lifetime.

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Okay, so apparently, after enough adult beverages, pigs do fly and hell freezes over.

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Day Four: Searching for Treasure

We woke up to strong winds AGAIN and decided (wisely) that the boat was not an option. We had met a couple on the beach the night before that were sailing and they really talked up Treasure Cay. As soon as Kelley heard them say it was named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, she was there. She was going and she was not going to take no for an answer.

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We had nothing else to do, so we decided to take the ferry over, grab a taxi, and visit Treasure Cay. Uber planner that I am, doing something unplanned with no information left me a little unsettled…but hey….a ferry, a taxi, a great beach…what’s to worry about?

I’ll tell you what’s to worry about: A total of 2 hours to get there from Tahiti beach between golf cart rides to the ferry, ferry rides to Marsh Harbor, and taxi rides to Treasure Cay and a total of $25 per person for the ferry and $175 for a cab. Ouch!!

But…what’s done was done. By the time we realized how long it would take to get there and how much it would cost….we were already there.

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I can’t say I regretted it, though. We had nothing else to do and despite the windy seas, Treasure Cay was GORGEOUS.

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We set up camp at the Coco Beach Bar, a great beachfront place that let us use their thatched umbrellas and chairs as long as we were eating and drinking. For a while, we just took the lazy route and crashed in some chairs.

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When the smell of food got to us, we headed up to the bar for some fried grouper fingers and conch fritters.

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And an amazing Pina Colada that was reminiscent of a soft serve ice cream. Oh yummy.

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After lunch, we decided to walk the beach. I am so happy we did. If you stick to the area of beach behind the Coco Beach Bar, beautiful as it is, you will have seen only the least attractive part of Treasure Cay. Head down toward the water, turn right and walk as far as you can. Head toward the little cay you see offshore in the distance. You won’t be sorry.

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The first part of the beach just stretched out long and blindingly white, with crazy turquoise water lapping the shore.

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As you rounded a point, an entirely new and remarkable vista opened up.

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The water was super shallow and clear….stretching out to delicate sand bars that popped up just off the beach like tiny oases of white sand and bejeweled water.

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Beyond that was a small cay, shimmering just off shore like a mirage. No matter how far you walked, it never seemed to get any closer.

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There were beautiful shells, starfish, and sand dollars along the way to look at and enjoy. I found tons of these little guys along the beach. They are definitely too small to be sand dollars. I think these are sand pennies.

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As we splashed in the shallow waters and enjoyed the beautiful views, we all agreed that this alone made the entire trip worth every minute and every dollar. If you ever get a chance to go over to Treasure Cay for a day, you should do it.

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For our “last meal” we returned to Cap’n Jacks for more lobster. I know there is something about food always tasting better after a day on the beach, but I swear, Kelley and I both agreed this was our favorite grilled lobster EVER - perfectly grilled and juicy, with a squeeze of lime and dripping with melted butter.

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It seemed over before it had really begun. It was time to head home. As always, Abaco delivered beautiful vistas, the most perfect beaches and the most beautiful water, lots of frosty island cocktails and beach eats, and even some new friends.

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I watched the islands disappear from the plane window, a haze of blue and green below me, and I couldn’t help but wonder what next time would hold……

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For more photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157628127135090/

And if you want to check out Barefoot Bay:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157628122881444/

Posted by vicki_h 10:03 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island caribbean bahamas abaco Comments (2)

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