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Turkey & Pineapple: An island-style Thanksgiving Day 3

Getting Our St. John Groove Back

It was a fantastic morning high above Peter Bay. We watched rain clouds and rainbows rolling around below us.

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We had not been on St. John for over 5 years. Would it feel the same? Would we still love it? It was time to climb in the Jeep and go find out.

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First order of business was a driving tour.

We saw the crazy signs.

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We saw the donkeys.

And chickens.

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We saw the sweeping views along the East End.

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So far so good....but the real test was yet to come.

Would a Skinny Legs burger and a coconut swizzle still taste like heaven on earth or would we suddenly wonder why there were no frozen drinks or french fries and start complaining about the smell from the bathroom?

It was time to find out......

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Oh yeah......we were back, baby.

We had already wasted half a day and I was in need of a serious sun fix, so we headed to Maho for some beach time.

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Wanting to catch the sunset, we headed out for an early dinner to Waterfront Bistro. This was a new restaurant for us. Yes, it was there the last time we visited. We just didn't eat there.

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It didn't disappoint.

The night started off with a table by the water with a gorgeous view.

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Then came the delicious cocktails, a charcuterie and cheese plate, and local sugarcane skewers wrapped with shrimp sausage and a passion fruit chili dipping sauce.

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Next up was a stunning sunset.

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And then more cocktails....

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For dinner, I had the house made yukon gold potato gnocchi with smoked red bell pepper broth, sautéed leeks & greens, and fried parsnips accompanied by a dish of fried brussels sprouts with an herb citrus vinaigrette.

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The only thing left was to inhale an equally delicious dessert:

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The only thing that could possibly follow a meal like that was a food coma back at the house. I promised myself I would swim some laps in the pool or run up and down the crazy hill to Upper Peter Bay the next day.

But I knew I was lying.

Posted by vicki_h 05:56 Tagged tropical coral_bay stj st._john virgin_islands usvi cruz_bay Comments (1)

Turkey & Pineapple: An island-style Thanksgiving Day 2

Hail, Hail! The Gang's All Here!

It didn't feel quite right waking up on St. John knowing poor Matt was stuck in Charlotte and still had another hellish travel day ahead of him. He and Elaine would arrive on St. Thomas at 1:30 p.m. and take the passenger ferry over to St. John.

The views from Azul Peter Bay quickly made me forget anything except the simple fact that I WAS ON ST. JOHN.

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Who could be anything but blissfully happy while looking at that view?

Because we had arrived in the dark, I took some time to walk around and check out our new digs. We were staying in a villa in upper Peter Bay and it was simply beautiful.

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And sure, the upstairs master was beautiful and had a balcony with sweeping views.....

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But the downstairs master was twice as big and had a shower built for two!

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I hadn't been to St. John in years. I wasn't even sure what was still open, what had closed, or what was new. I had done some research, but places without a web presence were hard to find information about.

Like Miss Lucy's.

My MIL and I LOVED Miss Lucy's Sunday jazz brunch, but was it still there? I guess we could have called first, but we had time to kill and both of us wanted to make the drive over to Coral Bay anyway.

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We piled up in our Jeep and made the drive along the North Shore Road toward Francis Bay. The views were spectacular. Nothing changes here. It was beautiful yesterday, it is beautiful today, and it will be beautiful tomorrow.

It's nice to know there are certain things in life you can count on.

St. John being beautiful is one of them.

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When we arrived at Miss Lucy's about 30 minutes later.....there was a chain across the driveway.

DENIED.

Oh dear. I was getting hungry. And we were in Coral Bay. We drove to the other restaurants and nothing appeared to be open at 10:00 am on a Sunday.

Oh dear. We all know what happens when Vicki gets hungry.

I remembered reading that Chateau Bordeaux had reopened some time back as a new casual restaurant. Located about halfway between Coral Bay and Cruz Bay, this might keep us from having to drive all the way into Cruz Bay to eat.

Of course it was closed.

DENIED.

There was nothing left to do but drive into Cruz Bay.

We had now driven the entire circumference of the island and I was starving. We parked at Wharfside Village. It may simply be because I had been away for so many years, but everything seemed brighter, bolder, and more beautifull, just bursting with island color.

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We headed for High Tide. I have never been a huge fan of the food, but you can't beat the location.

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We watched the boats rocking lazily in Cruz Bay harbor as we ordered up some food: coconut shrimp for the MIL and a deliciously cheesy Brie-L-T for me. Apparently, I also did my very best to match my cocktail to my dress.

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We had a couple of hours to kill before Matt and Elaine would arrive on the ferry so I headed to the closest beach: Hawksnest.

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It's also one of the few beaches with a very short walk between the sand and the parking area. Given that I had to carry all the chairs and bags like a broken down pack mule, this didn't make the beach decision too tough.

I got the MIL settled and sat down to enjoy the glorious St. John sunshine.

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It was past 2:30 p.m. Matt and Elaine had landed and I expected them to be getting close, so we packed up and headed back into town to wait for them. I wanted to be waiting with drinks in hand when they finally got off the ferry.

I have never been so happy to see anyone! Poor Matt and Elaine walked off the ferry, sweaty, bedraggled, and still wearing their travel clothes from yesterday. But they were here! We celebrated at the Beach Bar.

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We took Matt and Elaine to Azul Peter Bay for some down time. They needed it!

After showers and naps, they were finally ready to get their vacation started. We cleaned up for dinner and headed to the Fatty Crab.

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When I made the reservation, I did not realize it was tapas style dining....which I LOVE....but which the rest of my party HATED. No matter. We ordered a papaya salad and spicy potatoes for the table to share and then everyone ordered their own tapas dish as their entree. It all worked out.

Except that all the food came out in random order!

Nonetheless....it was delicious. And fun. Kind of a "tag, you're it!" version of eating.

"Oh! It's Elaine's turn!"

"Now it's Matt's turn!"

"Here's Vicki's dinner!"

"Who ordered THAT?"

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After dinner, we decided to grab a cocktail at a bar that was new since our last visit: Motu Bar. It had an excellent waterfront location and an even more excellent pumpkin bushwhacker!

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You can't really stay out and party when your travel companions are almost 80, so we called it a night and headed back to Azul Peter Bay.

Posted by vicki_h 05:51 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged tropical coral_bay stj st._john virgin_islands usvi cruz_bay Comments (0)

Turkey & Pineapple: An island-style Thanksgiving Day 1

Travel Day: Hurry Up and Wait.

When I tell my girlffriend that Matt and I will be spending Thanksgiving in the Virgin Islands, she sighs with envy..."How Romantic...."

Then I add that my 76 year old mother-in-law and her friend will be coming with us. To which she says: “Are you insane?”

To be fair, I’m famously lucky to have a mother-in-law who is funny and adventurous, who loves most of the same things I love, and who I truly enjoy spending time with.

She is not mean. She does not talk about other women my husband used to date that she thought would be better mates for him. She does not rearrange my kitchen. As far as mother in laws go, she's pretty much tops.

Still, no matter how lovely your mother-in-law is, a family trip – especially one of the multi-generational variety that includes someone who recently had hip replacement surgery – is bound to be fraught with potential problems. Throw in a remote island location that is not exactly known for being ADA accessible, and you're simply asking for it.

Nevertheless, we had promised this trip as a bright spot on the horizon when she was valiantly struggling through rehab after her hip replacement, and we wanted it to be amazing.

I was determined to make this trip everything it should be....a romantic island vacation for me and Matt, a wonderful tropical retreat for my sweet mother-in-law and her good friend, Elaine, and a smashing Thanksgiving all rolled into one.

Who says you can't have it all?

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I started to get nervous when it was an hour after our departure time and our plane still hadn't arrived. Mechanical issues, they said. Getting another plane, they said.

When a plane finally arrived, I thought we were saved. We had a pretty long layover in Charlotte, and we still had just enough time to make it.

That was, until the replacement plane also had mechanical issues and we sat on the runway for 45 minutes.

There was now no way to make our connection. We landed in Charlotte 10 minutes AFTER our flight to St. Thomas left. I wanted to cry.

It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. They say the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is the worst travel day of the year. THEY are liars. All the other flights were sold out. On every airline. Until the following day.

"We'll get you a room at a hotel," they said. Matt and I looked at each other in our thin shirts and flip flops. We didn't even have socks for goodness sakes, much less coats. How were we supposed to survive a night in 28 degree Charlotte? We also had 2 elderly women with mobility issues in tow.

We would also lose our rental car reservation on St. Thomas and they were sold out for the week. We wouldn't likely get a car the next day.

This was not awesome.

"Well, there is one final flight today and we can put you on standby," they said.

What were the chances that 4 people wouldn't show up for this flight? The odds of getting 4 seats on that plane were impossible. One? Possibly. Two? Maybe. What would we do if we only got a seat or two? Both of our travel companions needed help getting on the plane and carrying their luggage. I was suddenly regretting my decision to insist everyone do carry on only.

I sat nervously biting my nails as the plane boarded. Happy passengers on their way to paradise smiled and practically danced onto the plane as we sat dismally on the sidelines....hoping....waiting.....

The flight was completely boarded and I was trying to figure out where I could buy a pair of socks in the airport when the gate attendant called our name over the loudspeaker.

SEATS!!!!

But how many?????

Matt and I ran up to the gate.

"We have two seats," she said.

We looked at each other miserably.

"You take Mom and go," Matt said. "You love St. John more than I do. I'll stay here with Elaine and we'll meet you there tomorrow."

Wonderful sweet man.

I was so excited about getting on the flight that I didn't really think through the logistics of helping my MIL through the travel process......

She has difficulty walking and certainly can't carry anything. I sent her onto the plane with her purse as I wrestled with two overstuffed rolling carryon suitcases and my ridiculous beach tote that was literally overflowing with 13 pounds of camera equipment, a zip-loc bag so filled with toiletries that the seam had split, bags of snacks, my wallet, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, 4 magazines, my iPod, iPad, and iPhone along with all the necessary charging equipment, a GoPro, and a chapstick.

God help me.

Why do I always overpack? I cursed myself.

I don't want to sound like a helpless female, but I suddenly realized how wonderful it is to have a man that you can simply shove your bag at and say, "Get that."

I awkwardly pulled the two suitcases down the jetway behind me as my giant tote kept slipping off my shoulder. I had no idea what I was going to do when I actually got to the plane, with its narrow little aisles.

My seat was in row 8. Not too far. This should be okay. I pushed one bag in front of me and pathetically pulled the other one behind me as I walked sideways down the aisle. I could do this.

My confidence was short lived. Because the plane was fully boarded when I got on, that meant that there was ABSOLUTELY NO OVERHEAD SPACE LEFT ANYWHERE. The bins were 100% packed. People had put EVERYTHING in there. Their personal items. Their suitcases. Their shoes. Their jackets. Pillows. Boxes of crackers. I think I saw a crate full of chickens.

It also meant that everyone on the plane didn't realize I was a standby passenger and simply thought I was late. And that I had an excess of luggage. They hated me. I could see it in their eyes. It didn't help that I hit everyone in the head with my tote as I walked by.

Hundreds of eyes glared at me.

I tried finding a flight attendant, but they refused to make eye contact lest they be forced to actually help me.

I was on my own in a sea of angry passengers.

I opened every bin. Nothing. I started to sweat. My breath was coming in shallow little gasps. I'm pretty sure I had a torn rotator cuff.

When I reached row 24, I found some space. Unfortunately, it was on the inside of the plane. You know, the side that won't possibly accommodate a rolling bag but is just big enough for a small purse? Just as I was about to give it up and ask them to check my bags, a man grabbed his backpack out of the side I needed and started rooting around in it for something.

"Excuse me?" I said, "Do you mind moving that to this space on the inside bin so that my rolling bag will fit?"

He glared angrily at me, but then put his backpack on the other side.

I was elated until I figured out that I had to lift a suitcase that weighed over 1/3 of my body weight over my head. Have you seen my arms???? Somehow, I managed to shove it up there without taking off anyone's head, but I still had one more suitcase. This was hopeless. I looked over as my MIL sat happily in her seat, munching on Cracker Jacks. I whimpered.

A few more rows down, I found a space, jammed her suitcase in it, and dashed back up to the safety of my seat.

I was hot. I was sweating. My back hurt. This sucked.

I spent the 3 hour flight to St. Thomas wondering how I was going to get back to Row 20-something and retrieve 2 suitcases when everyone was jammed in the aisles trying to go in the opposite direction.

And there was still the matter of the rental car. We were late. We were very late. I had emailed Budget to let them know, but we all know that rental car agencies at Caribbean airports aren't always known for their customer service. Did they even check email anyway??

I hoped my Jeep would still be there when we arrived, but I needed to get off that plane fast. Before 200 other passengers got off and filled up that line and got my Jeep.

When the plane landed, it was every man for himself. I pushed and shoved my way through bodies to get the two suitcases, leaving my tote in my seat. I then pushed and shoved my way back up through those bodies to get back to my seat. People scowled. Some cursed. At least one forked the sign of the evil eye at me. Somehow, I managed to get back to my seat with all the luggage before the door opened.

Hallelujah!!!!!!

My elation was cut short when I remembered that there is no jetway in St. Thomas. You have to go down a rickety, wobbling, extremely steep and ridiculously narrow set of stairs to deplane onto the runway.

I had to do this with two 35 lb suitcases and a giant tote bag.

Why did I wear a maxi skirt???? With an elastic waist no less. Oh dear sweet Jesus. I just knew I would step on the hem of my long skirt as I deplaned and pull it right off. That would likely happen just before I crumpled under the weight of the bags and tumbled down the stairs, where I would land on the runway in my underwear.

I almost wished I was back in Charlotte, trying to figure out how to get my flip flops over my socks so that I could go to dinner.

Forget the whole "I immediately loved the rush of warm air and smell of the sea and looked forward to my free rum punch as I got off the plane" bullshit......I grunted and groaned my way down the stairs, legs shaking, unable to hold the handrail every time the stairs wobbled, and somehow got off without pulling off my skirt. I bolted to the Budget counter.

My Jeep was still there. Thank you, God, for small favors.

I again realized how much I take Matt for granted as I tugged the luggage across the median, up the steps, and through the parking lot to the rental car. Even more when I remembered I still had to drive us across the island on the narrow, winding roads, on the wrong side of the road, and then had to back the Jeep onto the car ferry in the dark.

I had a moment of panic when I pulled up to the gate at the airport where I was supposed to hand the gate agent my ticket to depart. I couldn't find the window button. My MIL and I both started looking everywhere.

HOW DO I ROLL DOWN THE WINDOW???????

WHERE IS THE %&$#@@@@**&$ WINDOW BUTTON????????

This was simply more than I could take. I was moments away from having a full blown nervous breakdown when the sweet gate agent walked around and showed me the window button.

Now, who the hell thought putting the button in the middle of the console was a good idea? That's just dumb.

We managed to get out of the airport and I even found my way across the island to Red Hook without getting lost.

Now came the fun part. Our Jeep was crammed in with 50 other Jeeps on a ferry dock in the dark. It was now time to back the Jeep onto the ferry, about 6 inches from the Jeep next to me. I wanted to vomit.

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Miraculously, we made it onto the ferry without me crying, cussing, or hitting another car.

I was exhausted.

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But we weren't done yet.

We had to get to St. John, get our groceries, and get to our villa before travel day would be done.

When we drove off the ferry, our villa agent was waiting for us. I have never been so happy to see another human being. She would lead us to the villa.

I was super happy that I had decided to pay the small extra fee to pre-order my groceries online. They were packed in boxes and waiting at Starfish Market. All I had to do was pick them up.

Then it was on to Azul Peter Bay! Woo Hoo! We were almost there.

I did my happy dance a moment too soon.

As the villa agent pulled away, it started raining. No, not raining....POURING.

It was in this downpour that I had to unload all our luggage along with 6 heavy boxes of groceries, 2 gallons of water, and 2 cases of soda.

The cherry on top? I had no choice but to give my MIL the beautiful upstairs master bedroom with a giant walk out balcony because I didn't want her going down the stairs to the downstairs bedroom.

I was sleeping in the basement.

No worries. I WAS FINALLY HERE! I took a deep breath and let the stress of the day wash away as listened to the sweet sounds of tree frogs coming in on the breeze.

It was late, and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We were so worried at the airport that we didn't even think to stop and grab a bite of lunch while we waited.

It was dark and drizzly, but that didn't stop me from driving down to Morgan's Mango for a bite.

It's amazing what a tall frozen drink, an order of mahi tacos, and a giant slab of key lime pie can do.

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All was right with the world.

We were on St. John and the week was just beginning.

Posted by vicki_h 09:41 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged tropical coral_bay stj st._john virgin_islands usvi cruz_bay Comments (3)

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)

Rum Days Are Better Than Others: Part II

A second sailing adventure in the Virgin Islands

Day Six: March of the Penguins

We woke to the most beautiful sunrise I think I have ever witnessed. The sun lit the sky in brilliant reds and oranges and then, as quickly as it came, it was gone. Why is it that the most magnificent things are so very brief?

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Maybe if they lasted too long, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much.

The fiery sunrise faded to a cool blue and the cloud cover gave the morning an eerie quality. The water seemed to stretch to infinity and a pale, pastel strip glowed dimly on the horizon, boats suspended in the haze.

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I watched the changing sunrise until the sun rose to a brilliant orb and brought with it a blue sky filled with white clouds. After BLT bagels and a cup of Vicki Coffee, we were ready to hit the beach.

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First stop was Pomato Point. It had been teasing us from the boat, a long slender finger of white sand dotted with slender pines that pointed out into a shock of light turquoise water that grew darker as it deepened.

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The point was something to see. It was as if the water didn’t know which way to go. The waves were wild and tumultuous coming at the point from different directions. When they would meet, they would run across each other, twisting and turning, not knowing where they came from or where they should be going.

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We walked the beach for a while and then loaded back into the “car” for a teeth rattling ride to Cow Wreck Beach. I knew I was in for something special just by looking at the sign.

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Cow Wreck Beach was the very definition of “laid back.” A beach bar, a few scattered tables, and a beautiful stretch of sand were the only things in sight. We spread out and commenced to doing nothing but nothing.

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The bartender had to run and errand so she pointed at a spiral notebook and told us to just get what we wanted while she was gone and write it down.

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This would be when Vicki anointed herself Head Bartender Extraordinaire of Cow Wreck Beach and where I made up Vicki’s Rum Punch which was about 9/10 Rum and 1/10 Punch.

I want to be a beach bartender when I grow up.

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When our drink to food ratio started to get way out of proportion, we ordered up Paradise Burgers and Lobster Fritters. There aren't many things, in my opinion, better than a hamburger on the beach. Particularly a Caribbean beach, washed down by a sweet rum punch. The soft warm bun, the juicy grilled burger, some tangy mustard and a side of crispy fries....it really is paradise, isn't it?

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That’s when we saw a group of guys walk up, hands full of panty hose and coconuts. Intrigued, we had to watch. The proceeded to put coconuts in the toes of their panty hose, tie them around their waists and then used them to “whack” another coconut. I am not sure what they were knocking down…beer bottles maybe? Whatever they were hitting, they got our vote for most creative use of coconuts and panty hose.

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After lunch, Keith and Syd headed back to the boat and Matt and I decided to head over to Loblolly and the Big Bamboo. I was also in search of the flamingos of Anegada, which I kept calling pelicans due to my 9 to 1 rum to punch ratio and somehow, as the day progressed, that turned into “penguins.” So, yes, I spent the afternoon looking for the elusive “penguins” of Anegada.

It’s no wonder I never found them. Every time I asked someone where to find the penguins, they just tried not to make eye contact.

On the way to Loblolly, we drove past the Settlement. Not much in the way of "civilization" here, but there were plenty of neat old abandoned (or not so abandoned, but maybe should have been....) homes, still beautiful in a quiet and diminished way.

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At the Big Bamboo, we enjoyed the drinks, I swapped my already read book for another at their book swap cabinet, and we stretched out in the sun.

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As the afternoon grew late, I decided we had to give those penguins one last run for their money. I was going to find me some penguins.

Pretty much the entire interior of Anegada is a series of salt ponds, and the elusive flamingos hide in the cover of the mangroves. We must have driven down every stinking road leading to the interior and never saw the first flash of pink.

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Damn penguins.

Finally, on our last attempt, Matt spotted them. Bright pink bodies were dotted on the far side of the salt pond we were standing at. I could see them! They were so big and so bright, it was like they were just so close. There was no way to drive to the other side…so we tried walking across.

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Okay, in our defense, it looked shallow. And it was…to a point.

With every squishy step, I had visions of mysterious mud crabs pinching my toes or imagined great holes of salt pond quick sand swallowing me whole. I reme]mbered the stories my grandmother would tell me of worms that would burrow into the soles of my feet if I didn’t wear my shoes outside and I was certain that if such a worm existed, it would exist in this very salt pond and I was probably already infected. I held my camera high over my head….like somehow that would save it when I fell face first into a pool of mud. I wanted to turn around, but then a flash of pink would taunt me…beckon me onward.

They were like a mirage, the more steps we took toward them, the farther away they appeared. We had to keep going…really….just a few more feet and I’d get that National Geographic photo that was dancing in my head…..

That’s when Matt took a step and sank to his knees in muck and we had to admit defeat.

To console myself, I decided that they don’t really exist. They are fake plastic flamingos, like the ones you see in front of a double wide in Panama City and they were just put out there to lure dumb tourists who wanted that perfect photo. Like me.

Damn penguins. I mean flamingos. Whatever.

When our Anegada land adventure was over, Keith picked us up, we turned in our car, now with salt pond mud added to it’s mélange of island ooze, and took us back to the boat where we watched a perfect sunset and grilled up chicken for a quiet dinner on the boat.

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Day Seven: The Porpoise of Life

For the second day in a row, the sunrise on Anegada was a thing of majesty. I sat mesmerized by its changing colors as it blasted its way into the sky.

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I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and went inside. It’s about this point in a sailing trip that the boat sort of smells like feet no matter how many dryer sheets you brought or how much Febreeze you spray and everything feels slightly damp. It’s when the lettuce freezes and the bread goes moldy if you don’t have it stowed inside the microwave. It’s when everything seems to have a fine layer of salt or sand…or both and where you look forward to that 5 minutes a day just after your shower, because it’s the only time you feel clean. It’s when the rock and the pitch are so second nature to your body that you sway slightly when on land because the sea has embedded itself in your very soul and calls to you, rocking you lightly on the breeze. I was truly on boat time now.

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I swayed back and forth and raked my fingers through my salty hair as I made the coffee. None of us had slept well because of the rolling the night before. The morning was WINDY. Too windy. But we had to head out. We had a long way to go and were hoping to make it to Jost Van Dyke by lunch. As we headed away from Anegada, a trio of dolphins swam up beside the boat. The frolicked in the waves, going from the front of the boat to the back and then to the front again, jumping in the air and swimming under the bow, for about 15 minutes. And then like a magnificent Anegada sunrise, they were gone as quickly as they had appeared.

That’s the magic of sailing, my friends. That’s the magic.

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The day’s sail was a long one and I seized the opportunity to nap while we travelled, trying to make up for the two rolling nights that had kept me awake. So, for me, it seemed like only an instant and we were pulling up to Great Harbor and I could see the palm trees of Foxy’s swaying in the wind.

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We decided to have lunch on the boat before heading to the island and I am certain that lunch included cheese.

Before I knew it, I was making my way down the wooden dock in front of Foxy’s. Fishermen in small wooden boats were cleaning their catch and dogs roamed the sandy beach. Someone was asleep in the hammock beside the dock, one lazy leg dangling over the edge, dragging in the sand. The man himself was in and I could hear him telling jokes to the tourists as they stopped to get a famous “thumbs up” photo of their very own.

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We did a little shopping and then went to find a cab. If you arrive by ferry, cabs are plentiful on Jost, as they typically wait by the ferry dock and know when the ferry arrives. If you arrive at any other time or place, good luck finding a cab when you need it. We wandered down the sandy main street and saw an empty cab parked outside one of the small open-air bars. The cab driver was inside and he agreed to take us over to White Bay.

Only on Jost Van Dyke do you drag your taxi driver out of the bar and only on Jost Van Dyke does he bring his open beer with him and another one to drink on the way.

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We parked ourselves in some chairs at Gertrude’s and the afternoon was spent with Soggy Dollar Painkillers and One Love Bushwackers, with dreamy hammocks and rustling palms overhead, and with a front row seat to all the boat disasters and drunken mayhem that only White Bay can offer. There is not a more enjoyable way to spend a sunny afternoon thank watching two people who have spent all afternoon drinking Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar try to get into a kayak in a rough sea.

As the afternoon grew late, we had the bar call us a taxi. When the taxi arrived, two guys came running over from the bar with drinks in their hands and asked if they could share, knowing that it can take a while to get a taxi if you are anywhere other than the ferry dock. We didn’t mind, but the driver said they had to finish their drinks. The drinks were full so they told us to go on. Not being in any hurry, we told them to take their time and we’d wait.

When they finally got in the taxi, Syd looked at them and said, “Were you two on Anegada yesterday and did you bring panty hose and coconuts to Cow Wreck Beach?”

We laughed about it all the way to Great Harbor, where they were getting out. We were going all the way to Little Harbor, so we said “Goodbye” and continued on our way. When the cab driver dropped us off at Sydney’s, we knew we had about a $30 fare. When we asked him how much, he said, “Those guys paid your fare.”

So…to the guys with the giant coconuts, Here’s to you! And your big coconuts!

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We wandered over to Sydney’s to look at t-shirts and pre-order for dinner. We needed to pre-order dinner and when Janet asked me what I wanted I told her I wanted the biggest lobster she had.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Vicki.”

“I promise you the biggest lobster we have, Vicki.”

We cleaned up on the boat and returned to Sydney’s that night for dinner. I love the “pour your own” bar. I designed myself Head Bartender Extraordinaire of Sydney’s Peace & Love .......because I now had bar experience.

I mixed up some bushwackers and we waited for our lobster.

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When my food arrived, the waiter asked, “Which one is Vicki?” I kid you not, that lobster looked like a sea monster, it was so big. It was delicious and came with Sydney’s amazing sides: peas n’ rice, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and the best potato salad on the planet.

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The night came to a close with a slice of key lime pie and the sound of tree frogs singing from the distant hills.

Day Eight: Time For Cruz’in

It was our last full day on the boat, so we headed back over to St. John. Keith and Syd were headed back to St. Thomas the next day and Matt and I were returning to Jost for the weekend, so St. John was a good halfway spot.

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It was a short trip and we were soon making our way to Caneel Bay. We found a mooring near Salomon Beach and took the dingy into Cruz Bay.

No matter where else I go, there is no feeling like the one I get as I grow closer and closer to Cruz Bay. When I see the familiar buildings dotting the landscape, see the same boats moored in the Bay, and see that ferry dock with the tangerine colored building with the big wooden shutters, my heart grows light. This place holds a special magic for me that no other shares. When I arrive, I don’t feel like a mere visitor, I feel like I am home.

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As we went back through customs, they asked if we had any meat on board. We all immediately thought of the pack of ground beef we had thawing out for burgers that night and simultaneously answered, “Nope.” With our illegal international hamburger safe, we headed to St. John Spice.

The smell of that store hits me before I even reach the sidewalk. It’s a smell I have grown to love over many trips to this island and many trips to this, my very favorite store. We were lucky enough to find Ruth and Ron in and we visited and shopped before heading to the Beach Bar for some lunch.

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A tuna down now and lime n’ coconut later, we headed back to the boat.

From the boat, Salomon Beach was beckoning me, bright and cheering, it’s palm trees waving like old friends saying, “Come on over. The water is just fine.”

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Matt and I took the dingy over to spend the afternoon on the beach. It was wonderful being able to lounge on beautiful Salomon without having made the long walk down the hillside to get there. We drifted in the crystal clear water and lay in the warm sand.

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That’s when we saw a Coast Guard boat pull up to Who Cares. OH NO! Someone told them about our illegal international hamburger! It was a Burger Raid! Turns out they were just doing a routine check, but I thought a Burger Raid would have been so much cooler.

Back at the boat, we grabbed some “back of the boat” showers and headed to Francis Bay for the evening. We spent a relaxing final night on the boat, with bacon cheese burgers and grilled lobster cheese sandwiches for dinner. Emphasis on the cheese.

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It was our last night on the boat, and I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. That wasn’t meant to be.

Just as we were turning in, my stomach started ..well….turning in. You know the feeling I mean. This is not a feeling you want to get on a boat. Not when you have walls as thin as paper, a toilet the size of a Dixie cup that flushes through 900 feet of tubing before exiting the boat, and you have to put any used TP in a ziploc.

Oh no. This was not good at all. I was certain it was the curse of the illegal international hamburger.

Matt was laughing at my distress as he rolled over to go to sleep.

It hit Matt about 3 hours later.

It was a very long night.

There was one moment of panic, around 3:00 a.m. when I became certain that I had completely overwhelmed the boat’s very delicate plumbing system. I felt prickly with anxiety. I didn’t want to be “that person.” You know the one. The one everyone would always remember as the one that overflowed the boat at 3:00 in the morning on the final night. That’s a sure way not to get invited next time.

I jiggled the little flusher button. Nothing. Maybe it’s like the shower, I thought, which you have to run for a minute, then turn off and drain for a minute, then run for a minute, stop, and drain for a minute. So I’d pump, and wait. Pump. Wait. Eventually, I was in the clear.

I wiped the sweat from my brow and finally drifted into a brief, fitfull sleep around 3 a.m., filled with visions of waking to a “cloud” surround the boat in the morning when we woke. I made a mental note to suggest an early departure in the morning.

Like, before sunrise.

Hey, ship happens.

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Day Nine: A Sunny Place for Shady People

Hollow. Depleted. Empty. Exhausted. That’s how I felt when I woke up, but I was happy to be alive.

The boat was due back on St. Thomas by noon, but Matt and I hopped off in Cruz Bay and Sydney and Keith went on their way without us. They were flying home that afternoon, but Matt and I had extended our departure to early Monday morning because it saved a significant amount on airfare.

We had decided to grab the ferry back to Jost and stay until Sunday afternoon. Keith dropped us off at the dingy dock near the Jost ferry and we hugged goodbye and wished them a safe trip home. Because no one was at the ticket office, we ran over to Deli Grotto for some breakfast.

I grabbed a Snickers cappuccino and a bagel with bacon, egg and cheese and one of their amazing crack bars and we sat to wait for the ferry. On our other trips to Jost, the ferry always took us directly to Jost where we cleared through customs. This time we went to Tortola first, cleared customs, then went to Jost. It took a little longer, but wasn’t really a big deal. Just different.

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It was early morning when we arrived and we grabbed a taxi straight to the Sandcastle. Our room wasn’t ready, but they took our luggage, gave us towels, and sent us to the beach.

Today was all about power lounging, Soggy Dollar style.

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We grabbed a couple of chairs and spent the morning swimming, reading, and listening to beach tunes. We had frozen mango daiquiris from Gertrude’s and bloody, bloody good bloody marys from Mic at the Soggy Dollar.

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Lunch was at Seddy’s One Love where we found an amazing lobster salad sandwich and an equally good lobster quesadilla. Reuben was playing and there were some girls at the bar dancing and having a good time to his music. With my toes buried in the sand and the sounds of Rueben’s guitar playing, the waves crashing outside and the palms tall overhead, a cold drink in my hand and Matt’s smiling at me across the table, it was a perfect moment in a perfect place at a perfect time.

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It’s the moments like these that I close my eyes and conjure up when a thick gray February sky is bearing down on me and my desk seems piled with an impossible load.

Life seems like magic on White Bay, doesn’t it?

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After lunch, we waved “goodbye” to the girls and I stopped at Jewels to try her self proclaimed famous rum punch. I don't know about a "touch of class" but it sure had a touch of something and from the way I felt, it was probably something that should be considered a controlled substance. It was DELICIOUS, but deadly. I definitely reached my limit and we left the heat of the afternoon to retire to our cool, clean, air conditioned room. I grabbed a quick shower and slipped between the cool white sheets, smelling of coconut and took a decadent nap, the kind you can only take on vacation.

We woke up sun soaked and rested and decided to walk down to Ivan’s. The Soggy Dollar was hopping and we knew Ivan’s would deliver a little peace and quiet. We followed the goat path up and over and around until we saw the ramshackle outpost of shells and hammocks that is Ivan’s Stress Free. We kicked back Ivan-Style until the sun started to set.

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We wanted to eat at the Sandcastle that night, but they had 3 dinner choices and not one of them appealed to either of us. Plan B was to hit Foxy’s Barbeque, something we had never done before. So, we grabbed a cab and headed back over to Great Harbor. The meal was at 7:00 p.m. You were given a ticket and were told that when they called “time to eat” you could go up and get as much as you wanted on your plate, but that you only got one trip.

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While we waited, I ordered a Sleezy Breeze and we enjoyed the mix of locals and boat traffic coming in, drawn by the wonderful smell of smoked ribs floating on the night air. When the food was ready, I didn’t have to be told twice to get in line. They actually gave us two plates. One for “salad” which was piled high with a green salad with the most amazing dressing, pasta salad, fruits, cheeses and bread. Then, they heaped a larger plate with ribs, BBQ chicken, stewed fish and sides. It was delicious and it was more than I could eat. Which is saying a lot.

That night, I had my first night’s sleep in a “real” bed. Westin might have a right to the name, but I can promise you that after sharing a small boat bed with a 4 inch thick mattress with a 6’1” man for a week, the bed at the Sandcastle was a Heavenly Bed.

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Day Ten: Seas the Day

It was our last day and we were going to make the most of it. We decided to spend the day on White Bay, perfecting the art of doing nothing, and catch the last ferry at 3:00 p.m. back to St. Thomas.

Early mornings on White Bay are amazing. There is no one around and everything is still and quiet. There aren’t any stirrers half buried in the sand yet, and no one is having a “battle of the boat speakers” competition yet.

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I grabbed a cup of coffee from the kitchen and sat out in front of the Soggy Dollar. I told Matt to let me see his iPhone for a minute and I showed him us on the webcam. Ta Da!

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We set ourselves up with some chairs under a palm tree and we sat and watched the Sunday boat parade roll into White Bay to the tunes of Bob Marley and to the taste of Mic’s bloody, bloody good bloody mary. The day seemed perfect, the way a last vacation day always is, making it so much harder to leave. I tried to memorize the way the green of the palm tree above me looked against the sky and the sound of the waves as they slapped the sand. I wanted to burn it into my memory so that I could carry it home with me, like a token in my pocket that I could hold onto on cold February days when my door locks are frozen and my teeth are chattering from the cold.

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We decided to grab some lunch at the Soggy Dollar. The chicken roti had my name on it and Matt got a cheeseburger. We chatted happily with Mic for a bit and bought the girls from Seddy’s a round of drinks because they had told us we were a hot couple. At our age, it doesn’t take much.

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We returned to our chairs in paradise and drifted on the sounds of the boat music until the party boats arrived.

When the boob shaped beer bong comes out, it’s time to go.

We packed up and said our goodbyes and grabbed a taxi to the ferry dock.

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We were on the 3:00 ferry back to STT. In Red Hook, we grabbed a cab, made a stop at CYOA to grab our extra luggage (which Jay had been kind enough to hold for us so we didn’t have to lug it to Jost) and headed to our hotel near the STT airport.

We stayed at the hotel and had a light dinner at their beach bar, watching one final sunset. As the sun settled into the ocean, I could feel my warm skin, like the sun was hidden inside, glowing from the inside out, floating just beneath the surface.

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Day Eleven: Snow Day

We were on a 9:00 a.m. flight home. When we boarded, the 80 degree breeze barely cooled the sweat on my brow. When we landed, the ground was covered in snow.

I thought of the past week and the wonderful places I had been. A place where boats rise in the gray of the morning, like ghosts, pale and white against the soft sea and the soft sky…the water the color of an oyster, a pearl, nothing more than a mist. A place where the sun melts into liquid and where it seems there is nothing between you and that setting sun but a sea of gold. A place where you can’t tell where the sea ends and the sky begins and your eyes aren’t sure if you see a cloud or a mountain or the tip of a wave as it all drifts into one. A place where the morning sun arrives in burning red, setting the sky and the water aflame with crimson and purple. A place where your heart begins to beat in time to the rhythm of the ocean and your veins move to the ebb and flow of the tide as your body sways to the invisible pull of the sea that now pulses through your veins. A place where the blue of the sky and the turquoise of the water are dotted with brilliant green, like gems in a satin pool of aquamarine.

As I walked off the plane, I shook the last little bit of sand from my pockets and hugged my jacket to me, smelling of coconuts and sunshine, feeling warm despite the chill of the winter air around me, and I smiled.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:26 Tagged beach caribbean st._john virgin_islands jost_van_dyke anegada Comments (3)

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