Once Upon a Winter Dreary…

By Februrary, many of us have been in the clutches of Winter for 4-5 months. The days have been short, gray and cold. We can’t help but long for warmer days, soft breezes, and sun… enough to lift our spirits, however briefly, and remind us that summer, glorious summer, is on the way. But what to do, when longing for a warm summer’s day doesn’t actually produce one?? Simple. Go to the Virgin Islands for two weeks and sail around the islands… that’s what we did!

Here’s a promotional video I did for Brent & Jill of Sailfast
Adventures. They made this trip an unforgettable experience for us.
They charter catamarans out of Soper’s Hole on Tortola,
from middle
 December to middle March, usually for 7-day cruises. Call them at
Visit their website at www.sailfastadventures.com

Crew at Soper's Hole

St. Thomas, and probably most of the Caribbean islands, have two
tides… one is in its ocean, and the other is in its tourist ports, where
the big cruise ships pull in for a day or so. The second is by far the
stronger of the two, with a fairly obnoxious undertow.

Cruise Ships

Whenever one or more ships are in port in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas,
all the shops open and all the taxis and tourist carriers come out of the
woodwork to crowd the tiny streets. Their drivers usually are shouting
out of their open windows, “Going back to the ship, mon, need a ride
to the ship?”

St. Thomas Taxi

Depending on which busy street one was walking, you could get that
3-4 times a minute. Naturally, it got old fairly quickly, and we began
answering with things like, “No mon, we happy right here,” or “No mon,
we from de island!” To which we would get the occasional stare. One
guy actually slowed down and said, “No, really??” Because of course
we looked like tourists, same as everyone else.


One street vendor was bugging us about buying a watch, and I asked him,
“Do we really look like tourists to you?”
His eyebrows lifted. “Yes,” he said honestly.
“Okay, can you help me to not look like a tourist?”
He smiled. “No, mon.” Then, “Maybe start with some dreadlocks…”

We took a ferry from St.Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to Tortola, British
Virgin Islands. Naturally, we had to go through Customs at the Tortola
dock at Road Town. Once off the ferry, we had to form two lines at Customs.
The sign above the door on the left read, “Tourists and Islanders.”
The sign above the right door said, “Belongers.”

Anyway, when we got to the little village of Cane Garden Bay on Tortola,
I bought a colorful little rag cap with sewn-in dreadlocks. Actually
looked somewhat real on me. The guy who sold it to me was hilarious.
He got it on my head just right, adjusted the dreadlocks and and stuck
a huge joint in my mouth. He grinned. “Dreadlocks and a fattie. Now
you’re an islander, mon!”

B & Island Mon copy

B & I walked around the little village for a bit, just scoping things out.
She wanted to shop a little more, so I walked back to the hotel. As I
got there, an over-dressed tourist lady was getting into one of the open
tourist vans. She saw me and my dreadlocks walking by and turned.
“That’s not your real hair!” she declared.
I stopped and went into island mode, which I’d more or less been in
all morning anyway. “Yes,” I replied. “Ees my har!”
“No,” she frowned. “That’s not real…” and proceeded to step up into
the front seat of the van.
I turned to two ladies sitting in the back of the van, smiling. “Why this
nice lady no tink my har real?? Ees really my har, mon!” They were
laughing, I was laughing, then one of them whispered to me that my
gray beard might have given it away. They were still chuckling as I
headed to the bar.

Back on St. Thomas, I finally made up a little tune to keep the annoying
cab drivers from driving us crazy. When they would pull up beside us
and slow down, I’d start singing…
“Going back to the ship, Mon?” “No thanks, we’re feeling fine.”
“Going back to the ship, Mon?” “No thanks, we’ll stay behind.”
“Going back to the ship, Mon?” “No, we’re on island time.”
“Going back to the ship, Mon?”  ”Not in this lifetime…”

One driver with a full van of cruise ship tourists pulled up to a stop light
right next to us. I walked up to his window, pulled out my imaginary
ukulele and began singing to him, “Going back to the ship, Mon?”
He turned and said, “Yes, we’re going back to… ahhh, hahahahaha!”

Later that same morning a guy was standing outside his jewelry shop
on a busy street, selling his wares. As we walked by he said, “Big sale
on my jewelry today, step inside and take a look!. Blah, blah, blah…”
We stopped in our tracks. “Wait,” I said, laughing, “Blah blah blah?”
“Sure,” he grinned. “Why not? It actually works once in awhile…”

Our favorite shop (and Natalie, our favorite person) was located
right off the main tourist shopping section. It was basically a long,
narrow hole in the wall, but nicely appointed. Natalie sold jewelry,
trinkets, island carvings, purses and clothing.  There was a single stool
near the front of the shop, with two floor fans facing it, one in front and
one in back. She immediately sat me down on the stool, turned both fans
on and asked if I wanted a cold beer. I was stunned. “Really?”
“Yes,” she smiled as she brought me a cold bottle of Coors Lite.
I was laughing now. It was barely 10 a.m. “Do you do this for all your men?”
She touched me lightly on the shoulder. “Honey, you are my first.”

B & Madeline

Steve & MadelineB bought several gifts there for friends, all at a significant discount. Being
a great bargain hunter and negotiator, she got a lot for a little. As for me,
I’ve decided to never go shopping again. How could I ever top that??

St. Thomas Night

The night before we left St. Thomas, we walked down our hill to French
Town for dinner. After eating, we took a cab back up the hill to our hotel.
The cab driver was friendly and asked where we were from. We told him
“Seattle.” As he dropped us off and pulled away he stuck his head out
the window and said, “Say hi to Russell Wilson for me!”

Steve Hulse

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