Thursday, February 3
St. Thomas - U.S. Virgin Islands
The island of St. Thomas, USVI.
|Joan on the balcony of our room.|
|Our room at the Emerald Beach Resort|
|View from the balcony|
|Esther on her balcony|
|Emerald Beach Resort Pool and Restaurant|
|Joan and Rob on the beach.|
Life can't get much better than this, can it?
Well, hold on to your hat, Dear Reader, 'cause you ain't seen nothing yet!
Friday, February 4
Starting the Trip of a Lifetime -
Boarding the Jamaica Bay
|Our champions at Rutgers|
Their friendship in college created a bond that has
At 10 a.m. sharp, John and Captain Bob picked us up at the hotel and drove us through the city of Charlotte Amalie to the awaiting yacht.
|Captain Bob pilots us out of the St. Thomas Harbor|
Captain Bob leads the team. He hails from Maine and was absolutely delightful, always smiling and laughing.
|Naturally, Captain Bob always treats the crew with great respect.|
Fitz and Ben are the engineers. Fitz is from Ghana, and Ben is from Maunganui on the North Island of New Zealand (which was one of Rob's and my favorite stops on our trip to New Zealand!)
Following introductions, Susan took the four of us on a tour of the gorgeous ship.
The walls and furnishings are a warm dark mahogany. There is a formal dining room, but with the perfect weather during our trip, we ate every meal on one or the other of the outdoor dining tables - one on the main deck and another up on the sun deck. The larger table had a revolving platform to aid in passing the food, and Susan immediately informed us this was known as a "Lazy Carol". (No Lazy Susans on this ship!) There are three big screen TVs around the ship (which will all be on during the SuperBowl). And the TV on the sun deck actually swivels so that you can watch it from the shaded lounge area OR from the jacuzzi!
|Main Deck lounge|
We also visited the main deck lounge, a game room/reading lounge (where we would all gather throughout the cruise to write emails, download photos, and read), the gym, and the sun deck on top with big cushions to sunbathe on, a shaded area for visiting, and a jacuzzi. There were jet skis (although these were forbidden throughout the British Virgin Islands), a fishing boat, and a cabinet filled with snorkel and scuba equipment. Finally, we briefly dropped by the engine room, the bridge, and the galley where Kurt and Maria were already preparing our lunch.
Esther and I drew keys for rooms, and I got the "short key." Jim and Esther were put in the VIP suite on the middle deck, which has a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, double sinks, (and his and her toilets, as Jim described the toilet and bidet). Rob and I got one of the four "regular" guest rooms on the lower deck. But when you see these photos, I just don't think you are going to feel very sorry for us!
|My fully stocked bathroom cabinet|
Our room had a king-size bed, a TV (cleverly hidden behind a painting on the wall), a computer console that could call up the music of our choice, or a movie, or a cabin steward, at the touch of a button. The bathroom cabinets were already stocked with everything we might need...a man's side and a woman's side, with shampoos, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, razors, lotions, etc.
And the most lovely surprise...John and Susan had placed photos of the boys' old track days all over this ship...including special ones of Rob, Tom, and Jim right in each of their bedrooms!
|Rob wins the relay!|
|The first meal...with edible flowers!|
Everyone was so welcoming that I didn't feel at all uncomfortable or out of place. Although I already knew Jim, Esther, Tom, and Helen, I had not yet met John and Susan, but they are just as down to earth as can be, and we chatted like old friends. Of course, all the "boys" ARE old friends, and they immediately began recounting all their track stories and reminiscing to their hearts content. We girls have heard a lot of these stories before, but it was very special to get to see all of them sharing the memories together.
|Tom and Helen board JB|
|Caribbean colors on the apartments in Charlotte Amalie|
I was surprised to see how numerous and close the various islands are. Besides the big ones with the familiar names, there are little hills poking out of the water in all directions. It must have been a dangerous place to sail in the "olden days" but you can certainly see why the Pirates of the Caribbean would like it...lots of places to hide!
|Little islands of the Caribbean|
|Jim, John, Tom, and Esther enjoying the cruise.|
|Sunset over St. Thomas|
|Stone crab claws|
It was not my intention to write a "food blog" but the food on this trip was so memorable and so beautifully presented that it cannot be ignored. Susan's napkin rings often hold a clue to the meal's theme, and at our first dinner, cute little crab napkin rings pointed to a meal of huge stone crab claws from Florida (apparently they take one claw from the crab, throw it back...and the claw regenerates!), coq au vin, garlic mashed potatoes, and veggies, followed by a chocolate mousse cake. Adam and Talitha, (who is also called T or Red), continually circled the table making sure we had everything we needed. Adam always gives a little presentation about the upcoming dish and describes each wine, which flows frequently. We ate quite late, so after the great dinner, we headed off to bed - in one of the most comfortable mattresses we have ever slept upon!
Saturday, February 5
Cruz Bay and Snorkeling at Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI
Foxy's - Jost Van Dyke, BVI
|Pink and white dragonfruit, papaya, and passion fruit cups|
Around 10, Ryan and Gary took us over to the little town of Cruz Bay on the tender, and we girls went browsing in the shops while the guys checked out the local beer establishment. Our first stop was a little street fair/craft market,
|Craft Market in Cruz Bay|
then Susan took us into a very nice jewelry store where she introduced us to larimar, a lovely blue stone - just the color of Caribbean water over the white sand beaches - that is only found in the Caribbean, so it seemed like the perfect momento of the day.
|Shop in Cruz Bay|
The small town is very cute, with its buildings painted in the bright pastels so common to the Caribbean. I would have loved to have stayed and wandered more.
We walked back along the white sand beach and dove in for our snorkel. What fun! The clarity was great and we saw some beautiful fish...huge blue parrotfish, lots of saddle wrasses. I saw some cleaner fish nibbling on the scales of some of the bigger fish, and there were lots of pale white fish with bright yellow stripes and tails who came to investigate me - I imagine because I was wearing a bright yellow snorkel shirt.
|Yellow Tailed Snapper|
Lunch was an AMAZING Japanese feast! The table was decorated with a big green Buddha, with little black iron napkin rings shaped as pagodas, and napkins embroidered with gorgeous oriental designs.
|Esther and Helen admire the Sushi Boat|
First, Adam and Talitha brought out the miso soup and steamed and salted edamame. This was followed by sushi - plain slices of albacore, bright pink tuna, and light pink salmon, served with a teriyaki sauce, wasabi, and fresh ginger - and served from little wooden Japanese fishing boats.
|Scallops with Pansies|
|Rob and John relaxing in the reading room.|
|Tarpon checking us out|
It was dark by the time we got on the tenders to go to Foxy's Beach Bar for a beach BBQ. Ryan piloted the boat, while Gary sat up in front and shone a very powerful beam out across the water so that Ryan could see the buoys that guided us in. As we approached the shore, we could hear the live band and singer at Foxy's, which is a well-known "watering hole" for the yachties and sailing crowd that cruise this area.
|Susan arrives at Foxy's|
The tender has a hinged door at the very front that opens up to let us walk directly onto the beach. As Rob and I stepped out of the boat, he was immediately approached by a young man who wanted to sell him some ganja (marijuana). We laughed and said no thanks. (Rob ALWAYS seems to get approached about things like this...he must look like an old hippy!) We weaved our way through the lively crowd to our table where the rum punch was already waiting.
|Foxy's singer and band were terrific!|
|Helen and Tom enjoy their dirty rice and chicken.|
We were among the older people in the establishment, but after our dinner of dirty rice, BBQ chicken and ribs, fish, and various salads and vegetables, we got up and danced the night away just as enthusiastically as the 20 and 30 year olds.
|Rob and Joan enjoy the BBQ|
The band and singer were very good, and Susan awarded Tom and Helen the "disco ball award" for their great dancing. They have been taking lessons...including tango and hip hop!...and it showed. It was a lively group...and we all enjoyed watching some of the other dancers, including the young man (a local, I think) who was "pole dancing" - by grabbing the end of a rope that was wound around one of the pillars and swaying vigorously to the music. He followed this dance by doing a limbo move in which he bent over backwards, lowered his body, and drank a bottle of beer with no hands! There was also an adorable boy of about eight years old who was dancing a very impressive hip hop, all with the most serious expression on his face.
|Susan and John feel the rhythm|
|The JB Dancers|
|Tom and Helen win the Disco Ball Award|
|We be jammin' !|
|La Dolce Vita!|
Sunday, February 6
Happy Super Bowl Sunday!
Peter Island, BVI
|Breakfast around the "Lazy Carol"|
Following yoga, we all met on the main deck for another wonderful breakfast of pastries, wonderful fresh fruit, and omeletes made to order. I think we sat at breakfast for at least two hours, laughing and visiting - with Adam and Talitha taking care of our every need. The rest of the morning was spent cruising to Peter Island, our next stop.
|Helen works on her Rutgers Powerpoint...|
|...While Tom checks his email|
For the next hour or so, we had a little quiet time for checking mail, and watching the beautiful scenery glide by. Helen was hard at work preparing a special retrospective of the boys' years at Rutgers, which we would see later in the trip.
|Jim has the right idea - check the email on the deck.|
Soon we arrived at our anchorage in a calm, pretty bay on Peter Island and it was time for lunch!
Upon first entering the water, I thought the snorkeling would not be very interesting...it was a mostly sandy bottom with a few little grey and white fish. The visibility was pretty good, but the skies were so overcast that everything looked a little muted.
Ryan snorkeled with us and dove down occasionally to snap photos with his underwater camera. Just before we headed back to the boat, he spotted a tiny gold nudibranch sitting on the side of a sea fan and dove down for a close up look.
|The girls enjoy the Super Bown on the Upper Deck|
Jim headed up our football pool and everyone settled in for the big game - Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh - with the ladies sitting on the upper deck and the guys in the lounge.
|And the guys rooted from the lounge.|
|The Ulans win the first quarter pool.|
The Packers took an early lead and maintained it through the entire game...although there were a few tense minutes in the third quarter when the Steelers got within four points. Jim and Esther were the final winners of the pool...but the really happy news was that each of the four couples won one quarter of the game so we all went to bed as very happy campers! Another great day!
Monday, February 7
Bitter End and Saba Rock, Virgin Gorda, BVI
|Porridge with Whisky - yuck!|
We enjoyed our usual long breakfast on the main deck. The highlight was a special made just for Jim...porridge with whiskey!
|Joan and John|
|Esther and Jim enjoy the sunshine.|
We arrived at Bitter End, the very northeastern end of Virgin Gorda, and anchored in the middle of a big bay also occupied by a small cruise ship, another yacht, and several sail boats. Lunch wasn't planned until 1:30, and it had turned into a beautiful warm sunny day.
|Tom, Helen, Esther, and Jim|
Most of our party headed over to a little beach bar on the nearby shore,
|The selection of sunscreens and lotions on the sport deck.|
|The open sport deck from the ship's gym.|
|Rob and Joan|
|The gang returns to the ship.|
When the rest of the gang returned, Jim and Esther joined us in the water (once Esther got over her fear of getting into open water far from the shore) and we had a great time splashing around for awhile.
|Jim and Esther take a dip.|
|John takes a break.|
|Oh, that looks good!|
|Geordie takes a break.|
After lunch, we were offered the opportunity to go kayaking off the back of the yacht in the "glass-bottom" kayaks. Actually, the kayaks were glass-everything - completely clear boats! I was the only one who wanted to go, so Geordie, one of the crew members, offered to go with me in the two-person kayak. We loaded the kayak onto the tender and Jeff floated us to the head of the bay where the current could just sweep us along the shore over the coral heads and little fish. Geordie and I chatted away as we paddled. He was a delightful young man who has worked at a safari camp in Africa - Tanzania, I think. I asked him to recount some of his best animal adventures, which included being charged by a bull elephant! With nowhere to run or hide, he stood his ground and just before the elephant reached him, he threw up his arms and roared at it. It worked! The elephant backed off and ran away. We paddled all the way back to the boat, with Jeff and Jim following to make sure we were not swept away.
|Tom shows us how it's done.|
I took the rest of the afternoon to sit and relax for awhile. I'm reading Rolling Stone Keith Richard's autobiography, Life, which has turned out to be very interesting. Tom and Helen and some of the others went back into the water for another swim.
|Sunset from the tender on the way to Saba Rock.|
Then around 5:30, we all boarded the tender and motored over to Saba Rock, a tiny island which houses another well-known beach bar, for drinks and a little shopping.
|Saba Rock at Bitter End|
|Susan, John, Jim, Esther, and Joan|
|Tom greets an old friend.|
Following dinner, we gathered in the lounge to watch "Tropic Thunder" on the big screen tv...selected from the approximately 700 movies that are pre-loaded into the data base on the ship!
Tuesday, February 8
Snorkeling at Bitter End, Virgin Gorda
|JB Yoga Warriors|
|Rob, Jim, John, and Tom - still crazy after all these years!|
We managed to stick to a light continental breakfast, then took the tender toward Richard Branson's Nekker Island. drift snorkeling over the reef. It wasn't the best snorkeling of the trip...there were a few nice fish and a big fat cushiony sand dollar...but it is always fun to be in the water.
|In the water at Bitter End|
|Saba Rock in the daylight|
|Joan and the Caribbean kitty|
|Naturally, Rob wants to take it home.|
|The relay team at practice|
|Jeff, Tom, and Maria|
|Another feast - with hibiscus flowers!|
|Joan and her Laddie|
|Helen enjoys some quiet time on the beach.|
|The open sport deck on the JB|
|Drinks at Saba Rock|
|This is what waited for us when we returned.|
|A Moroccan courtyard on the sundeck.|
What a fabulous night! We went upstairs to find that the crew had spend the day transforming the sun deck into a Moroccan marketplace. (They lied to us that morning!)
|We have mobile phone for you!|
|Susan tries the hookah.|
|Jim, Helen, and Tom - getting stoned?|
|Brian shows Esther the proper technique.|
|How did Ryan get Gwen to agree to this?|
|What a gorgeous group!|
|Andy leads the paparrazi|
|Sarah and Susan look beautiful.|
|The height of luxury - flowered water for washing.|
|Joan, Helen, Esther, and Susan|
|John, Jim, Tom, and Rob|
Then the food began to arrive...plates and plates of Mediterranean food ...dolmades, almond paste, spiced lamb, lamb ribs, chicken on couscous, game hens, eggplant and tomato casserole, couscous wrapped in lettuce leaves...and it was all served and eaten with our fingers (with the help of soft pita bread.)
|Oh, that looks good!|
|Kurt and Maria take a bow|
|This is how we all felt at the end of that spectacular meal!|
Wednesday, February 9
The Baths, Virgin Gorda
and Back to Peter Island
I woke up exactly at 7:30 without a wake up call. Maria worked us a little harder yet...we are now the "double warriors" as we have graduated from Warrior 2 to Warrior 1. We have become better at eating a very light breakfast - fruit, yogurt, but also today blueberry-prune muffins and chocolate chips scones made specially for Jim - as we have learned that the day will hold lots more food. But today, Adam had specially ordered "bubble and squeak' made with leftovers from yesterday's bacon, sausage and potatoes, so we had to try it...delicious!
We returned to the JB to clean up for aother fabulous lunch...dragonfly napkin holders, Asian lettuce wraps with marinated beef, mahi mahi, eggplant (aubergine) melange, sweet potatoes and greenbeans, glass noodles, a Thai chicken soup...and vanilla and chocolate ice cream...followed by tropical green tea and lots of good visiting.
Thursday, February 10
Snorkeling at "The Indians" and "The Caves"
Norman Island, BVI
Today was one of the best days of the trip! We started with 8 a.m. yoga. Maria worked us a bit harder each day, and today had some pretty tough moves, but I always felt so good at the end of the stretch.
Tom followed our morning session with some private work with Rob.
We had a very light breakfast....just rolls and fruit...along with the fruit smoothie (different each day) that accompanies each breakfast. Then we cruised the short distance from Peter Island to Norman Island, which served as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
After dinner, Rob and Jim returned to the Willy T so that Rob could have the experience...and I expect by this late, he probably got more of an eyeful that we got earlier in the evening - but he was sworn to secrecy and I have never gotten the story out of him!
Only two more days. Sigh.
Friday, February 11
Soggy Dollar Bar and Beach Time
Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Today was another fun day...but quite different than the others, as we spent a great deal of time on dry land.
My internal clock was finally on Caribbean time and I woke in plenty of time for yoga. Captain Bob pulled up anchor early to begin our cruise to Jost Van Dyke, a small island just north of Tortola, so Maria kept all of our moves in either sitting or lying down positions so we wouldn't lose our balance on the moving ship. It was quite wonderful to be doing the stretches as we floated past green islands on both sides of us.
As we waited for lunch, the boys tried their skill at a "Toss the Ring Over the Hook" game,
Saturday, February 12
The Last Full Day
Return to St. Thomas
After our usual yummy breakfast, John, Jim, Tom, Helen and I headed back to the Soggy Dollar Beach. Helen and I had a nice visit on the beach chairs while the guys enjoyed one or two more Painkillers, then we all went down for one last soak in the pale blue water. The sand on this beach was incredibly fine and soft, and we just bobbed in the waves watching the pelicans and cormorants feasting on the little fish. The fish weren't too happy about that and some of them jumped right out of the water and across our shoulders! Helen almost got a mouthful of very fresh sushi!
then we gathered for our traditional travel kiss - (that is, if one previous time in Kauai is enough to start a tradition).
Sunday, February 13
A Fond Farewell and Home Again
We enjoyed our last wonderful breakfast on the JB and said good-bye to new friends and old.
There is no doubt that this was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. There were so many highlights...but honestly, the very best experience of all was getting to spend time with such lovely, compatible and fun-loving friends. I am a lucky woman!