PrologueWe decided to continue our Thanksgiving tradition in St. Thomas, and we invited my friend Beth and Craig's brother Steve to go with us. Although Craig and I usually get a Studio Suite at Secret Harbour resort for ourselves, this time we booked a two bedroom two bathroom suite. We kept in touch with Marty and Tiffany via e-mail (and via an excited phone call on Easter 2002 when they told us they were engaged). As much as we would have loved to go to St. Thomas in the spring for their wedding, we just couldn't get the time off. So we were determined that this trip would be a celebration.
Craig, Steve, and I worked the day before the trip. It snowed (about 4 inches), which just served to increase our desire to get away to someplace tropical. I got home from work around 4:30 p.m. Beth had the day off and arrived at our house around 5. We picked up subs for dinner, did some last minute packing, and watched some TV. We went to bed around 10:00, since it would be an early morning.
11/28/02 - Thanksgiving Day ArrivalWe woke up at 3:45 a.m. and left for the airport around 4:40. There was snow on the ground and it was very cold. We warmed up the car for a while before getting in. We got to the airport at around 5:10 and parked in Central Parking. There were more people traveling then there were last Thanksgiving, but the lines weren't too bad. The Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) was now in charge of sercurity at Logan. We were struck by how pleasant they were. Very friendly and talkative, and also very efficient. We ate breakfast at Burger King and then headed to the terminal.
Beth, Craig, and I sat together on the flight, and since Steve's ticket was booked later, he was separate. It was a 3.5 hour flight, and we arrived in San Juan at 11:55 local time. We boarded our St. Thomas flight at 12:50. It was a 17 minute flight, and we were all able to sit together. We arrived in St. Thomas at around 2 p.m.
After the requisite complimentary rum punch at the airport, Craig got the rental car while the rest of us picked up the baggage. We went to the car pick-up and found our gold Echo. We found that the trunk didn't work, there was Wendy's fast food trash and a half eaten danish inside, there was a huge dent in the passenger door, and there was less than 3/4 tank of gas.
Craig and I went back to the desk and exchanged the car for one that had been prepped (the new one was a white Echo, scratched up, but at least the trunk worked. It also had manual doors and windows, which prompted us to remind each other "Emmanuel Lock" every time we left the car, which eventually degraded to simply "Emmanuel".) This was a "mid-sized" car? We packed in and drove to K-Mart to buy provisions. We bought groceries, Foxy's beer, and Cruzan Jumbie Brew. Since the trunk was ful of luggage, Steve and Beth ended up buried beneath a pile of groceries in the back seat.
We got to Secret Harbour at around 3:45 p.m.. The room was gorgeous...two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchenette, a living room (with pullout couch for Steve) and a patio which led out to the beach. It was unit 215 on the ground floor. When Craig had checked in, they told him that we had a message to call Marty. My cell phone wouldn't work, so we called him back on the room phone. He said he'd be by in about 15 minutes, but that Tiffany was still working. We turned on the Patriots/Lions game (they were wearing throwback uniforms, and the Patriots won).
When Marty arrived we introduced him to Steve and Beth and then chatted. We had a few drinks, and Beth, Steve, Craig, and I went for a swim in the ocean at sunset. Marty took some pictures of us. We met Harry (the young boy in the unit next to us, who was quite friendly) and his mother. We got freshened up, and then Tiffany showed up at around 7:00. We looked at their wedding photos (they got married on her mom's sailboat earlier this year).
We tried to go to the Blue Moon restaurant (at our hotel), but as we had no reservations, we couldn't get in. Instead we went to Bottom's Up, two bays over. There was a guitarist singing and playing, and we ordered turkey dinners. It came with sweet potato, mashed potato, and stuffing. Craig, Beth, and I had painkillers to drink. Eric the waiter made some special fruity shots for Beth and myself. Marty, Tiffany, and Eric himself imbibed as well. Steve and Tiffany had Mike's Hard Lemonade, and Marty had beer. Marty, Tiffany, and I had some pumpkin pie for dessert. The perfect Thanksgiving!
We hung out for a while and then left around 9:00. We drove back to the hotel and chatted with Marty and Tiffany in the parking lot until around 10:15. Beth went to bed around 10:40, and Craig, Steve, and I stayed up for a while, while I wrote in the journal.
11/29/02 - Wild ThingWe woke up at 9 a.m. We thought that the stove was broken, but it turned out that the burners were just disconnected. Craig re-attached them, and then all was fine. Beth and I had cereal, and Craig and Steve had eggs and bacon.
At 11:00, we left the hotel and headed for Marty's office in Havensight (right next to Budget rent-a-car). It was downpouring for the entire drive. We met Marty and then crossed the street to go to the cruise ship dock to meet Tiffany to get our tickets for the day's event (a ride on the Wild Thing trimaran). Tiffany works for them, as a liaison between the cruise ships and the Wild Thing.
It still continued to pour as we walked down to where the Wild Thing was docked. We boarded the boat and stayed under the canopy for a while, but as the rain started to let up, Marty scoped out a spot for us on the port side of the bow. The boat departed around 12:30. Soon afterwards, the sun came out. They sold beer and soda onboard. At one point there was another quick rainstorm. The raindrops felt like razor blades hitting our faces.
The ship anchored between Congo Cay and Lovango Cay (Lovango is a contraction for "Love and Go", as it used to be the site of a brothel). We snorkeled near Congo Cay. The sun was in and out. There were schools of minnows swimming right beneath us. It was amazing how they seem to be of one mind....they all change direction at exactly the same second. They had iridescent stripes that would catch the sunlight and sparkle at various times. The fish were layered so deep that you couldn't see beyond them. We saw coral and sea anemones, as well as some yellow and blue fish. It was an amazing sensation; with your head above water you could hear the hustle and bustle of the boat, etc, but once you submerged your mask, you could only hear your own breathing, amplified to sound like Darth Vader, and the clicking of the fish as they nibbled on aquatic plants. It's just you and the ocean, and everything else slips out of your consciousness. A group of people said they saw an octopus, and Craig and I snorkeled over to investigate. We couldn't see it until it moved. It was about 1-2 feet long and moved exactly as you'd expect an octopus to move. It was mottled brown and gray, and the minute it stopped moving, it was instantly comouflaged amongst the coral and rocks, so much so that you couldn't even see it.
After snorkeling, we went back to the boat and enjoyed some complimentary rum punch and munchies. The Wild Thing's second stop was Lindquist Beach. We dropped anchor and went swimming. The six of us floated in the water near the shore, and two fish that were whitish gray and looked kind of like angel fish swam in between us. We checked out some pieces of coral. We got back on the boat and the music blared as we headed back to Charlotte Amalie. We danced to "YMCA" and "Shout" as we headed into dock. We disembarked at around 4:15.
Tiffany still had to finish up work, but Marty accompanied us back to the hotel. We made a detour to Marina Market on the way for provisions (which totally threw off Marty's "joke"...he got ahead of us and tipped over his motorcycle on the side of the road and sprawled out so we'd think he had an accident...but we didn't even end up going that way. He got lots of people offering to help him, though!)
We went back to Secret Harbour and cleaned up. I walked onto the beach and the dock to get some sunset photos. We then headed to Marty and Tiffany's apartment to drop off Marty's motorcycle. Tiffany met us at the apartment, and they picked up Tiffany's car.
We headed to Mafolie's for dinner. It is a hotel and restaurant. Marty got us the best table in the house (a corner table on the deck overlooking Charlotte Amalie). The view was spectacular. We could see the lights of two cruise ships as they headed off into the distance.
For appetizers we got lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail, and cornmeal encrusted scallops. We each got a salad, and then the main course arrived. I had ordered two appetizers (cornmeal encrusted scallops and crab cakes with garlic aioli sauce) as my meal. Both were delicious, but the crab cakes were a little less crisp on the outside than I prefer. The scallops were absolutely succulent, and melted in my mouth. It was in an interesting sauce that tasted sort of like soy sauce. Craig and Steve got the rib eye with onion and mushroom ragout, and garlic mashed potatoes. Beth had pasta primavera. Craig, Steve, Beth, and I got bushwhackers to drink (very fancy ones in parfait glasses with crushed oreo and sugar on the rim). For dessert we got the Death by Chocolate (DBC) and key lime pie to share. The Death By Chocolate was very rich, but I was most impressed by the key lime pie, which had a stiff merengue and a crisp, sugary crust. It was absolutely delicious.
We took some photos at the table. We left the restaurant around 9:15. Marty and Tiff went back to their place, and we headed back to Secret Harbour. We chilled out for a while and went to bed around 11.
11/30/02 - Captain Marty's Island HopCaptain Marty's Island Hop had been the highlight of each of our previous St. Thomas trips, and this year would be no exception. We woke up at 6:00 and quickly got ready. We left for Marina Market at 7. We bought deli sandwiches, beer, ice, and snacks. We headed across the street to the marina around 8. We filled out paperwork while Craig and Steve went back to the car to get our snorkel equipment. The 6 of us boarded our rental boat from See & Ski.
Beth and I sat in the front of the boat. Marty was the captain. We anchored off of St. John in front of Mick Jagger's house. There is a new stone castle being built right below it. We went for a swim here. We headed to Tortola to clear customs. Steve and Beth got their first-ever passport stamps. Next we went to the Indians. Marty and Tiffany stayed on the boat while Beth, Steve, Craig, and I snorkeled. It was amazing. The weather was so clear and the sun was illuminating the water. We swam around one of the Indians rock formations, and saw all kinds of coral and fish (trumpet fish and some other brightly colored fish). The water was shallow in places and you could see the brain coral and sea anemones very well.
Next we went to the Treasure Island caves. We didn't feel like snorkeling, so we just hung out on the boat.
At noon we docked at the Willy T, which already had some patrons despite having just opened. The Willy T is a restaurant/bar on a ship off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. It is not for the faint of heart, the prudish, or the very young. It's a lot of fun for the rest of us, though! Zeus, our bartender buddy from last year, was there in fine form. His boss (an older white man) was there as well. We were afraid that the normal shenanigans might not occur with the big boss there, but we needn't have worried. The boss likened Zeus' tongue to Gene Simmons of Kiss, and then headed out on a boat called the Body Shot. Craig and I drank painkillers. I also had a couple of dark and stormies (or "dark and hornies" as Zeus likes to call them). We did a shot ski of Will-agra. They take a waterski which has four holes in it, and put a shot glass in each hole. Four people hold up the ski and have to do the shot simultaneously. Beth, Craig, Marty, and I did the shot ski, with Steve acting as photographer. Beth got some of the electric blue shot on her, and Zeus helped her to clean it off. We then did a second shot ski. Zeus coined the nickname "Milky" for Steve, which stuck for the duration of the trip (and then some!) Zeus applied temporary Willy T's tattoos to Beth and myself. Marty and Tiff did a body shot. Craig and I were going to, but we ran out of time and had to leave.
We anchored off of Tortola and swam to shore to the Honor Bar. It is a shack which, in previous years, contained a fully stocked fridge, munchies, and snorkel gear. You would simply take what you want and leave the money on the bar. However, the man who ran it died in the past year. We went into the building, but there was no food or drink; just a sign that said "Closed due to a death in the family."
We headed to Jost Van Dyke to Foxy's Tamarind Bar. There were no dock spots, so we anchored (very close to the shore). Foxy himself was not there, but we had some drinks and bought some stuff in the shop.
That left us with no time for the Soggy Dollar Bar before returning the boat. So we headed toward Red Hook. We stopped a couple times along the way (I got to show off my newly-acquired diving abilities and dove off the boat into very deep water).
We got back to the marina at 5:15. We crossed the street and got a table at Duffy's Love Shack. Duffy's is a shack which is in the parking lot of a strip mall. There are some inside tables, but the fun really starts at 6 p.m., when they set up tiki torches and tables in the parking lot. Our waiter was Bryan. We got Zoom Zoom car shooters. I got a Taboo Lagoon (a prickly pear margarita in a Hawaiin themed ceramic bowl, with plastic palm trees and sailboats). Craig got a Dr. Feelgood's Foaming Vile Liquid, which came in a glowing glass and was accompanied by black plastic eyeglasses (a la Harry Potter). We were each given plastic leis and stickers that said "I got lei'd at Duffy's Love Shack." We got 7 layer nachos as an appetizer. I got a tasty jerk chicken sandwich, and Craig and Steve got burgers. We all went back to the room and hung out until around 10.
12/1/02 - BOBWe woke up at 9:00 a.m., showered, ate breakfast, and then lounged around on the beach and in the room. We left at 11:10 to go to Havensight . We dropped off our photos at Blazing Photos, and bought Beth a new pair of sunglasses (she left hers at Willy T...Zeus must be happy!)
We met Marty and Tiffany amongst the stores, and we walked down the dock to the BOB (Breathing Observation Bubble) boat. Tiffany used to work for them, and she highly recommended the trip. The six of us went up to the top deck (it was just us and Joe, the owner/captain) while the other passengers sat on the lower deck.
The boat anchored off Water Island, in St. Thomas harbor, off Charlotte Amalie. The passengers were divided into four groups (our group was Craig, Steve, Beth, and myself) and given a time of departure. We needed to wait 5 minutes. At our appointed time, we jumped off the back of the boat and met our safety divers. They brought our BOB units to us. They are yellow things that look kind of like scooters, but they have a diving bell that encloses your head. They pump air into the helmet, and attach you (via a 10 foot rope) to a buoy on the surface. There is a propeller on the back which propels you at a top speed of 3 mph (2.5 nauts).
Although we were only 10 feet down, the pressure bothered me, and I had a hard time equalizing. I got a headache and just felt generally uncomfortable. I didn't want to wimp out though, so I talked myself through it. It was a sunny day. The water was a bit cloudy, but we saw some fish and the remains of shipwreck (no more than 100 years old). It was an interesting experience.
You steer and push the button to rotate the propeller, but the divers are always with you and they are in control of submerging and surfacing. They were very attentive and helped us out and took photos of us. We were led through a coral canyon and then back to the boat. We were "down on BOB" for about half an hour. We chilled on the boat with rum punch while the other groups did the BOB thing (we could have snorkeled, but decided against it). It turns out that Craig had felt disorientated on BOB, and Beth had felt claustrophobic and nauseous. Steve, who is most prone to motion sickness, had felt fine, and enjoyed it immensely.
Even those of us who felt less than well were still glad that we did it. It was a very unique experience. After about half an hour we started to feel much better, and we were back to normal when the boat arrived in Havensight.
We went to pick up our photos, but they hadn't made doubles as I had requested. Marty and Tiffany stopped at the Offshore Bar. While waiting for the photos, the rest of us went into Dazzlers. Beth bought a diamond and ruby ring, and I bought an opal and diamond ring. The rings were gorgeous, and the prices were incredible! Beth's needed to be resized, so we would need to pick it up later.
I picked up the photos and we headed to the Offshore to meet Marty and Tiffany. We had some drinks and looked at the photos. We had quite a few laughs, and then decided that we'd go to the grocery store and Marty and Tiffany would make dinner for us at their place. We stopped at the Pueblo and picked up chicken, steak, salad, cheese, crackers, and drinks.
We then went to Marty and Tiffany's. Their apartment is just as cool as ever. Big rock jutting through the side of the house into their living room, beautiful deck overlooking Magen's Bay, complete with pool, jacuzzi, outdoor TV, grill, Nautilus...the works. We turned on football (Eagles vs the Rams). Tiffany prepared the salad inside while Marty cooked the steaks and chicken outside. We ate muenster, brie, and crackers. Marty made garlic mashed potatoes as well. We met their black cat, Smudge. Marty made an onion, mushroom, and wine sauce for the steaks. Everything was delicous!
We ate out on the deck, and then huddled under the umbrella when a shower blew through. We had a few drinks, and then left at 9:15. We headed back to Secret Harbour and watched the Saints vs Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football before going to bed.
12/2/02 - ParasailingWe woke up around 7 a.m., hoping that Tiffany had been able to schedule parasailing for today. As usual, she came through for us in a big way. After eating breakfast, we spoke with her on the phone and she told us to be at the Wyndham Sugar Bay beach at 11:00 to meet up with Caribbean Parasailing. We got there around 10:30, and just relaxed on the beach until Caribbean Parasailing arrived to pick us up. There were two crew members, and we were the only passengers.
As it was a windy day, they told us that we needed to go tandem, or else we would be blown around to the point of nauseousness. They recommended boy-girl for weight distribution. Craig and I went first. We were put into our harnesses, and then sat on the stern of the boat. They hooked us to the red, white, and blue parachute, and then we were off. Straight up into the air from the back of the boat. We could see very far (it was a gorgeous day). It felt like being on a swing. It was so peaceful up there. I loved it! We reached a height of 450-500 feet. We could see a sea turtle swimming in the ocean. The breeze was very refreshing (it was a hot and muggy day). We were probably in the air between 10-15 minutes. They reeled us back in, gently dunking just our feet in the water. We then were airborne again. They reeled us the rest of the way in and grabbed our legs and deposited us gently on the stern of the boat. Only our toes got wet during the entire parasailing experience! Talk about smooth!
Beth and Steve were up next. They had a nice ride as well, though toward the end Steve felt nauseous and thought he might be sick. They got dunked more than we did, and ended up being completely wet. They were reeled in, and also had a smooth landing. Craig and Steve bought T shirts and I bought a tank top. Steve felt better once we were on dry land. It seemed funny to us that the three of us who felt sick on BOB were fine on parasailing, while the one who was fine on BOB felt sick parasailing. Such is life.
A guy on the beach was carving birdfeeders out of coconuts. He would use a machete to smash open the coconut, drink the juice, and then carve the coconut. He had a variety of coconut birds hanging from a tree, swinging in the considerable breeze.
We stopped at Marina Market for lunch. We got deli sandwiches plus macaroni and cheese and jambalaya from their prepared food section. We ate back at Secret Harbour. I called the Agave Terrace and made reservations for 7:00. At 1:20 Steve called the front desk and asked if Heidi (the on-site massage therapist) had any openings. He was told he could have an hour long massage at 2:00. While he was getting his massage, Craig, Beth, and I headed to Havensight to pick up Beth's ring. While there we ordered a BOSE wave radio (cheaper there than on the mainland).
When we got back to the room, Steve was raving about his massage. Craig called and made an appointment for 4:00. At 4:00, he headed off, and Steve, Beth, and I sat in beach chairs. I read my book, and after a few minutes decided I'd like to take a dip. I was taking off my rings for safekeeping when I dropped my engagement ring through the slats of the chair. I wasn't too worried; how far could it have gone? I got up and looked under the chair in the sand, but it was nowhere to be found. I started to panic and told Steve and Beth what had happened. We cordoned off the area and started sifting through the sand. After finding no leads, Steve talked to our neighbors (Harry's grandparents) and borrowed their spaghetti strainer. We started sifting the sand, and ended up with a large pile of fine sand and a large pile of detritus, but no ring. Beth called the front desk to see if they had a metal detector. They did, and she hurried off to pick it up. We had to find the ring before Craig got back. What good is an hour long, relaxing massage only to then find that your wife has lost her engagement ring? That kind of defeats the purpose! I felt like Wilma Flintstone trying to pull one over on Fred. I kept sifting, and eventually found the ring. Hallelujah! Steve ran off to intercept Beth before she returned with the metal detector. I gratefully returned the spaghetti strainer to our neighbors.
All was well by 4:30. We had worked up such a sweat looking for the ring that Steve and I decided to take a swim...and I left my ring on my finger this time! Thanks so much, Beth and Steve, for helping me out!
Craig got back at around 5:10. We watched a crab dig a hole in the sand. He would disappear under the sand, emerge with a clawful of sand, fling the sand into a pile, twitch his eye, and then go back into the hole. Harry and his mom watched it with us. Craig, Steve, and I took a sunset swim. We went back into the room at 5:45, which gave us an hour to get freshened up before dinner.
We met Marty and Tiffany at the Agave Terrace at 7. We ordered bushwhackers and conch fritters as an appetizer. My favorite meal in the world (Agave Terrace crab cakes) was no longer on the menu. I asked the waiter and he said they don't serve them any more. I was disappointed, but ordered the crab feast instead (Alaskan king crab legs). Craig got the special, which consisted of scallops, shrimp, and lobster in a wine cream sauce, served with angel hair pasta. Steve got the Agave lobster (stuffed with crab au gratin). Beth and Marty each had ravioli, and Tiffany had a lobster appetizer. The crab legs were good, but very salty. Gave my leftovers to Marty, and since he is such a salt afficionado, I bet he enjoyed them immensely.
We left the restaurant around 9 and went our separate ways, with a promise to meet tomorrow before leaving the island. We headed back to the room and watched Monday Night Football (Raiders vs Jets).
12/3/02 - Shopping and DepartureWe woke up at 8:15, and ate some leftover food for breakfast. We packed up and left the room at around 10:15. We stopped at Marty's office to say goodbye. Tiffany was there too. It was a great visit, and it was sad to leave.
We drove to Charlotte Amalie to do some shopping. We shopped first in the tent city, and got great bargains on T-shirts, etc. Craig and I got some Teva's (a bit late in the trip for Craig to finally get sandals, but he'll have them for next year) and some souvenirs. We ate at Bobby's Harbor Hardwood Island Bar and Grill (or some variant of these words...it seemed every menu/sign had a different name on it). The guys got a bbq pork loin sandwich and curly fries. I got a chicken quesadilla and a side of fries. Beth got a chicken sandwich and salad.
At 2 p.m., we left for the airport. By 3:15 we were settled in the terminal, and we boarded our flight at 4:00. We had a short layover in San Juan, and arrived in Boston at around 9:30 EST. One baggage carousel was broken, so 4 flights' worth of luggage had to go onto the same carousel. It took a full hour before our suitcases arrived. In the intervening time, I got pushed by a lady and she knocked over one of our carryons, spilling some of the contents. Welcome to Boston! It was freezing cold and we grabbed the car and drove home, stopping at Dunkin Donuts. We were home by 11:00. Beth warmed up her car to get rid of the snow and frost, and then headed home.
Happily leaving this weather behind
Marty at Secret Harbour
Thanksgiving dinner at Bottom's Up
Craig, Marty, and Steph on Wild Thing
Tiffany and Marty, Lindquist Beach
Steph and Beth, Wild Thing
Marty on his bike
Steph and Beth on Cap'n Marty's Island Hop
Craig, Beth, Zeus, Steph, Tiffany, and Steve at Willy T's
Marty, Craig, Steve, Beth, and Steph at Foxy's
Cap'n Marty's Island Hop: Tiffany, Craig, Steve, Marty, Beth
Duffy's Love Shack: Beth, Steve, Marty, Tiffany, Craig, Steph
Beth relaxing at Secret Harbour
Beth on a BOB underwater scooter (head not to scale)
Craig and Steph ready to parasail
Craig and Steph parasailing
View from 500 feet