Looks like we may have yet another tropical wave hit us Sunday/Monday.
Today is gorgeous with a slightly gray overcast to the otherwise mostly blue
skies. Sun is moderate, winds are brisk, temps in the low 80's. Life can't
get any better on a beautiful island!
FINALLY the tourist board has released the colorful Carnival
Poster, (click here)
just mere days before the start of our annual
festival! Better late than never, I guess... For a department
that talks about promoting this as a tourist event, you'd think this poster
would have been made available 10 months ago...Life is still slow here and in
many ways, that is good.
Sir Francis Drake Ship
Back in the good old days, when I sailed the high seas on all manner or
yachts and tall ships, and actually get paid to do so, I traveled very
light. Crew quarters were often tight and there was rarely much room to stow
stuff. Since most decent yachts and ships provided crew with uniforms, that
meant you only needed the occasional outfit to go ashore when off duty. Since we
worked extremely hard and rarely had time off, there was little time to take off
One tall ship I worked aboard, used to admonish the crew to NOT wear your
uniform ashore when off duty. The captain said, he didn't want to hear wild
tales about crew from the such and such ship was dancing drunk at the top of a
If you weren't wearing your uniform, he reasoned you might blend in better,
and therefore not disgrace his scallywag of a tall ship, by advertising the name
on a uniform.
Well, it made sense to me. So I collected up sarongs that I tied into
skirts or dresses and that was my off duty clothing. Sarongs take up very
little room and you can compliment them with bathing suit parts. So much
of my off duty clothing was merely a stack of bikinis, one piece tank suits
and a stack of sarongs. ALl this could fit in a backpack, so between
ships, there wasn't much for me to lug around. Back then we didn't have GPS,
cell phones, lap tops, ipods and all that weighty stuff to travel around
My inventory of sarongs would grow, without much help from me, because
grateful passengers often bought me one as a gift, since we weren't allowed to
take cash tips directly (these went into a main pot and were split by all the
dozen or so crew.) But if someone bought you a gift, you could keep
it and not have to share with the others. In the Caribbean, sarongs don't
always have a long life, there is the sun, the sand, the salt, the rust and so
on that contribute to their eventual demise, especially when you are messing
about in boats.
On this particle ship, we made two stops a week in St John, USVI. On one of
those stops, I went ashore in my dress white uniform, complete with gold bars,
to clear the ship, crew and passengers, through customs and
While at that time it was rare for a female to be doing that type of work,
because of the crisp white uniform, I was generally treated quite well by the
officials. Afterwards, I would catch a launch back to our anchored ship, tear
off the uniform, wrap up in a sarong dress and go back ashore to enjoy a much
needed semi-evening off.
I say semi-off, because it was also my duty to scout out the bars and
islands for entertainment for our passengers and report back same. So as I rode
back ashore in the ship's launch I was always accompanied by passengers. I would
tell them of the best bars to hang out (the ones I wouldn't be in!) and the
where and when the live music would start.
Sometimes you just get tired of people and passengers, so I often sent them
to the nicest bars while I snuck off to the bars off the beaten track.
These were often the ones frequented by a more rowdy crowd, due to the cheap
beers and drinks, so local construction workers and what-have-you often hung out
One of my favorites was called The Back Yard Bar in Cruz Bay. Sadly, it is
gone now. It was a great place, but wasn't really designed for tourists, so it
had more local flair and that is where I often snuck off to. I got to know
many locals who also knew I worked on a ship and some had seen me around in
my whites, which they thought hilarious, said I looked scary and official!
Others had seen me in my whites, but didn't recognize me, as they assumed I was
someone they didn't know, if I was dressed like that!
Sometimes the captain wanted a break from the passengers too, and he would
join me at the bar. They had a seldom used upstairs section, and we often hung
out up there, so if passengers peeked in the entrance, they wouldn't even see
us. We called it our hideaway. Most days it wasn't even officially open
upstairs, but the bartender, knowing who we were and why we liked to hide, would
let us climb over the gate blocking the stairs and go enjoy a cold drink and
some peace and quiet, away from the wants of crew and passengers.
Often some of the local trade, would also climb over the closed gate,
and come upstairs and smoke a joint, so sometimes the captain and I got a
contact high, and quite honestly, we didn't mind that kind of foolishness. This
was back in a time when there wasn't mass hysteria or paranoia over a little
marijuana smoking. We had already safely anchored our large ship in
port for the night, so please don't think we were putting innocent lives at risk
over a few minutes of fun and debauchery.
T'ings were more casual then and the frightful laws of today, had not been
written on the books yet. To sum it up, back then, you could have FUN now and
then, and not be busted by the NO-FUN police. Ah, those days are long gone, but
it sure was fun at the time.
I didn't realize how limited my wardrobe was until one day when I went to
the backyard bar, and a really nice guy I had known for ages, asked me "Do you
know folks call you the sarong lady? They say, the only thing you own is
sarongs! I've seen you around for years, and I've never seen you in
anything but a sarong!"
Another customer, overhearing the conversation piped up and said "Well I
My friend asked what had he seen me wearing?
Ah the drunken antics, he said really loud, "I've seen her in her birthday
suit at the nude beach!"
This was of course met with much laughter and stares, as if everyone wanted
to try to undress me with their eyes and it thoroughly embarrassed me, but I
laughed along with them, not realizing my captain had walked in and was
approaching behind me.
We had a great laugh about it, and I explained that I also possessed white
ships' uniforms, but that when I wore them, my friends seemed to ignore me, or
didn't recognize me. This was met by more laughter, as if I had just told a tall
The captain sat down (he was out of uniform too, having left the First Mate
in charge of the ship) and said he didn't know I went to the nude beach
and I explained, well it was just another place to hide from the passengers,
when I needed a break away. Of course the nude beach is now gone too, the beach
is still there, but the officials have declared it not-nude (those dang Fun
police out to bust you for having fun...) Sometimes I think I lived,
worked and sailed through the Caribbean during the very best of the
Speaking of fun police (who bust you for having fun) our tall ship
was eventually banned from St John. Not because we had done anything wrong, but
the government officials, decided we could no longer anchor in
US Park waters, even though we were careful to never anchor in or near
coral and we only carried about 50 people max (a dozen crew and about 35
passengers). We did everything possible to be eco-friendly, but still they
decided to "relocate" us.
They picked out a rolly gnarly anchorage in over 300 feet of water and
declared that as the only place we could anchor. We ended up
canceling the USVI portion of our trips and after that confined ourselves to the
BVI and other down islands. It's a decision I never quite
understood, except maybe, perhaps we were having just too much fun, and they
didn't like it!
In the morning, after breakfast, we would crank up our outdoor speakers and
play a loud rendition of the tune to Amazing Grace, played by
bagpipes, while we put up the seven or more sails, hoisted the
anchors and slowly sailed out of port. At night, in an anchorage, we often
played rowdy dance songs and danced on the upper deck. Sometimes we caught
a bucket full of crabs ashore and brought them out to the ship for a visit,
"leased" them to the passengers, then had crab races, complete with side
betting and prizes to the winner. After the races, we safely returned the crabs
Upon anchoring in front of a gorgeous beach, our passengers might dive off
the bow sprit, or climb the mast to the crow's nest for a bird's eye view of the
anchorage. If there wasn't a bar ashore at the beach, (back then, in the dark
ages, many beaches were simply unspoiled without hotels or bars, imagine
that!) we loaded up a cooler full of drinks and took those ashore with our
Yep, we were having way too much fun, and the fun police sought to put an
end to that... but no one can steal the wonderful memories I have of
such wonderful times spent, messing about in boats and on islands.