Hopper here, taking over blog duties. Travel day for me: 4:00 a.m. wake up, various winged and wheeled vehicular locomotion, including a whole row to myself on a direct flight to Puerto Rico. JetBlue is awesome. The staff is more friendly, the planes cleaner and more comfortable, the delays fewer.
As the plane descends into San Juan, I look down and see the turquiose water crashing on the shore, and I get that mix of nerves and excitement as I think about the responsibilities and eventual highs and lows of the week ahead. The San Juan airport is jammed full with cruise ship passengers, but I found a seat at a restaurant and had some decent fish tacos and a beer. Some clients from week 1, traveling in the opposite direction, saw my SwimVacation shirt and asked me if I was Hopper. I said no. Just kidding. Dan and Jori were all smiles, and seemed light on their feet from a week of sun and swimming.
We use these little puddle jumper airlines to get from San Juan to the BVIs. Air Sunshine is one of the carriers. I call them No Problem Mon airlines. You can only reserve a seat via fax, the planes are tiny 9-seater vintage Cessnas, and you are fairly likely to be asked to sit in the co-pilot seat. It’s hard not to play with the buttons. Sometimes they strand you at the gate until well after the scheduled departure, no staff in sight, leaving you wondering if there was a crash or if they are still in business or if the pilot is taking his time sucking back mojitos in the airport bar. After years of Caribbean travel, I find this all quaint now, rather than scary. Our pilot, Danielle, long blonde hair, maybe 6′-1″ folded herself in the aircraft, told the passenger/co-pilot to shut up for two minutes so she could take off, and before you know it, we were flying over the Virgin Islands, both U.S. and British, and as always, I was eyeing our old swimming spots and looking for new ones.
The BVI government has decided it needs more money, so they have this woman standing on the runway who takes $10 from every visitor. She gives you a receipt that says BVI Development Fund. Quaint.
Yacht owner Kerry and guide Heather picked me up, immediately handing me an expertly prepared dark n stormy. Heather (also our photographer) wanted some land-based shots around the island. Kerry white-knuckled her way around switchbacks, tires squealing, up the side of the ancient volcanoes that make up these islands.
Brakes smoking, CV joints clacking, the engine died in the middle of a switchback. Popped the hood, checked water, checked oil, jiggled battery, looked underneath. All seemed OK but electrical acting funny. Still no start. Kerry calls husband Bazza to come get us. Sun setting, car full of booze. Could be worse. Before Bazza and Deckhand Felix get there I predict that the SUV will start within 2 minutes after their arrival. Felix tightens positive terminal on battery and it starts. Frig. There is nothing worse than being THAT guy in this situation. I lost my man card for at least 24 hours, maybe longer.
Break down. Not so bad with booze and a view!
Heather, tipsy, takes more photos on ride back to Road Town. Eat, meet 3-time client Mark, meet new guide Dave, dinghy to Promenade, say hello to her, sleep.
Heather here – glad to have my buddy Hopper back on board, glad to still be here, glad to have been on our crazy mountain adventure yesterday evening. The antics were even more enjoyable on the heels of the day’s work of flipping the boat, preparing her for new clients. We ferried week one passengers to shore, hugged them and saw them off, returned to Promenade to sweep, scrub, lug, shop, restock, repack, make trips in the dinghy (i love driving the dinghy) shop some more and put more stuff away. All the while Kerry and I chatted and sang to the stereo. I love being part of the workings of this boat. The work of getting Promenade ready for charter is intense, and given that i only do it once i year, I enjoy getting down and dirty with it. But it only increases my respect for the real crew – the heart and soul of this vessel who make what we do possible. Thank you Kerry, Bazza, Felix and Lindsey – your work means more to us than we can say!
Last dinner with week one guests. Restocking in the galley with Kerry.
Kerry stops to mix up a dark and stormy for Hopper’s arrival. Hopper mixes drinks in the back of our broken down Blazer. The legendary Bomba, owner of Bomba Shack.
After our day of prep, Kerry and I set out in the Blazer to collect Hopper at the airport, Dark n Stormy in hand, and well, he’s filled you in on the rest. Precisely the kind of (delightful) madcap adventure I have come to count on when I spend two weeks with my friend Kerry Hucul. This morning, more to do. In a few hours, a new group of swimmers arrive. Can’t wait to see what this week will hold.