Sailing Naked in the Caribbean
I had subscribed to the Couchsurfing gay nudist discussion group. Most of it was pretty banal stuff, but at one point I started seeing postings about the Salty Boys nude sailing trips. It piqued my interest, so I checked out their website. They had a number of trips in all kinds of locations around the world. The one that caught my eye was the Caribbean trip. Not only was I increasingly coming to like that part of the world, I figured it would be a way to test my pipe dream of sailing the Caribbean in retirement. Until then that had only been a fanciful notion based on seeing sailboats moored in St. John. By taking this trip I could get a better feel for what it would really be like, and if it would be something I might actually enjoy.
The operation looked legit, but I was still a little weary about booking a trip like this. I engaged in a dialog with the skipper by email. It all sounded good, with one exception. The boat had four double-bed cabins, and passengers had to share. I didn't mind the close quarters or lack of privacy, but due to my cursed sleep issues, sharing a bed was a show-stopper. I can't even share a bed with my cat, let a lone a boyfriend. A stranger was right out of the question. But the skipper said there was a small captain's cabin way up in the bow. He said that I could have that, and that he'd share a bed with one of the passengers. It sounded a little sketchy to me, but he assured me that he'd done it before and it was no big deal. So I said okay, and I booked the trip. Other than having to arrange an international wire transfer to cover my passage, it was a breeze.
The next issue was getting to St. Lucia, which was the point of departure. The fares weren't too astronomical, but every single option I could find had me with an overnight layover. I looked a little more closely. It appeared that the only viable flight to St. Lucia was Jet Blue out of JFK, and it left at 8AM. The upshot was it was a direct flight. I decided to drive down to NYC the night before, stay at a hotel in the vicinity of JFK, and hop on the plane the next morning. I found a spot called the JFK Inn which was conveniently located and reasonably priced. Everything was set.
I decided to go into work, and leave early to drive down to the city that afternoon. The big question was the degree to which I would try to avoid rush hour traffic in the city. If I had my 'druthers I'd get in fairly early so I could relax that evening, but the last thing I wanted was to be stuck for hours in bumpter-to-bumper traffic. I decided to time it so that I would be arriving at the hotel around 8PM. That had me staying at the office until practically the end of the work day.
The drive to the city was no big deal, but still rather irksome. It's a long drive. And being January, the possibility of bad weather is always worrisome. It looked pretty clear, except maybe some rain down in the city. The rain did start about when I was entering Eastern NJ, right around the time the sun was going down. Things went from irksome to bothersome. I'd never had problems with night driving before, but I'm getting older, and the drive started to feel rather harrowing. Honestly I felt like I was on a wing and a prayer, that at any moment I could stray out of my lane, or make an unsafe lane change, and it would all be over. Things went fine, but I was very tense the whole way.
Traffic was also fine, right up until I hit the George Washington Bridge. The bridge always moves slowly, which doesn't usually bother me because I get right off at the Henry Hudson Parkway, but this time I was staying on 95. Traffic inch-wormed between a crawl and a moderate speed. As I traversed the Cross Bronx Expressway I had flashbacks to my youth, making the same trip in my 1974 Renault. Back then I was petrified that I would have a breakdown in that cursed location. It looked like something out of Escape From NY. On this occasion my little Toyota was no trouble at all, and in the dark I couldn't see all the post-appocalypse refuse by the side of the road. I just wanted traffic to move along so I could get to my hotel and relax. And unlike my youth, when I had a folded map on a clipboard on my lap, I now had a Garmin satnav telling me which way to go. Other than a hefty toll on the Whitestone Bridge that I wasn't expecting, and irksome traffic that didn't want to keep moving, and a dreary nighttime rain, things went fine. As usual, I was over-prepared in terms of navigation. I had actually used Google Street View to print out images of the exits I would take, and had them on a clipboard in my lap (some things never change). This was good because Garmin had it's own idea of how I should get from 678 to the hotel, and my route was much better.
So finally I arrive at the JFK Inn. I actually almost drove past it, but saw it at the last minute. It was a fucking dump, nestled into a particularly dumpy part of town. There were chain hotels all over the place, but to save a couple bucks I had booked myself into a pretty ugly spot. The parking lot was almost empty. I went inside, and there was what looked like a homeless man pouring himself a cup of coffee in the lobby. His clothes actually looked clean and new, but his fashion sense and physical posture was that of a bum. The girl who checked me in spoke such poor English that I could barely understand her. But at least I was out of the car, the traffic, and the dreary rain. The room itself wasn't too bad, but it was located near an entrance to the building that did not lock. Anyone could stroll in at any hour of the night. I wasn't too terribly worried about this because the hotel was located in a stretch where there would be little of any foot traffic, but it didn't fill me with confidence to get a good night's sleep before flying out early the next morning. After an irksome trip to a nearby Burger King, and more than a little difficulty finding my way back to the hotel, I was in for the night.
I was up pretty early the next morning. I took a quick shower and gathered my stuff. Checkout was uneventful, except that the guy was surprised I didn't need a shuttle to the airport. I swung by the same Burger King for a little drive-thru breakfast. The advantage of having difficulty getting back to the hotel the night before was that it showed me pretty much the whole drive to the long-term parking. I didn't have a lot of trouble finding a spot relatively close to the Air Train platform, but I left all my cold weather gear in the car so that I didn't have to lug it with me on a sailboat in the Caribbean the whole upcoming week. It made for a chilly walk. I got to Jet Blue's Terminal 5 just fine, but the automated check-in kiosk was choking on my passport. I had to wait in a long line so that a human could get me my boarding passes. That gave me plenty of time to worry that something might go wrong. I don't know why I love to worry so much. I don't know why I allowed myself to panic when I accidentally mistook my passport's issue date for the expiration date. Once I finally got up to the desk things went fine. Security also went fine, except that I totally forgot that my Burger King milk violated the "no liquids" policy. My gate was of course at the far end of the concourse. I got there just as they were starting to board. I used to always get to the gate with an hour to spare, but lately I'd been cutting it close.
Within minutes I was sitting on the plane. We pushed back more or less on time, but then sat on the taxiway for a while. The captain came on the loudspeaker and explained that the fog and low cloud cover was messing things up, and we had to taxi to a runway that was quite a distance away, and that we were pretty far back in line for takeoff. This didn't bother me too much, considering it was a direct flight, but the Saltyboys instructions indicated that I should be at the dock at a certain time, and while I had originally expected to be hours early, now it was looking pretty close. There was really nothing to worry about, but that's never stopped me from worrying in the past. I patiently watched Behind The Music: The Leif Garrett Story on the Jet Blue DirecTV service while I waited. It took quite a while to get airborne, but finally we did take off. I had rented a couple movies to watch on my iPad. I keep a list of movies people have recommended. Unfortunately, not a lot of them were available for rent on iTunes. I put in Evil Dead 2, which I selected based on raves I had heard on some podcast. As it started playing I thought it was cool that they set it in the 80's. But after a bit I realized that they filmed it in the 80's. I quickly realized that it was a total piece of garbage. There was nothing interesting or even scary about it at all. It was a totally cheesy 80's B movie. Another film I had rented was Gaslight, a psychological thriller from 1944 starring Charles Boyer and Ingred Bergman. I had heard Click & Clack reference it a couple times whenever conversation went to one spouse driving another spouse crazy. I started watching it, but it was too tense. I wanted to relax. Unfortunately our route had us outside the DirecTV satellite reception zone, so I just watched other crap that I always keep on my iPad.
Towards the end of the flight they came around with immigration forms for us to fill out. I don't know why this always freaks me out. It's all pretty vanilla stuff, but I guess it just makes me feel like I'm going that much farther from home and my comfort zone. Plus I'm never really sure I'm filling it out correctly. One of the fields was the name of the hotel or ship where I'd be staying. I wasn't told the name of our sailboat, so I figured I'd put "Saltyboys." I pulled a pen from my bag and started writing. I was trying to be careful because I didn't want to fuck up the carbon copy below. But my pen kept failing. Finally I got fed up and filled the rest of it out in pencil.
Finally we were on our approach to St. Lucia, and eventually on the ground. One quaint ideosyncrasy of Caribbean airports is that they wheel portable staircases out to the planes instead of having movable jetways. Because of my position in the back of the plane, I was one of the last people off, and was towards the end of the line for customs. We had landed late, because we took off late, and my generous contingency for getting to the boat on time was now quickly evaporating. After patiently waiting in line for some time, I finally got up to an agent. She looked at my form, and handed it right back to me. "This must be filled out in ink," she said. "No pencil."
So I went back into the terminal to find someone to give me another form. I found a woman, but she didn't have any. She said that someone was coming with more shortly. So I took the opportunity to go to the bathroom and take a leak. When I came back out she was nowhere to be found. Finally I saw her, and she had a whole stack of forms. She said she was looking for me, but couldn't find me. So I got a form and went to fill it out. My pen was working okay, but I fucked it up on like the 3rd field, and had to go get yet another form. Finally I had it filled out and got back in line. By now another plane had landed, so I was back at the end of the line again. At least this time I got through okay. She gave me my carbon copy, plus the return tab from the top copy, and sent me on my way.
The next order of business was currency exchange. The skipper said to exchange for Eastern Caribbean dollars, and gave a target amount. I decided to get plenty extra, and actually had tons more American currency as backup. The exchange went okay, except that I had to wait for someone to show up at the window (I was trying to re-adjust to island time), and her accent was very heavy, and she practically spoke in a whisper despite the fact that there was bullet-proof glass between us. But within a few minutes I had a fistful of EC dollars, and was ready to go. But next there was another immigration step. I'm not even sure what this one was all about. Maybe checking luggage. I gave the lady my carbon copy. She looked at it, then smiled. "Salty boys!" she said cheekily in her charming patois accent. "I keep seein' you guys come through." That made me feel good in that I was not alone, but at the moment I was, and still awash in uncertainty.
I was now freely within the borders of St. Lucia, but my next challenge was ground transportation. My destination was the Rodney Bay Marina. I was told to expect a fare of about $100, which seemed really steep, until I realized it was probably EC dollars, which were worth a percentage of US dollars. Based on my experience in St. Thomas, I expected there to be regular shuttles that went across the island. But this was not the case. I could pick up a public bus, but the bus stop was outside of the airport, and I decided not to get involved in that. When I started talking to the taxi dispatchers, I realized that no, the fare would be $100US. My god! Some American lady who worked there in some capacity said that she'd hook me up with a ride. I stood around for quite a while, realizing my chance of getting to the dock on time was dwindling away. Finally she came back with some Australian guy who was also going to Rodney Bay. She hooked us up with what appeared to be a privateer taxi. I was a little unnerved by this, but decided to throw caution to the wind. Between us it would be only $50US each for the ride. We climbed in the car and off we went.
I was still very uneasy. I was on my way, but time was now very slim for me to get to the boat on time. I had the number of the skipper, but it was international, and I wasn't sure how to get it into my iPhone. Plus in order to text him I needed to turn on international data roaming. At the time I was willing to do anything to get some assurances that the boat wouldn't leave without me. But I was still unable to reach him. And after a while I lost cell reception anyway. The drive was going slowly. Then it stopped altogether. We just sat in traffic with nothing moving, and no cars coming the other direction. And in these twisty Caribbean mountain roads, we couldn't see ahead to know what was going on. I just waited and waited and stewed and stewed. I pondered the fact that it's the powerlessness that causes me so much stress when I travel. It's not so much the fact that things are or could go wrong. It's that whatever happens is 100% out of my control. Whatever situation I'm in, there is virtually nothing I can do to influence it. Even if the situation isn't bad, this still makes me extremely uneasy. Finally, after quite a long wait, traffic did start moving. There had been an accident that had the road blocked. At least we were moving again. I tried to follow our progress on my iPhone maps, but without reception I had no 3G. The drive went on and on and on. And on and on and on. And on and on and on. In St. Thomas the drive goes slowly, but it doesn't take that much lapsed time to get to the other side of the island. But we had been in the car over an hour, and there was still no sign that we were anywhere near the destination. Finally we came to a port town. There were quaint shops, and huge cruise ships in the harbor. I thought this would be our destination, but we drove through that and kept going. I didn't know if it would ever end. My target time for arriving at the boat had now passed.
Finally we came upon another small village, and ultimately to the Rodney Bay Marina. The good news was that it looked modern and civilized. The bad news was that once out of the car, I had no fucking idea where to go. The email instruction said, "Once arrived at the main reception of the marina, ask for The Moorings yachting office. Also you can look for the blue and pink Saltyboys flag on our boat, a white model Moorings 50.5." I had assumed that it would be easy to find the blue and pink flag, but I was now looking out across a vast forest of sailboat masts. I looked around for the yachting office, but all I saw were restaurants and shops. I wasn't panicked as much as I was frustrated. It must have shown on my face, because pretty quickly people started asking me if I needed help. One of the marina workers walked me over to the yachting office. It was back behind some sketchy building with a tiny sign by the door that could totally not be seen from any distance at all. Inside was a smiling island lady who instantly put me at ease. "Don't worry..." she said in her Caribbean accent. "Ev'rytin' is fine." She walked me out to the boat, explaining that some passengers had arrived, some are still expected, and the skipper wasn't even there yet. She brought me all the way to the boat, where I could drop off my bag. I had intentionally packed light. Not only did I not want to lug a lot of crap around with me, nor did I expect there would be a lot of storage space on the boat, but I didn't think I'd need much of anything. This was a naked trip, after all. I had a couple speedos, some shorts and t-shirts, and clean socks and underwear, and that was about it. It all fit in one book bag with a little room still to spare.
The lady told me that the others who had already arrived were at the bar having drinks, and that I could recognize them by the group that was all men. I followed her back to dry land, and set out to find them. I got to the first place that was serving drinks, and looked out for a group of guys. But right smack in front of me someone yelled out, "Salty boy!" There were three guys at a table just feet away. Apparently they recognized me from my Facebook picture (the skipper had created a FB event that we all joined). Finally now I could relax. I didn't feel alone anymore. I sat down, and we got to know each other.
There was an American named Rich who looked like he was in his early retirement years. There was a French Canadian hot muscle stud named Dominic. And there was an amiable British guy named Jeremy. They were all smiles. I felt an instant bond with them, like we had been friends for years. This is typically the way it goes with gay nudist groups, but usually not until the clothes come off. But suffice it to say, I was now confident that I would enjoy some good company on the week ahead. They were all having a jolly good time, but were a little puzzled that the skipper hadn't made an appearance yet. We sat and got to know each other as they sucked down the alcohol. It was one of those rare occasions where I wished I still drank, just so I could enjoy the tranquilizing effect. We talked away and got to know each other. It turned out that Rich and Dominic were traveling companions, but (according to Rich), there was nothing else going on there. I had checked out Dominic on Facebook as I prepared for the trip. The first thing I noticed was that pretty much every single picture in his photo album was him with his shirt off showing off his muscles. I expected him to be vain, egotistical, and full of himself, but he wound up being totally charming and fun-loving. He smiled non-stop, and was constantly making jokes and just having a good time. Jeremy was by himself, like I was. He worked for a cheese company, and was quite the foodie. In fact he had smuggled quite a quantity of specialty foods with him into the country, that he was excited to share with us over the course of the week.
Eventually the skipper did show up. He was a Dutch guy named Jan (pronounced Yahn), who was pretty mellow. We went back to the boat where we met up with two additional passengers. One was named Douglas, a youngish American living in Germany, and the other was Torsten, a tall, pot bellied German living in Miami. I didn't get such a friendly vibe from them. Douglas came off a little condescending, like nothing was good enough for him. Torsten, other than being rather typically German, if you will, rolled his eyes when he learned that I had arranged to have the captain's cabin all to myself. That was my opportunity to tell the group that it was strictly a sleep thing, that I wasn't a prima donna or anything. Everyone else seemed to be fine with it, but Torsten was dismissive. At least he wasn't directly giving me any attitude.
As people were settling in, I went up to check out my captain's cabin. I quickly realized that it was no perk. It was literally wedged up in the prow of the boat. I had to climb in and out through a hatch in the deck. The little bunk was barely wider than my hips. And the whole space smelled like a port-a-potty from the little marine toilet that was under the bunk. Oh, and there were no sheets or anything. And there was a damp film of moisture over every square inch of everything in the room.
The next order of business was to go grocery shopping. The way Saltyboys does it is that all passengers chip in on a "kitty" that is used to buy provisions, and cover restaurants, mooring fees, and other incidental expenses. One passenger is to be in charge of money for the whole trip. Douglas agreed to do it based on the fact that his day job was in international banking, and that he'd been on these Saltyboys trips before and basically knew the drill. So we all handed over wads of cash, and set out. As we were walking on the dock back to land, some local guy in a boat offered to give us a ride by water across the bay to the store. It was quickly becoming clear that every step you take in this part of the world, there are people offering various ways to separate you from your money. He insisted that the best grocery store was across the bay, and that he could take us there. Some of the guys wanted to go for it. I was very concerned that we'd get all the way over there, be loaded down with piles of groceries, and have no way to get back. Most of the guys kept walking, but some were still talking to the local guy. My first instinct in any situation like this is to facilitate a resolution to the matter at hand. Part of it is that this is largely what my career and professional training are centered around, but it's also just due to my control-freak nature that I feel I need to be involved in the solution to whatever is going on. But I quickly decided that I was going to abdicate all control on pretty much everything for the entire trip. Since most of the guys kept walking, and since I wanted to be with them, I just kept walking myself. Before long the few guys who were talking to the local guy caught up with us and we all proceeded to the grocery store that was within walking distance.
At the store, things quickly devolved into utter pandemonium. This was an interesting exercise for a bunch of strangers to learn how to work together quickly. Everyone was running around grabbing all kinds of things without any clear strategy or organized process to determine what we needed and to ensure that it had all been covered. I quickly went into abdication mode. Every fiber in my being wanted to establish and follow a plan, but the last thing I wanted was to invest myself in the success of the mission. As long as there was cold cuts and bread, I knew at least I'd be able to eat for the week. If anyone specifically needed anything, I would attempt to find it, but I made no contributions into the discussion of what was and wasn't needed. And the truth was that things came together okay. All Torsten cared about was the booze. He made no compunction about announcing he was an alcoholic, and would be drinking vast quantities all week. I think someone may have noted that I didn't drink, and that it was unfair for me to chip in on the bar tab, but I told them not to worry about it. Even before I left, I had come to the conclusion that the incidental expenses were going to be what they were going to be, and that I would only jeopardize my own good time if I gave a tinker's damn about it. If I wound up paying for stuff I didn't want or need, then so be it. Who cares.
So ultimately we filled a few shopping carts with stuff and made our way to the checkout. It was quite an ordeal ringing it all up. The grand total was astronomical, even considering it was in EC dollars. I didn't think there was any way that the money we chipped in would last the entire week. But I didn't concern myself with it. Douglas was doing a fine job, including figuring out how to pay the bill with a combination of EC and US dollars. Someone even had managed to get a cab ready and waiting for the trip back. Within minutes we were back at the dock, and a marina worker was there with lots of carts for us to transport all the stuff back to the boat. Once back on board, I also utterly abstained from any decision on where stuff should be stored.
By this time our final two shipmates had arrived. One was a nice looking soft spoken American guy named John, and his friend Jim. Jim looked a little like the muppet version of the bald inmate in Cuckoo's Nest who never got out of bed the whole movie. But he was also soft spoken and seemed affable. Once all the food was put away we all went as a group up to get some food from one of the marina joints. Jan recommended the pizza place. It was late enough I guess that they were able to accommodate our large party. All my shipmates got pizza. I ordered crepes. It was pretty good. And before long we were headed back to the boat. As we walked along, a local guy was offering us Cuban cigars. No one was interested. Fortunately no one in the group was a smoker. But I made the wry comment, "I wish there was something else to smoke."
"Yah mahn," the guy said. "I got that too!"
I was intrigued, but too chicken shit to do anything about it. Dominic, on the other hand, stopped to inquire further. I was going to tell him that I'd gladly chip in if I could share in whatever he got, but I figured I'd put my faith in him, and hope he'd pass it around. I didn't want to get high that night, anyway. I just wanted to crawl into my little berth and get some sleep.
My little cabin actually didn't have any sheets or pillows. Jan said that would be taken care of, but it hadn't been. But Douglas gave me the extra sheets from his cabin. It was nice having a spot all to myself as I made up the bed and stuff. But when I lay down I came to appreciate that the tiny little bunk would not make it easy to sleep. If I had space on both sides I could have dealt with the narrow bed, but because it was pushed right up to the hull of the boat I had to hang off one side of it. It took me quite a while to finally fall asleep.
I was up at the crack of dawn as I expected I would be. No one else was up, and there was no sign of Jan, who had stayed on shore the night before. I went up to the marina to use a terrestrial bathroom, and then right back to the boat. With nothing better to do, I started watching Gaslight from where I had left off. At this point I was more emotionally accommodating of the stress-inducing, psychologically perverted subject matter. It was actually a pretty good movie, although I basically could see the end coming from the very beginning.
By the time I was done watching the movie, more people were up. Some guys went ashore to get some more provisions, but the top thing on everyone's mind seemed to be taking a shower in the land-based facilities before we left port. It was practically all anyone was talking about. Mostly we just milled around waiting for things to get going. There was still no sign of Jan. I was getting to know my shipmates a little better, particularly Douglas and Torsten. I was finding that Douglas' condescending attitude was just his gay affectation, and that once you appreciated it as being his baseline viewpoint, he was actually a pretty affable guy.
Finally Jan showed up, but there was still much lingering before things got organized. I was under the impression that we were facing a long day at sea, and expected a more determined start to the day, but no one seemed to be in much of a hurry, including the guy in charge. I eventually learned that on this day we would only sail to the south end of the island of St Lucia, which was a bit of a ways, but not a very ambitious day, which was why no one was in a hurry to get underway. A couple more hours passed before he finally brought us all together for our orientation. I thought it would be a little more safety/survival oriented, but he mostly talked about things like apply your sun screen on deck so you don't get the cabin all oily. That and the fact that you could not flush toilet paper in the marine heads. That made everyone wonder how we would take care of business, but Douglas explained that you can either "walk with mud butt" to the edge of the boat and jump in the water to wash off your ass, or just poop directly into the water while swimming. Neither sounded all that appealing, but there wasn't much I could do about it. I seemed less put off by it than some of my more prim shipmates.
After another hour or so of lingering, we finally took off. I was very excited. We motored out of our mooring, and then out of the harbor, and then out into the bay. All along we were towing a zodiac style inflatable raft behind us with an outboard engine. This was our dingy that we would use to get back and forth to shore when needed over the course of the excursion. I expected Jan to raise the sails and proceed on wind power, but he kept on motoring even after we were out in the open water. In fact he motored for quite some time. I was beginning to wonder if this was a sailing trip in name only. At least once we were a discreet distance from land people started getting naked. I decided to keep my Speedo on a little longer for no particular reason.
Finally, after quite some time, Jan started getting ready to put up the sails. I paid very close attention. This was for a few reasons. One was that this trip was also supposed to be a training exercise, and I wanted to see if I knew for myself what it was that Jan was doing. Secondly, I wanted to help out and contribute in any way I could. And third, I'm a total control freak and I had to know exactly what was going on at all times. Well it turned out that Torsten had his own boat, a 30 foot Catalina back in Miami, and was designated as First Mate to give Jan any assistance he needed. The rigging on this boat was a little complex, but I was following what they were doing pretty well. And after a few minutes of concerning myself with what was going on, I very effectively let go of my control freak side, and figured that if Jan needed anything from me he'd ask.
So it was nice to be out on the water, but it wasn't a terribly exciting day of sailing. We made our way down the West shore of St Lucia slowly but surely. Eventually we came upon two striking peaks with a little bay between. This was our destination for the evening. Jan put the sails back down and motored into the little bay.
On the shore of the little bay was a not so little resort. Jeremy knew a little about it and was very excited to be here. Apparently a lot of celebrities and famous people come here because no one can find them. It was quite exclusive, and positively 4-star. The plan was to have dinner there later, but it was still rather early. Jeremy and Torsen wanted to go ashore right away, but everyone else chose to stay put on the boat. I wasn't sure whether to stay or go. I wasn't really sure what Jeremy and Torsent's plan was, or what we would do to kill time while we were there. Some local guys had arrived at our boat and were preparing to ferry Jeremy and Torsent to shore, so I had to decide quickly, but I was awash in uncertainty. That usually drives me nuts, but I was getting more relaxed on this trip with every passing minute, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and head out with them. This whole trip was an adventure, so I figured I would start venturing. I was assured by Jan and others that we would be coming back to the boat before dinner, so I just jumped into the dingy in my Speedo, a pair of gym shorts, a tank top, and my sneaks. I didn't bring anything else with me, like my phone or camera.
The local guy ferried us to shore and disappeared. Jeremy and Torsen made a bee-line for the bar. I poked around just a little while they were waiting for their drinks. It was indeed a swanky resort, but it didn't look like there were a lot of people there. I went back to the beach to find Jeremy and Torsten sitting at a table with their drinks. I joined them. The view out to the open water, framed by these two massive peaks was stunning. Jeremy was giving us a little history, about how some British aristocrat discovered the place and developed the resort, and when he started inviting celebrities to join him there that it started catching on with the international fabulous set.
Jeremy decided that he had to go for a swim. I wasn't sure I wanted to get wet, but within seconds realized that it would be foolish to give up the opportunity of having the life experience of swimming in the ocean in this unbelievably beautiful setting. So I stripped down to my Speedo and ran right into the water after him. It was so absolutely the right thing to do. The swim was okay, but the setting was spectacular. But after a short while I decided I'd had enough of the experience and got back out. With no towel or anything I had to walk around in my Speedo while I dried naturally.
After a while, Jeremy was done with his swim too. He wanted to poke around the resort and check it out. Torsten wanted to sit and drink, but I was as curious as Jeremy, so I joined him. The place was quite fancy, and probably very expensive to stay there. I considered the notion that if you arrive somewhere by boat, you tend to automatically bring a sense of credibility with you, no matter how posh or exclusive the location is. If you're traveling by boat, people tend to assume you're in the jet set. No one really gave us a second glance as we basically invaded the space. The first thing we saw was the pool. It was nice, pretty damn nice, actually, but what was jaw-dropping was the setting it was in. It was positioned longitudinally such that the North peak of The Pitons was directly behind it. This massive, steep peak just sprung up out of the ground with the beautiful pool laid out before it. It was one of the most amazing sights I'd ever seen. At this point I was totally regretting having left my camera on the boat.
Jeremy and I continued poking around. Behind the main compound on the beach were private cabins and villas along little roads that snaked up the slope. We walked a bit of a ways up there before turning around and coming back down again. We walked to the far end of the beach, and then walked back to the main compound where Torsten was still sitting there having his drink. By now I had pretty well dried off, but my Speedo was still damp. We sat down and quietly chatted as they sucked down their drinks and we wondered what the plan was for dinner.
After a time we saw the guys all getting into the dingy and heading to the shore. It looked to me like they were all dressed for dinner. Sure enough, when they arrived, I was told that we were going directly to dinner rather than back to the boat as I had been promised. I didn't mind terribly, except that this meant that I would be sitting through dinner in gym shorts over a soggy Speedo, and that I would not have the opportunity to get my camera to take pictures of this once in a lifetime setting.
The plan for dinner was to inland a bit to a restaurant up the hill that specialized in chocolate. Everything on the menu was prepared in some way with chocolate or cocoa beans. It sounded a little odd to me, but I was up for about anything. Jan was able to secure us a taxi through one of the guys who had originally ferried Jeremy, Torsten and me to shore. At this point I was really glad I was with a group, because when I'm alone I get too fearful and lazy to do things like arrange rides to unknown locations inland. On this trip I was definitely doing a lot of things I would not have done otherwise.
The "taxi" arrived, but it turned out to be a beat up little pickup truck. Some of us had to ride in the back. A lot of our party were complaining, but this was hardly unknown to me, so I just hopped in. It was actually a fun way to see the local sights as we meandered our way up the twisty mountain roads, because in the back of the pickup truck we could see all around and above us. At one point I looked over my shoulder to see a beautiful sunset between the two peaks, made all the more impressive by our vantage point at the higher elevation. I actually turned around facing the tailgate that was holding me in so that I could gaze upon the view for the rest of the drive.
When we arrived at the restaurant I saw that it was actually part of another swanky resort. The restaurant itself was very well done, with an open plan that looked out to the bay below and the two huge peaks. It was another stunning sight, made all the more impressive by the gorgeous sunset that was blazing across the sky. Yet again, I cursed the fact that I didn't have my camera with me. We were actually a little early to be seated, so I poked around. There was an infinity pool on the level below, that I was able to find my way down to. Being still in my wet Speedo I could actually have dived in for a dip, but I didn't want to get all wet again just before dinner. I was able to coerce Jan into taking a picture of me though.
The dinner itself was very good. I had the ribeye steak with white chocolate mashed potatoes. The steak was very much to my liking. The potatoes night sound a little gross, but they were actually quite tasty, if a bit sweet. We had merry conversation over the course of the meal. Many of us were eyeing a nice looking slim young man eating by himself. I thought he looked like Harold from the movie "Harold & Maude." We wondered if someone should go over and say hello, but he ate his meal quickly and was gone. By the end of our own meal I began to wonder how much this was all going to cost, especially considering all the rest of my shipmates were sucking down lots of cocktails and bottles of wine. But Douglas was in charge of the money, so I didn't let myself get concerned with it. I couldn't help but ponder the notion that if I had been by myself my meal would have cost a fraction of what my share would be, especially considering that I paid an equal amount of the bar tab despite the fact that I'd only drunk water, but I put that right out of my mind. If I tried to nickel and dime my way down to a lower share, it would only cause stress for myself and the rest of the party. So I adopted a staunch "money is no object" attitude then and for the whole rest of the trip.
As we were finishing up, Douglas had the hostess arrange a ride back to the beach. The woman was trying to be very helpful, but Douglas was placing extreme limitations on the price. He didn't want to pay any more to return to the beach than we had paid to drive up from the beach, despite the fact that we had arrived in a beat up old pickup truck. Some of us tried to dissuade him, but he was adamant. I tried to let go of my control freak inclinations, but I still felt very sorry for the poor hostess whom Douglas had given an entirely impossible objective. She was finally able to find a driver at Douglas' price, but when we started piling into the van it was realized that the quoted price was not for a ride all the way back down to the beach. Douglas started getting all dogmatic and demanding with the driver. By now I was way in the far back seat of the van, and couldn't involve myself even if I wanted to. Jan was sitting in front of me. I suggested that he might need to interceded in the negotiations and bring a little reality to Douglas, but somehow it was worked out and we were on our way.
Soon we were back down by the water. We piled into the dingy and putted our way back to the boat. This was a relaxing time. Dinner was over, our adventure had concluded, we were safely in our secure refuge, we could all get naked again, and there was nothing to do but quietly enjoy the end of the evening before turning in. Dominic rolled a joint from the weed he had purchased the night before. I took a couple hits, but I only got a disappointingly mild buzz. I figured the weed probably wasn't that potent. As we sat there chatting, we saw a boat going around the harbor shining its light on other boats. I was a little conearned as to what this was all about. Someone said they were checking the names of the boats to make sure everyone there had paid to anchor for the night.
After a little chatting I turned in anyway. I cuddled up in my tiny bunk and tried to fall asleep.
I woke up feeling surprisingly okay considering my cramped sleeping accommodations. I had to poop pretty much right away. In order to access the little toilet in my cabin I actually had to fold up the bunk, and the mechanism to hold it in the up position was broken, so I had to actually hold it up with one hand as I sat on the toilet. This wasn't working for me, so I decided to just hop in the water and poop directly there. This was a new one on me. I'm usually one to embrace new life experiences, but I wasn't too excited to learn what it's like to defecate while your ass is submerged and you're treading water. On this morning, thankfully, I didn't produce a lot of fecal matter.
Back on the boat, Dominic was cooking breakfast. It was a rather elaborate affair with eggs and bacon. Honestly all I wanted was a bowl of cereal and a banana. Everyone else seemed to be of a similar mind, because no one was eating any of Dominic's cooking. I didn't want him to feel bad so I had a big helping, but my stomach wasn't really in the mood for eggs. I had to choke it down, and didn't even finish it.
Jan wanted to be under way early that day, because we would be traveling through the open ocean to the island of St Vincent. This was the ambitious travel day that I had wrongly assumed would be the first day. So as soon as we had cleaned up from breakfast, and anyone who wanted to wash off in the ocean had done so, Jan fired up the motor and moved us out of the bay. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, and the views of the Pitons as we headed out were spectacular.
Jan again stayed on the motor for quite a while, even though there was plenty of wind and we were heading away from shore. As we got out and away from the island we got an escort from some dolphins who swam right along with our boat. I had heard of this behavior, and maybe seen some clips on TV, but it was quite amazing to be seeing it in real life. I wished I could have watched it with my own eyes, but I was determined to get some good photos of it.
Once we were well out to sea, Jan finally stopped the motor and put up the sails. I was watching him again, but this time not because I was a control freak, but because there wasn't much else to do. Once we were underway I did notice that he pulled the sail down a bit to reduce the overall surface area. My conclusion was that it was because there was more wind than Jan wanted for a full sail. I didn't have much to compare it to, never having sailed on the open ocean before. It didn't look like the conditions were too bad to me, but it was a little bouncy.
After we had gone a little ways, we could start seeing the outline of St Vincent in the distance. I wasn't really expecting this. Actually I wasn't sure what to expect, but my guess was that we'd be all by ourselves out in the open ocean with no sight of land for at least part of the journey between the islands. But it turned out that St Vincent came into view long before St Lucia left our view. The thing was how slowly we were moving. I mean, we were cutting our way through the waves in a fairly heavy wind, but St Vincent just didn't seem to be getting any closer.
I stayed in the cockpit with some of my shipmates for some time. Jan actually had the helm on auto-pilot, so he didn't even need to hold the wheel. When I got bored I listened to podcasts. I couldn't go up to my cabin because the seas were too rough for me to try to work my way up to the bow and climb down that little hatch. I mostly just kept myself occupied as best I could. There had been some talk about sea sickness. Apparently John had experienced some sea sickness on a previous trip. He had some sort of medicinal patch on the skin behind his ear. Dominic also mentioned that he had taken some dramamine to stave off any sea sickness symptoms. Some experienced sailors back home had asked me if I had any concerns over sea sickness when I told them of my upcoming trip, and my only response was that I didn't know. Now here I was, bouncing around the waves, wondering if I would start to feel nauseated. I couldn't say I was terribly comfortable, but I wasn't feeling sick. Now and then I did feel maybe just a little queasy. I found that if I went down below decks and lay on the couch with my eyes closed that it helped. I just felt like I was being rocked to sleep. Mostly I was just bored. We were facing a rather long day of this, and it wasn't getting any shorter.
This if anything gave me some usable information regarding how much I would like this for a retirement activity. I learned that being on a boat is very nice, but traveling by boat can be more than a little irksome. I wasn't exactly having a bad time of it, but I wasn't enjoying it terribly much either. But little by little, St Vincent was very slowly getting bigger, and St Lucia was very slowly getting smaller. After a few long hours of this, we finally got right up beside the island of St Vincent. At this point Jan put the sails back down and fired up the motor. It made a little more sense this time, because we were on the leeward side of the island, and had lost almost all the wind. We were also done bouncing around, so it was possible to have a little lunch and stuff.
As we were slowly puttering along just off shore, I saw in the distance a speed boat heading on a parallel. As it gradually got closer to us, I wondered about the whole naked thing. We were all of us climbing in and around the boat stark naked the whole time. No one appeared to feel the need to cover up as this boat came up to overtake us. When they got within eyeshot I could see that it was a couple local guys on their way to somewhere. At first they didn't take much notice of us, just another sailboat out on the water, but I could see it in their faces when they realized that it was full of a bunch of naked guys. At first they just didn't know what to do with it. It was so far outside of their expectations and cultural frame of reference that they were a little dumbfounded. But, with the lack of any other sensible reaction, one of them flipped us off as they went past and sped off into the distance.
This was the kind of thing I was a little afraid of. I knew the Caribbean to generally be a pretty homophobic region. Our ship was full of naked men, and flying a big banner proudly reading "Saltyboys." We were hardly inconspicuous. And being out away from civilization, anyone who decided they didn't like what we were up to was pretty much free to board our ship and fuck us up in any way they wanted without any real fear of reprisals. I half expected these guys to come back and give us some real hassles. In this case they didn't, but the experience didn't do much to assuage my concerns. It remained in the back of my mind the whole time.
By the time we had traversed much of the island, we came to the first of the "secluded private beaches" that we were promised in the sales brochures. I had imagined secluded as meaning visually isolated, but this beach, while being off entirely by itself, was on the shore right out in the open. There was a catamaran up at one end. We made our way down to the other end, and Jan dropped anchor. We were quite a distance from shore, but apparently Jan didn't want to risk running aground. He also didn't feel like getting the dingy fired up. Some of the guys jumped right in and swam to shore, some wearing swim suits but others venturing out utterly naked and with nothing to cover themselves if they ran into anyone who didn't appreciate their nudity. I still had the memory of the homophobic guys fresh in my mind, and wasn't entirely sure I wanted to swim all that way, so I stayed on the boat. I got out my GoPro camera and took some video of myself jumping into the water. But pretty quickly I watched the guys on shore and felt like I was really missing out on something. I pulled on a Speedo and jumped in to swim ashore myself. It had looked like quite a distance from the boat, but it only looked like a greater distance when I was actually in the water, especially when I started getting a ways away from the boat. But I just maintained an easy breast stroke, and before I knew it I was there with them. It had to have been easily over 100 meters.
The sand on the beach was soft, like we were walking through wet flour. The rest of the guys were really raving about it. I thought it was nice, but not quite as unbelievable as they were making it sound. Honestly I was a little bored, and found myself only thinking about the long swim back to the boat. But it was something to do, and I was glad I had done it. I felt slightly more relaxed when the catamaran weighed anchor and left us to have the whole area to ourselves. But there just wasn't much to do on this beach. Before long everyone started swimming back, and I was happy to join them.
Jan fired up the motor and we continued on. We actually went past the entire island of St Vincent, and continued to some other islands a ways South. Our ultimate destination that day was called Bequia (pronounced "beck-way"). There had been a bit of a buzz about this. Apparently Bequia was somewhere special. It was fairly late in the day when we pulled into the harbor. The late day sun shone on the little harbor village. We were immediately met by a boat with a couple locals in it who said they would escort us to the best mooring spot. I didn't know if they were in an official capacity, or just a couple privateers looking to take our money. All I knew was that Jan followed them. When we did arrive and were all tied up, the guys did ask us for money. I heard Douglas ask them for a receipt. They looked at him like he was nuts.
"We don't want someone else coming along in a half hour asking us for money too like they did last night," Douglas said. I wasn't aware that this had happened.
The local guy shook his head. "No no no," he said. "This is Bequia. We don't do that shit here."
So Douglas paid him, but before he could even leave, guys started getting into the boat so that they could go ashore. I was quick to join them, but this time I made sure to bring my camera with me. I didn't even know what the plan was. Some of them, upon hearing that there were showers available, grabbed their towels and toiletries. I still didn't really understand this obsession with showering.
Once on land, most of the guys went off trying to find the showers. It was apparently a pay service like a coin-operated laundromat or something. But they were quite unsure of where it was. Jeremy and Torsten and I, again the adventuraous ones, set out to explore the village. Torsten was now starting to grow on me a little. He initially came off as a little stern, but underneath that exterior was just another gay man who wanted to get naked, have a drink, and enjoy himself.
What Jeremy and Torsten actually wanted to do was find a place to have a drink, but wanting to find the best place involved some exploration. The village itself was a small, quaint, typical little Caribbean community. We quickly found a walkway that hugged the edge of the water, with shops and restaurants along the inland side. We made it all the way down to the end before turning around to select which of all the little bars we saw was the best one to stop for a drink. Jeremy and Torsten made their choice. They sat down to order their drinks. Since I wasn't drinking, and feeling a little restless, I went back to see if I could find the shower people and escort them to where Jeremy and Torsten were. I eventually found them back in the village. They were all delighted to have showered. They asked if I wanted a shower as well. I told them no, that I was fine. We walked back to where I'd left Jeremy and Torsten. The rest of them ordered drinks. As we sat and chatted, there was more than a little conversation over how Bequia had been a disappointment, like there was nothing there that lived up to the hype. I wasn't really sure what the hype was. I thought the village to be unremarkable compared to other Caribbean villages, but to have a unique kind of a charm. I was happy just to be relaxing in a warm ocean environment.
While we were relaxing there, a young couple approached us. They were in their early 20's at the oldest, and barely spoke English. It turned out they were French. Dominic was able to engage them in their native tongue. After they talked for a bit, the couple left, and Dominic said that they were trying to find passage to a nearby island for some event. It was like they were seagoing hitchhikers. I thought that was an interesting way to live.
After another drink or two it was time to head back to the boat. The plan was to prepare dinner right on the boat. We all walked back to the spot where we had come ashore. We expected there to be no shortage of people willing to take us back to the boat in exchange for a fee, but none were to be found. It was vexing to me. Whenever you just want to be left alone, these guys are always swarming you, but the one time we actually needed and were willing to pay for a service, there was no one to be found. We went back and forth on the course of action we should take, and a couple of the guys started getting a little snippy. But eventually Jan showed up in the dingy. I think he was expecting to some ashore, but we told him to just turn around and take us back to the boat.
The plan for dinner that night was to grill up some fresh fish that they had scored from one of the many independent vendors who had come along our boat before we'd left that morning. I hadn't really been able to contribute much thus far, but that night my job was to get the charcoal grille fired up. It was a little, covered, metal box attached to the back rail on the stern of the boat. This was one thing I felt equipped to achieve successfully. We had gotten lots of charcoal and starter fluid when we got supplies the first night. I got it all set up and ready to go, but getting it lit in the ocean breeze was a bit of a challenge. The next time I go on a sailing trip I'll be sure to bring a Zippo along so that I can have a wind-proof source of fire. I was eventually able to get a strip of newspaper lit using the cover as a shield, and quickly the lighter fluid caught. Before long I was confident that the charcoal had taken off, and it began to simmer under the closed cover.
The rest of the guys were helping with other food preparations. Dominic was filleting the fish. It turned out they were tuna. I had no clue. Jeremy was also getting out some fo the fancy food that he had smuggled in with him. I frankly didn't have high hopes for this meal. The more fancy food is, the less I'm interested in it, and the fish were looking kind of gross. But I figured I would politely take a portion, and if I didn't like it I'd just make a sandwich or something.
The charcoal actually came up to temperature more quickly than I expected. I was quite satisfied that my area of responsibility had been fulfilled perfectly. They started grilling fish, and preparing salads, etc. Before long we were all sitting down to eat. I actually found the fish to be pretty damn good. I'd never had grilled tuna before. All the salad and the rest of that stuff was okay, I guess. That's all just filler as far as I'm concerned.
After the meal was complete and everything was cleaned up, we had another nice quiet evening relaxing in the calm cool ocean breeze. Dominic rolled another joint. I took another couple hits, and again I barely caught a buzz. It was hardly even worth it. Torsten made some remark about, "When is the orgy going to start?" He clearly had expectations that the trip was going to get playful at some point, but to date it had not at all. The Saltyboys.com FAQ addressed the issue by basically saying that boys will be boys, and that these things inevitably wind up happening. But so far I had gotten no sexual vibe at all, excepting Torsten's rather direct query. He pushed it just a little bit, but obviously no one was biting. Personally, as much as I was enjoying all the nakedness, hadn't been experiencing much of a sex drive at all this trip. I would have gotten it on with Dominic and/or John, and probably would have sucked Jim's dick (he was the most hung of anyone on board), but I really wasn't interested in Torsten as a sex partner.
After a little more chatting, I eventually went up to my cabin to turn in. I was sort of getting used to my slim, one-sided bunk, but it was still not terribly comfortable. On this night I was having restless leg syndrome rather bad. In fact it took me ages to fall asleep. But I finally did.
I opened my eyes. I woke up just like that. The sun was up and bright and shining through the hatch over my head. It was as if from when I had finally fallen asleep the night before, that I had just lain still the whole night until I awoke rather abruptly. And I actually felt rather well rested. Based on how late I'd finally fallen asleep, I should have felt like crap that morning, but I actually felt quite normal.
I popped up through my hatch to find that others were already up and getting the day started. No big heavy breakfast for me this day. I just had some muesli and milk.
backlog - rum punch & pina coladas - jeremy sleeping on the couch