By Eilene Lyon
The “From the Vault” series features an artifact or family photo from my collection to illustrate a tale from my distant past.
The first real vacation I took as an adult, after college, was a two-week Windjammer cruise in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). I had been living in Durango for less than a year, but in that time, my engagement had blown up, I’d been unceremoniously tossed from my apartment, and worked a ridiculous number of hours at two jobs for months on end.
Time for a break and fun times.
The Flying Cloud sailed two itineraries through the BVI, alternating weekly. Most passengers stayed only a week, but like me, some did both cruises. I booked a bunk in the bachelorette cabin, a cramped place where I rarely did anything but shower and change clothes. Sleeping on a paco pad on deck was much better than below-decks.
Our port of embarkation was Roadtown, Tortola, where I picked up a bottle of Pusser’s rum and this souvenir grog cup, reminiscent of the early days of the Royal Navy, when sailors received a tot of rum on good days. I drank an inordinate amount of rum during those two weeks, “Swizzle Time” before dinner being a daily treat.
I was far from the only single person on the ship, and good times were plentiful. Unlike big cruise ships á la Carnival or Royal Caribbean, windjammers carried fairly young, casual customers, fewer than a hundred in number. We snorkeled and partied every day. I packed very little other than swimsuits, shorts, and t-shirts. Barefoot cruises were exactly that—no shoes required, at least not on board.
Each week had a themed party. One was Pirates, Pimps, and Prostitutes. The other was a toga party, no undergarments allowed. Then we did the limbo. I’ll leave the results of that fiasco to your imagination.
Of the sea, my favorite recollections are: The Baths with its outsized boulders on the beach; snorkeling at Norman Island where I came across hundreds of conchs, all moving in unison in one direction; swimming out into the Atlantic at Drake’s Landing and being surrounded by a school of salty, silvery sea bass—unbelievably huge fish; trying to tightrope walk the anchor-rode before plunging into the water.
Of the people: an Aussie couple who taught us some colorful down-under slang; a quiet businessman, traveling without his wife, who brought luggage full of old work clothes (and shoes) and tossed them in the trash upon disembarking; two sisters with delightful senses of humor, ready to comb the islands for any sort of good time; the absolutely hunky captain with the British accent (oh yes!); and the crew member who wove me a permanent bracelet and a monkeys-fist necklace.
Though this last was a nice man from the islands, he wrote to me after I returned home in hopes of getting a green card. His final letter said he had suffered an accident and lost a leg as a result. I never learned if this was true, or a ploy for sympathy. I expect many American women are the recipients of this kind of attention.
I lost my Ohio State sweatshirt at the St. Thomas airport. A beach towel I bought flew overboard in a moment of inattention. My miniscule suitcase took a detour during the flights home. Despite all that, the BVI vacation remained my favorite for many, many years.