The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Tortola, BVI
May 2008
"Vincent Van Goat"

When we started planning our annual trip to Tortola, we had no idea what a hailstorm of bad karma was headed our way.  Ten of us were planning to make the trip.  As the date for the trip approached, elderly parents of the travelers started showing signs of ill health.  Karla’s father had complications from a recently botched surgery.  Rita’s mom was diagnosed with cancer.  Cathy’s mom was admitted to Hospice.  Then travelers themselves started experiencing health problems.  Sue was in the hospital hooked to an I.V. and Mary contracted strep throat.  Then the flights filled up and it looked like there was no way we could get down there on stand-by.

We discussed whether any of this was a sign that we should cancel the trip.  It was probably really a billboard, but we were so determined that we just plunged ahead.  Sue was the only one who decided she couldn’t make the trip.  I guess the idea of rolling down the concourse with her I.V. pole was just too much for her.  She’s such a trooper though; she didn’t make the decision until the last minute, just in case she miraculously recovered.  Mary, the strep-throat victim, just postponed her trip for 1 day, long enough to get some antibiotics into her system.  

We decided to stagger our arrivals and departures so that we weren’t all standing by for the same flights.  JeRie, Karla, Cathy, Tony and I would arrive on Wednesday and the rest on Thursday.  Some were to head back on Saturday, some Sunday and some Monday. 

The preferred route was to fly to St. Thomas and take a ferry to Tortola .  “Nervous-as-a-Cat” Cathy, as usual, was not up for the stand-by adventure so she cashed in some Frequent Flyer points and secured a seat for herself on the flight. The St. Thomas flight was oversold so we researched other alternatives for the stand-by passengers.  We found a route through St. Maartin that involved two taxis, a seaplane and a ferry, but looked like a pretty sure thing.  The sympathetic folks at Seabourne Airlines were gracious enough to offer us a discount.  A phone call to a helicopter service and another island hopper airline netted no results.  In the end, “There’s-always-a-seat-for-me” JeRie decided to just go for the St. Thomas flight.  “Not-as-confident” Karla wanted to take the adventurous seaplane route, but decided to go with JeRie.  BJ and Tony found a route through San Juan that looked promising.  

On the morning of departure, it started to look like a couple of the connecting flights to St. Thomas weren’t going to make it to Atlanta in time so that would free up some extra seats!  We all quickly switched ourselves to the standby list for that flight and headed for the Crowne Room to wait.  At about 20 minutes until departure, Cathy, JeRie and Karla headed for the gate.  BJ and Tony were a few minutes behind.  On their way to the gate, they got a frantic phone call from the others saying they had been given seats, the boarding door was about to close and the agents were calling the Morrises!  We hurried to the gate only to learn that there was only 1 seat available.  We decided to stick together and try for the next flight to San Juan.  

The San Juan flight was 45 minutes later, but since the St. Thomas flight pushed back early, we figured we’d better rush on to the gate.  By the time we got there, we found our names on the cleared list.  It was a pretty nice ride even though BJ was in the center of a 3 across.  The 767 airplane was fairly new, with leather seats (even in coach) and in-seat video equipment.  Our flight attendant call light was permanently stuck on, so we got lots of attention as each flight attendant came by to see what we wanted and try to turn it off.  We watched 2 movies, “The Bucket List” and “27 Dresses”.  Before we could finish the 2nd movie, we had landed in San Juan!  

We had planned to take a 4:05PM American Eagle flight to Tortola, but we got in so early that we decided to try for the 2:50PM flight.  We rushed over to the American Gates and found an information counter.  We asked if we could stand by for the earlier flight and were told that it was doubtful we could make it there in time.  The gate (1E) was a 5 minute walk and then a bus would have to take us to the plane.  The agent underestimated our ability to rush through the concourse.  The wheels on BJ’s luggage made just enough noise to warn people in our path to step aside lest they be run over.  

We made it to the gate, were given seats and were on the plane in a matter of minutes.  The flight attendant passed out some customs forms but ran out before she got to us.  Tony found one form in the seat back.  Forty minutes later, we were landing in Tortola.  We were first in line at Immigration where we were told that we needed one Customs Form per person.  There were no extra ones at the counter so we had to wait for someone to go and find us one.  

Out front, we hailed a taxi and asked him to take us to the Tamarind Club with a stop at the grocery store on the way to get some supplies.  Diet Coke (an essential supply for our addicts) was $3.39 for a 2 liter bottle – 3 times what it is at home.  We also picked up some suntan lotion since we weren’t able to take any in our carry-on luggage.  Even with our stop for groceries, we were at the hotel by 4:30PM.  The cab ride was $25 - a little steep for such a short ride.  Next time we will call Collin!  

Collin Taxi Service & Sightseeing Tours
Collin Maynard
Long Look,
Tortola , BVI
Cell:  284.443.1514
Tel:  284.495.1982
Alt:  284.543.8396

We found Kah-tee and Catie at the bar in a heated game of Rummikub.  Clint fixed us a welcome cocktail and we visited until the others arrived at 6:00PM.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner.  Tony ordered the Caesar Salad with grilled chicken and BJ had the Walnut, Bleu Cheese salad with Pear dressing followed by a grilled Portabella mushroom with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes.  Unfortunately for Tony (who doesn’t like fish), the Caesar Salad was very authentic (made with anchovies).   

Kah-tee made her exit before the entertainment started.  Entertainment for the evening was supposed to be a local band (David Thrasher and Friends), but when the band took a break, it turned into Karaoke.  JeRie kind of got the ball rolling when the band sang “Stand by Me” and she took that as an invitation to stand next to the lead singer.  Cathy sang a song or two and then deemed herself MC and convinced a few of the other bar patrons to sing.  

There was one particularly talented Scottish singer.  When the band came back, it was time to for Cathy to find a partner for dancing.

Eventually we found our way to our rooms and got some much needed rest after a stressful traveling day.  

Thursday, BJ was the first one up.  When she got to the common area where breakfast is served, she found Tammy (the cat) sitting on a placemat as though she were an entrée.  Mmm…  Tastes like chicken!

Cathy was the next early riser.  After a cup of coffee, she and BJ went for a walk.  They started off in the direction of Josiah’s Bay, passing a cornfield with some carousel horses in it.  Along the way they noticed a dirt road off to the right that they had never seen before.  There was a sign for Zaffire night club so they decided to walk down and take a look.  They noticed a peacock playing king of the hill on a mound of dirt.  

They tried unsuccessfully to get him to display his pretty tail feathers, but he was disinterested.  While they were coaxing, they noticed a pair of peacocks wandering down the road.  

When the rather plain looking brown female approached, Mr. King of the Hill jumped down and spread his beautiful plume.  It was a sight to see.  He strutted around and quivered his tail feathers but she seemed as disinterested in him as he had been in the humans.  He chased her around and shook his tail at her.  While we were watching this, we noticed a hen and a rooster in the background exhibiting mating behavior as well.  Love was in the air.  


We decided to continue on our journey and give them some privacy.  As we walked, the road went from dirt to paved.  We came to a junction and found the night club on our left with a herd of goats in front of it.  Cathy noticed that one of the goats was missing an ear and dubbed him “Vincent Van Goat”.  

Kah-tee had earlier reported via email that one of our favorite hang-outs in Josiah’s bay had sustained some damage from high winds and waves, so we wanted to see for ourselves.  We walked back past the peacocks to the main road and started toward the bay.  Along the way, we noticed a large land crab backing into his hole.  It was truly a great day for a nature hike.


We found Naomi’s in pretty good shape, with only one section of the lower platform missing.  She had a pretty new sign.  

The water in the bay was still far from calm.  There would be no water ballet on this trip!  

On the way back to our hotel, we decided to take another turn toward the Secret Garden.  We passed a building under construction and asked the worker what the building would be.  He didn’t know.  

We continued down the road looking for the Secret Garden but never found it.  We did find some pigs, a braying donkey, some chickens and a baby calf.


We got back to the hotel just as it was getting hot.  We told Kah-tee of our quest to find the Secret Garden.  She said it was right on the corner and that we shouldn’t have gone down that road.  She said, “They do cock fighting down there.  You don’t know what you might find.”  

We had a lazy morning, visiting over coffee, toast and sweet breads on the continental breakfast buffet.  Breakfast spilled over into lunch.  Tony and BJ split the Fish & Chips.  They were just as good as remembered.  

The afternoon was spent floating around the pool and meeting new friends at the pool bar.  

Cathy who had vowed not to engage in any cannonball contests was soon demonstrating her prowess for her new little friend.  

The other travelers arrived just in time for dinner.  Ashbell and his friend Bing joined us. 


JeRie and BJ split two of the evening’s special entrees, the Sea Bass and the Mahi in Thai Curry sauce.  Tony had a Salad with grilled chicken (no seafood).  Mary (known on this trip as Typhoid Mary due to her Strep Throat) had the best Tuna Tataki in the world (as she had declared it on the last trip).  

Kah-tee announced that it was time for her to go.  We laughed and told Ashbell about the party at Kah-tee’s house several years prior when she had gotten up and retrieved our coats, indicating that it was time for US to go.  She has always been an early-to-bed person.  When Kah-tee and Ashbell left, we decided to gather in the girl’s room, leaving Bing downstairs.  He had become a little too friendly with one of the girls so we wanted to avoid any sort of incident.  

The sliding doors on some of the rooms do not have locks, so we had brought some sticks to put in the channels to keep intruders out.  The sticks had other uses as well, like flipping the switch on the ceiling fan to change the direction.  


If we had brought coats, Rita would have handed them to us when she got ready to go to bed.  We decided to sit in the wicker chairs on the moonlit balcony for a few more minutes before heading to bed ourselves.  

Friday morning after coffee, we were getting ready for our morning nature hike when Cathy got the dreaded phone call that her mom (in Hospice) had passed away.  She had a long conversation with her sister and discussed options for returning home from the trip early.  She decided that she would probably just return with the group on Saturday.   

Cathy still wanted to go on the nature hike, so she and BJ took JeRie on the same path as the day before to show her the peacocks and Vincent Van Goat.  The adult peacocks weren’t interested in showing their plumes, but one of the teenagers fanned out his feathers.  His tail was short & lacked color but at least he was getting some practice for when his colorful feathers came in.  Vincent Van Goat was not in the yard of the nightclub, so they continued on up the hill in search of him, admiring the beautiful landscaping.  

Back at the main road, they went again in search of the Secret Garden.  Following Kah-tee’s directions, this time they were successful.  The Secret Garden was a very pretty setting.  We didn’t look at a menu, but Kah-tee told us later that it was very expensive.


When we got back to the hotel, Kah-tee was supposed to be working, but she had decided to go “limin’” with us to Marina Cay for the day.  Limin’ is the term used in the BVI for just lazing around which is exactly what we planned to do.

Collin picked us up in plenty of time to take the 10:30AM ferry.  We panicked a little bit when we noticed the sign didn’t show a 10:30AM ferry.  Collin called and they told him the sign was wrong (and had been for more than a year).


As we were leaving the ferry dock, we looked back and saw a big plume of black smoke.  Kah-tee said they were simulating a plane crash at the airport as an emergency drill.  It was pretty dramatic.

We enjoyed “limin’” until lunchtime.  BJ found a drink she liked.  Mary wanted to know what it was called.  BJ said it was called, “Vodka with Cranberry Juice & splash of Pineapple”.  Mary wanted to know what was in it but BJ said she didn’t know. 

Lunch was delivered to our shady little table on the beach.  The seagulls didn’t steal anybody’s fish and chips this year.  BJ had the Grilled Mahi sandwich while Tony munched on fries.

We floated on our noodles in the clear cool water until it was time to head for the ferry.  

BJ wanted us to go and find the webcam before we went back, so we went in search of the red phone booth she had seen on the internet.


We waved a fond goodbye to Marina Cay, promising to be back for another day of limin' on our next trip.


Collin was waiting for us when the ferry deposited us back on the dock.  As soon as we got back, we hopped into the pool.

We decided to have a toast to Cathy’s mom, Betty with her favorite drink, “Bourbon and Branch”.  BJ recanted the story of the first time she met Betty.  Cathy had invited Betty to join the girls for a drink before dinner at Canoe.  Betty came sweeping in with her mink coat on like Cruella DeVille and in her deep raspy voice ordered a “Bourbon and Branch”.  We had all enjoyed Betty’s company and know that she will be missed by all who knew her.

The tribute to Betty was followed by a lot of hugging, crying, laughing and singing.  Good friends are such a comfort.

Lydia, the Nazi-waitress, even allowed us to have dinner in the dining room that night (the only time of the trip).  BJ had the Sea Bass and Tony had the pasta with walnut and pears in a cream sauce.  Delicious!

Saturday, Cathy spoke with her sister again and learned that the services for her mom would not be until Wednesday.  Her sister convinced her to just stick with her original plan to come home on Monday.

There was no nature hike, but Kah-tee walked us around the hotel property and showed us a few things.  The cashew tree was most interesting.  The nut actually grows on the bottom of a piece of fruit.  Kah-tee said that the nut is poisonous unless it is roasted.


Two of our group set out for home on Saturday.  Collin arrived in plenty of time to take them to the ferry dock.

Ashbell and Kah-tee wanted to take us to Jost Van Dyke for the day.  Tony opted out.  BJ almost did too, complaining of an upset stomach (nothing to do with the Bourbon and Branch, of course), but Clint fixed some Ginger Tea which was just the thing for an upset stomach.

The gang piled in the back of Ashbell’s pickup truck for a wild ride to the dock.  

Karla lost her treasured “Sea Pines” visor when the wind whipped it off of her head.  We made a note of where it was lost and told her we would look for it on the way back.

We stopped to take a picture of the Century Plant.  It is said that this plant only blooms once a century (although my internet research says it is really every 15 to 25 years – still a long time).

When we got to the dock, we eyed Ashbell’s boat, noting that there was no ladder.  Kah-tee had told us we would have to swim ashore when we got to Jost Van Dyke.  We all worried about how we would get BACK INTO the boat.  Kah-tee said we would stand on Ashbell’s knee and hoist ourselves in.  We were skeptical.

The boat had one wooden bench which would comfortably seat four.  Three people stood at the front which left Cathy to stand mid-ship.  That appeared to be the roughest place to ride, as Cathy bounced up and down each time the boat slammed into a wave.  We called it “Riding the Wild Bull”.  


We spotted Kah-tee and Ashbell’s house (still under construction).

It was about a 45 minute ride to Jost Van Dyke.  We toured several coves before coming into the cove where we would spend the day.  Ashbell got the boat as close to shore as he could and we all jumped out.  We were close enough that we just waded to shore.  We found a shady table in front of the Soggy Dollar Bar.

Some of the girls spent time sunning in the Adirondack chairs or floating in the beautiful pale blue water.  The salt water made us so buoyant that we didn't need the noodles that we had brought for floating.  

The Soggy Dollar Bar was serving a burger buffet for lunch, or you could order from the kitchen.  A couple of people tried the shrimp pita.  Mary had the conch fritters.  She said they were NOT the best she had ever had.

After lunch and a little shopping, we started talking about how we were going to get back onto the boat.  

The seas were a little choppy so Kah-tee admitted that the “Stand on Ashbell” option might be a bit tricky.  We talked about climbing onto one of the nearby boats that had a ladder and then having Ashbell pick us up from there, or renting a paddle boat, or even jumping from the large floating trampoline over into Ashbell’s boat.  In the end, Ashbell talked one of his friends into using his dinghy to transport us into the boat.

The ride back across to Tortola was not nearly as bumpy, but about halfway back, the boat started losing power.  Three of the girls took turns pumping some little bulbous thing near the back of the boat and that seemed to boost the power enough to get us back to the dock.

Back on shore, before we loaded up the truck (to head to Beverlee… Hills that is…  Oops – that’s another trip) we were in extreme need of a restroom.  There was nowhere to go except behind a bush.  Some of us created a diversion while the others used the makeshift restroom.

As we drove through town, we started noticing the strange looks and guessing what people were thinking.  “Ashbell, where did you get that truckload of old women?  What are you going to do with them?”  We kept getting passed by other cars.  Either we were going too slowly for them or they didn’t like the view.

We kept an eye out for Karla’s visor all the way back.  We finally spotted it just over the big hill from the hotel.  We couldn’t get Ashbell’s attention so we decided we could just walk back and get it. 

The first person we sent couldn’t find it, but BJ had seen it and knew just where it was, so she went back to get it.  When she got to it, she laughed out loud.  What they had seen was not Karla’s visor but rather the mud flap from a car.  BJ brought it back to the hotel and gave it to Karla.


We met some other guests in the pool, including a retired Delta pilot.  The two groups joined together to sing some show tunes, entertaining the bar patrons.

The horse race captured our attention on the TV for a few minutes as “Big Brown” danced out ahead of the other horses and then it was time for our last dinner.

BJ had the DELICOUS coconut shrimp.  Tony stuck to his diet and had the salad with grilled chicken again.  Rita, BJ and Karla went to bed early.  Rita noticed some men at the bar watching the women pretty closely so Tony made sure everyone got to their rooms safely.

Sunday, Collin was supposed to pick us up at 7:30AM to take us to Road Town in time for the 8:45AM Ferry.  BJ finished packing and went down for coffee at 7:10AM.  She found Cathy having coffee and discovered that Cathy and Mary had misunderstood what time Collin was coming.  Mary wasn’t even up yet!  Cathy hurried off to get Mary up and finish packing.

Some of the girls had bought round trip tickets on Smith’s Ferry and some on Road Town Fast Ferry.  The two ferries left 15 minutes apart, but Smith’s made a stop in West End so we knew it would be a close race to Charlotte Amalie.  The Road Town ferry pulled ahead when Smith’s stopped in West End, but soon Smith’s pulled ahead and made it to the dock first.  Those of us on the Road Town Ferry had to wait until the other ferry had unloaded and pulled out of the way.


Mary remembered the graphic pictures of Foot and Mouth disease on the front of the Immigration Kiosk.  She thought it was a cow’s bladder, but upon studying the photograph while we waited in line, we decided it was a hoof and leg with the skin peeled away from it.

We did not have any trouble getting through Customs.  They offered to store our luggage at the ferry dock, but we elected to drag it across the street to the Holiday Inn.  Mary and Cathy were spending an extra night there, planning to come home on Monday.

Some of the group discovered a new favorite drink before lunch.  It was called “Black Cherry Rum and Diet Coke”.  We don’t know what was in it.

We had a quick lunch at the Holiday Inn and then headed to the airport.  

The first flight looked like it had plenty of seats in coach, but some of us were greedy and decided to wait for the second flight which gave us a better chance at getting a First Class Seat.  At the last minute there were several paid upgrades so most of us were relegated to coach.

It was a great trip and we’re glad we ignored all of those signs and went anyway!

BJ and Tony