Sunday, December 04, 2011

Thanksgiving in the Islands

Thanksgiving dinner at Molly Molone's: Steve, Mom, Marty, Craig, Steph

We upheld our tradition of spending Thanksgiving in St. Thomas with our pal Marty. This year, Craig, Steve, and I were joined by Craig and Steve’s Mom. We shared a two bedroom beach front suite at Secret Harbour (the same room that we had when our friend Beth joined us back in 2002  , but its kitchen and bathrooms have been upgraded since then). For the past couple of years, we have gone to Toad and Tart for a full Thanksgiving dinner, but Anna closed up shop since last year and we were left looking for a new place to eat turkey. Marty suggested dock-side Molly Molone’s in Red Hook, which had an incredible deal: all you can eat turkey dinner with all the fixin’s (including unlimited wine) for $22. This is a bargain by island standards.  We ate as much as we could while enjoying football on their big screen TV’s.

The next day was our traditional Cap’n Marty’s Island Hop. We had an inauspicious start to the day as we headed out to our rental Ford Focus to find that it had a flat tire (to go along with its lack of shocks). Steve called Marty and managed to catch him just as he was getting onto his motorcycle to come and meet us. He was able to switch to his car and came to the rescue. We would deal with the flat tire tomorrow.

When we arrived at the marina, Marty and I went to fill out the boat paperwork, and the others went to Marina Market to buy provisions. As usual, we rented the boat from Mattheus at See & Ski.  With Cap'n Marty at the helm and Steve (a.k.a. "Milky") as first mate, we set off from Red Hook towards St. John.

Cap'n Marty's Island Hop: Milky, Mom, Cap'n Marty, Craig
Cap'n Marty and Mom on the boat
Craig swimming at Peter Bay, St. John   

Swimming at Sandy Caye
Sandy Caye

Craig at Foxy's, Jost Van Dyke
Steph at Foxy's
We anchored off of Peter Bay in St. John and Craig, Milky, and I went for a swim in the turquoise water. We enjoyed watching pelicans and another sea bird whom we dubbed Jonathan. We aren't sure what kind of bird he was, but he had distinctive turquoise coloring on the underside of his belly and wings. The pelicans plunged straight into the water, whereas Jonathan glided along the water, just barely preventing his wingtips from breaking the surface. The weather was partly cloudy, which meant we didn't get sunburned. We could see rain clouds in the distance, dumping rain on the coasts of other islands. Hopefully we would avoid it during the rest of our travels today. We climbed back on the boat and dug our wonderful Marina Market sandwiches out of the cooler. Craig and I had our usual: the turkey with cranberry sauce, cream cheese, and dijon mustard. It was delicious. We had already worked up an appetite this early in the morning..
After that, we  docked at Tortola to clear customs for the British Virgin Islands. Mom got her first stamp in her passport here – how exciting!! We anchored off Sandy Cay, a gorgeous strip of white sand. We all got into the water here for a swim, even Cap'n "It's too cold to swim in November?" Marty. Once Marty and Mom got back onto the boat, a rain cloud caught up with us. We continued swimming while raindrops pelted us. Marty told us that we better get out of the water or we were going to get wet.

Once we were back aboard the boat, Milky played the role of relief captain for a while as we cruised through open ocean. Normally we would head over to Norman Island to the Willy T for cocktails, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to go knowing that our favorite bartender Zeus is no longer there. It just wouldn’t be the same. So we changed up the itinerary and went to Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke – someplace we haven’t visited in several years. 
At Foxy's, we sat at a table in the sand near the bar and the stage where Foxy the proprietor sometimes plays his trademark island calypso guitar. We drank painkillers and ordered some lunch. I got conch fritters. They were fresh, hot, and delicious in a tahini sauce. Craig and Steve got  a delicious chicken roti and curry. We caught sight of Foxy with Massachusetts Senator and one time Presidential hopeful John Kerry. Mom shook Kerry's hand and he smilingly acknowledged her Patriots T-shirt. We ordered a second round of drinks. We browsed around in the shop and Mom bought a pair of sandals.

The boat was anchored in waist-high water, so we walked through the water and climbed aboard via the ladder.  We had hoped to stop at the Soggy Dollar Bar for some more drinks, but it was packed with people and Marty didn’t feel comfortable anchoring the boat so close to other boats. So we skipped it and headed back toward St. Thomas instead, via Pillsbury Sound. We saw a rainbow over one of the ships we passed.

Sunset at Secret Harbour

Dinner at Sunset Grille: Steve, Marty, Mom, Craig, Steph

For once we weren't racing the clock to get back to the marina by 5 p.m. We pulled in at 4:40 today. That meant that we were able to get back to Secret Harbour in time for a fantastic sunset. For dinner, we went to the newly opened Sunset Grille at Secret Harbour. It was previously the Blue Moon, and we had always enjoyed eating there. They renovated the restaurant when it changed hands. We sat at a table right next to the ocean. For an appetizer, we shared the ahi nachos. These were mango salsa, wasabi sour cream, seaweed salad, pickled ginger,  and tuna piled delicately on wanton chips. I absolutely melts in your mouth! Craig and I got the jerk chicken, which was served with coconut bread pudding and rum apple raisin slaw. The food was all top-notch. We washed it all down with frosty painkillers. After a busy day, we went to bed early.

As luck would have it, our visit coincided  with a big party thrown by Marty’s motorcycle club, the Carib Riders Motorcycle Club. It was a weekend-long party at Magen’s Bay to celebrate the 69th birthday of CMRC member Skeeter. This sounded like fun to us, so we accepted Marty’s invitation. 

On Saturday, Craig cooked us a breakfast of "Craig McMuffins" in our little kitchenette. We enjoyed eating with a view of the ocean from our room. After Craig changed our flat tire, we headed over to Magen's Bay mid-afternoon. We were introduced to birthday boy Skeeter, his lovely wife Donna, and his daughter (who coincidentally lives about 2 or 3 miles from our house – what a small world!), and we were happy to see Biker John and his wife Nancy (whom we had previously met when we ate at their former Mexican restaurant  Charlotte Tamales). Folks were camping in a wooded grove right next to the beach. There was a small pavilion where local band Untold Trouble played three live sets of classic rock, and there was a buffet full of all kinds of good down-home food (macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, pasta salad, a full turkey, etc. This was no ordinary cookout.) We enjoyed the live music; the band really rocked. And the food was delicious. The guys drank beer and Mom and I drank rum and Pepsi and vodka lemonade. Everyone was so incredibly friendly and welcoming to us. We are glad that Marty has such good friends nearby. They really stressed the fact that since all of their families live on the mainland U.S., they act as surrogate family for one another on the island.

Untold Trouble plays at Skeeter's 69th birthday party
Craig and Steph at Skeeter's birthday party
Campsite, Skeeter's birthday party
Mom's walks down Magen's Bay beach during Skeeter's birthday party

Skeeter, Biker John, and Nancy watching Untold Trouble

Untold Trouble with special guest
Acoustic set
Mom and Donna (Mrs. Skeeter)

There were several other gatherings taking place on the beach that day. One was a group of VW bug enthusiasts who had their customized bugs on display. These same guys and vehicles had been here last year when we visited as well. We wandered through and admired their vehicles. The electricity at the beach shuts off at 6 pm, so that’s when the band stopped playing. They did a little bit of acoustic music before everyone headed back to the camping area. They had a campfire and everyone dug into a delicious glazed spiral ham prepared by Biker John. Marty crashed in his little one-man tent, and we said our goodnights and headed back to the hotel.

Sunday was a day of relaxation. We didn’t leave the Secret Harbour grounds.  After a leisurely morning enjoying cereal and coffee in the room, we staked out beach chairs in the shade of some palm trees and went for a swim. The water was cooler than usual, and the sky was overcast for most of the day, which made it even chillier. We saw yellow and black striped fish as well as some translucent fish that looked sort of like angel fish.  The latter kept bumping into me underwater, startling me in an amusing way. Suddenly it wasn’t so amusing when they started to bite at our legs. I have been nipped by fish before when snorkeling, especially when trying to feed them. But those nibbles were nothing compared to what these guys were doing. They had sharp teeth and it really hurt. If we stood still they continued biting us. So we started to tread water and flail a bit to keep them at a distance. 
These guys bite!
Steve wandered down the beach to get us some bushwhackers and blackened bleu cheese burgers – delicious!  We spent the afternoon on the beach, taking another swim before heading inside at 5 o’clock to watch the Patriots/Philly game on TV. We ordered pizza in-room from SeƱor Pizza and watched the Pats win. Of course, they were so far ahead that at 8 pm the coverage changed to another game.

Craig and Steph at Secret Harbour Beach

Monday we went to Havensight so that Mom could do some shopping. We stopped in to see Marty who was working at Sean’s store, The Pirate’s Chest. It is now located at the Port of Sale mall as opposed to its previous location up on Paradise Point. The store is really nice, and who did we run into but Skeeter, Donna, and Skeeter’s daughter. After chatting with Marty and buying a few items, we walked around and went to a few other stores. Then we drove over to Udder Delite for their famous milkshakes. I got the Jamocho (chocolate ice cream, coffee ice cream, and Kahlua) and Craig got the Udder Delite (almond crunch ice cream with amaretto). They were deliciously refreshing after our morning of shopping.

Then we went back to Secret Harbour. We enjoyed the sunset, though it wasn't as dramatic as Friday night's.We had hoped Marty would join us for dinner on our last night, as we were planning to go to one of his favorite restaurants, Petra’s Schnitzel Haus. However, he was still recovering from the weekend, so just the four of us went. We started out with an appetizer of snails in garlic and butter. They were just as we remembered: delicious. Mom had never had them before and she was pleasantly surprised. She and I had rum punch while the guys had beer. We all got schnitzel (Craig, Mom, and I got pepper schnitzel with onions, peppers, and cayenne pepper, whereas Steve got the Jaeger schnitzel) served with bratkartoffeln (potatoes similar to home fries) and red cabbage. It was obvious that Mom thoroughly enjoyed her first exposure to schnitzel as she cleaned her plate. We had hoped to get some of Petra’s fantastic home-made strudel for dessert, but she had been away for the holiday weekend and hadn’t had time to prepare any. So we headed back to the hotel and got dessert and drinks at the Sunset Grille.
Marty at the Pirate's Chest

Craig and Steph at Secret Harbour Beach

Sunset at Secret Harbour
Dinner at the Schnitzel Haus: Steve, Steph, Craig, and Mom

On Tuesday we woke up early, got everything packed, and checked out of the hotel at 11 o'clock. We had some leftover food we hadn’t consumed, so we stopped into Sean’s store to give the leftovers to Marty. We got a chance to speak to Sean on the phone, and we said our goodbyes to Marty. We then stopped at the Delly Deck for lunch. Their special of the day was meat loaf and mashed potatoes. Craig and I both ordered it and it was absolutely delicious!

When we rerturned the rental car, they gave us a credit of $25 for the inconvenience of the flat tire. That was an unexpected surprise! Our flights home were on time and we arrived in Boston shortly after 10 p.m.

Secret Harbour
Secret Harbour