Saturday, March 30, 2013

Caribbean Catamaran Cruise - Day 9

Sadly, we were nearing the end of our time on the VIP ONE.  Friday would be our last full day on the boat.  
We wanted to do one more dive so David arranged for a diving company to come pick us up from our boat.  A speed boat pulled up next to the catamaran and we climbed aboard.  As we sped away from the catamaran we made the realization of how different this second dive was from the first.  The crew - 4 French men - did not ask to see our dive cards or didn't have us fill out a waiver form like the last company did.  We realized that we had no idea where we were going - what exactly we were seeing - and that we were on a boat with a bunch of strangers without our passports!  It made us a little nervous but we knew David wouldn't put us in any compromising situations. 

It was interesting.  We ended up back at Ile Fourchue.  We had taken 2 days to sail from Ile Fourchue to our last anchoring in Gouverneurs bay.  On the speedboat it took us 30 minutes to make the return trip.  It just goes to show how close together things in this area are.  We suited up and prepared for our one tank dive.

Even though the experience was different in many ways from our first dive at the beginning of the trip (steel tanks, different water entries, etc.) - this turned out to be my favorite dive.  The dive masters were great and the wildlife was abundant.  It was like being in another world.

This is a video of the dive master sneaking up on a ray. 

And finally!!  Dreams really do come true.  Jason caught a lobster with his bare (gloved) hands.  Too bad we were in a protected area so he couldn't take it home for dinner!  Wes was filming but also got his chance to grab the lobster.

Our new diving friends returned us to the VIP ONE safe and sound.  Next on the docket - David wanted to take us to his favorite bay in St. Barths - St. Jean's Bay.
It was paradise.  Crystal clear turquoise water, white sandy beaches.  It's no wonder it is considered one of the most beautiful and elite beaches in the Caribbean.  
This is Eden Rock - one of the top 100 hotels in the world.  It costs several hundreds to thousands of dollars just to stay one night.
Side note:  After we returned home, we received the new J. Crew catalog in the mail and guess what was on the front cover?!  Click here to see an entire feature on this exact area where we spent the afternoon.
The landing strip on St. Barths - even more scary than the one on St. Martin.  Only small planes can land here and the pilots have to be specially licensed.  We were in the perfect position to watch the planes land and take off all afternoon.
No wonder this is David's favorite bay!

We had a yummy pasta lunch and then headed to shore.  We landed on Nikki beach and decided to wander around.  Once again - we found ourselves among nudists. 

Our time in St. Jean's bay had come to an end.  We pulled up anchor and sailed back to Ile Fourchue for the night.  As the sun was setting - we decided to take some group photos.
The entire goup:
Alena kept jumping on the trampoline.  Fortunately she held still long enough to get at least one photo.
We decided to take a turn jumping too!
And my monkey husband couldn't keep from climbing.
Then Wes and Matt decided to toss a sandal.

Wait...time out...
...time for stretches.
More pictures.  The ladies:

The guys:
Wes and David took this picture together because they thought they kind of looked like each other.  I thought that same thing when we boarded the boat - they are both small, lean, athletic with short hair and defined facial features.
David climbed the lines (he told us on a sailboat - they are not called "ropes," they are called "lines").
So Wes climbed the lines.

Reid climbed the lines and his sunglasses accidentally fell into the water.  We all started screaming and yelling for someone to dive in to retrieve them.  All of a sudden David did a swan dive over the edge of the boat and emerged from the water with the glasses!

The guys climbed up into sails.

We relaxed on the boat and played around while the sun slowly set in the West.

We enjoyed our last dinner and played one last dice game.  After dinner David presented us each with a gift.  To each woman he gave a shell necklace or pair of earrings with the shape of  St. Barths carved into it.  To the guys he gave clever cigarette lighters (a funny lobster for Wes, a flip flop for Jason and a sporty lighter for Reid).  To Matt - his sailor apprentice - he gave a piece of line from the catamaran.  In order for him to practice his knots.  This note was attached to the end of the line.
He also included a hand-written thank you note for each couple.  We felt that this was a very kind gesture and very thoughtful.  It was obvious he had kept each person's personality in mind when choosing these gifts.  It was very impressive.
We were pretty worn out but didn't want it all to end.   We did some star gazing and reflected on the week and the amazing experiences we had.  It was surreal!
We settled in for the night and began packing for our disembarkment the next day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Caribbean Catamaran Cruise - Day 8

To quote my journal that I took on the trip, "Thursday already! This has been the most incredible experience!!"

Per routine - each morning David would give us an overview of the day's plan or options.
David and Alena needed to make one last stop in Gustavia so the girls decided to join them and drop in a couple more shops.  One particular thing we were looking for - zinc for our sunburned lips.  We went to small grocery store looking for zinc but got sidetracked by the French cookies, chocolate and other snack items.  We picked up a few things for dessert later and some to take home with us.
The guys stayed back on the catamaran...they played a few card games....
...and did a little fishing.

Here we are on our return dinghy ride.
This is a side story - because I can't remember which day it happened on.  But David caught this needle fish and immediately produced all sorts of tools to set it free.
Look at those teeth!
David delicately removed the hook and it was released back into the water.
We pulled up anchor and sailed to Gouverneur's Bay.  The crystal blue water was so inviting - we couldn't wait to go snorkeling.  We suited up and went for a swim.
When we returned,  a light lunch of salad and quiche was waiting for us.  And a strawberry tart for dessert.  Yum!
Salad was served with almost every meal.  And for the dressing, a very expensive balsamic vinegar and EVOO.
We decided to head to shore.  In this picture you can spot Elise and Reid just landing on the beach in the inflatable kayak and Vanessa is paddling the one person kayak.  Wes and I took the paddle board.
The next few hours were some of the most memorable of the entire week on the catamaran and sadly we didn't take one picture!  As you will soon find out - pictures probably wouldn't have been very appropriate anyway.

We landed on the beach and immediately became aware of the many nudists - women and men - that completely outnumbered us (all of us in our one-piece bathing suits).  We chuckled a bit and started to walk down the beach.  After walking to what we thought was a salt pond - we met up with all of the others in our group and sat on the beach for a while.  We took notice of one particularly odd couple that was laid out not far from us.  It was an elderly man (at least 70 years old) and a middle aged man (definitely no older than 45).  They were obviously "together."  And did I mention they were nude?  The older man spent most of the afternoon napping while the younger man did some very interesting stretching exercises.  I can't really describe them - but ask Wes someday and he will demonstrate.  After some time passed by we glanced over and noticed they were now standing about 4 feet apart - tossing one of their sandals back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  It was hilarious!  We were having trouble keeping our composure at this point so we decided to walk to the other end of the beach.

We ran across a shelter of sorts...very run down.  It looked abandoned!  We spotted a couple of coconuts on the ground so one of us (and I won't say who but believe it or not it wasn't Wes) decided to hop the fence to gather them.  Another one of us (and I won't say who) spent the next several minutes throwing the coconuts against some rocks to crack them open.  Eventually there was success and we all sipped of the fresh coconut milk and ate the coconut meat.  I thought to myself how amazing it was to be on a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean eating fresh coconut!  We were in the middle of breaking open our second coconut when a very perfectly bronzed, handsome French  man started walking towards our group (he had the courtesy to wrap a towel around his waist).  He referred to another man on the beach who was fully dressed in pants, shirt and baseball hat.  The handsome man told us that the fully dressed man was very upset because we had trespassed into his private property and stolen his coconuts!!  He also asked that we not leave the coconut husks on the beach because it will attract rats.  We felt pretty stupid and apologized profusely - but the fully dressed man had left.  

We collected the husks (what did we do with those husks anyway?  I can't remember) and headed back to our original beach - near our friends who where tossing the sandal.  The next thing we know Elise walked up to the middle aged (naked) man and started asking him if he spoke English and if he could tell us how to say "I'm sorry" in French.  It was quite a sight to see Elise in her one piece swimsuit talking to this naked man as if they were two people talking on the street!  Again - hilarious!  Anyway - she tried to apologize to the fully dressed man who was hiding out in his car but he never showed his face again.  Looking back I do remember seeing a very faded sign that said, "Propertie Privee."  

We decided to take a dip in the ocean before heading back to the boat.  Jason snorkeled to search for Scharman's sunglasses (which he found!), the rest of the guys bodysurfed and the girls floated in the waves.  Our sandal-tossing friends got in the ocean not too far from where we were (pretty close to snorkeling Jason, actually) and our final memory of them was of the middle aged man launching the older man into a wave.  Good times.

We returned to the boat with so many memories, stories and jokes. We could not stop laughing, reenacting and wishing so much we had at least one picture of the adventurous afternoon.  No such luck.  Except look what I found!  A couple of photos that were taken of the beach just as we arrived!  So at least we can remember these memorable locations from a distance.

Oh my, it was quite the afternoon.  And for the rest of the trip, all anyone had to say was "hey you want to toss a sandal?" and we all lost it!
Anyway we enjoyed a lovely dinner and settled in for an evening of games and conversation.
Like I mentioned before, one of the main goals of the men on the trip was to catch something in the ocean that we could eat - specifically lobster.  Well I guess lobsters are more active at night so a night snorkel hunting trip was organized.  I personally was very uncomfortable with my husband swimming off into the black water with sharks, waves, darkness and who knows what else awaiting him.  I could sense that even David was a little concerned about the idea.  But the guys were determined.  So they suited up.

It was all in good fun...
But they took this mission very seriously!
They did have diving lights and fortunately Matt's plan was to follow them in the kayak with a light.  But I was still really nervous.
But off they went!  All we could see were their glowing lights under the water and eventually the lights disappeared as they passed behind some distant rocks.
Patiently waiting wives.
After several tense minutes where we couldn't see their lights - all of a sudden they appeared again and slowly moved towards the boat.  They made it!

Sadly there were no lobsters to be found but that doesn't mean they came back empty handed!
They speared a lionfish! 
Lionfish are actually quite beautiful fish but are considered pests of the Caribbean.  They are native to the Pacific and Indian oceans but are reproducing uncontrollably in the oceans surrounding the Caribbean islands because they have no predators.  I actually read two different theories as to how they got there.  One theory - and this is the one that David told us - is that the fish were held captive in a marine center but escaped during one of the recent hurricanes.  The other theory is that fish hobbyists released them.
According to David - it is encouraged to kill lionfish if they are spotted.  To help try to control the population.  Of course the guys were thrilled to hear this news!  The fish has poisonous spines and cannot be eaten. 
Picture of a lionfish from google image search.
Here is a video that Wes took where he spotted the lionfish on the ocean floor - keep in mind they were snorkeling, not scuba diving.  So every time they went under, they had to hold their breath.

Here is a video right after Jason speared the lionfish.  Don't turn your volume down - the best part is listening to Weston's excited laugh!

 Random memories:  
- News that our furnace stopped working in the middle of the night!  We purchased a new one over the phone and it was replaced before we returned home.
-Both Wes and Reid got sea urchin spines stuck in their skin.  Wes still has three tiny spines stuck in his leg - he never could get them out!
-After a conversation with David about religion - he requested a Book of Mormon.  Reid and Elise had brought one to give to him.  It was very interesting talking to David - he is well-read and intelligent and definitely knows more about world religions than I do!  I was impressed with his insights and thoughts.