I went to southern California, Orange County, for family vacations twice when I was in my early teens. That was my first time in the ocean. I loved it. Prior to those trips we would spend several weeks in northern Minnesota fishing. I really enjoyed being on the water. I’ve always liked swimming. Being in the small fishing boat was some how relaxing, the waves lapping off the boat. Years later I went sailing on Lake Michigan in a friends twenty-seven foot sailboat. I thought sailing was great. I loved how quietly the boat glided through the water. In my thirties I started to swim in open water triathlons. I loved how my body became part of the action of the water, bobbing up and down with the waves.
I lived in San Diego for eight years and never once went sailing. I went on a trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico and meet someone who sold everything and bought a sailboat. I thought that was so cool. I wanted so to do that. It hasn’t happened yet.
The first time I flew to the Caribbean I could tell I was in for something special. Just south of Florida the water color started to change. The water become this wonderful deep aqua blue. So very different than Lake Michigan. We got off the plane in San Juan, Puerto Rico and it was a balmy eighty degrees. It was humid but very different than the Chicago summers that I was use to. I spent two weeks here “working.” We only flew once a week, going to other islands to include Guantanamo Bay Cuba and St. Croix.
My first trip to St. Croix we broke and had to spend the night. I thought I died and went to heaven. We stayed at the Club Comanche Hotel, not far from the Christiansted Boardwalk. We got there just after noon. We had plenty of drinking time left. Just off the end of the runway is the Cruzan Rum distillery. Every Caribbean Island has their own rum. Most people are familiar with Bacardi, made in Puerto Rico. But Cruzan, oh that fast became my favorite. They have a drink on the island called a Cruzan Confusion. It’s four to six shots of different Cruzan Rums, a little pineapple juice, splash of grenadine, cherry and lime for garnish and Cruzan Black Strap Rum in the straw. This is served in a twelve once cup, with ice of course. They go down really quick.
That afternoon I jumped off the boardwalk and spent the rest of the day in the water with my elbows resting on the boardwalk. The following morning I woke up with our aircraft commander next to me in bed. I vaguely remember him losing his room key. Many of the hotel lobbies close around 10:00pm or so. Weird, I know. And we weren’t even in Vegas. We joke about that night to this day.
Flying into Gtmo for the first time was pretty cool. The Cuban air traffic controls aren’t so nice on the radio, broken English and all. Because of international law they have to give of us headings to Gtmo. Then they hand us off to the Gtmo Tower, Americans speaking perfect English. There are two fences around the base. The inner fence is ours, the outer fence is theirs. There isn’t much room but the pilot has to fly in between the two fences then make a sharp 90 degree turn to line up with the runway. The Cuban controllers make it clear to not fly over their fence. In a C-130 its fun, anything bigger or faster I’m sure its a bit hairy. I’ve never spent the night, nor did I want to spend the night on Gtmo. St Croix was waiting and so was a Cruzan Confusion or two.
I’ve been to St Croix a “few times” over the years. I’ve been there drunk and I’ve been there sober. I love it sober just as much as when I was drinking, for different reasons of course. I’m most definitely a beach bum sort-of-guy.
I have friends that have a house there. They live there about six months out of the year. My goal is to buy a sailboat and retire there. All I need to do now is get a job so I can buy the boat.