Monday, May 22, 2017

A Mother's Day Mini-Vacation in Maho Bay and a Nostalgic Awakening


"What do you want for mother's day?" Scott asked me while looking up from his computer. I was making breakfast, the girls were being their usual boisterous selves, and it took me about .02 seconds to reply, "Go to St. John for a night and have brunch in Cruz Bay!" St. John, while part of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), is a short sail from where we are, and with the blissful haze of our last >>>quick getaway<<< fresh on my mind I was thirsty for more...so thirsty, apparently, that one night away turned into four...

St. John, despite the minor nuisance of having to clear out of customs here in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), being that we are US citizens and approved for the SVRS (small vessel registration system) clearing in on the "US side" requires nothing more than a phone call. It makes trips over to St. John not only appealing, but rather easy as well. It's one of the perks of being an American and another perk of >>>living in the BVI<<<...so many places to sail for a quick getaway!

St. John is easily one of my favorite islands and, after having been to most of them from the Bahamas to Trinidad at least once (and some two or three times), we've seen enough to know what we like. First of all, most of the island is national park, meaning that vast swathes of the place are completely untouched and undisturbed. The hiking is reported to be amazing, though we have not experienced much of that being that we've had three kids three and under for most of the time we've spent there. Then there are the beaches...these are the beaches that beach dreams are made of! White sand, turquoise water, abundant sea life, and a calm, inviting shoreline. You gaze out at a island dotted horizon with gently lapping waves at your feet and a side of OH MY GOD PINCH ME. It's pretty amazing.

***

Our plan was to head out on Saturday morning, spend the day on a mooring (you cannot anchor in most places in St. John being that it's national park) and dinghy into Cruz Bay, the island's main - and picturesquely beach-chic adorable - "town" for brunch the next day.

When we approached our favorite spot to tie up - the purty-as-a-picture Maho Bay - I was met with a wave of happy nostalgia tinged with a hint of melancholy... We have so many great memories here in St. John and have had some very good times in this particular bay, from the >>>twins' first birthday party<<< to >>>Lobsterfest 2016<<<, and many others in between, mostly with our best friends from It's A Necessity. At first it felt odd not meeting them here, or seeing their boat pulling up from their former base of St. Thomas, but we quickly settled in and enjoyed this new normal. If there is one constant in life, it is change and as people who have lived a semi-nomadic life (and certainly become friends with very nomadic people!) this constant ebb and flow is normal...not always easy, mind you, but normal. Goodbyes are inevitable in this part of the world.

***

As we swung on our mooring ball after arrival I got to work making lunch and the girls immediately wanted to jump in the water for a swim and a paddle. If there is one perk to living at anchor (and there are many!) it is definitely the ability to swim off the back of the boat. After a paddle, swim and a freshwater rinse we ate our lunches in the warm breeze of our shady cockpit and readied the kids for their naps. I retreated with my book and Scott kicked back for a well-deserved snooze. The two+ hour siesta that happens every day here is a welcome and blessed event. [AMEN for naps, people.]

Our afternoon was slotted for beach time and Scott took the girls on the paddle-board while I followed in the dinghy after packing a simple picnic dinner for us all. The girls were their independent and industrious little selves, oscillating between working away with their sand toys and splashing in the water while Scott and I sipped our respective beer and wine and watching them in that adoring "oh my gosh our kids are so amazing" kind of way that all parents do when kids are happy and cocktails are in hand. We closed down the beach and lingered as the last sole beachgoers while the sun sank into the sea in a dreamy, blood-orange haze. We did not make haste until the hungry no-see-ums could be bared no longer (when the sun sets, those suckers come out with a vengeance) and we scampered into the dinghy, slapping our legs and thighs while we did so. 

We dinghied back home for a fresh-water rinse, jammies, stories and a bedtime lullaby of gentle rocking and the cool breeze through our boat.

***

The next morning was Mother's Day and I enjoyed it in bed while Scott and the girls made me crafts. Letting me sleep in is a gift in and of itself and eventually I woke to the pitter patter of excited little feet on the cabin sole above me punctuated by the shrill, happy laughter from a game of "tag". I quickly made my daily liter (wince) of coffee and off we went to brunch.

Brunch.

Oh, let me ruminate on that word for a moment. Brunch. That blissful and delectable meal that is not quite breakfast and not quite lunch but somehow allows for alcohol to be shamelessly consumed before noon in the form of Bloody Mary or Mimosa... Sigh. I love me some brunch (Remember, I come from the City of Chicago which has singlehandedly made brunch it's b*tch.)

I don't get too many opportunities to do brunch these days, mostly because it is rare on our rock (only a couple places serve it to my knowledge and only on Sundays) and also because I almost always have three kids in tow who are up against naptime and not always the easiest of restaurant companions. But I digress...back to brunch: We hopped in the dinghy for the 20 minute ride into town and settled on the Waterfront Bistro where I devoured (delicately, of course) the most delicious huevos rancheros I have ever had. Of course I washed it down with four mimosas, which were equally delectable and gave me a happy beach-side buzzed up glow. The girls were well behaved, I got lots of compliments on my "Tired as a Mother" slogan tee-shirt and we dinghied back to our boat with full bellies, happy hearts and ready for naps.

***

We had planned to make our way back to Tortola that afternoon but I begged Scott to stay out just one more night..."It's so nice out here!" I pleaded. "You can tether to my AT&T SIM (for internet) to get work done (check emails, etc) while the girls are sleeping...pretty pleeeeease?" I begged. Scott, of course, conceded and we settled in for another afternoon of beach, picnic, sundowners and lounging. Despite what it may look like, we do not get much time as a family with Scott  >>>running our business<<<, and this getaway was a welcome change of pace for all of us.

***

The next morning we opted to do the grueling hike to Colombo's Smoothie Shack. "Grueling?" you say? Well, while not a true "hike" through the wilderness (you follow the paved road all the way up to the top of the hill above Maho) it is incredibly strenuous as a significant portion of it is nearly vertical. Difficult on your own, for sure, hard as HELL when you are carrying a thirty-five pound three year old who just can NOT hack it anymore (Isla, for the record, did the whole thing without a single complaint!!) The reward, of course, is worth it otherwise we would never subject new friends to such pain, for at the top of this cursed hike demanding walk are the most delicious smoothies ever known to man. (Pause) Okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but after walking uphill for forty-five minutes I dare you to taste a tour-de-flavor of fruit that better excites the palate and cools the core as those served at Colombo's. They are GOOD and so refreshing. This time I tried a soursop, pineapple and passionfruit blend - slurping it down all red-faced and dripping with sweat - and if there is such a thing as fruity ecstasy, I reached it. We finished our smoothines and all began the hike downwards on jelly-like legs with a bit more energy and the overwhelming consensus that, "Yes, those smoothies were definitely worth it."

***

And so our days continued in this manner...we'd wake up, meet friends, hike, beach, swim, go home for naps, make a plan to leave, and then... not. We did this for two more nights. The highlights of this wonderful extended weekend away were (as usual) meeting up with two great families, first the family behind S/V LARIDAE who also have three kids aboard and, after a significant sailing sabbatical, are in the process of selling their boat. The other were the PREPPY NOMADS who's mamma bear is pretty much my sister from another mister. So much so, that a mutual friend had said before we even met, "Oh, you and Renn need to hang out - you would get on like a house on fire." After weeks and weeks of trying to coordinate after our first meeting (yep, we clicked) we were able to meet for one final hurrah before they too would step off their boat and move on to new adventures (check out their >>>YouTube Channel<<<!). Getting to meet up and hang out with these two families was a major highlight for us.

Finally, the time came to return. The girls had missed a couple days of school, Isla had missed ballet and tennis and we were feeling pretty delinquent as parents. Not to mention Scott had a business to run. After four days of fun, we dropped our mooring ball and said goodbye to Maho, yet again.

***
I must say, being back has had me in a tiny bit of a funk. So many feelings that have laid dormant this past two years were awakened; the feeling of being free, untethered, and able to roam freely. We simply do not have that anymore. Just as arriving in Maho made me nostalgic for our friends, the trip itself made me wistful of our old cruising days. Granted, we are in the place we are meant to be right now and I would have it no other way (I am grateful every single day for this lifestyle and how and where we are able to live), but that feeling of missing a time gone by...that came up while we were out long enough to get a little taste of how it 'used to be'. The time will come again for us to venture further and elsewhere, and though we don't know when that will be or what that will look like, it is just beyond our reach...For now - I am happy right where we are knowing there are many adventures to be had in our own back yard - and happy to know that within me my wandering spirit is stirring...



Underway, these days, our little food set is the big playtime hit.
Mira examines fruit while daddy clears us out of West End, BVI
Boat hair, don't care.
Looking out towards St. Thomas from Maho Bay, St. John

These goofballs untied themselves from the boat and floated off. Daddy to the rescue!
Mira and daddy going for a swim, this one is just not as keen as her sisters to swim without floaties. In good time.
There's a reason they call this "The Golden Hour"
Chilling on the paddleboard with our new friends.
Salt life.
Pretty much every evening looked some variation of this.
Stunning way to end the day! "Goodbye sun, thanks for a great day!" 
While we are outside almost all the time at anchor, Isla loves coloring and crafts and there's time for that too.
They are very serious about their beach creations and concoctions.
Upstaged. I swear. They stripped naked and started running into the water together laughing hysterically.
Daddy, catching zzzz's when he can.
Columbo's smoothie shack. A must visit!
Yum, yum, yum.
Even Mira, the pickiest eater on the planet who doesn't usually like smoothies, drank all hers!
St. John is full of wildlife...but you should NOT feed them because iguanas that come this close are clearly too tame!
Naptime. Bliss for all.
Never got a great shot of a sea turtle, but they are all over the place in St. John. Literally popping up every few minutes.
also, seagulls....
Mixing potions

Good morning mama
Pensive little soul. Love her mind.
We ran into a friend who showed Isla the "I can remove my thumb trick" She was BLOWN AWAY and literally tried to pull of her thumb several times.
Playmates is the very best perk of having three kids so close in age. They keep each other entertained!
What's up little pickle?
Us and the Preppy Nomad parentals. LOVE. THEM. SO.

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