I keep my politics private. A big mystery among my friends is which side of the aisle do I lean. My Republican friends tell me jokes about the left. My Democrat friends joke about the right. It’s as if I am the human form of Switzerland. In reality, it’s more like I am a private island.
Do you know what I have found on every island around the world that I’ve visited? Trash:
Some of my favorite people are trashy. But that doesn’t mean they throw plastic out and about. Last year I posted a blog article about waterway trash pickup meetups. A lot has changed since then.
These days, when I’m in town, I co-host a Saturday beach clean-up in Miami. It is on Key Biscayne at the Bill Baggs State Park, to be exact. Every weekend we go out with our buckets and long-handle grabbers. Every weekend we return with full buckets of plastics.
One misconception that I’ve learned is about plastic straws. Rarely do I find those on the beach. The politics of the matter will steer the topic to the left or the right. “It’s because more people are using paper straws.” “It’s because the turtles are eating them before they make it to the beach.” See, even that can be polarized. The real question is, do you really need a straw at all? It’s more of a want than a necessity. I will argue that there are reasonable conditions for straws. I’m referring to the ADA. (You just googled ADA, didn’t you? Good, you probably should. That’s why I placed it there.)
The thing I find the most on the beach are bottle caps. Yep, those little things that go on top of the water and soda bottles. This is another good reason to drink beer on the beach or a boat. Skip the plastic and reach for the glass option.
Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns. I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast!
Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns.
I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast! The hotel provided a traditional Caribbean breakfast with lots of fruits and juices, and I was in heaven. Looking like a Hollywood American, I rushed into the lobby. With my aviator sunglasses covering my eyes and a piece of toast hanging out of my mouth, I darted for the main entrance to grab a taxi. Steps away from the door, I hear the concierge call out, “Capitan!”, “a message!”
Day Two, Track Four: 2018’s song, Nice For What by Drake
Waiting outside was my driver in what looked like a very well kept Louis Vuitton hat and a big smile from ear to ear. His task was to spend the day showing me the city of Santo Domingo until we were called to the marina. Our first stop was the Amber Museum, an educational location with lots of cool pieces of… amber. It was wild to see historic insects and critters frozen in this hard sap.
Day Two, Track Five: 1996’s song Pony by Ginuwine
The second stop was at the county’s capital building. It seemed my driver knew everyone in the city. We found a restaurant across the street and had lunch with a few of the guards. With a full belly of Locrio de Pollo and a few Presidente cerveza’s to wash it down, we headed onward. Then the next stop was something I would never have imagined and honestly didn’t know in the Dominican Republic.
The Faro a Colon, Christopher Columbus Lighthouse. It could be the famous or infamous explorers’ final resting place. A tomb with what I can describe as a seafarer’s chest sits encircled at the intersection of a massive cruciform. Inside the chest are the ashes that some say are ol’ Chris. Each October, the chest is opened for a few moments to reveal the contents.
Day Two, Track Six: 2019’s song La Romana by Bad Bunny feat. El Alfa
As the sun was setting, I was under the impression that the boat would once again not be arriving, if there was even a boat at all.
Intermission… enjoy the track Unforgettable from French Montana featuring Swae Lee.
The sun dipped behind the mountains, and Leo, the driver, had an outdoor sports bar in mind for a few cold beers off the clock. Thunder rumbled in the distance as we walked up and grabbed a picnic table outside. This storm plays a vital role later in the night. The smell of food grilling nearby teases my appetite. Halfway through the first beer is when the rain hit, and we ran for the Escalade! “I know where we’ll go,” Leo said as we pulled out of the parking lot.
Track Ocho: 2017’s Swalla by Jason Derulo feat. Nicki Minaj
To be continued… next, the Brazilian woman who stole my heart but not my wallet in the brothel.
The names and locations are changed to protect the guilty.
On some accounts, in certain circles, a few folks may say I come from a long line of runners. Moonshine, cars, weed, guns, tobacco, I may have even heard a story of fine cutlery swapping hands without paying taxes. It’s a culture that crosses borders, not just lines on a map, but also civil status. Rich and needy people around the world make money from just moving goods from one place to another.
The names and locations in this story are changed to protect the guilty. It was spring, and I was about to sail through the Caribbean. The boat was waiting for me in Miami. All that was needed was for my work contract in the Carolina’s to finish. A few friends of mine were keen to find out what this sailing lifestyle was all about. One had just escaped his 3rd or 5th marriage engagement. The other was happy in a longterm relationship. I didn’t think I needed the help, but I thought the company on the trip would be nice. The invitation to go sailing for a few weeks was given to both of them. Cassanova immediately said yes. The other friend, well, he needed to convince his girlfriend.
During the next few days, we jumped into the planning stage. Options were thrown around to find the most logical way for the guys to get to Miami and meet me at the boat. A friend who dabbles in high-end golf resorts overheard us. “Hey, you know that beer is $50 per case in the Bahamas, right?” “If I brought a few cases over to your boat, would you drop them off as you pass by Nassau?” I thought about it and said yes.
My idea of a few cases is around three. The guys arrived at the sloop with sixteen cases of various Cerveza. I was immediately thinking of how we were going to accommodate the volume. The best option was simply to turn the boxes on their sides and walk across them inside the boat. Problem solved!
We consumed the next few days preparing the boat for the trip, food, water, fuel, fishing gear. Yacht and crew ready, we dropped the mooring ball and made our heading for Bimini in the Bahamas. It was a quick overnight sail where we found ourselves tied up to a dock by late morning. With little sleep, we still made it a point to explore all of what Bimini had to offer. Starting at the marina bar, then to the marina bar next door, followed by the Big Game Club, most notable for where Hemingway made memorable moments. We soon found out why our friend wanted us to bring cheap beer. Everywhere we went, the beer was going for 7 USD per bottle. OUCH! At some point during the night’s festivities, we noticed one of the cases of beer on the boat had popped open. Being a pro safety captain, I ruled that the safest option would be for us to stop buying beer and drink the loose cans rolling around on the floor. You see where this is leading, right?
After three more weeks of floating around the Bahamas, goofing off and exploring, we made our way to the Atlantis Resort in Nassau. Our friend arrived with his band of merry men to help carry the 16… 15… I mean, 4 cases of beer that were left unopened. The only reason there were four cases still on the boat was that those four were Budweiser. I mean, we do have standards on how low we would go even with free beer!
To this day, I remember him saying, “you are the worst smuggler ever!” He was right, and I never pulled a stunt like that again. I guess this is one time that the acorn did fall far from the tree.
The next flight landed on the island of Raiatea, where we were able to stock up on groceries before catching the ferry boat. While waiting on the ferry, we had time to rest and fill our appetite with freshly baked bread at a local bakery. Just the smell of the warm croissants alone made my mouth water.
Looking like pack mules, we trudged to the government dock for the scheduled boat that would take us across the water to the island of Tahaa. Here we spent the next two days napping in our travel hammocks at the edge of a private wooden dock. The view from there was more than I expected. One day after lunch, I sat lost in my thoughts, staring down at the reef only a few inches below the water. I watched a clownfish swim back and forth, in and out of the anemone. They share a special relationship with helping each other live their best life. As little Nemo was dancing with the current, I was caught off guard when the reef adjusted it’self beside of him. However, it wasn’t a reef at all. It was a small octopus who had been there camouflaged the whole time. Before long, it was time to let my aquatic friends go back to their secret life of hide and seek.
The same ferry picked us up for the return trip to Raiatea. This time we spoilt ourselves to a small resort bungalow for several nights. It was heaven having air conditioning and lounging around a swimming pool. From the west coast of Raiatea, you can see Mt Otemann. A 2,385′ (727 meter) dormant volcano on the island of Bora Bora in the distance.
On to the island of Huahine. There we were met at the airport by our host. She first drove us to markets where we stocked up on supplies such as vegetables, fresh fish, and beverages. Next, we loaded everything into a small skiff that would deliver us to a private motu where we would be left alone as the only two people on an island for the next four days.
It was pure bliss. If you ever need to unplug and get away to decompress, I highly recommend doing it in the South Pacific on a little private island without any electricity or phones. We cooked on an open fire, skinny-dipped, and star gazed during the nights, all protected by a reef that encircled the island. On the outside of the reef, there be sea monsters! On the inside of the reef was peaceful and safe… or so I thought. On our last day, we decided on one last swim in the lagoon. With our snorkel and mask, we explored the shallows. As time was running out, we turned to the beach and floated, taking our time and squeezing every last minute. As I was about to stand up, I looked over and saw a Black Tip shark on patrol. I had no idea how long he had been swimming with us, but it seemed that I was more curious about him than he was of me.
Back to Tahiti for our final night in French Polynesia. Papeete seemed like a megacity after being out on the smaller islands for the last two weeks. Cars were zipping around us, buildings were taller than two stories, and the smells were more industrial. We found a bar near the hotel with live music playing outside. That beer mug was the coldest thing in the city. I enjoyed it and daydreamed of one day sailing back to the very spot I was sitting.
The loud thump came from the space I had just occupied on the island trail. Before I knew what was happening I heard an army of Coconut crabs running across the tropical floor to feast on the coconut pulled to earth by gravity.
Tahiti, Bora Bora
My travel buddy landed in Tahiti 45 minutes before I did. We would be staying in French Polynesia for just over two weeks and visiting five different islands.
As I walked from the flight line into the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti, I heard music from a band playing local music. I watched dancers swaying in what I, as an American, thought of as hula dancing. The line to customs and immigration curved back and forth through the night time tropic humidity. It seemed forever, and my anticipation to see my partner was making me excited. Here I was, in French Polynesia, I could not believe I had been able to arrive in one of my dream locations. My travel partner at the time was my then French girlfriend, with her first language being French, it made for more accessible communication with the locals. We had pre-planned our destinations and bought our local island-hop flights from Air Tahiti in advance. On day two, we flew to Bora Bora.
Bora freaking Bora!!! The pearl of the Pacific. I was warned to skip this island because travelers told me it was too touristy. But on the contrary, it was terrific. The season was between “tourist seasons.”
The Mai Tai Hotel was what I expected. The property was right out of a travel magazine; two restaurants, two bars, bungalows on stilts out on the water, and rooms on the mountain with a view. The temperature was perfect, and it felt like we had the dream destination to ourselves. We ate, snorkeled, drank Mai Tai’s, and played topless on the beach. Note to self, always pack dark sunglasses to reduce the chance of blatantly getting caught looking at other naked beachgoers. One night we made the opportunity to make reservations at the Bora Bora Yacht Club for dinner. We were seated at an outside table on the dock, and our timing was perfect. The sun was slowly setting as we had a few pre-dinner drinks and admired the catamarans on anchor.
The next night we ate at the famous Bloody Mary’s. The choices of freshly caught fish are as big as the list of famous people who have enjoyed dinner there at some point. I did not leave disappointed. The time in Bora Bora set the mood for the rest of the adventure. After a few days, it was time to hop over to the next island on our list.
The flight to Maupiti seemed quick compared to the long trip from LA. Maupiti is the furthest island out in the French Society Islands. The daily flight to the island makes for a pleasant welcome. The landing strip located literally beside the ferry dock was where we were going to meet our boat.
Our quarters for the next few nights were at Le Kuriri, a small Eco-friendly property of four bungalows on the motu of Tiapa’a. Here we relaxed by taking walks on the beach and napping in hammocks. The owners and staff prepared the meals, which were served to guests in a common area, thatched-roof style. The owners joined us for dinner each night. Breakfast was even more casual and served in an elevated lookout with a view of the ocean to envy even the birds perched high in the trees. Everything about this motu was breathtaking, but one thing will always stand out.
One day after breakfast, the owner wanted to take us on a boat ride. We agreed and went to grab our gear. Once in the boat and motoring to a location between the motu and the main island, he stopped and told us of the Manta Rays that seasonally frequent this area. My girlfriend translated his conversation because his English was at the same level as my French. Sadly he said that it was the end of the season, and we probably would not see any manta’s. None the less we were eager to get in and see what was down there. Moments after we were in the water, I hear him making a commotion from the boat and pointing just ahead of us, grabbing a breath I submerged to see the most majestic creature that I’ve ever seen. If her wingspan were less then 12 feet, I’d be surprised. I’m not sure if the manta was a she, but I’m calling it “she” for simplicity. For those moments dancing with a partner who was obviously aware that I’m a lousy dancer was one of the Top 10 things, I’ve ever done. The manta gracefully allowed me those moments before disappearing into the vast Pacific Ocean to catch up with her friends. Those moments are why I travel.
In Part 2, I’ll write about the other islands I visited were the vanilla grow, the pearls develope, and a shark who got a little too friendly.