Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Girls' Week on board the Lady Allison

A passing shower leaves a perfect rainbow.
by Jamee Gregory

What could be more fun than an invitation from a very good friend
to spend ten days sailing in the British Virgin Islands? When Allison Stern proposed a “Girls’ Week” on board the Lady Allison, no make-up, no dress-up, just R&R, followed by the arrival of husbands for the weekend, I leapt at the chance.

January in New York, gloomy in the best of times, was beyond dismal this year. Counting the days, hours and minutes, I was ready and waiting for Al, armed with my duffel bag, at 8AM, as she picked me up. We made our way through icy Manhattan to be greeted by Muffie Aston, Shari Rollins, Maureen Reidy, and Christine Bernstein waiting at Teteboro airport. Off we flew to Saint Thomas where we were swiftly escorted from the airport to the welcoming deck of the Lady Allison. Racing to our cabins, tossing sweaters, and boots, jackets off in a flash, we congregated for a lovely lunch, sailing off to the BVI to begin a joyful interlude of reading, napping, swimming snorkeling, and shopping.
Christine, Muffie and Mo on the dinghy and ready to go shopping!
Stacks of colorful pareos, scarves and tees compete for our attention with silver earrings and embroidered bags.
Our fearless leader, Al, trying on an unusual necklace made of flat polished turquoise stones. Island pastels make every building enticing. Bright colors of the Caribbean invite shoppers inside.
Who could resist a tee-shirt store with such meaningful messages? "Rum is the answer. What was the question?" We preferred the sage advice: "Live Slow!"
The scene on the deck, where sailors pause for their afternoon "Pain Killers" and Daiquiris. Fried Calamari and Tortillas are not on any diet, but they certainly hit the spot on this busy terrace where everyone dresses casually and watches the sun set.
Each evening we dined on deck, under the stars, watching schools of silvery Tarpon fish swim beneath us in the moonlight. The constellations were bright and dazzling, easily identifiable. A sliver of silver moon punctuated the night sky. Maureen taught us a terrific game, called “Who Am I?” We gave each other post-it’s, stuck on the forehead, inscribed with the name of a famous personality.

Questions were asked, like “Am I alive?” “Did I live in the last century?” “Am I a man” until the correct identity was guessed. Boy, did I have trouble guessing Ted Bundy! Shari suffered with Norman Mailer, Christine struggled with Walter Cronkite, Muffie missed Carla Bruni, Maureen, better known as Mo, was quick with Angelina Jolie while Allison nearly forgot Genghis Khan! Charades took a back seat to our new guessing game. One night we saw a movie, but our sporty days sent us to bed early.
Bright shirts in bold native prints may not be the thing for conservative husbands, but the ladies loved the long clinging gowns. Just the thing for poolside parties in the summer.
The outside of Latitude 18, where the garments above were displayed.
Muffie and me resting on our favorite Bilhuber-ed wicker lounge chair after our excursion. Note the yellow cowboy hat purchased at Pusser's, the island's best shop, filled with sailor's shorts, crisp cottons, sea-worth sweaters, hats, linen shirts, fish belts and other items that are nautical but nice! Al on our way to Pirate's Bight, observing the signs as we trek across the sandy beach. Three years ago this was just a beach shack. Now it's a destination with shops and snacks.
Our next excursion, to Norman Island, with Muffie in her new Pusser's tee. I carry Pusser's bag, made from recycled sails and rope, decorated with a yellow anchor, just big enough to carry any treasures and fold well for packing.
Muffie,Christine, Al, Shari study the menu in front of the Tiki bar. Mango daiquiris or banana? Big decisions!
The sunset catches our breath and the sky turns silver as we prepare to leave.
Each morning we would hit the gym or take off in the dinghy for a hike on one of the many beautiful islands we visited after a delicious breakfast. By the time everyone was up, we would anchor beside pristine reefs and snorkel for hours, dazzled by the many species of colorful fish that populate the perfectly pristine turquoise water.

Parrot fish, Angel fish, schools of tiny Silver fish, enormous turtles all darted before our eyes, nestling in the coral. Sea Urchins and Rays, all reflected in the sun, made our excursions underwater exciting. No Barracudas surfaced or Nurse Sharks, but no one swam with shiny rings or watches, just in case. Dressed in rash guards, wet suits and flippers, our multi-colored snorkels dotted the sea. Swimming back to the boat was a pleasure in the gentle warm water.
Muffie, Mo and I are deposited on shore at the Bitter End for a morning hike. We climb the rocky mountain and work up a sweat, ending our journey at this chic shop! We look and don't touch, intending to return with the group after a swim and snorkel.
The Lady Allison gleams in the sunshine as we head for land. Insets, l. to r.: The girls eagerly docking at Little Dix, the magnifcent Rosewood run resort that blends into the harbor so beautifully; Last to disembark, we are eager to find newspapers and other treasures in the island's elegant boutique.
One of the boldly landscaped swimming pools with tumbling Bougainvillea.
After hot showers, we lunched, choosing healthy salads, grains, and freshly baked bread prepared by James, the amazing chef. After lunch we retreated to various decks, reading in the comfortable chaise lounges, all newly upholstered by the talented Jeffery Bilhuber, in fanciful cotton prints of red white and blue.

Snoozing in the shade, we refreshed our batteries, ready for an afternoon of exploring and shopping, unhindered by the presence of anxious husbands who don’t understand the joy of shuffling slowly through beach shacks, looking at colorful visors, tee shirts or seashells.
Happy ever-after, we savor our finds. Chris enjoys her lollipop and I leave with a new Manuel Canovas bikini and wrap. Muffie snags a hot pink beach dress for lolling in Locust Valley. The shady bench supports us after our visit, tired but pleased. We return to the boat for an afternoon swim followed by a nap.
How lucky can you get? Another rainbow! Who needs a pot of gold when you have this incredible display?
Bamboula in St. John is the shop for international treasures. I found a scarf covered in coins and a fucshia hair clip. An embroidered cotton tunic was a big hit with group. Shari found adorable short shorts.
The Marina in St. Thomas where we park next to the giant "Rising Sun" with its basketball court. The boat dwarfs everything aroun it. We are like a tiny peanut! Rumor has it Nicole and Brad were recently onboard.
A Louis Vuitton outpost looks inviting. We are the only ones looking. The recession has hit the Marina as well. Inset: Chris, Mo and Al resting.
A beautiful linen shop offers unusual table cloth options. Elegant towels and place mats are displayed for the visitors whose boats dock safely in the new Marina.
The sun sets on the last day of our girl's trip. Time to pick up the men. No more shopping. Noses back underwater.
Our well-organized, intrepid leader, Captain Allison, knew just where to stop, picking the best beaches, the fishiest reefs, the choice stores and stellar stops. Each day we docked somewhere new, from West End Tortola to the Bitter End, to Saint John, Norman Island and Little Dix to Peter’s Island and Anegada, checking out the local art work, sampling the special drinks and native treats.

“Pain Killers, a deadly rum drink available in four strengths, lived up to their name. Daiquiris whipped with fresh mango, banana or strawberry always hit the spot. The days passed in a minute and the week seems like a dream! Before we knew it, we were saying goodbye at the airport, wrapped up again, heading home.

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