That time in BVI...and why you need to Travel

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Patrick Browning

Travel Obsession


There are stretches in life, sometimes they don't last long, maybe a week, maybe a month or longer, where everything seems right. During the summer of 2003, I can say I had one of those stretches. I was kicking around the Virgin Islands with my dad, our friend David and James, David's 11 year old son. Sailing is one of David's passions (skiing being the other), and he had invited us down for a week or so.

I'll do my best to remember and describe the experience, because it truly was a trip of unusual circumstances. I believe we met up with David and James in St. Thomas. The boat was ready and we pretty much climbed aboard and motored out of the harbor. The rest, as they say, is history. I'm not a sailor, nor had I been to the BVI before, so I don't remember the exact order of the places we visited. I will tell you what I remember, in no particular order.

There's a place called Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke. We were anchored in the harbor and I was on the boat. David had taken the dingy ashore and returned, and in his totally chill but excited voice said, "You have to come ashore."

I have to explain David a bit, because he may be the most interesting man in the world. He's now a retired successful attorney, but he's a free spirit. He was down in the Caribbean sailing and protesting Richard Nixon's visit to Puerto Rico in the 70's. He used to hitchhike the 30 miles from the college campus in Michigan the he attended to teach me and others how to ski. He's a man with a prolific accumulation of stories and experiences which you can't help but appreciate.

In any event, we went ashore at his behest and we found out the reason(s) for his excitement; the two dudes who were providing the entertainment in Foxy's. One was Kid Rock, the other I didn't know, but found out soon enough it was Kenny Chesney. They only had 1 guitar between them and some guy putting some electronic drum beats through a PA, but they pulled it off. Chesney killed it, although I had no idea who he was a the time. Kid Rock I remember playing Night Moves by Bob Seger. They eventually faded into the night, returned to their yacht, we to our sailboat.

Another day, ashore on Kane Garden Bay on Tortola, we were in a bar. It was during the afternoon. David spotted 3 young women sitting together and said to me, "Patrick, why don't you ask those girls to have dinner with us tonight." I did, and they accepted although one of the girls was noticeably not into the idea. Later on that day, I found them and brought them out to the boat in our dingy. We had a pre-dinner drink or two and things were going well, I was even getting the reluctant one to warm up to me, when we realized the dingy had blown away. Now all three of our guests were thinking we were abductors. It was now past sunset, and all you could see where the lights ashore and all you could hear was the woooosh of the surf on the shore.

You could scream at the top of your lungs but nobody could hear you if you wanted to, due to the sound of the waves, so I had to swim to the nearest boat to get the attention of the someone. They were nice enough to take me on board, and we took their dingy to find ours, which we did on the other side of the bay. It had floated a long way so we were fortunate.

When I returned with the dingy, we took the girls back to shore. Now they seemed ok with us. The skeptical one and I ended up hitting it off. She's now my wife of 14 years!

David has a friend on Tortola, Tobin. Big huge mountain of a man, he was sort of chauffeuring us about. After dinner, Tobin took us to a place called the Bomba Shack, pretty unusual bar (do your research) but it was here I believe we ran into some people that were involved in the porn business. There were 4 of them, 3 women and one man, and the fact they were from the San Fernando Valley (two of the women were attractive and very flirty, one was a dwarf and the guy had short tightly wound curly hair that looked like a wig) made it fairly plain. ---If I'm wrong and this was you and your reading, my apologies! -- They tried to coax us into going with them "back to their place" when we were all leaving, but we did not. I believe we may have dodged a bullet, or passed up a cameo in a film, not sure. We'll never know I guess.

While in the sea, we fished a little, but not with poles. We had a spool of fishing line and some pre-hooked bait fish that we'd toss out the back of the boat. With a clothes pin or two, we'd secure the line to a cable or whatever, so when a fish would bite, the clips would come off and we'd reel in what we caught with the spool. If we caught tuna or any other good tasting fish, we'd clean it and cook it up on the boat. The barracuda were a pain, cause they're nothing but teeth it seems. Those we would throw back. That kept us entertained while boating from island to island.

My final major experience culminated in a hospital visit. We were sailing along and I was dangling my feet out the back of the boat. What I didn't anticipate was us sailing over a jelly fish or Portuguese man o war or Satan from the depths of Hell, whatever it was-but man, I felt it.

The bulb on this thing was huge. Make a circle with your arms. That large, and when we went over it, my legs hit it and it's gooey tentacles wrapped around my legs. The bulb kept floating away, but I had been stung and it was beyond painful. If you said, "Huge jelly fish, or sledgehammer to your leg?" I'd have chosen the latter. I tried to get the "goo" off my legs, but the poison got on my hands and they curled up into fists and I couldn't open them. David and my dad were scrambling, David put 2 EpiPen's injections in me, but forget it. I was in bad shape and we had to return to shore. I think it was Virgin Gorda, but not sure. An ambulance met us at the dock and took me to the hospital. I survived, of course, but that was something that I'll never forget.

So, why am I telling you all this, 18 years later? Well, David's still around, skiing, sailing, doing his thing. My dad will be 80 soon, more or less retired. I was talking to him yesterday and he was out chain sawing down a bunch of trees, so he's ok. You know what I do. But what about James?

During the trip James spent most nights we were ashore on the boat. Sounds crazy, but can't get much safer than being on a boat anchored in the Caribbean for an 11 year old. He had a hermit crab he found on Anegada he kept as a pet. You could tell he was at home. Good kid, didn't chat it up too much.

Well, James is now grown up and is a scuba diving enthusiast and professional. He's currently down in the Dominican Republic doing what he fell in love with, during those trips his dad would take him on. How cool is that? We'll be catching up with James soon.

My advice? Never ever pass up the chance for an adventure. As they say, Travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer.


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