We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray
Each year we take a Wild Thing Cruise. Each year we gather a large group to come with – with Wild Thing the folks on the boat often is what makes a great time greater. Each year the cruise is great fun – the staff ultimately professional and courteous – the food at lunch really good and the boat is a lovely and relaxing way to spend the day while getting a great tan.
This year’s annual Wild Thing cruise for our group – twelve strong – promised to be of great fun…the posse was feeling quite irie that morning. We boarded the boat, commandeering the front so we could relax in the nets and we were off. Smooth sailing as we headed north, I sat on the side, legs dangling as the large catamaran cut through the somewhat choppy sea like a diamond on glass – I gazed off towards first Long Bay Beach, then Bloody Bay playing a game I often play – name that place, most of the time I cannot but it’s fun anyway.
At the front of the boat Les was on one side and Jeanie on the other, straddling the two front pontoons “horsie” style, enjoying the view ahead. We passed Booby Cay’s western side. The reef where Wild Thing and every snorkeling boat from every All Inclusive and then some go is right off the northern shore of that tiny island – and that’s where we stop for our forty-five minute snorkel.
This was one of those rare years where I’ve taken two Wild Thing cruises. The first, in mid-November the sea was perfectly still and clear – like glass. I should’ve donned the life vest and snorkeled then. I look over the side and the sea, while not quite wild, was wavy. I passed on the snorkeling – I’m not a strong or confident enough swimmer to deal with currents and waves and water getting into my tube. My brave cohorts were though – and while Les was not interested in snorkeling he dropped his Pakama and dove in.
Even the stronger of swimmers in our group got back on the boat winded. Seems the sea was a bit rougher than it looked – and while the snorkeling was lovely the comments that came back was there was sometimes too much movement below to really see much of anything. That and bucking the current made the attempt somewhat exhausting but fun none the less. Having collected everyone back on the boat we set sail once again – headed to Half Moon Beach. That’s when the E ticket ride began.
A little back story – the weather for the previous three days had been clear but very windy – and the seas very rough, rough enough to put out small craft warnings. It was the gnarliest I’d seen the Blue Jello since February 2006 when a freak storm came through the first week of February. When I booked the reservation for Wild Thing Shawna warned me that they might not go out – and I understood that based on what I was observing at the time. However, the day before we were due to sail she called – “We are going to venture.”
What started as swells soon turned into white caps as far as we could see. Now, Wild Thing is a big boat – 64 feet stern to bow – but the sea had it rockin’ and rollin’. We were seeing 10 foot walls of water coming straight at us – we are all seated towards the front of the boat, Jeanie and Les mounted on the points of the bow – whoosh! The boat rises high, its bow a good ten to fifteen feet off the water, then whoosh! Down we dip, back down that distance and that wall of water overtakes the bow drenching Les and Jeanie as well as anyone sitting anywhere towards the front, about up to the middle of the nets. Clothing, shoes and packs start to get shuffled towards the middle of the boat where a Wild Thing Crew member is at the ready to secure everything under the bench to safety and dryness.
With each rise and fall of the mighty ship I looked over and saw Les and Jeanie kicking their feet up with delight – but then I looked directly to my right and my little god-daughter, my beautiful Liz was an interesting shade of green. Well, maybe not so interesting but she was full-on sea-sick. I told her what I’d been told – look out at the horizon…but that was kind of tough since a wall of water every two minutes obscured the view. We suggested she move to the middle part of the boat but she would have none of that – in between puking into her beach towel with each dip and rise she’d howl out in laughter. Once again, top-notch crew as they are a crew-member showed up with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol and a glass of Pepsi. “Sniff this, “he said handing her the cotton ball, “and sip this” as he handed her the Pepsi. The combination of the two helped immensely and it’s something I’ll not forget next boat trip.
E-ticket rides at amusement parks were those kinds of special rides – they cost more money, you should be a certain age to enjoy them. Some scared the shit out of you, some made you throw up. Some just made you shriek with the sheer delight of being so out of control yet knowing that SOMEONE was in control. This was that kind of E-Ticket Ride.
And so it went for the next 45 minutes as we slowly made our way to the calmer waters at Half Moon Beach. The minute the boat stopped it was a relief for most but the minute Michael stood up he lost it – as is often the case with such boat rides. We wobbled off the boat, collected our belongings and headed towards the bar set up on the beach and for lunch. Our group made our typical grand and enthusiastic entrance…greeting Andrew and other Half Moon staffers exuberantly. We made ourselves comfortable among several tables – but no one really quite felt up to eating just yet. We were just hanging out, giggling about our ride – Liz was still feeling a bit green so Les called Niah to come pick her up so she wouldn’t have to endure the boat ride back. Finally the crew-members approached us – it was time to eat. No, really, get up and eat if you are going to eat. Nothing like pressure but we took it in good humor. It was a lovely day at Half Moon and its bay waters calm – we chilled and enjoyed the vibe as it is like a second home to us – our posse spends just about every Sunday there.
As was usually the case, Peter, owner of Wild Thing, met the boat at Half Moon Beach. It was always such great fun to meet and hang out with Peter. He was a charming man, full of life and laughter with this quirky “dark humor” side to him. Of course he wanted to hear all about our exciting boat ride. Peter LOVED his boat. He’d designed it himself and it took two years to build and get to the island and he was very, very proud of it and his crew.
Just before Niah arrived Liz started to feel better. When Niah showed up Peter encouraged her to get back on the boat – as rough as it was coming in is as smooth as it’ll be going out he assured her. What to do? Les decided he’d go back with Niah – and swap places with Robin. Niah arrived, with Jerry and Robin in tow – apparently they had spent the morning at the OTB betting parlors. Jerry greeted me with what became a familiar greeting, “What’d you do?” It seems Les had told them that he had gotten thrown off the boat. Had them going for a while too.
Robin had absolutely no argument with the swap – he was on the boat for Roberta’s birthday party and hada ball. We bid the happy gamblers adieu and we all got back on the boat.
As they say on their website, the party really begins on the return trip to the beach. The tunes got cranked and the free liquor flowed. The seas were still rough but now they were in our favor – we basically coasted at the tops of the waves as each one propels the boat on – the motors barely run and the E Ticket ride continued!
Meantime, everybody danced – well, we did at least. Robin, who had removed his pants so they wouldn’t get wet when he was getting on the boat is now wearing Jeanie’s thin green sarong around his waist and putting his moves out on the dance floor. We were dancing, drinking and enjoying the ride back – the wind was in our hair and the boat was practically flying, skimming the tops of those white caps. When we pulled into the beach at Chances the posse was just first getting warmed up.
Our perfect day on Wild Thing segued into one of our famous beach walks. Les, who had been thrown out of one of the betting parlors because he wasn’t wearing a shirt (it blew off the boat on the way to Half Moon) met us at Chances. We sang, danced and skipped across the shoreline making our way up to White Sands to take advantage of their two for one drink specials. Our mission – the best Dirty Banana in Negril.
When we arrived at White Sands Les began a chorus of “Watch Your Head” – soon to be joined by Liz, Bev and other posse as they arrived. The chorus got more and more intense and at the time I thought we sounded pretty good. I went up to the bar to join Jason who was in deep negotiations with the bartender – it seems today’s special was NOT Dirty Bananas but Jason was going to work something out anyway. The guys sitting next to me were groaning somewhat loudly about the singing so I figured I’d have some fun:
“For 500J they’ll go away”
Mr. Wisconsin glared at me, “I’m not giving you anything!”
“I didn’t ask for anything,” I quipped, “I’m just letting you know how you can make them stop.”
It went downhill from there and I left the two of them swilling whatever it was that was the drink of the day. All I know is that we got our way and had our way with pitchers of Dirty Bananas. Mr. Wisconsin’s drinking buddy passed out cold across two bar stools shortly after this interaction.
Meantime, Robin passed out on a lounge chair on the sun deck. Well, that wasn’t a complete surprise considering we practically had to drag him up the beach – at least he put his pants on first. As for us we enjoyed our Dirty Bananas and hung out on the sun deck overlooking the grand seven-mile beach, singing, dancing and laughing till our bellies hurt.
Just one more adventure on our favorite “tourist barge”. I remember this one particularly fondly as it was the last time I saw Peter alive. Rest in Peace – your legacy floats on.