Odyssey of the Ludi Lee

November 1983
Day 1,
At approximately 7:15am Huston and Lexy and Ted and Susie began the odyssey that would take them from the quiet streets of Nichols Hills to the rolling, thundering seas of the Virgin Islands. I admit I was somewhat leery. Earlier I had read,

“On the morning of 25 October 1983. The U.S. Army’s Rapid Deployment Force (1st, 2nd Ranger Battalions and 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers), U.S. Marines, U.S. Army Delta Force, and U.S. Navy SEALs and other combined forces constituted the 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica, and members of the Regional Security System invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but it sounded a tad ominous to me. Admittedly, my geographic knowledge was not up to par. I only knew Grenada and the Virgin Islands were both in the Caribbean. How was I to know they were 3000 miles apart? Not exactly my idea of a peaceful jaunt on a sailboat.

Obviously, I was outvoted and our sojourn began. After six hours of flight with one intermediate stop in Ft. Lauderdale we landed at Charlotte Amalie’s bustling airport. We spent an hour conversing with friendly and not so friendly airport officials.

God, it was SO hot!

We boarded a taxi for our tropic isle hotel, The Windward Passage, a well-known stopover for the slave trade of the early 1800’s. Being the accommodating gentleman he is, Huston, dba Captain Bligh, offered Ted and I the ‘room with a view’ while he humbly took the tacky old room with air conditioning and the king size bed.

Before a delicious dinner of local lobster at the Chart House we had drinks at Bluebeard’s Castle. After dinner, we returned to our native hotel and listened to the beat of native drums along with the other natives staying at the hotel. We retired early, eager to begin our adventure on the high seas. Only Ted, who was totally convinced Captain Bligh had found action elsewhere ventured out to enjoy some local color, native style. Alas, finding himself a small pearl in a sea of black velvet he returned to his room to get the rest he would need to assume his new role for the following week…Anchorman!

We arrived at Starboard Yacht Charters at 10:30am. Captain Bligh instructed the crew to buy provisions for the vessel while he was checked out on our ‘home away from home’.

The three of us miraculously found a taxi driver eager to earn 40 bucks for an hour’s worth of work, not to mention his cut from the liquor store and grocery store. The crew bought enough liquor and food to supply an army, which could come in handy if we, by chance, ended up in Grenada. We checked and double checked our stores. Yes…we had done well… right down to the 12 cans of grapefruit juice per person per day and the 8 English muffins per person per day.

The crew returned to find our captain well acquainted with our yacht, the Ludi Lee. She was truly a magnificent sailing ship. Sleek and fast! Who cared about comfort or airflow as long as we got compliments from passing sailors? Not us, my friend, we were purists! (Or, I should say, Bligh was a purist.)

Lexy, in her rush to organize our grapefruit juice and English muffins, missed the first step of the ladder as she was going from the deck to the cabin. Once we righted Mo, as she was to be called henceforth, we finished storing our food and liquor. In no time at all we were heading out into the open seas. Free! Free at last…with nothing to hold us back…except the anchor line which was connected to the anchor line of our sister ship.

Once under way we had time to assess our injuries as well as a few minor problems we had encountered.

1. The little round dealie in the back of the boat wouldn’t hold the rope in place. (Excuse me, the bad sheave (pronounced shiv) in the turning block cut the line.)
2. The transmission nut was wretched wrenched out of the socket…screwed up.
3. I injured my thumb when a hatch closed on it, whereupon I jumped down and accidentally landed on…
4. …Captain Bligh’s toe which found itself smashed. Meanwhile Anchorman hung gleefully from the companionway unaware of the bloody blisters and gangrenous sores he would encounter in his upcoming role as chief anchorperson.

We proceeded towards our first destination which was Jos Van Dyke. However, as nightfall drew nearer and nearer we decided to postpone this destination until we could find it. In lieu of Jost Van Dyke we anchored in at St. Francis Bay. Our first night’s dinner was excellent consisting of steak, salad, fresh broccoli, fresh mushrooms, fresh Kalua, fresh instant coffee and fresh mosquitos.

By 11pm we were ready to retire to our cozy little bunks, which we did. By midnight we were ready for some shut-eye. By 1am we were begging for some sleep. By 2:30am we were all wide awake on deck screaming at Anchorman for waking everyone up. After an hour of idle chit-chat, we once again retired to our bunks and at last fell asleep. No problem, really. We could always sleep late. No kids, no carpools, no pressures.

Day 3
At exactly 5:30am we were wide awake. We talked a lot about breakfast, especially about English muffins but I don’t recall eating anything. We did hop into our trusty dinghy and go to beautiful Trunk Bay where we followed the snorkeling trail. I am thankful to report the barracuda were quite small.

We returned to the Ludi Lee and left for Jost Van Dyke where we checked into British customs and bought ice from a most disreputable character, Bertie. Bertie will be mentioned again.

From there we headed toward Cane Garden Bay. It was on this segment of our journey that our dear captain almost severed his finger. Somehow, his finger got caught in the sheave thing and Anchorman, who was manning the big silver thing with the handle did not know which way to turn it to release our dear captain’s finger. Eeny meeny miny mo…fortunately, he chose the right way and our captain still had ten fingers. I hate to think how gross that would have been if his finger would have come off right then and there on our fun filled vacation. Talk about a bummer! YUCK.

“Stanley’s Ahoy!” There it was just like Captain Blight and first mate Mo had said. A paradise within a paradise. Great food, great drink. We anchored and dinghied in for pina coladas and fresh water showers. We got the first but not the second as Captain Bligh found the hammock and Anchorman found the bar.

We returned to our boat to get freshened up for dinner ashore. Just as night had fallen we again boarded our dinghy and started for shore. About 100 feet from our magnificent sailing ship the dinghy engine stopped. “Man the oars!”, shouted our captain. Anchorman and I did just that and we rowed and we rowed and we rowed but we were not going anywhere. Captain Bligh then took my place and he and Anchorman rowed and they rowed but they were not going anywhere. Fortunately, we eventually got the engine started and we slowly, slowly made our way towards the beach.

We landed our dinghy only to discover we had caught a big one!… A concrete block which anchored a swimming buoy. I certainly hope the other people anchored at Cane Garden Bay on the night of November 13 enjoyed our performance.

After dinner, we retired early and had a wonderful night’s sleep. Well everyone except for me. I was awakened by gale force winds and wondered if I should awaken my comrades to warn them of the impending hurricane. Wisely, I decided that my life would be in more danger by rousing the others from their first good night’s sleep than by a hurricane. I returned to my bunk hugging my life preserver closely to me.

Day 4
We left Stanley, the pina coladas and the swimming buoy for the Bitter End Resort. Approximately 3 miles from shore, headed toward open seas (with Bitter End slightly to our right) our fearless captain shouted, “Man the foul weather gear!”

I knew it. I knew it. This was it. I could see the clouds of the approaching hurricane rumbling and rolling, becoming darker and more ominous as they descended upon our tiny boat adrift in the treacherous Atlantic Ocean. My concern must have registered with the captain for he wisely changed course and barely missed the hurricane. Spared! By the benevolent goodness of mighty Neptune!

We arrived at Bitter End at 3:30pm. We gathered our gear and headed for ashore for our first honest to goodness fresh hot water shower. Upon landing our dinghy at the dinghy dock we disembarked only to find a rather quaint touch provided by the resort. Live sharks caged beside the dinghy dock! I found it somewhat off-putting and unamusing. On the flip side, I am sure it kept the drunken sailors off the dinghy dock. It didn’t keep us off the dock but it sure as hell kept us sober.

Our dinner was delicious and the only incident that marred the evening was our captain’s penchant for stealing salt and pepper shakers. It was most embarrassing to his crew. We retired early and had a marvelous night’s sleep.

Day 5

We awoke at 6:30 and went ashore for breakfast at the Bitter End. We decided to stay one more night at the Bitter End as we had not yet sampled the pumpkin soup. (that was all we had heard about since we left Oklahoma City)…”you MUST have the pumpkin soup at the Bitter End. WAIT till you have the pumpkin soup at the Bitter End. You will LOVE the pumpkin soup at the Bitter End.” Enough, Bligh.

After refilling our water tank Mo and I mutinied. It was not a big mutiny, just a lunch mutiny. No lunch today. Figure it out on your own. In lieu of lunch Anchorman chose to ogle the lovely topless ladies sunbathing on a nearby boat. One of the cuties cut his voyeurism short by giving him, the universal sign language for, “Buzz off, buster.”

Captain Blight, in lieu of lunch decided to take us to see the invisible beach. It was truly magnificent, at least his description of it was. Nonetheless, we did find a beach where Captain Bligh, Mo and Anchorman snorkeled. I chose to stay ashore and count the beer cans. I quit at 72. And this was a most momentous beach for it was here that Mo found Sandy. Mo is quite the swimmer, diver, all things aquatic. She proudly surfaced with a giant conch shell, replete with living, breathing conch. Poor ugly Sandy. Sandy was immediately relegated to the back of the dinghy. You talkin’ Sandy, boy, you talkin’ B.O.!

Once again we had dinner at Bitter End. We returned to our boat where we all drifted to sleep amid the soothing sounds of the surf and Anchorman’s snoring. It was this snoring that made the first one of us crack. Mo almost killed the father of my children. The woman went crazy with rage. We attributed this rage to too much salt water and her abnormal affection Sandy.

Day 6
We left the Bitter End for the Baths, arriving at the same time as a cruise ship. “How crass,” we whispered, “How embarrassing for them. Like cattle in a cattle car.” Yuck! “Look at them, having their lunch served on the beach, having their dinghy brought right up to shore and being waited on hand and foot. How awful!” YUCK, YUCK

Captain Blight, Mo and Anchorman snorkeled while I guarded the dinghy from any marauding Grenadians. We left the Baths and headed to Peter Island…our first glimpse of civilization in six days.

We anchored at Deadman’s Bay (cute name) and went ashore to Peter Island Resort where we bought t-shirts, used the telephone to call home and sat and drank and drank and sat until we could sit and drink no longer without being obvious. God, it felt so good to sit in a chair. Not on the beach, not on a lounge, not on a teak deck but on a chair!

We had dinner on the boat…beef tender! What we couldn’t eat we fed to the local wildlife surrounding our boat and boy oh boy did they love it! It was on that night that Anchorman, unfortunately, got hold of some poison ice for which I will never forgive Bertie. Or, in hindsight, it could have been the grapefruit juice and vodka.

Day 7
Sandy is gone. (thank God) Mo finished him off with a fork. ….imagine, a fork. Mo loves that sort of thing. This ship is getting to all of us. I only hope I can hang onto a smidgen of the essential good breeding that my mother instilled in me as a child. (Mo, obviously, has not.) As each day passes, it becomes harder and harder to keep my sanity.

With both Sandy and our left-over beef tender deep in the bellies of all the junior Jaws we pulled up anchor and departed for Roadtown. Here we shopped, ate lunch, visited Pusser’s Rum Company and replenished our supplies at the Ample Hamper. After topping off the water we left for Norman Island and the Bight. After anchoring we boarded our dinghy and headed for the caves. Anchorman and I were anxious to explore the depths of these magnificent caverns. Not. But we relented to the pleas of Mo and Captain Blight to turn back. Typically, I was the only one with enough foresight to bring along bat armor and flashlights.

That evening we ate dinner on the boat. Mo and the captain slept on deck and claimed it was the best night’s sleep they had had the entire voyage. Somewhat of an insult to those below deck, methinks.

Day 8
We left the Bight at approximately 7:30am en route to Cruz Bay. Mo and I shopped, blissfully unaware that at that moment Anchorman had taken the liberty of harassing the customs official and consequently was forced to relinquish our passports. However, with our ingenious captain posing as Joe Namath, he was able to retrieve our confiscated documents and we continued our journey.

Day 9
The Ludi Lee and her crew arrived at St. Thomas a 10am. As we approached our dock, our captain gave precise instructions as to each of our responsibilities. His overwhelming confidence in his crew was summarized by his comment, “Since disaster is imminent I shall have a cigarette.” We surprised him by making a perfect landing. With that, he went below and returned with a token of his appreciation to Anchorman for all the work he had done the previous week…he gave him a pair of anchor gloves. Anchorman gratefully accepted them and told Bligh to please place them in his teeth as he was unable to use his hands.

After disembarkation, we once again shopped the streets of Charlotte Amalie, and checked into the Yacht Haven Hotel…the most gorgeous, well appointed hotel you have ever seen. It had toilets and fresh, hot water in every room.

That evening our captain consulted St. Thomas’ leading food critic, Tortilla the taxi driver, and we ended up in a nice, quiet little restaurant. Tortilla and had said this was the town’s best kept secret and since we were the only customers there, we observed he was correct.

We went to bed very early and very clean.

Day 9

We left the beautiful island of St. Thomas at noon and after approximately 18 hours of flight we arrived back in Oklahoma City.

God, it was SO cold!