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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Prologue, Dec 22nd-23rd, 2007

On Dec 22nd, 2007, Lisa and I flew to St. Croix for Dive training, followed by a sailing tour of the Virgin Islands. Our flight took a particularly circuitous route, going from San Francisco to Los Angeles to catch a red-eye to Washington DC, followed by a flight to San Thomas, whereupon we caught a Cape Air shuttle to St. Croix. All the United Airlines flights were more or less on time, making this an unusually stress-free and easy trip, given my experiences over the summer with US Airways.

The shuttle to St. Croix was an adventure, however. We checked in well ahead of time, and walked through the TSA area with its security scanning us an our luggage not through an X-ray machine, but the old-fashioned way, but taking our luggage apart, and then running the bomb scanner chits over it and analyzing it. This naturally took a long time, but the indoctrination into island culture was to come later, when we sat in the waiting area after our inspection long after the flight was to depart. After a while, a flight agent from Cape Air showed up and asked for our receipts, and then told us that there were 4 others on the flight who were late and we had to wait for them, because we couldn't possibly leave them behind.

Eventually, everyone showed up and the flight agent guided us to our twin propeller plane, but not before she gave a hug to a child and a short chat with them. Her relaxed demeanor told us that we were definitely "on island time."

The Cessna 402 was tiny, and our carry-on had to be carried into the back of the plane and stowed before we could board. There was also a little compartment on the wing where we could put little sundries. Then we boarded the plane and took seats behind the pilot. The pilot said to us, "Come up front, I have to fill this seat anyway." So I took the seat and got a lovely front-row view of the instrument panel. The air was warm and the weather balmy. As we taxi'd around to the runway, the pilot asked me to close the little window to my right. The plane took off in short order and I marveled at the lovely view of Charlotte Amelie harbor, and the view of the Ocean.

The flight took only 20 minutes, and after we arrived, we walked along the terminal and caught a taxi to Hotel on the Cay in Christiansted. The taxi driver told us that the island had only 50000 people, and that this was the rainy season. We were dropped off along the water. I stood there, surprised for a while, and then realized that the Hotel is indeed on the Cay (pronounced Key, as in the Florida Keys), and had a ferry service to pick us up. We checked in and found ourselves on the top floor with a view of the seaward channel towards St. Thomas.

Fighting jet-lag and temperature shock, we got ourselves unpacked and headed back downtown to visit the Dive shop we were signed up with --- Dive Experience. Following the map that was given us by the hotel, we wandered down and soon found it. There we were told to show up at 8:30 the next morning for our confined water work.

Dinner was at Rum Runners, an expensive restaurant on the waterfront, but we were both tired and not inclined to look further. After dinner, the taxi-ferry took us back to the hotel under a full moon, shining clear and pretty over the water. We admired that for a very short time until we headed to bed.

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