Wired Wedding Album

A Caribbean Adventure

Jacquetta and Dan
August, 1998

Put on a brightly-colored shirt... make yourself a rum punch... put some Bob Marley on the stereo... turn up the heat... and poise your finger over the Page Down key. We're taking a trip to the Caribbean.

It's been a whole lot of fun, and we'd like to share that with you.

We took off from London midday on Friday, 14 August, and aimed southwest towards the Caribbean. Here's a look at the Isle of Wight, off Portsmouth, as we headed off across the Atlantic.

It was Jacquetta's first trans-oceanic flight... about 8 hours. But that was just the beginning. We landed in Antigua, and waited several hours for the puddle jumper that took us to St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and finally Beef Island, in the British Virgin Islands. Beef Island is connected by bridge to Tortola.

After all that, we got to our hotel room at 3AM London time, completely exhausted.

Tortola is the largest of the dozens of islands collectively known as the British Virgin Islands. The nearby American Virgin Islands receive 15 times as many visitors as the "BVI".

On our first morning, we were up early... and we had the mile-long Long Bay to ourselves.

It's on the north shore of Tortola, near the west end of the island.

Jacquetta gazes out across the sea, thinking about the Caribbean, or thinking about jet lag...?
The shade trees outside our room.

We spent a fair amount of time here. Jacquetta got tan and read, whereas I just got red.

It was in the 90s during the day, and in the high 70s at night. This time of year, it's also very humid.

Early stages of applying suntan lotion to Jacquetta's back.
A fair number of these... 6 inches to a foot in length.

They taste like chicken.

Lots of fossilized coral to be found... this chunk was polished by the surf.
All around Long Bay, there were flowers in great profusion.
Check out these chicks on the beach.
We watched the sunset from our room's balcony.
On Monday, we did all the paperwork. We were too busy and hassled to take any photos. We did lots of non-photogenic things like
  • Stood in line at the post office, where we bought $110 worth of special stamps to stick on various marriage forms
  • Visited the "Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages" (above the Ministry of Solid Waste) several times... no shit!
  • Called on the Attorney General's Office a couple times
  • Found a random attorney down a side-street to get an affadavit put together
  • Made the affadavit official by going back to the Registrar... putting a hand on a book (apparently a bible) and saying "uh-huh" at the right time
We needed to be finished by noon to meet all the requirements to be married on Thursday. We made it with 15 minutes to spare...

That ordeal made it official... we were qualified for marriage.

On Tuesday, I set off to go exploring. Here's a view over the west end of Tortola, to the US Virgin Islands beyond.

This area was the site of a substantial Indian settlement 1000 years ago. There is some speculation that the population of Tortola was greater then than it is now.

At this point, "real" roads had ended, and there were a few jeep tracks through the jungle.

Eventually, I came upon a place called Smuggler's Cove.

Here is the ruined hotel there. Given the remoteness of the British Virgin Islands, and the remoteness of this site on the BVI, and the fact that there are no public roads even close, I suppose it is not too surprising that it never worked out.

The hotel has been ravaged by several hurricanes, such as Hugo in '89, and Marilyn, which wiped out 1000 yachts on the neighboring island of Anguilla.

I met the guy who owns the place... a guy named Bob who's in his 80s. There are many stories to tell about the place... here are a few.

This cannon, sitting in front of the hotel at Smuggler's Cove, was imported from England over 200 years ago. It was found on the hill overlooking Soper's Hole, just over the hill on the south side of the island.

Soper's Hole was a popular place for pirates, because it could be easily defended and approaching ships could be spotted easily. Best guess is that this cannon was part of the pirate crew's defense system.

Despite the state of the "hotel", it still has an active bar, working on the honor system. There was about $50 in cash in the cigar box next to the sign, in case anybody needed change.

There is still electricity at the site, and the refrigerator works.

Bob says he gets ripped off on occasion, and gets tips on occasion. Overall, they cancel out, and he pretty well gets the asking price for the beer and soft drinks without any need for supervision of the site.

The place was the setting for the movie, "Old Man and the Sea", starring Anthony Quinn, filmed about 10 years ago. These barrels were part of the movie set.
Sitting on the bar is this photo of the Queen's visit to Tortola over 30 years ago.
Also sitting next to the bar is the very same '66 Continental from the photo.

As it turns out, the Queen had visited the BVI a few years earlier to dedicate the bridge between Beef Island and Tortola. The 2-door convertible which ferried her around was embarassing to her. She's self-conscious about her fat butt, which was revealed all too obviously when she got into the 2-door.

So, on her next visit, Bob was happy to supply his 4-door chariot.

The next day, for a change of pace, we went across to Soper's Hole for a bit of shopping and a lazy lunch. I had a flying fish sandwich. (The name evokes a strange image.)

Given the restaurant prices, I can confirm that the stories of pirates at Soper's Hole are true.

There are quite a few sailboats based here. We resisted the temptation to charter a day-sail... it just seemed too greedy to have two sailing adventures in one year!

Why did we choose the Caribbean to get married?

Neither of us were really into a formal church wedding. And, with Jacquetta's family mostly in the UK, and mine mostly in the USA, we could have made an awkward decision as which one to get married in... and which one to exclude... hmmm.

Instead, we thought, "How can we get the most possible fun out of this?" So, we decided we had ample excuse to do a reception in each side of the Atlantic, and do the ceremony itself somewhere exotic, far away from either.

What good is a global economy, without a global party now and then?

John and Pam Lorey came down from Michigan to be our witnesses. I've known & worked with John for many years... here they are at the beach, shortly after arrival. They were the only "wedding guests".

Pam, upon arrival in Tortola, quickly adapted to the warmth, the ambiance, the atmosphere, and the Planter's Punch.
That evening, there was a steel band playing at the beach restaurant. They were good... and demonstrated an ability to turn any tune you could imagine into something you thought was written for the steel drums.

Speaking of demonstrating ability, that's John and Pam demonstrating the "Tortola Toe Step".

The next day, we wandered down towards Cane Garden Bay and had a pleasant lunch at Sebastian's. I recommend the conch roti.
The sunset, once again, was spectacular.
The gazebo where we got married is part of the hotel's beach restaurant. We took advantage of the breakfast buffets there every morning, and sat in the gazebo.

Here's Jacquetta with a plateful of breakfast, on the morning of our wedding day.

The view from the gazebo.
Later that morning, we went over to Smuggler's Cove. Jacquetta manages to relax, despite the pressing crowds.

That's the island of Jost van Dyke in the background. Its name reflects the Dutch influence in the history of the Virgin Islands. Actually, although Jost van Dyke is quite close to Tortola, St. John (in the US Virgin Islands) is even closer.

During this visit, I was very surprised to discover that Bob is an amateur radio operator that I've talked to a number of times. We have a number of common acquaintences around the world.

He's passing on a message from me to another operator in Japan that I haven't talked to for a while.

John checks out the snorkeling at Smuggler's Cove.

He discovered that the white sand under the water is a lot like that on the beach, only wetter.

Speaking of wetter, John and Pan check out the elegant bar at Smuggler's Cove.
The morning is gone... The time draws nigh. Jacquetta helps me pin on my flowers.

It appears that my tuxedo trowsers have shrunk due to the heat and humidity. Same with those patent-leather shoes.

We were married by a registrar who came out from Road Town for the event.

It was a short, non-religious ceremony. We were only given 3 words at a time to repeat... good move, 'cuz we were nervous!

Phew! Glad that's over!
Irene O'Neal, a manageress for the hotel who arranged the wedding, opens the bubbly.
Here is the first decent digital photo of Mr. and Mrs. Holle.

You can see Tropical Storm Bonnie in the background. It passed over Tortola during our wedding night, at which point it gained hurricane speed (just a coincidence).

If it had been up to hurricane speed as it came over we would have been in serious deep doo-doo.

Tortola was right on Bonnie's path.

These charts, from a few days after Tortola, show Bonnie hitting the east coast. That's Hurricane Danielle out in the Atlantic. It also reached speeds of over 100MPH, but it took a more northerly path and missed us in Nevis.

So, the weather could have been bad, if it wanted to. But instead, a double rainbow came out shortly after the ceremony. It turns out to be hard to photograph a rainbow, and even harder to photograph a double one.
The next day, we left Long Bay, and headed towards the island of Nevis.

Along the way, as we came over the ridge on Tortola, we got a glimpse of Norman Island. Its history and topology (pirates, caves, and coves) formed the basis for the story "Treasure Island".

Our flight from Tortola to Antigua took about 45 minutes.

Then, this massive plane took us for the short hop from Antigua to Nevis. It was set up for 6 passengers.

Actually, there were 7 passengers. So I ended up in the copilot's seat.
*click* *click* "Uh... excuse me, Captain... what does this do? Whereabouts is the stereo?"
My job was to keep an eye on the propeller. My conclusion, after considerable study, was that it must have been going in the right direction.
There were still a few remnants of Hurricane Bonnie around. This picture of the sun breaking through the clouds was taken through the front window of the plane.

From our viewpoint a few thousand feet above the Caribbean, we could see Antigua, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. We could also smell Montserrat... the sulphur fumes from the volcano that's ravaged the island.

We arrived at Nevis (pronounced NEE-vis) despite my lack of flying skill.

Upon arrival, we were wisked to nearby Nisbet Plantation, which has been renovated into a beach hotel. Here is the "Great House" of the plantation, built in the 1700s.

The Nisbet Plantation was, at one point, one of the largest and most successful on the island. Frances Nisbet married the famous English Admiral Horatio Nelson here on Nevis in 1778.

Jacquetta in front of the Great House.
Dan at the front gate of the Plantation.

I'm wearing my "If Found, Return To.." T-shirt.

Here is a view of Mt. Nevis, rising over 3000ft from the jungle. It is often surrounded by clouds like this.

The island was named by Columbus, on his second voyage across the Atlantic. When he spotted the cloud at the top of the mountain, he mistakenly believed it to be snow-capped. "Nieves" is Spanish for snow.

We had a cottage to ourselves near the beach.
The Nisbet family grew sugar cane here. They started cultivating coconuts because of problems getting the large ships needed to carry cane anywhere near the beach.

Here's a postcard-like view from the beach at the Plantation (see www.nisbetplantation.com for more postcard views).

In contrast to that, here is a more realistic view of the beach.
Jacquetta chills out in a strategically-placed hammock.

Can you see the white waves out in the distance? That's the coral reef that surrounds the island.

Here is a picture of Jacquetta at the town square in the capitol city of Charlestown. The town is so small, that it's actually a town triangle instead of a square.

There are only two towns on the island of Nevis: Charlestown and Newcastle.

The first capitol, in the 1600s, was a place called Jamestown, just north of the site of the present-day Charlestown. An earthquake loosened it up, and the ensuing tidal wave swept it away.

Near that site today is the largest development on the island, the new Four Seasons Hotel. Good planning, guys... "In the event of an earthquake, hotel guests are advised to settle their outstanding hotel bills promptly."

One of the better-known Nevisians is Alexander Hamilton, who was born in Charlestown in 1755, and went on to fight in the American Revolution. He then became the first American Secretary of the Treasury.

In Charlestown, we came across one of his descendants, "Jim Bob" Hamilton. Here's a picture of Jim Bob.

Notice the family resemblance?

From a T-shirt shop in Charlestown.
Evening at the plantation. The hills in the distance are the neighboring island of St. Kitts.

St. Kitts and Nevis are, together, an independent country. Nevis nearly separated from St. Kitts a few weeks ago, when the popular vote for independence fell just short of the required 2/3 majority. To put it in perspective, if 60 people changed their vote, it would have gone the other way.

They'll vote again sometime. I expect Nevis will be independent someday... and, if they do, they'll be the smallest island nation in the world (population 10,000).

There is a lot of undeveloped beachfront around. This picture was taken during a stroll east of Nisbet.
If, someday, you awaken with a terrible headache, and when you open your eyes you see this, don't be confused; you were simply knocked out by a falling coconut.
On Tuesday, we took a trip around the island... it only takes a couple hours, including stops. One of the stops was the ruins of the cane refinery at New River.

A few decades ago, world sugar prices fell by a factor of 20, as different, cheaper sources of sugar were found. This pretty well wiped out the cane sugar industry in the Caribbean. This refinery was the last one to remain active, closing in the 1950s.

The machinery inside the plant was imported from "London Derby" in the 1800s. The building itself was built in the 1600s, and has survived multiple hurricanes and earthquakes. The locals attribute this longevity to the fact that they used molasses to bind the cement between the large boulder building blocks.

Here are some of the ruins of the Eden Brown Plantation on the east side of the island... the site of a tragedy in the 1700s. Guy A and guy B duel for the hand of gal C... both guys get killed... gal C goes into heavy mourning and remorse, locking herself in her room... family of gal C decides Nevis is too much like a bad novel, so they abandon the plantation and return to the predictability of England... gal C dies soon after they leave.

The experienced traveller can avoid these problems. In our case, I simply told Guy B that we were getting married in Afghanistan.

There's a botanical garden towards the southwest part of the island... not far from Montpelier, where Princess Diana stayed a year before the accident.

Here's an elaborate rock creation in the rainforest greenhouse.

To start a hotel in this area, apparently one must start by getting a 200-year-old cannon.

Here are the cannons from Golden Rock Plantation, and from Nisbet Plantation.

Rainstorms come and go quickly. An hour before this one, it was blue sky and bright sunshine. An hour later, same deal.
I'm relaxing on the bench outside our cottage before the arduous task of packing begins. Sigh...
On our last night, there was a party at the Plantation, complete with a BBQ... great steak, ribs, and lobster.

Here's a view of the Caribbean band in action. It seems like part of the MO to have a few guys hanging around, not actually in the band, just there to lend a hand.

We've had a few,
But then again,
too few to mention.
Our last view of the beach at Nisbet came from the airplane window.

Some Closing Comments

I hope you've enjoyed this photo album... I think we'll be looking at it every year about this time.

We're back home in Weybridge now... the twins returned last night, full of stories of their trip to Cornwall. We did a BBQ today (Sunday), our first full day back. It is warm for England (72F) but it sure feels cold to us... it never got this cool anytime, anywhere in the Caribbean!

All in all, we liked Tortola more than Nevis. It would be nice to go there when it's not quite as humid (say, March or April) for a sailing adventure.

But now, we're enjoying being home.

The End