Our plan had been to record every drink drunk on this trip, but once we got to the 18th round last night, whoever was supposed to keep count – we now can’t even remember whom that was – gave up. From the flying bridge, I attempt to focus as the crew sluggishly retrieves the anchor and we motor around the corner of Jost Van Dyke to White Bay. Dead sailors may go to Fiddler’s Green, but when Caribbean rummies kick the bucket, they go to a heavenly version of White Bay – which is exactly like the earthly version, only without the occasional boatload of boutique cruise-ship passengers.
There are no dinghy docks at White Bay, so Graybeard’s faced with a beach landing: The rest of us jump into shallow water, telling him to stay on board until we’ve pulled the boat onto the sand. He will have none of that, though, and jumps out just as a swell catches the dinghy. He falls flat, face first into the shallows, where the dinghy mounts him like a lovesick manatee.
On the beach, we slog through the powder-soft sand, feeling each one of the morning sun’s photons jab at our bodies. The shade beneath the Soggy Dollar Bar’s patio roof offers welcome relief. It’s only 9 a.m., but we’re professionals and this is a job, so we order a round of Painkillers, born and bred right here at the famous Soggy. Their painkilling abilities prove extraordinary. The cream of coconut, always laid on a little thick at the Soggy Dollar, offers a smooth, stomach-soothing taste. The pineapple and orange juices replenish precious bodily fluids, and the nutmeg works as a traditional detoxifier. And oh yeah, the rum gets you buzzed again, which is really the only true cure for a hangover. After two rounds, the sun once again becomes our friend, and we’re able to grab walkies and wander down the beach to Ivan’s Stress Free Bar.
Another of Jost’s fortunate sons, 66-year-old Ivan Chinnery has run his bar, restaurant and campground on the quiet side of White Bay for 19 years. As we relate our alcoholic quest to him over a round of potent Bananawhackers, he nods sagely. He’s not overly impressed with our attempt to drink the BVI dry. He’s had real legends belly up to his bar, including the immortal god of all drinkers, Keith Richards. We agree we cannot hold a candle to Richards – and not just because he would instantly burst into flames.
As we descend the hill that separates the two sides of White Bay, we witness an armada of booze-hungry boaters pouring through the narrow cut in the reef. Some of the best times you’ll find in the Caribbean happen when you stumble upon the right place at the right time for a local’s party day, when the belongers and longtimers retake a particularly cool spot from the tourists. And in the Virgin Islands, that’s White Bay on a Sunday. Along the beach, we meet fun- and rum-seeking folks from the BVI’s Tortola and Virgin Gorda and the USVI’s St. John and St. Thomas. They anchor their boats stern to the beach, then spend the entire day wallowing in the warm water – some zealously, perhaps romantically, attached to their pool noodles – and taking turns staggering through the sand for more drinks.
White Bay offers a poor overnight anchorage, but we couldn’t leave without a visit to the One Love Bar, where Seddy Callwood, like his fishing father, Foxy, supplies the kitchen with all its fresh fish and lobster. Seddy can sometimes be persuaded to do magic tricks, while his wife’s Bushwhackers magically make your sobriety disappear.