Kekoa shows her heart of happiness in St. John

May 1, 2020

Six weeks ago we were vacationing on St. John in the American Virgin Islands.  Coronavirus was just starting to tighten its grip on the world.  Full paralysis hadn’t yet set in.

Midway through our time there - clear blue water, yellow sun, green palms swaying, rainbow fish, rum-soaked ice cubes, you get the picture - we made our way down to the harbor to board Kekoa.  

Fifty-foot catamaran.  Sailing machine.  Built by hand by two talented brothers.  Intention: sail the islands, have fun, make money by sharing their fun with others, live happily in the sun.

There’s nothing really fancy about Kekoa other than her obvious commitment to fun.  Piles of high class snorkeling gear. A simple galley and downstairs seating and eating area dominated by a bar. Hospitable crew members begin serving rum punches, painkillers, cheese and crackers, and big platters of freshly carved fruit in the morning and keep it coming all day.  

In the front of the big cat are lots of places to sit and lie in the sun, soak up the vitamin D, bake thonged buns. Two stretched trampolines span the cat’s pontoons.  

When passengers have finished snorkeling their way through coral reefs, tropical underwater flora and fauna, spotted eagle rays, turtles and occasional barracudas just to remind you you’re alive; and when they’re digesting their lunch from a classy outdoor restaurant on nearby Tortola, or at Zoza’s on the sparsely inhabited Lavongo Cay, they can take to the tramps, letting the rhythms from Kekoa’s booming stereo system fill and charge their bodies, easing into carefree dancing while bathed by the sun, grabbing hoola hoops to entertain themselves and their grinning observers, feeling unfettered happiness spilling from every pore.

Around the helm toward the stern of Kekoa, Capt. Jameson - one of Kekoa’s owners and builders - spins yarns about the charmed vessel and her bouts with hurricanes and one or two unscrupulous characters.  If you’ve ever read Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, one of the captain’s tales about the abandonment of Kekoa, way out at sea off the coast of Hatteras by the crew of some erstwhile purchasers, will ring familiar. With its chapter chronicling the crewless vessel’s efforts to make its way back to its builders on its own, the tale will convince you of the power of righteousness and the ability of a spirited vessel to grow its own heart and keep it beating.

Conrad wrote another famous novel titled Heart of Darkness.  This particular tale of Kekoa I would title Heart of Happiness.

We enjoyed a full day aboard Kekoa, surrounded by a joyful group of pre-wedding revelers.  As we made our way back toward the wharf with just about every bit of happiness wrung out of us and shadows starting to lengthen, the bride-to-be donned a three-cornered pirate’s hat and stood behind a charged 10-gauge cannon.  Grinning with confidence, she took the firing cord handed to her, made sure all was clear, and on signal from the captain, gave a stout tug and sent a loud, smoky blast echoing across the harbor.  “Honey, I’m home!”

Everyone hooted, hollered and applauded while the crew and passengers of another catamaran ahead of us, making her way sluggishly toward the dock, looked back at us with concern written across their faces. 

Capt. Jameson brought out his final trick to delight his passengers.  Hitting a couple buttons on his phone while the cannon’s smoke was still clearing, he dialed up the day’s final music.

It boomed ahead of us even louder than the bride’s cannon: “Move bitch, get out the way, get out the way, get out the way . . . .” Heavy bass, deep, hip hop voice, echoing across St. John’s Cruz Bay harbor, some people wincing, most of them smiling and shaking their heads.  They knew Capt. Jameson was on his way in with another happy charter. 

Kekoa’s edgy heart showed its love of life.          

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