There are big luxuries and small luxuries, and living aboard a boat, it’s often the little things that lift our spirits the most. Like a cold beer at the marina bar after a hot day of sanding and varnishing the teak brightwork. Or free wi-fi that reaches all the way to the end of the dock.
This week, however, is a big luxury, a big, big, BIG luxury. We are berthed at El Conquistador, a Waldorf-Astoria resort with a small marina on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast. Off our bow, just over the breakwater, is a sparkling panorama of blue sea and sky, including, three miles offshore, the private island owned by the resort. Ferries shuttle the guests over to enjoy the white sand beach and balmy water, the café with resident iguanas, and the mini-golf course. You can take scuba lessons and snorkeling excursions, go horseback riding, and play beach volleyball.
Back at the marina, on the lowest level of the resort, is a row of pastel-colored units that might be time-shares and a lagoon-style water park with multiple slides to splash you into the cool pools below. Then take the funicular up a steep green hillside to the main level of El Conquistador and wow! The hotel has Mediterranean architecture and a series of tiered swimming pools with fountains, jacuzzis and an in-water bar. You can dine at a dozen cafes and restaurants, buy expensive sunglasses and beachwear, tone up at the fitness center, and head for the tennis courts and golf course. They even have a fire pit and a labyrinth!
What are two rugged, ragged sailors doing in a place like this? The kids are here! The kids are here! Thanks to our frequent flyer miles, we’ve flown our daughter Kira and her husband Seth in from Boulder for the week. It’s the first time we’ve seen them in almost eighteen months. They’re staying with us aboard Corroboree, and it’s crowded, make no mistake. But Kira and Seth are good sports. Good thing we raised our kids on camping trips!
Meanwhile, for the price of a marina slip, we get access to the entire resort complex, and we’re having a blast. We’ve lazed in lounge chairs on the private island, swum in the pools, and dried off on the complimentary beach towels. We’ve whooshed down the water slides, a first for me and another item to add to and then check off my life list. Between seafood for the kids and veggie meals for Eric and me, we’re dining quite well at the cafes and restaurants, not to mention downing delicious rum drinks. We’ve also eaten tofu hot dogs for dinner on the boat. We bought them at a huge grocery store outside the resort, and they actually count as another small luxury—this is the first time we’ve found tofu hot dogs since leaving Florida four months ago.
Amazingly, the resort is practically empty. We expected it to be overflowing with upper class Americans and Europeans. Instead, arriving on a Saturday, we found Puerto Rican families with laughing children to be the main clientele. One employee told us that fears about the Zika virus had kept foreign visitors away all season, and by Monday the local families had disappeared as well. Now we have the place almost to ourselves. No noise, no loud music. Just the wind in the palm trees, the lap of water against the hull, and the musical, nocturnal chirpings of the coqui tree frogs.
To top it all off, on Sunday night, Mother’s Day, Eric, Kira, Seth and I were able to Facetime on the phone with our son Dane and his wife Gray in Atlanta. We told funny stories and caught up on our news. Our grand puppy Jerry even put in an appearance, turning his butt to the phone and wagging his tail.
By contrast, when we sailed on Duprass forty years ago, our families had no way to reach us and rarely knew for sure where we were. Though we sent a postcard from every port, they might take weeks to arrive. We sent one such postcard the day before we left the Canary Islands to cross the Atlantic. Twenty-eight days later, we placed a collect call from a public pay phone in Barbados to let my parents know we were safe.
“Oh, thank goodness!” said my mother. “We just got your postcard from the Canaries yesterday, so I only had to worry for one day.”
Now, though communications can still be spotty, Eric and I can hear our kids’ voices and see their faces almost everywhere we go. We can fly them to join us in intriguing places as we continue around the world.
Stop a minute and think what that means to us.
Then tell me this isn’t the greatest luxury of all.