Captain's Log, Stardate:

2/14/05

Hello Again:  Just a quick update:

Normally the passage from St. Thomas to St. Martin, "The Anegada Passage," is nearly as bad as the "Mona" (between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico).   But, while in St. Thomas, Mary and I found the wind coming straight out of the North at only 8-15 kts, on Feb. 1, so we went for it.  It turned out to be as smooth as could be and fairly fast.  We left Charlotte Amalie at 10:00 a.m. and arrived in Marigot Bay, St. Martin at 3:30 a.m. making the 110 NM passage in just over 17 hours.  Now mind you, that was straight east in an area and time of the year when winds are nearly always strong out of the northeast or east.  But our new crew was coming into St. Kitts so two days later, we pushed on, anchoring off the S. Coast of Statia for the night, pulling into St. Kitts the next morning.

Mary wanted to take a tour of the island before she flew home for our grandson's first birthday a week later.  We had arranged for "Love Bird" Philip to take us on a tour.  But there were only the two of us at $20 each. I felt kind of sorry for him so I tried to help him recruit two more people for his 11 passenger van by going over to the cruise ship dock where the "Queen Mary 2" was was tied up.  Most people had already signed up for tours on the ship (for $87 per person) and as they came out, they proceeded to their pre-assigned vans, taking up every seat in every van.  A few would head for the gate, as Philip predicted.  But there were a couple of other "free lancers" working those couples.  I figured it would be better if I, a tourist myself, approached the couples and explained that Mary and I had already arranged for a much cheaper tour.  You could tell who the cruise ship passengers were from the taxi drivers because all the taxi drivers were black and all the passengers were white, in fact, very white.  It was like two competing teams wearing distinctive uniforms.  I would see a taxi driver jump in the path of an oncoming couple and hit them up for a tour.  Being polite, I would wait until he was finished with his presentation and, after they said "No,"  I would follow up with my proposal.  However, I was frustrated by an unanticipated phenomenon.  As I approached each couple just as the taxi driver was departing, it became another case of black on white.  That is, the driver would see me, although quite tan, as much more white than he and hit me up for a tour!  He would say, "Are you planning on touring the island today?"  I would be forced to say, "Yes but . . . " taking up precious seconds while the true quarry escaped.  Luckily, in my third attempt, a wife had dropped behind her husband as he fended off the assailant and I explained my proposal to her without interference.  As soon as she heard the amount, "Yolie" shouted "Bob!"  Bob broke off from my competitor and the two of them agreed to come on our "private tour" of St. Kitts which, by the way, was very nice.

Saturday night Holy Mass was certainly the most interesting on St. Kitts that I had ever been connected with.  After escorting Mary to the "Co-Cathedral," I found myself in a nearby casino playing video poker.  To get to this "casino," you walked down an alley and climbed some rickety stairs where there were about 30 outdated slot machines.  (They didn't even have bill validators so you had to purchase a bucket of tokens.)  I noticed my machine was plugged into an extension cord that was wrapped around the "request change" light on top.  I could have unplugged the machine without leaving my chair.

 After each hand that is won, some machines offer you the opportunity to "double up."  If you press the "Yes" button, it presents five cards face down and immediately turns the leftmost card over which becomes the "Dealer's" card.  Then you chose any of the four remaining cards which becomes your card.  If your card is higher than the dealer's, you get double the original win.  If it's lower, you lose it all.  Pushes don't count either way.  I find all this very boring.  I've tried it a half dozen times after winning with two pair or maybe even three-of-a-kind but mostly lost.  I just enjoy the mental challenge of deciding the correct way to play each hand of poker and find it relaxing.  So it's annoying to have to press "No" at the end of each hand won before you can play the next hand.

Now in the Bahamas, it's illegal for Bahamians to gamble in their casinos but in St. Kitts, it apparently isn't.  In fact, I was the only person in there wearing a white uniform.  On my left, a middle aged woman was playing video poker and on my right, a young lady sat down and started to play.  But then a floor person brought her some kind of form to sign which she did before she continued playing.  I thought, "Wow!"  Markers at slot machines!  I had never heard of that before and I said so to this twenty-something woman.  She said, "Oh no.  I had just earned too many credits on another machine so they just hand paid me."  "Hmmm.  Maybe I can learn something from her," I thought so I began watching her play out of the corner of my eye.  Sure enough, she would double up after every win and, like me, mostly lose.  However, she would do it even when she got a flush or full house.  As she kept feeding her machine tokens for about 20 minutes, she got four of a kind.  "No, Noooo.  She's not going to try to double that . . . is she," I said out loud.  Yes!  She did . . . and won!  The woman on my left said, "You gots to be ruff 'en tuff wit dees machines!"  Now the young woman had 250 credits so time to cash out, right?  No!  She let it ride a second time, and won again!  You guessed it, she doubled up a third time and only then did she cash out!  One thousand credits in 25 minutes!  I felt very inferior as I continued to play my game which must have seemed really boring to her as her machine went "ching-ching-ching-ching."  I wondered how many credits she had on the other machine if this machine was able to pay out these "mere" thousand credits.

But just then, I got four of a kind!  Instead of instantly hitting the "No" button, my finger hovered over it as I weighed my options.  This 125 credits would bring my total to 225 (including the 100 I had earned the "slow way") bringing me back to a little over even for the session.  I estimated the odds of winning to be exactly 50%, about 2.5% better than simply playing draw poker on a "5-8" machine.  But I've always told myself I prefer the challenge . . .  Too long.  I took too long to decide!  The young woman reached over and hit the "Yes" button for me.  A Five came up for the dealer.  Hmm.  Not too bad.  But now I have to choose which of the four remaining cards will be mine.  Ehhhhh!  Too long again!  The woman on my left reached over and hit the far rightmost card!  It was a jack so I had just won 250 credits, equivalent to a straight flush!  The young woman pointed out that the middle two cards were both losers (in case I was thinking of hitting one of them) and said she was going to hit the second-from-the-leftmost button (which was also a winner) but the older woman beat her to it!  As I stared at the 250 credits on the screen, I thought to myself, "Maybe I should let it ride a second time, like the young woman did?"  "No," said the young woman on my right.  Well, she didn't really say that; she simply pressed the cash out button!  She must have felt I wasn't ready for the big leagues!

Walking back to the church to pick up Mary, I wondered if this was the first time they had ever been so bold.  If it wasn't, you would think 50% of the time in the past, i.e., at least once, they would have caused a great loss to someone (these were quarter machines), that someone would have loudly expressed their disapproval, and they would never have tried it again.  Or maybe they never lose on the big ones?  Instead, I concluded these two ladies would never be so presumptive with someone they knew could play the game properly.  And maybe this was the first time a white person had ever walked down an alley to get to a dimly lit second floor room with a few old slot machines. Maybe all three of us were on a lucky streak? 

Only in St. Kitts! Hope all is well with you and your family!

~~~~_/)Lee~~~~~~~~~~_/)_/)~_/)_/)~~_/)~~~~_/)