My husband, Don, and I loved to travel and one of our favorite spots was tiny Cooper Island in the British Virgin Islands. Our second trip there was a few days after the 9/11 attacks. It was like going from hell into paradise. We could hardly believe so much beauty and tranquility could exist in the same world with the devastation and fear we had just left behind. Even the plane trip was surreal. We changed planes in Boston, walking through an airport protected by armed National Guardsmen onto a plane that had more flight attendants than passengers. We were uneasy about flying but finally decided the precautions probably made it a “safer than usual” time to travel. So off we went, from Boston to Puerto Rico, to the island of Tortola, where a boat, captained by Chris, the tall Brit who co-owns the Cooper Island Beach Club, picked us up and whisked us to the island.
The Beach Club is very private — six yellow and pink cottages nestled in the trees, an outdoor gourmet restaurant, and a thatch-roofed hut with a seldom-open boutique which sells swim wear and postcards. There is no electricity, no phone except for emergencies, no television, no roads, no hassles. Our frig, stove and lights are gas-powered. The water for our shower, which, by the way, is on the back porch, is desalinated sea water, solar heated. We have a well-stocked bookcase and a cassette player. But we usually prefer the music of the sea.
The staff outnumbers us. Curt, from Trinidad, is the manager who can solve any problem, and cooks special desserts for us, just because he likes us. Antoine grins shyly as he carries the luggage and works around the grounds. Brandon is the tall, lanky handyman, who fixes everything. Liz serves our meals and reads Harry Potter books in every spare moment. Wayne waits tables and charms us with his dry, British wit. Nate has a smile that would warm the hardest of hearts and is also a Harry Potter fan. The staff lives in a dormitory-style building built into the hillside above the beach and hidden by cactus and flowering trees.
One of our favorite hikes is to the top of the island where some energetic soul has cut crude steps into the hillside and built a columned viewing area at the summit. From there we can look down on the other side of the island. Below is a homestead with a vegetable garden, goats and chickens, and a dock, belonging to the native family who is the lucky owner of this paradise.
TO BE CONTINUED…In Part 2, I’ll tell you about a typical day on our island and about a curious event that inspired one of my children’s books, Herman the Hermit Crab and the Mystery of the Big, Black Shiny Thing.
Sharon Canfield Dorsey is an award-winning poet and author. She has published five books, including Herman and her newest children’s book, Revolt of the Teacups. All are available on Amazon and from High Tide Publications.