Party in Paradise

July 18, 2008 | By Doug Benc | Creative

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At most, if not all, major sporting events, the organizers of the event usually throw an appreciation party for the media. These parties sometimes include exotic animals or exotic food. Sometimes there may be a gift at the door and usually an open bar.

I was in the Caribbean for the final two weeks of a six week cricket tour between Australia and the West Indies. The tour has taken three photographers (myself, Harry How and Chris McGrath) on a tour of most of the West Indies. With all the work, we had very little time to do much sightseeing while in the islands.

So when Ricky Skerritt, the Minister of Tourism of St Kitts and Nevis, invited us to a media luncheon the following day, we gladly accepted. When we (the members of the media) looked at our invitations we got really excited. It was going to be a day cruise to the sister island of Nevis on a large catamaran sail boat. Of all of the media appreciation parties I have been too, I have never been to an exotic location.

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The following morning, all the visiting media was to be picked up at their hotel and taken to the dock where we would check in and meet the crew. As we arrived at the dock, we were greeted by Mr. Skerritt and some of his assistants. We were escorted down the dock and onto “Spirit of St. Kitts.” Of all my years on and around the water, I was a bit ashamed that I have never been on a sail boat. This was going to be a first for me and many others in our party.

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Before boarding, we had to take off our shoes and leave them on the dock. We were helped on board by the crew which included Captain Todd and a deckhand named Elvis (he said his mother was a fan). After a quick safety briefing and introductions, the bar opened. Rum punch, beer and other drinks flowed for the next hour and a half on the trip over.

The wind was blowing in our faces as we sailed toward our destination. It was a smooth ride as the chop on the water couldn’t break the stride of the giant sailboat. Those of us that already knew each other talked about our experiences over the past few weeks and those that we weren’t so familiar with, quickly became friends on our voyage.

Island music was piped throughout the speakers that were strategically placed around the yacht. Some people swayed and danced to the music, some laid out on the netting in front that separated from the surface of the ocean by a mere 10 inches or less at times. It was a time to unbutton your shirt wear shorts and just relax. Although, most of us that day agreed, there should be a law against a middle aged man in a Speedo.

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As we approached the island, the blue and green water was crystal clear as you might expect. The “Spirit” pulled up on the beach and the crew helped us off the yacht and into the knee deep water. With me feet in the sand, I look up to a majestic volcanic mound, known as Nevis Peak. In stark contrast to my home in Florida, it is good to see a mountain rising up near the water.

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Elvis was directing us toward a little shack near the shore and a buffet was set out for us. There was chicken, rice and salad. The drinks were at another small shack nearby. We sat under sun shades on small couches and benches and enjoyed our lunch with friends. It was very simple, but to date, this is probably my most enjoyable media party yet.

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While covering this event, we made friends that will be with us forever. I had some of those pose for a photo for me in front of the shack at the base of Nevis. There was Phil and Alex, both writers from Australia. They were never too busy to help me understand a game that I have never witnessed in person. And the other photographers, Andres, Andy and Stan, that I worked directly with and usually had breakfast or dinner with on any given night. All of us enjoyed a day away from work, away from our hotel that allowed us to just laugh and joke as we told stories on the beach.

I think we all wanted to get back home and back to our lives. But this was a perfect day to forget about work and relax before finishing our work the following day.

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Making our way back to the beach their were a few young men playing cricket on a makeshift wicket. We laughed as we saw a sign that read “Internet Access”, not 30 feet from the water. Even on this beach that seemed so simple and primitive, the access to the internet reminded us that we were headed back to work as we boarded the yacht.

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The sun was setting as we sailed back into port. Elvis was dancing on the deck to the reggae music and just as fast as it started, this media party was over.

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