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Caribbean Related Discussion

Getting around the islands can be half the adventure of discovering new rum.


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Old 01-10-2008, 10:59 AM   #11
Edward Hamilton
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The discount coupons are in the mail. I just hope they get to you before they expire.
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Old 01-10-2008, 12:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Hamilton View Post
The discount coupons are in the mail. I just hope they get to you before they expire.
..lol..well let`s hope they do!
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Old 01-10-2008, 01:16 PM   #13
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Okay maybe not. The girl was the half Indian illegitimate daughter of the exiled president of Guatemala. She was suffering from terminal cancer and staying on your boat while recuperating from an abusive relationship with a duplicitous Italian diplomat. The U-boat that you were attempting to salvage carried $10 billion in uncut diamonds salvaged illegally from a 18th century East India merchantman that went down in storm with all hands off the coast of Madagascar. You found the U-boat in the Caribbean (where the Nazis were trying to sell the diamonds in Panama) when you fell off the yacht while dizzy from excessive rum that had been forced upon you by...
Okay that really was part of my story. I dated the girl, dove for the diamonds off Madagascar, got drunk with the diplomat, and fell off the boat.
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Old 01-10-2008, 07:03 PM   #14
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In 1978, I was on an airplane with my boss, Fred Chormanski. Fred was a great guy and looking back on it, had a lot of patience with his newest charge. We were heading some cold place to sell some high-tech electro-mechanical actuators that controlled some airfoil surface, radar or other such function in some bomb or military aircraft when Fred looked at me and said, “Ed, you don’t look very happy.” I was surprised he could tell. I’m a pretty transparent guy and replied, “What do you mean, not happy? I’m with you, on an airplane with my knees in the back of a seat. I don’t fit in this seat, it’s colder where we’re going than it was in Chicago when we left. And I’m breathing cigarette smoke from the guy next to me.”

Fred looked at me, with the wise look of someone you just know you should respect, and asked what I wanted to be doing in 5 years. Before I could answer he said, “Don’t answer me yet. Write down on a piece of paper what you want to be doing in five years.”

While trying not to disturb him and others around me, I squirmed in my seat until I could get a pen out of my pocket, an envelope out of my briefcase and the folding table in front of me unfolded so I could write. When I 'd written a few words I moved my hand and Fred interrupted me. “No, don’t show it to me. Now, write five things you’re going to do to make that happen.”

Without hesitation I wrote two more words and handed it to my protesting mentor.

(continued)
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Old 01-10-2008, 07:03 PM   #15
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(continued from previous post)
Five years later, I’d been half way around the world, worked and lived in places that are generally reserved for the pages of National Geographic, and a few more places where National Geographic has yet to go. And I'd bought a modest sailboat. I didn’t have twenty dollars in my pocket, and didn’t care. I was on my own boat with the horizon before me, and I was one of the wealthiest people I knew.

There were a couple of things I knew for certain, and not much else. 1.) I’m not a good employee and 2.) most people waste way too much of their lives working at jobs they don’t like or looking for jobs they’re going to hate. So I wasn’t going to waste any time looking for a job I wasn’t interested in keeping. In my travels I’d met a number of sailors in Freemantle, Port Moresby, Cebu and other ports and they all had one thing in common. They were all broke, but none one of them was hungry. To this day I’ve never met a starving sailor. I’ve had dinner on a boat where the main course was rice. We passed around a knife and a few cloves of garlic for seasoning. There wasn’t even any salt though we could have scraped some from the rigging. We were anchored behind a reef and the weather was picking up but we hadn't caught any fish that day. That was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever enjoyed. But we were happy, safe and full by the end of the meal.

When I reached the island of Culebra, the first stop was a little bar where it just happened that my then-wife and I knew the managers of the little resort/restaurant that was beside the bar. Before we could order my wife was hired as the bartender and behind the bar. Then my friend asked when I was going to the next island to bring back some more rum for the bar. It didn’t take long to discover that there wasn’t much choice in the local shops when it came to rum and being sailors we had acquired a taste for more than the local offering which costs $9 a bottle. So it was agreed that I’d go get some rum as soon as the weather permitted. It was only 18 miles to St Thomas, but it was dead to windward, so I’d wait until the wind moved a little north of south from its present direction.

By the time I’d had a couple of beers a couple from Germany were introduced as friends of the woman who was managing the resort. They’d flown all the way from Germany and wanted to go shopping in St Thomas where the duty-free prices were better than Germany. After they'd bought a couple more beers it was agreed that we’d sail in the morning before the trades built up to full strength. But before I could go, friends of the first couple were introduced and they wanted to go as well. And so it was decided, they’d pay $75 each for a day sail. In the morning I’d motor to St Thomas, they could spend a few hours shopping, I'd buy some rum for the bar, then we’d sail back in time for happy hour at my new favorite bar.

By the time I left the bar that night I’d collected a fist full of bills from others, who wanted me to bring them back a couple bottles of rum. When we got to St Thomas, I launched the dinghy, landed the crew and was off to a liquor store I’d spotted on the way in through the maze of yachts, docks and debris along the waterfront. Joe’s Discount Beer and Liquor was a hot, hell hole of a warehouse painted dark green, which in the tropical sun didn’t make it any cooler. It didn't take long to load a hand truck with Cruzan Rum and head for the cash register. I'd made some hasty calculations in my head and hoped I had enough money to pay for the stack of rum before me.

“Good morning.” I offered. “Good morning,” she sucked through her teeth at the man in front of her. What I didn’t realize at that moment was that the stack of bottles in front of her meant he was going to have to work before she took her lunch break. If I’d come only a few minutes later, Joe’s would have been closed and I would have had to wait an hour and a half for her and the other employee to have their lunch. As she pushed the buttons on the ancient cash register I began to see why she was hating me more with every bottle she rang up. There was one button for $1, another for $.90 and another for $.09, then she had to pull a lever, wait a few seconds for the machine to stop shaking and then repeat the process.

After about three cases she lost count of the bottles which caused more hissing and clenched lips in my direction. But damned be it, she was not going to recount the number of lines of the curling white receipt falling out of the machine. At that point I realized that I should take a step back, and a deep breath, and give her some room to move. In a few more exasperated motions she pulled the lever, hit anther button and pulled the lever which had become the ban of her life and a bell rung in the bowels of that metal monster in front of her. Between two broken glass plates on the top of the machine TOTAL SALE $95.51 appeared.

Sensing that things would improve if I gave her some money and didn’t scrutinize the bill, I put a wad of bills on the counter between us. With another sigh and look of disgust she unfolded the bills as I tried to help. When she’d found two twenties, three tens, four fives and three ones from the pile of bills she hit a button the register and the drawer opened. She pulled two quarts, as quarters are called in that part of the world, and pressed them into my palm as she actually smiled and showed me her big, beautiful white and gold teeth and said, “Thank you.”

Before I could ask to use the hand truck to carry my cache to my dinghy, the young man had it rolling toward the door. At the end of the dock, he carefully handed me five cases of rum. I tipped him a dollar and thanked him for his help as he turned away from me.

In another hour I’d grabbed a plate of coucous and fried chicken from a school bus which had been converted into a sidewalk diner and was retrieving my smiling crew. Once we were out of the busy harbor one of the crew offered to steer while I made rum punches. In our hurry to leave I hadn’t taken time to go to a grocery store to get anything special so I mixed the basics: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak, add some spice, cinnamon from an old jar, to make it nice, and we were on our way downwind back to the bar where we had met the night before.

As the little sloop sailed wing and wing downwind to the next island each of the crew showed what he or she had bought that day. Then sheepishly someone asked about customs. Just then the fishing reel began to sing the only song it knows. There’s only one word in that song, but it’s still a nice song. It goes something like this diiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeee eerrrrrrrrr. We had only gone fishing that day so there was no need to worry about any customs and immigration formalities. Besides, we had a fish to prove it.

Now I’m not a smuggler. The rum on board could be entered into any country in the Caribbean as “Ships stores in ballast.” I didn’t have control of the crew so if they happened to have some duty free goods, well, I’d just have to overlook that and hope anyone else would too.

Over the course of the next few years, I bought different rums on various trips to St Thomas. Friends and I would drink them and compare mental notes, no one ever wrote anything down. Then in the spring of 1993, I was preparing my sloop for the annual migration to spend hurricane season south of the usual hurricane tracks. I’d been working hard for a few weeks getting my boat ready for the trip and wanted to get an early start so I could be in Antigua for Classic Week in the middle of that month. There was a full moon party planned for the following week and since it wasn’t that far off I decided to spend a couple more days in Culebra and enjoy one last party before sailing east, then south for the summer.

On a friend’s terrace, overlooking the bay, the lights of St Thomas beckoned like jewels sparkling around a woman’s neck. Just before the sun set in the west behind us, a cruise ship quickly moved across the horizon heading north through the passage between St Thomas and Culebra on her way back to San Juan and another week’s cruise. You could almost feel the excitement on board that cruise ship as the orange loom of the moon began to deepen and the sky got darker. I’d brought a bottle of Cruzan Estate Diamond to the party, which cost more than three times the price of the 2 year old which we had come to know and love.

A few minutes later, the ship was out of sight when the moon began to rise over the eastern horizon. As we raised our glasses to the orange orb, the excuse for that night’s party, the dark liquid touched my lips just as the brilliant orange reflection of the sun hit the thick bottom of my glass. Blinded for an instant I was immediately struck with the idea that has propelled me thousands of miles through the islands for more than a decade. The next thing I heard was a question that cemented my fate. “Ed, this rum’s pretty good.” And there was a muffled murmur of agreement as my friends continued to drink, not wanting to stop for mere conversation. “So what’s the best rum in the world?” I was stumped. But I vowed to learn the answer to that question. I can’t tell you the answer to that question today, and probably won’t be able to do so tomorrow either. But I can tell you with certainty that I’ve yet to find any rum that I’d like to drink to the exclusion of all others. I’m still looking for the best rum, and so the research continues. . .
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Old 01-10-2008, 08:21 PM   #16
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Absolutely incredible story! Thank you Ed, for sharing this with us!!
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Old 01-10-2008, 09:32 PM   #17
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Thumbs up. I've wondered exactly how you got into this and what your life looks like for a while. This was a wonderful introduction. Thank you.
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Old 01-11-2008, 01:05 AM   #18
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Default Rum, Forest, Rum!

A tale well told about the origins of Ed's quest to discover the best rum in the world -- leading to the eventual realization that there is no best, but the quest itself is the reward and the field of possibilities is the delight.

And so, like Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Foxy Loxy and Turkey Lurkey, as we rum enthusiasts traveling vicariously together along this path of enlightenment led by our own Chicken Little Hamilton, we are off to tell the Kingdom of our discovery.

For every great rum, and every great rum adventure there is many a great story to be told and shared and enjoyed. Three cheers for the forum.
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Old 01-11-2008, 02:28 AM   #19
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Thank you, Ed, for sharing your story! Its inspiring!
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Old 01-11-2008, 04:54 AM   #20
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Fantastic story, and really inspiring, thanks for sharing!
And it has given me some things to think about.
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