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Tales from Tortola … my stint as chef

Sandra on a boogie board

Well, calling myself a “chef” is a bit affected, if not down-right pretentious. I’ll rephrase that to “short order cook.” On a beach.

It happened like this. On Boxing Day I was at Smugglers Cove with the family. After a stint at boogie boarding, I started to roam around the beach and succumbed to a common writer’s affliction: people-watching and eavesdropping.

There are three bars set up on the beach. Most sell drinks and whip up BBQ jerk chicken, kabobs, rice & peas and burgers. Some also rent lounge chairs, boogie boards and kayaks.

Nigel helping guest launch kayak

One guy, Nigel, caught my attention. He seemed to go the extra mile. For example: when two kids ordered Cokes, he gave them each a huge glass of ice cubes,  saying “Boomboom. Goes down smooth that way. Boomboomboom.” He also took the time to give a quick lesson to a young guy renting a kayak. “When wave comes—boomboom—lift the nose up high. Water goes under. Get in quick. Boomboomboom.” The guy got it right on the first try. Nigel smiled; his mini-lesson paid off.

Alas, as it was holiday, the woman who usually cooks and helps at the bar decided to go to the races. At one point Nigel was tending equipment rentals as well as serving drinks when a couple came over and ordered chicken burgers and grilled potatoes. He looked panic-stricken but said, “No problem. Boomboom.” But as soon as I saw him start to peel a potato with a knife the size of a machete I figured he was in trouble.

So, yours truly steps in and offers to peel potatoes.

Nigel at his BBQ

“How many do you want,” says I. Looking at me hopefully, he says, “The whole bag?”

“No problem, but do you have, err, ahem, a smaller knife?” Mercifully, after rummaging around a bit, he found a paring knife and I hunkered down to do some serious peeling. Meanwhile, a man ordered three hamburgers. Nigel put them on the grill and started slicing tomatoes but got sidetracked so I started flipping burgers and casing the makeshift shelves for condiments.

Next thing I’m saying “And what would you like on those burgers, sir?  Slice of cheese? Tomato and lettuce? Ketchup, mustard or mayo?” As I’m wrapping up the burgers a woman waltzes up and orders eight. No problem. “Boomboom,” says I with a grin.

Postscript: If you go to Tortola, be sure to spend some time at Smugglers Cove. And as soon as you hit the beach turn right and look for Nigel.

I’ll tell you more about Smugglers in the next post.


  1. John John
    December 29, 2010    

    Looks like you got a J.O.B. Don’t sell the farm again yet!

  2. December 29, 2010    

    Haha. Quite tempting , n’est-ce pas?

  3. Lynda Lynda
    December 31, 2010    

    Met Nigel in the beginning of December. He is adorable. I heard the business was slamming so I’m sure he could loved the help! Have to admit I never heard him say “boomboom”!

  4. December 31, 2010    

    Thanks for popping in Lynda! It may have been a nervous reaction (the boomboom) as he was really stressed. But Nigel was so kind to those kids and the young man who rented the kayak. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t go that extra mile. He was over-the-moon happy that I helped, but to me it was such a small thing . And much fun! Glad you got to meet him! Was this your first time in Tortola? Lovely island.

  5. Lynda Lynda
    December 31, 2010    

    Hi Sandra! It was my second time on Tortola and met Nigel on this trip. He seemed like a very sweet man. You are right what a lovely island and lovely people as well. I really like how they keep things rustic and natural. It was funny to see your post about him since I just came home from the BVI’s on the December 14th. I love to read about people’s travels. Thanks for sharing! Happy New Year!

  6. Marta Marta
    February 7, 2011    

    Dear Sandra,
    your website is amazing and read about “Boomboomboom” Nigel and my favourite beach made my really happy.
    The time I spent there was the best time for me and sometimes I can immagine you all sitting at the beach drinking his “pain killer”.
    I will read often your writing!!
    I hope to meet you again one day.

  7. February 7, 2011    

    Marta, I’m sooo pleased you popped into view! It was wonderful meeting you at Smugglers. I’m sure it was hard for you to go back to Italy, but you’ll be here again in May. I will be sending you a photo (of you) and some the sites re: photography that I mentioned. Just have to dig them up!

  8. Jonathan Awad Jonathan Awad
    April 11, 2011    

    BoomBoomBoom Nigel cooks the best fish and has a great spirit. We just spent a day with him and we wish he was closer as he is a great beach host.

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