Forget the traditional New Year's Eve fireworks, 2010 got off to a major bang on New Year's Day for Houston passengers aboard the Lady Sheridan when Vice President Joe Biden and his family came calling.
The Bidens, vacationing in the same Caribbean waters as friends and political contributors Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, had been invited to visit the Lady Sheridan when the Houston trial lawyer and his wife were Biden's guests at the Vice President's holiday party in D.C. All were hopeful of a Caribbean rendezvous.
Midweek, Biden telephoned on Sheridan's personal line to say that he would be pleased to accept the invitation. And so began an unforgettable New Year's Day experience for those vacationing on the 190-foot mega yacht.
Social Security number, date and place of birth, please. Those pesky background checks. That info was forwarded to Secret Service even before the reconnaissance team boarded the yacht late-afternoon. They arrived via local police boat to inspect the vessel inside and out, not once but twice. Other than the tiny badges, the earphones and rucksacks bulging with who knows what kind of weaponry, they might have passed for any other tourists in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In fact, they seemed to fit right in when they sat down with passengers for a brief chat.
The Biden family had rented two homes on a nearby island for a private, week-long holiday, basking in the sun and catching up on reading. While it might have been a respite for the Vice President, it was not for his security detail.
Before Biden and family boarded the Lady Sheridan's Intrepid for transport from the island to the yacht, the power boat was inspected by a Secret Service scuba diver. Six agents — one was the VP's personal physician — rode with him on the Intrepid that was flanked by two police boats carrying even more security agents. Those boats hovered around the Lady Sheridan for the duration of the Bidens' 90-minute visit.
A beaming Joe Biden stepped on board to be welcomed by the Williamses and Lady Sheridan Capt. Keith Moore. In the Vice President's party were his wife, Jill; sister and brother-in-law Valerie Biden Owens and Jack Owens; and his brother and sister-in-law Jim and Sarah Biden.
Anyone who has spent time aboard a serious yacht knows that no shoes are allowed — in favour of protecting the teak decks and the plush carpeting. All footwear is checked in a basket at the entrance. That is unless you are the Vice President. Dressed in khakis and a navy polo shirt, Biden was not asked to remove his shoes although everyone else in his party obliged the unspoken rule of yachting. However Biden, always the gentleman, removed his loafers once he began the tour of the yacht interiors.
After warm greetings with the yacht's 12 passengers, Biden and John Eddie moved to a quiet space on the boat for a drink (soda for the Vice President) and private conversation. The family mixed congenially with the yachtsters, the bountiful servings of champagne in crystal flutes contributing to the personal warmth. Soon Biden and John Eddie rejoined the party. The Vice President visited easily with everyone and was an absolute good sport posing for photos with all, including the Lady Sheridan crew. Biden was gregarious beyond expectation throughout the visit that included a tour of the luxurious yacht.
Among the passengers visiting with the Vice President was Houston attorney Ron Franklin, one of Biden's earliest and most faithful supporters. His personal friendship with Valerie Biden Owens added to the camaraderie of the gathering.