Life is good. Life is very good when you find yourself on a 50' bareboat charter with a bunch of fun loving sports enthusiasts for a weeks' vacation in the tropics. The idea of going on this sailing trip was easily inspired by a lifelong desire to cruise amid turquoise waters and stupendous lush green Caribbean islands.
The BVI's archipelago of 60 closely knit islands make for a sailor's paradise.
Who wouldn't want to go sail around paradise? Each person I called to invite reacted by saying "I have always wanted to do that! This is my dream trip!"
The best way to see the British Virgin Islands is by sailboat, and for the utmost comfort and spacious luxury, we chose the largest cat we could find, the Lagoon 500. Catamarans are not all the same. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Jesse and I started to do the research, and it quickly became clear which boats looked the coolest, nicest, and most desirable.
Once the plans were laid for the boat, the rest of the trip production started to fall into place. I love planning travel. It's kind of like producing your own dream. Imagine where you will go, visit a bunch of websites with beautiful pictures, read endless reviews and opinions online about the best spots. Mundane travel logistics can be more laborious, such as the best flying routes, what times do the ferries run, and what do we all need to pack. It's all in a day's work - and that is a job I'll take any day! What yummy things can we cook for 11 people for 7 days? Can we fit 11 stand up paddle boards on deck? Where do we store all the kite gear on a boat? Which islands do we visit and in which order? After some careful research filled planning, we arrived to Tortola a few days early just to make sure we had everything in place.
Our boat charter company recommended a small hotel on the west end of the island called the Tamarind Club. The hotel was tucked into a little jungle spot near Josiah's Bay surf beach. It had a very lively bar scene, an eclectic family staff, and very good food. They also have a very nice swimming pool, so I got to do some laps and swim up to my bar stool.
Tamarind club is close the the best kite beach - Long Beach near Beef Island airport, and close to the only windsurf gear rental spot on Tortola - Trellis Bay. We got lucky with the wind and snuck in a few good days of kiting before we got on the boat.
Here is Rebecca cruising on her 9m Naish Torch.
With food unpacked, soft luggage stowed, paddle boards secured, kite gear lowered into multiple storage hulls, snorkel gear within reach, and "pain killer" cocktails a flowin', we were ready to set sail!
Kerstin found more spots to store all the kite gear!
Here is Capin' Jesse. He is so comfortable being in charge. He made our trip so relaxing!
Day 1: Our first stop was a short sail to Marina Cay (pronounced "key"). This is my kind of island. It's a little teeney weeney island with not more than a pay phone and a bar. We tied up to a mooring ball, and took the rib into the dock to go snorkel.
Here is our very cool rib. What made it so cool was that it was orange.
Every other rib we saw was grey - so ours was easy to spot on a crowded dock at night after many painkillers. We were not pill popping, this is the ever so famous Caribbean concoction of rum, pineapple, orange juice, creme of coconut, and nutmeg!
Our first site upon arriving at Marina Cay Island was an old school British pay phone on the dock. Who should we call? Does the phone still work? Our cell phones certainly didn't!
Thankfully a colorful sign pointed us in the right direction. Off to snorkeling we went!
The water was really shallow - so I referred to that Marina Cay snorkel spot as "nano" or "mirco" snorkeling. All the fish were scaled down to size - and swam around happily in their warm water paradise.
Ok, nothing "nano" about this ray!
Marina Cay is a great starting point for 3 reasons: it's a short easy sail from Hodge's Creek Marina on Tortola, the snorkeling was super cool and different, and there is a Pusser's Landing bar to serve up some tasty Cruzan Painkillers at dinner!
No pain no gain for me, Kerstin, and Bonnie. I paid extra for my painkiller recipe mug that I got to take home with me!
Day 2 Marina Cay to Virgin Gorda Baths.
We got up early to set sail to Virgin Gorda. In less than 2 hours, we were tied up to another mooring ball and were ready to feast on some ginormous boulders. The Virgin Gorda Baths are quite a spectacular tourist attraction. The Baths, a geological wonder comprised of awe-inspiring granite boulders, form sheltered sea pools on the beach's edge. You gotta see it to believe it!
From the Baths we set sail for the northern end of Virgin Gorda - and the Bitter End Yacht Club. Virgin Gorda, so named because this British Virgin Island resembles a large reclining woman, is the 3rd largest island of the BVI's (Tortola 1/ Anegada 2). Our sail from the Baths to the BEYC (Bitter End) was my most memorable, as the Virgin Gorda backdrop is stupendous. We all took turns at crew to help Jesse sail our luxury cruiser. Everyone made it look pretty easy (and the push button trim on the sail didn't hurt either).
Kerstin and Silvia take their turn at crewing.
Once we arrived at the north side of the island, we grabbed a mooring ball nice and close to the Bitter End Yacht Club (paradise on earth!).
Mooring ball anyone? The ladies had it down!
Ariel view of the north sound and BEYC. Not bad for a 2 night hang spot.
The resort has some nice rooms - only about $900 per night! Beachfront king cottage anyone?
Not a bad panoramic view of a bunch of crazy ginormous yachts.
Day 3: North Sound for a second night.
Rebecca, Jesse and I chillin at the BEYC.
The Bitter End has some nice windsurfing gear for rent.
Jesse tuning a sail - more downhaul! Lol, it wasn't very windy in the protected harbor. Great beginner conditions though!
Rebecca going out to help out Rick and Bonnie on windsurfing tips!
Bonnie's time on the water in Alameda showed...she looked so graceful sailing in between the gorgeous sailboats.
Daily paddle board rental for only $200! Good thing we rented our boards in advance and had them on board our 50' cat!
Having 11 SUPs on board gave everyone independence once we tied up at each mooring. Freedom ain't free but it sure is worth it. The boards were great NSP SUPs.
Carlin and Megan on the beach at BEYC.
Carlin, Megan and I went for a paddle and a mini hike (lol) to check out a cool resort that overlooked the other side of the hill from the yacht club.
I think Kerstin paddled to the bar with Silvia and Laura!
Our other fine adventure was sneaking over to Necker Island (Richard Branson's little island oasis). We pumped up a bunch of kites and had a blast riding around. The water is so beautiful in the Caribbean. The clarity is spectacular, and you can see everything while you almost ground yourself on coral reef! Look where you want to go! Oops!
We launched from the nice white sandy beach adjacent to the main island. It had a fake palm tree on it. Awesome!
Ariel view of Necker Island.
Apparently one island is not enough for Richard...he is looking into buying another one nearby. Not bad for a virgin!
After two glorious days at the North Sound, we were ready to set sail and head to the North side of Tortola. Time for some more sailing!
Day 4: BEYC to Cane Garden Bay, North shore Tortola
Scenic Cane Garden Bay was our destination - quite a contrast to where we were sailing from. Cane Garden Bay - think laid back reggae town (after the 100ft yacht scene at BEYC).
By this point in the trip, we noticed an extraordinary number of rainbow flags on nearby sailboats. Who knew we were along for the ride for gay sailing week! Go gay pride! I need to find out how to get all these nice gays out to San Francisco for some windsurfing, kitesurfing, and stand up lessons. Oh wait, maybe they all came from San Francisco?
We did some paddling, some snorkeling, and then went ashore for some dinner at Cane Garden Bay. Here is the restaurant we ate at, Myett's Beach Bar. Great live music, good food (served on Caribbean time, about 2 hours after we sat down!), and great people watching.
Day 5: Cane Garden Bay Tortola to Sandy Spit, Jost Van Dyke
The next morning we set sail for the east end of Jost Van Dyke, where a small paradisiacal island called The Sandy Spit sits at a normally perfect angle to the wind.
Ok so the angle was not perfect (hello self rescue!), but we had a great day kiting when the wind came up, other than the moment that I got caught (literally) by a fish hook attached to a fishing pole on the back of a passing catamaran. Damn, I forgot my kite knife! Never again...
They have had a great wind season - average wind speeds of around 20mph every day.
Rick (pictured below with Laura) was our anchor man at the Sandy Spit. He was quick to jump in the water with snorkel gear to make sure our anchor bit in the sand. This is a very important job, as anchoring a 50' cat between two other ginormous very close cats is not for the faint of heart. Good job Rick and Captain Jesse!
Sandy spit is not a bad place just to hang out and swim on the lee side of the island!
After a full day of kiting, we set sail again for the west end of Jost Van Dyke. There lies gorgeous White Bay and the famous (or infamous) Soggy Dollar Bar.
Soggy Dollar Bar - for the "original" painkiller.
Sunset at White Bay:
Sunsets are romantic! Lindsey and Rick enjoying the last bit of daylight and the gorgeous sky.
Me, Laura, and Kerstin
After all of that kiteboarding, I was up early the next day to see the sunrise on White Bay. Now that was worth rolling out of bed for!
Day 6: White Bay Jost Van Dyke to The Indians
Off to another day of "sailing" to get to The Indians - one of the best snorkel spots in the BVIs. Megan, Rick, Carlin, and Bonnie hanging out in the outdoor living room.
Amazing snorkeling! Rock beauty fish:
Yellowtail damselfish, one of my favorites!
Rebecca kickin back on deck!
Jesse selfie by The Indians:
To top off our snorkeling, we headed to the Caves next, not far from The Indians.
The caves were great for snorkeling, check it out!
After all that glorious snorkeling, we sailed to Peter Island and moored by Willie T's. Believe it or not, we were too tired to get silly drunk and jump off a boat bar. I think we had had our own floating booze cruz and were ready to just kick back and chill. Paddling to Willie Ts seemed much cooler.
We also had a reason to kick back on board. We were happy to hang for our final group dinner, and to help celebrate Rebecca's birthday! Kerstin had been a cool cat and snuck a rum cake on board without Rebecca knowing it. I brought some big candles all the way from San Francisco. What a great way to celebrate the end of a fantastic week for all!
After our amazing week at sea, Jesse, Rebecca and I had to do a "debriefing" at the Fisherman's Reef Marriott on St. Thomas. We discussed all of the finer points of the trip and whether we should change anything for next year. Come to think of it, I am not sure we would change a thing!
Join us next year for BVI 2015
! Join us if you can! We all had a blast! Thanks to everyone for joining us on an amazing trip!
Jane & Rebecca