The British Virgin Islands are the premier charter destination for beginners. I did my first charter there when I was 19. The islands boast the odd mix of flat seas, good winds, and short hops to calm anchorages each with a bar for post-sail regaling. What I've learned though is that the BVI are a great spot whatever your sailing level.
Geo contacted me to skipper a charter in the BVI. I was confused. Was he offering to pay me to sail around the BVI? It just so happened that the trip coincided with the St. Pete boatshow and would end about the time that my friend Tania Aebi would be in the islands to work an over-paid cruise with another sailing monthly (the one I let use my initials). How could I say no?
I arrived in paradise and made my way around to Conch Charters. Most of the group was onboard the big cat when I got there. You know how it is. I was going to have plenty of time to get to know all of them and so it was, "Nice to meet you. Where do you guys keep the beer?" Road Town seems almost tolerable with a coldy in your hand.
As it turned out, Geo couldn't make it because he had to stay home to work to pay for the trip. Odd how that works. As much as it sucked that I wouldn't finally meet Geo, at least he had the decency to send his lovely girlfriend. Trina was cool and she brought her 20yo son Chris and his friend Garrett. Also onboard were young Lake Powell veterans Tom (aka T-money) and Kristen. Kristen brought her cool aunt Merna. Rounding out the crew were seasoned sailors Mike and Kathy.
By the time the Conch staff was done fixing a head issue it was getting late. The Conch staff was great. One of them had actually knew the magazine and still, they gave us the green light to sail out. It got very dark, very quickly. One of the crew pointed out, with some concern, that there were almost no nav lights in the islands. As Kristin handed me a glass of champagne I heard T$ say, "It's OK, Woody'll be lit".
The anchorage at Norman was more crowded than I'd ever seen it with big yachts parked outside the smaller charter boats. We took a mooring about a 100 yards off the steel schooner Willy T – the legendary boat bar. We dinghied in, got drinks and headed to the upper deck where I explained that if they wanted the free Willy T shirt the girls had to jump off naked (technically it was topless and jumping had been banned but they wouldn't know that). It took a few drinks but I think everyone did the deed in the end. We had to explain to Garret that if he really wanted to impress the smiling girls at the bar then he should use 2 hands instead of 1 when covering the old sea snake – if just for effect.
After the required stop at the Baths we made our way up to North Sound. I had a list of LACC Harbor Hangouts to check on and Esther's place was our first. The Fat Virgin is a sweet spot. It's little, it's quiet, it's friendly and the food is island style amazing. I had the best roti ever and with our LACC cards, our first drinks were free. Remember to get a Fat Virgin beer coozie from the gift shop if just to piss off your friends at home. Across the bay we hit Vixen Point for some drinks and beach volleyball and then settled in for dinner onboard followed by a heated spoons competition.
The charter companies don't want you taking their boats up to Anegada. The sail can be bumpy and the entrance tricky. When queried, the Conch people never gave me a definitive yes or no. With no resistance from my crew, I decided we were a go for Anegada. We sailed off the mooring at N. Sound and coasted through the pass in the wake of a giant four masted schooner. The sail was brisk, for a heavy cat.
The entrance was where it was supposed to be. We parked in front of Neptune's Treasure and went in for lunch. Randy arrived later and accepted our plaque (I hate it when they say no). He hung it right there above the bar. If you're up that way be sure and stop in, cool guy - nice spot.
After lunch we walked the beach and found one of those big truck taxis with the raised open-air covered bench seating in the back. We cut a deal with the driver and piled in. With a soft cooler full of coldies (clever crew) we were set for a perfect afternoon. Our driver took us to a couple different beach spots including Loblolly Bay and Cow Wreck Beach.
That night we BBQ'd onboard after which the boys went missing. Trina, T$ and I tracked them down at one of the string of beach bars - the one with the booming island reggae/rap and dancing bartenders. They had been carousing with a Mic Dundee stand-in. Garrett was up on the brick BBQ structure dancing with some tourist hottie. It took Mic and the boys about 4 minutes to convince her to join them in a naked dinghy pier jump. The plan was foiled, of course, when her husband rolled up. Party pooper.
We had a fast sail back across. I don't know how he did it with the jerky cat motion but Mike made us all a big breakfast en route. Someone handed me a bloody mary. I was having a hard time finding something to complain about. We were headed to Trellis to present Da Loose Mongoose a Harbor Hangout plaque. I had on deck with me the two or three crewmembers with the least sailing experience – the safest kind. With a little guidance they performed a flawless mainsail takedown. You know the drill: rounding up into the wind, dumping the main into it's cradle and bearing off while there is still some boatspeed.
We had an amazing sail down the back side of Tortola before drifting into Cane Garden Bay. Quito's Gazebo hosted our sunset viewing party on their upper deck. The place was empty so the bar staff agreed to a 2 for 1 happy hour. We couldn't stay for dinner. We had a hot date at Myett's. Myett's is the nicest dining spot in the islands in my opinion. Coupled with the fact that it goes off after dinner, it's not to be missed. Owners Val and Kareem welcomed us in. Trina and I joined them at the bar for a couple tequila shots. As our Tortola Harbor Hangout, they wanted us to feel welcome. After dinner the band got us onto the floor with rap lyrics custom tailored to our group. They didn't close until we stumbled out, winded from dancing.
After a lunch stop at perfect little Green Cay we skipped down to Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke. We were headed for the original BVI Harbor Hangout and JVD's premier cruiser bar: Corsairs. It's all about timing. We had just ducked in out of the sun when Vinnie rolled up in his vintage army jeep with a load of bricks for the restaurant expansion. Then it was old times. He reached behind the bar and pulled out a slew of the coldest beers in the Caribbean. We visited for a bit. On the wall behind me, Vinny's Harbor Hangout plaque had almost completely faded. He was saving his new plaque for the grand re-opening. By the time you read this, Corsair's will be open and better than ever. But that's not all. Vinny has contracted Eric Stone to play at his place until June! If you're in the area, don't miss it.
Continued next month.