Ticket to Paradise

Divin‘

If you want to experience the spectacular coral reefs and colorful marine life on your cruise, Blue Water Divers out of Tortola can rendezvous with your boat at selected points throughout the BVI. Scuba equipment is also available for rent to certified divers who wish to take the tanks with them on their charter boat.
One of the most celebrated dive sites in the BVI is the wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone that went down near Salt Island during a hurricane in 1867. This is a must-see for all levels of scuba divers.
To learn more about Blue Water Divers, visit www.bluewaterdiversbvi.com.

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Ticket to Paradise

By Bing O'Meara
31-Mar-2013
Come experience the turquoise waters and sugar-sand beaches of the British Virgin Islands.

The sheltered waters of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are considered to be some of the finest blue-water cruising grounds in the Caribbean. Life is good here, no matter the time of year. Situated east of Puerto Rico, there are about 60 extraordinarily beautiful islands in the BVI, many of which remain uninhabited.

Being there is like stepping back in time, to a pristine land relatively untouched by human hands… except for the fabulous beach-side restaurants, bars and resort accommodations, of course. 

I left for the islands in September, during the height of hurricane season. Sure, sure, some places were closed; however, on the plus side, there were no crowds. And, more importantly, no hurricanes. Quite often we were the only boat at anchor. 

Home away from home

I arrived at The Moorings in Tortola late in the afternoon. I flew into Beef Island from San Juan, Puerto Rico (via Chicago) and was met by “Fixit,” my driver who bussed me over to Road Town on Tortola, the capital of the BVI and home to The Moorings charter base. After checking in with the manager, I was taken to the boat for a walk through and briefing.

My yacht for the week was a new model, The Moorings 393 PC, a 39' power catamaran featuring a spacious salon and galley, plus three cabins and two heads. The master stateroom and head were located in the starboard hull, while the guest staterooms and head were housed in the port-side hull.

The flybridge featured enough seating for six or seven guests including double seating at the captain’s console, which is centrally located and offers excellent visibility.

Powered by twin 110-hp Yanmar diesel engines, the boat merely sips fuel.

The yacht offers A/C, generator and upgraded electronics, plus everything necessary to make life aboard comfortable.

The boat cruised between 7.5 and 8 knots. You could top out at 9 or 10 knots, depending on the weight, currents, etc., but who’s in a hurry? 

Welcome aboard

The original plan was for my wife, Linda, and I to do this cruise together; however, at the last minute, we had a scheduling conflict. Linda recommended that I go ahead with the charter and ask The Moorings to help find a captain. 

You need two people aboard at a minimum to handle lines, pick up the mooring ball, etc. It’s also helpful to have more than one person familiar with running the boat should anything happen to the captain. So I called The Moorings  to make arrangements. A big plus when you do hire a captain or crew is their wealth of local knowledge. 

After the walk-through and briefing, I stowed the provisions I’d ordered. There was a note on the galley dining table from Capt. Glen Adams stating he would arrive early the next morning. At 8:30 a.m. sharp, I heard a knock on the sliding glass doors. Standing on the aft deck was my captain, wearing a smile that beamed from ear to ear.

“My name’s Glen Adams, but everyone calls me Bequia, as I am from the island of Bequia,” he explained. Bequia is a big guy, pleasant with a hearty laugh who clearly knew the BVI like the back of his hand.

As the days unfolded, I suggested he consider transitioning to a career in politics, because he knew basically everyone in the BVI. Over the course of five days, Bequia introduced me to what felt like every last soul on the chain of islands. I was curious, so I asked him if he knew Fixit, my bus driver. His response: “Fixit can fix nuttin. Of course I know Fixit.”

Off to explore

The BVI consist of four main islands — Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke — and other smaller islands and cays. Only 15 of the islands are inhabited. There was a lot to explore in less than a week’s time.

Bequia and I decided our first stop would be Cane Garden Bay, which was my mental image of the ideal tropical anchorage. When we approached and slowly motored into the bay, there were only two other boats moored. The beach was gleaming white sugar sand and where the beach ended, the foliage began — mango bushes and palms. 

Once moored we dinghied to the dock and walked to Myett’s, an island hotel, bar and restaurant. It was a rustic post-and-beam establishment surrounded by a patch of palm trees, situated 20 feet from water lapping the shoreline. It’s the kind of place you’d like to hole up and write a best seller, eat lobster and drink rum. Bequia told me the owner is a successful Rasta Reggae singer named Karim who lives in Hollywood. Why he wouldn’t want to spend every waking day at this place instead of transplanting thousands of miles away, I’ll never understand.

Leaving Cane Garden Bay in our wake, we headed for Jost Van Dyke and a small local restaurant called the Perfect Pineapple. It’s owned by Greg Callwood, the son of Jost Van Dyke’s legendary Foxy, who has run the beach bar and restaurant of the same name (Foxy’s) since the 1960s.

The Perfect Pineapple is located on the south shore of Jost Van Dyke, just off the beach on White Bay, 100 feet behind the well known Soggy Dollar Bar. The Pineapple serves outstanding local fare and you get the opportunity to meet the local people, who are delightful.

After our scrumptious lunch, we headed out and toured Great Harbour, home to Foxy’s, and afterwards moved on to Little Harbour, where we planned to spend the night. A quick side note: Docks are few and far between, and expensive. Instead, there are mooring balls one can tie off of that are much cheaper (and I feel preferable). As you move with the wind, the scenery changes and you’re always facing into the breeze.

We arrived at Little Harbour at 5:30 p.m. and tied off to a mooring ball. After a couple of drinks and a few hors d’oeuvres we lowered the dinghy and headed over to Sidney’s Peace and Love restaurant, which is run by Strawberry, the late Sidney’s daughter. Strawberry’s husband is a lobster fisherman, assuring fresh lobster during the season. 

On this trip we ate like kings, soaking up the local flavors every chance we got. My one regret was the curried goat, which, in all honesty, Bequia cautioned me against. I should have been wise enough to listen! 

We spent a night at Leverick Bay (Virgin Gorda) where we ate and I spent the afternoon reading and snoozing. I had a kayak on board as well as snorkeling gear; however, cruising, eating, reading, telling stories, and laughing seem to have taken up most of my time. I also spent quite a bit of time walking the beaches.

The magnificent North Sound of Virgin Gorda is a unique place with vast anchorages for charterers and excellent resorts. One of the most exclusive resorts in the world, Biras Creek is in the far corner of North Sound near Bitter End Yacht Club. Adjacent to Biras Creek on a private peninsula is Oil Nut Bay. This premier real estate community is a new private resort for families, which offers one-of-a-kind home sites.

Accessible only by boat or helicopter, Oil Nut Bay is owned and operated by Victor International, a luxury real estate developer founded by David V. Johnson. Victor has created more than 40 developments, including award-winning Bay Harbor in northern Michigan. This luxury resort community with deep water marina extends along 5 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

Developed to preserve and enhance the natural environmental beauty of the area, Oil Nut Bay is unsurpassed in the Caribbean for those seeking private island living with world-class amenities for owners and their guests. Their state-of-the-art marina is designed to make boating a convenient part of your everyday lifestyle.

The BVI boasts one of the highest real estate markets in the world, and if you are looking for an investment, this may be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Why leave?

The BVIs are one of nature’s wonders. There’s always a breeze, and the water is a beautiful turquoise. The people are wonderful. Everyone is friendly and could not be nicer or more helpful.

It’s no wonder people come here and never want to leave. Should you choose to charter here and decide you’re one of those people, there’s a magnificent place on Scrub Island you can call home. 

Scrub Island Resort is only 10 minutes from Tortola’s Trellis Bay dock aboard the resort’s private launch. This resort offers a unique opportunity in the BVI to own a fully-managed, private island home alongside a full-service marina. It’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and offers homeowners and their guests all the resort amenities: Fine and casual dining options; spa with treatment rooms overlooking breathtaking views; lagoon pools; a world-class marina; 24-hour, state-of-the-art fitness center; and three unique private beaches.

I’ve done many charters over the years, and the questions I always get from readers about my travels revolve around the differences between operating a boat in salt water versus fresh water. Readers are confident piloting boats in the sweetwater seas of our Great Lakes, but seem easily intimidated by the idea of operating in the ocean. 

When posed with this question, I always respond in similar fashion: If you’re OK running a boat on the Great Lakes, then you’ll be equally comfortable in the waters of the BVI… or anywhere.

What would I do if I had more time? I think more of the same… except I’d have Linda with me to enjoy the white sandy beaches, picture-perfect waters and the diversity of the place. Go for a week or two and escape for an unforgettable experience.

Paul Gauguin Cruises
Manitowoc MAR1_2017