Friday, April 4, 2008

Elisa - Bare-Boating the British Virgin Islands

Exploring the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by boat is at the absolute top of our list of vacations. While it is work if you are the “captain of your own ship”, the rewards of being able to search out a deserted beach, drop anchor, and dinghy ashore with a cooler, some towels, and little more, is second to none.

Getting to the BVI can be a bit of a chore. You can connect through St. Thomas and take a ferry over, or through San Juan on American. If you chose to take another airline (we took US Airways into San Juan) then you will probably have to connect to Beef Island (BVI) by way of a carrier like Caribbean Sun or Caribbean Star. We actually chose Cape Air. They fly old Cessna 402s, which hold a max of 9 passengers and take about 45 minutes to get to Beef Island. The up side of going via Cape Air is that the customs staff at BVI is small and they have a lot of paperwork to fill out on each passenger, so if you arrive on a flight of 50, you can spend an hour waiting to clear customs. Going on a small flight gets you through much quicker. Also, when we left at the end of our vacation, the line for check in on American was packed and everybody was afraid they would miss their flight. Nobody was in the Cape Air line, so we were in and out in about 5 minutes. One note – if you change carriers in San Juan (both coming and going) you will have to re-check-in and get your boarding passes, so on the way home, that means you have to totally exit the airport and go back through the check in line, which can be very long if you are not a preferred status frequent flier or flying first class.

We always use the Catamaran Company for our charters. They are located in Nanny Cay, which is about 45 minutes from the airport (taxi is around $12pp one way). Our boat for the week was a 43ft power catamaran by Lagoon. On arrival, the office was already closed, but they had us hooked up to shore power and left the lights and air conditioning on for us. The next morning we had a brief check out and were on our way.

Day 1 – We made the trip west out of Nanny Cay and around the West End of Tortola then turned north to Jost Van Dyke, where we spent the day on White Bay. This is a great multi-purpose beach. On the west end there are watersports, a trampoline, and 4-wheelers for exploring the island. More to the center and to the east, there is only sand and vegetation. This is an area where you can go topless and be far enough from the bars and families that nobody bothers you.

Day 2 – After an overnight in Soper’s Hole (West End, Tortola) we headed back toward Jost Van Dyke and stopped for the day at Sandy Cay. This is an uninhabited island with great snorkeling, sand and sun. That night we stayed close by and anchored overnight, grilling fresh Mahi-Mahi on the boat and putting a few bottles of wine to good use.

Day 3 – We took a long cruise south and around to Peter Island, where we anchored on the south side on lovely White Bay (part of Peter Island Resort, but very desolate). Rumor has it that the house on the hillside, which you can see in some of Elisa’s pictures, is owned by Bill Gates. After a great day on the beach, we took a late afternoon cruise around the south and then east side of the island and headed back into the Sir Francis Drake channel and ended up on a mooring ball for the night in Trellis Bay, where we dined at “The Last Resort”. This was by far the most gourmet meal we had on our trip and would strongly recommend stopping in.

Day 4 – Getting up early and dropping the mooring ball at sun-up, we made a 45 minute cruise over to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. If in the BVI, this is a must. We spent some time in Devil’s Bay and then made the 20 minute hike through the caves and boulders. For lunch we made the 5 minute walk up to “Top of the Baths” where the views are outstanding. Later that day, we headed all the way east to Bitter End Yacht Club where we took a dock slip for the night.

Day 5 – We cruised the entire length of the BVI this morning, leaving Bitter End (nearby Neckar Island is owned by Sir Richard Branson) and headed west back to Jost Van Dyke, where we stopped at the tiny island of Sandy Spit. We took a mooring at nearby Diamond Cay and spend the day on Sandy Spit. About 4pm, the last of the other visitors left the island, so we had about an hour and a half alone on the island and took another round of photos for Malibu Strings.

Day 6/7 – Short trip back to White Bay, Jost Van Dyke where we spent our last two days drinking Coronas and Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar, before heading back to Nanny Cay to turn in our boat and try to figure out how soon we can make it back!

Labels: , , , , Banner