Lats & Atts Share The Sail British Virgin Islands
By. Bob Bitchin, with additional photos from Chuck Delabio, Debbie Kolod, Drew Gober, Joe Jablonowski, Kimber Hamilton, Ty Abston, Wayne Anselmo, and Jody Lipkin
We put on a Share The Sail every year. But, this year’s Share The Sail in the BVI had a secret agenda. We organized it to help bring people back to the BVI to show the world the islands were once again open for business after the horrific hurricanes that smashed them two years ago.
Our group staggered in from all over the world over the period of about four days. While we waited for our fellow cruisers, Jody and I were lucky enough to have our very good friends Tommy and Sharon Brownell cruising the area on their beautiful Hylas 54, Distant Star. Like good friends, they offered us a place to stay as we awaited the day of boarding the boats.
For a couple days we sailed over to Norman Island and acted as if we were leisurely cruisers, all the time putting out fires for the upcoming event. You may not believe it, but organizing ten boats for seven days can be a full-time job!
As it happens, Jody’s 60th was on February 1st, and we were in Nanny Cay, so an impromptu party was organized with old friends from the islands and new friends from the Share The Sail. It was held at Peg Leg’s and it was a complete success. About twenty people gathered to help her celebrate the day. It was a beautiful night, with perfect weather, and a lot of good friends!
On the day we were to board the boats, people gathered at Scrub Island, about a mile off of Tortola. Then the difficult part started. The provisions had all been ordered and were to be aboard and stowed by 3:00 p.m. for our 5:00 p.m. boarding. By 6:00 p.m. that evening no provisions had appeared. Then, the crew of the Drew Boat noticed a couple of Boston Whalers loaded with boxes of supplies tied to one of the docks. They took a closer look and saw “Bob Bitchin” written on the boxes and, below that, “The Drew Boat,” “The Eric Boat,” etc.
They were our supplies. Only God knows how long they had been sitting there.
Bedlam ensued as we tried to decipher what boxes went to which boats. Once the boxes had been settled, a few small discrepancies popped up, like the full complement of food for the boat that had a family with a young child consisted of potato chips, bread, and beer. Lots of beer.
In all, it turned out that about one-third of the food ordered was not there. Little things were missing, like the 18 gallons of drinking water for the Bob Boat, which had 11 people on board.
The morning of our supposed departure, we waited as the crew of Dream Yacht Charter walked the skippers through the operations of the boats. Eventually we got through it, as the boats traded supplies so the ones who’d received their full complement of supplies shared with those that did not.
The crews spent the evening in the Scrub Island Resort where the Dream Yacht Base is now located. It’s a great place to hang, with hot tubs, swimming pools, and great beaches.
In the morning, about half an hour after the briefing, another boat from RiteWay on Tortola showed up, with more of our provisions. Island time, right?
The voyage was then on. The Share The Sail boats headed to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. The weather was as perfect as it could get, and there were even open moorings! The new system there is you cannot land a dinghy on the beach, but rather have to tie your dinghy to the buoy line and swim 100 yards to shore.
The Baths are one of the most beautiful areas of the BVI. Huge granite boulders lay jumbled on the beach, creating caves and small, private beaches.
The feeling of paradise was quickly lost when we started hearing an alarm go off on the Bob Boat. The search was on. Now I gotta tell ya, on the new 52-foot Lagoon, there are more little nooks and crannies than on a Thomas’s English muffin. The base on Scrub Island sent out a couple guys who eventually found an overheating solenoid under one of the berths.
After about an hour, people returned to the boats. We decided to motor around to the north and into North Sound.
When the Bob Boat arrived, Tommy Brownell was there waiting for us. He then introduced us to a very interesting guy.
His name is Gumption, and he is an entrepreneur who runs a glass bottom boat. Here’s what was interesting: Richard Branson on Necker Island heard that he’d built this boat and was taking people out on excursions, and then using the money to help fund the school. So Branson loaned him enough money to buy a proper boat. Over the next couple years he ran his glass bottom boat tours, and paid him back in full. Branson was so impressed that he gave him access to Necker Island for his tours. He is the only one authorized to access Necker and the zoo, etc., on the island.
Most of our crew jumped into his tour boat and he took them on a quick tour, showing them turtles and all the sea life in the area. It was most kewl. You can look him up on Facebook. His name is Gumption. Great tour!
Soon we had a little Superbowl party to get to. Six additional boats joined our four-boat flotilla, and we had about 90 people for the party. The folks at the Leverick Bay Resort had set up around ten tables on the beach for each boat—and even had “reserved” signs for each boat in our group. To ensure our viewing pleasure, they set up a large screen (a bedsheet between two poles) and a projector for the game.
It seemed they had a connectivity problem, and there was almost a mutiny. But, just as the game started, they got it figured out. The outcome of the game was good for the majority of the cruisers that were there, as most were from the East Coast!
That night was beautiful. After the game, people gathered on their boats, watching the stars, and just enjoying the great weather.
We were loving it. Rumor had it there was a Polar Vortex or something like that back home, and most of the U.S. was packed in snow and ice.
In the morning, most of the boats headed out for our next stop, Anegada. It was a 13-mile sail, with light winds and calm seas.
Of course on the Bob Boat, we had a little adventure. As I’ve always said, the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude. And our “adventure” consisted of hitting the starter button only to find our batteries were dead. This was a little odd, as we had been running the generator and charging a lot in the evening. And of course, this happened the morning before we were to get started. We then found out that on this particular boat, they had removed the charger for some maintenance.
Once again we awaited the arrival of our friends from the Dream Yacht Charter base. They found that a cable between the battery and the alternator was cut, and the battery was as dead as a sail-cat on Highway 95. They replaced the battery and once again we were on our way. The sail to Anegada was great. Perfect weather, perfect wind, perfectly calm and even seas.
Once in the anchorage on Anegada, people headed to shore, where Jody had arranged for transportation to Cow Wreck Beach on the North Shore.
Cow Wreck is one of those places that has made Anegada a “must see” in the BVI. It’s a beautiful beach protected by a reef about a half-mile out. The waters are clear and calm, and the white sand beach stretches for miles without anything to interfere with the beauty.
The Cow Wreck Bar and Grill serves up some great burgers, lobster fritters, and conch ceviche. The afternoon was spent swimming, laying on the beach, and for those with a bit more energy (and youth!), long walks along the shore, which is littered with conch shells.
You see, when a conch is harvested, you are not supposed to throw the shells back into the sea, as it will keep the conchs away. So there are hundreds of beautiful conch shells lining the beach.
After a few hours enjoying the peace and serenity of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we boarded the open bus back to the Anegada Reef, where we had a party arranged for that evening, with Isabella Stefania and Eric Stone live on stage. Isabella and her family are sailing with us on the Bob Boat, while Eric Stone and his friend Gary Haas were skippering another boat.
That night was as beautiful as it could get. Perfect weather, and the folks at the Anegada Reef Hotel had set up tables for the almost 90 people in our group. Each table was set for each boat, and the food had all been pre-ordered, with free rum punch for all.
Happy hour started at about 5:30 p.m. with Eric Stone opening with some great music. Then, at 6:30 p.m., Isabella took over the stage. They were great!
When it came time for dinner they joined us at the tables, and a disc jockey took over. After dinner the dancing got hot and heavy, and the sand dance floor was crowded all night long. Everyone was up and the conga line was long and wavy!
Being true cruisers, the party ended at “Cruiser’s Midnight” (about 10 p.m.) and folks headed back to their boats, some to continue their party, and others to get some sleep.
In the morning, the crew of the Bob Boat headed over to The Big Bamboo for some snorkeling and a bite of lunch. Some of the best snorkeling on the island can be found on that area of Anegada.
We spent the day enjoying the cruising lifestyle. That means laying about, reading, swimming, and generally enjoying life.
In the morning it was time to head for Jost Van Dyke for another party. I know, party, party, party. What could go wrong?
The answer to that question was answered when we hit the windlass button to raise the anchor.
No power to the windlass. After a few minutes spent searching once again for the problem, we did what most cruisers do. We gave up and hoisted the anchor by hand. That was some real adult fun, right? Most definitely NOT!
Once up, we pulled my feet out from under the pile of chain and headed out. We learned later that there was a “lock out” switch, that we didn’t know about, and it had been tripped. Aaaaagh!
The winds were pretty good, so we went to haul up the sails. Another oops! It seems that not only was there no power to the windlass, there was also no power to the winches.
It was then decided we’d motor back to the base at Scrub Island, and see what could be done. It was there we learned about the lock-out switch!
Oh, yeah, did I mention the watermaker also was inoperable, and our tanks were going dry? It seems the toilets used two gallons of fresh water each time one was flushed. As our boat was a six-cabin boat with six heads…well, I think you can see where this was heading, right?
After less than half an hour, most of the problems had been fixed (it seems that, if you know what the problem is, it’s easy!!) and we were once again headed out. The folks at Dream Yachts were on top of it right away!
We motored around to Monkey Point for some swimming. Monkey Point is one of our favorite spots in the islands. The water is crystal clear, and it is great snorkeling.
As we left we hoisted the sails, and had a great two-hour sail to Jost Van Dyke, sailing right past Sandy Cay, which has to be one of the most beautiful little islands in the world.
As we pulled into Great Harbor it was pretty full. So, we found a good place to drop a hook and backed down to end up right next to Distant Star and Avocation, two boats that were part of our flotilla.
A party was planned for the evening at Corsairs which is run by an old friend, Vinnie. Vinnie was actually in Colorado that evening, celebrating his 40th Anniversary of Rocky Mountain Harley-Davidson (his other business), but his girlfriend Lori took charge and made everyone feel right at home!
The Eric Stone band along with Gary Haas set up the sound equipment, and around 5:30 p.m. the music started.
Corsairs is located right on the beach in Jost Van Dyke, and soon people gathered to listen to some great sounds and do what cruisers do.
Isabella Stefania, Nashville’s newest upcoming star, sailed in with us. When Eric would take a break, she’d take over. The music played all evening, and there could not have been a better atmosphere.
Cruisers from all over gathered, and once again the cruising lifestyle was enjoyed to it’s fullest.
Now, I gotta admit I was moving pretty slow the next day, but our crew was up and at it early to visit Foxy’s for souvenirs and to head over to White Bay to visit the world famous Soggy Dollar Bar.
Our crew was back aboard to head across the channel to Cane Garden Bay about 2:00 p.m. We had to, as we had another party planned for the following evening at Myett’s in Cane Garden Bay on Tortola.
After arriving in Cane Garden Bay, we were once again kayaking, swimming, and enjoying the perfect BVI weather.
Jody and I went into the new Pusser’s at Myett’s to make sure that everything was set for the Cruiser’s Party that evening. Val and Kareem have been running Myett’s for over 25 years. After the hurricanes they joined forces with our friend Charles Tobias and Pusser’s. Together, they have created a great place for boaters to hang out, building a beautiful bar, right on the beach, with a stage for entertainment.
As our crews started to drift in they put out a large pupu platter loaded with a selection of jerked chicken, jerked pork, chicken wings, and some great fish fingers. Who knew fish had fingers???
At about 5:30 p.m. Eric Stone took the stage and the entertainment started. He would play for awhile, then Isabella Stefania would take the stage. Everyone was having a great time. We want to thank Lee Bentley, Pusser’s Food and Beverage Manager, for helping arrange this event.
Late in the evening, listening to Eric play the theme song from our old TV show, Latitudesn & Attitudes, I got a little nostalgic, and went up on the stage and announced we would be changing the name of the magazine from Cruising Outpost back to the original name we’d started with 20 years earlier, Latitudes & Attitudes. Not sure if that will happen, but if you look at this issues cover, and Latitudes & Attitudes is more prevalent than usual, that may be the case! Thinkin’ and drinkin’ is not always a good combination, but sometimes…well…we shall see. But, back to the story.
So, the next day dawned as an almost perfect day (again!). Jody and the crew decided we would go back to Jost Van Dyke, and see if we could get into White Bay, the home of the Soggy Dollar Bar. Forty-five minutes later (the islands are pretty close together) we entered an almost empty White Bay.
Now for those of you who have not had the pleasure, White has a couple reefs protecting it, and there’s only enough room for maybe a dozen boats at best. We wiggled our way in, dropped our hook, and the fun began!
White is the home of The Soggy Dollar Bar, which is well named, since when people swim up with their dollars (now $10s and $20s) a little soggy from the swim, they take ‘em with a smile!
We spent about half the day swimming and just plain enjoying the view, and then it was time to start the boogie back towards the charter base on Scrub Island. It was a motor right into the wind. As any cruiser knows, if you get lost, just point her into the wind, because when cruising, the wind is either too light or too strong, but it’s always on the nose!
The facilities at the Scrub Island Base of Dream Yacht Charters are a true resort hotel. That evening, people cooked up what food they had left from the voyage, and boat-hopped, visiting the other boats from the Share The Sail adventure. The week we’d spent cruising the islands had brought everyone together into one tight-knit family.
Jody and I figured this was about the 20th year we had been doing the Share The Sail Adventures, and we had people on this event that had been on the very first one, and others who had been joined us for as many as four previous events.
This one will go down as one of the best!
Oh yeah, and the British Virgin Islands are back, and as beautiful as ever! They are BVI Strong!