Image credit: Eric Leyba (Bear tied to a buoy behind the Pelican and the Indians)
It’s about a 4 foot step up to the dock at De Loose Mongoose. The dinghy is really swaying and we are over capacity again, but our eyes are set on those famous melon coladas. A few days ago we would have had a tough time making the stretch, but not anymore. We’ve just braved a week of Christmas Winds in the BVI (British Virgin Islands) on a 42 foot catamaran named Bear, and now we feel the Carribbean in us. As we near the end of this journey, I am awestruck by how much an adventure vacation has changed our spirits. It was time to find out what we were made of.
Image credit: Eric Leyba (White Bay on Jost Van Dyke)
We arrived as family vacationers expecting white sand and turquoise waters, warm air and umbrella drinks. Found them all. You can too. For a similar experience without a captain and a catamaran, grab a flight to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, ferry to Cooper Island, and book yourself a full board stay at the classy Cooper Island Beach Club in Manchioneel Bay. Reasonable rates relative to the islands, great food and drink, easy and idyllic snorkeling, stunning starlight views looking back on the island of Tortola at night, a perfect little nautical gift shop, and they even have a tiny, eco-friendly brewery onsite. You won’t be disappointed! A small ferry service and day excursions from the island are also available. For a sneak peek of the super snorkeling in Manchioneel Bay, check out Cooper Island Beach Club’s underwater webcams.
Photos taken at the Cooper Island Beach Club
Back onboard Bear we found all the dreamy tropical items on our checklist, but we also had to learn to work together. Even on a luxury boat it became necessary to ration provisions until we made it to the next port. During other times of the year, when the winds are less, it’s much simpler to hop between islands and there are plenty of places to drop your anchor. My husband captured the northern swells of the Christmas winds on this trip that brought us some white-knuckle journeys and made mooring buoys a hot commodity. We were lucky enough to snag one in every port, but it was a race to get there, and it took a crew working in sync to get tied up without swinging in to the 40-50 foot yachts parked next door. It’s an adrenaline rush that will reward you with the opportunity to watch the other boats circle the bay for a buoy, or be resigned to give up and head back in to the channel to face the northern swells again looking for new moorage.
The English have an old proverb that says “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.” So truth be told, I do not hold a grudge against those gusty winds, because I know that the canvas can do miracles. Those blows are the reason I’m bringing back with me these experiences:
1. Our kids had an up-close opportunity to see that nature is the best video game, and to appreciate our natural resources in a different way. They learned that water is scarce and precious in the islands, where it comes from the rainfall. Then they jumped in to the Carribbean and snorkeled for stingrays. Proud of them.
2. My husband and I had our own mini-adventure with a broken dingy motor in shark-infested waters, which he got us out of. It’s a story in itself for us to share forever, and not the only time during the trip I appreciated seeing my spouse as a Yachtsman. It made me realize how strong of a man he is, and let’s just say I’m glad he’s mine.
3. I think it goes without saying that chartering a boat in the Carribbean is much easier when the breeze is calm and you are 20 years younger. At the time my parents agreed to take our family on their dream trip to the British Virgin Islands islands, I don’t think they had gale force winds and northern swells in mind. This trek put a lot of salt in the air and in their hair. Fortunately, they found out they still have the chops to navigate the sea, and the world, and the rest of life together. Mission accomplished.
4. Cousins are magic. Maybe it’s because I am an only child, or maybe it’s because I was blessed with amazing kin, but some of my best memories were made with my cousins. This week, we got to see up close our kids making their own cousin magic, and now one of my New Year’s resolutions is to appreciate and make more time for bonding with our cousins. Drew and Logan and Olivia, we thank you so much for the fun you showed your cousins this week and for taking such good care of them in the sea.
5. Make time for what your loved ones love. My Aunt and Uncle absolutely love to travel and they are not afraid of exotic destinations. That said, signing up to take their whole family 3,744 miles away to live aboard a sailboat with no reservation numbers, and then to find out we would be facing howling winds, enormous waves, and racing to mooring buoys, all to let us share the experience that “we” love with them was a giant leap of faith for their family. They literally put their vacation in our hands, and while I know they missed the normal comforts of toilet paper and a bed that doesn’t spin 360 degrees all night, they ate conch fritters and danced on boats and appreciated the 4 foot barracuda that decided to make it’s home under Bear. It makes me want to make time to love what they do, and perhaps there will be an NYC trip to Broadway in our future. Thanks for the great times guys.
After bringing Bear back to his home at Catamaran Charters we ferried to St. Thomas for one last night. We stayed up in the hills at the Mafolie Hotel & Restaurant, where we enjoyed their world-renowned views and great staff. The free breakfast buffet there is a treat in itself!
The next day we flew American Airlines and landed back in Seattle at exactly midnight. I thought we would miss New Year’s 2017, but instead we celebrated 3 times in every time zone. The captain and the flight attendants wished us all a Happy New Year and we could see the fireworks light up the Seattle skies as we descended. The view really changed once we got home, but our clocks are still on “island time.”
Of course we made a lot of time for play on this trip, so stay tuned for the next post on a few other things I’m bringing back with me from our vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Thanks to all the locals there that made our adventure memorable and wonderful!
Happy New Year All! If you have time, swing by January’s new Daychanger.