Here at ASA, we’re always thinking of all the various avenues folks can access the sport of sailing that we enjoy so much. We keep an eye on youth and collegiate sailing, the racing scene, world and local cruising and of course chartering. The latter, we find, is something many sailors aspire to and for good reason. It’s really fun, fulfilling and most often utterly fascinating. All that said; we understand that chartering is a big step and can be expensive and maybe a mite intimidating. It can involve foreign waters on an unfamiliar boat, maybe language barriers, and a good amount of responsibility insuring everyone stays safe while you’re leading the voyage.
The “Arabella” just completed a voyage around the BVIs loaded with ASA members from all over the country. We were lucky enough to have Chris Tucker onboard and he shared some of his amazing photos with us… If you missed out on this once in a lifetime trip, not to worry, we’re doing it all over again in March – but hurry, there are only a few cabins left!!
Outstanding Instructor Spotlight
There are a lucky few people in this world who get to live their life just as they had hoped – ASA sailing instructor at Sunsail BVI, Matthew Holt, or Big Red as he is also known, is one of these people.
Matthew teaches sailing in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the British Virgin Islands and fully understands and appreciates how fortunate a person he is. BVI, consisting of four main islands and over 50 smaller islands, is truly an incredible cruising ground for sailors who seek out the idyllic.
“I consider myself very lucky to call the British Virgin Islands home. As a boy, I dreamed of getting paid to take people sailing,” Holt says. “Now I do.”
The ASA member’s event aboard the spectacular Arabella in the British Virgin Island got off to a great start. 34 sailors from all over the country boarded the beautiful 165′ Arabella at village Cay in Roadtown Tortola. In the expert hands of Captain John Eginton and first mate Brad sailed to White bay in Jost Van Dyke. It is the home of mesmerizing turquoise waters, white sand beaches and the famous Soggy Dollar bar (credited with inventing the pain killer rum drink). After dinner aboard many went ashore in Great Harbor to experience the famous Foxy’s bar. More adventures to come as the week unfolds. See our gallery of pictures…
Join us on our next “Arabella” voyage
Our schedule includes New England trips in the Fall of 2015, and the BVIs in the Winter/Spring of 2016
There are still a few cabins available from January 18th to 24th, 2015 aboard the luxurious megayacht Arabella! Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the British Virgin Islands, the best cruising grounds in the world. Arabella is a 157-foot yacht with top-notch features such as teak decks, a jacuzzi, a cushioned sun deck, and a covered aft veranda. There’s no better way to navigate the turquoise seas and consistent winds of the Caribbean. See you there!
Learn more: www.arabellavacations.com/asa/
Booking and information: email@example.com or 310/822-7171 Ext. 30
Lots of people sail the British Virgin Islands every year, but not many get to do it in quite the same style as the 2014 ASA Member’s Event, which took place March 1-8. For a week, our members were treated to an island cruise aboard the luxury yacht Arabella–a 156 foot sailing schooner, complete with 3 masts, 8 sails, a jacuzzi, and 20 guest cabins. Formerly owned by Top Gun star Kelly McGillis, Arabella is a seafaring masterpiece.
As the flagship of ASA affiliate Manhattan Sailing School, Arabella combines the beauty of hands-on sailing with the luxury of a mega-yacht. Through the course of the week, we not only got to enjoy the islands, but were also treated to workshops and master classes led by ASA instructors and Arabella crewmembers. Read on to hear the highlights, and stay tuned to ASA social media, as there may be more opportunities to sail on Arabella in the future!
Leaving Road Town, Tortola, Arabella sailed up to the Baths for the first Caribbean snorkel and swim of the trip. After a dip and some lunch, she sailed downwind to Marina Cay where we went ashore and took a hike up to the top of the island, which affords stunning views over the Sir Francis Drake Channel.
After breakfast on Monday, the crew weighed anchor and sailed for North Sound, home of the famous Bitter End Yacht Club. There they spent a “play day,” with all of Arabella’s considerable complement of water toys available for use. Between kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, swimming, relaxing under a palm tree with a book, and lounging at the Bitter End, there was no shortage of fun to be had. The time at Bitter End was capped off on Tuesday night with the obligatory Pirate Party!
Cooper Island and Jost Van Dyke
Sailing out of North Sound in the morning, Arabella made for Cooper Island, passing the Dog Islands on the way. After lunch and a stop ashore at the Cooper Island Beach Club, we sailed on for Soper’s Hole, where we spent the night. (The Caribbean is home to some of the best place-names in the world, by the way.) Onboard, we were able to experiment with Arabella’s state-of-the-art joystick helm, take advantage of the jacuzzi, and fine-tune our conch-blowing skills.
The next day took Arabella to the famous island of Jost Van Dyke, where we engaged in the Caribbean tradition of having the tender drop everyone off away from the beach and swim to shore. This is how you get your “soggy dollars” for the notorious Soggy Dollar Bar, inventor of the Painkiller cocktail. After an afternoon at the Soggy Dollar, the nighttime belonged to Foxy’s, perhaps the most famous of Caribbean bars.
Due to the previous day’s “festivities,” Friday got off to a leisurely start. Eventually Arabella made her way to the Bight in Norman Island, which has world-class snorkeling, and is also excellent for kayaking and small boat sailing. Dinner that evening was served on board Arabella, in her glorious salon that can seat 48 people. Then it was onshore for one more infamous Caribbean bar, Willie T’s. This floating “food & grog” establishment is known for all kinds of shenanigans, but you know what they say – what happens in the Bight stays in the Bight.
Unfortunately, all things must come to an end, and so on Saturday it was back to Road Town and time to say goodbye. After a spectacular week on board a spectacular boat and in a spectacular setting, the only thing left to do was start plotting how we could do it all again!
This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of ASA’s Sailing With Style.
by Captain Valerie Weingrad, ASA Certified Instructor
(For a list of ASA affiliated sailing schools and charter companies in the BVIs, click here.)
The British Virgin Islands (or BVIs) are located at the high point of the curving archipelago that swings from Florida to Trinidad. With their steady trade winds and numerous sheltered harbors they are a center for sea routes to every point of the compass, providing a great stopping off point in the trade lines between Europe and the riches of South America. They have been described as “the place on the way to everywhere.”
With their location providing a trade and military advantage, the Virgin Islands have been visited and occupied by various seafaring countries, privateers and indigenous populations throughout history. Spaniards sailed through regularly back in the day, hauling their Aztec loot to Spain. The US paid $25 million to Denmark to buy what is now known as the USVI in order to protect our southern doorstep. The island chain was once inhabited by the Ciboney Indians back in the stone ages, later in 100 B.C. the peaceful Arawaks arrived only to be wiped out or eaten by the aggressive and cannibalistic Carib Indians in the 1300’s. Columbus showed up in 1493, driven by an unfavorable wind to Virgin Gorda. Upon arriving and seeing the many islands he named them “the Virgins” in honor of St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who sacrificed their lives rather than submit to a fate worse than death at the hands of the Huns in 4th century Germany. But I digress!
The BVI is a sailor’s paradise and a great place for trying out your hand at bareboat chartering. Within the protection of the Sir Francis Drake channel the sailing is relatively easy and the navigation is line of sight. The trade winds blow from the northeast at 15-20 knots, except for the Christmas winds in December and January which can blow 25-35 knots for several days. By February they start to move around to the east and by June they drop down to 10-15k and move southeast. There is a nominal tidal range of about 12 inches. Mooring balls are installed in most harbors so you don’t have to worry about anchoring, just make sure you’re in the harbor early enough in the afternoon to snag one.
A Google search will reveal a myriad of boats available from numerous charter companies and brokers. Do your homework, or work with a reputable broker to make sure you aren’t disappointed when you walk down the dock and see your “home” for the week! Many ASA schools also charter boats, so try checking with them!
Planning your Sail in Paradise:
You can reach the BVI directly by flight into Beef Island, Tortola or by ferry from St Thomas. All of the charter companies’ boats are located on Tortola. Taxis, provisioning, restaurants and bars abound on this island so you are sure to find everything you need for your trip. Most charter companies will take care of pre-provisioning the boat for you as well as making arrangements for all of the various paperwork, cruising taxes and permits you will need to start your sail. The dollar is the standard currency and most, but not all, places accept credit cards, so have some cash on hand for when “the machine is not working.” Prices in the BVI have crept up over the years so be prepared for that when you visit. Most mooring balls are still $25 to $30 per night, but on a recent sail to Anegada, the drowned island, I found the lobster dinner is up to $50+, although still worth it in my opinion!
Let’s Go Sailing!
When you plan your route keep in mind that when you are heading northeast up the Sir Francis Drake Channel you will be against the wind, so allow time for tacking up the channel. I typically like to start my sail on a downwind run; it gives the crew time to learn the boat and makes for a pleasant first day as everyone is adjusting to island time.
From the south side of Tortola you can head west around West End and cut across to Jost Van Dyke, named for another privateer. Once at Jost you have several options of where to moor or anchor for the night. Great Harbor has added mooring balls as of this year. This is the location of the famous Foxy’s bar and others, such as Corsair’s owned by my friends Vinny and Alibabas. You can also choose White Bay, home of the Soggy Dollar. It gets very shallow in there so watch your depths! Little Harbor is nice as well. Check out Sidney’s Peace and Love while you are there. From Jost you can do a short sail to Cane Garden Bay and tour the Callwood Distillery where they still make rum the old fashioned way, in copper kettles. Next it’s on to Guano Island and Monkey Point for snorkeling. From there you can continue to Marina Cay for the night. If you anchor close to the island you may have a late afternoon visit from “Barry Cuda.” He is huge old barracuda that lives under the dock. Never fear, he’s relatively tame. One of the (crazy) guys on my last sail had him eating smoked turkey right out of his hand! Better him than me!
An early morning start will take you to Virgin Gorda and the opportunity to anchor in front of the “Baths.” This is a must-see, a spectacular formation of huge granite boulders precariously teetering on each other since the ice age. The sea washes in between create pools; you’ll be climbing ladders and walking through water so wear your water shoes. The snorkeling at Devil’s cave on the other side is great, but be aware of the current that can be strong at times. After lunch, set sail and tack north to Gorda Sound. Choose the Bitter End Yacht club, Saba Rock or Leverick Bay for your overnight. You can also pick up additional provisions and water for the boat here. Michael Bean’s one-man band plays nightly at Leverick for happy arrrr. Brush up on your pirate trivia and conch shell blowing and join the fun!
Weather (and charter company) permitting you can leave early for Anegada, the island for lobster! This will be the day you need to pay attention to your navigation, set your DR and hold your compass course. Anegada, though only 13 miles away, is a flat coral atoll and not visible until you are a few miles out. It’s surrounded by reef and over 400 shipwrecks. When I was there last month we watched a yacht under full sail come to an abrupt stop. Once you make it through the channel that marks the entrance through the reef pick up a mooring ball or anchor in the shallow sandy bottom. Dinghy ashore and take a taxi to Loblolly Bay for amazing beaches and good snorkeling. The best place to watch the sunset is Cow Wreck beach which also offers great food, a bar and the occasional band. The Anegada Reef Hotel is also an old stand-by for dinner. Make sure to try the rum infused Anegada Smoothy! The next day, leave if you must or spend a second day. This is a great two-day island!
Set sail and make your way down the channel, time permitting make a stop at the Dogs for snorkeling and lunch. Choose Cooper Island for your over night anchorage, it’s a nice stop as long as there is not a north swell. They recently reopened the resort there and it’s getting rave reviews. Alternatively choose Peter Island or Norman as your last stop and visit the world famous Willy T, a re-commissioned lumber boat, now a restaurant and bar. You never know what you’ll see there; better leave the kids on board your boat! The next morning do some snorkeling at the Caves (of Treasure Island fame) and make your way back to Tortola where you will end your week in paradise.
The week has passed. You’re relaxed and just getting into the rhythm of life on board. It’s bittersweet, but don’t worry…you can always come back!
About the Author: Valerie Weingrad is an ASA instructor, charter broker and owner of Custom Sailing Worldwide, Inc. Contact her at Valerie@customsailing.net or www.customsailing.net for information on sailing vacations both bareboat and crewed in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
Many of you have been lucky enough to learn to sail, cruise or charter in the British Virgin Islands. Here is an update from Pat Nolan who owns and operates Sistership Sailing School on Tortola after recently weathering hurricane Earl:
Location, location, location. That real estate mantra also applies to hurricane survival (followed closely by preparation, preparation, preparation). Having just come through the very large, very powerful category 4 hurricane Earl in the BVI, I can say that both location and preparation are key to minimizing damage. Lucky for us the eye of the storm passed about 30 miles north of Anegada so we on Tortola, roughly 27 miles southeast of Anegada were spared the worst. We still experienced sustained winds of 100+ mph; winds strong enough to sink boats, blow boats ashore, smash boats into docks and. Those who took the time to move boats to a well protected hurricane anchorage, secure the deck and all gear topside, in addition to properly anchor riding out the storm, sustained minimal damage if any.
One must remember that the wind often comes from every direction during a hurricane, so your choice of anchorage must be protected 360 degrees. For those of you familiar with the harbors in the BVI, Road Town, Soper’s Hole and Anegada proved places NOT to be. In those harbors numerous boats were sunk, piled on top of one another or beached. In Trellis Bay, Nanny Cay, Paraquita Bay and inner Sea Cow’s Bay boats did fine. Boats in virtually landlocked Paraquita Bay are packed in like sardines, lying to hurricane gear installed by the government. Trellis Bay hosts a large community of live-aboards lying to their own private moorings. Those folks are old hands at hurricane preparation and it showed – no damage reported there. Nanny Cay, the marina we operate from, is completely land locked save for the very small entrance. All the boats are moored to floating docks. Even though well protected, the high winds and tidal surge still put a huge strain on the docks. Several times during the beginning of the storm we needed to jury rig finger piers that sheared off from the main dock. Struggling in 80 knot gusts to secure a bucking bronco of a finger pier with two big boats attached to it is not my idea of a good time. It took a team of us to do it, but it worked.
Luckily that work was done in the daylight. When the worst of the storm hit after dark, the dock was not the place to be. Safely shuttered in our concrete block of a house we crossed our fingers that the docks would hold through the night. They did.
Many snowbirds keep their boats in the BVI. Unless you have hired a good management company to oversee your boat in your absence you would not want to leave it in the water; rather on the hard, in the yard is the place to be. Boatyards here are experienced at storing and securing boats to minimize storm damage. It is imperative that owners take the time to make their boats are ‘hurricane ready’ after their last cruise just prior to hauling out. Not sure exactly what that entails? Many great articles have been written on this subject. Just Google “How to prepare my boat for a hurricane” and take your pick. And don’t wait till the last minute – it all takes time.