British Virgin Islands/St. Martin 2011
This was the trip that spoiled me for all other vacations. The following is a little verbage I wrote about the trip for a class I was taking. The majority of the planning was taken on by the experienced couple captain/1st mate and our planning sessions were more or less to rubber stamp their great plans! There is a minor amount of poetic license taken in this story.
One dark, frigid February morning six fair skinned, sunburn prone middle aged Canadians some of whom were veritable landlubbers set off on a Caribbean bareboat sailing adventure. ‘Bareboating’ simply put, is renting a boat and crewing it yourself. Twelve months in the planning, this holiday was more ardently anticipated than any previous sojourn. On numerous occasions we huddled together over wine, fervently laying the groundwork for ten days of marine cohabitation. Two of us had previously attained Bareboat Certification and were thereby dubbed Captain and First Mate. Drawing upon their experience, we scrutinized charts, selecting routes, targeting Islands with special events or particular points of interest. A skeleton plan evolved for each day complete with menus for onboard meals and locations of restaurants featuring authentic local cuisine to tickle our Canadian taste buds. We aimed to pass by preeminent snorkel sites while treating ourselves to bits of the multi-faceted BVI culture.
Arriving at Beef Island Airport, exhausted after a long day, we revelled in the warm air as our shuttle wound itself through the gentle rolling hills until stopping at The Moorings charter base. Gear stowed, we ate, drank and restlessly awaited our first day on the water. Day two as the sun arose, we welcomed the arrival of supplies ordered online from a Road Town grocer, safely tucking all into heel proof galley cupboards and storage lockers. Fully provisioned we inspected the ship from stem to stern and were ready to set sail! The winds were high in the narrow channel as a gargantuan cruise ship was bearing down upon us. The challenges of our inaugural sail of the 50 foot Beneteau yacht were apparent as we soldiered on, finally freeing ourselves of the harbour, and setting our sights for Cooper Island and beyond.
Each morning was glorious as we awakened to the sounds and unique scents of the Caribbean. Our days starting with a refreshing swim in the tepid salt filled sea. As a team we prepared on-board meals. While en-route to the next unexplored port we layed anchor to swim, snorkel, or explore cave formations. Diving below surface we were awe struck by the multitude of rainbow coloured marine life allowing us to swim alongside. Late afternoon, always with a fair wind, we sailed to a new destination, latching onto a mooring ball or navigating into an available slip confident that we were living the lives of true sailors, marine radios screeching as the onshore operator called out instructions to our awaiting vessel.
British Virgin Islands is a stunning destination for bareboat sailing. When organizing your trip to the BVI’s, highly recommended stops would be the Full Moon Fire party at Trellis Bay, a walk through the fascinating geological formations of The Baths and a trip to the northern most, least populated Island of Anegada. Your trip will be exhilarating and filled with that sense of freedom that can be a challenge to surpass.
After our 10 days aboard Hull #5 (it didn’t have an official name yet as it was a brand new boat), Johnny and I left for St. Martin, we stayed on the Dutch side and did some exploring throughout the island. It was a bit of an adventure, I got caught in a rip tide, got sandblasted by a jet, and had Johnny’s wallet and my phone stolen from a rental jeep!
Our 4 nights in St. Martin were interesting to say the least. We had just spent 10 idyllic days on board the Beneteau relaxing, in the very safe BVI’s. We were staying in Phillipsburg on the Dutch side at Little Divi Bay Beach Resort. It wasn’t an ideal location and the beach wasn’t wonderful. We were able to get a bit of snorkeling in out at the point beyond. On Day 2 we were spending the day with our friends who had rented a jeep. Our goal was to do a bit of exploration. We stopped first at the world famous Maho Beach which is at the beginning of a runway into the airport. As you sit on the beach, plains are landing and/or taking off right behind you (feet away). The first challenge was not however, the planes, it was that the water was fairly rough. 3 of the 4 of us went in for a swim, Johnny seemed to have no issues..he was out beyond where the waves were breaking and having a lovely swim. One of our friends and I weren’t however so lucky. He got caught by a big wave and more or less got slammed down inuring his neck (not hospital bad, but bad enough that he did seek attention when he got back to Canada). I got caught in what was a bit of a rip-tide I think, and couldn’t get in. The problem is, you get out there and feel a bit embarassed, plus it’s so loud. I wasn’t near Johnny or our friends and the waves just kept pulling me back and submerging me. Finally, someone else noticed that I was in trouble and a big guy came and grabbed my hand and pulled me to shore…..this was my first lesson in ‘respect of the water’, and I carry this experience with me always. OK…so….I almost drown (well, not quite), friend hurt neck, and Johnny swimming happily and comes in out of the same water with no issues. This brings us to experience #2 on the same beach. Everyone gathers on this beach to watch the planes come in and take off. The taking off part is something we had NO CLUE what was going to happen. Essentially, the plane is sitting not far away, just beyond a fence. It revs up, you can smell the jet fuel, and when it takes off it creates a hot windstorm picking up the sand and everything that’s loose on the beach and just blows it away. I lost my shorts *sigh* – blown away into the water, never to be seen again. The sand blast was so severe that it was almost embedded in your skin – it wasn’t something we prepared for. OK…can this day get better? 🙂 Oh yeah, we headed out driving around the Island over the the French side. We came across a sign for a beach and parked in a parking lot and went over a little hill to the lovely beach. We spent quite a bit of time there, walking, playing, relaxing & having a drink. When we went back to the car, our friend opened the trunk and my bag was gone and some other things were missing. Unfortunately, the trunk wasn’t locked and my bad had Johnny’s wallet, my cell phone, some clothing *sigh*….oh what fun. We had to borrow money from our friends who were leaving on Day 3 so that we could get by the rest of the trip. It’s my understanding now that this type of thing is known to happen in that area. The thieves are probably sitting there in the bushes somewhere and check the cars as soon as you leave…BEWARE 🙂 Again, another lesson, and thus ends my first trip to St. Martin. Now…don’t get me wrong, I love St. Martin and have been back and had no issues (as I had learned many lessons from this trip :)!
Here is a link with a bunch of Youtube video’s of the planes coming in and going out…you MUST watch a few Click Here.