AAARRRGHHH!!! We are now fully licensed, card-carrying, swashbuckling, sword-swishing, Pirates of the CAAARRRibbean!
All it took was two full days of flying and airport mania via New York and Puerto Rico to arrive in paradise, the island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. There Rose and I joined the catamaran Majestic Spirit for a two week jaunt like nothing we have ever experienced before.
I don’t want to spoil the story, but I have to tell you this: from the airport to the docks, a distance of not more than 10 km, the taxi fare was R587. That’s not a typo. Okay, I say to myself, take a deep breath, no, take 10.87 deep breaths, and remember Rule No 1: there will be no converting of ridiculous banana republic rands to US dollars every time you take out your wallet, or the holiday will be ruined.
Our home for two weeks was a magnificent catamaran, a veritable floating palace, with which we would cruise the Virgin Islands, roll in the Spanish Main, splice the jib in Francis Drake Passage and generally have a jolly good time. And we did.
We were very fortunate to be guests of Chaka’s Rock boatbuilder Ken Bircher and his wife Sue, along with Salt Rock residents Rohan and Elaine Kullin and former Zinkwazi shopkeepers Andrew and Nina Madsen making up the jolly band of pirates and wenches. Captain and owners were the very hospitable ex Richards Bay couple, Dave and Desiree Bean, with several years of chartering experience under their belts.
So, what’s there to do on the Spanish Main? A typical day: after a leisurely breakfast, a swim and a little snorkelling, up anchor and sail off to a little bay on some obtusely-named island – George Dog, Seal Dogs, Mosquito Island, Salt Island, Beef Island, Fallen Jerusalem – sunning ourselves on deck, watching dolphins and, once, a whale and calf. Arrive, chuck the anchor in, have lunch, swim, snorkel etc ‘til dinner, then retire well content. Next day, repeat.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Caribbean islands have lush, tropical vegetation and gleaming white beaches, fringed with waving palms. That’s just Hollywood. The land is hard and stony, covered with a hardy mesquite bush, and most beaches are quite rocky. The only palms are imported and they’re reserved for the two or three beaches with fine, white coral sand. Then those beaches are owned by the rich and famous and have the bejesus photographed out of them for every brochure and magazine article. But the water is the most beautiful, clear turquoise you can imagine.
We rubbed shoulders with the above at Sabba Rock and the Bitter End yacht club, where we all clubbed together for a Coke. We moored across the channel from Richard Branson’s Necker Island for a night, so feel we got within touching distance of fame.
More to our level was Poorman’s Bar on Virgin Gorda. One of the highlights of the trip, without a doubt, was Happy AAARRR! at Jumbies Bar in Leverick Bay, in the north sound of Gorda Island. We felt quite at home. There a sprightly fellow by the name of Michael Beans, armed with a guitar and an infectious laugh, got the place rocking with non-stop songs, sea shanties and plenty of roaring AAARRRs! Everybody joined in the fun. Rohan was persuaded to enter the conch-blowing contest and nearly won.
Two weeks was over far too soon. At first you think “I can’t do this for 14 days in a small space with nine other people,” then before you know it, you don’t want it to stop. We all got on famously. It was very hard to drag ourselves back onto the plane home, away from the holiday of a lifetime.
(Courtesy of the North Coast Courier - Kwa-Zulu Natal - South Africa)
Media article published in 2014
EVER CONSIDERED A SAILING VACATION IN THE BVI??
by Dave Bean - s/v Majestic Spirit
What is a holiday of a lifetime? We have all heard this claim at one time or another… but in our neck of the woods we hear it all the time.
Things like “best ever…”, “can’t wait to do it again…”, “at last we found paradise…” are just a few of the comments that have become synonymous with a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Surprisingly… many people don’t know that such vacations are possible and many that are aware that such vacations are possible… well… think that such a vacation is financially out of reach. The truth is that they are very affordable and a LOT of fun… in fact they are exactly what you want them to be.
Whether you are looking for a total break from reality and simply drifting around on a boat with a book and a few cocktails or… getting that adrenaline pumping through a variety of waters ports, hiking, visiting a number of happy beach bars and tasting the rum and eating like kings and queens… tanning, laughing and more… then this is a vacation you should consider.
The British Virgin Islands are simply breathtaking. The water is crystal clear and people are hospitable and friendly.
To some, the word “sailing” conjures up thoughts of crusty old sea dogs, confined spaces, dingy sleeping arrangements and lot’s of seasick feelings. That may have been the scenario many years ago. Today, the crews are professionals who come from all walks of life to ensure that you have the best possible experience. The boats of choice are catamarans, because they offer lot’s of space and comfort. As for feeling seasick… it is very uncommon, as these catamarans are very stable. On the odd occasion, we have seen some not feeling well, but that has been as a result of partaking in a little too much rum the night before.
What can you expect on such a vacation? Well… for starters, the scenery will blow you away. The luxury surroundings and features on these boats offer almost all the trappings one has back home. The food is prepared by gourmet chefs and the menus are designed according to your specific food requirements. As for the rest… this is where the fun starts.
Sailing is a peaceful, relaxing experience for families, groups of friends, honeymoon couples or just about anyone for that matter. Just hearing the water lapping across the bow as you head to the next secluded bay is good for the soul. There is so much to do at the various stops, from paddle boarding to wake-boarding and skiing, snorkeling, diving, beach games, board games, you name it. One can even try your hand at fly boarding, kite boarding, wind surfing or Hobie cat sailing.
Cocktails at sundown, relaxing on the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive “green flash” is another part of the day that everyone enjoys. A time to reflect on the days happenings and the highlights and go over plans for the next day. It’s also a good time to post your days pics on social media and make all your friends jealous. Most of the charter boats have internet 24/7, so even though you are in paradise, you are not totally isolated, unless you decide to leave all the electronic toys at home.
Often, one sees pictures of holiday venues and they are nothing like that when you get there… and you feel a little depressed. Well… when we were busy getting our visa’s a few years ago, the gentleman that did our interview said something that I would like to quote here. He said, “You have obviously see all the amazing pictures of the British Virgin Islands?” “Absolutely” we said. He continued and said, “well… none of them do it justice… in reality… it’s MUCH nicer!!” We are pleased to advise that his words were true and we now hear this all the time.
Why don’t you think of the British Virgin Islands as a possibility for your next holiday of a lifetime – enjoy the local hospitality and beautiful surroundings. More importantly… enjoy it from the luxury of your own private sailing catamaran.
Published online 2015 - on Dave's Travel Corner (Article here)