Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 1



This weekend, I have my first big planning meeting for our sailcation in the British Virgin Islands. In doing research to plan our route through the islands in April, I thought it would be a good time to revisit last year’s trip. Installments of my 2009 trip journal and photos to follow in the days to come.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

    • We fly from Chicago to Puerto Rico and then on to Tortola where we will claim our boat in Road Harbour. Passports required, since we’ll be in the British Virgin Islands. Biggest challenge (next to figuring out just how much food to provision a 48-foot sailboat with a crew of six for a week) was fitting all my gear into a duffel bag big enough to hold everything but small enough to stow (not check) on the plane. (No one wants to be held up at the marina, waiting for a luggage delivery.)
    • First hurdle cleared when all our luggage fits in the overhead bin. (The medium adventure duffel bag from L.L. Bean turned out to be a great buy. You can stuff a lot in it (especially when combined with packing cubes) and it stows away easily in the plane and on the boat, where storage is at a premium.)
    • After a short layover in San Juan, we board an island hopper for the 40-minute flight to Beef Island, Tortola.
    • Other than a helicopter ride in Hawaii, this is the smallest aircraft (eight passengers) I’ve ever flown in. The flight was smooth and gave us a nice overview of the Virgin Islands.
    • Clearing customs is a snap, especially if you don’t use green pen to fill out the form.

Taking Command of the Ship

    • Sunsail (the charter company) picks us up at the airport for the 10-minute ($9) shuttle ride to the marina.
    • We’ve arrived! Our boat (The Wandering Eye) is almost ready. They’re tinkering with some technical problems, having to do with the refrigerator.
    • The crew explores the boat and hangs out on deck, enjoying the warm breeze. (Though it’s April, for us midwesterners, spring is a good month off, so we’re just thrilled to be in the sunny warmth, free from bulky winter coats.)
    • The sun begins to set and we all note that it’s setting earlier than it does in Chicago. (It’s not until a few days into the vacation that it dawns on me why–we’re near the equator, where no matter what time of year it is, you have 12 hours of sunlight. Duh.)
    • Technical problems with the boat persist and they’ll have to continue looking at it in the morning. (Boats chartered by the week are turned around quickly, kind of like floating hotel rooms; guests return their boat in the morning, unload their stuff, and check out. Cleaning and maintenance crews tidy up, restock the boat with the basics, and attend to any repairs before the next crew boards the boat that evening.)

Captain Rick and First Mate Jenny Walk the Deck

  • We don’t unpack too much, since we may have to switch to another boat, depending on the outcome of the fridge problem. Luckily our provisions (purchased on-line from a local grocery) won’t be delivered until tomorrow.
  • There aren’t any dining options within walking distance and it’s getting late, so we opt to have dinner at the restaurant overlooking the marina. The food is decent, nothing spectacular and overpriced. We all enjoy our first (of what would be many) painkillers, the local specialty drink, a frothy mixture of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and cream of coconut, dusted with nutmeg.

3 thoughts on “Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 1

  1. If you don’t mind a 10-15 minute walk, there are a couple of restaurants within walking distance to the east, like Spaghetti Junction. (Good restaurant despite the name. 🙂

  2. We actually ate at Spaghetti Junction on our last night in town! I agree that the name doesn’t do the place justice. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the ambiance of the place.

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