By Clarity Nicoll
Vacation of a lifetime in the BVI’s
You've all heard of the “Backpacker's Guide to Europe” and the “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”. Well then, consider this the ”Millennial's Guide to Chartering”. Millennial's chartering? Madness you say! I say otherwise. Now, I can't speak for everyone in my generation, but I know that for the most part we are action seekers, relaxation experts, adrenaline junkies, food lovers, cocktail savvy, adventure hungry and looking for some awesome pictures to put on our Instagram accounts. It's next to impossible for eight young people to find a vacation together that can cater to that. Certainly not your run of the mill all-inclusive resort can live up to those expectations. But if you follow this guide, I can show you how these eight millennials had the vacation of a lifetime aboard a 46-foot catamaran from Footloose Charters in the BVIs.
Step 1. Pick your team carefully. Although our 46-foot Party Barge, as we named her, was big enough to accommodate all of our needs and give everyone enough privacy, it's still a boat. There's no leaving when you're moored in middle of the ocean...leaving people marooned on an island Captain Jack Sparrow style is frowned upon. We stacked our team with the best of the best and dubbed ourselves "The A Team". We had four experienced sailors and four non-sailors which included a navigator (because he'd been there once before and that's all it takes to navigate the BVIs blindfolded), a photographer, a hype-man (because you need to have someone spearhead the party campaign), a few good cooks and someone who knew first aid because we all promised our mothers that we would come home in one piece.
Step 2. Be Prepared. Our trip started before it even began. My trip began at the Dollar Store to stock up on party supplies. Armed with inflatable beach volleyballs, a Frisbee, body paint and pirate supplies (don’t worry, I’ll get back to that later) we headed for the BVIs. Music was the other thing we planned for. When we did the math, 7 days (and assuming we sleep at least 5 hours each of those nights) that allows for approximately 130 hours of music and believe me, we had it covered. Between our expertly crafted playlists and endless music libraries, anyone would know how to find the Canadians when you pulled into a harbour.
Step 3. Become a provisioning master. One main selling feature of chartering is that you get to travel around with your very own personal kitchen and bar! The best tip that I can pass along is that boarding your boat the night before your charter is the best decision you will ever make. Since the majority of charters start and end on the same boat, if you board early, you will run into people who are spending their last night on the boat before their flight home. Five points if you can figure out what that means...It means free food and rum! There will always be left over provisions so why not pass that along to a boat in need? We met a great group of people from Texas who bequeathed to us their leftover stock of rum, vodka, bourbon, beer, Bloody Mary mix, salsa, crackers, bread, cold cuts, cheese, mangoes … you name it! We even were given a strand of flamingo lights to decorate our boat. Ours was a pretty easy going crew so we stocked up on yogurt, hot cereal and fruit for breakfast.... we even did a traditional British fry-up breakfast one day. Lunch was usually sandwiches, which are easy to assemble while underway. For dinners, we grabbed enough burgers, chicken and pork chops to feed us for a few nights. Another great tip is to let your best Tetris player pack, because fridge and storage space are limited.
Now that you know the steps that go into planning a millennial charter, the rest is really up to you. My advice is to be a “Yes Man”. When someone says, “Hey, want to build a catapult off the side of that boat?”
You say, “Yes.”
When another person walks up to you and says, “Think we can surf those waves on stand up paddle boards?”
You also say, “Yes.”
This is the premise for what will inevitably be one of the most incredible experiences of your life. Now, let me tell you why.
We began our charter at the beautiful Footloose base in Tortola. Remember to rent any water toys you might need before heading out. A SUP board doubles as a floating water bar and definitely comes in handy when you want to go out and mingle with other boats. We left the base in the morning and set sail for Indians for what would be the first of our almost daily snorkels. Next, we headed for the infamous Willy-T’s, a 2-storey schooner that parties 24/7. We set the tone for the night by starting with a few rounds of shot-skis, which is a water ski with four holes cut into it filled with shot glasses so four people can do shots simultaneously. What could possibly go wrong? Since a majority of boats follow a similar course while in the BVIs, its common to run into the same boats over and over again. So on our first night, we made sure that everyone would know who we were for the rest of the week. We showed up to Willy T’s with body paint and painted every single person in the bar, claiming to be Picasso and the crowd was our canvas.
Needless to say, our next day was a little more low key. After a morning snorkel with turtles at the Caves, we cruised our way over to Cooper Island Beach Club. After a deadly battle for the last mooring ball we settled in for the day in this incredibly protected harbour. A day of hanging out on the beach was exactly what the doctor ordered. While most of us lounged in the club or on the beach, others discovered that you could wakeboard on our SUP board behind our tender.... like I said, there’s something for everyone. That night, we dressed up and pretended to be adults for dinner reservations at 8pm. After a spectacular Mahi Mahi dinner, we finished up the night at Cooper Island’s Rum Bar, an unbelievably well-stocked bar with at least 100 rums, often frequented by Virgin’s Richard Branson. After having a Dark n’ Stormy made with 12 year old Goslings life will never taste the same.
Before going to bed we made our next day’s plan and decided to head for The Baths, the BVIs most popular site. It is a formation of granite rock grottoes that create a trail leading to the breathtaking view at Devil’s Beach. We were underway at 5:30am because mooring balls are limited and the nearest anchorage is quite a trek. That morning we had breakfast with a view then hiked up to the top of the mountain for morning Pina Coladas. We spent the day exploring, snorkeling and climbing mango trees. That night we anchored in Savannah Bay, a beautiful and secluded spot. The perfect space to BBQ some burgers and build a rope swing.
If I can make one more suggestion, it’s to make a reservation for a slip at the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC). It gives everyone a chance to have a real shower, refill your water tanks and to use shore power for the night so that you don’t have to run the generator overnight to get air conditioning. That alone is worth the docking fee. A valuable lesson learned was that dock slips have check-in times just like hotels...oops. Don’t worry, if you show up early, there’s a beach bar on Prickly Pear Island that serves a great Roti and Painkillers to help pass the time.
Our day spent at the BEYC was spectacular. We hit the ground running, literally running, since we made it just in time for beer can racing. We paired up and took out four Hobie Waves. The race committee met us, beer in hand, every time we crossed the finish line, by the end of the day we were sailing a little sideways. No visit to BEYC is complete without a night spent at Saba Rock. We caught the ferry to the tiny island that is the size of the restaurant. We ate a scrumptious dinner of coconut mussels and flank steak while watching the enormous Tarpon fish circle the island.
The next day we decided that a little physical activity might help offset too much food and drink consumption, so some of us managed to catch early morning yoga on the dock and hiked 400 vertical feet to the top of the island for a breathtaking view. A little late for check-out time and we were off to our next adventure, the Bubbly Pool, a natural whirlpool formed by a narrow pathway between two rock cliffs. When the waves come crashing in you can body surf in the pool. We spend almost an hour riding the waves before finding yet another amazing beach bar.
Our best discovery in the Islands was happy hour. Drinks can get a little pricey and wreak havoc on your budget but happy hour is usually 2 for 1 on all of your island favourites. We took full advantage of this when we hit Cane Garden Bay. There you will find a fantastic strip of beach bars with live music, beach Jenga, delicious conch fritters and all the happy hour specials that your heart desires.
Finally, let me introduce you to the concept of LARPing, Live Action Role Playing. This is where you dress up and act out a character. Our last day was Pirate Day! Rule number one was that you had to meet for breakfast with at least one article of your pirate costume while enjoying your pirate coffee (just add rum). We broke character for one hour when we discovered the picturesque Sandy Cay Beach. We couldn’t help but ditch our costumes and swim to the beach. As soon as we dried off we were back into character as we arrived at Jost Van Dyke to moor right in front of the Soggy Dollar Beach Bar, home of the famous island drink, the Painkiller. We piled into the tender and headed for shore. We met the crowds shouting, “Surrender your booty or walk the plank. Give me a drink you scallywag,” or just plain shouts of, “Aaaaarrghhh”.
We tried to buy Painkillers with plastic doubloons, buried a treasure and even attempted to commandeer a ship. After misplacing our hook hands and running into another group of pirates (who knew pirate LARPing was so popular?) we grabbed dinner at the next bay over at Corsairs in Great Bay and danced the night away at Foxies.
Between beach bonfires, homemade coconut bras and champagne fights at sunset, we really managed to experience it all. The adventure, the relaxation, the food, the cocktails and even the pictures we posted online for all of our friends following our adventures from home. The hardest part, other than giving the boat back which signaled the end of our trip, was trying to explain to everyone at home what a charter vacation is really like.
We did our best, but since we really are the product of our technological millennial generation, the best we could come up with was #piratelife #swimtothebar #bitterendyachtclub #footloosecharters #vacationofalifetime #millenialsgochartering
Photo 1 – This writer taking a break from working and enjoying the sunset. Credit: Laura Malone.
Photo 2 – LARPing as pirates on the last day. Credit: Clarity Nicoll
Photo 3 – The “A” Team at The Bitter End Yacht Club. Credit: Clarity Nicoll
Photo 4 – Captain Carter and First Mate Jenna. Credit: Clarity Nicoll
Photo 5 – Charting our course to adventure. Credit: Clarity Nicoll
Photo 6 – The infamous Willy T’s floating bar. Credit: Clarity Nicoll
Photo 7 – Credit: Laura Malone