Sandy Arrives and Vermont gets Lucky

At 6 AM I woke to the sound of a roaring incoming train. Wind. My small dog jumped onto the bed and tunneled under the covers like a nervous child. Suddenly rain hit my house like a fire hose and the 120′ tall pine seen through the sky light in my bedroom leaned at an alarming angle. My neighbor turned on an outside light reflecting through the dark on my bedroom wall. Ok, power still on. It was like being inside a Cuisinart for 20 minutes, then unnervingly still as if someone had thrown the “off” switch. Brightness began in the east.

Since that time about every 75-90 minutes we get hammered with rain and gusts of wind. As long as the river has a bit of time to drain between these bouts it will probably stay where it is. By mid morning it seems as if we have dodged a bullet here in the Mad River Valley. Statewide we are told that all the roads are open. While I am sure there is damage in small parts that we have not heard about yet, over all we have lucked out.

In my small part of the world all seems well for the moment. As is typical for those of us who understand the horror of  the effects of a flood a notice went out from our still active Mad-River-Valley-Hurricane-Irene facebook page posted this:

As the New York Region begins to clean up, they are collecting information from willing volunteers. This is the message from NYC Service on how to help: “There will be various ways to volunteer to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – Want to Volunteer? Please email with your name, email address and borough. There will be ways to volunteer today and over the next week as opportunities arise.

Will post again when I venture out. Praying for safety for those on lower ground.

As Sandy Approaches Vermont

It is strangely quiet in the valley this morning. As I came through the covered bridge in Waitsfield I noticed that the sand bag job at the newly restored buildings was tidied up. At least Irene left us with some idea of how to prepare for flooding in our towns in Vermont. The birds are quiet, my dog is nervous and the air feels ominous.

Some of you know me to be a sailor, and we lost a treasure this morning. At around 9:15 last night the HMS Bounty sent a distress call that they were taking in 2′ water/min off the Outer Banks. We can get into a discussion later about what idiot let them be in that spot now after the weather has been predicting accurately Sandy’s path for a week. Through the night the heroic Coasties rescued 14 of the 17 souls aboard from life rafts. At around 8AM Bounty went under, 3 crewmen still missing, and the Coasties still risking their lives in these horrific conditions to find them.

Please say the sailors prayer for all. Fair Winds Bounty.

Sailors Prayer: O Eternal Lord God, who alone spreads out the heavens and rules the raging of the seas,receive into your protection all those who go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business on the great waters. Preserve them both in body and soul, prosper their labors with good success, in all times of danger, be their defense, and bring them to the haven where they would be, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Between the Pitons and Under the Stars; Jalousie Plantation Becomes Tides Sugar Beach, St. Lucia

The Pitons of St. Lucia with Jalousie Plantation in between

Driving through midnight darkness on the road from the airport down to Jalousie Plantation on St. Lucia was rather like sitting on a gyroscope. I adapted to the constant shift of climbing up hair pin turns glued to the pitches of the legendary peaks of the island, and then of course there was that going down thing. Lost in post air travel dimness I barely noticed the lovely white villa under the Flamboyant tree that would be home for the next week.  I disappeared into the most comfortable of beds and snapped off the light wondering at what this intensely vertical terrain must be like by daylight.

My cottage facing Petit Piton first thing in the morning

Seconds later the sun came up. Petit Piton was so close and so alarmingly huge that it consumed the window, filled  the sky, stopped my brain in its tracks. Through the white French doors at the foot of my bed I saw an elegant patio with a million blossoms around a charming small plunge pool and what was that beyond? Dripping sunlight glistened on the rainforest soaked trees that clung miraculously to the vertical sides of that impossible peak.  I was stupefied by these visions until I found the coffee pot on the terrace and sat down to process where I was. Then I was humbled.

Lord Glenconner, still charming as always

I had done my homework and learned that the visionary Lord Glenconner had purchased 492 acres between the pitons in the early ‘80s which included the old Jalousie Plantation, then a producer of Royal Lime. Under his guidance the Jalousie Plantation Resort opened its doors to a festive crowd of celebrities and royalty in the fall of 1993. This is the same Lord Glenconner who purchased a chunk of rock in 1968 which his vision evolved into the playground of the royal and elite known as Mustique.

In 2005 the resort on 192 acres was purchased by another experienced visionary, Roger Myers. He has joined forces with KOR/Tides to launch a $100 million regeneration of one of the most beautiful and unique sites on the planet. In so doing he has created a rare opportunity for investors to own part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tides Sugar Beach Resort project is due for completion in 2011.

My cottage, bedroom door on the right, living room on the left, Petit Piton at my back. Pretty Fab!

In the mean time Jalousie Plantation is open and glorious to visit. The villas are clean lined and elegant and with a cool white living room, huge bath with claw foot tub, separate shower room with garden access. The plunge pool with its flowers, sunny terrace and small bar set up create a lovely laid back way to pay homage to the gods that created the pitons!  The food is fresh, local, interesting, and served in three gourmet restaurants with a villa delivery option. Don’t miss the chef’s tasting menu! Jalousie offers to set up tables and serve your dinner anywhere on site so fire up your imagination and create an unforgettable evening!

Breakfast beachfront

Jalousie Plantation Villas offer 24 hour butler service,  a sweet West Indian  Spa, a diving center under Petit Piton, the beach club with lounging under the palms, several different lounges inside and out, a children’s club and swimming pools. The list grows as renovation continues creating Tides Sugar Beach Resort. It seems as if every day I was there another inspiration  was added to the plan. This very imaginative team of experienced resort creators is focused now on making the most exclusive and elegant complex in history. They intend to blow right by the “5 stars” designation and given the prospectus as designed and this heart-stopping UNESCO site it seems a possibility!

Lots of fun aside from the beach….

Meanwhile down the beach, our friend Lord Glenconner is not sitting on his laurels. Owning the rest of le Val des Pitons, he has planned a new village where owners and guests get to meet the locals who will run the restaurants and shops there. I heard about a dock capable of handling super yachts and a new wide sandy beach along the shore with paths for access to Tides Sugar Beach Resort.

Entrance to the Rainforest Spa

There are bits of construction going on, but nothing that takes away from the experience of being in such a lush location. Together Jalousie Plantation, Tides Sugar Beach Resort and Glenconner Village nestled between the famous and unforgettable Pitons of St. Lucia seem destined to leave 5 stars behind to mere mortals.

For more information on visiting the Jalousie Plantation Resort Tel: (758) 456 8000

For more information on Tides Sugar Beach Resort contact Lisa Basire, Post Office Box 251, Soufriere,  Saint Lucia,+ 44 (0) 208 812 4761,+ 44 (0) 7917 701486, + 44 (0) 208 874 8205,

How to get to St. Lucia and Jalousie Plantation:

There are two airports on St. Lucia, Hewanorra Int. Airport (UVF) in the south and the George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU) in the north. American Airlines flies direct from Miami daily. US Airways and Delta have staggered schedules in. Jet Blue is starting to service the island. From the UK British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have flights. LIAT offers local flights between the islands. There is a departure tax of EC$68 ($26 US) per adult which is built in to a round trip ticket. A taxi from either airport to Jalousie Plantation is roughly EC $120 ($50 US) for up to 4 people.

Care Free Tea, Roses and English Sweeties

We had walked off the hot dusty streets of Care Free, Arizona and into a magical world created by our film star gorgeous host, Jo Gemmil, born of her real life experience growing up in English Tea Rooms. The environment that she created has not a spare inch of space that hasn’t been filled with Roses, bits of iron fence, small photos of English gardens, hundreds of unmatched floral tea pots, cups, creamers and sugar bowls which blossom into a wonderful collage of festivity.

We were seated at a small table with iron cottage style garden chairs, and offered a tea list the likes of which I had never encountered. As we visually explored the small room, crowded with people doing the same thing we discovered the crowning achievement of this tiny jewel. In the corner we discovered a white arch covered with roses that lead into a side room filled with garden hats of every description, and dresses with frills and lace. The urge to play dress up was beyond us. We instantly became ten year olds in granny’s closet. Uplifted spirits guaranteed.

Over a flowered bone china tea cup my eyes picked up my friend in her red wide brim hat with red and white roses, sprinkled with diamonds around the brim no less. It was impossible not to smile. Here we were, old friends having tea and biscuits with Devonshire cream, strawberries, cucumber tea sandwiches along with every kind of diet violation on tiered plates.

Before long everyone in the room had made a selection from the joyous collection of hats and was happily probing the tiered plates for treats. The teas were wonderful, the goodies delicious and the atmosphere something that is good for your soul.

Easy Street, Care Free, Arizona

From The Americas Cup World Series; Newport, for adrenaline junkies!

Oracle Spithill

Always close quarters

The rigid wing sail here is longer than a 747 wing with a 120 variable positions. There is a genicker sail as well. The combination of the two allows these 46′ long cats to go at least twice as fast as the prevailing.

Artemis Plowing


Team New Zealand pushed the envelope a bit too hard launching the gennie before fully rounding the yellow mark boat. Painful to watch, but they were back up and running after the shore crew worked through the night to repair the damage.

TNZ down



The Sweet Seduction of La Samanna, St. Martin

Seductive is the best word. I am a serious luxury hound and have had the great fortune to visit many astonishing, well thought out and pleasurable places. Each has its distinctions and the word that I would use for St. Martin’s La Samanna is  “seductive”. The whole environment of La Samanna wraps itself around you and whispers to you long after your tan fades.

The ultimate.

Arriving at around 10:30 PM we were escorted to our two bedroom villa in the dark. We could hear the surf sweeping up the beach through the three tall arched French doors open onto the terrace. Beyond the tall palms rustling in the evening breeze lay the wide white sand glowing in the moonlight. Beyond that the ocean glittered, disappearing into the night sky. I couldn’t resist, had to feel it on my skin. Wading out into the sparkling warm sea as it gently massaged my tired legs, I got my first look at the elegant moorish white columns, arches and terraces hanging on the cliff several hundred yards up the beach. So began the sweet seduction of La Samanna.

Warm air slid smoothly over my skin as I returned to our gracious living room. Knowing that we had traveled all day, our hosts had placed covered chargers laden with a variety of small sandwiches, bowls of exotic salads and a serious chocolate dessert on the large dark wood table between cozy stuffed couches. Breezes wafted tall white diaphanous curtains through the open doors, and at that moment it occurred to me how much this place stirs the senses. We moved to the terrace to enjoy the chocolate and Veuve Cliquot left chilling for us. Later in the silky sheets of my comfortable bed the waves lulled me to luxurious sleep with salty breezes whispering promises of more to come.

The beach in front of our villa.

Being an early riser, I was knee deep in the now tranquil brilliant blue water as the tall shadows of the palms on the beach grew shorter. One of the graceful doors opened to the terrace with a voice asking if I wanted the coffee prepared in our sparkling blue and white tile kitchen. Tough choice. Wading in the magical solitude of the early morning sea with the empty beach curving out of sight in either direction, or coffee in the sunlit living room. OK, coffee and a leisurely stroll up the raked sand to the dazzling cliff restaurant I had seen by moonlight.

We climbed the stone steps up the cliff, passing a shimmering blue pool with its half shell fountain as we left the brilliant sunlight for the cool tiles and arched shadows containing a breakfast buffet with seemingly endless selections and an ocean view that stops when it hits Spain. Between high white walls and glossy dark floors we found cobalt blue glasses and sparkling silver with the deepest of skies behind them practically humming with an invitation to breakfast. A crisp white linen covered table sat hanging over impossibly blue water. Sipping fresh coffee with every perfect bite from the endless buffet made lingering over breakfast the only way to go.

Breakfast awaits

This dining room is available for all meals, but there are equally luscious alternatives. Through the week there were pool parties, a torch lit lobster bake on the beach, and casual dining in the tavern. On the beach there is a raised deck with a small but complete bar and light lunch menu. Dinner in our suite was charming and we enjoyed dining in privacy on our terrace followed by swimming under the moon. The menu at La Samanna makes you want everything on it. Each meal is an adventure, distinctive in its blend of flavors and textures, infused with fresh local fruits, vegetables and fish enhanced by a lavish wine selection to compliment your choices. Of course the ultimate seduction is revealed in the decadent desserts.

Friar’s Beach, St Martin

Daily we explored St. Martin, a place that not only has an abundance of long white wide beaches but an astonishing variety of shops, places to hike or ride horses, and restaurants. You hear a variety of languages as you walk through the streets, energy and excitement flow everywhere. We went to a farmers market to buy fresh Caribbean spices one day and visited a recovering rain forest and had a wonderful lunch there on another. You could eat your way from one end of orient beach to another without hearing the same language twice or seeing both parts of a bikini all day!  We took in an outdoor street fair where we bought hand made silver jewelry, silk and cotton clothing, presents for friends at home, and delicious fresh drinks served in coconuts with native rums. We had lunch on a tiny island where the chefs kept fish and shellfish in live traps in the shallow water and cooked it fresh from there. I think you could roam around St. Martin for years without seeing anything twice. In fact, I bet you could sit still and let the life of the island swirl around you without seeing anything twice!

beachside fare

Of course we thought of La Samanna as home, having dinner with some people that we met there, and getting to know the names of some of the staff. One morning a gardener found me photographing particular flowers dripping dew in the early light around the grounds and then took me on a short tour of some particularly luscious flowers that he loved. When I headed back towards our villa, he came around the corner with a huge bouquet of mixed flowers for our living room. The people in the dining room learned our preferences, and on the breakfast table as we approached there was already one coffee and one tea, one orange juice and a grapefruit. This kind of intuitive and unobtrusive service is a hallmark at La Samanna.

Massage room at the Elysee Spa

One afternoon we came back from our wanderings with the express purpose of indulging in the Elysee Spa. Being an outdoors kind of girl I found the massage rooms perfect, only two solid walls for one thing. The louvered doors set into the walls to the south and west both opened wide onto a sunken garden protected from view by thick tangles of flowering vines growing into a tall stone wall that surrounded the entire back of the spa. One of the doors led to an outdoor shower with a trellis wall barely able to support the enormous vine flowers weaving through it. Steam released exotic scents into my shower while blossoms dripped as tiny crystals of color. I had a massage first and then heated stones were placed along my spine on places of tension. I went from fully charged to completely relaxed to practically disconnected from the planet in 90 minutes. We were taken by golf cart back to our villa so as to prolong this heavenly balmy state. Chaises on the terrace for the evening sunset, cold tart margaritas and a wonderful dinner being delivered.  Sweet seduction complete.

La Samanna is a place that you could happily never leave, but St Martin will always deliver something new when you do leave the grounds. Getting to St. Martin is relatively easy from almost anywhere. Of course the nicest way to arrive is on one of the Superyachts you see in the harbor.  They always stop when they are in the area as this is the best place in the Caribbean for provisions from all over the planet. In a perfect world I would spend happy weeks exploring St. Martin and living in the sweet seduction that Orient Express has created called La Samanna at the far side of the Caribbean.

La Samanna
PO Box 4077
97064 St Martin CEDEX
French West Indies
Tel: + 590 590 87 64 00
Fax: + 590 590 87 87 86
Tel: +1 800 854 2252
Tel: +1 212 575 7030
Fax: +1 212 575 7039


Rescue Remedy for Too Much Fun in The Sun

Scrub Island is the first new private island resort in the BVI in 15 years, and along with it comes a brand new spa! After invigorating snorkeling over coral reefs, indulging in the sumptuous offerings at the restaurant followed by a cooling mojito by the pool…. we knew perfection could be achieved with a visit to their spa.

The Scrub Island Spa

We left the blazing light over Trellis Bay to enter the cool white villa of the Scrub Island Spa. And what a soothing environment they have created to rescue us from the torment of over indulging in delights of the Caribbean! The interior was that perfect blend of shaded verandas looking over sparkling turquoise water.

With skin still warm from the sun the cool oleander scented air inside was delicious. Emily and Courtenay showed us into a tandem massage room with a view over the channel, orchids and shells on each massage table, and large comfy chairs to sit in while they massaged our sun dried feet with fresh cut citrus fruit followed by a soak in tepid water. Relief began from the feet up.

From there we moved to the soft massage tables for a treatment that was so soothing that it is nearly impossible to recall the details of the treatments. I thought my friend summed it up best by saying “I am one with the air”. I felt that way too. After an hour or Emily’s ministrations, my muscles and skin were so well treated that I simply could not tell where when my body ended and the air around me began. It was in truth one of the best massages that this spa hound has ever encountered. Thank you so much for that Emily!

Facial Massage area.

Re-entry into the real world was slow as we sat on the shaded veranda and watched the slow parade of lovely yachts entering Trellis Bay, sipping water with slices of cucumber in it. Just Perfect.

The Scrub Island Spa can be accessed by water taxi from Trellis Bay, or by stopping at the yacht marina on the island. It is well worth the trip as these girls have magic in their hands and a sweet small spa that gets really high marks! You can find out about the treatments offered by visiting the web site. Personally, I think I will try them all eventually!

Double Massage Room

For Spa Menu:

Scrub Island – Newest Island Fantasy in the BVI

The BVI is the epicenter of fun in the Caribbean, and Scrub Islands Sunshine Madness is a fine way to start!

In the Caribbean beautiful blue water, warm tropical breezes and a slow appreciative way of life are assumed, old news. What is new though is a private island, the first new project the BVI in 15 years, where you can design your own fantasy get away from the world left behind.

Amid the many pristine white sand beaches, 4 restaurants in different locations, coral reefs, pools, kayaks, yachts, fresh seasonal foods, you can choose sailing, snorkeling, spa treatments, fine or casual dining, fishing, kayaking, hiking or just doing nothing in style. Fortunately there is also a talented  staff to help you put together an itinerary to make your fantasy come true! They are serious about these custom itineraries, so wind up your imagination because everything is possible here in paradise!

Glorious bathroom to the left, french doors to the porch over the harbor, luxury bedroom in between.

I love beautiful high ceilinged rooms with slow turning fans and  comfortable,  graceful furnishings. I adore huge luxurious tiled bathrooms and beds that are so comfortable that you think about them over dinner and linger beyond reason  in the morning.

Pools with infinity edges, swim up bars, fountains and even water slides are delicious.  Mainsail’s new Scrub Island has all of that, plus the unique quality of being a self contained island. My favorite is a beautiful restaurant that hangs over the lower pool, and also has a swim up bar. It is hard to describe the feeling of indulgence when you float slowly with your fresh fruit & rum drink in hand. It is impossible to believe that there could possibly be a phone call demanding your attention somewhere in the world.

One Shoe Beach has been left in its natural coral reef state, but with bar service.

To me the distinction that I found on Scrub Island was the job that they have done at integrating the un-contrived nature of the island with the ability to offer a luxury guest experience. They have accomplished a nice blend of celebrating the beauty of the natural Caribbean, while enjoying the enhancements of 4 distinctively different ways to dine through the day plus the pools, the spa, and the interesting mix of public and private spaces that they have created. Scrub Island is an arena for you to decide on your own perfect island fantasy, the kind that warms your mind while you are donning your winter coat. It is the experience that will whisper in your ear, reminding you that there are alternatives to shoveling snow!

I really appreciated the beautiful area that they opened up for weddings as it juts out into the Sir Francis Drake Passage.  A level area that can be decorated with tents and flowers and chairs if you wish, or you can be wed there in the simple elegance of the Caribbean islands. Mainsail’s approach to letting that be the magic rather than trying to fabricate it shows wisdom that is not found at every destination resort.

2 Restaurants facing the harbor at night.

Additionally, Scrub Island has a network of private residences along the harbor that you can rent for a wedding party of almost every size! Romance abounds here, you would have to work really hard to ignore the simple beauty and natural comfort of everywhere you turn in the Caribbean.

I was also surprised at how easy it was to get to Scrub Island. Fly to Beef Island on Tortola, and they pick you up in their own private ferry for the mile long cruise across Trellis Bay. Arriving by boat couldn’t be much easier, there are 3 channels into Trellis Bay and many slips waiting. From that moment on, you make your own fantasy on a private island in the paradise of the Caribbean.

Video Welcome to Scrub Island


Reservations (877) 890-7444
Fax (813) 269-4802

Captain Cocktail’s Guide to the BVI

Some of the guys who play at Foxy’s

The Caribbean is world famous for the kind of outrageous fun had by kids when the teacher leaves the room. Its blend of azure water, glistening islands, excellent food, casual atmosphere and constant breezes with line of sight navigation for sailors attracts visitors like lemmings. In essence you would have to work really hard not to have a good time in this island paradise.

Some attribute this draw to the fact that in this part of the world it is the mixer that is the expensive part of the cocktail, and therefore the part that the barkeep is stingy with. After dozens of visits there myself I think it is really simpler than that. The minute you step off the plane you can sense in the air that you have landed in the epicenter of fun. Each island has its own contribution to make to the mix and I would like to offer some of my favorite “tings”.

I usually fly to Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands commonly called the BVI. It used to be a funny little tin roofed airport building which had walls only most of the way around it, and turquoise water right up to the tarmac around most of the runway. Welcome to Beef Island. One time I rolled my luggage from the under the roof across the runway and onto a small dock, hopped into a skiff and climbed aboard a 63’ sailboat which was gently swaying in the wash of the jets coming and going overhead. 10 minutes later we were under sail in the golden hour before sunset with fresh fruit rum drinks and 75 degree breezes over the deck. It doesn’t get much better than that. They have modernized (notice that I didn’t say improved) the airport building since then, but the little dock to the harbor is still there.

Another clue to the nature of the British Virgin Islands can be found in the airport and on each of the islands. When you first enter the BVI unless you hold a British passport you must do what is known locally as “clearing in”. Passport in hand you see two signs; one for “visitors” and one for “belongers”. Some of us visit these islands to enjoy a very special attitude about life and the living of it in an environment tailor made for celebration. Still it is never quite forgotten that the “belongers” invented it. The signs have been changed in the recent past, but the distinctions remain.

Being a sailor I have visited most of these islands by boat. Whether you come by skiff, bareboat charter or in the rarified luxury of a superyacht this is clearly a boat person’s paradise. In my mind afloat is the best way to get to know the region. In case of emergency (as in you can’t get your own boat) there are ferries and small shuttles to get around but one of the things that I love about the BVI is that there is nowhere for a Cruise ship to park.

Arabella, cabin charter at it’s finest.

One of the finest ways that I know to see many islands in a week enjoying the boat life is by boarding the lovely Arabella. This 156’ four masted schooner has 20 staterooms and is a wonderful introduction to a half dozen islands while seeing many of the famous beaches, snorkeling spots, sampling restaurants and relaxing at beach bars. No sailing skills required.

For those who prefer life “on the hard” each island has its own style, some are large, busy and bustling with places to enjoy every kind of tropical adventure. The largest of these is Tortola with something for everyone! The smallest might be Sandy Spit, which is probably the island that cartoonists are thinking of when they draw the guy alone under a single Palm tree surrounded by endless horizon. It might be 200 feet long and 100 feet wide and a few inches larger at low tide. It supports one palm tree and several dozen scrub bushes surrounded by wide white beach of the kind you dream about during the gales of November. But it pays to remember that you could be alone there so bring your own “fixings”!

If you would rather be served than brown bag it, the BVI has way more variety in food and drink than anyone could guess would be packed into a few dozen islands. Fruit, fish, spices and veggies are fresh and abundant all through the islands, and creativity has no bounds. Among my favorites are sweet potato encrusted red snapper served on banana leaves, Callaloo lobster, Conch fritters cooked over a 50 gallon oil drum and you should try every roti that you come upon, dipped into some kind of fresh fruit chutney. You will miss it when you go home!

Foxy’s Taboo

Some of the best food in the islands comes from the most unlikely looking places, casual beach bars are always good at any time of day.

If your mission was to go from bar to bar up the Sir Francis Drake Passage your liver would be waving a little white flag before you got around your second island. The islands are justly famous for taking reality in very small doses and locally made high octane in large ones. And remember the bit about the cost of mixers? Since some selectivity is required just to get by, these are a few of my favorites.

The Savior of the Sea in Little Harbor on Jost van Dyke

I walked up from the water of Little Harbor on Jost Van Dyke, past the shell encrusted “savior of the sea” and into Ivan’s No Stress Bar. No stress indeed, no bartender either. The note on the counter said “make your drink, start your tab, pay it when you leave.” That’s right, this was the famous honor bar, a place that never closes because time has no meaning. You really will lose any stress that survived the trip to Jost sitting with your feet in the sand watching the boats rock gently at anchor surrounded by nothing but perfect beach and gentle waves. Jost Van Dyke has only about 200 residents but it is a very good place for a visit.

While you are there you should walk over the hill to the beach that they call Great Harbor. Foxy’s is probably the most famous of all the beach bars in the region, famous for food, famous for music and famous for Foxy himself. Of all the places in the BVI this is the legendary place to spend new years eve, which by default means new years day as well. Get ready for the wooden boat regatta held then, anything made of wood that still floats will qualify you for one of the really crazy events that kick off the year.

Another time I happened to arrive on Tortola at the full moon, which means exactly one thing to the island wise – Bomba Shack. Perched between the narrow road and the wide beach on Apple Bay is a ramshackle collection of corrugated tin strips, sea washed beach timber, old bicycle frames and hand painted signs. The first one I noticed said “if you want a Bomba t-shirt, get naked and give him your underwear”. That is when I noticed that every inch of every rafter had sun bleached underwear wafting in the dark night breeze. Bomba must go through a lot of t-shirts! Still, mushroom tea is legal, the live music was great, the beer was icy cold while the sand was still warm, the full moon glittered over a luminescent sea although so far I have never seen one of these t-shirts handed over.

Welcome to the Cooper Island Yacht Club

If end of the universe tranquility is on your search list, it is pretty hard to beat The Cooper Island Beach Club. Sitting on the sand under the rustling palm fronds has inspired many a pin striped wage slave to run away from home. “The Cooper Island Dream” is made of peach schnapps, coconut rum, fresh fruit juice and peaceful fantasies of never hearing a phone ring again. Cooper Island has few people living there, 2 rental villas, fabulous diving, poison apple trees and is reputed to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s song “Cheese Burger in Paradise”.  You can only get here by boat or ferry from Road Town, Tortola.

The only thing on Prickly Pear Island in North Sound is the Sand Box. This is another spot where your toes are in the sand, your face is in the glorious sunset over “the dogs” and “Sunset Coolers” are served in goldfish bowls to the sound of sails coming down 50 feet away as beautiful yachts head for evening shelter at the Bitter End Yacht Club on nearby Virgin Gorda. This is one of the world’s most famous sailor’s Mecca’s and the parade of glorious yachts in the evening is well worth the dinghy ride.

Bitter End Yacht Club

Virgin Gorda is on the other side of the channel. The Bitter End is a family run all inclusive fantasy camp for sailors offering over 100 boats of all sizes for the guests to play with.  Guests stay in cottages dotted along the sunset side of the hill, with several restaurants, gift shops, excellent hiking along the ridge and excursions of all types. One of them is to The Baths at the other end of the island. 50’ tall smooth round boulders are jumbled along the point of the island with caves and paths through them and a beach on either end. The Baths is a truly amazing natural formation that no island tour is complete without.

Bali Lo, on Necker Island

Just around the corner from there is glorious Necker Island. On top of the cliffs is one of the most beautiful buildings in the BVI, a Balinese design constructed for the pleasure of about a dozen guests. Staying there is one of the sweetest adventures that I have ever had in these islands. Might be because it came from the imagination of Richard Branson, himself famous for excellent parties, incredible food, beautiful uncontrived surroundings and a luscious joy of life. It is actually difficult to get there as you can’t get a room, you have to rent the whole 57 acre island and it is usually booked by famous people in search of paradise and the outrageously elegant and yet refreshingly simple life offered there. Well, that and the fact that just about anything that a guest can desire will be provided and all secrets will be kept.

Peter Island is a private resort, but much more accessible to visit. At 1800 acres the island offers 20 coves for private exploring with sugary beaches accessed by kayak, windsurfer or sailboat. Tennis, volleyball, diving along with luxurious accommodations and a full service spa are part of your stay.

If you are not interested in a private island, or an island that you share only with other guests, there are still many choices in the BVI. I love Lambert Bay on Tortola. Small cottages are separated from the ocean only by a line of tall elegant palms that are lit at the top at night, two restaurants and a tavern on the sand as well as a swim up bar in the pool make this sunset facing cove pretty complete. You feel alone in the universe as you look out to sea without another building in sight, and yet a 15 minute taxi ride will get you into the heart of the romp and frolic that Tortola has to offer.

The manager told me a wonderful story about an elegant dinner party that they had at one of the beach side restaurants at Lambert Bay. Evidently the guests were very dressed up, and seated along the edge of the open air restaurant facing the sea when the newly installed lights among the palm trees came on. It created a lush dreamy effect high up in the palm fronds just as he hoped. Slowly he began to notice guests bending over from the tables, dozens of them looking at the floor. Evidently this was the full moon night of the turtle hatch, and the babies seeing the brightness in the trees came into the dining area in stead of heading for the moon over the water. The whole party became about scooping up the tiny, minutes old babies and then wading into the water in their evening clothes to release them. Now they are careful not to turn on the lights during the hatch, but it created a legend all over the island about this magical dinner.

Many of the islands are uninhabited, or sparsely populated but almost every one has a place worth putting on a mask and snorkel, and some are even tank for shallow water diving. If this is what you are after find your way to Cooper island Cistern Point or The Devil’s Kitchen at the end of Manchioneel Bay. Sail Caribbean Divers on shore will be glad to outfit you and offer maps and even guides. Next door, Ginger Island has a site that will make you feel as if you left the known planet called Alice in Wonderland, named after the huge colored sea fans that make you feel so small. They can also take you over to Salt Island which is inhabited by one man who still harvests salt the way they did for hundreds of years, and out to the Wreck of the Rhone. Here is a ship that sank in 20-80 feet of water in 1867. The iron ship is now completely covered in choral, although clearly recognizable as a graceful sailing vessel lying on the ocean floor.

Certainly there is good entertainment above the water, in fact the BVI is a fisherman’s paradise. Bone fishing for the guy who likes to match wits with the invisible shallow water speed demons, and Wahoo, Yellow or Black Tuna or even Marlin for those that like to match muscle with the big guys. You really haven’t lived until you have gone after some of these guys with medium to light tackle though! Anagada, way up at the end of the chain is probably most famous for Bonefish, Permit and tarpon caught on a fly rod. Garfield’s Guides will be happy to show you the best spots if you make your way there. And don’t miss the enormous Anagada Lobster, but don’t go after those with a fly rod!

The BVI almost defines paradise and is worth taking your time to wander through. If you want to sail yourself you can do an internet search under “bare boat charters BVI” and find hundreds of places to get boats. Ferries are pretty reliable given an understanding of “island time” and of course you can fly into Tortola or St. Thomas to get them. Bring a sense of adventure and be ready to play. The BVI is kindergarten without the teachers, fun at every turn. With any luck at all we might meet at the golden hour with something icy in our hands and our feet warm in the sand!

Contact Information:
S/Y Arabella

Jost Van Dyke – Foxy’s & Ivan’s No Stress Bar

Tortola – Bomba Shack, Lambert Bay

Anagada – fishing

Cooper Island – Beach Club

Salt Island

Beaches of the BVI

Virgin Gorda – Bitter End Yacht Club

The Baths

Necker Island

Peter Island