Last week our first visitors came to visit us on the boat! It’s crazy to think that we’ve been living this life, on our boat, for nearly five months now.  Most of that time was spent trekking across the turbulent fall seas of the European coast and tacking back and forth across the Atlantic with strangers.  If you don’t know why we were tacking back and forth instead of sailing downwind on the tradewinds, you can read that story here. Living with strangers…ah, don’t miss those days at all! Anyways, we’ve been sailing on our own for about six weeks (wow, it feels like so much longer though!), and we’re finally feeling confident in our skills and our knowledge of the BVI area to be comfortable sharing the experience onboard. One of the things we’ve learned is that despite our best efforts to be completely transparent and honest in the blog, it’s really difficult to convey all of the challenges and nuances of sailing life as compared to land life. Part of the reason we struggle is that we just don’t have cameras on 24/7, so there are things we just don’t capture. As much as we’d love to share more, we don’t feel comfortable with every minute of life being on camera, nor do we find it necessary. You may have seen my post about this on Instagram a week or so ago: we’re real people, doing real things, and fully immersing ourselves in this life. Sometimes you just had to be there to get the true experience. And ultimately, the sea is a mythical creature, unpredictable in its moods; you can’t tame nature, so sailing really is full of brave (or crazy) souls who want to experience one of life’s most fascinating biological wonders.  Why take away the mystery, excitement ,and true essence of sailing? If you’re inspired, take on a sailing adventure and experience it firsthand instead!

Back to our visitors. Since we hadn’t done this before, our first challenge was navigating the logistics of their arrival. We assisted our friends as much as possible in choosing flights and travel logistics, because, let’s face it, this is not land life, and it’s not like we have a car to pick them up. We plan to stay in BVI with all our friends who come to visit this spring; we know that area best and there are so many fun things to do, so it’s really the best place to be to maximize their time here.  There are two ways to enter BVI, flying there directly or flying to USVI first.  There are pros and cons to each. Flying into BVI directly is most convenient for everyone, but the airport is small, so flights are limited and more expensive.  There are generally better flights into USVI, but then upon their arrival, we meet them at the airport, find a USVI customs office to check out of the country (putting them on the boat’s crew list), get everyone and luggage back to the boat, sail to BVI, check into BVI customs + pay fees, then do the reverse the day before they leave. It can be a lot of extra running around! No one wants to spend a day in customs on their vacation! The alternative when flying into USVI is to take a short taxi ride from the airport to the ferry dock and take a ferry from USVI to BVI. The customs process there is streamlined and expedited to process passengers much more quickly and it’s a lot less complicated and takes much less time than moving the boat back and forth and checking it in and out.

Our friends had a limited time with us, only four full days, so they agreed that once landed in USVI, the ferry to BVI was the best option for everyone. This also gave us some extra time to get up to the island of Tortola, and make a few dinghy trips into Road Town for some provisioning before their arrival. Bob and I planned to arrive at the ferry dock in Road Town about 45 minutes before they were scheduled to arrive, as we had some customs business of our own to attend to in order to stay legal and in BVI’s good graces. Driving up in our dinghy from another harbor, we noted there was no dinghy dock at the ferry dock/customs office. We found a spot to tie up, went inside and handled our business. Not without a little drama though…Bob cut his foot on a piece of glass stuck to the bottom of his flip flop and was bleeding all over and had to get paper towels from customs to try to stop it! After our customs situation was handled, we came back outside to watch for the USVI ferry approaching with our friends! As we’re waiting, a burly guy in a very official looking shirt and badge informs us  that we can’t park there if we’re done with our customs business. Bob politely informs him we’re picking up friends from the ferry arriving any minute, but he says they can’t have us do that because there are no stairs or safe way to load passengers and luggage so there’s liability so we have to move. Ugh… there’s literally no where else to go! After their long journey, they’re going to have to trek even further {facepalm}. Since the ferry should be arriving in 20 minutes or so, Bob takes the dinghy off to find somewhere to load up and I stay behind at the ferry dock/customs office to await their arrival. Bob calls me to let me know that our friends’ ferry is late but that he’s found a small marina with a dinghy dock behind a bar. While we chat through the logistics, I walk in his direction to locate him and decide if this is a walking trip or a taxi trip. It only took about five minutes, so we determined we’d walk with the luggage and Bob would be ready to greet us with beers.

The estimated ferry arrival time passes, and it’s hotter than hell outside, but no ferry. I’m pretty sure I witness several drug deals go down, along with people taking packages from the same vehicle and getting on various departing ferries. I try not to watch the fascinating scene unfold, but there’s not much else to do sitting there alone and waiting. Bob texts every 10 minutes or so “anything yet?” He had ordered himself a beer while waiting and then a bucket for all of us, but since it’s taking so long, and it’s so hot, he can’t just let go to waste!  Ultimately, 2.5 hours later (and hour and a half later than scheduled), the ferry arrives. As it approaches, I make my way to the side of the building to watch the passengers departing to see if I can spot them and let them know I’m here. For some reason, the ferry workers have to unload all the luggage before the passengers can exit… the whole process takes another 20 minutes! Passengers slowly march off the ferry and into the building to collect their luggage and go through customs to pay their fees. As the line dwindles, I get anxious because I don’t see them! What if there’s some mistake and they’re on a different ferry? Their phones have been off since they left USVI, so we have no way to contact them.  Being a little later doesn’t sound like a big deal, but navigating their arrival, loading into the dinghy and getting across the marina and bay to the boat, get settled and unhook from the mooring ball, and go find somewhere to anchor after sunset is not easy to do! We always try to get settled before sunset so we don’t have to try to check the anchor’s stability in the dark – it’s impossible!  Fortunately, the very last passengers are familiar faces!  Yessss!! I cannot tell you how excited I was to finally see Levi + Nicky! I had good news to report to Bob, and just had to wait another 20 minutes for the customs line, and we were off on our walk to the beers and the dinghy.

 

Vacationing with friends can be challenging, because everyone wants something different out of a vacation, right? Some just want to lay on a beach and not be disturbed, some want to see all the famous sights, historical sites. Some want to immerse in local culture. There’s an infinite number of ways to “vacation”. As friends book tickets and plan their trips, we ask them what they envision this vacation to look like that would be most enjoyable for them. Most coming to visit us want to do some real sailing, and experience what we do day-to-day as much as possible. That laid back approach is helpful, because what we do and where we go often changes based on weather conditions. Levi wanted to experience sailing hands-on, so we tried to catch some good winds so he could enjoy the swell and the thrill of harnessing nature for a bit.

Normally, Bob and I sit in an anchorage for 3-4 days at a time, to really enjoy and explore the area. Also, if there’s a good bar nearby on shore with happy hour, we like to take advantage of that rather than depleting the alcohol resources on board.  We call it “boat beer conservation hour” and it’s always a good time! We often meet a lot of folks here on charter vacations and enjoy discussing their itineraries and giving suggestions on places to go, although not all charter boats are allowed in some of the more remote anchorages we visit. We’ve also met other cruisers, which is really fun! We love hearing their amazing stories: how they came to be sailors, places they’ve enjoyed, and tips for cruising.  We’ve even made cruiser cards with our contact information so we can stay connected to others via social media or text, and meet up again to share experiences (this is a very common thing in the cruising community and it’s so fun to exchange cards and see everyone’s expression of their boat and their sailing life).

Since Levi + Nicky only had four full days with us, we were on the move every single day. Although that didn’t allow them to experience our typical slower pace, they were able to visit the four major islands of BVI (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke), including several of the famous island hotspots.  One of the highlights of the trip was visiting The Baths on Virgin Gorda, which was new for us as well! The Baths is a large granite boulder formation that has caves you can trek or climb through with pool created from sea water washing in.  The biggest challenge of The Baths is that, approaching via sea, you must dinghy in from an anchorage or mooring ball, and then leave your dinghy in a designated area and swim ashore. At first glance it doesn’t seem very far, but it’s quite a long swim! After swimming in and exploring the caves, we were worn out and decided to use the safety line around the perimeter of the swimming/snorkeling area to aid our swim back.  We’ve heard there’s good snorkeling at The Baths and nearby, but we’ve had such excellent snorkeling elsewhere that we didn’t mind skipping that part to move on in our journey.

We did make it back to Anegada with them as well, you know, the scene of our scooter accident about 3 weeks earlier.  We were mostly recovered, just some road rash remains, but had no intentions of getting back on scooters on those sand roads.  With four people, and acting as tour guides, it is much easier to rent a car. So we got to cruise around the island in this fancy, open-air safari cruiser called a Moke! No, we didn’t reserve pink, Bob just got lucky! 🙂 Hahahaha! 

We stopped at famous Loblolly beach for their fantastic views and fun atmosphere.  From there, we went back around to the west side of the island, which was new for us (we never made it after our scooter accident).  Anegada Beach Club has a really cool vibe, and you can sit and watch the kiteboarders in action – catching air and doing tricks. It’s really amazing! And looks like a crazy workout!  We learned that in order to rent a kiteboard there, you have to take at least two lessons with them, which are quite time consuming and expensive (but understandable from a liability standpoint). Much more reasonable for someone staying at the beach club resort. We made our way back toward town and stopped at Cow Wreck beach which has a fun country bar with lots of space to sunbathe and snorkel.  Definitely worth a stop if you’re on Anegada.  A trip to Anegada wouldn’t be complete without a famous lobster dinner. Though quite expensive, it’s a fun treat for visiting guests to have local, fresh caught seafood! You can spot the lobsters on the Anegada docks when you dinghy into shore. Going to and from Anegada is about a four hour sail each way, so that also gave Levi the longer sailing experience he was looking for.  We even got out “Frankie” (short for Frankenstein), our repaired Code 0 downwind sail for the occasion.  If you don’t know how Frankie came to be, you can read that story here.

A trip to BVI wouldn’t be complete without visiting the infamous Soggy Dollar Bar, or Foxy’s, in neighboring bays on the island of Jost Van Dyke.  Soggy Dollar Bar is said to be the home of the Painkiller drink, and has a live YouTube webcam in front of the bar that you can use to check out the current shenanigans or sea state (swell, winds).  A bit of an anchoring debacle during a rainstorm put a little bit of a damper on our spirits as we reached Jost. But by the time we finished having lunch on board, after getting situated, the sun was back out and it was time to earn our souvenir Soggy Dollar cups! We explored the other bars on the beach, but Soggy has the best atmosphere by far, with lots of seating, music + beach games! 

As our adventure with our first brave friends came to a close, we went to a tried and true favorite anchorage, did some hookah diving for buried treasure, checked out some caves, and then did some relaxing.  Old Fashioneds on board really do taste amazing, reminding us of home, and are a nice transition back to Wisconsin for our friends.

There aren’t a lot of good anchorages near the airports or ferry docks, most area quite rolly and noisy. So we decided to stay somewhere great, and just get up super early in the morning to make the trip back to the ferry dock.  It was a rough ride with a lot of side swell and heavy winds.  Too rough to sail, unfortunately.  We took a lot of waves over the bow, but at least they got to experience all the aspects of sailing (good and not-so-awesome) on their trip!

Thank you Levi + Nicky for being our very first friends to visit and we’re so glad you had a wonderful time!

On to more adventures!