Cruising Stories

Chartering in the BVI's

Island Time

By
Joy
McPeters

March 7, 2015 - Tortola, BVI

We arrived at Hodges Creek Marina, the MarineMax Charter base, an easy 15 minutes from Tortola's Beef Island Airport, to board our MarineMax 480 Powercat. This was our first experience chartering a powerboat we'd always chartered sailboats in the past. Our plan was to stay on the powercat that night and get an early start the next morning. Ross, our captain and an old friend, joined us, as did our cook. While the boat was being provisioned we found our way to the bar at Hodges Creek for our first of many rum drinks, then it was on to dinner at Red Rocks, a few miles from the marina, for a great meal and lots of discussion about the week ahead. When we got back to the docks, the scene was hopping. It seemed as if every boat was being chartered and there was an exciting energy in the air.

March 8, 2015 - Cooper Island

The next morning we woke early to get a good start. Our whole group had finally assembled: 11 of us nine adults and two kids, ages seven and eight and we'd be spread across two boats along with assorted water toys and mounds of provisions from Rite Way and Good Moon Farm. Our first stop, Cooper Island, was only four miles away, and at nine knots it took us only about 45 minutes to get there. We grabbed a mooring ball (Cooper only has about 30, and anchoring can be tricky because of the sea grass) and jumped off the boat into the crystal blue water. This became our ritual every morning a plunge into the sea, even before coffee. What a great way to start the day.

That night we decided to eat dinner on board, but we headed to Cooper Island Beach Club's new rum bar for happy hour and the perfect sunset, with the bar's signature Yellow Bird cocktails (three kinds of local rums, fresh juices and triple sec) firmly in hand. After a few of those, it seemed like a good idea to check out the boutique across from the bar. We did some damage on their excellent clothing selections for adults and kids. Then we headed back to our boats for a feast of fish, rice and salad.

March 9, 2015 - Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda

The next morning, two of us opted for a little exercise and swam from the boat to shore to score some coffee at Cooper Island Beach Club. Next, it was just a short cruise to the amazing collection of massive boulders known as the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Since the area around the Baths can be busy, we anchored off Valley Trunk Bay and dinghied over to the Baths.There are new regulations that prohibit dinghies from pulling up on the beach, so now it's a fairly rough swim into the beach to get the trail to Devils Bay. The walk to Devils Bay is incredible, a scramble over and under huge rock formations while getting splashed by the sea spraying up through the holes. After about a 15-minute hike, the reward is a gorgeous beach, a protected harbor and a refreshing swim. Captain Ross picked us up at Devils Bay, then we cruised over to Virgin Gorda's Savannah Bay to anchor. A dinner on board of grilled steaks and fish was capped by an incredible moon rise over the hills.

March 10, 2015 - Anegada

The next stretch, from Virgin Gorda to Anegada, would be our longest 15 miles with four-foot seas. We arrived, without incident, after about two and a half hours and grabbed a mooring ball near Potters by the Sea. We were all anxious to start exploring Anegada, known for its huge spiny lobsters and friendly people. The island has a population of only 300, and is still a little off the standard charter route, so we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. We rented scooters to explore Loblolly Bay, known for amazing snorkeling and also home to Captain Ross's friend JP's new bar: Daddy's Love Shack. It will not disappoint. It's right on the beach and the Hip Replacement rum punches have a 151 floater. Next door is the Flash of Beauty Bar, where the tasty strawberry daiquiris are finished with fresh nutmeg sprinkled on top.

On our way back, we stopped at the ever-popular hangout Big Bamboo, which has driftwood you can burn your name onto and then prop up around the bar. We burned Marinalife onto a long piece of wood and then carefully placed it above the bar.

For dinner, we'd arranged to have fresh lobsters at Potters be sure to call in your order by 2 p.m. We found Sam Potter, the owner, with his hands in the lobster crate, picking out the best ones for dinner. My platter arrived with two huge lobsters, enough to feed a family of four. Though I can't say there were any leftovers when I was done. As we finished dinner, the DJ was just getting started, and we worked off our dinners on the dance floor, then returned to the boat and happily flopped into bed, exhausted from a long day of sun, sea, rum and lobsters.

March 11, 2015 - Anegada to Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda

The next morning we climbed back on our rented scooters and headed out to Anegada Beach Club, located at the far end of the island down a very sandy, bumpy road. If you need a break from sleeping on your boat, their new, beautifully appointed safari tents overlooking the ocean could be just what you need.We returned back to the boat and set off on the two-hour trip to the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. It felt good to be tied up at a dock for a night and the onsite emporium was critical, as we were running low on wine and beer. We made the fun, easy dinghy trip to Saba Rock for happy hour and the nightly feeding of tarpon, then enjoyed a fabulous dinner at the Bitter End's Clubhouse Steak and Seafood Grill don't miss the Key lime pie!

March 12, 2015 - Great Harbour at Jost Van Dyke

After all our eating and drinking, we decided we better take advantage of the hiking trails that wind through the hills near Bitter End. We followed a beautiful trail that passed Biras Creek Resort and ended at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, one of the host's of the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta, which was underway that very day.

We shoved off from Bitter End, and Captain Ross did an amazing job of getting us front-row views of the large regatta yachts flying through the water in perfect wind conditions. After the race, we headed to Jost Van Dyke, where we found an isolated anchorage near Little Jost's B Line Bar. Captain Ross suggested avoiding anchoring near White Bay Beach, our usual spot on Jost, because the cruise ships now anchor in this area and shuttle people into the Soggy Dollar Bar.The B Line was just what the doctor ordered a supremely  laid back vibe, delicious Dark & Stormies, corn hole, Chinese dominoes, and a gorgeous beach. From this area you can dinghy to Foxy's Taboo and Diamond Key to hike to the Bubble Pond, but after several Dark & Stormies we decided to forego the hike, and instead anchored in Great Harbour for a festive evening of dinner and dancing at Foxy's. Beware the Friggin in the Riggin, a potent frozen banana drink that actually made an excellent dessert.

March 13, 2015 - Scrub Island

In the morning we made our way toward Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina. As we approached, we could see the resort perched on the hills, and we could barely wait for our pending spa treatments, the pool slide, the water trampoline, and the swim-up bar. We spent the day successfully sampling all the wonderful amenities the kids probably went down the pool slide at least 100 times. We ate dinner at Tierra Tierra, the resort's casual restaurant, and had local fish cooked to order. Scrub Island's more formal dining experience, Caravelle, also got rave reviews from whomever we asked. Scrub Island has 52 guest rooms and four villas, and they run a water taxi every hour to Trellis Bay by the airport. For a small fee, boaters can tie up for the day and take advantage of all the amenities.

March 14, 2015 - Norman Island

For our last night in the BVIs, we cruised to Norman Island and grabbed a mooring ball up-wind from the infamous and noisy Willie T's floating bar. The water was perfect for our last snorkel of this trip, and we jumped in amidst a school of purple, blue, and yellow fish swimming around purple coral. It's an easy dinghy ride to the nearby caves made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. After our snorkel we dinghied to Pirate's Bight for sunset drinks the entire place has been rebuilt after a fire a few years back. We took loads of pictures to capture our last night in this incredible landscape. For dinner we feasted on all the remaining provisions, and prepared for the busy day ahead of catching flights and transitioning back to reality.

March 15, 2015 - Hodges Creek Marina

It was an easy one-hour cruise back to Hodges Creek Marina the next morning. After a last-minute packing scramble, we were on our way to the airport for flights home. Even though we were leaving, we had incredible memories to take with us, and I vowed to savor the BVI Island Time attitude for as long as I could!

Cruising Club Member Discounts

MarineMax  receive 5% off all charters.

The Moorings receive 5% off all charters.

Receive 10% off private charters operated by ActiveCruising.com (Captain Ross Lysinger)

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The Autumn: Why Haul Out
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Water and Fall foliage at Dory's Fall
Dory's Fall

Why do so many yachtsmen hurriedly haul out their boats immediately after Labor Day? Sure, the kids are back to school, and the weather starts to change. But we have enjoyed some of our most clear, calm, beautiful days boating in the fall. I dare say don’t haul before fall, have a ball while everyone else is buttoning up their boats and turning to watch football or baseball. Perhaps those sun-soaked sandbar rafting days have passed until next summer, but from New England to the southern coasts you’ll still find glorious warm days, less boat wake and less boat traffic in general, which opens a world of late season cruising opportunities. My father always said boating is better once the “summer yahoos disappear.”

Boating Experience: So soon in fall? 

A FEW REASONS TO LOVE THE FALL BOATING SEASON

Red Fall tree with water and boat in the background
Cape Porpose Maine Fall

Fall boating is just quieter. As most boaters vacate the water in lieu of other pursuits, September and October can offer brilliant blue-sky days. Waterways that were jam-packed with everything from inflatables to tour boats a month prior are now more open for you to explore. Loud two stroke “boater-cycles,” as my friend likes to call jet skis and sea-doos (personal propelled watercraft) are trailered away leaving in the absence of their wake- jumping a more serene scene.

Foliage starts to pop on the waterfront come mid-September into October from Maine to Virginia. The sparkling water reflects the kaleidoscope of autumn leaves in their shimmering crimson, gold and orange. It’s spectacular, truly a photographer’s dream, whether you’re on a lake, the ocean, a beautiful bay or waterway. Boating in September, October, even into November a bit farther south, is a gem. Just be mindful of the forecast, hurricane season, and significant temperature shifts that invite pop-up storms.

Man's legs propped up on seats facing stern of the boat with sunset in the background
Block Island, RI.

The weather. With cooler fall days, temps trend toward delightfully crisp and clear. Days are also shorter, so midday boating is best for peak sun. For your boating comfort, have sweatshirts, sweaters or jackets handy, even hats and gloves, especially if you’re in northern New England.

Good news: Gone are the hot humid mugginess and the bugs that accompany spring and summer heat. Bonus: you have less chance of that scorching summer sunburn. Still, be sure to apply sunscreen, refraction on the water is real even when a chill is in the air. You may want to eat steamed lobster by the waterfront, but you don’t want to look like one. Evenings on the water cool off, making for great sleeping aboard. Snuggle under covers and wake to fresh air and hot coffee on deck that never tasted so good in another season.

Fall means more available dock slips, moorings and anchorages as many are pulling their boots “up on the hard,” which frees up marina space for you. The same prime spots that were impossible to get in summer, with wait lists at places like Block Island, Newport and Annapolis, are now wide open. Same goes for waterfront restaurants with tie ups; their face docks are free and on a first come first served basis.

Just be prepared that dockhands and marina staff may not be as readily available in the fall, as students that typically manage the docks have returned to their campuses, and marine techs are pre-occupied prepping folks’ boats for winterization and storage. Be ready to tend your own lines.

Wildlife abounds in fall. Migratory birds are on the move. Enjoy watching geese, loons and birds-of-a-feather flocking south as winter approaches.

Speaking of marine life, if you like to fish, then fall is your wish. As temperatures decline, the fish sense that winter is coming. In preparation of the next season, fish begin their migrating south and their subsequent feeding frenzy.

Sailboat on a mooring with fall trees in the background
Kennebunkport Fall Foilage

Snowbirds of the human variety start their boating trek south too, if they aren’t storing their boat up north. Cruising the ICW in fall can be a social circuit where you may see the same boat owners and crew as you stop along your way at various harbors and marinas. It’s entertaining to compare ship logs and experiences from your adventures, favorite sights and seaports, with fellow boaters along your journey.

I have always loved how friendly boaters can be, and how an impromptu sharing of dock-side drinks aboard yours or their top deck can quickly transpire into an animated evening talking about best and worst boating with your nautical neighbors.

Word of caution: don’t be like my dear deceased, super-dedicated-to-boating Dad who insisted there’d be one more great boating day in late fall in New Hampshire. He would hold out on hauling his 28’ Eastern well into November, insisting it’s not winter till December. I recall more than once having to chip the ice of the dock lines to free up his pride- and-joy, then boating to the nearest icy ramp while frost clung to the windshield, and it was bitter cold on the slippery decks. That’s taking fall boating to an extreme.

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Cruising Grenada
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Sugar Spice and Everything Nice

When the end of the cruising season in the southern Caribbean was upon us, we did what many Caribbean cruisers do: We sailed south for Grenada. We delayed as long as possible, knowing the hurricane season was upon us, but we didn’t want to be forced south. I had one impression of Grenada, and that was of rotting boats and retired sailors. It was a cruisers graveyard, or so I thought, and I was far from accepting an end to our sailing days.

Grenada is the southernmost group of islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago as well as the name of the main island in a cluster of eight smaller islands and about a dozen smaller islets and cays. The only thing I knew of its geography prior to arriving was that it was one of the few island groups in the Caribbean far enough south to be considered out of the hurricane belt. So, it was ironic that on our first day in the country we had to shelter in the mangroves from a Category 1 storm.

As we lashed our boat Ātea’s bow to densely bound tree roots and secured lines to the cleats of yachts on either side of us, our small unit became part of the larger, unified collective. Little did we realize that this interconnection would be representative of our Grenadian experience.

Safely through the storm, we disbanded and spread out to explore our new surroundings. We completed our clearance in Carriacou, Grenada’s northern sister island, and were amazed to see a hundred or so yachts anchored in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou’s main harbor. I knew Grenada was popular, but if the numbers of boats in Carriacou were anything to judge by, I’d have to cope with much larger crowds when we travelled farther south.

The south coast of Grenada not only provides the most settled weather, but it’s riddled with about a dozen safe harbors from the dominant easterly swell. It’s the reason cruisers gather on Grenada’s south coast and also the reason why they remain. Some stay for hurricane season, some use the island as a base for a few years, others retire from active cruising and either settle or sell. One thing was certain: Grenada was far more than the end of the line.

Before making the journey south, however, we wanted to stretch out the season by adding a short circumnavigation around Carriacou, known as “The Isle of Reefs” to the Kalinago people (the original Island Caribs). We spent our time there dodging bommies (submerged coral reefs) and soaking up the tropical island experience with our feet in the sand, our bellies in the water and our hands on a bottle of rum.

We stopped at Petite Martinique, the third and smallest of the three main islands. There we enjoyed rugged, rocky beaches and side-stepped clusters of goats grazing the green rolling hills as we hiked up Mount Piton for panoramic views of the surrounding islands. We climbed down into the Darant Bay Cave for framed views of the same islands at sea level.

Of course, we couldn’t miss a few sundowners on Mopion, a tiny sand mound rising amid expansive coral reef with a single thatched beach umbrella perched in the center. While technically a part of the Grenadines, its proximity to Petite Martinique made a quick dash across the border for a sip in the shade of this unique little spot a worthwhile experience. Carriacou is an island surrounded by unspoiled reef, and it did not disappoint. A quick tour of her perimeter was the perfect way to salute the end of an amazing Caribbean season.

With a quick stop-over in Ronde Island, a beautiful private island that’s halfway between Carriacou and Grenada, we continued our transit south. Again, I hadn’t prepared myself for the wild beauty of Grenada’s west coast. Mile after mile of dense, lush forest cascade down the leeward side of the island from peak to sea.

We hugged the coastline as we sailed the 13 miles down the west coast, looking up at 2,700 feet of volcanic rock and shear waterfalls that fed small rivers that ran down the slopes of the mountainous interior to the coast. While Grenada is well reputed as a tourist destination for holidaymakers seeking either a sun- drenched party or quiet refuge on one of its 45 beaches, I knew from sailing the coast that my preferences would draw me inland.

Grenada’s coastline contains many large bays, but most yachts head for safe anchorage behind one of the many narrow peninsulas that split up the southern coastline. As we pulled into Prickly Bay, the first of Grenada’s southern harbors, I knew from the crowd of yachts that I would escape to the interior as soon as possible. As it turned out, I didn’t get that chance. As soon as we dropped anchor, we were invited ashore for a cruiser’s jam session to reconnect with friends from past seasons.

The following day we crammed into the back seat of a taxi on our way to an event for the annual Chocolate Festival, and our schedule quickly filled after that with tours of cocoa plantations, cocoa grinding competitions, chocolate tastings and chocolate drawing contests. In additional to the island’s cultural events, we were also immediately drawn into the cruiser’s social scene.

On our first week of arrival our mornings were already booked into early morning yoga and bootcamp on the beach. The kids joined a cruiser’s homeschooling collective and regular extracurricular activities that were held under the shade of the trees. If we weren’t listening to live music or joining the locals’ beach barbecues in the evenings, we were sitting poolside and sipping beers from a $5 bucket with other cruisers at Le Phare Bleu, a boutique hotel that opened its amenities and services to cruisers during the pandemic.

Every morning offered an activity, and every evening we joined a social get-to-gether, so the weeks flew by in a social extravaganza unlike any we’d experienced. As yachts gather in Grenada every year for the hurricane season, the regularity of this influx of boats resulted in a solid cruising community and a variety of services and events. Far more than a collection of retired boats and sunburnt seamen, my preconceived notions of Grenada didn’t come close to the reality of the vibrant cruising network that existed on this popular island.

As we made new friends and reconnected with old ones, we really enjoyed the buzz that the tight community offered.

Pulling myself out of continuous activity took a concerted effort, but I eventually dragged the family off the beach and up the mountains.

After our trip into the interior, I developed a new passion for my time in Grenada: A short bus journey followed by a hike into the forest would lead us to one of Grenada’s many waterfalls. Unlike other tourist destinations where fees were handed over and you’d stand under falls next to groups of other tourists, we had the rivers for free and all to ourselves. Some of the trails were near the road, and we’d hop on and off a bus to walk the short distance to the falls. Others, such as Seven Sisters and the Concord Falls, required planning as it took a full day to hike in and out of the forest, clambering up steep banks and crisscrossing the river to wind through deep forest and get a view from the top.

Each part of the river that ran down from one of the six inland lakes had its own magic, and I was enthusiastic to see what each had to offer. Later I appreciated all that I’d experienced of Grenada’s inland beauty. As I paid $20 per person to stand in crowds under cascading water at Costa Rica’s most popular waterfalls, I couldn’t help but compare it to all that I’d seen in Grenada’s secluded, remote interior.

In additional to nature, we explored some of the historical roots of Grenada’s past. Grenada’s original economy was based on sugar cane and indigo, and with that, slaves were imported in the mid-17th century to work and harvest crops. We set out to search for some of the old plantation houses and slave pens that remained from that period, which took us on a wild tramp through the backstreets of quiet neighborhoods and into unmarked bush to find these lost relics.

It was quite the education for our children to see small, dank, windowless, stone slave quarters set behind grand old houses, a potent reminder of darker times in this beautiful and vibrant country. We also smelled and sampled some of Grenada’s current crops, nutmeg, mace and cocoa at the top of the list of exports, and enjoyed local culinary treats such as oil down, a vegetable stew that is the country’s national dish. Thanks to these excursions we can say that Grenada is, both figuratively and literally, full of sugar and spice.

Cruising often leaves you tied to the boat and, therefore, the sea. Grenada offered a wonderful period of enjoying the most of both land and sea in equal balance, so we were able to get the most of what the country has to offer. To see the beaches but not the forest, lakes and rivers offers only half the experience; likewise, to spend time inland but not explore the coast leaves only half an impression. As Grenada offers safe anchorage throughout the hurricane season, cruisers remain nearby for an extended period, sharing experiences and building friendships. This is unique for a community that is typically very transient, and it offers plenty of opportunity to create a home away from home atmosphere.

In addition, suitable yacht services are available, so that time spent waiting for the next season gives everyone a chance to get much needed repair work done. Far from being the end of the line, Grenada offers an interim rest stop where friendships are forged and yachts are restored on an island that offers a range of activities and opportunities both on and above the waterline.

Article and photos by Kia Koropp

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Our Adventures between the Great Lakes from Detroit to Port Huron
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My husband Tim and I spent 2021 traveling 8,000 miles around the Great Loop. Like many, we wanted to cruise in Canada, but we didn’t get the green light for entry in time. We were initially bummed, but our mood quickly shifted as we discovered some of our favorite stops on the stretch that kept us in U.S. waters, including our journey between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.

Stop 1: Belle Isle

Estimated Mileage: 2 NM

Belle Isle is the largest city-owned island park in America, located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. The island’s only marina is the Detroit Yacht Club, which has a limited number of transient slips for reciprocal members, so it’s best to explore while keeping your boat at Milliken Marina. 

Roughly 1,000 acres, Belle Isle is home to an aquarium, maritime museum, botanical garden, beach, picnic areas and playgrounds that provide a plethora of options to explore. You won’t find great spots to grab a bite to eat, so we recommend stopping at Atwater Brewery on the way back to the marina.

Stop 2: Harrison Township, Lake St. Clair

Estimated Mileage: 24 NM

Often referred to as the Great Lake’s smaller cousin, Lake St. Clair is large enough to easily keep your distance from freighters yet small enough to explore in a day.

By boat, you can visit several of the lake’s swimming spots in Anchor and Bouvier Bays (or “Munchies” Bay as the locals say), popular for their clear water and hard bottoms. After an afternoon of swimming, cruise through the Clinton River and tie up at one of several restaurants catering to a lively boater scene for a drink and meal. Crews Inn is one of our favorites for their fun atmosphere and great food.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Marina is a popular spot for transients. The marina is located in the park, so after docking, enjoy the expansive park’s beaches, trails, picnic areas and swimming pool.

Stop 3: Port Huron, MI

Estimated Mileage: 44 NM

Port Huron is home to the start of one of the longest fresh-water races in the world called the Port Huron to Mackinac Sailing Race, and the port is a charming and boater-friendly destination.

Ideal for its central location and friendly members, Port Huron Yacht Club is a great place for tying up, sipping a drink at the clubhouse and avoiding the drawbridges on the Black River. Another popular spot is about a mile farther down the river at the 95-slip River Street Marina.

Port Huron is home to the Island Loop Route National Water Trail, a 10-mile loop through the Black River, Lake Huron and St. Clair River. Your dinghy is a must through the Black River and for exploring the town and clear waters by boat.

Walk a mile along the Blue Water River Walk that runs along the St. Clair River. Be sure to leave enough time to watch the freighters go by and delve into the area’s history that is shared along the route. Continue a couple of miles farther to Lighthouse Park, where you can enjoy an afternoon at the beach and swim in Lake Huron’s crystal clear water.

During a stroll downtown, check out the Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America to discover the history of local ice harvesting that took place along the Great Lakes.

When you’ve done enough activities to work up an appetite, Casey’s is the place for delicious breadsticks and pizza. For a more upscale option, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at The Vintage Tavern. Maria’s Downtown Café offers a hearty breakfast, and Raven Café or Exquisite Corpse Coffee House are great options for a cup of coffee.

Kate Carney is a writer and Great Gold Looper who traveled 8,000 miles on Sweet Day, a 31-foot Camano trawler. Learn more about her and her husband’s adventures on lifeonsweetday.com

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