Flotilla Fun

I'm lounging in the spacious cockpit of a Jeanneau 54 named Endless Reach, watching the moon rise over Culebra as I listen to an impromptu after-dinner talent show featuring owner Rob Godwin on guitar. The softness of the evening, the warmth of new friendships and, of course, the rum, is bringing out the inner Bob Marley in all of us. Just then, our Grenadian flotilla captain, Ron Phillips, makes
Author:
Updated:
Original:

I'm lounging in the spacious cockpit of a Jeanneau 54 named Endless Reach, watching the moon rise over Culebra as I listen to an impromptu after-dinner talent show featuring owner Rob Godwin on guitar. The softness of the evening, the warmth of new friendships and, of course, the rum, is bringing out the inner Bob Marley in all of us. Just then, our Grenadian flotilla captain, Ron Phillips, makes a sudden and improbable switch from “Jammin’” to a high-pitched rendition of “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music.

“Leave it to Ron to reach for the high note,” I laugh to myself as the rest of our party adds their voices to the most rollicking and joyful rendition of the song I’ve ever heard. Just two short days ago, at our initial flotilla chart briefing on Tortola, we were strangers to each other. Now we are fast friends, anchored together at the westernmost reaches of the Spanish Virgin Islands, united by a love of sailing, a thirst for adventure and, oh yes, the rum.

Most charterers sailing out of Tortola stay within the British Virgin Islands for their entire cruise. They do the same thing the following year…and the year after that. There’s a good reason for this. The BVI’s dramatic topography, pristine beaches and opalescent waters offer plenty of attractions. Throw in reliable wind, steady sunshine and line-of-sight navigation, and you have a sailor’s Mecca. Many learn on their first foray that you can’t sail the BVI just once.

Nonetheless, after a few visits to Norman and Peter islands, regular jaunts to the Bitter End and a few meanderings through the Baths, many sailors pine for something different. Sailors, after all, are always eager to explore what’s just around the bend.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I jumped at a chance to join a flotilla cruise to the Spanish Virgin Islands. Just 10 miles west of St. Thomas and six miles off Puerto Rico’s east coast, the Spanish Virgins offer a pleasant alternative for BVI regulars looking for a change of scenery. The key to making the voyage even more ideal rests in the concept of the flotilla.

Andrew Thompson and Sylvia Driver of Horizon Yacht Charters assembled our six-boat fleet in Tortola and launched us westward. Together, three Bavaria monohulls, two Jeanneau 54s and a Leopard 40 catamaran traced a route that took in Jost Van Dyke, arced across the top of St. John and St. Thomas, deftly skirting rock and reef, and landed in the pristine splendor of islas Culebra and Vieques. On the return to Tortola, we visited St. John, a singular jewel in the crown of the U.S. national park system.

Along the way, we discovered a remedy for old West Indies hands who mourn “the way it used to be.” The Virgin Islands of old can still be found in Culebra, Vieques and the necklace of outlying islets surrounding them and they have never been more accessible. Here you’ll find quiet, even desolate beaches and turquoise water teeming with coral and fish life. Take a look at sometimes hectic St. Thomas, then cast your gaze on nearby Isla Culebrita to discover what all the Virgin Islands were like a half-century ago.

Related

01-LEAD-GMR_ISLA_0415-1

Electric Multihulls

Witnessing the proliferation of Tesla automobiles you would have no doubt that the revolution in electromobility is well underway. Turn your gaze to the cruising world, though, and you might well wonder what went wrong. Where are all the electric boats? And as for electric ...read more

Lee-Cloths-Lee-Boards-and-single-bunks-on-ISBJORN_by-Andy-Schell_Trans-Atlantic-2019

The Perfect Offshore Boat: Part 2

November, 2009: Mia and I were sailing our 1966 Allied Seabreeze yawl, Arcturus, on our first-ever offshore passage together, a short hop from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. Our second night out, the brisk northwesterly wind shut down, but the sea state ...read more

210727_JR_SE_Tokyo20_186871368

Tune in for Olympic Sailing

Today marks the start of 470 and NARCA 17 racing on Enoshima Bay, and racing in the other seven fleets is already underway. A few of the American sailors are already off to an impressive start, with Maggie Shea and Stephanie Roble currently in second place in the 49er FX, Luke ...read more

Happy-Cat

Boat Review: Happy Cat Hurricane

I’m not sure what I expected from my daysail on the Happy Cat Hurricane. One thing I do know is that the day didn’t go as planned. The SAIL staff was invited by Alex Caslow from Redbeard Sailing to Gunpowder State Park on Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore. We were to test several ...read more

210722_PM_Tokyo20_4910_5979-2048x

Olympic Sailing Guide

The Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Games is finally here. From July 24 to August 4, sailors from across the world will be gathering on six courses on Enoshima Bay to race for gold. Ten classes will take part in the event: RS:X (men), RS:X (women), Laser Full Rig, Laser Radial, ...read more

01-LEAD-TobagoCaysHorseshoeColors

Chartering: Voltage is King

For some time now, both in the pages of this magazine and with individual charterers, I’ve talked about how important it is to pay close attention during a charter checkout. The idea is to listen “between the lines,” as it were, to be sure you aren’t missing any hidden red flags ...read more

AC75-No.-1

ETNZ May Abandon New Zealand

Remember when the Kiwis were the young, underfunded upstarts of the America’s Cup world, with right on their side as they took on the Big Bad Americans? Remember the withering criticism leveled at Larry Ellison when, in the wake of “The Comeback” on San Francisco Bay, arguably ...read more

01-LEAD-EX26_1119_dehler_30od_race_2nd_077_web_4zu3_300dpi2048x

Boat Review: Dehler 30 One Design

I’ve long believed that while they may not be as much fun, the best sail trials are the ones that take place in drifters since it’s then that a boat’s performance—or lack thereof—really becomes evident. Pretty much any boat is fun to sail in 15 knots of wind. That said, there’s ...read more