By Jule Guaglardi
He arrived looking ready for island life, but underneath his wrinkle-free surf trunks and faded Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt was the presence of a man who had not a minute to spare, a man whose Blackberry and briefcase were as much an appendage as his arm or leg. My big brother Barry – senior partner in a New Jersey-based law firm, single father and county coach for junior boys soccer – had left New Jersey for his first real vacation in six years.
My proposed remedy for his suburban stress was the somewhat unoriginal combination of a Caribbean island, gorgeous weather, a seaworthy vessel, and copious amounts of rum. His unexpected response after six years of rewarding lockdown, was, “Dude…I’m in!”
After arriving at the Moorings marina in Road Town, the capitol of Tortola, home to our sleek 55-foot monohull, we were introduced to our captain and our chef, Australian couple Tom and Jaquie. But shortly after we toured our elegantly appointed cabins, Barry started with the queries on cell phone availability and Internet service. Mildly discouraged, I still had faith that the sun, the sand, the cool island breeze and life on our new floating villa would soon whisk him away from all the details of everyday life.
Our seven-day voyage began on Tortola, the largest of the 60 islands that comprise the British Virgin Island chain. Located in the northern Caribbean, Tortola is chock-a-block with soft, white sandy beaches and lush mountains. It also has a protected harbor strewn with a multitude of yachts of all shapes and sizes. Our first visit was the Bright at Norman Island, just seven nautical miles south of Tortola. Helping to form the Southern perimeter of the Francis Drake Channel, Norman Island is often referred to as Treasure Island because of the vast number of pirates that once claimed these waters. One of its unique features is an area called The Caves, rumored to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Treasure Island.
With the balmy breeze offering refreshing relief to the beating sun and Jaquie’s uncanny timing as she delivered a cold rum and Ting with some of our favorite bites, I could see Barry beginning to unwind. We launched ourselves overboard into a turquoise sea, swimming and snorkeling in and around the rock formations called the Indians, easily imagining what glorious treasures might have been sunken in the depths beneath our treading toes. Just below was the Rhone, a British steamer, which sank in 1867 during a hurricane and is now considered to be one of the very best wreck dives in all of the Caribbean.
Sailing approximately 11 nautical miles from Norman Island, we reached Jost Van Dyke, a small and picturesque harbor protected by 1000-foot peaks, and home to the world famous Foxy’s beach restaurant and bar. As fate would have it, Foxy himself was ‘in the house’ as we anchored for a visit. It was an open-air, picnic-table-meets-cabaret type party. We sat next to strangers, ate freshly caught Mahi Mahi, drank rum-inspired cocktails, and shopped shamelessly at Foxy’s beachside boutique. Before we knew it, the magic hour began to fall upon us, and Foxy, with guitar in hand, lit up the night. We danced in our bare feet and celebrated life and the glorious sense of freedom before falling into hammocks hitched to coconut palms that lined the beach.
The Caribbean was like a giant, wet wonderland where we would kayak, windsurf, swim and snorkel. Barry kayaked over to a tiny island known as Sandy Spit, which couldn’t have been more than a few acres from end to end. He carried with him only a book, a towel and suntan oil. Two hours later I found an electric-red Barry snoring beneath a lone palm.
We hopped from one picturesque island to the next: Marina Cay, located near Guana Island, where we shopped and grabbed a bite at Monkey point; Virgin Gorda, which Columbus described as resembling a plump woman with her belly in the air and where we discovered the luxury resorts of Little Dix Bay, with its incredible spa, and Biras Creek, an elegant bungalow-style resort; and Peter Island, where we took a swim at Deadman’s Bay. But it was the mysterious Baths at Spanish Town, back on Virgin Gorda, that melted away the last vestiges of city stress. At the Baths, giant granite boulders strewn throughout the beach and along the water’s edge create stunning grottos, caves, wading rock pools, and trails that lead to magnificent beaches. Believed to have been a spiritual and physical cleansing place for the Amerindians, the Baths remain a calming place that calls for meditation. On our way back to the boat, we discovered the Mad Dog bar. We ordered their famous frozen pina coladas and pondered the meaning of life, love – and with a chuckle, how well Barry’s law firm might do based on Tortola.
As I dropped a very red version of Barry at the airport, I noticed that he was also a much more relaxed, looser version. We joked about leaving empty handed with all the talk of buried treasure. But teary-eyed and full of laughter we both knew where to find the treasures in our lives, and he was heading home to his.
93 North Park Place Boulevard
Clearwater, FL 33759
BVI Tourist Board
AKARA Building, 2nd Floor
De Castro Street
Road Town, Tortola
British Virgin Islands