BVI Holidays

30 Years of Saving Lives at Sea

Yes the British Virgin Islands comprises beautiful islands, stunning white sand beaches and amazing scenery but sometimes, it’s not just all about lazing in a hammock in the warm sunshine, sipping a cocktail and today I would like to introduce you to one of the essential emergency response services without which, in the past, lives would surely have been lost.

As with so many of the BVI’s volunteer groups, the members of VISAR – Virgin Islands Search and Rescue, come from all walks of life:  they’re lawyers, doctors, people from the marine industry and the hospitality industry. But this is no ordinary group of volunteers. Instead, these folks are saving lives at sea.

The work sounds more like a demanding career than a volunteer endeavour, but for the past 30 years, this is precisely how VISAR has functioned, 24 hours a day, every single day of the year.  Some volunteers stay on dry land focusing on fundraising, maintenance or other necessities for an organisation running two bases, two fully equipped rescue vessels, and a 24/7 emergency rescue phone line. Other volunteers, however, are literal lifesavers, and receive intensive training to qualify to respond in person to stranded vessels, injured boaters, and basically any other emergency at sea.

Operations manager Julie Schneider tells me that VISAR has two primary functions: search and rescue (which, as the name implies, has been the focus since the founding) and, more recently, medical response.

So how does it work? It begins with a call from a boater in distress, usually to VISAR’s emergency telephone line -767. The volunteer on duty takes as much information as he or she can, then puts out a text to all qualified crew:  “Report to base.”

When they arrive, the crew has no idea what they may be walking into. “What have we got?” they ask as they rush in the door. The coordinator will share all the details and any other pertinent information, and once enough crew have arrived, (there needs to be a qualified VISAR captain, or helmsmen, plus at least three other crew members before the vessel can head out) they rush away.

This all happens within minutes. Personally – I’ve witnessed it twice – a shout has come out during dinnertime. The fork is promptly dropped on the plate, the shoes found, followed by a mad dash out the door, with a “I’ll call you or see you later.”

During the response, the crew displays empathy for the family or others involved, especially if a death has occurred, says Duncan Muirhead, one of VISAR’s founding volunteers. He describes the crew as selfless in these scenarios, which often involve meeting an ambulance back on land with an injured person who needs to be transported to the hospital.

Royal Navy helicopter on a training mission with VISAR.

Once the emergency is over and the crew returns to base, there’s a debriefing to review the emergency, and if necessary, any information that needs to be shared with other volunteers to improve responses in the future. While the BVI is generally considered a very safe place to sail and boat, such shouts are common and people can get into trouble: 2016 saw rescue vessels launched 82 times, nearly twice a week.

Today, the VISAR vessels and crew are so well equipped it is mind boggling. They do not call themselves an ambulance at sea, but to the untrained eye, they are precisely that. As the shouts (calls for assistance) are often medical in nature, the boats are equipped with all manner of emergency medical gear. The crew frequently goes through a regular checklist, making sure all the items are in proper working order. The boats – Virgin Gorda’s Gorda Peak and Tortola’s Spirit have engines powerful enough to right themselves (with lift bags) if a capsize at sea occurs. The current boats have served VISAR well but are reaching retirement. Happily, one new search and rescue vessel with updated features recently arrived.

Despite this broad scope, VISAR operates almost entirely on donations, following the pattern of the UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Support comes from a range of backers, from shoppers dropping spare change in VISAR’s bright orange cans at the supermarket, to VISAR members who pay from $150 per year, to the higher-dollar corporate sponsors and those who attend or donate prizes at annual fundraisers.

I hope you have found this interesting and thought provoking.

 

A TRUE LOVE STORY

Fort Recovery Resort on Tortola was built by the Dutch sometime around 1620 and may have been used for a barracks for wounded and ill soldiers hence the name “Fort Recovery”.

Fast forward to 1968 when Broadway actress and producer Anita McShane holidayed on Tortola in the BVI.  Anita decided she had found paradise when she stumbled across Fort Recovery and was totally enamoured by the location and stunning views.

“There was only palm trees, this extraordinary view and a fort,” explains Anita, a gregarious New Yorker with a penchant for meeting new people. “I instantly fell in love. I felt like I could go back to New York and tell my fellow actors that I owned a slice of heaven.” Anita bought the property in 1969 and built four units and a bar where the locals used to hang out, sometimes until 3a.m..

“Running an hotel wasn’t that different from staging a Broadway show”, explains Anita. “As a producer I had to know about budgets, building sets and managing people – the actors and back stage crew. These are all skills that I needed here on Tortola, plus I had the most magnificent stage scenery ever – what Mother Nature provided for us.”

Anita soon became adept at balancing both careers, commuting back and forth between her two beloved islands – Manhattan and Tortola. In her absence, Sonny Cottoy, a young Vincentian, kept the hotel running smoothly. “It ran more smoothly than I thought it would. I spoke to Sonny on the phone every day. He took care of the hotel’s maintenance and garden, he was the contractor and the bartender. I couldn’t have done it without him,” says Anita, adding, “It was a perfect life. Whether I was in New York, or at Fort Recovery, each morning when I woke up, I couldn’t wait to go to work.”

Anita and Sonny married in 2000 inaugurating a period that she says was her “real love story.” Sonny, who sadly died unexpectedly in 2016 was both an integral part of her life and the fabric of Fort Recovery. “I really feel I found a special type of companionship, that we shared so many interests. There was a rhythm and passion between us. It was a perfect love story for us.”

Anita expanded Fort Recovery and now offers a selection of one, two and three bedroom suites and villas and also a magnificent 8 bedroom villa which has to be seen to be believed.  It is truly amazing and the views are still stunning.

Fort Recovery also has its own Sunseeker yacht available for charter and upon which a trip around the BVI is included in a 7 night stay.

It has been just over five decades since Anita first set eyes on Fort Recovery, and she has not regretted her decision for a minute. “Being involved in what you love to do, I believe, is the answer to what keeps you going. It doesn’t seem like work because you are creating every day.”

Wise words indeed.

View from the 8 bedroom villa at Fort Recovery, BVI.

Fort Recovery 8 Bedroom Villa

Be Merry and Bright in the BVI!

Another year draws to a close and I’ll bet I am not the only one saying “my goodness – where has 2018 gone?”

‘Tis the season to be jolly – the season for planning a fun-in-the-sun Christmas holiday in the British Virgin Islands! This is your chance to swap snow, onesies and slippers for sun, flip-flops and swimsuits. Too often, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season takes its toll. During the month of December, time gets away, stress runs high, and energy levels dip. To escape all of this, consider a Christmas on island time in the beautiful BVI.

Walking in a White Sand Wonderland

Not many places can boast beautiful weather throughout the holiday season, but the BVI most definitely can. This time of year, the temperatures are just right, and the sun shines effortlessly. Ocean breezes, warm afternoons, and balmy evenings – the kind of weather we only wish for, reigns supreme during the month of December all the way into the new year!

This time of year brings not only gorgeous weather, but also the clearest waters for a Christmas morning dive that’s nothing short of breath-taking, especially at The Indians and the Caves at Norman Island and for those not interested in diving, there are many other ways to appreciate the abundantly clear waters during the month of December – snorkelling, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding conditions at the world-famous Baths, never cease to amaze.

A New Year’s Party in Paradise

Ring in the New Year with the biggest, most renowned beach celebration in the world – Old Year’s Night at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar & Restaurant. Guests that attend this annual beach bash in Great Harbour are guaranteed a great time complete with live local music, delicious food, and a Caribbean style countdown. Sailors arriving by boat are advised to anchor early for the turn-of-year festivities.

Obviously too late for this year but….perhaps you would like to consider booking the BVI for next year. You will be guaranteed a Christmas and New Year to remember!

Call me early in 2019 and I will be delighted to assist in arranging this for you.

Updates from the Beautiful BVI!

The Sugar Mill Hotel on Tortola opened its doors again in October 2018.  If it is possible – the hotel is better than ever.  The rooms have been completely re-modelled, the pool looks stunning with the Apple Cabanas surrounding it offering complete relaxation, Tramonti, the new beach restaurant, is open for business and serving dinner on selected evenings, as well as lunch and in the Sugar Mill restaurant, the food is as delicious as ever.  The All Inclusive package at the Sugar Mill is probably the best I have seen anywhere, with so many quality ingredients!

Guana Island has been open for a few months and is even more special than before.  With only 16 rooms and 3 villas, you can be sure of excellent service and first class cuisine.  The chef on Guana will cater to your every dietary requirement.  Guana also has its own orchard so the bananas that you eat and the coconut water you drink are likely to have been picked that morning.  Guana Island truly is a one-off upscale Caribbean retreat.

Sebastian’s on the Beach at Little Apple Bay on Tortola has had a complete makeover and looks fabulous!  Absolutely everything has been renewed and you can watch the surfers between October and March riding the waves and having loads of fun.  Sebastian’s has been welcoming guests back since July.

A brand new hotel at Cane Garden Bay on Tortola is nearing completion and should open it’s doors in January.  The owner is Quito Rymer and the name of the hotel is Quito’s Inn.  It’s in a stunning location only steps from the white sand beach.  Watch this space for more information!

You will be pleased to hear that Guavaberry Spring Bay on Virgin Gorda is back!  Tina and her team have been diligently working for months restoring and rebuilding and the fruits of their labour have well and truly paid off!  The property looks amazing and the beach is of course…..to die for!

Sailing in the BVI is second to none and the British Virgin Islands offers probably the best sailing in the world as you are always in sight of land.  If you don’t sail, we can arrange a skipper for you, or you can spend a week on one of our charter-by-the-cabin catamarans.  Most of the beach bars are brand new, offering great food, and drinks to cool you down.

We have dozens of beautiful villas and apartments, some on the beach and some on the hillside offering spectacular views all over the BVI.

Come, visit the beautiful BVI and enjoy paradise….it can’t get any better than this…..

 

Pussers is coming to Cane Garden Bay!

Hot Off the Press…

I just received this major announcement from Val Rhymer, owner of Myett’s in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. She has formed a partnership with the owners of Pusser’s to open a new Pusser’s Restaurant and Company Store at Myett’s Hotel.

Pusser’s at Myett’s

The new restaurant to be called, Pusser’s at Myett’s, will replace the current Myett’s Restaurant. It’s due to open around the end of November.

A Combined Menu

The menu will feature the best of Myett’s and Pusser’s selections offering a diverse combination of the best and most popular dishes from the two kitchens. A Pusser’s Rum Bar will also be opened on the beach. The Rum Bar will not only serve the obligatory Painkillers but a wide selection of frozen drinks and popular tropical cocktails.

The newly refurbished Myett’s Hotel re-opens in November and is quickly filling up for the season.

The good and positive news from the BVI just gets better and better!

Don’t miss out – call me to book your holiday to the beautiful British Virgin Islands and sample your own Painkiller!

 

Some of the Other British Virgin Islands

Most people know about Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada etc., but few know that the BVI is made up of around 60 islands.

BVI visitors relish in the discovery of their pristine palm-fringed beaches, rugged peaks, rich vegetation and friendly people, while some islands are uninhabited and designated as national parks.

Each island bears a name that reflects its colourful past and unique landscape, such as Buck Island, Deadman’s Chest, Fallen Jerusalem, Ginger Island, Great Camanoe, Round Rock and Scrub Island.

Among these numerous smaller islands, you’ll find must-see destinations for snorkelling and water sports, day hikes that lead the way to extraordinary lookouts, wildlife sanctuaries and so much more – all ensconced in the paradise that is the British Virgin Islands.

Enjoy sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, kite-surfing, fly-boarding, zip-lining and a host of other activities or….just relax on the sand with a cool beer or cocktail.

Tempted?  Call to book your dream holiday to the beautiful BVI.

Saying Hola to Jost Van Dyke

From the pen of Alexander Britell and Guy Britton…..

A little more than a year ago, the leisure boats and charter yachts pulled away from Jost Van Dyke on an afternoon not unlike this one, sipping their last painkillers, their last Firewater, savoring their last conch fritters for what would be a very long goodbye.

“Adios to Jost,” wrote the Virgin Islands’ most famous musical ambassador, Kenny Chesney, in “It’s That Time of Day,” singing years ago of the late afternoon departure ritual on White Bay.

But this was not a goodbye.

Because now, after months of struggle, grief, rebuild and recovery, Jost Van Dyke is back again.

The hills are green, the turquoise shimmering, the trees rising. The white of White Bay is just as blindingly bright.

And, yes, the dollars are soggy again.

Thursday marks one year since the savage storm bent the British Virgin Islands, but this chain of infinitely strong islands did not break.  Read more here and please read right to the end – it’s a wonderful story so full of positivity and determination.

What Is There to do in the Beautiful BVI?

I would just like to quash the myth that there is not a lot to do in the BVI except lie on the beautiful beaches and swim in the turqouise waters.  In fact, there is a lot to do and this is only a small example of what you can do in the British Virgin Islands.

For the active water sports people, there is a wide choice of activities such as kite-boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, diving, snuba, stand up paddle-boarding, windsurfing and surfing (yes surfing between October and April, small boat sailing on a variety of dinghies and Hobie-cats, fly-boarding to give you that adrenaline rush or just a relaxing day sail on a catamaran or monohull with lunch included.

 

If you are a confirmed land-lubber you can hike up Sage Mountain on Tortola, visit the Botanical Gardens, take the “Original Virgin Canopy Tour” which is similar to a zipline but safer and much quieter affording spectacular views over Road Town, take an island tour of Tortola or Virgin Gorda, hike to the top of Gorda Peak or simply relax on one of the many beautiful and stunning white sand beaches.

The BVI is welcoming back the tourists and would love to see YOU!

Call me to book your next holiday to the British Virgin Islands.

 

Update from the Bitter End Yacht Club

I just wanted to share this with you from the owner of Bitter End Yacht Club.  Things are moving and Bitter End will be back!  Read on….

A Message from the BEYC Crew!

Greetings from the Bitter End team. We hope you’re all having a great summer on, in and off the water, wherever you may be. It soon will be a year since Hurricane Irma scored her direct hit on North Sound, with her sister, Maria, visiting a handful of days later.  As most of you know, their unladylike behavior left virtually every structure at Bitter End smashed beyond repair and wrecked most of BEYC’s large and small boats.

As I write this from Bitter End, we’re in the midst of Phase 2 of the clean-up project, which is focused on dismantling structures and disposing of debris. There are 60+ workers on property, supported by heavy equipment and dump trucks. We have acquired a low-emissions, environmentally-friendly incinerator to dispose of organic debris, mostly wood; and we will remove other debris for appropriate offsite disposal.

There’s no doubt that it’s a daunting task to clear our 64 acres of an estimated 3,000 tons of debris from the nearly 70 shattered buildings; to prepare the property for new construction; and to get Bitter End back up and running. But, for us, it’s a very special and exciting opportunity that the entire team is tackling with enthusiasm and optimism. We are working with our architect, Matthew Falkiner of Simplemente Madera, to make sure “BEYC 2.0” will reflect its 50-year legacy of laid back fun and that it will personify the welcoming and friendly energy, vibe, spirit and respect for the natural environment that always has been Bitter End’s lifeblood.

We’re focused on having our mooring field, marina and harbour-front operations, including food, beverage and retail, in full swing by spring, 2019. By then, we will be on our way to building out the rest of Bitter End’s Village center as well as planning and mobilizing for follow-up phases across our 64 acres and along our mile of shoreline. Each day’s progress brings us closer to welcoming you ashore at Bitter End once more.

Bitter End 2.0 will continue its commitment to the Virgin Gorda community, which remains very much in need of support.  Aided by the generosity that our guests and friends have shown over the past year we have been able to:

–Respond, within 48 hours of Hurricane Irma’s passage, to the acute needs of Virgin Gordians for emergency evacuations, food, water, medical and other critical supplies. This only was possible through the kindness and generosity of friends in Puerto Rico and North Sound.
–Bring timely and sustained post-hurricane emergency financial assistance directly to Bitter End’s 170+ employees.
–Sponsor a Holiday Party featuring Santa and toys for the local Virgin Gorda Community.
–Continue our support of “VISAR” (Virgin Islands Search and Rescue).
–Contribute meaningfully to the BVI Tech Ed Project, which through a grant in partnership with other BVI hospitality industry participants, has facilitated donation of 650 Chromebooks to the Ministry of Education & Culture of the British Virgin Islands; and has resulted in a follow-on grant for additional Chromebooks that will ensure that BVI high school students in private and parochial schools have access to this technology as well.
–Conduct, along with Sunchaser Scuba, World Oceans Day shoreline and seabed clean-up in North Sound.
–Sponsor the non-profit Saira Hospitality School’s training initiatives for Virgin Gorda and other BVI residents.

Your support and generosity continue to be instrumental in making possible these and future initiatives to assist our community. Fundraising and support for the community will remain a key feature as we ramp up BEYC 2.0. We continue to be amazed by the Bitter End community’s inexhaustible compassion and the persistent energy, strength, support and generosity that reinforces our resolve every day to turn this challenge into the exciting opportunity of bending on new sails and continuing with the remarkable voyage that has been and will continue to be Bitter End.

So please stay tuned! During the runup to BEYC 2.0, please help us at #BringBackBitterEnd by getting out your favorite Bitter End gear, wearing it and using it on the water this summer. Then share the fun with us on Facebook and check for updates there on Bitter End’s resurgence, including some exciting new things that we’ll share with you very soon.

Thanks to every one of our treasured Bitter End friends for your incredible support and your devotion to Bitter End and the BVI over its 50-year history and especially during the past tough ten months.

The BVI are making great strides forward in lots of avenues – feet are NOT being dragged!   Think about this island paradise for your next holiday and call BVI Holidays today.

Bitter End will be back!

 

 

Guana Island Is Back!

It’s beautiful, it’s quirky, it’s historic, it’s scenic and … it reopened on the 1st of August.

 

Guana Island is one of the leading hotels in the BVI and they welcomed their first guests since the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, on the 1st August.

This private island getaway, home to 18 suites and 4 villas, is renowned for its natural beauty, its commitment to local and organic sourcing and its pristine beaches.

Guana, has completed a significant restoration project that included refreshing all 18 suites; cleaning and restoring the landscaping, including its famous organic orchard; adding a new water filtration system and running all of its vital infrastructure below ground.  It has been a huge project.

The orchard on Guana Island has also added three new greenhouses (including removable roofs) and even 100 new chickens who supply eggs to the Guana kitchen.

For the walkers amongst you, Guana has 12 miles of hiking trails – some can be quite challenging – An ascent of Sugarloaf Mountain’s 806-foot summit will be rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding British Virgin Islands, or…..you can just relax on the beach with a cocktail and a good book.

If you would like to spend some time on beautiful Guana Island, call BVI Holidays – we would love to arrange this for you.