TRAVEL: A family sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands for Thanksgiving last year, was the highlight of 2019, a tough year, yet ending with an authentic emotion of unforgettable thankfulness. Positive thinking is a powerful healer, and as my husband battled stage-three cancer, after diagnosis in February, we focused on the final outcome; his excellent health and a Catamaran sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands.

Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, British Virgin Islands

My fave snapshot, Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

After multiple sessions of chemo and radiation therapy, for my husband, the only goal that mattered was feeling the tropical breeze, eating fresh seafood, and soaking up every family moment with fun and frivolity. This well-planned vacation would be a trip to remember, floating between St. Thomas and St. John, and around the smaller British Virgin Islands surrounding Tortola.

From Dallas, we stopped in Miami, which is always a great destination to kick-off that vacation feeling. Spending one night at The Miami Beach Edition hotel that evening we walked barefoot along the beach, soaked in the sounds of crashing waves, and shared dinner with a couple; Dallas friends that now reside in Miami. It was the perfect beginning to our highly-anticipated getaway!

When that warm, humid, tropical air seeps into your pores, you know it’s time to let your worries float away. It takes at least a good day for the sensation of island time to take over your mindset, so before embarking on our floating adventure, we spent one night at The Ritz-Carlton Club on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rumba, 52ft Catamaran in the British Virgin Islands

Rumba, 52ft Catamaran in the British Virgin Islands

Next morning, we met our crew, Captain Kevin Williams and Taylor Davis, on Rumba, a 52ft. Catamaran at Red Hook Marina. Along with our family and a couple—long-time friends, and the crew, we were a Cat of nine guests, all eager and ready to set sail. By the way, I suffer from seasickness, so my oh-so-stylish and much-needed fashion accessory for the entire trip was a Sea-Band, a pressure point elastic wristband that kept the waves of nausea at a minimum. A gift from a family member that I was very, very thankful to be wearing.

Day One: St. Thomas to Maho Bay to Francis Bay: First things first, morning Yoga! We left Red Hook Marina on St. Thomas early and sailed across to St. John and moored at Maho Bay for breakfast. Captain tied a giant blue float from the back of the boat, where we started the process of unwinding, playing, as well as positioning a few downward-facing dogs, sun salutation and warrior poses. An utterly lazy day, by mid-afternoon, we pulled up anchor and sailed to Francis Bay, where we moored overnight.

I’ve listed our menu, firstly because it was delicious, secondly kudos to Taylor for creating a menu with so many dietary needs, which included requirements for celiac, plant paradox, and pescatarian! Thirdly, do you know how hard it is to create dishes within a tiny little kitchen, let alone find groceries to accommodate all our needs, No easy feat! So with the highest respect to Taylor, each freshly prepared meal that she’s loving created is listed.

Breakfast: A hollandaise breakfast sandwich with a cup of fruit. Lunch: Shrimp Jerk salad with lime-basil dressing. Dinner: Seared grouper with sweet potato mash and broccoli, served with mango sorbet topped with shaved coconut for dessert.

Day Two:  Francis Bay to Great Harbor Cay to White Bay to Little Harbor: A jam-packed day, I can barely remember everything we experienced. From Francis Bay, we sailed around Mary Point to a small bay called Leinster Bay, which is still on the island of St. John and known for great snorkelling. We splashed about the bay all morning, hardly stealth-like, but voyeurs of fish nonetheless peering through our foggy goggles over an aquatic abode full of parrotfish, blue and yellow tang, and clownfish.

Ravenous for lunch, we decided to eat on land and left St. John and sailed onward to Great Harbor on the British Virgin Island of Jost van Dyke to visit Foxy’s. If you’re particular to fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then this is not your spot. But if you want to experience a rustic, Caribbean-style menu, sitting outside on a wooden bench with palm trees and your feet in the sand, then do visit this 50-year old authentic joint.

After lunch, we motored around to White Bay and anchored offshore, where I took a swim toward the beach and walked the white stretch of sand, it felt good to stand on land and stop bobbing around, and soak in the scene. With an infamous bar destination known as the Soggy Dollar Bar, the last time I visited this beach shack was 2004, so fifteen years later, much has changed at the Soggy Dollar and along this stretch of white sand. Now accompanied by a cluster of restaurants and bars, it was apparent this destination was the fun island, albeit, not quite St. Barths.

For evening dinner, we sailed around to Little Harbour for a more sheltered overnight stay, since the waves and bobbing about were a little queasy for all. Also, in support of the local restaurant businesses, our Captain recommended we visit Sydney’s Peace & Love for dinner. Once buzzing with tourism, now the restaurant, which mostly survived the double-slamming hurricanes of 2017, is where locals and the occasional charters stop to dine with Strawberry, yes, the name of the owner, who serves-up delicious home-cooked dishes.

Breakfast: French toast served with strawberries & bacon (but no pig for me please). Lunch: Foxy’s Bar on Jost van Dyke. Dinner: Sydney’s Peace & Love.

Day Three: Little Harbour to Anegada: On our way to the most northern outpost island of the British Virgin Islands called Anegada, we paused for a little fishing, more accurately described as an attempt to acquire fresh fish for our Thanksgiving dinner! After a battle with a barracuda, not an edible fish, we gave up in search of lunch on the island. Anegada definitely feels more remote, a flat island with hardly any commercial development, and a beach that resembles that perfect beach you dream about. After lunch at Anegada Reef Hotel (sadly a little unforgettable), we rented a couple of electric Mokes to drive to a beach on the other side of the island called Cow Wreck Beach, and here I snapped my favourite beach scene from the entire trip. A leisurely afternoon beachside, we soaked in the full experience of sun, sea and sand on this remote Caribbean island sipping on a few rum cocktails, aka painkillers, to complete the mood. Back on the boat, we freshened up for dinner, and motored around a few bays to dine at The Wonky Dog—fresh lobsters for all!

Breakfast: Very Berry Parfaits, fresh fruit platter, and toast with local nutmeg jam. Lunch: Anegada Reef Hotel. Dinner: Wonky Dog.

Day Four: Anegada to Oil Nut Bay, to Prickly Pear Island: After breakfast, we left Anegada and sailed towards Virgin Gorda passing by a rugged beachside spot, formerly a well-frequented destination called Bitter End Yacht Club. Now it’s nothing by cleared rubble—a casualty from the 2017 category five hurricanes, Irma and Maria that devastated the Caribbean. It’s been a few years since we visited B.E.Y.C., and as the saying goes, ‘Out of sight out of mind’, but even though I read the news coverage during that time, it’s not until you’re physical within the vicinity of the devastation that can you truly appreciate the power of mother nature. But the good news is, the rebirth of Bitter End 2.0 is underway!

From chaos comes clarity, and our lunch spot on Virgin Gorda reminded us that luxury living in the Caribbean is still alive and flourishing. We pulled into the marina of Oil Nut Bay and stayed for a long, delicious lunch at Nova restaurant, a delightful healthy menu that appealed to all our dietary requirements. We did want to dine at the Rosewood property Little Dix Bay, but at the time it wasn’t re-opened post-hurricane rebuild. Next time! That evening we anchored near Prickly Pear Island, enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the boat, and happily dined thanks to Taylor’s fantastic chef skills.

Breakfast: Veggie frittata with fruit platter and toast. Dinner: Shrimp linguini in a garlic-butter wine sauce with blistered tomatoes and caesar salad, served with gluten-free coffee cake, fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Day Five: Prickly Pear Island to The Baths to Scrub Island: A big sailing day, so a big breakfast (scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and avocado toast) was in order before we departed Prickly Pear Island—destination, The Baths, Virgin Gorda. Known as one of the most visited and photographed spots in the British Virgin Islands, The Baths, formed of large granite, are smoothly eroded into boulders across the beach and landscape. An adventurous spot, with watery grottoes, tidal pools and dipping pools, all perfect for kids, and adult kids too. We were fortunate that the morning visit was relatively quiet, depending on the time of year this location can be rather unbearable with too many visitors. After paddling and splashing our way through the winding grotto, and with not much choice for lunch spots (thanks Irma and Maria), the only availability was Top of The Baths Restaurant and Bar—the biggest plus for this location is the breathtaking view across to Tortola.

After lunch, we sailed northwest to Scrub Island, where we enjoyed the island’s marina and hotel facilities—a pool, a little spa treatment, limitless time in the showers, cocktails at sunset, and dinner at Donovan’s Reef restaurant, with a view across the marina. That night we harboured at the marina, safe and calm for the night. Love sailing, but after five days on the boat, you can’t beat a long steady stream of unlimited hot water, without bobbing about when you shower!

Day Six: Thanksgiving – Scrub Island to Cooper Island to Peter Island: The best day! We rallied for breakfast, Taylor dished on the delish, serving gluten-free banana pancakes, sausage and fruit platter. Yum! Today was the first day we would all separate, the boys would go fishing for something to eat for dinner, as the pressure to acquire fresh fish was imminent, and the ladies—a day out together at Cooper Island Beach Club. We sailed south from Scrub Island down to Cooper Island, motored the boat tender beachside, and the boys escaped for their half-day fishing adventure. What bliss! Love Cooper Island Beach Club, a perfect little resort, with easy beach lounging, a great lunch spot and a couple of stores for tropical attire shopping, what more could we ask for on this tiny island. By mid-afternoon, the boys were back, and we joined them on the boat, sailing on to Peter Island to get ready for dinner. Thankful in so many ways, this Thanksgiving was a special celebration, a memory never to be forgotten. Unfortunately, not one single fish was caught, oops! But we still gorged ourselves silly over dinner: Caribbean Thanksgiving feast, gluten-free stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, grilled shrimp and steak with pan-fried asparagus, for dessert a gluten-free Caribbean coconut-rum cake, pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream.

Me, paddle boarding at Salt Pond Bay, St John US Virgin Islands

Me, paddle-boarding at Salt Pond Bay, St John US Virgin Islands.

Day Seven: Peter Island to The Indians to Salt Pond to Cruz Bay, St. John: For our last day, we crammed in two visits, first to The Indians, a cluster of tiny uninhabited island northwest of Norman Island, en route to St. John. A relaxing snorkelling destination, we stopped for a couple of hours and then sailed over to Salt Pond for more snorkelling and a little paddle-boarding. Phew! An energetic day with lunch on board, so we decided to enjoy our last evening at Cruz Bay on St. John dining at a restaurant called Morgan’s Mango —so apropos, Caribbean cuisine, of course!

This was my third trip sailing in the British Virgin Islands, but my first time sailing on a catamaran, which I loved! I would love to revisit these islands and see how life has returned to many of the hotels, resorts and restaurant that were still recovering after the devastation of the hurricanes. That said, I think the next sailing adventure will require a new destination, perhaps the Mediterranean.