Just came back from a week down in St. John and the BVI, and it was among the nicest vacations of our lives.

Another couple joined my wife and me for a week on Bella Vita, a 46 foot catamaran. We could not have had a better time!  We had chartered a cat in Greece last year and had a wonderful time, but I have to say that our experience on the boat this year was even better.

After our flight from the states, the Captain picked us up at Red Hook, where we hung out a little to watch Spain defeat Germany in the world cup. From the very beginning, he could not have done any more to make sure our time was relaxed, easy and fun. The boat itself is less than 2 years old and was perfect for us. We did a short sail to Mahoe Bay in St. John. Headed up the steps to watch the sunset at the restaurant serving the Mahoe Bay Campground. Lovely view, but make sure to bring bug spray. We ate the first of many great meals on the boat. This time steak with great sides.

On day 2 we kayaked and snorkeled and then headed out to Sopers Hole, finally stopping at Cane Garden Bay. We had the IPOD cranking an eclectic mix of tunes. We feasted on basil chicken and pineapple yams for dinner. Derek’s wife Brenda had to handle some things back in the states (they live in NC during the rainy season) so we were joined by his 23 year old daughter Lorrin on this trip. She also helps out sometimes when there are families with little children aboard. She’s a University of North Carolina graduate and an utterly delightful young woman.

We headed to White Bay on Jost for our third day, hitting the Soggy Dollar bar early.
What an awful place. Hammocks, chairs in the water for cooling down, mango painkillers….pretty much ruins you for life. When the line got too long at the bar, I headed next door to Gertrude’s and had a cool experience with her and some of the others hanging with her in the bar. I had asked for vodka with orange and cranberry juice, light on the latter. She responded by handing me the bottles and saying “help yourself- make it however you’d like.” Never happened before, and it was just perfect for the setting. We ate at Foxy’s which was ok but not nearly as good, frankly, as eating on the boat.

On day 3, we sailed to Monkey Point and had one of the best snorkeling experiences of our lives. The coral was unbelievable, and we swam with literally tens of thousands of small fish. We went over to the Bitter End Yacht club for drinks and sat on their beach chairs after the sun went down. On day 4, we had a real treat, heading to Anegada for the day. I know it’s off the beaten path just a bit, but that’s its charm. We hung out at the Cow Wreck bar with perhaps 7 or 8 other people, and a beach that felt like it was all ours. In fact, a 10 minute walk and it was all ours. We rented mopeds and tooled around the island, which was really fun. At night, we ate big lobsters at Potters by the Sea. Nice service, good food, best of the available restaurant options.

The captain would start each day laying out some options, but always with the refrain, “I’m here to help you create the experience you want. So it’s really about what you’d like to do.” And if what we wanted to do was not make any decisions, he handled that for us also. Everything was easy, and he and the chef couldn’t do enough for us. It was a very different feel from other times we’ve gone with a crewed yacht charter.

It really felt as if the captain was another friend who we happened to bring on the trip, but who also cleaned, sailed and took care of all the details. At night after dinner, we usually played cards or some dice games he taught us. One time we all danced on the cargo netting and used the spotlight to watch the nurse sharks chowing down on their dinner next to the boat.
On Day 5, we sailed to the Dogs, and snorkeled The Chimney. After lunch, we went to Spanish Town and stayed in the harbor because we thought we’d go to the piano bar there (sorry, forget the name.) But we were so bushed we never made it in. Others say it, and the restaurant, are good choices.

On Day 6, we went to The Baths on Virgin Gorda  to climb around and go snorkeling. It was fun to tool around on the rocks, and the formations were really interesting, though it was the most crowded place we visited. Had some great fish tacos for lunch and headed to Norman and the Willy T. Unfortunately it was pretty quiet around 6 on a Monday night. We did shots of red headed sluts and then my friend and I did the birthday suit plunge from the mast (not bad for 50, but not so great for anyone to look at either.) My wife wanted to jump (with suit) and when her friend chickened out. Exhilarating moments for all. Had dinner at Pirates which was pretty good before heading back to the boat. There was a nice area for kids to play if you have any with you.

On Day 7 we stopped at the Indians for a snorkel. The water was pretty rough and the shallow rocks on one side got tricky, though it is certainly worth doing on calmer days. We had crab cakes on the boat for lunch, fired up the blender, and headed to St. John. We wanted to stay in an idyllic setting and the captain parked us in Watermelon Cay for the night. Absolutely lovely, with big Turtles, sting rays, thousands of fish in several schools- the works. There were only 4 boats that night in the bay. We had both the sunset and early morning beauty we had hoped for.

~Rich Goldberg, NY