Board a pri­vate yacht and let the wind guide you on an un­for­get­table jour­ney through the pic­turesque Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands.


Board a pri­vate yacht and jour­ney through the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands.

My first night in the BVIs was spent on a cata­ma­ran moored in Sol­dier Bay, just a short swim from Nor­man Is­land, the one said to be the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind Robert Louis Steven­son’s Trea­sure Is­land. Af­ter a long day of travel, I chose sleep over ex­plo­ration (of ei­ther the lit­er­ary or lit­eral va­ri­ety), but woke up the next morn­ing shortly af­ter sun­rise to spot a fel­low pas­sen­ger through the port­hole of my cabin. He had swum over to a nearby is­land in search of trea­sure—or at least to be able to say he’d poked around be­fore com­ing back empty-handed. But in a way, we’d al­ready found the trea­sure—we were on it. Ale­gria, a 59-foot yacht, stocked with a kayak, a pad­dle­board, snorkelling gear and fish­ing rods, bub­bly and more gourmet food than could pos­si­bly be eaten over the course of our time at sea.

Ours was one of more than 44 yachts in the TradeWinds fleet. Launched in 1999 af­ter co­founder Mag­nus Lewin built a 45-foot cata­ma­ran near Dur­ban, South Africa, and sailed it to St. Martin in the Caribbean, the TradeWinds char­ter sail­ing com­pany is unique among yacht oper­a­tors. The idea: the boats run like small bou­tique ho­tels. Guests can gather a group of friends and fam­ily, and rent an en­tire boat for a week, and in­di­vid­u­als or cou­ples can book in­di­vid­ual cab­ins, opt­ing to spend seven days with like-minded ad­ven­tur­ers. In both cases, a cap­tain and cook will ac­com­pany the boat to nav­i­gate the wa­ters and pre­pare the week’s meals.

Turquoise Dreams, the cata­ma­ran built by Lewin, spent the com­pany’s first six months sail­ing guests around the is­lands dot­ting St. Martin, and the next half of the year nav­i­gat­ing St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines. Jump for­ward to 2015, and the com­pany’s luxe yachts sail year-round in equally luxe lo­cales, in­clud­ing the Caribbean, Greece, and Turkey. There’s even one par­tic­u­lar yacht, Wan­der­lust, that cir­cum­nav­i­gates the globe. Turquoise Dreams though, the boat that started it all, still makes its way around the wa­ters of St. Martin, and will sail its last sea­son be­fore re­tir­ing next year.

The week I was on Ale­gria, a mix of trav­ellers

joined me. Some were scuba divers, oth­ers were snorkellers, and some, like me, were happy to take a dip ev­ery now and then, but en­joyed spend­ing the rest of our time on board with the wind in our hair.

The pris­tine wa­ters of Sir Fran­cis Drake Chan­nel in the BVIs are, them­selves, a turquoise dream. Be­tween our start and end points on the is­land of Tor­tola, we ex­plored wa­ter-filled caves in Nor­man Is­land’s Pri­va­teer Bay.

Our cap­tain, Nathan Shed­den, seemed to have two sets of arms, and man­aged to set course while gear­ing peo­ple up with their choice of wa­ter toys, mix­ing drinks for cock­tail hour, and plot­ting our next desti­na­tion. His first mate (and girl­friend), Penny Tay­lor, was equally busy in the gal­ley, pre­par­ing a menu full of fresh fruit, veg­eta­bles, and fish dishes, all of which paired per­fectly with the im­pres­sive wine se­lec­tion on board. When I found my­self struck by a crav­ing for choco­late, Tay­lor dis­ap­peared into the pantry, re-emerg­ing mo­ments later with a bite-sized Snick­ers bars. The pair was pre­pared for any­thing.

One af­ter­noon, Cap­tain Shed­den steered us north­east to­wards Lit­tle Har­bour, a marine park off Peter Is­land, a place where off-duty crews go to re­lax be­tween weeks at work, and tur­tles and fish of all lengths and colours bobbed along­side our boat. We were one of only four boats there; at night it was noth­ing but us, the stars and the waves. The next day, the pace changed com­pletely as we took off with the wind.

We passed Fallen Jerusalem, an un­in­hab­ited is­land once owned by the Rockefellers and given to the BVIs for use as a na­tional park, Dead Chest Is­land, where Black­beard is said to have aban­doned 15 men, leav­ing them with noth­ing but a cut­lass and bot­tle of rum each, and Salt Is­land, where the wreck of the RMS Rhone lies—a ship sunk by a hur­ri­cane in 1867.

An af­ter­noon was spent ex­plor­ing the Baths Na­tional Park, where gi­ant gran­ite boul­ders pile along the shore­line cre­at­ing pools of wa­ter off the beach. It’s the most pop­u­lar tourist spot in the BVIs, and for good rea­son—de­spite be­ing there with hun­dreds of peo­ple, find­ing a pri­vate pool and place of quiet soli­tude was a cinch.

It’s a cer­tain kind of trav­eller who is drawn to th­ese types of jour­neys: aside from the first and last port of calls, there was no itin­er­ary—the norm for a typ­i­cal TradeWinds es­cape. The cap­tain will have an idea of the course he or she plans to chart, but guests are en­cour­aged to re­quest sites they’d like to see—if you’re keen on beaches, for in­stance, the cap­tain will make a point to seek out quiet is­lands with patches of pris­tine white sand.

Much of the jour­ney is up to the wind. Of course, when you’re in th­ese sparkling wa­ters cir­cling is­lands so rich with his­tory and lore, any di­rec­tion the wind may blow is bound to be a good one.

“It’s a cer­tain kind of trav­eller who is drawn to th­ese types of jour­neys: aside from the first and last port of calls, there was no itin­er­ary.”

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