BRI­TISH VIR­GIN IS­LANDS

The dreamy archipelago beloved by sailors of every stripe sum­mons its trade­mark brand of op­ti­mism, wel­come, and Painkillers

Coastal Living - - NAVIGATOR -

THERE ARE TWO WAYS to un­der­stand the im­pact of Hur­ri­cane Irma on the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands. One is an­a­lyt­i­cal: The cat­e­gory 5 storm was so vi­o­lent it trig­gered seis­mome­ters cal­i­brated for earth­quakes. The other is this: “It was like there were demons out in that storm,” says Clayvorne Pope while man­ning the desk at Dive BVI on Scrub Is­land. She stills her oth­er­wise beam­ing coun­te­nance as she re­calls the ter­ror. “If that hur­ri­cane had stayed a half hour more, we would not be here,” she says. “And it felt like a night­mare af­ter­ward, for eight weeks straight.”

Pope is not the only res­i­dent to put it that way. For Fran and Andy Mor­rell, own­ers of the life­style ap­parel brand HIHO as well as a home and de­sign shop on the is­land who live on the north­ern shore of Tor­tola, the storm prac­ti­cally reached into their be­seiged home, and yanked their beloved dogs into its grip. “We were mak­ing our way up to the safest room in our house—the pantry in the cen­ter of the kitchen,” Andy re­calls, “And we looked around and the dogs were gone. They’d been sucked out into the storm.” The Mor­rells en­dured the storm with­out their pets and be­gan, in sor­row, to as­sess the dam­age to their home af­ter it had passed. “One dog just showed back up,” Fran says, “and then the next morn­ing, the other.” It’s a story that con­tains both the threat and then the mir­a­cle of sur­vival.

Although no longer a true monar­chy (but still a Bri­tish Over­seas Ter­ri­tory), the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands have the feel of a king­dom set apart. Form­ing an ob­long ring that blocks the oceanic swells of the At­lantic Ocean from the north but lets the tradewinds of the east blow across the Caribbean Sea in the cen­ter, the is­lands cre­ate a sailor’s par­adise, the ul­ti­mate spot for cruis­ing. And those cruis­ers—well-heeled in boat shoes and stow­ing rum below decks—have al­ways loved a party on shore, which has led to the BVIs be­ing home to se­cluded re­sorts and epic beach bars (in­clud­ing the Willy T, a bar oc­cu­py­ing a boat now moored off Peter Is­land).

Irma picked up ship­ping con­tain­ers, boats, cars, and trucks and tossed them like plas­tic Mo­nop­oly pieces. The storm (and Hur­ri­cane Maria, just 10 days later) tore roofs from build­ings, ripped up coral below the ocean’s sur­face, and re­duced acres of lush green fo­liage to dull gray. But the achingly deep blue of that shel­tered sea re­mains, as do beaches of­ten made larger by torn-away trees and sand pushed back on shore. It’s a par­adise re­vised, and into it have stepped thou­sands of hearty is­lan­ders who say that the one thing they want the rest

of the world to know is that they are there and they can’t wait to see ev­ery­one come back.

That joie de sur­vivre is poured into every Painkiller shaken into rummy sweetness by Leon Miller at the Soggy Dol­lar, a lime-green out­post of drink­ing, snack­ing, and hang­ing out on Jost Van Dyke. Miller, a videog­ra­pher and pho­tog­ra­pher, has not only been wel­com­ing daytrip­pers back to Soggy Dol­lar, but also work­ing on a man­grove and palm re­plant­ing project on the is­land, a cru­cial part of habi­tat re­cov­ery and ero­sion pro­tec­tion. In the next cove over, the re­doubtable Foxy Call­wood, of the renowned beach bar that bears his name, has re­built his col­lec­tion of lean-tos and shady spots that epit­o­mizes the BVI’s ras­cally brand of trop­i­cal life. Even Foxy’s fa­mous Jenga game—an over­size stack of two-by-fours, scrawled with names and ex­hor­ta­tions from the archipelago’s trav­el­ers—has been care­fully re­assem­bled. It’s a re­minder of the re­silience—and the fragility—of all things man-made, in a world so beau­ti­fully blue.

GET HERE

The Ter­rance B. Lett­some air­port on Tor­tola is served from San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Cape Air, Liat, Se­aborne, and In­terCaribbean Air­ways.

STAY HERE SCRUB IS­LAND

Get­ting to Scrub Is­land Re­sort, Spa & Ma­rina is about the eas­i­est con­nec­tion in the BVIs: It’s a five-minute walk from the air­port to Trel­lis Bay, where a pri­vate ferry picks you up and whisks you 1.5 miles to the palm-lined ma­rina and re­sort. An­other ben­e­fit of bas­ing a BVI va­ca­tion at Scrub Is­land is that it’s a home base for Dive BVI (di­ve­bvi.com), a ter­rific char­ter ser­vice for day trips both above and be­neath the water.

COOPER IS­LAND

Ten beach­front guest rooms sus­tained by so­lar power are just one of many things to love at Cooper Is­land Beach Club, a low-key, fash­ion­able bou­tique ho­tel on this is­land north­east of Tor­tola. An on­site (and so­lar-pow­ered) brew­ery, ex­cel­lent cof­fee bar and restau­rant, beau­ti­fully cu­rated bou­tique, and rum bar with more than 100 se­lec­tions com­plete the cast­away magic. Rates start at $235; cooperis­land­beach­club.com.

ANEGADA

Be­cause of its lo­ca­tion at the north­ern rim of the BVIs, low-ly­ing, beachy Anegada Is­land missed the cen­tral fury of Irma. This means the re­cently re­done, lux­ury glamp­ing re­sort Anegada Beach Club sur­vived with its sub­stan­tial bare­foot charms— in­clud­ing beach­front pala­pas— in­tact. Rates start at $225; ane­gad­abeach­club.com.

VIR­GIN GORDA

On the is­land’s east­ern penin­sula, the eco-minded and lux­u­ri­ous Oil Nut Bay com­mu­nity was one of the first prop­er­ties in the BVIs to re­open, with 11 suites and vil­las avail­able for rent (17 are ex­pected by De­cem­ber). Rates start at $750; oil­nut­bay .com. Beloved Bi­ras Creek Re­sort, closed since 2015 be­cause of le­gal is­sues, plans to re­open with 12 rooms in Novem­ber; bi­ras.com.

TOR­TOLA

On Ap­ple Bay fac­ing Jost Van Dyke, the Su­gar Mill Ho­tel—a low-key, Old Caribbean–style ho­tel built amid the re­mains of a 400-year-old es­tate— re­turns in Novem­ber. (The spa is al­ready open.) Rates start at $295; sug­armill­ho­tel.com.

MORE PRI­VATE IS­LANDS

Off the north­east end of

Tor­tola, the serene Guana Is­land re­sort has re­opened its 15 rooms in posh stone cot­tages, adding three new green­houses to its or­chard and restor­ing the off­shore coral reef. Rates start at $720 (all-in­clu­sive); gua­nais­land

.com. Nearby, the small, very pri­vate, and so­lar-pow­ered Eus­ta­tia Is­land re­opens its full-is­land of­fer­ing for up to 16 guests in Novem­ber. Rates start at $35,000 per night (all-in­clu­sive); eus­ta­tia.com.

The lux­u­ri­ous Peter Is­land Re­sort & Spa is con­tin­u­ing to re­build af­ter dev­as­tat­ing dam­age; pe­ter­is­land.com. On Richard Bran­son’s

Necker Is­land, the Great House has been re­stored and re­opened in Oc­to­ber, with more ac­com­mo­da­tions to come in 2019. Novem­ber Cel­e­bra­tion Week rates start at $13,575 per cou­ple for a three-night stay; vir­gin­lim­ited edi­tion.com.

SPEND YOUR VA­CA­TION ON A BOAT

Char­ter­ing a live-aboard sail or mo­tor yacht has al­ways been a clas­sic way to ex­plore the BVIs. The Moor­ings of­fers a va­ri­ety of boats and itin­er­ar­ies to suit any kind of group out of its base on Tor­tola, as well as pack­ages cus­tom de­signed for your needs and dreams. Rates start at $2,531 for two pas­sen­gers for seven nights; moor­ings.com.

Lo­cals en­joy­ing the day’s beauty, on Jost Van Dyke

Foxy Call­wood at his re­built Foxy’s Tamarind Bar on Jost Van Dyke

Fran and Andy Mor­rell hug their re­cov­ered pups on the deck of their Tor­tola home.

Tor­tola’s Cane Gar­den Bay

Leon Miller mans the bar at Soggy Dol­lar on Jost Van Dyke.

North Shore Shell Mu­seum near Cane Gar­den Bay

The re­stored Scrub Is­land Re­sort, Spa & Ma­rina

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