My husband, Jon, and I returned home last weekend after spending 10 days aboard “Journey’s End,” a 37’ Island Packet out of Red Hook. It was an amazing adventure, bookended by some serious weather during hurricane season. Tropical Storm Rafael caused some disruptions on our flight into STT, and Hurricane Sandy made for some rough travel on our return to the States.

First, a little bit of background about us. This was our third trip to the islands but our first bareboat charter. In 2009, we spent a week at Cooper Island Beach Club and rented a 22’ powerboat to take day trips around the BVIs. And last year, we traveled to St. John and explored the island by jeep, scooter, dinghy and HobieCat.

We’ve talked about sailing for a long time, but didn’t actually start until fairly recently. A couple of years ago we bought a trailer sailor (a 14’ Com-Pac) and started learning the basics on lakes in Minnesota. Last summer, we took our hobby to the next level and became bareboat certified through the Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School in Captiva Island. The day after we passed our coursework, I contacted Island Yachts to book our first charter!

Here’s a link to some photos from our trip…

And here’s our detailed trip report…

Day 1 – Our plan was to sail directly to Jost and clear customs on our first day, but we got a late start after a lengthy checkout process and trouble with the outboard on our dinghy. Since we didn’t want to arrive after the customs office on Jost had closed, we decided to play it safe and picked up an NPS mooring in Caneel Bay on St. John. We took the dinghy into Cruz Bay, picked up some additional provisions and had a great meal at the Banana Deck.

Day 2 – We headed toward Soper’s Hole to clear customs and pick up some cigars for Jon. From there, we had a very slow sail to Norman – very light winds coming from the southeast. We eventually ended up motor-sailing to the Indians for a quick snorkel before picking up a ball in the Bight. The bartender at the Willy T told us that the Interline Regatta had just concluded and a lot of the participants decided to make Norman their last stop before heading home. It was a crazy night but it sounds like that’s fairly normal for Norman!

Day 3 – We took a nice hike on Norman before sailing up Francis Drake Channel to Cooper Island. Once again, we were headed directly into the wind so we got some great experience tacking and applying our “rules of the road” training! I have a whole new appreciation for those kinds of concepts (right of way, apparent wind, etc.) after using them in practice. That evening, we enjoyed a great meal and some cocktails at CIBC’s remodeled bar and restaurant.

Day 4 – Our longest sail so far took us from Cooper to North Sound where we took a slip at Leverick Bay. We had visited North Sound on our 2009 trip by powerboat and I was excited to return, so we decided to spend two nights in this part of Virgin Gorda. While we were enjoying a couple of Painkiller’s during Jumbie’s happy hour, we met Ken and DD, a couple from Winnipeg on their honeymoon aboard a 44 Lagoon Catamaran. They were also fairly new to sailing and it was great to realize that we weren’t the only newbies.

Day 5 – We decided to take it easy and have a dinghy day. Our first stop was a secluded beach on the island of Eustasia where we had a nice offshore snorkel. Then we headed to Biras Creek and hiked one of their trails high with views over Long Bay and North Sound. On our way back to Leverick, we stopped at Prickly Pear hoping for a drink at the Sand Bar but it looked closed for the season. We were back in time to catch a taxi to Hog Heaven where our meal was as great as the views!

Day 6 – We got an early start and had a great sail down to the Baths. Unfortunately, our arrival was marred by some mishaps with the mooring ball. I won’t go into the embarrassing details, but our first few attempts were on a ball that didn’t have a float on the pennant. We didn’t have a very good boat hook anyway (no extender or rubber hand grips), but it would have been lost at sea if I hadn’t dove in a couple of times after losing it! I know the Baths are a tourist mecca but I’m glad we took the time to stop. From there, we sailed to Marina Cay and had dinner on board.

Day 7 – We motored through the channel and put up the sails after we passed Little Camanoe. It was all downwind from there! We stopped for a great snorkel at Monkey Point, and then had a perfect trip to Great Harbor on Jost. I thought briefly about hiking over to White Bay but instead chose to hang out on the boat and just enjoy a leisurely afternoon. That evening at Foxy’s, we ran into our new friends, Ken and DD, and made plans to meet them the following night for happy hour at Myett’s.

Day 8 – We didn’t have far to travel but the day got away from us. We sailed to the east end of the island and snorkeled at the reef between Jost and Little Jost. After a light lunch at Foxy’s Taboo, we motored over to Sandy Cay and swam ashore. We got to Cane Garden Bay with barely enough time to take a quick shower before meeting Ken and DD for drinks. Cane Garden was the only stop on our charter that we hadn’t already visited on a previous trip. I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about until we arrived – what a beautiful anchorage and a funky little village!

Day 9 – We really love the seclusion of St. John so we decided to depart the BVIs and head back to the US side. We sailed from CGB to Cruz Bay in some good wind, cleared customs and had lunch at the Rum Hut. Then we backtracked and picked up an NPS mooring at Maho. I think there were only four other boats in the entire bay (including Francis) and it felt like we were camping. It’s amazing how dark the night can be without any onshore development.

Day 10 – We had a short sail from Maho to Hawksnest for our final full day aboard “Journey’s End.” The winds had picked up significantly in the past couple of days (probably due to Hurricane Sandy) and we saw gusts of 26 knots – I’m sure not a big deal for experienced sailors but pretty intimidating for me! We found a fairly protected mooring but it wasn’t a particularly peaceful spot to spend our last night. After a long snorkel and a short hike ashore, we had dinner onboard and sadly started packing.

Day 11 – I was at the helm for our final leg back to Red Hook. The swells through Pillsbury Sound were pretty large compared to the rest of our trip. Ferry traffic and a sudden squall complicated matters but my fear was overpowered by a sense of exhilaration as we completed our journey.

I kept a blog during this trip for friends and family to follow our “virgin voyage.” It was written primarily for people who don’t sail and haven’t visited this part of the Caribbean. But feel free to check it out if this super long trip report wasn’t enough!