Lots of fun among the sailboats in the British Virgin Islands

ABOARD THE SEADREAM II – Our outdoor Caribbean party  last night went on into the wee hours — the passengers aboard SeaDream II are the most fun people I’ve ever traveled with. There was singing and dancing, and when there’s that kind of energy, it’s downright infectious.

The marina at Soper’s Hole. Though one ship is painted black, there are no pirates (or privateers) today, just law-abiding sailors and divers going about their business.

Among the party-goers was Bryan Herb, who was on this yacht with more than 30 of his friends to celebrate his 40th birthday. Since Bryan owns Zoom Vacations, an award-winning travel company specializing in gay and lesbian holidays — and could go just about anywhere in the world — I asked why he chose SeaDream II for his party. His reply? He was “confident” that all his friends would be well taken care of on this yachting holiday.

Parties are great — but getting up at a reasonable hour to go into Tortola was a bit of a chore. Had to do it as we’d only be staying at Soper’s Hole for a half day — with the last tender at 1:30.

I’d been to Tortola before, but only to Road Town, the administrative capital of the BVI. That busy town is a long way from Soper’s Hole, which dates back to the 17th century, when Dutch privateer Joost van Dyk (the island we visit this afternoon bears his name) used it as a base for running his shady business. “Privateers” were “authorized” by their governments to prey on the ships of other countries, and van Dyk did a booming business grabbing the Spanish ships that sailed out of Puerto Rico. No traces remain of his original settlement, but it’s easy to see how this (once) isolated cove was an ideal base for his nefarious deeds. Now it’s a quiet place where boaters  and divers can re-supply and the starting point for various excursionst.

Bryan Herb and his birthday party group have brought great energy to this cruise.

A few of our fellow passengers went out on the two-tank certified dive adventure and came back with enthusiastic accounts of the gorgeous world under the sea. (BTW, this itinerary is a diver’s dream-come-true, with diving adventures available almost everywhere we visited.)

Other passengers chose the Dolphin Encounter, which took place in a sheltered lagoon near Road Town. This one got a thumbs up from Chanetelle and Nathaniel, the children of one of SeaDream’s Norwegian officers. Children are a rarity on SeaDream, and I think most passengers prefer it that way. But these two youngsters are so bright, well-mannered and engaging that we have fallen in love with them. Nathaniel pronounced the encounter “excellent” — and his sister Chanetelle agreed.

Passengers have fallen in love with Chanetelle.

On to Jost van Dyke, the smallest of the four principal British Virgin Islands. Sailboats of all sizes surround the SeaDream II – but no mega-yachts owned by billionaires. Another of Jeff’s hikes was on the agenda, this one over the mountain to White Bay. It was challenging, requiring some rock climbing, which was kind of a shortcut – following the beach would have been easier, but would have taken 30-40 minutes instead of 20 minutes.

White Bay Beach was well worth the trouble – once again, soft white powder sand and clear blue water. (Is there a beach in this part of the world that isn’t special in its own way?) And to quench the thirst worked up by the walk, a stop at the Soggy Dollar Bar (named for the currency the sailors used after they swam ashore to enjoy a drink), where the signature rum-based cocktail is called the Painkiller. The name says it all.

December 7, 2012

Photos by Lillian Africano

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