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Home / News / A Journey to the British Virgin Islands

A Journey to the British Virgin Islands

Published 8:21pm on 1 Apr 2024

OWSA Flotilla #3 - March 2024

By Lisa Pasquantonio & Kate Gillespie

The British Virgin Islands flotilla was OWSA's departure from the flotillas organized by outside companies. It was our first foray into a more independent cruise, where we had a suggested itinerary, buteach crew could follow or vary from it as they pleased. We would see each other at various cays along the way, meeting to snorkel at White Bay or for a dinner and dance at Foxy's Bar.

Many of us traveled to the BVIs by flying to St. Thomas Island in the US Virgin Islands, and took the ferry from there to Tortola, on the British side of the islands. We spent the better part of an afternoon provisioning for the 8 days on the boat. Then we attended a skippers briefing led by Julie Demaree at BVI Yacht Charter. She reviewed critical safety information such as recharging the engines battery, purchasing enough drinking water, the navy technique for washing dishes with sea water and anchoring.

The entire flotilla met only once thereafter, when everyone gathered for a potluck at Scrub Island during the second night on our boats. Food was served on Jillsee, where some chose to sit in the cockpit strewn with festive lights. Others hung out on the dock, amazed by the tarpons that were attracted to the bright lights illuminating the water below.

There was an abundance of sailing/cruising experience amongst the crews, many of whom had been on one or both OWSA flotillas in the San Juans/Gulf Islands, and some who could lend their previous BVI experiences to this excursion.

Though the OWSA boats were not at every moorage together, we often offered each other support, bartering a gallon of water for AfterBite, or going to a snorkeling spot with two dinghies, so that the one that didnt have a dinghy ladder could buddy up with one that did. We looked out for each other, shared tips on restaurants, the most authentic painkillers and best snorkeling spots.

We learned to play the Boaty Ball reservation game, and communicated when there were open mooring balls at Norman Island. When someone on the crew needed extra help, our OWSA sailing sisters never hesitated to lend a helping hand. It would be fair to say that by the end of our adventure, we were quite content, satiated with plenty of sunshine, sailing, and seafood. The journey was exceptional, as was the opportunity to sail with the intelligent, skilled, strong and resourceful OWSA women who comprised this flotilla.

A million thanks to Julie Demaree who spearheaded this flotilla to the BVIs! When asked for her thoughts about the flotilla, Julie replied:

I was very pleased that the BVI with its benign weather and demands on navigation skills worked so well for our skippers and crews of varying abilities and experience. I was also pleased by the overall condition of the boats and service that BVI Yacht Charters provided. Yes, some problems but there were work-arounds — and isn't dealing with boat issues part of learning to sail? My greatest pleasure on these cruises is seeing the confidence and skills of crew members expand so dramatically. My crew easily accomplished my goal of making me feel superfluous by the end of cruise!

Oh, the Places We'll Go!

Itineraries varied and included the following:

  • Snorkeling at Great Harbor on Peter Island
  • Swimming/using the dinghy rope to the fun obstacle course to The Baths, an unforgettable formation of rocks - almost cathedral-like in places with pools of aqua water set to the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea.
  • Potluck, pool, showers & shopping at Scrub Island
  • Dinner at Saba Rock, mooring at the Bitter End YC, Virgin Gorda
  • Snorkeling at White Bay, and mooring at Great Harbor and Little Harbor
  • Soper's Hole, Frenchman's Cay
  • Sandy Cay
  • Diamond Cay
  • The Bight and Treasure Point Caves, Norman Island
  • Snorkeling at The Indians, near Pelican Island

Most Memorable Moments & Highlights

Indian Chief Crew

  • Captain Julie Demaree
  • Erica Graham - Helming during 17 knots, 7.4 kts, I learned so much; the list would be so long... Great mentorship. Sitting quietly watching the sunset and stars.
  • Julie Cumiford - Getting the sails up, turning the engine off and adjusting the rigging.
  • Lynda Romeo - Being at the helm with gusts up to 28 kts. Got up to 7.4 kts. Snorkeling.
  • Kate Gillespie - The camaraderie of our crew and the ability of everyone to pitch in at any time, for any task.<\li>
  • Collectively:
    • 7. 4 knots on our Saturday sail
    • We found dueling birthdays on our crew!
    • The number of things we learned--individually and collectively
    • Our drills: anchoring, docking and mooring balls
    • Barracuda sightings
    • RJ the dock hand for amusing us during the landing of our dingy and lunch at Sydney's Peace, Love, Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke
    • Seeing Reef Squid
    • Spectacular leftovers, especially scrambled eggs with chorizo and lobster burrito
    • Lobster Bisque on our boat with fresh lobster a boat-made lobster broth

Jillsee Crew

  • Captain Julie Schumann - How we grew to be more confident with snorkeling for hours. And I got to drive a dinghy! Losing Teresa while snorkeling, and then finding out she was just where she was supposed to be and that the rest of us had floated off further than we had realized.
  • Teresa Long - Turtles, dinghy ride to The Indians
  • Beven Peters - Being able to snorkel more and having a camera to take underwater pictures. 15-20 knot winds to sail. Having such a good crew.
  • Candace Chance - Lisa yelling at a catamaran full of men who were trying to anchor too close to us. Snorkeling, The Baths, Foxy's Bar.
  • Lisa Pasquantonio - Seeing turtles while snorkeling, the crew coming together to support each other, mastering the mooring ball, the way the morning sunlight transformed the dark waters to a sea of gorgeous, jewel-like hues of aquamarine, teal and sapphire, looking across the water while sailing, and seeing all the other sailboats on a similar journey.

Naya Crew

  • Captain Kathy Souhrada - Sailing at 6 knots
  • Colleen La Cavita - Kathy S. saying, This is really nice and I could used to this, while sipping
  • cold beverages at the Scrub Island Yacht Club. Dolphins. Rum drinks on the back of the boat
  • before dinner every evening.
  • Mary Moriera - Wind was insanely good.
  • Kathy Clevenger - The Baths. The Caves. Getting back into the boat was memorable.

Whitecap Crew

Ann Bunnenberg, Jamie Ross, Morgan Senkal, Elizabeth Costello and Kathy Schmid 

  • Severed the Outhaul line to get the main down
  • Massages at the floating spa in White Bay
  • Seeing two humpback whales blow
  • Sailing at 6.1 knots
  • Skipper negations over stolen Boaty ball
  • Losing and regaining the boat hook
  • We had a sad loss of a hat, which prompted a fruitless hat overboard drill. Send someone else to get the boat hook, don't take your eyes off the hat!! We said some words over the watery grave and sang Taps.

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