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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Trip Solicitation: BVI 2016

Now that I've gotten Bowen to learn how to swim and snorkel, he's asking for a return to the British Virgin Islands for a sailing/snorkeling trip. Arturo says he has time over the Thanksgiving week for us to execute this trip, so now my job is to fill the boat. My wife says I write trip solicitations as though I'm trying to get nobody to voluntarily go on my trips (certainly my cycling trips have a high bar so I don't want people showing up who'll get injured or be forced to drop out), so I'll use this exercise to sell you (yes, you) on this trip.

There are only 2 places on Earth where a repeated visits do not feel like a waste of time to me. The first is of course the Alps, where despite repeated visits, I still find new stuff on every trip. I rarely visit a place in the summer and not end up feeling like, "Why did I bother when I know the Alps is better in every way?"

The other place is the British Virgin Islands. I first visited in 2007, and made return visits in 2012 and 2014. It is the ideal sailing destination: the water is crystal clear, the winds are consistent, and all navigation can be done by looking at the next island. There's no fog, and the water is warm (80F). The first time I flushed a toilet on the boat in 2007, I did a double-take: was the sailboat flushing precious drinking water down the toilet? Then I went out on deck and looked down into the water. Nope, the sailboat was flushing Carribean water: it's crystal clear and you can see the anchor from the deck of the boat.

The snorkeling is similarly great. In most places, you can just float on the water and stare at the colorful fish. You can do it wearing a life jacket and still see nearly everything a diver can. Most of the diving is pretty shallow (around 60' maximum depth).

OK, so why see it on a tiny sailboat when you can join a giant cruise ship? Well, on a tiny sailboat, you set your own schedule. For instance, we arrive at The Baths at 7:30am. If you go on a cruise ship, the earliest you're going to get there at 10:00am. By 10:00am, the place is a zoo, with lines everywhere, no fun whatsoever. By 10:00am, we're having lunch on the boat and are about to leave the Baths, having had the place to ourselves all morning.

In 2014, I anchor'd off Sandy Spit. In the morning, we dinghy'd over to shore and had the island all to ourselves. I have friends who brag about renting an island all to themselves. The costs are insane, and even in those cases, they don't really have the islands to themselves, since the service staff is always there. The cruise ships can't even anchor off Sandy Spit because it's too small!

If you're literary, Norman Island in the BVI was the inspiration for Robert L Stevenson's "Treasure Island." Similarly, you'll get to see Dead Chest Island. Yes, pirates did ply the waters in the BVI. There's even a wreck (though not a pirate ship!) you can dive and explore if you like!

You might think it's a ton of work getting a sailboat to some of these locations is a lot of work, and it might be if you don't enjoy sailing. But Arturo and I both enjoy sailing, and enjoy getting up at 6:00am to move the boat. You can stay in bed until we're in place --- just don't pick a cabin next to the engine! Arturo, by the way is also an amazing dive guide and if you like diving, we can arrange to have scuba tanks on the boat and dive. You might have to help refill the air tanks, though! No problem if you don't dive, most of the dive sites are also great snorkel sites.

If you're worried about sailboats tilting and listing, that's not a concern: we're going to rent a Catamaran, which never tilts more than about 7 degrees. It'll be roomy and depending on the budget (how many people, how many days, whether I can get a special offer) we might even get a boat with AC, though in my experience around Thanksgiving season that's not an issue.

Back in my youth, I liked to think that I'd never repeat a trip if I could help it. But there are many benefits to doing a repeated trip: you know where everything is, you know what the schedule looks like for when some place goes from idyllic to being a zoo, and you even know which places looked desirable last time so you should pay a visit to it this time. Set against that is of course, you've "been there, done that." As a result, there's only a handful of places I'd be willing to do that for. The Alps, the British Coast to Coast Walk, and the BVIs are the 3 places that I'd name on that list. (Yes, the Bay Area is also an ideal cycling destination during the non-summer seasons, but that's why I live here!)

Interested? Drop me a note. We need to try to get a boat ASAP assuming we can get enough people to do the trip. And please read the trip links above to see whether it's for you. If cycling the Alps is too strenuous to consider, this is the one trip that's within reach of anyone for whom motion-sickness is a non-issue or easily managed issue.

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