Published: June 01. 2012 2:00AM
Written by Renata Parker
“The first thing you need to do is figure out where the wind is blowing from and therefore the angle of sail you will be on when you point your bow…” — The Blue Book of Sailing
Whether your idea of sailing is a charter complete with chef and crew or bareboat where you are the crew, local salts agree that some of the best sailing can be found in the British Virgin Islands.
Made up of 60 underdeveloped mountainous islands located between the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean, the British Virgin Islands — the BVI — is known as the undisputed sailing capital of the world. Novice sailors and seasoned captains alike flock to the area to sail along the Sir Francis Drake Channel, because of its constant winds and islands easily reached by line of sight navigation.
An avid traveler, Jerry Barber of Greenville decided he wanted to learn to sail. So, in typical Jerry Barber fashion, he bought a book and read it during his flight to the BVI where he would sail his first boat. This first voyage launched a life-long love for sailing and a favorite vacation choice for the Barber family.
“Sailing sounds like it’s going to be relaxing trip,” says Tammy Barber. “But think again. When you are the crew, it’s more of a sporting vacation than a relaxing one. Expecting the unexpected is very much part of the trip. Getting to the BVI is relatively easy. We flew to St. Thomas and then took a hydrofoil. In three minutes you are there.”
Having sailed the Sir Francis Drake Channel many times before, the Barbers had planned to take their usual route from Tortola, the largest island in the BVI. But on this particular trip all of the boats were charted, so the Barbers opted to leave out of the U.S. side — a more challenging route as they would have to navigate upwind to reach the Sir Francis Drake Channel.
“If you are just learning how to sail, it’s best to go where conditions are much tougher,” says Jerry, who took his youngest son, Lee, to the Greek Islands to teach him how to sail. “The boat reacts much differently.”
“Because the wind and the weather are much different on the U.S. side we had to travel right angles to the wind to make any progress,” Tammy says. “On this particular trip, the first three days we experienced wind and small-craft advisories so we had to run bare poles — meaning all sails are down until the conditions are safe.”
The Barbers began their course from Red Hook’s American Yacht Harbor on St. Thomas and then pushed their way for four hours until reaching the channel.
Visitors of the BVI never get tired of island hopping.
“Every island has its own personality,” Tammy says.
Once known as a hideout for pirates, Norman Island is a favorite among snorkelers and divers because of the Caves, four vacuous tunnels located under the island. The most romantic beach in the BVI chain lies east of Norman Island on Peter Island. Continuing northeast is Virgin Gorda which is home to The Baths, where the beach is punctuated with large granite beach boulders that create shallow wading pools. Moving west, stop at White Bay on the rustic Jost Van Dyke for a visit to Soggy Dollar Bar for a taste of the island’s most famous beverage, the Painkiller — local rum, pineapple, orange juice and cream of coconut.
Such Hidden Gems as Necker Island, Sir Richard Branson’s 74-acre private island paradise. A favorite anchor spot for great food and entertainment is vibrant Soper’s Hole on Frenchman’s Cay, which was also says to be home to the infamous pirate Blackbeard. A sailing landmark, named after the schooner William Thorton II, Willy-T is a floating bar and restaurant in the middle of nowhere.
“I enjoy the stargazing and the peace of the ocean,” Tammy says. “That is until Jerry commands, ‘Come About!’ which basically means ‘all hands on deck.’”
Jerry says that although every sailing trip may be a little different, the lessons learned are still the same.
“You learn how quickly the winds can change, the importance of having a crew, the importance of being self-reliant,” he says. “And the importance of planning all of the details ahead of time. You just never know what lies ahead.”
|The ship's crew: Lee Barber, Tammy and Jerry Barber, and Amanda Rock.Photo courtesy of the Barbers.|