Come Sail Away

Have you ever dreamed of sailing away on crystal blue waters – leaving all of your cares behind? Join me as we experience life aboard the Arabella, a 160-foot tri-masted schooner, sailing the Caribbean waters of the British Virgin Islands.

Heading to the airport on a ridiculously cold January morning, I was dreaming of how life would be for the next week on board the Arabella – the sun-filled, carefree days of doing nothing or doing everything I’d never done before.

As I picked up my bag at the baggage claim in St. Thomas and headed out to find a cab, I realized “Island Time” had just kicked in. The cabbie didn’t seem to be in any hurry, so I kicked myself into low gear, knowing I would be in a swimsuit drinking a pina colada very soon.

Spending a couple days at the Emerald Beach Resort in St. Thomas prior to boarding the Arabella was a perfect way to get out of work mode and into vacation mode. I swam, lounged on the beach, and had a few of those delightful tropical drinks.

Sailing day arrived and I was off to Red Hook, on St. Thomas. My sailing mates and I were transported to the sailboat via a tender. Once aboard I was checked in, given my cabin key and a rum punch. Since this is a sailboat cabin we’re talking about, settling in consisted of throwing my bag on the bed and heading back up to the deck to mingle with my fellow passengers. There were 28 of us all together and as we started to get acquainted found that we came from all over the United States to spend this week on the Arabella.

Soon we were motoring (sailing would come the next day) over to Caneel Bay on St. John, USVI where we would have dinner at the Equator, an old sugar plantation, and anchor for the night.

Our first full day brought sunny skies as the crew raised the sails after breakfast, and we were on our way under full sail. Anchoring off of Norman Island, lunch was served and we then tendered in to shore for lounging at the beach, kayaking or snorkeling. After enjoying a buffet dinner at Pirate’s Bight, we had an opportunity to go to the famed “William T. Thornton” floating nightclub. Only a few of us chose to check it out and what we found (despite the rumors of much ill-repute that has been said to have gone on) was just extremely loud hip-hop music with a hand full of folks dancing and drinking. But then what can you expect on a Monday night?

Days were filled with sun and fun. Evenings brought a million stars in the sky, scrumptious dinners, many rum drinks and fun conversation and jokes among the Arabella passengers. Nights were spent in a postage stamp – sized cabin, but I was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the waves each night.

Life on the Arabella is casual and carefree (no shoes required – ever), yet Captain John maintained a schedule to get us to where we needed to be each day. Breakfast was served around 7:00 am, lunch around noon, and happy hour with appetizers and the drink of the day was served around 4:00 pm. Each night we anchored in a new harbor and tendered in to shore to a restaurant for dinner.

Through out the week stops were made at fun, exciting places such as the Bathes, exotic pools and grottos formed by giant boulders that are strewn across sand beaches, and Foxy’s at White Bay on Jost Van Dyke for their famous Caribbean BBQ buffet, which included fresh salads, fruits, vegetables, BBQ Chicken, Ribs and Mahi-Mahi that literally melts in your mouth. Another fun stop was at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. Here a day could be filled with hiking, lounging at the beach or pool, a massage, or renting most any type of watercraft imaginable.

We Returned to Red Hook on Saturday morning right on schedule, much to the chagrin of fellow passengers and myself. It was unfortunate, we thought, that Captain John does not run on Island time.

by Dianne Swanson