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ASA members unite for a special week in the BVIs

Category : Members

arabellaLots of people sail the British Virgin Islands every year, but not many get to do it in quite the same style as the 2014 ASA Member’s Event, which took place March 1-8. For a week, our members were treated to an island cruise aboard the luxury yacht Arabella–a 156 foot sailing schooner, complete with 3 masts, 8 sails, a jacuzzi, and 20 guest cabins. Formerly owned by Top Gun star Kelly McGillis, Arabella is a seafaring masterpiece.

As the flagship of ASA affiliate Manhattan Sailing School, Arabella combines the beauty of hands-on sailing with the luxury of a mega-yacht. Through the course of the week, we not only got to enjoy the islands, but were also treated to workshops and master classes led by ASA instructors and Arabella crewmembers. Read on to hear the highlights, and stay tuned to ASA social media, as there may be more opportunities to sail on Arabella in the future!

supDeparture and First Stops

Leaving Road Town, Tortola, Arabella sailed up to the Baths for the first Caribbean snorkel and swim of the trip. After a dip and some lunch, she sailed downwind to Marina Cay where we went ashore and took a hike up to the top of the island, which affords stunning views over the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

After breakfast on Monday, the crew weighed anchor and sailed for North Sound, home of the famous Bitter End Yacht Club. There they spent a “play day,” with all of Arabella’s considerable complement of water toys available for use. Between kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, swimming, relaxing under a palm tree with a book, and lounging at the Bitter End, there was no shortage of fun to be had. The time at Bitter End was capped off on Tuesday night with the obligatory Pirate Party!

Cooper Island and Jost Van Dyke

Sailing out of North Sound in the morning, Arabella made for Cooper Island, passing the Dog Islands on the way. After lunch and a stop ashore at the Cooper Island Beach Club, we sailed on for Soper’s Hole, where we spent the night. (The Caribbean is home to some of the best place-names in the world, by the way.) Onboard, we were able to experiment with Arabella’s state-of-the-art joystick helm, take advantage of the jacuzzi, and fine-tune our conch-blowing skills.

The next day took Arabella to the famous island of Jost Van Dyke, where we engaged in the Caribbean tradition of having the tender drop everyone off away from the beach and swim to shore. This is how you get your “soggy dollars” for the notorious Soggy Dollar Bar, inventor of the Painkiller cocktail. After an afternoon at the Soggy Dollar, the nighttime belonged to Foxy’s, perhaps the most famous of Caribbean bars.

bowspritNorman Island and Home Again

Due to the previous day’s “festivities,” Friday got off to a leisurely start. Eventually Arabella made her way to the Bight in Norman Island, which has world-class snorkeling, and is also excellent for kayaking and small boat sailing. Dinner that evening was served on board Arabella, in her glorious salon that can seat 48 people. Then it was onshore for one more infamous Caribbean bar, Willie T’s. This floating “food & grog” establishment is known for all kinds of shenanigans, but you know what they say – what happens in the Bight stays in the Bight.

Unfortunately, all things must come to an end, and so on Saturday it was back to Road Town and time to say goodbye. After a spectacular week on board a spectacular boat and in a spectacular setting, the only thing left to do was start plotting how we could do it all again!

Keep up to date with the latest ASA news on our Facebook page so that you can join us!

This was the best vacation ever and a welcome break from our endless northeast winter! The boat is beautiful and you couldn’t ask for a better crew. Everyone got along and many new friendships were made. Sunshine, balmy air and clear, warm water made for a wonderful week of boating, snorkeling and just relaxing on the beach. And of course lots of rum drinks! A few of us even got a turn at the helm and took Arabella through a tack – now THAT was thrill! I’d recommend this trip to anyone – let’s do it again!

This was truly a dream come true for us. We had never taken a cruise before because the “floating hotel” had no appeal for us. We love sailing, and sail we did. If I had scripted this vacation it would not have touched this experience. Especially the crew. We imagined and felt as if we were the owners. Every to-do item on our list was accomplished, and a great number more we didn’t know we wanted. We cannot recommend or praise enough.

We sailed Arabella two times in the past, under previous ownership, and were so excited to learn that she would be sailing again, hoping that she would be close to what she was before. We were delighted to discover the previous owners kept her beautifully maintained during her almost 2 years of non-cruising and that tall-ship cruising experience was all we remembered it to be on this fabulous ship! What a wonderful group of people who sailed with us…. Our fellow passengers were such fun, our sailing was spectacular, crew was professional and a blast; great food, and one of the best itineraries we’ve done in the Caribbean, and we’ve tall-ship sailed the Caribbean some 15 times. The only thing better would be if Arabella would once again add New England sailing to her itineraries, as the previous owners did. That was so spectacular! Thanks, ASA and Manhattan Sailing School for making it possible for us to sail on Arabella once again and to our fellow passengers for a wonderful week. We’ll be on board again…oh yeah.

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