Desirable Destination: Tortola, British Virgin Islands
New Year, New You | January
I'd been told that after I landed at Tortola's Beef Island Airport, I must get to my destination in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs) via boat. Even if you're staying on Tortola, the throngs of vacationers who wisely chose the BVIs to kick off the new year recommended I opt for the ferry. I immediately saw why: From a boat, the contrast of turquoise sea against green volcanic land is breathtaking. There's something about the way the islands look from the water, rising straight up from the sea into gently rolling hills, that both prepares you for your time among them and stays with you when you return to your home port in the dead of winter. And at no time is this contrast more striking and welcome than at the end of one year and beginning of the next.
One good place to start the festivities is The Bitter End Yacht Club on North Sound in Virgin Gorda. The resort is in full swing in late December and early January. Though you may be tempted to spend the entire week here, there's much more to see if you charter boats like the 60-foot Corinthian, which takes guests to the nearby island of Anegada, the only coral atoll in the BVIs. Horseshoe Reef has great snorkeling off a wide, sandy beach, and after diving all morning and early afternoon, it offers an excellent lobster lunch the way it should be eaten: shoulder to shoulder with your mates, on picnic benches with corn on the cob and a bucket of cold Kirin beers.
Or charter your own boat, head for Jost Van Dyke, and pick up a mooring in Great Harbor. The New Year's celebration here at Foxy's Bar lasts the entire month, or seems to. Have a Sly Fox or Dread Fox, the bar's specialty drinks, or Foxy's own microbrew, and dine on the West Indian barbecue. You'll soon notice a bloke with short dreadlocks, a gray-flecked goatee, and boundless energy. That's Foxy. If you're lucky and he's in a good mood—he's always in a good mood, mon—he might strap on his guitar and put on an impromptu Calypso jam session.
The next day you'll likely awaken to the sounds of steel drums. Go ashore and walk "up the alley" to Christine's Bakery for an egg sandwich on Bahamian bread and coffee. The line may be long at this time of year, but it's the best coffee in town. After a morning swim, take the White Bay Walk up the small hill for views of White Bay. Keep a sharp lookout for migrating whales, as it's the high season for them. Once you reach the beach, head for the Soggy Dollar Bar, named for the condition of money from sailors who swam ashore for a drink. Order conch fritters for the group and a flying fish sandwich for lunch and maybe a few Painkillers, the infamous dark-rum concoction that was reportedly born here.
When your time is up, there's only one way back to Tortola—you guessed it, by boat. Take one last look at the rolling hills of the islands that inspired Columbus to call the place Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vrgenes, or St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. The martyr appears on the national flag atop a green background, below which a yellow banner reads vigilate, a Latin phrase meaning "be watchful." Makes a great New Year's resolution.
January: British Virgin Islands
February: Great Abaco Island / Bahamas
March: Little Harbor Cay / Bahamas
April: Los Sueños / Costa Rica
July: Washington, D.C.
August: British Columbia
September: Montauk, Long Island
October: Hudson River, New York
November: Half Moon Cay / Belize
December: St. Barts
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.