Lessons Learned from Sailing the British Virgin Islands With My Family of Four
By: Catherine Guiader
Ahoy Fellow Sailors!
As I sit at home doing my part to flatten the curve, I find myself dreaming of sailing and looking back at my most recent trip on the water. It sometimes feels like forever ago but my little girls, who have no notion of what’s going on in the real world, still ask every day: “Maman, when do we go sailing in Tortola again?“ You guessed it, I was lucky enough to take part in the 2020 BVI Rendezvous. And “Lucky” is an understatement considering the timing of events.
If you are not familiar with this event, it is essentially a gathering of Jeanneau owners sailing around the British Virgin Islands for a week having a grand time meeting up for an assortment of organized cocktails, dinners, and even a pirate party!
As a member of the Jeanneau America team, I had participated in the very first BVI Rendezvous in 2012 but I hadn’t been able to get back since. So, when the invite came to be a part of the 2020 event, I jumped at the chance. Tough job I know!
In 2012, I had gone solo, crewing and mostly being on the organization side of things. While of course there was plenty of sailing, I was more of a crew member, helping with the boat, tending to the music and making cocktails onboard and making sure the event ran smoothly for everyone. This time however, things would be a bit different for several reasons:
➡️ One, I was very lucky to be bringing my whole family with me; that is my husband, Chris and two little crew members, Emilie and Caitlin ages 4 and 6.
➡️ Two, this time I would be in charge of the boat as in “The Captain!” I have been a sailor for about 20 years and have worked for Jeanneau, first in France and now in the US since 2005. And while I know my way around a boat, I have mainly been involved with racing (dinghys, keelboat, coastal and offshore). So, when it came time to put my name down as “captain,” I was told by Sunsail that I wouldn’t be given the helm without something a bit more substantial other than “yeah, I know what I’m doing!” So I pocketed my ego and with the help of my friend and co-worker Paul Fenn, climbed aboard a Sun Odyssey 349 and went out and practiced docking, picking up a mooring ball, anchoring, etc. (not much of that in 505 racing for sure)! After working with Paul a few times, I moved on for additional training, eventually earning my ASA Bareboat Certification through my friends at Sailtime.
Practicing my captain skills with Sailtime in Annapolis onboard the Sun Odyssey 349.
When I stepped foot on my brand new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410 in Tortola, I was confident, excited and certainly more comfortable taking the helm.
In hindsight, I am grateful to Sunsail for pushing back, for when I stepped foot on my brand new Jeanneau SO 410 in Tortola, I was confident, excited and certainly more comfortable taking the helm with my two girls onboard, who I knew would not make things easier on me (more on that later…).
So, off to Tortola we went with our dry bags and oh too many sailing devices. We ran out of clean clothes quick but rest assured, we had plenty of flashlights, hand-held compasses (yup), maps and guides, handheld VHF, portable tri-color light... if I had been allowed to fly with them I probably would have packed flares! That is the new certified Captain for you there I guess!
Getting ready to get onboard our plan to the BVI!
The Jeanneau Team + family all boarded and ready to touch down in the BVI.
Needless to say, our brand new SO 410 was fully equipped already. When you go for a bareboat charter, it truly means you are your own captain but the boat is not bare by any means, it has everything you need, flares and all.
The boat was immaculate (hats off to SunSail) and while I already knew the boat’s systems (kind of my job), the boat walk- through was very well done and a good refresher, especially when it comes to water, electricity and waste management.
My crew: Chris, Myself, Caitlin (6), Emilie (4).
After a short but detailed chart briefing on Sunday morning, I along with the rest of our group were off to Norman Island, the first overnight stop of our weeklong cruise.
It was a short and easy reach across Sir Francis Drake Channel, which was a blessing since I wasn’t at all sure how Caitlin and Emilie would do on the boat and I was still trying to prove myself as Skipper and doing my best not to screw up. The sail across was a delight and when it came time to grab the mooring pennant, I politely sent Chris to the bow, boathook in hand. We grabbed the mooring first shot.
Emilie wanted to take the helm while headed to Leverick Bay.
Day two had us sailing to Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda. It turned out to be a long poke to windward with a steady breeze of 15 to 18 knots. The SO 410 is designed by a guy by the name of Marc Lombard and Marc really knows how to design boats that go fast. And while the 410 is most definitely a cruising boat, it’s still super fun to sail, especially to windward with its twin rudders. It’s like sailing on rails!
We woke up to a rainbow when moored in The Bight.
The girls excited as we left Wickman's Cay towards Norman Island.
Other stops we made during the week included The Dogs, Marina Cay, and Great Harbor on Peter Island. While the week flew by way too fast, it was still a trip of a lifetime and I left feeling that I had gained a whole new skillset and made lasting impressions for my young family. And while there’s no guarantee that I’ll make it back to the BVI for the next Owners’ Rendezvous, I’ll definitely be adding my name to the crew list. But one thing’s for sure, The Brady Family will be back!
Our last night in Great Habour on Peter Isalnd.
Watermelon! A great snack for onboard!
Take-Aways and Lessons Learned:
1. We learned to adapt to life on the water
Electricity and water management is no joke. It truly was very interesting to me to get into it , looking at what consumes the most , checking our tank and battery levels, and teaching the girls how precious water and electricity are. No later than day 2, I heard my 4 year old telling her sister washing her hands“Caitlin, turn the water off when you soap, water is limited “, I gave myself a pat on the back: they were getting it. It is so easy in our day-to-day life, to take everything for granted that it was refreshing and surprisingly satisfying to pay attention, save energy and challenge ourselves. We never had to run the engine outside of leaving an anchorage or docking and we never had to fill up the water tanks. We instead learned to sleep with a Lucy light for a night light, take an aft platform shower (Salt-water soap is genius), turn the electronics off when not in use and wait for it! Brushing teeth without the water running the entire time (I swear, it is possible!!!)
Don’t even get me started on waste management!
Girls welcomed the challenge of living on a boat, away from land and for that, I am grateful. Simple values and small details are easy to lose sight of these days. Sailing brings that back luckily
Emilie liked to help clean the boat each day.
The girls slept the night very peacefully. And even during nap time.
2. Entertainment is re-invented
Of course, no Wi-fi means you’re either going to watch the same ONE episode I downloaded before we left OR you are going to improvise and do something else, like chasing each other around the deck ( compliment of walk around decks!), making new friends ashore, looking for shells on the beach . What I love the most about sailing is that everything is taken down a notch, the wants and the needs, the dependency on electronics (the game and video kind) and the decibel level. Once the engine is turned off, you can literally hear everyone sighing a sigh of relief and going in relax mode.
Back to the simple way of life! A little rock, paper scissors!
Finding shells on the beach was a great pass time.
Emilie brought a lot... a lot a lot of shells back to the boat.
The walk around decks made it easy for the girls to get on and off the boat. Also... a water gun fight.