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Daydreaming of Paradise, or Planning a Cruise.   A cruise begins at home on the computer or notebook. Budgeting, checking out charter boat prices, developing an itinerary and making provisioning plans are the essential groundwork to making the cruise a success. Start your cruising course notebook now (see Sailbag). See an actual BVI Itinerary.

The student will want to buy Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands, by Nancy & Simon Scott, for about $15 for use in these lessons. While the book's illustrations are not actual charts, their chart-like nature will make the lessons realistic.

Traveling to your Destination. Traveling successfully to the BVI involves saving money and adding convenience as well as planning for failed connections without undue consequences. Plan the travel portion of a trip to the BVI, focusing on alternatives and connections between segments. See the Beef Island airport for information. More later.

To Provisioning in the Islands

Becoming Familiar with the Boat (Checkout). The most important part of a checkout is getting to know an unfamiliar boat, although the purpose is also to see if a sailor can handle the boat properly. While all basic cruising sailboats have common equipment, the specifics are important to know, although you will be trained to figure it out by useful techniques, such as tracing a line.

Handling the Boat under Power--Managing a Luxurious Charter Yacht. Sailboats can be notoriously difficult to handle under power, and some practical tips, numerous contervailing principles as well as learning to "work" the situation by planning for failure, continual analysis as captain, and single-handing exercises so having a crew won't interfere with learning.

Piloting in Paradise at Road Harbour.
The first piloting task is to analyze the transit out of Road Harbour, a busy area with boat and ship traffic as well as the jutting Road Reef at its entrance. Determine the right of way pattern applying to this congested area, especially near Road Reef. And analyze the motor and/or sail selection, if any.

Charting the First Day Easy Sail to "Treasure Island." Now we're off, and into what makes it all worthwhile. From the days when the Sir Francis Drake Channel was known by the buccaneers (see origin of name) as 'Freebooter's Gangway,' the sea and sailing on it has not changed.

The charting lesson is to plot a course from the flashing buoys marking the Road Harbour entrance across The Channel to the Bight at Treasure Island, our first easy sail, without going aground. Read the section, Piloting, Or Not Going Aground.

Finally, this course means the boat will be running with the wind--a chance to practice gybing with important safety lessons.

Picking up a Mooring for our First Night at the Bight. First, cruise the anchorage under power. The Bight is such a large anchorage that we can sail through much of the anchorage, including the Willie T and Billy Bones, the bar/restaurant on the inside shore. Finally, find a spot with good searoom to take down the sails. Then, cruise the specific mooring area under power and select a particular mooring. Practice picking up (and leaving ) a mooring for an overnight stay.

Using the Dinghy--Taking your own Water Taxi to The Caves.
Handling the dinghy is always fun. We focus on operating the outboard engine. Then, dinghy over to The Caves for some snorkeling. See Kid's Treasure Hunt for details. And here's a shot of feeding fish at The Caves.

To Barbecuing Jerk
Dinner on the Boat Grill

Telling Sailing Tales at the Willie T. In the evening, it's a tradition to party at the Willie T. And tell tales about sailing, its history, including pirates.

Cooking Breakfast on the Boat. In the morning, breakfast is often prepared on the boat (sometimes underway), since the inconvenience or lack of breakfast eating spots is common. A cup of coffee on deck, sometimes after a swim, is unparalleled as the tropical sunrise. Hearty breakfasts are the rule for a full day of activities.

Learning to Snorkel (Taught at the Indians). The Indians has a lot of shallow water for teaching snorkeling. And the "fish bowl" is a snorkeler's paradise. If divers are aboard, then we would dive at The Indians as well. Those that want to experience diving can arrange a resort course. To fully learn to dive, it's best to do the pool and class work at home, and the open water certification (two hour-long dives on two mornings) on vacation.

Getting Underway and Raising Sails. When getting underway, practice is had in the various methods of raising and lowering sails. Of course, we will need to chart our course, taking a safety bearing to Peter Island's Rock Hole Point.

Tropical Squalls or Avoiding Being Overpowered by Dropping or Reefing Sails. It's important to practice quickly dropping and reefing the mainsail as often as raising and lowering as an approaching squall or heavy wind requires. Sail selection will be discussed in terms of not being overpowered.

Island Hopping--An Exercise in Sailing and Anchoring Skills. Taking a Peter-Dead Chest-Salt-Cooper Island route, we'll explore a succession of bays and harbours with great opportunities for practicing sailing skills, such as the circle exercise and taking a fix. Check the cruising guide for anchoring in sand at Peter Island's Little Harbour as we discuss types of anchors. And if we decide to visit Great Harbour, what's the best approach for sailing flexibility and advantages such as right of way?

Anchoring in (and Snorkeling over) Seagrass at Manchioneel Bay. Cooper Island's Manchioneel Bay has patches of seagrass and makes a good location to practice anchoring over seagrass, since snorkeling can check the anchor as well as tour the seagrass itself.

Taking a "Resort Course" Scuba Dive at the Wreck of the Rhone. Nothing beats a "resort course" dive, or even a snorkel, at the famous Wreck of the Rhone. Excellent also for night dives.

Examining Boat Parts & Jargon While "Swinging on a Hook." This is a good time to review boat parts and jargon.

To Cooking Callaloo

The Pure Grace of Sailing Up the Sir Francis Drake Channel. On a course directly into the wind, the aim is to sail a true or "course made good" out of a series of tacks ("course sailed").

Boat Balance, Trimming Sails. Also, it's a good point of sail to teach boat balance, i.e. how main and jib pull the boat around its center of effort, and to experience weather or lee helm from trimming sails and steering with the mainsheet. And how a strong puff creates weather helm from heeling, possibly resulting in an accidental tack as well corrective actions.

Landing a Dinghy in the Surf at The Baths. The reward for success in landing a dinghy in the surf is staying dry.

Practicing Docking at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour. The Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour is a good location to practice docking.

Exploring Savannah Bay--Reading the Reefs. This is an excellent lesson in reading the reefs and the need for good light in this situation. The reward here is lunch at Giorgio's Table.

Charting a Course into the North Sound. This charting exercise involves the entrance to avoid as well as use of  the GPS to navigate to a way point. Make a safety bearing around Mosquito rock.

Bar Hopping by Dinghy to Saba Rock. Here we make a mid-course evaluation about what needs to be emphasized.

Discussing Night Lights--Boats & Buoys. Looking out over the North Sound, identify type, direction and right of way of boats the boat's night lights.

Pure Daysailing in the Sound, if Desired. If desired, the student sailor can rent a daysailor at the Bitter End Yacht Club for a sailing adventure following the "pirate escape route" behind Eustatia Island.

Practicing Man Overboard Drills in Eustatia Sound. Eustatia Sound is good location to practice man overboard drills.

Charting a Course to Marina Cay in Tortola's East End Archipelago. Marina's Cay's reef is hard to see when approaching from the south. What's the best route in? Will "rules of thumb" help?

To East Indies Cooking:
Roti, Goat Water &
12 Boy Curry

Learning Tropical Drinks at the Sunset Bar at Marina Cay. Time to study rum and island drinks, needed to understand the Caribbean (there's no better place for this than Pusser's).

The Art of Beachcombing at Trellis Bay. Trellis Bay is an excellent beachcombing location as well as looking at Aragorn's Studio for island art.

Navigating the Camanoe/Beef Island Passage. The most difficult navigation on the cruise, this difficult passage is a real test of navigating skills, i.e. plotting a course through the Little/Great Camanoe/Beef/Guana Island passage. Which bearings, landmarks and fixes are best to utilize? Shall we try some dead reckoning?

Sailing the Ocean Side of Tortola--a Touch of "Blue Water" Sailing. On the "blue water" ocean side of Tortola, bad weather emergencies will be discussed. Also, reefing, use of a safety harness and jack lines, 270 turns instead of gybing and related responses will be practiced or discussed.

Anchoring in Sand at Jost Van Dyke's Sandy Spit. Reaching the ultimate tropical isle, it's time to anchor in the sand at Sandy Spit, before taking a mini-tour of these tropical isles.

Studying the Anegada Lobster at Little Harbour. At dinner, the sober sailor will realize that the claws of this lobster are as imaginary as his tales.

Tying Knots and Telling Stories. This is a good time to go over the six or so knots important to sailing, and review the knots we've used and any others.

To Island Fish:
Baking in Banana Leaves and
Poaching French "Blaff"

Charting by "Range" into Cane Garden Bay. Coming from Jost Van Dyke, we use a range to find our way into Cane Garden Bay.

Visiting Callwood's Distillery--How Rum is Made. Here in Cane Garden Bay we see how the cane is used to make rum at Callwood's, an historic distillery.

Driving on the Left in a Sporty Jeep on Ridge Road. This is a British colony after all. Learning to drive on the left is exciting, especially when sheer cliffs abound on Ridge Road even in cutbacks, some needing mirrors.

Shopping for Island Fashion and Art on Road Town's Main Street. The best place to look is Main Street.

Cruising an Anchorage at Soper's Hole. This is a beautiful anchorage to cruise.

A 'Full Moon' Party at Bomba's Beach Shack. A "Full Moon" is as good as anyplace to get a bit of "moonlight madness."

Making a Post Mortem at Deadman's Bay. Deadman's Bay is a perfect place to end a cruise with a post mortem.

Returning the Boat and Final Boat Check. Re-fuel the boat at Peter Island's Sprat Bay (or alternatively at Soper's Hole).

All Dreams Must End--Taking the Flight Home. We better make that last Sunday ferry.

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