About a year ago, amid a pandemic, we bet on the future and booked a week on a private sailboat in the Caribbean. Brian and I did this 20 years ago in the British Virgin Islands – this time though it was going to be different. First of all – last time it was 6 adults, and 4 of us never stepped on a sailboat, no kids, Brian and Darren (kiwi) were captaining us, we provisioned and cooked ourselves close to every meal. This time, it was 2 adults (1 still rather clueless on all the sailing jargon) and 3 kids. The best part though was that we had a captain and a chef to go with us!
We were also not allowed to do BVI as the Brits were super strict on tests and the last thing I wanted to do was chasing covid tests in between islands. So USVI it was – St. Thomas landing and St. John’s + other small bays to sail around!
The boat was a 47 ft sailing catamaran called Champs Elysee, so yes French-owned. Apparently, the owners bought it in 2019 and it went straight to charter so they haven’t been on it yet – great modern design, very new, no wear or tear. 5 rooms on board! My expectations were low for the rooms so was fully imagining us sleeping on top of each other in bunks. Not so much – the rooms are beautifully designed with the most genial storage areas – a marvel of design. Every floor, every wall opens up yet you would never see it. Yes, steep and definitely no dancing in your room as 2 people couldn’t be there without jumping over the bed but who spends time in a cabin on a boat anyway? All we wanted was a little AC heaven as the temperatures and sun were on!
A few tricks we learned very quickly.
- The boat moves all the time. Not sailing – you actually only sail for like 2 hours max a day from one area to another where you hang out. I think we all brought a series of bumps and bruises hitting something or doing some elegant entry/exits to paddleboard or dinghy. I was particularly great at entertaining everyone with my not so graceful landings – where I literally couldn’t step on the paddleboard from the boat and ended up hanging in between until I dropped. Well, made for lots of laughs.
- The bathrooms/toilets – agh – they are kind of like the airplane ones but no toilet paper in it – I was mortified the first days that this trip will end with us replacing the plumbing b/c one of the kids flushed it. You also become very conscious of the fresh water supply – noone pushed but still showers were incredibly efficient (and since I don’t know how much an average shower takes, it was in/out). Later I learned there is a desalination apparatus on the boat for bathrooms but still.
- When we sail, everything needs to be connected or pinned down or adios hats, towels, anything – sounds logical.
- Boaters are fun people – you get to see the same boats in the bays as they are all doing similar trips – typically families, large adult retiree groups or multi-family trips.
- No bugs! At least no visible bugs which is alright with me – but invisible, yes – I had bites everyday but never knew where it came from – mystery to date.
Awesome people – both in mid-20s, Kelsey, American, was the captain, and Simon, the chef is from Sweden. It sounds like an idyllic job for most people but it is a ton of work – 14 hours a day while the charter is in. They were doing anything/everything to make our trip once in a lifetime experience so we don’t have to do a thing and just enjoy ourselves. Simon – always ready with an appetizer, drink, dessert, or some special for the kids; Kelsey making sure we were tubing, paddleboarding, snorkeling – always keeping us informed what the itinerary is and where to see what fish/turtle. And never far away with killer jalapeno margaritas or local painkillers + working the engines, anchors, and the dinghy. Trivia gurus too which we enjoyed quite a bit. They bravely endured constant questioning from Mia and Lucas’s late sleep-ins.
What didn’t we do? While my primary objective was to get through 3 books (only got through 2), sit on the deck with hat on and do nothing else – we pretty much snorkeled everyday and I did try paddleboarding and liked it. Kids fished, tubed, ran on the water mat, captained the boat, hung from the boat, and other things that I just watched – they were on all the time (and noone got seasick). I was trying to be off all the time.
All in all – this was probably the best and most relaxing vacation we took – even though being stuck on a small boat and even smaller rooms together after 2 years of pandemic sounded like a totally insane idea of relaxation. Clearly space is not crucial, the surroundings and the company are. I know this is not an average family vacation – and for us neither – but I can see more of this in our future. Maybe with friends, who is in?
If you’d like to book and give it a shot – I highly recommend Doug at Canvas Yacht Charters who walked us through it and was very transparent.
Sounds awesome! I’d love details in how you booked etc. we’ve wanted to do this and it’s something still on the list
Love hearing about your adventures and so cool that the kids are all in for the fun!
[…] Living the sailing dream for a week […]