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Savvy Travel: Fifi Goes Sailing

Anchors away! The Budget Babe's International Travel Advisor Fifi LaMode sets sail for the British Virgin Islands. —TBB

by Fifi LaMode
I am not a sailor. So it was with much trepidation that I agreed to go with my husband on a sailing vacation to the British Virgin Islands, especially since we'd be sleeping on a boat. Did I mention that I'm not into camping either? He was so convinced I'd like it that he paid my way - what a guy! It was starting to look promising...

We flew to Road Town, Tortola, the capital, and there was our boat, the Panacea, in the harbor. It was a 37-footer, complete with bathroom, shower and the sleeping quarters which were surprisingly adequate. So was the storage space. We sailed in a flotilla, which means there were 12 boats and a leader who plans an itinerary and each night you dock or moor in a different spot.

You sail about 3-4 hours a day and then when you're in the harbor you do what you want. They suggest a restaurant in each place and you can go and meet up with others from the group and share experiences, or not. You buy your own groceries for making breakfast or other meals if you'd rather just stay on the boat. For you non-sailors, you get from the boat to the restaurants by dinghy, which can be an experience when you come back after a couple of drinks and can't find your boat because it's dark and they all look the same!

This was quite a trip and I would highly recommend it for the following reasons:

1. Instead of just touring and getting off a bus and taking pics of places, you actually have to work to get from point A to point B. Along the way you can stop in little inlets and snorkel, or just anchor in a lagoon and swim. In our case, on the first day all we did was get from A to B because we had to get used to how the boat works, adjusting to the wind, and figuring out where the darned harbor was. There's GPS on the boats, but it helps if you can read nautical charts. Sailing is not like driving a car - you can't just steer and plow ahead. You do all this time-consuming stuff like tacking, which is going in a zigzag, because of the wind directions. I got very impatient and bored at the beginning - then got used to it and chilled and enjoyed it. Anyway, after all that work, you're safely in a harbor and can take in the starry Caribbean nights and home-cooked food and rum/fruity drinks. There's worse ways of spending a week.

2. You sleep under the stars. The place in the boat where you sleep has a window you can open on top, like a sky light, and you just watch the stars before falling asleep. You also know right away when it's raining.

3. You get to meet nice people who share your sense of adventure. Even if you don't do a lot of work ( I said my husband is the sailor, not me, right?), you're still part of the adventure.

4. The BVI are beautiful, friendly, and small enough for you to see a lot in a week.

5. The flotilla leader is just a radio call away if there are problems or if you don't feel comfortable navigating into small harbors (they'll come on your boat and do it for you).

6. For a brief time, you feel one with the sea. You feel the power of the elements and know you can't control them. You also get this wonderful sense of freedom, being on the high seas and all, with the wind blowing through your hair.

7. You get to say "aaaaarrghhh" a lot.

Read more about Fifi LaMode's travel adventures >>

I've heard about these types of trips and am growing an interest in taking one. Seems like a wonderful experience, which company did your husband arrange everything with ?
#1 Annemarie Dim on 2008-05-29 11:10 (Reply)
It's a company called Sunsail.
In a future article I'll go into the logistics of such a vacation.
#2 Fifi LaMode on 2008-05-29 18:11 (Reply)
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