Tortola Bareboat: Party BVI Style
With constant warm trade winds to fill your sails, beautiful line-of-sight islands in every direction, turquoise blue waters and countless scenic anchorages, a Tortola bareboat charter is a healthy and relaxing way to rejuvenate your soul. But, it is also downright fun! The sixty islands that make up the British Virgin Islands feature an array of celebrations -both annually and spur the moment- that draw visitors from around the world to party. Every year, the BVI plays host to numerous types of parties ranging from religious celebrations, music festivals, fishing tournaments, sporting competitions to sailing regattas. From traditional to totally whimsical, almost year round, a party in paradise can be a part of your Tortola bareboat vacation.
The greatest party for those on a Tortola bareboat to be a part of is the annual Carnival celebration. Basically a street party, it is a fun mixture of party, theater, art and folklore tradition. The carnival in the BVI goes by two names. Some locals refer to it as the August Festival, while others call it the Emancipation Festival. A three day holiday following the first Monday in August, it unofficially begins in July. This annual celebration marks the 1834 Emancipation Act which abolished slavery in the British West Indies. Celebrations take place across the territory, although most celebrations are held in Road Town, Tortola.
Visitors are in for a treat including live music, dancing, street performers, parties, parades and food and drink booths laced with a distinct Caribbean flavor. A hotly contested calypso competition leads to the coveted crowning of the Calypso King. There is also a competition for Festival Queen. Events not to miss include the food booths set up near the waterfront in Road Town; the children’s pageants; calypso, reggae and costume competitions; bands on huge trucks cruising the waterfront accompanied by crowds of dancers; steel bands on floats; all night parties and the Grand Costume Parade.
FULL MOON PARTIES
During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief that the full moon caused people to behave strangely. In fact, the word “lunacy” comes from the Latin word, “luna” for moon. Full moon celebrations are held throughout the Caribbean, but no other island throws a party quiet like the BVI. Nowhere else in the Caribbean are these parties held every month. The biggest party in the BVI is held every month at Bomba’s Shack in Capoons Bay, Tortola. Make no mistake – this is a beach bar shack, but the music will be pulsating and the drinks will be flowing all night, including Bomba’s infamous Bomba Punch and hallucinogenic mushroom tea.
Charterers on a Tortola bareboat can anchor at Cane Garden Bay or Soper’s Hole where plenty of taxis can drive you to the raucous fun. If you are looking for more family-oriented fun, the other side of the island is a favorite destination. Trellis Bay holds the Fireball Full Moon Parties on Beef Island. The party starts around 7 p.m. with a delicious Caribbean BBQ followed by live music, gravity-defying Mocko Jumbies, and fire jugglers. The highlight of the evening is the 9p.m. lighting of BVI artist Aragorn’s famous fireball sculptures. Trellis Bay is a great anchorage to enjoy the festivities.
With its usually calm warm waters, line-of-sight navigation, steady trade winds and numerous sister islands, the BVI has long been a favorite spot for sailors. So, it is only fitting that there are a number of sailing regattas in the BVI – especially in the spring. Regattas of all types range from a “whatever floats race” (where crews bring their “boats” to the regatta, assemble them and set sail) to high level international match racing regattas. Like all events in the BVI, there is always a party before, during and after the regattas with great food, music and fun.
Some of the BVI regattas not to miss include:
a. Gustav Wilmerding Regatta: Held the first weekend in December, this fun but competitive event is run by the Loyal West End Yacht Club and hosted by The Jolly Roger and Pirates restaurants. Named after a pirate who lived on Little Thatch, the regatta takes place between Soper’s Hole and the Bight. Part of the fun is the zany costumes the crews wear.
b. Sweethearts of the Caribbean Classic Regatta: Held around Valentine’s Day, this is the only schooner regatta in the Caribbean. Schooners ranging in size from 40-100′ compete in a 16 mile pursuit race in the Sir Frances Drake Channel. The site of these “classics” is breathtaking.
c. Singles/Mingle and Dark & Stormy Regatta: Giving singles a chance to mingle, a record number of yachts participant in this fun event every year. After a 16 mile race from Trellis Bay to Anegada, plenty of food, drinks and lots of dancing await the participants. Then, it’s a race back to the Jolly Roger in West End for the prize giving ceremony and dance.
d. BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival: This spring regatta has something for everyone. Whether you race, cruise or just come to party, you will find it all. It all means seven days of fun with racing and partying through the beautiful BVI waters.
e. Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta: Held the last weekend in May, the race is for “classic” fiberglass boats (or built of any other material) over 30 years old. Foxy’s Beach Bar is the place to be to send the crews off and party while they race, and party when they return. Nonstop music all weekend awaits those on a Tortola Bareboat charter.
f. Foxy’s Annual Halloween Cat Fight – No one throws a party better than Foxy! There are several multihulled races followed by a masquerade ball. Wear a costume or come as your are – but show up for a hilariously good time!
Although not your traditional regatta, two other races are worth mentioning for the spectacle and fun.
The Highland Spring HIHO is a week of windsurfing competitions throughout the BVI. The race course covers 150 miles and competitors travel to different sites aboard catamarans. For those in the BVI during this time period, it is a colorful event.
Conceived by avid kite boarder, Sir Richard Branson, the BVI Kite Jam is a five day event that is made up of races between Necker Island and Anegada. Aimed at both amateurs and professional boarders, there are also clinics, parties and meals hosted at Necker Island, the Bitter End Yacht Club and Anegada.
For those on a Tortola bareboat charter, this time of year is essentially one big party that extends from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. The entire territory takes on the holiday spirit when homes are decorated with fun paint colors and new colorful window coverings; Christmas “trees” (actually the local palms) are decorated with ribbons, ornaments and colored lights;
Main Street on Tortola comes alive with music, parties and food from local shop owners and vendors. Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda has similar celebrations. Groups and bands perform Christmas carols both live and on the radio. The North Sound is the site of the Annual Holiday Boat Procession on December 24th, where charterers deck the decks, hang stockings on the cabin tops and run lights up the rigging of their Tortola bareboats before joining the boat parade.
On Jost Van Dyke, the mother of all New Year’s Eve parties is held at Foxy’s, where Foxy himself hosts the Old Year Celebration. Hundreds of boats and dinghies lash themselves together and Great Harbour is turned into one large floating party complete with food, drinking, dancing and the best music. This celebration is said to be one of the best New Year’s Eve parties worldwide!
Who says Christmas has to happen in December? Certainly not a Virgin Islander! In the BVI, Christmas also comes in July. For the past several years, a huge celebration attracts hundreds of Puerto Ricans to the North Sound where they anchor and party for 3 days during the last weekend in July. Referred to locally as the arrival of the Puerto Rico Navy, the Christmas in July event means boats of all sizes and types tie up together and enjoy big family fun and fabulous entertainment, including reggae bands, Mocko Jumbies and international DJs.
Music is an important part of the Caribbean culture. Several music festivals have been created to not only attract visitors to the islands, but also provide a forum for Caribbean musicians to perform and compete. These festivals are a chance to listen to great music, dance, drink, mingle with the locals and just have fun. The BVI has three music festivals that are worth scheduling your Tortola bareboat charter around:
a. BVI Music Festival: Musicians and music lovers around the world flock to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola every year for the BVI Music Festival, which takes place around Memorial Day weekend. This is a fantastic chance to enjoy world renowned artists at this beach front venue.
b. Foxy’s Music Festival: According to Foxy, everyday is a party at Foxy’s Bar, but things reach a fever pitch in March with the annual music festival. With a great mix of Caribbean talent, from unsigned bands to local performers, visitors are invited to join the fun and frolics at the weekend festival. Food and drink are as much a part of the weekend as the music, so revelers can enjoy a mouth-watering Caribbean BBQ. The fun begins Friday afternoon and continues into the wee hours.
c. Annual Jazz On The Hill: A musical concert series to support St. Mary’s School on Virgin Gorda is held the end of May. With its outdoor atmosphere, sloping hills and perfect May weather, this is a charming and unique Caribbean musical event. Featuring a combination of R& B, pop, soul, gospel, and of course jazz, there is something for every music lover. As with most events in the BVI, local cuisine and drinks add to the fun.
Food Festivals are a wonderful way to discover the rainbow of cultures and history that comprise the Caribbean, as well as give those on a Tortola bareboat another opportunity to mingle with local residents. From celebrations of local fruits to gourmet competitions by world renowned chefs, the BVI has several events for food-aholics.
a. The Mango Array & Tropical Fruit Festival: Mangoes are at the height of their growing season during August, so what better way to celebrate this tropical fruit than with mango recipe competitions, games, and live music. This is the perfect chance to try mangoes and other local delicacies.
b. Wine Makers Dinners: Held in mid-July and again in December, the BVI Tourist Board welcomes international tastemakers, seasoned gourmands, travelers and the media to attend dinners, luncheons and VIP receptions. Imagine seven course gourmet dinners with each course paired with 1-2 great wines poured by the winemakers. Advanced reservations are required for these parties.
c. Peter Island 4th of July BBQ: This is an American Independence Day barbecue with a difference. The main attraction is an island cook-off between renowned chefs from the United States and United Kingdom. The result is the production of an assortment of mouth-watering dishes that are judged for ultimate bragging rights. Hosted by the Peter Island Resort and Spa, reservations are required for this party as well.
For those that like to party in and around the water, there is no place better to be than in the BVI. Three events that have particularly lively party atmospheres are:
a. Wreck Week: Taking place usually in May or June, this fun-filled week combines diving on hundreds of wreck sites with music, dancing and parties onshore. The week-long festivities also include wreck diving certification courses and beach clean-up days. Open to all divers of all ages, the week concludes with a big party on Cooper Island that includes a pumpkin carving contest and beach BBQ.
b. Spanish Town Fisherman Jamboree & Wahoo Fishing Tournament: This popular fishing tournament attracts many competitors as well as onlookers. Food, music and beach fun are just part of this fun-filled event.
c. Annual Leverick Bay Poker Run: The biggest power boat event in the BVI, Leverick Bay Resort and Marina is the place to be for heart-pounding racing action, pulsating music and parties!
PARTIES WITH SOME CLASS AND CULTURE
Although the BVI is the perfect place to party with irreverent whimsy, those on a Tortola bareboat can also party on the sophisticated side while experiencing some of the island culture.
a. The Caribbean Arts & Crafts Festival: Usually held in March, this increasingly popular event brings together artisans from throughout the Caribbean to display, sell and demonstrate their crafts at a variety of locations. It begins in Trellis Bay and includes day and night entertainment, a fashion show, full moon party and a vibrant mix of musical entertainment with the best local and regional musicians.
b. National Parks Trust Annual Flower Show: Held at the J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens in March/April, this annual flower show comprises 3 main categories- a garden competition, a floral competition, and art/craft competition. A host of entertainment and activities is always planned.
c. Carrot Bay Cultural Fiesta: Held in August, this festival celebrates the different cultures of the BVI with a county fair sort of atmosphere. With plenty of food and drinks, tourists and locals alike are attracted to this party.
d. Summer Sizzle: Attention Fashionistas! Held in July, this spectacular weekend is a lifestyle escape combining the trendiest fashion event in the Caribbean with upscale after parties and island tours.
The fashion show serves as a platform for showcasing international trendsetting fashion designers and models from some of the world’s top agencies.
The public holidays in the BVI are predominantly religious holidays, with a number of additional national holidays. Where fixed date holidays fall on a weekend, the holiday is taken on the next succeeding working day.
January 1: New Year’s Day
March 5: H. L. Stoutt’s Birthday – A day of recognition for the longest serving Chief Minister of the BVI
March 12: Commonwealth Day
Good Friday: Friday before Easter
Easter Monday: Monday after Easter
Whit Monday: Monday falling 50 days after Easter
Sovereign’s Birthday: Observed on the second Saturday in June
July 1: Territory Day
Festival Monday: First Monday in August; celebrating emancipation in the territory
October 21: Saint Ursula’s Day: Patron saint of the BVI
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day
During public holidays, banks and many businesses are closed. Although it may affect the opening of some restaurants, these days mark another chance to party. Those on a Tortola bareboat charter are always welcome to participate in the public holiday celebrations.
The BVI has a lively party schedule full of all sorts of activity from the famous traditional boat races to music festivals, food festivals, parades and fashion shows.
The BVI is the place to be for those on a Tortola bareboat charter that want to relax in paradise, but maybe throw in a party or two.