We are all familiar with this trip since my parents, aunts and uncles had introduced these adventures back in 1978. Over the years we had sailed and later motored on the beautiful waters, discovering wonder in and around the bucolic islands. Snorkeling the reefs revealed a glorious undersea world.
My parents, aunts and uncles went down every year, hosting several groups of relations and friends a week or so at a time on a boat. It was all about sharing the fun. The Virgin Islands became my kids’ choice for the big family vacation every couple of years. We never did make it to Disney.
Bareboat chartering involves a boat big enough to house a gang for a week to ten days. The amenity requirements include, a workable galley, some type of ice box, heads (bathrooms) that don’t leak, and enough bunk and upper deck space to accommodate gangly bodies. We never needed a captain since most of us have been managing our own boats before we could drive a car. Even after disastrous hurricanes and other natural disasters, the marine maps offered great information on safe passage and mooring spots. Land was always within sight.
Here are some pictures of trips gone by.
We all loved the fun and adventures, but my dad reveled in gathering a boat load of passengers, diving off the boat before morning coffee, and chasing turtles. He had an incredible lung capacity and snorkled down as far as his sinuses allowed. Mom worked the menus and divided up lists and the food assignments. When the kids were younger, she organized scavenger hunts. We collected conch and urchin shells, spied neon colored fish, a moray eel’s liar, and learned to identify constellations, corals and sea fans. For over 40 years, my parents, aunts and uncles had owner shares in a boat and knew every corner cove so that they could adjust itineraries according to the groups they traveled with and the weather. The itineraries were simple. Get up, sail to a perfect spot, snorkel, explore. Perhaps there was a beach with a bar, music to dance to, a full moon party, or artisan shacks to visit. Nothing fancy.
We packed sunscreen, hats, T-shirts, bathing suits, our snorkel gear, a few books and a deck of cards. The heaviest items were the meals we prepared and froze, plus the snacks we like to nibble on throughout the day. You can’t find sopressata, the right cheese, and Brooklyn Italian bread on the islands.
This trip is different. COVID postponed the April 2020 excursion. My parents, and my sisters and my families had three boats reserved. Dad was thrilled to go back to the beautiful waters with his Everyone. COVID raged, and we held onto the hope of going the next season. But then Dad died.
It took awhile to catch our breath and get ourselves organized. We adjusted to the fact that the trip would not be the same, yet the legacy urged us onward. Once the ball started to roll, cousins and their families wanted to join. Uncle Jack, Aunt Marcia, and Uncle Phil, the remaining original founders of our Family Floatilla adventures, were on board. My mom was unable to travel, but I hoped to facetime or share pics as we go along if I could get wifi connections.
We juggled schedules, worked out procuring boats between two chartering companies, crossed our fingers that hurricane season would be kind to the islands, and believed COVID would be manageable by January 2022.
The hopes and prayers must have channeled Dad, his sister, favorite Aunt Katy, and Uncle Tom. We chartered five boats between thirty-five adventurers. Although the islands continue to recover from Hurricane Irma four years ago, 2021 hurricane season skirted their shores.
COVID, however, remained an obstacle. The protocols were a frustrating maze, but as of travel day, we all tested negative and had the required documentation and masks in hand. We were going!.
Early in the morning on travel day, I arranged frozen meals between three bags of luggage and packed cheese, frozen drink mixes, and snacks before the car came to take us to the airport. Rolled T-shirts, bathing suits, and underwear squeezed in to pad the sides. Everyone arrived on their boats by cocktail hour. Uncle Jack’s boat with the California crew was already underway. We caught up with them a day or so later.
Dad would have loved this party. Mom would have too if he was here.
The blessings this family had and continues to share is unusually abundant. For those who were able to make this trip, we celebrated our legacy of making memories and sharing fun adventures together on boats.
We head for home on Sunday. Here are some pictures of Family BVI Floatilla 2022.
Stay safe, My Everyone!
Thank yous go out to Natalie the Explorer who keeps the Weekend Coffee Share percolating each week.
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