Catch The Wind, A Fish or Aquatic View At
The Bitter End
Sailing, Fishing, Snorkeling and Diving are BVI Activities
Not To Be Missed
By Larry Larsen
There is no prettier place in the Caribbean than the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The tall
hills break a flat horizon, and the turquoise waters are beautiful. Obviously, there are many options for the outdoorsman to enjoy this mostly-underdeveloped area.
Right in the center of this "Sportsman's Heaven" lies the beautiful Bitter End Resort and Yacht Club. Its fabulous aquatic activities program is second to none in the Caribbean.
The sport fishing program includes deep-sea fishing and trolling from a 25-foot, center console boat for tuna, wahoo, and dorado. The better blue water fishing in May is
for tuna and dolphin, and the biggest of each species typically weigh about 40 pounds. On a good 3-hour trip, guests may catch 3 or 4 on either natural ballyhoo bait
or a jig with feathers artificial, according to Captain Bernard Charles. The 30-pound class tackle is provided, and there is a large cooler aboard for drinks and, of course, the fish caught.
The boat has a canvas top to keep you out of the sun and rod holders for the trolling. It offers a fairly dry ride. I
fished with Bernie in 3- to 4-foot seas, and the short swells made it a little rough, particularly going around the
point from the resort. We ended up fishing all around Virgin Gorda but spent most of our time on the east side.
In the couple of hours of trolling, we could only manage to interest a barracuda, but we did round the point for
some great sightseeing. We motored back, passing by the famous "Baths" through little Dix Bay and then back through the Spanish Town side of North Sound.
While our fishing that day was not the best I've had, Bernie recalls one recent special trip he had with a guest
and his 8-year old son. The youngster, just five feet tall, hooked into a big lemon shark, according to the captain
. They reeled it in. and the shark was brought into the boat. It was twice as big as the kid, so they got some great pictures!
The resort's fishing program also includes bonefishing and a boat and guide are provided. While most flats fished are either
in Virgin Gorda's North Sound or around the mountain from the resort, bonefishing on the expansive flats of Anegada is another option for those with a little more time. Individuals
wanting to try their bonefishing luck without a guide can use the small Bitter End Boston Whalers to get to the reef and then wade the flats.
Scuba diving is another popular option for water sports lovers at the Bitter End, according to Jason Meeuwig, Assistant Director of Guest Activities. A lot of guests go with Kilbrides
who has a dive shop right at Bitter End. The well-known dive operation has taken resort guests out for more than 20 years.
Famous, historical wrecks and large marine life are viewed under the waters around Virgin Gorda.
"You'll see the larger pelagic fish like tarpon and shark, as well as turtle, lobster, reef fish and coral," says
Meeuwig. "There are daily, guided snorkel trips every day of the week as well. Some guests may go once or
twice on the guided trips to get a feel for it and then take the Boston Whaler out on their own and snorkel the reefs around the island."
When excursion boats go to Anegada Island on its north side, the snorkeling can be tricky so the captains try to
keep guests close to the beach. Snorkelers there and elsewhere in the Caribbean should always be mindful of
sea urchins, fire coral and jelly fish when swimming in shallow water. As soon as the water temperature gets
into the mid 80's, snorkelers in the BVI's start seeing jelly fish, which hang around for a couple of months. Scuba divers don't see them as much, since the divers are well below the floaters.
"The Lion's Mane jellyfish are large and round with long hanging tentacles and should be avoided," points out
Gordon Overing, Director of Guest Activities at Bitter End Resort and Yacht Club. "Bumping into Moon jellyfish
may cause mild irritations, and most are found within two or three feet of the surface. Sea wasps or box jellyfish
may be the most lethal and pack a serious punch. They're clear with a purple tail and anyone that is allergic to bee stings would have the same reaction from these guys."
Oil Nut Bay is a beautiful spot to see nurse sharks while snorkeling, according to "Gordo", as he is
affectionately called around the resort. While snorkeling, he once came across a school of five spotted eagle
rays that looked like mom, dad and the kids. They were swimming in formation off the small, nearby island of Eustacia.
Eustacia is apparently a great spot to see all kinds of marine life. Gordo also came across a school of large
tarpon swimming back and forth under a massive school of silverstars or sardines. The tarpon participating in this exciting event were six feet long, and at one point swam head on into Gordo.
"I was swimming through the school of silversides, and suddenly within six feet of me, appeared the first tarpon
coming right toward me," he relates. "Then, there was another, and another. There were nine tarpon swimming
through the school of baitfish passing right beside me looking for lunch. We crossed each other and we all held our course."
You don't have to fish or go underwater to have a great time at Bitter End. As Meeuwig points out, the resort is very much a
sports destination, with lots of sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, kayaking and exploring on boats. In fact, the Bitter End has over 100 boats in their fleet that people can use - from the smallest
sailboats to Freedom 30's
Guests frequently play around with the Bitter End sailboats in the North Sound, which is one of the most beautiful places to sail in the BVIs. Substantial breezes and warm water make the
sheltered Sound a great place to learn to sail or to practice, especially if you are using a Laser, their most popular boat.
The large Freedom 30 sailboats are available for day trip touring around the island, or a couple can even use one as a "live
-aboard" for 3 or 4 days. That way if they want to go out cruising and spend a couple of nights out on the boat
they can do that, according to Meeuwig. The Freedom 30s are very easy to sail, so once you have your sail trimmed, you can pretty much relax and just steer the boat.
"If guests are just taking the boat out for a day sail, we recommend they go to the Dog Islands or to the Marina
Cay/Diamond Reef area," he explains. "They can go a little further but that can turn into a longer sail than one
day. Some people will go all around the BVI if they go for a couple of days and work their way back by Cooper Island."
Also available on a rental basis at Bitter End Yacht Club is an Express 37 sailboat that comes with a skipper.
It's designed more as a race boat, so the performance sailor would find it more to his or her liking. When guests want to have a little get up and go, that's the boat to use, according to Meeuwig.
For those wanting a board under their feet, windsurfing is an activity that is highlighted at Bitter End. For most
windsurfers, the area right in front of the resort is perfect. Since beginners always go downwind, if they do get
into "trouble" and can't get back, the staff at the resort have no trouble finding them. As the assistant Guest
Activities Director says, "When they disappear into Leverick Bay, we get a call saying they got that far and come pick them up."
The Bitter End excursion boats are much larger than the rest of the armada at the resort marina, so they offer
different options. The resort runs excursions to other islands nearby at least six times a week, and they include
the famous "Baths", the Virgin Gorda mainland, Anegada Island, Norman Island and other small islands. Most of
the trips include sightseeing from the boat, snorkeling and lunch either on board or at a restaurant nearby. Guests get to see and explore more of the Virgin Islands.
For the excursions to the other islands, the resort uses two different boats. The main one is a Corinthian double
decker catamaran with an enclosed main deck and open upper deck. It gets to its destinations very quickly and
is very comfortable because it's a catamaran. The Bitter End also has a sailing catamaran which does exciting
sunset sails three times a week. Guests enjoy rum punch and watch the beautiful sunset aboard before returning for dinner.
While doing the excursions to Anegada Island during January and February, it's not uncommon to see whales
migrating through the area. There is also a good chance to see dolphins up close, according to Gordo.
Another resort option for those that don't want to go with a bunch of other guests on the excursion boats is
the small Boston Whaler boats. Guests can borrow one of the 11-footers, take the area map that's provided
and go off to explore on their own. They can motor to a remote beach or island, go bonefishing or snorkeling, or just do any other kind of activity they desire.
If the Bitter End Resort is not the beginning of a vacation's wonderful water activity time for you, then you
really must be a "land lubber". I just can't imagine that this place is not perfect for everyone!
The Bitter End Yacht Club has 95 luxurious accommodations, including beachfront and hillside villas, commodore
club suites, their Freedom-30 live-aboard yachts and an estate house. For more information on this great resort
, contact Bitter End Yacht Club International, 875 N Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611 or call 800-872-2392. Click if you want help with flights.