Standing behind the double sliding screen door that, along with the wooden jalousie windows, let in wonderful late-February breezes all night long, I watched as the morning sun lit the tops of the palm trees waving just below our balcony. The fronds changed color with every movement, making a sound reminiscent of rain showers. "Peggy, someone has shoveled the front walk," I said, smiling and remembering the six inches of snow forecast for our hometown overnight. "And I see they've done a little landscaping, too," she said, walking up behind me and giving me a hug.
Our room at the Bitter End, perched 40 feet above the beach below, high up on the north-facing hillside of Virgin Gorda, commanded a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean, Eustatia Sound directly below and a reef to the east by the same name. As I looked down at the impossibly clear water, one of the resort's large power cats glided by, festooned with yellow scuba tanks and a dozen or so guests. Farther out on the sound, a small RIB tagged along at a safe distance behind a kiteboarder who was cutting an energetic wake through the low waves, but just learning the sport. After a spectacular wipeout, the kite came to rest straight overhead and hovered, and the student looked to his instructor in the RIB for words of encouragement. Out on the perimeter of the reef, a couple of the Boston Whaler 13s available to guests rode easily at anchor, home base and magic carpet for those who wanted to try snorkeling and beach exploring on their own.
Around the bend of the shoreline to my left, just out of sight, a fleet of Hunter 216s, Rhodes 19s and IC-24s (modified J-24s) rode easy at moorings just off the beach fronting the Clubhouse Grille restaurant, the reception area and the movie area-all open to the wonderful outdoors. Behind the fleet, a mooring field was filled with charter vessels from all over the Virgin Islands, many of them from the Moorings, which has an office on the property, but there were also numerous vessels that had sailed there from much greater distances.
Like Peggy and I, many of them were here to help Bitter End celebrate its 30th anniversary. The resort's top-notch staff, under the direction of Managing Partner Dana Hokin, Managing Director Ross Justice, HR Director Delores Creeque, Resort Manager Mary Jo Ryan and Guest Activities Director Gordo Overing, had prepared a week full of watersports, wonderful meals, live music and, on Monday night, fabulous fireworks. We were honored to be included along with British Virgin Island (BVI) dignitaries and numerous repeat guests who came to share this special moment.
When Myron and Bernice Hokin cruised into the North Sound region of Virgin Gorda in the 1960s, they found pristine waters, small sheltering islands and reefs that held the open waters of the Atlantic at bay, unobstructed Trade Winds and a range of flora and fauna that fused desert and tropical themes in a wonderfully visual paradise for yachtsmen.
Today the resort stretches along a mile of beachfront, and includes a vital waterfront village, a full-service marina, a watersports center stocked with the latest Lasers, Hobies and sailboards, and two open-air restaurants staffed by BVI citizens intent on making your stay an extraordinary and comfortable experience. If sunning on the beach and swimming in the gorgeous salt water isn't your cup of tea, there's even a freshwater swimming pool where you can sip a cool drink from the bar or dine on light fare. Accessible only by the sea, the Bitter End has earned its reputation as the premiere watersports facility in the BVI, whether you come by charter vessel, ferry service from St. Thomas, USVI, or Tortola, BVI, or private yacht. The restaurants, shops and some of the services are available to visitors and guests alike.
As the evening celebration neared, Sea Cloud appeared, a gleaming white four-masted cruise ship with square yards and sails on the foremast, as well as satellite antenna domes on deck. A dark-hulled Swan 100 glided powerfully into the outer anchorage, joining several megayachts that had already staked out choice positions behind the mooring field, ready to join in the evening's anniversary festivities. The invitation-only dinner included steaks and fresh split Anegada lobster on the grill, salads and side dishes of every description, wine, nonstop music, jump-up dancing by the crowd as well as the BVI's own Moko Jumbies-sky dancers on stilts, athletic performers in colorful costumes with a unique, long-legged perspective on all the festivities. Peg and I sat next to Virginia Emanuel, one of three Bitter End staffers, along with Johhny Emanuel and Gunny George, who were recognized this night for their service to guests that stretched back 30 years.
I wandered into the Captain's Table section of the restaurant, where pennants hang to commemorate families and individuals who return here to enjoy the experience of this one-of-a-kind paradise. Besides yachtsmen from all parts of the world, sailing luminaries like Russell Coutts, Robbie Haines, Dawn Riley, Paul Cayard and Peter Isler are frequent visitors. Peggy and I met some delightful folks during our stay, people with the same appreciation for natural beauty and watersports, but they came for all different kinds of reasons. We shared a bottle of Dom Perignon with William and Elizabeth Hollan of Winston-Salem, N.C., who were celebrating their third wedding anniversary. And we just missed a wedding on the beach-Jim and Terry Brittingham from Annapolis, Md., on-site to renew the vows they made 30 years ago.
Now after 30 years as a family-owned resort, some hillside sites at Bitter End overlooking the beach will be carefully developed into a low-density residential community of villas. Under the watchful eye of primary architect Peter Brill, who designed the beachfront villas, as well as the BVI Town & Country Planning Authority, the existing structures, prominent geography and native flora will merge seamlessly with new Caribbean-inspired designs and integrate with the services of the smoothly functioning resort.
Will this change Bitter End? Not if the second and third generation of Hokins have anything to say about it. The emphasis will always be on watersports and a premiere resort experience. Standing on the beach and looking at the well-maintained, beautifully planted property and the hills above is just one perspective, but turn around and look out over North Sound and you sense the power and the magic that Bitter End guests return for time and again.
Contact: Bitter End Yacht Club, (800) 872-2392; www.beyc.com.