Away From Home
The water is countless shades of teal. Trade winds of 10 knots gently nudge at our backs. The nine of us on deck include sons, daughters, brothers and spouses, all of us having left cold regions in the United States to meet in the British Virgin Islands for the most unique Christmas vacation in our recent history. A 48-foot MarineMax Power Cat on the Sir Frances Drake Channel is about as distant from rush-and-slush hours as we can get. We cruise past a gorgeous necklace of small islands and bays. Salt Island. Frenchman’s Cay. Little Thatch.
“We need some presents,” I announce.
Just as we often do at home, we make an eleventh-hour run on the stores. But this year, we’ll be shopping on Tortola, in stores that are colorful and sporting handmade signs that playfully compete for attention. We negotiate a crowded anchorage until my son, McKenzie, spots a vacant mooring ball, the BVI’s version of finding a parking spot at the mall.
After taking the dinghy ashore, we load up on stocking stuffers (bottles of rum, seashell jewelry, T-shirts) before returning to the boat. Cold beverages magically appear from the galley. Not far from our mooring, the rusted wreck of a tugboat lay washed up on the beach.
In the salon, we set up a 6-foot silver Christmas tree and hang the stockings we hauled from the States. The boat, like Tortola’s shoreline, glows with cheer. The air is warm and, with cabin windows open, we enjoy a silent Caribbean night.
The aroma wafting through the yacht on Christmas morning is a familiar one: bacon, eggs and French toast. The scene outside, however, is a Christmas first for us: White Bay at Jost Van Dyke, with one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. When a brief rain shower passes, it only adds to the awe — along with it comes a rainbow arcing over the stretch of sand. It’s a gift that cannot be topped.
The thrill does not wane. Not here.
After emptying the rum, cigars and trinkets from the stockings, we play with our toys. A paddle board. Snorkels. A kayak. All are part of the 484 Power Cat charter package. On the swim platform, a few of us share a pitcher of bloody marys and soak up winter in paradise.
Later, we enjoy barbecue chicken and a mandatory viewing of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the hideaway flat-screen TV. We have no post-Christmas letdown, either; in the days that follow, we swim in caves and dance at The Willy T off Norman Island; we climb wooden stairs and wade between boulders at The Baths; we laugh at odd-looking fish and watch a moonrise during dinner at Peter Island. We lose interest in our cellphones and become totally lost in the moments.
When we return to the MarineMax dock, shuttle to the airport and ascend over the islands, my eyes catch the yachts below. My thoughts drift over the sea. But there’s one place they do not wander: to the idea of staying home for Christmas.