2013 Virgin Islands Flotilla
Dates: May 11 - 21, 2013
Trip Report and Link to Photos
See the photos.
Report from Gerry Hills (Wow! What a trip! Read on.):
The Dartmouth Alumni Club of the Virgin Islands (DACVI) may be the newest and smallest Dartmouth Alumni Club, but we just had the longest Alumni Club meeting.
Preparation - - Everything started about February, 2012. Norman Silverman and I, both D’68, hadn’t seen or spoken to each other since undergraduate days in Mass Hall. Somehow, we bumped into each other on Facebook. I live on St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Norman lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. No wonder our paths didn’t cross. Then we discovered that we both loved sailing, that we had both been yacht club commodores, and that we had both captained bareboat charter sailboats in the British Virgin Islands – a total of about 12 times between us.
I hate to admit it, but we didn’t write or email or call – we did that texting thing for about 2 weeks. He wanted to sail again, I wanted to sail again, and we both had time. So I actually called him. “Do you want to charter?” “Yes, love to.” “When?’ “Anytime.” “Let’s get a group together.” “How many can we get?” “I don’t know.” “Let’s make it a Dartmouth cruise and invite other ‘68s.” “I think we can get several boats filled.” “What’s the best time?” “I like May, but we don’t have enough lead time to get notices out and get boats reserved.” So we picked May, 2013, called it the Dartmouth Virgin Islands Flotilla, and started soliciting for sailors.
An email to fraternity brother Kevin Swenson ’71 and wife Lyn produced an acceptance, we had a critical mass of 6, and it was a go. It’s amazing the lag time in getting published in Class Newsletters and the Class Notes section of the DAM, but we eventually got published. Sailors trickled in. From ’68 came Jack Hopke and wife Barbara Siede, and Tom Laughlin and wife Mia. The total was now 10 sailors. From ’66 came Ed Jereb and Wayne LoCurto and wives Paula and Kathy. Total 14, now two full boats – one captained by Norman, one captained by me. Brothers Pete ’71 and Bill ’65 Webster called, confirmed, said they could fill two additional boats, and then had to drop out because of conflicts. Around March, we finalized at 13, with Norman’s significant other unable to attend.
And then we started to get late requests to join. “Everyone’s welcome, but can you captain a boat? “ Unlike a golf outing or resort get-together, you need to reserve a large, expensive sailboat, usually well in advance, and you need a person qualified to captain it. Plan B – maybe we can get a trawler or a giant catamaran. A note to Norman produced an immediate and curt response: “No stink-pots and no cats.” Agreement. So we finalized on two 50-foot Benetaus from Conch Charters on Tortola, each with 4 cabins and 4 heads.
Dartmouth Alumni Club of the Virgin Islands - - At the same time, but independently, Alumni Club formation was in process. About two years ago, I sent an inquiry to Alumni Affairs about the possibility of organizing an Alumni Club in the Virgin Islands. The first response was somewhat discouraging, because there weren’t a whole lot of us here. I persisted and got an initial list of alums in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, with their (allegedly current) email addresses. About 10-12. So I sent out an introductory email. “How about a Dartmouth Alumni Club of the Virgin Islands?” Almost all responded yes. A few bad addresses. One “I’ve moved to Missouri and am not interested.” Enough to perhaps form a small group and get recognized by the College. Logistics were impossible. We had 4 alums on St. John, 3 on St. Thomas, 1 on St. Croix, a few in British Virgin Islands. Can’t get to anywhere from down here, except by ferry. So we laid low for a bit. I finally set up a meeting on St. John, but people couldn’t make it. And then I had a thought - - I’m holding a Dartmouth Flotilla in May. We’ll form the Alumni Club the night before we sail.
Synergy - - When you have 13 people who are adventurous enough to go sailing for 9 days in the Caribbean on board a sailboat with people they’ve never met, they are also probably receptive to becoming charter members of DACVI. Such was the case. We quickly reached unanimous agreement to form DACVI, with the organization meeting to take place the night before the sail.
Preparations were started. Alumni Affairs sent me a suggested Constitution and tips for starting an Alumni Club. At least 40 pages long, full of fine print. I was able to cull a reasonable Constitution out of the first 4 pages. Wayne LoCurto volunteered to procure official dark green DACVI shirts and white DACVI caps for everybody. Notices were sent out to the other local alums. Bruce Streibech ’72 from St. Thomas, and Tom Zurich ’73 with wife Jessica from Tortola couldn’t make the sail, but agreed to join us for the meeting, held at The Pub, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Rick Wild ’73 with wife Anne Spaulding, plus Bill Buck ’63 with wife J. Lee (St. Croix) couldn’t attend, but are Charter Members.
On May 11, 2013, in Road Town, Tortola, by unanimous vote of 11 hearty Dartmouth alums, plus 10 beautiful wives, DACVI became the newest Dartmouth Alumni Club. Naturally we immediately sang Men of Dartmouth followed by Glory to Dartmouth. The meeting was adjourned for dinner, but actually it was just beginning. Everyone spent the night at Fort Burt Hotel, right across the street from Conch Charters and The Pub.
The DACVI Flotilla – The Meeting Continues – 7 Big Greeners and 6 wives set out early afternoon May 12 from Conch Charters, starting a counter-clockwise 9-day sail around the British Virgin Islands. Panache was filled with Laughlins, Swensons, and Hillses. Cielo de Dios held Silverman, Hopke/Siede, LoCurtos, and Jerebs. Sailing in the British Virgin Islands is a treat – clear and warm water, moderate breezes, line-of-sight navigation, and loads and loads of friendly beach bars and restaurants. Snorkeling is amazing. Rum is plentiful.
Everyone took turns at the helm, and we all worked raising and lowering and trimming sails, mooring, driving the dinghies, and enjoying breakfasts on the deck. Days were sail/swim/snorkel/party/repeat. Overnight stops included:
2. Machioneel Bay, Cooper Island – A picturesque harbor with a good restaurant, beautiful beach, and a snorkel area.
3. Leverick Bay, Gorda Sound – Caribbean entertainment by Pirate Michael Beans. Two of the crew reached the finals of the conch blowing contest. A swimming pool and a store for provisions.
4-5. Anegada – A favorite. 2-night visit. Long, long, deserted white sand beaches. We rented two real crummy trucks and took road trips to various beaches. Dinner for 13 at Neptune’s Treasure, and more Dartmouth songs, to an ovation by stunned onlookers.
6. Trellis Bay, Beef Island – Restocked provisions at the tiny grocery store, and had dinner at De Loose Mongoose. More singing, led by Jack Hopke who seems to know words and music to every song ever recorded.
7a. Lunch at Marina Cay – A tiny private island owned by Pusser’s Rum. You absolutely have to stop here. We ate on the beach under little palm-thatched huts, laundered the sheets, and raided the excellent Pusser’s Store.
7b. Panache went to Lee Bay for a night of quiet with dinner and wine on board. Cielo de Dios went to Jost Van Dyke and partied at Foxy’s, Great Harbor, with a giant buffet dinner and loads of rum. Captain Norman showed off previously unknown table-dancing skills.
Original Trip Announcement
The charter company website is www.conchcharters.com.
There's enough room for 15 couples and 5 have committed.
* Arrive 5/11 at Beef Island International Airport, Tortola.***
* Welcome party on land at Fort Burt Hotel, Road Town, Tortola
* On board 9 nights, May 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
* On land 5/21 for departure party Fort Burt Hotel, Tortola. Or
if you have a late flight, you can make it.
* Leave 5/22 from Beef Island International Airport, Tortola.
Yes, a Class of 1968 Virgin Islands Flotilla. From experience, the best dates are in May -- the weather is excellent, the water is warm, and the boats are all on special spring rates. We don't have enough time to get it all put together for 2012, so this is an advance prospectus for May, 2013.
I (Gerry Hills) live here, and charter sailboats whenever possible. A qualified Captain, and a past Commodore of the St. John Yacht Club. I was recently in contact with classmate Norm Silverman, who is also a past Commodore -- Grosse Point Yacht Club -- and has chartered here and loves it as much as I do. So we decided to see if anyone wants to join us.
We know there are some excellent sailors in the class, but more important, there are people who would enjoy being on a sailboat in the Caribbean as passenger/crew. You don't need any special experience to be on a boat here -- you just need to like adventure.
I can get anywhere from 1 to 5 boats, depending on how many people are interested. 51 foot Benetaus with dual steering wheels and excellent performance. Each will hold 3 couples with loads of space. Other boats are 47 foot and 43 foot Benetaus. Norman will captain one of the boats, I will captain one of them, and we will find other captains. All we need are people to enjoy the sail.
The charter company I use has a special in May -- 9 nights for the price of one week. So the trip would be 9 nights in May, 2013. You fly to Beef Island, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and overnight at a small hotel next to the charter company. The next morning we get checked out and go sailing. After 9 nights exploring we spend another night at the hotel and then take flights home. Well, most people do -- I take a ferry across the channel from BVI to USVI.
You have breakfast on the boats, lunch either on board or at a small beach restaurant, and usually dinner at a beach restaurant, which all have moderate prices. Usually sail twice per day -- once in the morning and once in the afternoon -- before getting a mooring for the night. Snorkel, of course. It is very simple to do, and lots of fun. And you get very tanned. The boats will go wherever the consensus is during the day, either together or separately, and will meet up at night for drinks and dinner.
A first pass at costs -- About $1,400/couple for the Benetaus -- boat, insurance, fuel, miscellaneous fees. Just buy your food for 9 nights and you are all set. You have to eat anyway, and you might as well eat in the Caribbean for a week.