It was the first morning of my five-day trip aboard a catamaran cruising the British Virgin Islands. Just as I settled into the cockpit with a cup of coffee and a book, a double rainbow appeared above the lush hills of Cooper Island. Then a turtle surfaced with a splash several feet away, looking in my direction before submerging again. For the next hour, it played hide-and-seek with the boat, while pelicans dive-bombed for breakfast and returned to the rocks to eat their catch. A barracuda leaped out of the water off the stern. Eventually, I gave up trying to read.
I had returned to the islands — where I’ve vacationed for decades — eager to see how the area was rebounding. Only 14 months before my trip, Irma had whipped through the Caribbean, causing $3.6 billion in damage in the BVIs alone. While many resorts are still rebuilding, the sailing industry rebounded almost immediately, thanks in part to The Moorings, from which my husband and I chartered a 51-foot boat with a captain and a chef. The company offers approximately 200 yachts out of Tortola, the largest of the BVIs, for both bareboat and crewed trips, and is adding more to meet the demands of sailors, who have long revered the destination for its gentle trade winds, teeming sea life, and sheltered anchorages off private islands that, often, can only be approached by sea. And as anyone who takes to these seas will find, now is an ideal time to discover (or rediscover) this paradise.