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I Spent a Week Sailing Around the British Virgin Islands — and It Brought Back My Best Childhood Memories



My favorite childhood memories are set in the big, above-ground pool at my grandmother’s house in upstate New York. I’ll never forget the heat on my skin and the chlorine in the air as my brother, cousins, and I splashed around together in the summertime. Long after the sun had set, we’d hoist ourselves out of the water and patter on the back porch, towels wrapped around us tightly and water dripping from our hair. We’d indulge in ice pops and chat about Pokémon or video games as we dried off in the humid heat, and before long, exhaustion would hit us like an 18-wheeler speeding down the highway.

I haven’t felt that feeling in a long time — and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I finally felt it again, climbing back on board the Nomada at Sea after a day of splashing around the ocean waters surrounding the British Virgin Islands, where this vessel calls home.

The 62-foot newly renovated Lagoon 620 catamaran is the child of the Nomada Hotel Group, best known for its gorgeous boutique properties sprinkled around central California — and they made sure that their accommodations on the sea were just as impressive as their accommodations on land. The boat is stacked with incredible amenities, including five spacious en-suite guest cabins, an on-board chef who prepares daily meals and snacks in the fully functional kitchen, and an array of watersport equipment, from paddleboards and snorkel gear to sea bobs and water skis.

JASOM NUTTLE/Courtesy of Nomada at Sea

As this was my first time sailing on a catamaran, I had no idea what to expect when I climbed on board that first day. I nervously took off my shoes as we approached (no shoes were allowed on board for safety) and shook hands with our captain, Ryan Adler; our stewardess, Constanza Fernandez; and our onboard chef, Kenetha Ashton. Our bags were carried off to our rooms as we explored what would be our home for the next few days.

JASOM NUTTLE/Courtesy of Nomada at Sea

The aft deck was incredibly spacious and featured a large dining area and lounge spaces perfect for laying out after long days. Our chef mostly used the enclosed kitchen space, but it was stocked with snacks, sunscreens, bug sprays, books, and anything else we might need while we settled at sea. The front of the boat, or the bow, held loungers and hammocks and made for a great space to lay out at night for stargazing. Finally, the flybridge, located up the stairs from the aft, featured a dining and lounge space for the guests and two steering wheels for the crew.

JASOM NUTTLE/Courtesy of Nomada at Sea

All of the en suite rooms were nestled below the kitchen area, and on most days, we were woke to the smell of bacon, eggs, or whatever else the chef was cooking that day. The queen bed sat high above the ground and faced a wall-long window, giving a gorgeous ocean view. With guest-controlled air conditioning, an in-room iPad for entertainment, incredible Pierre Frey upholstery, and custom-scented FableRune bath products, it took a great amount of strength for me to leave my bed every morning — even with chef Kenetha’s cooking waiting for me upstairs.

Jalyn Robinson/Travel + Leisure

While we dined at restaurants and bars around the islands, there was nothing quite like chef Kenetha’s cooking. Almost every morning, we were treated to a complete breakfast spread, and after every adventure, on the islands or out in the water, she brought out snacks to rejuvenate us — from charcuterie plates and homemade ceviche to freshly squeezed fruit juices and mixed drinks. The onboard chef creates these menus based on guest’s preferences, something that guests can fill out before they even set foot on board.

JASOM NUTTLE/Courtesy of Nomada at Sea

That first day, we set sail from Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola and began a week-long journey to some of the most popular spots around the islands. Itineraries vary from guest to guest and are entirely customizable based on guests’ ideas and tastes. The British Virgin Islands contain more than 60 different individual islands, and while they all give off an island feel, they each have their own unique offerings.

After we left Nanny Cay, we stopped for our first activity at sea: a snorkel session around Norman Island. Captain Ryan coaxed us to explore the sea caves with tales of hidden pirate treasure, and we all kept our heads down while we tried to spot fish and sea turtles in the water. It was a great way to kick off our adventure.

Jalyn Robinson/Travel + Leisure

Virgin Gorda was our first official stop on tour, and it did not disappoint. We had an incredible dinner that first night at Rosewood Little Dix Bay (I had the most delicious Anegada lobster I’ve ever eaten) and spent the following morning at The Baths National Park, hiking around the 40-foot boulders and stepping sneaker-first into pools of water as we made our way to one of its beaches.

We ate lunch at Saba Rock, a tiny island resort in the North Sound, and ended our second day at the iconic Bitter End Yacht Club, perusing the gift shops and dining at their nautical-themed restaurant, The Clubhouse. Our last stop the following morning was Hog Heaven, an out-of-the-way barbecue restaurant with arguably some of the best views on the island. (While the food is delicious, it’s worth the trek up the island for the views alone.)

We stayed on Virgin Gorda the longest on this trip but stopped at other notable hot spots in the BVI. We went snorkeling around the uninhabited Dog Islands and Sandy Cay, lounged in the pool and had the most incredible multi-course meal at Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, spent time learning to make painkillers at the Soggy Dollar and dancing on tables at Foxy’s, two iconic establishments located on Jost Van Dyke.

Exploring the BVI by boat is the absolute best way to take in everything you can in such a short amount of time. Each little island, whether big or small, was its own unique destination, and by the time we had been through them all, I realized that you could have any vacation you wanted here as long as you got to know each island individually. Sailing these islands on the Nomada at Sea was a treat I’ll never truly forget — the food, the culture, and the diversity of adventures you can have demand to be remembered. However, the Nomada crew and the people made this trip worthwhile.

After our first snorkel session of the trip, I climbed back on board the Nomada and knocked out on one of the loungers, exhausted from trying to keep up with the sea creatures below. I cant remember falling asleep, but it wasn’t too long after that I woke up, realizing that we were sailing again. As I sat up to drag my tired body back to my room, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one who had fallen asleep — most of my boatmates had also found a place to pass out on the aft. I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered those summers in upstate New York, fighting exhaustion after a long day spent in the water.

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