After 13 gallons of sunscreen have been applied, when the Pusser's Painkiller Rum starts to wear off, while I can still feel the rolling of the waves as I come back down to earth, and while my sea legs are still activated, I can't help but reminisce about an unforgettable week aboard the perfect boat in paradise.
First impressions are everything
If you have never had the pleasure of spending time aboard a Leopard 45 and if your bucket list is already full, then I suggest you stop reading this immediately. However, if you dream of the day where you can cruise from the comfort of a catamaran in paradise, then you have come to the right place.
One thing that really stands out to me when looking at the exteriors of the Leopard 45 is that she has the perfect blend of sport and elegance. She appears rugged and ready to take on the sea, but then she also possesses a certain style about her that is dripping with splendor. Her lines are sleek and she is fierce, ready to pounce on any wave that is thrust her way. The 360 degrees of window appear tinted black from the outside and give the yacht a sleek new look. She was the first of the Leopard line to appear as such and judging by the exteriors of the Leopard 50, this look is here to stay.
Discovering the yacht
But don't worry, we aren't just going to stare at her all day-- let's step aboard. After all, it's what's on the inside that counts. Upon boarding you instantly notice the expansive aft cockpit that is the perfect social setting to enjoy sundowners aboard your boat, but what's more is that you can open up the sliding glass doors and windows, stack them into one another, and create an open space that flows from the aft cockpit to the saloon and galley, through the forward access door and into the forward cockpit. At anchorage, the sea breeze will feel like a dream, no need to bother with the generator-- unless you are mixing up your piña coladas (which I suggest you do).
From the aft cockpit, climb aboard the four steps up to the helm station and you will discover a raised helm. Situated at the perfect height, the helm station does not close the captain off from the rest of the group. The helm station on this Leopard 45 was outfitted with two electric winches, both of which are to the left of the helm and then a third winch further aft. Single handed sailing is made simple, but when you are sailing with friends and family, the helm station might be your favorite place to congregate. Walk forward and you will notice plenty of deck space with hand rails strategically placed for safety to move about the yacht while underway. Up on the trampoline we found that it was the perfect place to bust out the guitar for a jam session, or to just relax and soak up the sun. The forward cockpit seating area was also an excellent place to relax while underway.
Staying on deck vs. heading ashore
The beautiful thing about this particular yacht is that, although the option to go ashore for dinner or drinks every evening on a different island presented itself, we found that most of the time we enjoyed the comfort of our own boat so much so that we opted to have a sundowner aboard or host friends we met in the anchorage for a happy hour, and then enjoy dinner on board. The counter space in the galley is expansive enough that you can't have too many cooks in the kitchen. We found it easy for our group to prep and cook meals, as well as wash the dishes in the galley, without feeling crowded. The comfort of a spacious interior allowed for us to indulge in more meals on board.
Power vs. Sail -- Why choose?
In addition to the Leopard 45, about three days into the sail we met up with some friends who were cruising the islands on the Leopard 51 PC. Talk about the best of both worlds. One afternoon the ladies cruised the islands from the flybridge of the powercat while, in true gentlemen fashion, the guys enjoyed a downwind sail. From there we rafted the boats up for SUPing and swimming on Cooper Island. Happy hour was hosted aboard the Leopard 51 PC with absolutely spectacular views from up top, and the wet bar with grill and fridge on the flybridge was a welcomed addition for our cookout. Another fan favorite on the Leopard 51 PC was the blue underwater lights. At night they allowed us to see the massive tarpon fish swimming under the yachts.
After spending a more than a week aboard the Leopard 45, it was clear that I had spoiled the first time sailors. When I tried to explain that not all sailboats are built like this I soon realized it was a lost cause considering the "next sailing trip" conversations all began like this: "Next year when we sail the Leopard 50..." One can safely assume that, after the Leopard 50 sailing trip is over, I might hear, "Next year when we sail the Leopard 58..."
What about the BVI?
While I may have gotten carried away talking about the perfect catamaran, it would not be fair to take a trip to the BVI and not give you the activity highlights. Considering we did spent quite a bit of time island hopping around the BVI, I think it only fair that we share some of the do's and don'ts from our excursion.
Do go to the Top of the Baths , order a drink and go for a swim in the pool! On previous BVI sails I have opted to not hike to the top, and after embarking on that hike this particular trip, I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner.
Do pick up your friends from Trellis Bay if they are on a later flight than you. We had a gentlemen in the group arriving from Texas a day later than the rest of the crowd, so instead of waiting for him at the marina, we decided to bring the boat to him. And of course he felt like the VIP of the group walking out of the airport with his luggage only to find his chariot (dinghy) to the yacht waiting for him! And while Trellis Bay is still recovering from the hurricane, that doesn't mean you won't see some of the best sunsets in the BVI from here.
Do visit Anegada, do rent a truck and do your own exploring! For $85 for the entire day you can see all of the best beaches that Anegada has to offer and your can do it on your own schedule. Discover Loblolly Beach, Cow Wreck Beach and maybe your own private beach as well.
Do visit monkey point and go for a snorkel. Spend the day here eating some lunch and taking in the views and then spend your evening in Cane Garden Bay. Cane Garden Bay has a nice size grocery store if you need to pick up more provisions or if you need to buy more beer.
Do go to White Bay and visit Soggy Dollar Bar. Need I say more?
Do go to the Indians! Missing this will be a mistake, so do what you have to to wake up early and get there! The snorkeling here was world-class and if you enjoy the hobby, don't miss out!
Do visit the new Willy T's! This boat is back and better than ever. The pain killers are flowing and her new location is perfect. While there are not as many moorings balls in Great Harbour as there were in The Bight, the Pirates Bight on Norman Island is a popular restaurant to visit, and thus the need for so many mooring balls in The Bight was necessary. With Willy T's in this new location, the crowds are split between the two anchorages.
As for the don'ts? I don't believe that I have any! Plot your course or plan your itinerary and just go for it.
Whether is it your first time, your third time of your twentieth time sailing the BVI you can always see something new, meet someone new and learn something new.