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Sailing with Charlie: Beach Bars

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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As the virus takes a backseat to a more normal life in the Caribbean and visitors start to flood in. Locals are smiling and welcoming with open arms. Islanders want to make sure your stay is extra special. Boating is the most popular attraction in many islands and this is not surprising. Perfect weather most of the time, great anchorages and the Caribbean people with their free-spirited nature, warm smiles and magnetic reggae rhythms. You want a beach party? Find a perfect sandy strip with palms for shade, a few coconuts, bottle of rum and ‘de music mon.’ If you want more Caribbean ‘flava’ head over to the beach bar.

Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

A Caribbean yachting holiday often involves a morning sail to a beautiful anchorage; a snorkel, swim or other water sports; an afternoon sail to another beautiful anchorage and a visit to a beach bar or restaurant. This may metamorphose into two beach bars a day – they’re just that much fun!

Day-Tripping to Jost Van Dyke

Charlie’s an expert on beach bars. It was Foxy of Jost van Dyke who started it all – the beach bar business, that is. Now it’s world famous and Foxy received a gong from the queen for services to BVI tourism. He regales visitors with impromptu stories accompanied by guitar: “The hurricane is like a woman,” he recites, “She sweeps in causing quite a stir. When she leaves, the house gone, car gone and bank account empty.” Foxy’s hosts wild parties; Old Year’s Night being a favorite. 

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In Anguilla Bankie Banx’ beach bar, ‘The Dune’ at Rendez-vous Bay is unique. Bankie has been playing his own brand of reggae for decades and hosts the popular Moonsplash festival in March. The bar is a rustic ensemble of bric-a-brac and driftwood. A part of the roof is an upside-down Anguilla boat. The laid back style will have you entranced and ‘happy-smoke’ may have you in a trance. 

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On Virgin Gorda, Jumbies beach bar at Leverick Bay has its own character with live music and Moko jumbies on Friday night. On other days pirate ‘Beans’ plays (in season) pirate songs at happy hour and entertains with his own brand of repartee. The show ends with a feel-good ditty: “It don’t matter how fat you are; it don’t matter how rich you are; it don’t matter how smart you are and it don’t matter how good you are – God loves ya – just the way…  Y’Aaaarh.” 

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At the BVI’s Norman Island in The Bight lies the Willy T, a floating bar and eatery and as such not really a beach bar, but it’s wildly popular with both locals and visitors. There’s no fancy décor here – shots and cold beer are consumed with merry abandon. Yachties and day trippers tie up to a dock alongside. A sign on the top deck says ‘No Jumping,’ which encourages jumpers. They used to give away free T-shirts to babes who jumped topless but that has now stopped – they were just giving away too many and couldn’t keep up.     

St Maarten’s Karakter bar was created from an old school bus buried in the sand and it’s located on the long white sand beach at Simpson Bay. It has become so popular that now it has spread out onto the sand. It is patronized by locals, visitors and yachties. Like most popular beach bars, it has ‘the hook’ that attracts the crowds.

Turtles on Test

St John’s Skinny Legs at Coral Bay, USVI is on the water but not on the beach. Coral Bay used to be ‘hippie central’ but like so many avant-garde locales it soon attracted the super-rich. ‘Rustic’ is the word here and artists have small shops surrounding the bar. Live music and open-mic nights are a regular happening.

Nowadays beach bars are prolific from Puerto Rico to Trinidad. Charlie recommends a phone call or message to make sure your favorite choice is open. But if it’s fun you want, head to the funky beach bar.

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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