African AmericansBlack AmericaMr. Free Spirit

The 2017 British Virgin Islands (BVI) Reunion: The End of an Era


Before Hurricane Irma

After Hurricane Irma

I have many friends across the United States and through various conversations below provides some thoughts and efforts concerning the devastation of the recent hurricane season.

We always take things for granted. Just think we celebrated 20 years of going to the BVI a couple of months a go in July and August 2017.  Mr. Free Spirit had all new people and the experience was awesome. Plans were being made about what months we would do it again in 2018.  At night, we watched the houses on the side of the mountains and the glimmering lights, we watched the car lights winding down the mountainside and discussed the regularity of brake jobs a car would need. We ate in restaurants that were basically outside, a roof, a bar, and tables. The people who live on the various islands were friendly and unique. Charmine at Moorings was waiting for my phone call to discuss my articles about 2017. Our Captains were fantastic and we had already told them the islands we planned to visit next year. 

                                                                                                                                        Mr. Free Spirit

REUNION​ ​AND​ ​REBIRTH By: Niambi Brown Davis

I was going to write a recap of the 2017 BVI Reunion; the places we visited and the good times we had at each of our familiar, much-anticipated stops. But then Hurricane Irma and Maria roared across the Caribbean, turning the places we loved into piles of debris recognizable only by before and after pictures posted on Facebook. So instead of a day by day recap of “what we did on our BVI Reunion”, this will be a different take on the Reunion. It’s the story of what could have been the worst day and how it turned out to be the best. It’s a metaphor for what has already begun to take place all across the British Virgin Islands. Since last year Anegada has become my favorite British Virgin island. As soon as I saw its beautiful blue water, cotton candy clouds and silky white sand, the small island became a magical place for me. I was reminded of the Yoruba Orisha Yemaja, whose signature colors are blue and white. If she had a favorite place to make her presence known, this place could be surely in the running. The flowing blue and white top I found while shopping for the trip would be perfect for the day, especially since I planned to join with a couple of friends to pour a libation in honor of our late friend Marvelle Manga.

The morning of our sail to Anegada, the sun was shining, the sails were raised and the wind was in our favor. The crew of Otterside looked forward to liming on the beach and lobster dinner with the full BVI Reunion group later that evening. The perfect day was underway. Great conversations are a hallmark of our group – some serious; so some hilarious we couldn’t catch our breaths, and some “what would you do” scenarios. Last year someone posed this question: What we would do if our captain could no longer sail the boat? My answer: “grab Rhonda Gilbert – quickly!” To me, she has always been our first mate. So when Rhonda quietly and calmly asked another crew member to leave the trampoline and come back to the cockpit, something had to be up. When I saw her and Captain Andrew in a quiet conversation, I knew something was really up. As cool and calm as always, he told us we’d have to turn back. A strong wave jerked open the floor hatch in the salon, and water shot up from the opening straight up to the ceiling. After one quick fix, Captain Andrew took the wheel and turned Otterside back in the direction of Trellis Bay. We’re called “No Drama” for good reason. Nobody panicked. Instead, Geri McNair, our innovative master of meals, put together a quick lunch. This unexpected occurrence definitely called for Dark and Stormy’s and a glass or two of Malbec or Pinot.

At Trellis Bay we lounged, laughed, talked, ate and drank. We took pictures of the Burning Man out in the water, waiting to light up the beach on the next full moon. Our Voyage tech arrived, and lying on what looked like a toddler sized surfboard, he slid under the boat and installed a brand new hatch. “We can make it,” Captain Andrew assured us. Once again, we were on our way to Anegada.. Out in the water, we spotted the British Royal Navy’s RFA Mounts Bay in the distance. Soon it drew close enough to sound its horn. I don’t know much about the “right of way” or “give way” on the water, but the sheer size of the Mounts Bay ruled. It sailed past our bow, on its way to somewhere in the BVI.

A few minutes later, sullen gray clouds puffed up ahead. Thin sheets of rain fell, but we chose to watch the weather outside, sheltered by Otterside’s wide cover. It was a scene too beautiful to miss. As we sailed through the rain, the spectacular scenery merged – a sheet of rain on the starboard side, clear skies up ahead and a rainbow on our portside. At dusk, just before we caught our first sight of land, the flaming ball of sun descended slowly into the sea, framed on either side by a long gray curtain of rain. I stood in the galley, watching Otterside ride the waves through the channel into Anegada Harbor . We had come through a rainstorm into a rainbow, a metaphor for the destruction and rebirth we had no idea would come in less than a month.

Right now, there is still widespread devastation across the British Virgin Islands. For many days, people searched frantically for unaccounted relatives. There was no power and few means of communication. People who sheltered elsewhere returned to homes that are no more, with no means to earn a living.. But gas stations, grocery stores and banks are opened, even if supplies and hours are limited. The RFA Mounts Bay that we encountered on the way to Anegada has returned, along with the HMS Ocean to provide aid and supplies to the devastated islands. The Puerto Rican Navy came through in a major way. Sadly their island has now been struck by similar Some restaurants are open for business. Others have set up stands to offer free food. One of my friends returned to her destroyed home to retrieve whatever belongings she could. Outside she found a small green shoot that had begun to grow on a tree limb. That to me is an indication that the British Virgin Islands is on its way to rebirth, and that they will emerge #bvistrong for certain.

I can’t believe this level of destruction has never been seen in these islands. Homes demolished, while others are severely damaged. The landscape unidentifiable in some places throughout the town and country areas of Tortola. Vehicles littering the hillsides among pieces of galvanize and wood and glass and all types of debris as if the unruly hurricane just decided to turn the whole island into an over-turned waste basket.

Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Hurricane Irma slammed into the British Virgin Islands. Wandering around Tortola, the largest of the islands, the scale of the destruction is clear, even after a week of rebuilding. Thousands of homes here have lost roofs and walls, revealing rooms containing the possessions of the displaced residents. Electricity and water services are patchy, while cables hang loose in the wind.

JOST VAN DYKE, B.V.I. — This little island draws boats from all around the globe to its powdery beaches and ebullient bar scene. Thousands of visitors come for the boisterous New Year’s Eve celebration at Foxy’s — a wooden beachside bar decorated with the license plates, dollar bills and flags that visitors have left behind since the 1960s.

But after Hurricane Irma’s winds annihilated many of the homes here on Jost Van Dyke, one of the British Virgin Islands, Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and Restaurant has become something else entirely: the island’s de facto command center and lifeline.

Without electricity, running water or telephone lines, the island’s 298 inhabitants have been marooned, forced to survive with what they salvaged: a satellite phone, a chain saw, a week’s worth of food.

There is little to no government presence on the ground, but there is Foxy’s — which has some of the island’s only generators. Beneath the bar’s tattered roof, residents ration supplies and cook meals twice a day for most of the island.

We had entrepreneurs on our boat and arrangements, negotiations were in place to distribute products.

We had planned the development of future trips to introduce other family and friends, the end of an era.

I’ve tried to find our Captains to no avail, however, we do have information about the two Captains that I’ve known for years and both are safe but can’t get home. Below is the information:  Click here to support Andrew Cooper’s new beginning! organized by Deborah Fanning.

Both Kenroy and Andrew were the lead Captains who always made sure we all were taken care of and safe. Stated by Mr. Free Spirit

Andrew and Kenroy not only kept us save this year, but every year that we have sailed with them. These men both have families with some of them still in danger and in need. Anything that we can do to help them get a new foothold in life will be greatly appreciated. Stated by Rhonda Gilbert

Remember the day we all arrived at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor. I “don’t know nothing about docking no boats”:) but it appeared to be somewhat challenging. Kenroy and Andrew had already docked, but time and time again they jumped into the dinghy and helped others arrive safely through the channel. Year before last, they made sure we used the dinghy as little as possible. We had gone by taxi over to White Bay, but Moonshadow was sitting in Great Harbor. When the taxi dropped us off, we looked up and saw Andrew sailing that BAB Big Azz Boat) across that small space to pick us up. Not only was it a No Drama Vacation, it was a No Dinghy Vacation

Throughout our vacations, we had it like that because of them. As they say in the Caribbean, big ups. Respect. Stated by Niambi Davis

Ms. Bev said they both captains have gone beyond the call of duty for E-Dock & Friends. Anytime I’ve ever asked Kenroy or Andrew for assistance for whatever I needed to carry out a planned activity, I knew that I could depend on them. Now it’s time to let them know that they can depend on us.

What can we do to help?

Many of us wonder, beyond providing immediate funds, what can we do to help our beloved Captains, friends in the BVI, and our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean long-term? Remember Hurricane Katrina? Many who evacuated from New Orleans never returned. The rebuilding process took time, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. However, we must stay hopefully and put our time, talents, and energy toward lending a hand in whatever way we can.

 What can we do?

Pebbles Fagan is considering organizing a group of public health graduate students and partnering with an organization to help rebuild. She is in the process of investigating how she can create a service learning class so that her public health students can help rebuild in some way. I totally agree with Pebbles, let’s do something, we always wait and watch for the Government’s to do something, However, since we know many of the people, it’s time to act and stop watching from the sidelines.

Please contact Pebbles if you want more information ( Other boaters have also talked about what can be done long-term to help those in the Caribbean who have been so kind and hospitable to so many of us?

Please consider how your special talents and gifts can best be used to help those who have lost all, but still have their lives.

Mr. Free Spirit said it’s time to stop talking about it and be about it. Let’s do something to help, many of the Islanders were always there for us, let’s go there and help them. Contact Pebbles

“Be mindful of the people who helped you, one day they may need your help.”

Mr. Free Spirit OUT!!


Before Hurricane Irma


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