I had the opportunity to be among the first group of select journalists to set sail on the chic catamaran dubbed Nomada at Sea in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). It’s the latest venture from the female-founded hotel company Nomada Hotel Group. The company’s properties are known for design concepts that are intentional and intimate, and the team made sure to bring these special touches to this yacht experience.
Outside of a cruise ship and a four-hour catamaran excursion that I’ve booked on vacations previously, I’ve never sailed on a yacht like this. With the excursion requiring us to be on it for several days, I was initially nervous about being out at sea for an extended time. These feelings changed quickly after meeting our crew, which included a captain, personal chef, and stewardess. The first thing we did once onboard was go over safety protocols, which instantly relieved my nerves.
I was in awe of how spacious the beautiful 62-foot catamaran is. The Nomada at Sea is equipped with five ensuite cabins that are truly a home away from home. Each cabin comes with its own head compartments (bathroom), shower, and a queen-sized bed. There’s no television in the room but there is an iPad and books for entertainment. The yacht can sleep up to 10 people comfortably.
As you leave the cabins and walk up the first flights of stairs, you step inside a spacious salon and galley where our personal chef, Kenetha Ashton with Elite Culinaire, cooked the meals and snacks during our entire sail.
Outside on the Aft deck, or the back of the ship, is a comfortable seating area. We spent most of our mornings in this area for breakfast or lying out during the sails. The bow of Nomada at Sea has two built-in hammocks and more lounge seating to soak in the sun. This was a great area to spend time while we sailed and for enjoying stargazing. Those of us who stayed up late even caught the sight of a shooting star.
We sailed for five days, visiting different islands and marinas in the “Sailing Capital of the World.” What I enjoyed about each stop was the chance to explore the character of the islands on and off the yacht. The BVI is comprised of more than 60 islands and cays, and each has its own identity and iconic landmarks to explore.
There was Virgin Gorda, where we stopped on our first night. It’s a half-mile beach of powder white sand beyond a colorful barrier reef known as one of the Caribbean’s finest shorelines. Virgin Gorda is home to The Baths National Park. The park is an incredible geological wonder filled with mammoth granite boulders that are stunning to witness in person, as some boulders get up to 40 feet in diameter. We had to hike through some hills, tight spaces, and even water, but the views are worth the one-hour journey to its breathtaking beaches.
Virgin Gorda is also home to a Black-owned restaurant, Hog Heaven, where we had lunch. It was founded by boat captain and livestock farmer Dale “Blondie” Wheatley, and serves grilled, jerk, and barbecue pork, ribs, chicken, seafood and more while taking in the best views of Virgin Gorda as it sits on top of a hill.
On our way to the next stop, Scrub Island, our captain stopped so we could snorkel the uninhabited Dog Islands. The islands are less than three miles northwest of Virgin Gorda in the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The Dogs are one of the top snorkeling sites because there’s an abundance of sea life to explore.
When we arrived at Scrub Island, we had access to the marina’s pools, gym, and restaurants, which felt like a private island retreat. We had dinner at Cardamom & Co. – a culinary gem on the island known for its fusion of global cuisine, an elegant ambiance, attentive service, and creative dishes.
Our last island stops were Sandy Cay and Jost Van Dyke. Sandy Cay is an uninhabited island off the BVI where we snorkeled, paddle boarded, and swam in the beautiful water. After our water sports, we headed to Jost Van Dyke to have lunch at Hendo’s Hideout and drink the iconic Painkiller from Soggy Dollar on White Bay Beach. Soggy Dollar is known to have created the drink, made with dark rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and cream of coconut.
Later that night, we had dinner at Foxy’s, a family and Black-owned restaurant. In 1968, Philicianno “Foxy” Callwood set up a bar under the shade of a Tamarind tree to welcome sailors to his island home. Foxy’s Tamarind Bar is recognized as the birthplace of BVI’s yachting tourism industry. He and his family have welcomed people to his bar and restaurant for over five decades.
Aside from going fishing with my dad and the swimming lessons at the local natatorium growing up, life on a marina is a foreign concept for me. Even though I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries and have done most things, from snorkeling, kayaking, riding the floating bike, cautiously getting on a jet ski, and everything in between, I hadn’t had access to an authentic sailing experience on a yacht.
And I’m not an anomaly. According to the most recent National Recreational Boating Safety Survey data, 26.5 percent of the U.S. population participates in boating, but less than one percent of Black households own boats. Of those surveyed, a higher percentage of African Americans said they had no interest in boating, and “not knowing anyone who owned a boat” was the top reason for not boating.
Charter yacht experiences like Nomada at Sea help break down these barriers. In addition to offering a relaxing, one-of-a-kind adventure, the crew made me feel comfortable and safe in the ocean, welcoming me to experience the yacht and the beauty of the world around me.