Dear Friends of Bitter End,
Approaching Anguilla Cut from the west always has been a special time for me. The Cut is the western entrance to North Sound, a narrow passage between Moskito Island and Virgin Gorda. Manchineel Reef, where the mighty North Swell often breaks, is to port, and to starboard is the picture perfect, crescent beach at Cow Bay. Once abeam of these, one enters the spectacular and deep expanse of North Sound’s calm cobalt blue waters.
This is a particular moment that has filled me with anticipation since I was a little kid, triggering an upswell of emotion that comes with seeing a treasured place once again after a long absence. For that little kid, that instantaneous flash marked an awakening from months of daydreaming about the adventures that lay ahead: combing empty beaches for shells and other treasures, snorkeling vibrant reefs teeming with sea creatures of all shapes and sizes, and meeting new, like-minded friends who were as eager as I to explore this incredibly beautiful and special place.
This year, on a late April afternoon, we approached The Cut as the sun was beginning its descent towards the horizon. As we passed between Moskito and Virgin Gorda, I could see that the beauty of North Sound’s waters still were those of the little kid’s daydreams, but, this time, my anticipation was amplified, knowing that what awaited me ashore would be different from both the distant past and my most recent memories.
It had been a year and a few months since I’d last dug my feet into the golden, grainy sands of Bitter End’s shoreline. I had left in January 2020, only weeks before the world would shut down, borders would close, and we’d all become captives in our own homes for what felt like an interminable end-of-winter. My parting Bitter End images were of dump trucks arriving by barge to deliver fill material to prepare building sites, and a backhoe and excavators moving boulders for a seawall behind the beach. Although we’d been receiving daily photos and reports for the past year, I truly was not prepared to be greeted by a nearly complete village with buildings, palm trees, and even electricity!
It goes without saying that being part of a significant construction project via Zoom and drone imagery is far from ideal. It’s a bit unnerving and hard to get one’s arms around progress that’s 1,600 miles away when you can’t see it in person, can’t walk it and experience the spaces and how they relate to one another and can’t see colors and touch surfaces, but, once I was sprung from COVID quarantine, free to roam Bitter End, I immediately was struck by just how right and familiar the place felt.
In many ways Bitter End looked different – new buildings, a more natural and welcoming site and the distinctive thoughtful use of new and reclaimed timber complemented by rescued artifacts and fixtures. Thanks to our team’s creativity and craftsmanship we’ve maximized the use of available resources and minimized our contribution to the waste stream. While a lot has changed, we still are unmistakably Bitter End.
Standing at the edge of our new seawall overlooking the village beach and beach bar, I was struck by how comfortable and intimate the scale of the Village felt. It’s just right for fostering the spirit of Bitter End camaraderie and casual conversation that’s always been our secret sauce. The Village is an incarnation of Bitter End’s roots as a yachting destination and hangout. It’s beach, seawall and plaza, are dotted with seating areas, nooks and crannies, all perfect spots for settling down with a cold drink and conversation, a favorite book or simply and quietly taking in the beauty of the natural surroundings and the expanse of North Sound.
Much of my return to Bitter End was spent walking our mile of shoreline, often just staring out to sea, and at other times scrutinizing the diverse flora and fauna which varies greatly from one end of the property to the other and from sea-level to ridgeline. I often donned mask and snorkel and, among other things, discovered a new friend, an octopus who had established a home just off Wedding Point. This beautiful, mottled green creature had betrayed its presence by leaving a giant pile of discarded shells on its doorstep after chowing down on their occupants.
I continued my subsea adventures with Ben & Kay, our friends and partners at Sunchaser Scuba. They were kind enough to take me along on a dive at Mountain Point where they showed me several examples of an aggressive and very destructive coral disease that originated in Florida and now is rapidly spreading to the Caribbean’s reefs. The disease, Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, “SCTLD”, poses a grave threat to the BVI reef ecosystems, and we are working with our friends and neighbors, BVI Government and local NGOs, to map the disease’s spread in the territory, and to treat the infected corals to mitigate further infection and loss. We’ll have more to say about this important topic soon.
On the last night of my Bitter End visit, I took a glass of wine up to the lookout on the second floor of The Quarterdeck, which looks out across North Sound’s expanse and along our shoreline to Eustatia Sound and its reef. It’s a breathtaking observation post with an unobstructed view of the comings and goings in Bitter End’s “neighborhood” and beyond. Even though there were few, if any, boats in the anchorage, the view was as familiar and enchanting as ever. The serenity and stillness of the scene emphasized to me that that the real return to “normalcy” at Bitter End will only happen when all of you come back to North Sound.
At the end of that day, it was clearer than ever to me that what has made Bitter End so unique these past 50+ years has never been the manmade improvements, but always the spirit that the place ignites in so many, and the camaraderie that has grown out of this shared love of adventure and place. We are fortunate and thankful to have such a committed, thoughtful, and enthusiastic community stand by us during this lengthy journey to Bitter End’s next chapter.
As I stood on the terrace, looking west, out over the anchorage, the sun was setting just behind Moskito Island. I realized that had I been there a bit earlier in the Spring, I would have gotten to experience the magic of a sunset square in the middle of Anguilla Cut, a reminder of how important that narrow passage always has been to me. Happily, there is the excitement of what's to come and the joy in knowing we get to share it with all of you.
Wishing you fair winds and following seas,