In 2014, I sat down in a conference room at the Bitter End Yacht Club corporate headquarters hopefully holding my calendar and a pen. You see, the thought had been tossed around that we could create a stand up paddle board retreat for vacationers and yogis who wanted to commune in the spirit of adventure, sport and fun. I came to the meeting prepared to sell myself as a teacher and as a retreat leader, although I had only been teaching for two years and I had never led a retreat. However, what I received was a warm inclusion onto the staff, an infectious excitement with the programming and an intro to a resort that sells itself.
Natural Caribbean beauty, a bar none water sports arena and family friendly comforts are hallmarks of the Bitter End Yacht Club. But some of the many nooks, elements, textures and knittings of the setting's splendor I slowly uncovered over the years: like a solo hammock positioned just so, a colorful array of beckoning Adirondack chairs, lanterns swung from palm fronds canopies, a softly weathered deck that cautioned to mellow and slow, sun-warmed sofas to hold court for rich coffee, a conversation over an omelet station as layered as each special spice meticulously added, the afternoon light as the boards dipped for a final swim, the glossy feel of the bar after it was tenderly rubbed. Touches, like these, were carefully done. They were diligently maintained. They were quiet, simple pieces but they were noticed and felt and appreciated.
The spirit of the Bitter End is its makeup of family owned, family operated and a relaxed, family-like feel shared amongst guests. It's that synchronicity, I think, which produced the common reflection from guests that this retreat was "timed perfectly", "exactly what was needed" and even, "was a turning point". Courtesy was left stateside for a more familiar counseling, encouragement or support, whether slightly a-tilt on a ride to Cow's Wreck beach or maneuvering boards back from lunch on the rock or wielding a mask for an underwater excursion or trying the way at getting lost on the sea's sway or dancing in sand, under the brilliantly-lit stars. Five days may seem too short for such declarations but if you consider the multitude of adventures summed, days aren't the right measurement for the experiences had. All thanks to you.
A relief fund has been established to help the BEYC Caribbean employees, their families and the Virgin Gorda community after the devastation by Hurricane Irma. Here is the story and how to help:
On September 6, 2017 Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean causing mass destruction throughout the region. Bitter End Yacht Club and the community of Virgin Gorda have been devastated by the storm. Bitter End was founded as a family resort and yacht club in 1973 and is one of the largest employers on Virgin Gorda with over 175 employees. Over the last forty years, the spirited team that works at Bitter End has become an extended family for many all over the world. We are all heartbroken that our employees, their families and the Virgin Gorda community have lost so much in Hurricane Irma. We need your support to help them rebuild their lives and the Virgin Gorda community. Please make a donation today. Every dollar donated will go towards BEYC Caribbean employees and the community of Virgin Gorda.
The following images caught my eye at the Bitter End Yacht Club that very first year. The memories of the spirit, the foundation of the friendships, the gratitude for the experience and the hope for ease in rebuilding – is what will remain.