Minerva AdventureBritish Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands of the Caribbean
Sailing & Island Exploration
Minerva is a fast-paced sailing, hiking and shore exploration adventure that visits 10 different islands on a voyage that stretches from the BVI to the island of Antigua and back.
The Leewards form the Eastern boundary of the Caribbean and include impressive tropical islands like Saba, Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Martin. Balmy trade winds, lush rainforests and pink sandy beaches make this an ideal destination.
The cultural and geological diversity is enormous; customs and currencies change as often as the language spoken. Some islands are flat and dry, others mountainous and green. Sailing aboard a 50-ft monohull or 46-ft catamaran, the voyage's main focus is sailing and island exploration, yet there will be time to take advantage of these incredible waters by scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing and wakeboarding. Shore side, the mountainous terrain, such as The Quill - an almost perfectly symmetrical extinct volcano on the island of Nevis, offers some of the most challenging and rewarding hiking in the Caribbean.
First Day Out...
Now it all starts to make sense...
It's so refreshing to finally get out on the water, catch the wind in the sails for the first time and then snorkel or scuba in the afternoon. What we do and how we do it all starts to make sense... Oh, and it's sloppy Joe's for dinner... Who's the chef today?
Voyage Blog Entry...
Hiking Mt. Scenery
Author: Mahault F.
We woke up at about 7am, excited for the hike, which began at 10am. There were a lot of waves during the dinghy ride, so we were already wet when we arrived on the beach. During our hike, we crossed a village where we ate some mangoes that we found on the side streets, delicious!
It took more than three hours to reach the top of the volcano, but it was worth it. It was AMAZING (and the way we took to get there was very interesting too). At the top, we had to climb the last slippery rocks to see ONLY white clouds. The first view was very scary. We felt really high. In fact we were 3000 feet high, on top of the island of Saba. The feeling is hard to describe, but reaching the top was definitely something you need to do in life. We wrote "Minerva 2011" on the wall of a hut. When we got back down, we all had lunch on shore, then we came back to the boat. We saw a helicopter, the third one in the last two days, during shower time. The day finished with some excellent brownies and then we quickly fell asleep.
The Job Wheel
Alumni Author: Chance S.
So here's how it works aboard the AQ boats, because everyone has a job to do each day. From the second you land in the BVI, you're in charge of your own adventure, and the staff is there for help and guidance... but it's really you who are in charge of raising sails, figuring out where you are and how to get to where you want to go, as well as cooking and cleaning etc. So, everyday you have a new job depending on where your name is on the job wheel and how it rotates. One day, you might be the Skipper or the next you could be the chef... it gives you a taste of all the roles it takes to run the yacht.
Voyage Blog Entry...
Surfing St. Barth's
Author: Parker K.
Location: St. Barths
Today we woke up to breakfast out and ready to go. It was cereal, quick and easy, but good. Then after we cleaned up, we rented a car and some surf boards to go to the beach. It was a blast, lots of people learned how to surf.
For lunch, we had PBandJ and tuna sandwiches. After lunch, we surfed a little longer and played on the beach. We went back to the boat to clean up, and then headed back ashore to do some window shopping. For dinner, we headed back to the boat and made beanies and weenies, DELICIOUS! Next we cleaned up, had a sail chat, then went to bed with another adventuresome, fun, fulfilling day completed.
Voyage Blog Entry...
BBQ at Antigua
Author: Parker K.
We all woke up early and had breakfast. Some of us decided to go scuba diving, while the rest of the crew stayed on land and went for a hike around English Harbor. The hike was beautiful, we even got to see lots of goats.
After the hike, we went to the museum which was pretty cool. Later, we all met back at the boat for lunch and discussed plans for the night. We all took fresh water showers and got ready to leave for a BBQ party at the top of Shirley Heights, Antigua. When we got there, everybody had a hop in their step. I think it was the steel drum band playing and the taste of the delicious red meat that we had not eaten for days! We watched the sunset and hung out for a few more hours. We headed back to the boat and got ready for our 12-hour cruise to St. Barths, which would start at 3am!! This was my favorite day of the trip!
Just you, your shipmates and the power of the wind. Now, with the breeze in your hair and the helm in your hands, you realize how far you and your teammates have come. No longer passengers, you are crew – shipmates, staff and adventurers united for this awesome voyage...MORE > >
Submerged in a completely different world - a world where 'exotic' doesn't begin to describe what's in front of your eyes, that's AQ scuba. Through crystal blue waters with incredible visibility, you'll come face-to-face with spectacular marine life like hawksbill turtles, queen angelfish and schools of mirror-like silver sides...MORE > >
Can't picture yourself actually skiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing? Think again! As you carve through the water, you'll feel the speed, the wind, the exhilaration and the accomplishment of doing something you never thought you could. You'll be grinning for sure...MORE > >
ActionQuest visits some of the most incredible places on earth - the perfect settings for watersports, cultural expeditions, hiking and exploring. The sights you see on an AQ voyage vary according to the destinations you visit, and all are extraordinary.MORE > >
Other Cool Stuff
Think that's all we do at AQ? No way. Along with the beach BBQ's and reggae dance parties in the BVI, you'll learn to drive a dinghy, tie knots, splice a line, sail a laser and even cook for 15 people at a time! While the Galapagos and Ecuador voyages are filled with unpredictable, priceless moments of cultural exchange, service learning, and adventure. You’ll see striking scenery, improve your Spanish, taste new food, and make friends for life as you immerse yourself in an entirely new culture. Every moment of every day will be jam packed with cool stuff to do, see and experience...MORE > >
IYT International Crew
The IYT International Crew course is designed for students with limited previous experience, who want to become competent crew and helm on a yacht. You'll learn about yacht and personal safety, rules of the road, buoyage and, most important, keeping a look out! These are are just some of the elements taught aboard by our instructors.
IYT VHF Operator
Every crewmember needs to know how to operate a marine radio. This course covers general rules for the use and operation of VHF Radios, what to do in the case of an emergency and an introduction to other marine communications equipment.
IYT International Watchkeeper/Basic Flotilla Skipper Certificate
This is a certificate of excellence for students who wish to take command of their own yachts confidently and safely or for those who wish to safely charter a smaller yacht for a family vacation. The theory and practical modules are aimed at increasing a students' nautical knowledge sufficiently to be a watchkeeper on board a bareboat yacht, or a flotilla skipper in fair weather, in daylight hours within sight of land.
VOYAGE ITINERARYPrevious Next
Shipmates depart all points of the globe headed for the British Virgin Islands! You'll meet Staff in St. Thomas and grab your connecting flight to Tortola. When you arrive in the BVI, you'll jump onboard your boat, unpack your bags, go for a swim, and get to know your shipmates! That evening, the adventures in the galley begin as you and your crew whip up the first meal aboard. Following dinner and dishes, we gather for program orientation and staff introductions under the stars.
It's up early with the roosters, and after a quick breakfast, you'll start off an action packed day. After swim tests are finished up, everyone will get together on the dock for the big program introduction. Next thing you know, it's time to slip your lines and get your first taste of sailing in paradise. Main from the Jib, Tack from the Clew, as you learn the boat, you'll practice helming and trimming as you sail to Norman Island. After you drop anchor and enjoy lunch, there is a snorkeling adventure through the once treasure-filled 'Caves' on Norman Island. You'll spend your evening anchored beneath Spyglass Hill, and after dinner, you have an evening of team-building activities!
The trend of waking up early continues as we get an early start for a fantastic training sail up the Sir Francis Drake Channel. We'll break half way for lunch and a quick swim, and then set sails again, rotating positions so everyone has a turn at each job aboard as we work through learning 'man overboard' and the points of sail. As the sun begins to dip, we drop anchor off the sugar white beach in Savannah Bay. The chefs of the day will begin to create our evening meal as the rest of the crew tidies up from our sailing adventure. After dinner, we gather to learn the basic skills involved in navigation and begin to plan out our passage to Statia.
Up with the sun, we begin our day with some early morning water skiing and wakeboarding before saying goodbye to the ActionQuest flotilla. While the captains clear out of customs, we have a chance to explore the wondrous granite rock formations known as 'The Baths' on the western tip of Virgin Gorda. The beauty of the grottos, tunnels and fringe beaches at this location make this one of the natural jewels of the BVI's. After an hour or two of swimming and exploring, we begin to prepare the vessels for our sunset departure and night passage. As twilight fades and the milky way expands overhead, we wave goodbye to the BVI's and point the bow towards the Leeward Islands and a sunrise arrival.
Sunrise finds us in awe of the swaying, palm tree-lined beaches set below the majestic Sombrero Peak. The island of Nevis was formed by volcanic activity and still bears the textbook fringed-cone shape. The day is spent having a look around the town of Charlestown, which was the birth place of Alexander Hamilton and making a trip up to the edge of the rainforest for a visit to the property of the Golden Rock Estate. Golden Rock's nature reserve hiking trails will take us through all the local flora and fauna while we try to catch a glimpse of the native Green Monkeys. After a full day, following a night passage, we turn in early to get a full night's rest.
The morning sees us picking up any last minute provisions while we clear outbound customs in preparation for our upwind sail to the island of Antigua. As soon as we round the southern tip of Nevis, the islands of Antigua, Redonda and Montserrat appear in the distance. Depending on the wind direction, we may be able to drop an anchor in the lee of the small, deserted island of Redonda to have a calm lunch before continuing our trek to English Harbour, Antigua. We slip past the fort walls guarding the entrance of English Harbour just before sunset and drop anchor to start the grill to cook some (hopefully!) freshly-caught fish. Post dinner, we gather on deck to take part in the Lifeworks Forum activities.
The morning sun brings the entire harbor into view and we can hardly wait to begin to explore this working museum area. After clearing in with customs and immigrations, we will med-style moor the vessel stern-to the restored dock wall, so we can provision and fill our water tanks. After our shipboard duties are complete, it is time to stretch our legs and really get a good look at Nelson's Dockyard and the beautiful and famous yachts that call the port home. After a museum tour and an ice cream and coffee stop, we will make the walk out to the fort walls that greeted us. We follow the path along the cliffs overlooking the sea to search for some of the many artifacts of Nelson's time in Antigua, that can be found in the hillsides above and around the dockyard. No visit to Antigua is complete without a trip up to Shirley Heights to watch the sunset, listen to the best steel drum group in the Caribbean and enjoy a meal ashore. After a great sunset, a wonderful meal and a bit of dancing, we trek back down to the boat to turn in for the night to ready ourselves for the adventures tomorrow holds.
Today we will get out of English Harbour by bus to take a tour of the island and try our hands at some new watersports. On our way up to the northern part of the island, we will pass through many small townships and the bustling capital of St. Johns, to the pristine and beautiful beaches that will provide us with a great training ground for small boat sailing and windsurfing. We spend the afternoon perfecting the fine art of sailing and windsurfing and enjoying the beach with some ultimate frisbee and beach soccer. Dinner is back on board and we enjoy our last night in English Harbour by breaking out the popcorn and TV for a movie night aboard.
Up early today, we let our lines go and head out of the harbor to enjoy the world-class sailing grounds that surround Antigua. Reaching down the southern coast, we take the opportunity to practice some sailing drills and make sure everyone's skills and abilities are progressing. After a quick stop for lunch, we continue sailing the coastline until we reach the area known as Five Islands. This isolated and beautiful section of the Antigua coast provides us with a great overnight anchorage and is an ideal place to have a beach barbeque. As the sun sets, we find ourselves cooking over the fire and reveling in the natural beauty of the land, sea and sky.
It is a long sail today (75 nautical miles) so we get an early start at getting our shipmate navigator planning the course while all hands ready the sails and get the vessel ready for the passage. Sailing through the day, hopefully catching some fresh fish, we arrive in St. Barts as the sun fades and anchor in the outer harbor to await customs clearance and a berth along the ritzy Post of Gustavia harbour wall. Our evening aboard has us taking part again in the activities of the Lifeworks Forum before retiring early.
Once cleared into customs, we med moor the yachts right downtown in the heart of this chic port city. After provisioning and having a look around the town, we shoot over the windward side of the island with a van-load of surf boards and boogie boards to try our luck at surfing. After a couple of hours at the beach, we catch a ride back to the boat to shower and get ready for a dinner ashore at the famous Le Select. Jimmy Buffet plays here whenever he is in town, as it is his favorite Caribbean spot for a "Cheese Burger in Paradise". Post dinner, there is time to stroll around the town to do some window shopping and grab a fantastic French dessert or ice cream.
After a last look around Gustavia, while picking up some fresh baguettes and pastries, we set sail for the quick jaunt to Colombier Bay at the northern tip of St. Barts, where we drop anchor just off the beach. Lunch is followed by beach time and a hike over to the windward side, where we can do some body surfing and throw around a frisbee. After dinner, The Lifeworks Forum activities will again be our entertainment for this evening.
The large channel between St. Barts and St. Martin provides another world-class sailing area and we take full advantage of it by extending our short sail to the remote and beautiful island of Ile Fourche with some sailing drills to polish off our tacks, jibes and man overboard maneuvers. After anchoring and having some lunch, we hop over the side with masks, snorkels and fins to check out the abundant undersea life that inhabits the reef and rock formations that ring the island. The island is part of the marine sanctuary that is managed by the parks service of St. Barts, so the sea life here flourishes without being impeded by fishing or major tourist traffic. Ile Fourche itself is located half way between St. Barts and St. Martin and is a completely uninhabited crescent-shaped rock jutting from the sea. Tucked into the bay, and out of sight from all surrounding islands, it truly feels like we are anchored thousands of miles from civilization. We are rewarded by this remote location with starry night displays that are so bright, you would think you could actually touch the Milky Way.
From Ile Fourche, we will set our sails for a broad reach and point our bow at the island of St. Eustatia, known as Statia, for the downwind ride to the island that fired the first salute to a ship of the then, newly-formed country of the United States. After anchoring in the harbor of Oranjestad and clearing customs, we make our way up the bluff for a tour of the famous fort and the historic Dutch township. This evening's activity centers on reviewing for the sailing exams that we will be taking once back in the BVI's.
Our two goals today are to hike to the top of the Quill, the perfectly formed volcano that rises up to form the southern half of Statia, and for those interested, to get a chance to do a Discover Scuba Diving course in the crystal clear waters surrounding the island. After the hike in the morning that takes us from sea level all the way up to the rim of the extinct volcano, we descend to the shore line, where those wanting to give diving a try, go out with the staff of the Golden Rock Dive Center to get introduced to the equipment and go for a supervised dive. For those who choose not to dive, there is plenty more to see in town, in addition to maybe finding an internet cafe or a phone to give a quick email or call to those back home. Our last evening in Statia is usually very quiet, with most shipmates very tired after conquering both the heights and the depths of the island. With no set plans, we have freetime to just relax aboard.
There are not too many mornings that we have a sleep in, but it never hurts to charge the batteries to help keep the energy up for the last few days. After a big breakfast, we set sail to the "Island in the Clouds", the Dutch island of Saba, famous for having the shortest commercial runway in the northern hemisphere. After a challenging passage, we roll up the sails and take a mooring under the cliff on the west side of the island. Until the late 1950's, the only access to the main town of Saba (which is set up at the top of the island in a crater, and is called 'The Bottom') was the 800 steps carved into the cliffs, known as "The Ladder". This afternoon, we will make our first ascent of The Ladder to have a look around The Bottom. This evening, the whole group takes part in the final module of the Lifeworks Forum.
Today we will challenge ourselves with not only climbing the 800 steps to the bottom, but also pushing ourselves to hike the additional 2000 hand-carved steps that lead up through the elven rainforest and clouds to the pinnacle of Saba, Mt. Scenery. From the highest point, some 2900ft above the sea, the whole of the Leeward Island chain can be seen. We descend from Mt. Scenery on a path to the other major town in Saba, called Windward Side, where we have a chance to grab a bite to eat and take a look around this picturesque town where everyone knows everyone's names and no one has a lock on their front door. After another big day on a small but tall island, we head for bed early to ready ourselves for a dawn departure for the final passage back to the BVI's.
At dawn, we put Saba in our wake as we sail back west to Spanish Town to join the ActionQuest fleet for the final two days of the program in the BVI's. With any luck, many fish will be caught and we may even see dolphins and whales on this relatively easy sail downwind. Arriving just at sunset, we pass Round Rock and are once again back in the familiar waters of the Sir Francis Drake Channel. We drop anchor off of Spanish Town and, after dinner, take the time to pass our sailing certification exams with flying colors.
No trip to the islands would be complete without a trip to the small capital of the BVI's, Road Town. After a quick opportunity to go wakeboarding or water skiing, we make the short sail over to Road Town. With an hour or two to explore, buy a souvenir and maybe grab a bite to eat, we are ready to hop back onboard and have a very relaxing reach down to Norman Island, the very first place we anchored on our first day of the trip. The last evening at anchor is really all about wrapping up our voyage together. The closing program that we do gives each shipmate a chance to reflect and express what the voyage has meant to them, allowing the crew to solidify the bond they have developed.
An early breakfast and then skippers meeting is held to determine the course and starting procedures for the final race today! Crew morale and spirit are running high, as chants and cheering echo through the anchorage, while vessels are prepared for the big event. After an exciting start, the crews squeeze every bit of speed out of the vessels, using their new knowledge of sailing, up the Sir Francis Drake Channel, around the island of Dead Chest, over to a buoy off of Road Town, then back to Great Harbour, Peter Island, for the exciting finish. A BBQ at Pussers Landing with a reggae band playing island tunes is a perfect setting for our final night. A final wrap-up with the entire flotilla takes place on the dock and is followed by dancing and the re-telling of the tales of the adventures we have all had.
The tears start flowing with the first taxi departing before the sun rises as shipmates say goodbyes and depart for the airport. Departures continue with the final group setting off for the ride to the airport in the early afternoon. Students arrive back to friends and family and begin to reflect and tell the tales of the sailing, diving, adventure and new friendships developed during their time aboard.
Having said that, when on program we follow strict guidelines as to when students may use their cell phones. The environment we strive to create aboard relies heavily on each individual remaining focused on the group and our experience. Being tied to the modern world of "instant communications" can, in certain circumstances, be a hindrance to the personal and group processes aboard. We feel that there is ample opportunity to make calls during personal time ashore.
Please be aware that ALL cell phones (this includes iPhones, Blackberries, camera phones etc.) will be collected upon arrival to the program and held in safekeeping. Cell phones will be made available to students at times designated for making phone calls when we are ashore.
We encourage our students to call home when they have the chance, however, we do not require this, as our staff are usually busy with other activities such as stocking the boats with fresh food over this time. The old saying "you can lead a horse to water..." comes to mind, as some shipmates call home every time and some never call! In the BVI, there are ample opportunities, and the phone service is pretty reliable.
FLIGHTS & TRAVEL INFO
To learn about student travel to and from the British Virgin Islands, please click HERE to visit our Student Travel page
Here you'll find:
> Contact details for Leah Hernandez, our student travel coordinator
> Options on how to get to the British Virgin Islands
> Info on how we accommodate early arrivals or late departures
> What you should consider in terms of passports and visas