The Bitter End Yacht Club

by Bill Harrigan

Watersports for Everyone

The Bitter End is one of the sweetest places on earth. Named for the end of an anchorline that is not tied to the anchor, this unique resort is neatly tucked into the hillside overlooking Virgin Gorda’s North Sound in the British Virgin Islands. Blending with the natural surroundings rather than dominating them, the Bitter End celebrates its owners’ long standing love of the water. For anyone passionate about watersports, this resort is like honey to the bees.

With more than 100 sail and power boats in its fleet, the Bitter End can provide the right vessel for either novice or expert. If it floats, they probably have it, including Lasers, Sunfish, J-24s, Rhodes 19s, Vanguard 15s, Boston Whalers, kayaks and rowing shells. Windsurfers can choose from large, easy to balance beginner boards to the short, maneuverable darts favored by experts. The North Sound is ideal for day sailing and lessons and the BVI are one of the world’s best cruising areas.

In addition to unlimited play time with all these boats, the Bitter End also provides day trips to the reefs and out islands, including the world famous Baths and the remote coral island of Anegada. Snorkeling trips run twice a day to nearby reefs and, of course, there is always the pool or the beach.

Kilbrides Underwater Tours: One of the oldest and most respected dive operators in the British Virgin Islands, Kilbrides Underwater Tours, handles the diving activities at the Bitter End. Owned now by Kilbrides’ long time partner Mike van Blaricum, Kilbrides runs a two tank dive each morning and a single tank dive in the afternoon. Night dives are added anytime four or more divers want to go.

Kilbrides’ on-site location offers two advantages to Bitter End guests. The first, obviously, is convenience. Just stroll down to the dock from your room or restaurant and you’ll find your gear already set up on the boat courtesy of the Kilbrides staff. The second advantage comes from being in the northeast corner of the islands, which opens up some excellent dive spots that are often too remote for Tortola based boats. The Wreck of the Chikuzen, for instance, is far enough north that it is normally live-aboard territory but it’s a weekly regular for Kilbrides. This 250 foot refrigerator ship lies on her port side in about 75 feet of water, with the starboard rail at about 50 feet. The Chikuzen is an oasis of life in the middle of a sandy plain. The vessel is festooned with soft corals and sponges and surrounded by schools of snapper and Barracuda. Larger pelagic fish, including Reef Sharks, are often seen on the wreck.

The Dog Islands are another off the beaten path location on the Kilbrides schedule. This trio of islands is the site of numerous excellent dives such as the Chimney, where a narrow slot provides entrance to a large cavern inhabited by Queen Angelfish and Rock Beauties. Naturally, Kilbrides visits the RMS Rhone regularly. Diving the Rhone is a fascinating historical journey as well as a chance to see an amazing profusion of sealife. Three excellent reef dives in the Alice’s Wonderland series off Ginger Island are also Kilbrides’ favorites.

The Bitter End: The spectacular views make the first impression at the Bitter End. From the room, the deck, the restaurants, the pool; everywhere you go there is blue water, blue sky and tropical gardens. Two restaurants provide fine dining in various levels of casualness and gift shops are handy right on the premises. Business services, such as fax reception and long distance calls that couldn’t be left behind are easily arranged.

Live-aboard/Live Ashore: Two options are available to Bitter End guests that offer the flexibility to choose your own snorkeling or diving destinations. Qualified skippers can take one of the club’s Freedom 30s cruising, splitting time on the boat and in the resort. Even if you have no sailing experience, the three and a half day sailing school can bring you up to speed. Another option is spending part of your vacation aboard the club’s Privilege 48 high performance catamaran. Fully crewed, this boat is an unforgettable way to see the islands.

Travel Information: The easiest route to the British Virgin Islands is through San Juan, Puerto Rico, on American Airlines with a short hop to Tortola on American Eagle. The North Sound Express ferry takes you right from the Tortola airport on Beef Island to the Bitter End.

U.S. citizens can enter the BVI with either a passport or a certified birth certificate and photo ID. Both kinds of currency, monetary and electrical, are the same as in the United States. Dress is casual but perhaps a bit more formal than other locations in the islands. Running shorts and tank tops, for example, are not allowed in the two main restaurants.

For more information, contact the Bitter End at (800) 872-2392 in the U.S. From other locations call (312) 944-5855 or fax (312) 944-2860. E-mail can be sent to