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Sweet Times at the Bitter End

An iconic British Virgin Islands resort plans to welcome sailors back with a soft opening over the holidays.

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Bitter End
The Bitter End’s new Quarterdeck bar. Mark Pillsbury

A week before Christmas, Santa’s elves couldn’t have been busier than the staff at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands. Mounds of sand sat at the water’s edge waiting to be spread out on the beach facing the neighboring Saba Rock resort. Packing crates lined the walkways. And staff and construction workers toiled well into the evening, pounding nails, hanging salvaged art work, setting up tables and chairs, all in anticipation of a year’s-end “soft” reopening of this iconic sailor’s resort.

Bitter End waterfront
The new Bitter End waterfront. Mark Pillsbury

The Bitter End—like nearly the entirety of the Virgin Islands—was leveled by Hurricane Irma in 2017. But our crew, out on a pre-holiday charter adventure with The Moorings, found plenty going on as we headed for the far end of North Sound. I’d been there two years earlier, when debris still lined the shore and the entire end of the great bay was empty of boats, the hills eerily dark at night. 

marina lofts
The Bitter End’s new marina lofts, each with its own dock. Mark Pillsbury

Not so in late December 2021. As we entered the sound boats coming out of Leverick Bay buzzed about, and we found sailboats anchored off the Sandbox, where workers raked the beach, with tunes pounding out their rhythms. At the Bitter End, we grabbed one of the 72 recently installed mooring balls and watched a flurry of activity ashore before we took the dinghy in to the rebuilt docks, where loaded workboats sat tied up, waiting to be emptied. 

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fish carving
A fish carving, one of many artifacts recovered from hurricane debris. Mark Pillsbury

This year, the focus at the resort is on rebuilding the waterfront. This includes a new two-story Quarterdeck bar and restaurant, one of five eating and drinking locations in the works. Other new buildings include a pizza kitchen, a large play area for children, a provisions store and a boutique shop. Nearby are two of what will eventually be five Marina lofts, cozy looking cottages built out over the water, each with a private dock and outdoor shower. 

Saba Rock bar
Saba Rock bar. Mark Pillsbury

New walkways and roads are made from crushed, reclaimed cement recovered from the old resort, and much of the lumber has also been repurposed, along with artwork, signs and other artifacts recovered during the long cleanup of the 65-acre site. Eventually, plans call for private residences to be built on the hillside above the waterfront for owners who enjoy a marina setting.

fresh air bar
The new fresh air bar at Saba Rock. Mark Pillsbury

Across the channel that leads out into Eustacia Sound, we also paid a visit to the just-rebuilt Saba Rock resort and restaurant, which re-opened in October. As in the old days, the building on Saba is surrounded by a dock where dinghies can tie up or boats can come in for water, which is included in the price of a mooring. But the bar and restaurant are all new, along with a handful of rooms and suites overlooking the offshore reefs. It was easy to feel right at home in the fresh-air bar on the second floor, where the view is spectacular. If you go, try the house cocktail, Saba on the Rocks. It’s quite tasty and can be enjoyed over a game of pool or while relaxing in a beanbag chair.

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North Sound has always been a must-see destination for sailors after a long beat up the Sir Francis Drake Channel from the islands to the south. The new resorts re-opening their doors just make the sail there that much better.

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