At the eastern end of the BVI’s Virgin Gorda, situated on some of the last sheltered shores you’ll find before you sail out of the Caribbean Sea and into the open waters of the Atlantic, sits one of the yachting community's most storied institutions—the Bitter End Yacht Club.
Founded in 1969, the Bitter End was a must-visit destination for sailors and yachtsmen making their way through the Virgin Islands for nearly half a century before it was decimated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Now, after a multi-year rebuilding process, the doors are finally opened once again. And, when you walk through those doors, you might be greeted by our friend Alyssa Fabyan.
“The first time I came to the Bitter End, I was 16 years old on a family sailing vacation through the BVI. I did a week onboard with my entire family, which, as a 16-year-old, was both great and terrible all at the same time,” Alyssa said with a laugh as we walked along the shore. “But, we came to Bitter End for Christmas, and I remember sitting outside of the pub, eating four massive bags of Cheetos with my cousins on the dock. It was so beautiful and peaceful. That was my first memory of Bitter End.”
But of course all vacations must come to an end, and Alyssa headed back to the States, finished high school and went to college. But she found herself back at Bitter End again and again. “I’ve been down here since 2014, I started on big charter boats as a summer camp counselor, I would live on a boat with 12 kids and one other counselor, and I did that all through college,” she said. “I came back 14 times, and during my last trip I was rigging the boats faster than the club’s own staff. The manager offered me a job on the spot.”
Alyssa jumped at the opportunity. (Come on, who wouldn’t). And before too long, she was back at her favorite place, rigging boats, sailing and living the dream.
“I started as a sailing instructor—or a water sports instructor to be specific—and I loved it. By far my favorite job I've ever had, and probably always will be my most favorite job,”
Alyssa recalled fondly as we sat on the beach she first came to years ago, watching the breeze make its way across the calm waters offshore.
However, nature had other plans. In 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean, battering the BVI and leveling Bitter End Yacht Club. “After Irma hit, I was sent back to the States—and to my mom's couch, which was terrible. I love her, but all I wanted to do was come back,” Alyssa laughed.
“I backpacked through South America for six months, but I could not stop thinking about the BVI, so I went back. I worked at Oil Nut Bay for a couple years, and then on a private island for a bit. But the Bitter End was coming back, and I'd kept in really good contact with the owners and a lot of people who worked there, and they offered me the position of Assistant General Manager. So here I am, back to living the dream.”
That’s the power of the BVI, and Bitter End. It pulls you back, like the tug of a flooding tide. Some swim against it, and some let it pull them ashore. Like Alyssa, we’re in the latter category.