A New Beginning for Bitter End. Chapter 1. The Quarterdeck Marina
May 21st, 2019
Dear Friends of Bitter End,
Myron and Bernice Hokin, my grandparents, sailed into North Sound in the late 1960s aboard their North Sea ketch, Alianora, and headed for the Sound’s best anchorage. They were surprised to find that, since their previous visit in 1964, on its shoreline stood a tiny yachting outpost consisting of a small dock, a rustic bar and restaurant and a handful of simple, sparsely-finished “cottages” whose minimal amenities did not include hot water. The place was called The Bitter End. It had been established by Basil Symonette, a pioneer Virgin Islands charter skipper.
Over several years, Grandmother and Granddad returned to North Sound and Bitter End many times in Alianora; sometimes my dad, Richard, and my uncle Will were aboard. Each time they fell more and more in love with North Sound and Bitter End – its remoteness; its pristine deep-water anchorage protected by miles of untouched reef and uninhabited islands and shoreline; and its friendly local community, Gun Creek. After several years of discussion with Basil over cocktails leading up to somewhat unorthodox negotiations, our family became Bitter End’s new owner.
I arrived on planet earth a few years after my family had staked out this slice of paradise—I’m pretty sure that my first visit to Bitter End was in utero. Growing up in such a wondrous place remains an awesome gift to this day. At Bitter End, my siblings (Dana, Ali & Justin) and I were free to explore far-and-wide. We spent hours upon hours searching miles of sandy shoreline for shells, crabs, and other critters; and more hours snorkeling the endless reefs surrounding North Sound where we discovered an amazing world beneath the sea. I spent many afternoons crouched on the back of a windsurfer while my brother and I drifted downwind, all the way to Gun Creek, where we would be picked up by local friends and safely returned to BEYC (lucky for us, no one ever seemed to notice when we went missing). For us kids, Bitter End was and still is nirvana.
We kids were far too busy messing about in boats and poking around North and Eustatia Sounds to notice that Bitter End was growing—adding more buildings, docks, and crew members—and that many more visitors were catching on to what a magical place we had been sharing with our family and friends. (For all of you nostalgic Caribbean and Bitter End aficionados, you can learn more about the history of Bitter End and the Quarterdeck Marina recalled here by my dad.)
Fast forward to September of 2017. Back home in Connecticut on the shores of Long Island Sound, our team watched anxiously as the dangerous tropical system, which would become “Irma,” developed in the Eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Irma continued to grow in strength as she barreled down on the Lesser Antilles and eventually made a direct landfall in the BVI. Her eye scored a direct hit on Bitter End. In about five hours on the morning of September 6, 2017, Irma levelled what had taken our family and our community nearly 50 years to build. Thankfully, and most importantly, every one of our Virgin Gorda team safely weathered this harrowing experience.
Even though Irma was a devastating blow to us and so many others throughout the BVI and elsewhere in the Caribbean, we remained steadfast in our determination that no storm of any category could extinguish Bitter End’s spirit. From the moment we set foot ashore at Bitter End, a day and a half after Irma, we were determined to turn a disaster into an opportunity; to do things smarter, better, and in a way that would make all of us better stewards of Bitter End’s exquisite natural environment; to create a more resilient and sustainable Bitter End well into the future; and, most important, to do all this in a way that sticks to Bitter End’s history, traditions, character and extraordinary spirit.
Thus we began to plot the course for Bitter End’s future. Getting underway meant that the course’s first leg would be to focus on the well-being of our team and the local community struggling with devastation and hardship on a scale that no one, not even true “old-timers,” could get their arms around. Our first objective was to embark on a major fundraising campaign and begin to identify ways in which we could help the recovery process. We remain grateful to all those who supported that effort and continue to support our efforts to repair and to strengthen the Virgin Gorda community. You can find updates on our latest philanthropic projects and our Provisions for Good program here.
Once the community began to stabilize, our mission shifted to planning for our property’s future starting with our roots as a yachtsman’s hangout. Our plan for Bitter End 2.0 begins with a focus on the heart and soul of Bitter End – visiting yachts, yachtsmen and yachtswomen. Our moorings and docks will be back, along with an all-new marina lounge with amenities. The Clubhouse will return as a casual waterfront restaurant and one-of-a-kind beach bar. There will be watersports and beach services with a new Club Fleet. The Reeftique fashion boutique will return to Bitter End Village along with a General Store offering gourmet provisioning, and we have other fun surprises up our sleeves for the 2019-2020 season.
The marina’s centerpiece will be an open-air, two-story marina building with outdoor seating and a lounge with fabulous views of the comings and goings in North Sound. This gathering spot will be a one-of-a-kind venue where our marina guests and yacht club members can gather for rum punches, sunsets and celebrations of all stripes. There will be an array of full private bathing facilities for the exclusive use of our marina guests, enhanced WIFI, shore power and other amenities to make sure your stay at the marina or in our mooring field will be convenient, comfortable and, above all, fun.
We have been asked many times, “Is Bitter End going to be different?” or “Is Bitter End going to be exactly as it was prior to the storm?” Hurricane Irma didn’t leave us with an easy answer to either question. What Irma left us with was an unwavering commitment to Bitter End’s spirit and character. We also know that following every storm the sun shines again, and a new horizon reveals itself, or as Myron liked to say, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” We share with you a passion for Bitter End’s history and its unique vibe and character. You are our community, and we’re all on the same page. We have and always will be a welcoming and inclusive port of call and adventure-land for everyone who loves nature, the sea, messing about in boats and the camaraderie that goes with adventure and exploration.
Our family looks forward to the fourth generation of Hokins growing up at Bitter End, and we hope that you and your kids will sign on as shipmates for this exciting voyage! — Lauren Hokin