Gary Cottreau, captain of Kuralu, is friendly and calm with a soothing manner of speaking that is reminiscent of the lulling waves of a peaceful day sail. Gary lacks the attributes of a stereotypical “crusty sailor”; instead, he’s as sincere as a favourite uncle and as knowledgeable as an esteemed professor.  He loves his job, and he is clearly thankful that he gets to spend his days doing what he loves.

Gary grew up around the water in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, a renowned Acadian fishing village which, according to the Wedgeport Sport Tuna Fishing Museum’s website, once welcomed such famous visitors as US President Franklin Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart and Ernest Hemingway. From Wedgeport, Gary moved to Stuart, Florida, in the Treasure Coast, to attend the Chapman School of Seamanship.

He first came to the BVI 18 years ago via Halifax, where he worked on a day sail charter boat that spent its winters in Tortola. Gary followed the boat between the two locations until he decided to move to the BVI full time. After working on a few different boats, both for charter companies and on private yachts, Gary met his wife, Clare, who sailed across the Atlantic and came to Tortola to do her Divemaster course. At the time, he was captaining a private, 77-foot trawler, so he hired her as crew. They had a son, Noah, a few years later. “We were working on the private yacht, which was good, and Noah came with us. At 15-months old,” Gary tells me, “he had 6,000 logged sea miles.”

But Gary and his family decided they needed more time on land, so they were excited when Kuralu became available. Gary reprised his role as a day sail captain, the same occupation that originally brought him to the BVI, but this time, he and his wife own the boat and the business. “It’s something I’d done for years,” Gary says, “but it’s kind of different doing it for yourself.”


Photos courtesy of Kuralu

In 2010, Kuralu will celebrate its twentieth anniversary of providing unforgettable experiences to visitors and residents of the British Virgin Islands. Kuralu is a 50-foot catamaran that takes up to twelve guests to Sandy Spit and White Bay, Jost van Dyke or Norman Island. The boat can accommodate more than twelve guests, but, as Gary says, “We do like to keep the numbers small. The people like it so much more than going on the boats with more people, and they tend to recommend us a lot more. And they come back themselves. It’s not a big party boat. It’s a little more relaxing than that.” They also specialize in private charters such as weddings groups, birthdays and staff parties, or even something as simple as a friends and families visiting from out of town.

Guests have a few options for their day on Kuralu. The first, which involves more beach time, includes a sail to Sandy Spit for snorkelling or lounging in the sun, then a sail over to White Bay, Jost van Dyke, for more beach time and drinks at one of the famous White Bay bars. The second option is a trip to Norman Island, a longer sail with snorkelling at the Caves, the Indians or other nearby reefs. On the way back from Norman, the spinnaker goes up, allowing guests to experience a speedier and shadier sail home.


For any trip on Kuralu, all food and drinks are included in the price of the sail. Drink options are rum punch, beer, soda and water. Lunch consists of a gourmet spread of homemade quiches, fruits, meats, salads , cheese plate, coleslaw and Kuralu’s famous smoked fish dip, all  prepared fresh each morning by Gary’s wife Clare.

“It’s pretty nice,” Gary says, “when you have a job where, at the end of the day, you have guests who say, ‘This was the best day of my vacation,’ and this is a pretty good place to come on vacation.”