Offshore Bar Review: Willy-T
- November 30th, 2007
- in Yachting
The William Thornton–Famous, infamous, take it as you find it. The William Thornton is the floating pirate-themed bar and restaurant moored offshore at the Bight, Norman Island. Pirate flags are not uncommon as ensigns in businesses in the BVI. The fact that the deep anchorage off Norman Island was actually used to shelter real pirate ships highlights the Willy-T with an authenticated pirate yell. Which makes you wonder when pirates needed a drink or six, maybe a bite to eat, followed by a wild night, between dubious passages, if the Willy-T would be the perfect place to get this fix.
If the Willy-T could tell tales, its tongue would have to be cut out with a cutlass. Parley, a pirate’s term, is a discussion between enemies and this has no place on the Willy-T. This is a boarding of messmates for fun and letting yourself go wild. The Willy-T's slogan is – "You’re a long time dead," a warning to all to enjoy yourself NOW! and hang tomorrow.
Oddly enough, the real William Thornton is the subject of no pirate folklore. He was an architect born on Jost Van Dyke, a Scottish-educated physician credited with the design of the USA Capitol Building. He was no doubt, a stand-up guy. The Willy-T is no pirate ship, nor does it ever claim to be. It’s a bar and restaurant on an anchored steel and concrete hull; originally a Tall Ships training vessel, now with generators and staff that work to keep the juice flowing day and night. Today, save for the name, real pirate bars are only found in parts of Venezuela, Sudan or Indonesia, where still, real pirates roam the seas! I doubt Blackbeard or even Disney’s Jack Sparrow had aspirations to have their name attached to a bar, a beer or even a T-shirt. Yet patrons flock daily to the Willy-T to indulge their dreams of piracy and to shiver their timbers on the high seas. That’s what the idea's all about.
For years, as many people jumped off the Willy-T as jumped on. It was quite a phenomenon to approach the Willy-T and see a constant stream of screaming guests jumping (clothing optional) from its top deck as though forced to walk the plank. But it’s a BVI business, and now regulations for all restaurants are in place without "Letters of Marque". Last night I was out at a bar in town, nobody got naked and ran into the parking lot. You could guess, but…?
The Willy-T is open seven days a week, all year round. The season and the parties happen themselves, randomly. The hundreds of overnighters in the Bight either turn it on or don’t. The staff serving drink and good pub fare are super friendly and are more than willing to raise the level of fun, but it’s the visiting pirates that make the piracy!!! The Willy-T, is like "band camp", 'cause there was this one time….
In addition to its daily runnings, the Willy-T also hosts and enjoys major events in the BVI. To begin, the Virgin's Cup in mid-October is followed by the Interline Regatta and fishing tournaments later in the year. Owned by local families the Gardeners and the Andersons, the Willy-T is part of the BVI community and local as well as visiting fun seekers frequent the boat. Day trips from USVI and BVI-based charters with local outings make a party melting pot.
I recently visited William Thornton's old family house, now in ruins, at the back of Hannah's Estate in Pleasant Valley, though "He, long time dead" his name lives on in the BVI at the Willy-T.