BVI, the best sailing in the Caribbean?
Sopers Hole Marina, West End district, Tortola
The British Virgin Islands’ 60-odd islands are close together, the sea is well protected from the Atlantic, navigation is generally line-of-sight and local marinas/ports/harbours are generally scenic, safe and well-managed. All that makes things particularly easy for learners or first-timers and a perfect doddle for the pros.
Recommended sailing itineraries and information can be found easily online as well as through tourist offices, if that floats your boat.
Warm tropical waters, protected bays, steady winds, white sand beaches and thousands of islands and islets dotted nearby – the Caribbean is a yachtie paradise and the BVI is arguably the best region to have a heavenly time. Here are the areas where yachties tend to congregate.
The BVI is the capital of bareboating (i. e. with no professional crew), has the best sailing yacht infrastructure, most charters, moorings and well-establised marinas.
In addition The BVI is particularly suited to sailors with lower levels of experience thanks to its generally calm, leeward waters, an average temperature of 26C all year round and clear in-sight navigation. BVI also offers luxury waterfront resorts, excellent dining, chic boutique shopping and superb beaches. The popularity can be also a downside, of course, meaning it gets overcrowded in high seasons, Christmas and Easter.
A week’s sailing itinerary around BVI
The Baths beach, Virgin Gorda, BVI.
By all accounts Tortola is home to several hundred sailing yachts for bareboat rental and another hundred or so charter yachts that come with crew.
Day 1) Depart Tortola and head to Norman Island. Swim and snorkel around the well-known spots at the Indians and the Caves, anchor in the Bight for an overnight mooring, try the famous Willy T floating bar or Pirates Bight for a meal.
Option 1: Sail to Cooper Island and arrive in time to pick one of the overnight mooring buoys at the Cooper Island Beach Club. Spend the day on the beach or snorkel off Cistern Point.
Option 2: Short trip to Peter Island for a superb beaches or pamper your body at the Spa in the exclusive Peter Island Resort.
Day 3) A short sail to Virgin Gorda for the world famous Devil’s Bay National Park and the Baths. Spend the morning exploring the massive boulders and rocks and swim at picturesque beaches in the park. Drive around the island, hike up to Gorda Peak to marvel the view of North Sound. Or sail around Fallen Jerusalem National Park for snorkelling.
Day 4) Head for the North Sound via The Dogs for a quick snorkelling, past Necker Island and sail into North Sound. There are a number of good mooring spots, try Leverick Bay or Bitter End for instance, where no shortage of entertainment and things to do and some great beaches.
Option 1: Sail to the remote Anegada, home to world’s third largest coral reef, Horseshoe Reef for natural beauty and great diving. Then the next day -Day 6) Head to Great Harbour in Jost Van Dyke, Day 7) Sail back to Tortola via Sandy Cay.
Option 2: Sail to Guana Island via the Dogs near Virgin Gorda, maybe lunch at Trellis Bay, Beef Island, then pass Monkey Point on Guana Island for snorkeling. Then sail the North shore of Tortola towards Great Harbour in Jost Van Dyke. Enjoy one of BVI’s best beach, White Bay.
Day 6: Take a short sail to the Sandy Cay or Sandy Spit– both are tiny desert island to snorkel, to swim or just lay on the spectacular beach and then set off after lunch to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola for the overnight anchorage.
Day 7: Short sail back to Tortola via Thatch Island Cut.
Etiquette when sailing the Caribbean
• on charter yachts tip generously as crew tend to depend on tips to top up a low salary. Standard practice is to leave 10-20% of the charter fee with the captain to share out.
• don’t wear boat shoes or indeed any footwear on board. On shore footwear should be extremely casual, flip-flops being the norm.
• ensure that you don’t leave the toilet’s valve open when the boat is parked unless you enjoy swimming in sewage.
• take it easy with crew or shore staff, chat and joke, don’t just issue commands, it’s not the Caribbean way. Respect!
Two other Caribbean regions for bareboating
Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin
You can fly directly here from most countries such as USA, Europe and other Caribbean islands as these islands are major transport hubs offering varied cultures, fine beaches, excellent diving and great dining scene (especially St. Martin for its French creole cuisine).
The seas in this area are not as agreeable as the BVI, so the sailing can be a bit more challenging.
St Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadine
Known as the Windward Islands and stretching from St Vincent to Grenada with more than 30 scenic islets, this region attracts more experienced sailors with its choppier waters, gusty winds and often requiring longer crossings in open sea. The pay-off for this extra work is that the Grenadine area is less-visited, with more deserted beaches, traffic-free islets and charming little harbours.
St. Vincent is the ideal entry point into the Grenadines for yacht sailors, though St. Lucia and Grenada are also popular gateways.