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British Virgin Islands

Published on 07 september 2008 at 0h00

Some sixty islands and islets make up this paradise for quiet sailing in the British Virgin Islands. Calm sea, constant trade winds, numerous anchorages from your dreams just a few miles apart – the BVI are THE dream destination for less experienced sailors or families with young children...

Logbook

Their legendary beauty has gone way beyond the bounds... (Christopher Columbus, faced with such beauty, couldn’t find any other name to give them than ‘The Virgins’). Cruising in the Virgin Islands is a delight, and the number of charter companies which have set up here shows the importance that lovers of good cruising give to them. A nest for buccaneers, who holed up here whilst awaiting the rich Spanish vessels, the Virgin Islands archipelago is divided in two. On one side, the American Virgin Islands (USVI) with its three main islands, Saint John, Saint Thomas and 35 miles further south, Saint Croix, and on the other, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) with here again three main islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada). The British Virgin Islands are a real paradise for leisure sailing: numerous anchorages, well-protected and close to one another, and above all, the impression of sailing on a lake or an inland sea. As the environment is one of the major preoccupations of the British Virgin Islands, underwater fishing is prohibited, and the checks and fines are dissuasive. Similarly, the spread of mooring buoys for which a charge is made, to protect the seabed or in highly frequented areas, is sometimes restricting. But this is the price to be paid to discover an extraordinary playground for the occasional charterer.

The British Virgin Islands offer a particularly attractive cruising basin: this labyrinth of islands, 50 km long by 25 wide, offers white sand beaches bordered by palm trees, and limpid water which allows you to enjoy the particularly rich seabed to the full (coral, multicoloured fish and wrecks dating from the 18th century). Because in the BVI, the past is never far away and you will discover notably Norman Island, the real ‘Treasure Island’ which was Stevenson’s inspiration when writing his famous book... To be discovered also in the BVI: the superb anchorages on the north coast of Tortola, White Bay beach on Peter Island, and of course you simply must not miss swimming in Virgin Gorda’s Baths, certainly one of the most beautiful memories of your cruise.

Practical info

  • Getting there:
    It’s not always easy to get to the BVI. From Europe, the simplest way is to stop over on St. Martin/ Sint Marteen. From the USA, the stopover is in San Juan.
  • Weather:
    As in the rest of the West Indies, the weather is fine all the year round in the BVI. Air temperatures vary between 28 and 33°C, whilst the water reaches 25/30°C...
  • Sailing conditions:
    There are no problems concerning daytime sailing in the BVI. The distances between anchorages rarely exceed two hours’ sailing, which makes the British Virgin Islands a very safe place. On the other hand, at night, sailing is not recommended, as lit buoyage is almost non-existent. Beware: underwater fishing is totally prohibited in all the BVIs. There are many checks and the fines are dissuasive! Many areas have been classified as a ‘Nature reserve and National Park’. Anchoring is then prohibited, and tying up to mooring buoys (for which a charge is made) is widespread. This is the price to be paid to enjoy the BVI’s underwater treasures.
    The steady winds, the protected waters, the weak currents inside the Virgin Islands (which can however be violent between two groups of islands) and the very small tidal range (less than 30cm) reassure less adventurous sailors. Beware of the northerly swell, which can become unpleasant...
    Bouyage: Zone "B" (green buoys to port when entering harbour).
  • Formalities:
    Valid passport. No visa necessary for EEC residents and North Americans.
  • Money:
    The US dollar.

Itinerary

One of the BVI’s big advantages is that they leave you the possibility of changing your itinerary according to your wishes... Because the area offers so many anchorages, just a few miles apart, that it is not uncommon to change your evening anchorage at the last moment... There is something for all tastes: wild, deserted anchorages, mooring buoys, marinas with superb restaurants... It’s up to you to organise your trip as you think best. Moorings, which has been operating in the area for a long time, suggest for example that you go to Cooper Island the first day. It is only a 6.5 mile sail from Road Town, where you embark. Enough to take advantage of the warm sea and get your sea legs...

Day 2 & 3

From Cooper Island, head for Virgin Gorda. A 14-mile sail which you will inevitably interrupt with a stop at the Baths, one of the BVI’s jewels, with its fascinating chaos of granite rocks forming caves where the children (and the adults) love getting lost. On Virgin Gorda, you have the choice of a marina, anchorages, restaurants or a barbecue on the beach. More than enough to occupy you for two days.

Day 4

The most beautiful, the wildest, the one where you will (perhaps) be alone in the anchorage...Anegada. Only 14 miles from Virgin Gorda, the island of Anegada is famous for its superb dive sites. Not to be missed!

Day 5

Marina Cay. From the north, you now head west to reach Marina Cay. A peaceful 18-mile sail to reach one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, island in the BVI.

Day 6

On the day’s programme: an 18-mile sail, stopping regularly on the various islands you meet (Scrub, Great Camanoe, White Bay…). At Cane Garden Bay, you will discover a sumptuous bay, with its crescent-shaped white sand beach in the shade of the palm trees.

Day 7

Head for Great Harbour, on the mythical Jost Van Dyke Island. Why mythical? We’ll let you find out for yourself... Evenings here are...hot!

Day 8

It’s already finished. You have to return. Next time, you will stay for 2 weeks!!!

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