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THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, CARIBBEAN
The British Virgin Islands are considered by many to be among the best sailing grounds in the world and we have to agree. East Yachts’ staff has over 17 years sailing experience in this beautiful territory and as such we are well positioned to guarantee you get the most from your vacation aboard a sailboat or motor yacht.
The territory consists of 60 islands, many of which today still look like they did when Christopher Columbus visited the islands in 1493 during his second trip to the Americas. Upon seeing Sage Mountain and the volcano on Virgin Gorda, Columbus stopped to explore the area where he encountered indigenous people.
In 1648, the Dutch established a permanent settlement on the island of Tortola. Seeing an opportunity, the stronger English navy captured Tortola from the Dutch in 1672. They then annexed Anegada and Virgin Gorda in 1680.
The geographical arrangement of this chain of islands created a perfect hiding place for both pirates and navies alike and to this day many a tale can be heard about the treasures that might be buried around the islands. Today, the British Virgin Islands remain much like they did when discovered by Columbus although the population has grown as the government has embraced tourism as the countries major source of income. Tourism, along with offshore finance has displaced the original sugar cane industry of colonial times.
The charter yacht industry began in the 1950’s offering week long vacations so tourists could visit each island, reef, beach and mountain to experience the stunning beauty from the comfort of a luxury boat. This industry continues to flourish and today literally hundreds of boats operate within the islands year round. You can rent your own mono-hull, catamaran or motorboat from the bareboat fleet and make your own way around the islands. Conversely, you can opt for a crewed yacht, fully catered by professionals with a passion for delivering a premium vacation to their guests.
Our recommendation for the best time to visit the British Virgin Islands is October through May. Sailing in the Francis Drake Channel is a spectacular treat, since the large island of Virgin Gorda protects the entire territory from the swells of the open Atlantic Ocean. There can be 10’ waves outside the island chain and yet it will remain calm on the inside. The channel is about 9 miles wide and 25 miles long. Sailing up and down the channel provides you with access to 75% of the islands and anchorages in the archipelago. The remaining islands lie slightly to the north and are not to be missed if the opportunity arises.
We know the BVI’s will blow you away, as they have done for so many people in the past. Below is a list of places we highly recommend during a visit. We do not necessarily suggest you do them all or in this order, but depending on your interests, these are the best places to visit during a sailing holiday.
NORMAN ISLAND : 5-Stars
Norman Island is about a 90-minute sail from Road Harbor with a perfect downwind sail to get acclimated to the boat. Famous for Willy T’s and Pirate’s Bar on the Bite; both are a must. If you are here on the weekend both locations can be a good laugh. Go to the Pirate’s Bar for sunset and Willy T’s for a night out. Anchoring in the Bight also puts you within a dinghy ride to three great snorkel sites, Treasure Point, The Caves, and Water Point. Norman Island was occupied by pirates during the Nelson Era and is the island written about in the story, “Treasure Island “. It was also where some segments of the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. Another great anchorage on this island is Benures Bay – 5-Stars if you are looking for seclusion.
The Indians, off Pelican Island and less than ½ mile from Norman Island, is another amazing place to snorkel or dive ***** Stars. Mornings and light wind days are best times to visit. If it is calm, pick up a mooring and snorkel off the stern; this could possibly be the best reef you will see.
PETER ISLAND: 5-Stars
Here you will find the nicest resort in the BVI. If you would like to get a massage at the spa, make sure to book in advance! One of our favorite anchorages in the BVI is Little Harbour on this island. If you can find a spot anchor stern-to, be sure to snorkel around the shore as the sights are truly amazing. Other options are to anchor in White bay or South Bay as both are home to stunning white sand beaches draped in palm trees.
SALT ISLAND: 3- Stars
Here the infamous wreck of the Rhone (5-Stars) is located. Pick up a mooring at the wreck site and snorkel or dive off the boat.
We recommend Salt Bay as a good place to anchor and have lunch. On the island you will also find a salt pond with an interesting heritage. There is a great walk around the salt pond and the beach is covered with shells. One person lives along the shoreline and maintains the salt production from the pond. The Queen of England is given a bag of salt from the Island every year as rent. You too, can purchase your own bag while you are there.
COOPER ISLAND: 4-Stars
This is an island with a variety of things to do. Mooring close to the Cooper Island Beach Club is very nice, but you will have to arrive before 3pm to secure a good spot. Here you can sit back and relax to the vibes from the beach or go ashore to watch a beautiful sunset at the beach club.
Manchioneel Rock, located on the south end of the beach, is wonderful for snorkeling. Turtles nest here and the reef is always healthy thanks to the constant flow of clean water from the Atlantic Ocean. If you prefer seclusion and the weather is favourable, anchor in Hallovers Bay (5-Stars) on the south side of the rock.
VIRGIN ISLANDS: 5-Stars
Your first stop in Virgin Gorda should be The Baths. They are not to be missed and you will want to spend a full day here. It is possible to moor at the entrance to the national park, but this we do not recommend, as the seas can be a trifle rough. Normally, we anchor in Spanish Town, leave the boat safely on anchor and take a shuttle from the marina. The Baths were created during a volcanic eruption in the Jurassic period. The earth’s tectonic plates cracked forcing hundreds of giant granite boulders to the surface. Over time the boulders have eroded producing a labyrinth of tunnels and cave-like passages and some of the most stunning beaches found anywhere in the world. Snorkel off the beach and through the smooth boulders that stretch out into the channel.
Our Restaurant recommendation for Virgin Gorda’s west coast is Coco Maya (4-Star), one of our favorites right on the beach outside Spanish town. The restaurant usually has live music, which makes for a nice night off the boat.
Note: If needed, the crew can re-provision at the supermarket in the Spanish Town marina.
THE DOGS: 5-Stars
The Dogs consists of 4 islands aptly named Seal, George, Great, and West, Dog of course. There are several dive and snorkel sites on these islands, but our three recommendations are: The Gardens located on the south side of Great Dog (anchor or use moorings), The Chimney’s on the west side of Great Dog (only use moorings) and the west side of Kitchen Point on George Dog.
*Normally this area is only a day stop and not an overnight anchorage as it is part of the national park.
VIRGIN GORDA, MOUNTAIN POINT: 5-Stars
From The Dogs, sail to Mountain Point at the Northwest tip of Virgin Gorda for access to the dive and snorkel site. Anchor stern to at the top of Long Bay and enjoy the view! This is one of our favourite anchorages in the BVI’s where you can explore 2 miles of stunning beach, snorkel and dive. Plus, there is always plenty of glass calm water for a spot of wake boarding or skiing.
VIRGIN GORDA SOUND: 5-Stars.
Head north and anchor between Prickly Pear and Eustatia Island for lunch, snorkel and a swim. In the evening navigate around Asbestos Point by Saba rock; anchor or pick up a mooring inside the sound. We have taken many large mega yachts through this cut, and it is safe if you or your captain is confident to navigate inside a reef. Alternatively, follow the channel markers between the reef and Prickly Pear. Here we recommend walking the beach and taking time to enjoy the social scene at the Bitter End Yacht Club. There is also a nice vibe at the Saba Rock Café in the evenings with live music from a local band. From Saba Rock you can view Necker Island, owned by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. He parks his own 105’ catamaran, Necker Bell inside Gorda Sound. This yacht is also available for charter in the BVI’s. As you leave the sound, stop at Leverick Bay if you need to re-provision at the shops and grocery store if.
Yes, Anegada really is 6 Stars!!! This will be a longer sail day as Anegada is 13.5 miles north of Virgin Gorda, but this island is definitely one you do not want to miss. It is best to plan your itinerary based on the best weather days to sail to and from Anegada
Note: this location is for experienced navigators. Although these days, the channel markers are well defined due to a new ferry link to the island we urge inexperienced captains not to attempt navigating the area without a local captain due to the shallow reefs.
Head for Pomato Point for the night (5-Stars). We recommend lobster on the beach at Pomato Point Restaurant. The next day, pick up anchor and sail to Anagada Reef Hotel (3-Stars). Organize a taxi to take you to Loblolly Bay to spend the day sunbathing, snorkeling, and swimming on the amazing beach. If you opt to have dinner on the beach again, Neptune’s Treasure has great lobster and conch fritters.
TRELIS BAY: 4-Stars
Every full moon our good friend Aragon holds a party on the beach where he lights his famous sculptured iron fireballs in the sea. The party is lively and filled with local music and dancing. The Last Resort Restaurant, located on a private island in Trellis Bay serves good food is and offers great fun when the chef sings with his band.
MARINA CAY: 4-Stars
This private island is home to the famous Pusser’s Resort and a great place to anchor if you do not want to spend the night in Trellis Bay. The island is lovely and a relaxing place to take a walk, snorkel, and swim off the beach. Sip on the local drink called the Pain Killer from Pusser’s Bar until the sun goes down. NOTE: this is a good place if you need to re-fuel or get water for the vessel. Also the red phone booth on the dock has a web cam. Stand in front of it and your friends and family can have a live feed of you online. It’s fun and makes for a great memory.