We spent a full month in the British Virgin Islands, and explored as many nooks and crannies as we could. We spent more time sailing our boat in that one month than we usually do in a year, as we crossed and re-crossed the Sir Francis Drake Channel, hopping from one island to another. Our last week was spent in Gorda Sound, where we enjoyed a safari truck excursion all over Virgin Gorda, an adults-only evening out with drinks at Saba Rock and pizza at the Pub at the Bitter End Yacht Club, and Hobie catamaran rentals with the crew of Abby Singer. We checked out quite easily at Gun Creek and crossed the Anegada passage overnight to Anguilla, where we rest at anchor near Sandy Ground waiting to move south again.
Photo: Take Two + Abby Singer on Safari truck tour
Before we move on, I’ll take this opportunity to share our impressions of the Virgin Islands cruising grounds. If you have ever considered taking a sailing vacation, this seems to be the perfect place for either a crewed or bareboat charter. The place is swarming with Sunsail and Moorings boats, and it’s easy to see why. That said, I think we would have enjoyed the islands more if the anchorages had been populated with cruising boats instead of with vacationing novice-sailors. We are always looking for the quiet anchorage and the private beach, and that was difficult to find (though not impossible) in the Virgin Islands, especially if one cruises in the off-season.
We were also able to complete a couple of major boat projects: a full cockpit enclosure, jib repair, and a new stack-pack for the mainsail, thanks to Bob and Linda Phillips at Doyle Caribbean in Road Town, Tortola. When they said, “It will be done in three weeks,” they meant it! No need to readjust for “island time.” We had been told that Doyle was more expensive, but if time is money, then their punctuality is worth any extra expense. The only minor inconvenience was that we were required to go into Road Town every week for measuring, fitting, and installation, but it gave us an opportunity to re-provision and explore new anchorages. Bob and Linda are sailors and live-aboards themselves, experts who’ve been in the industry for 40 years, and really nice people. If you ever need any work done on sails or canvas, we highly recommend them for their reliability and workmanship.
USVI: St.Thomas and St. John
We stopped for only one night in the rolly anchorage near Charlotte-Amalie, St. Thomas, and then spent several days exploring the little bays on the northwest side of St. John, paying $30/night on National Park mooring balls (no anchoring within park boundaries). Our favorite beach was in Hawksnest Bay, but the quietest, calmest place was Francis Bay, where we had the pleasure of catching up with old friends Ralph and Kathy on s/v Simplicity. One can also hike to an old sugar mill and plantation from there.
BVI: Jost Van Dyke, Little Jost Van Dyke
We checked in at Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands and had lunch at Foxy’s, before moving around to Little Jost Van Dyke and anchoring near Sandy Spit. We hiked to the Bubbly Pool, where the ocean comes through a crack in the rocks to make a foaming swimming hole, but found that we came at the wrong time. The tide was low, the seas calm, and the bugs out. After swimming in Rachel’s Bubble Bath in Compass Cay in the Bahamas, the Bubbly Pool failed to impress. We did enjoy the one-palm-tree island of Sandy Spit because we had the beach to ourselves at the end of the day.
Photo: Andrew kiteboarding near Sandy Spit
Tortola: Cane Garden Bay, Road Town, Brandywine Bay, Trellis Bay, and Great Camanoe
We did not find Tortola to be the charming place we had hoped. After a night in Cane Garden Bay, where the beach is lined with bars and literally a thousand beach chairs (for cruise ship patrons), we sailed around to Road Town Harbor, where we were able to buy groceries at the Rite Way, get a sim card at Digicel, and talk to Doyle about our torn jib. We had no desire to spend a night in the commercial, loud harbor of Road Town, so we anchored in a small, quiet place called Brandywine Bay. There is supposed to be a lovely French restaurant on the hill above the bay, but we never made it. On our other two stops in Road Town to visit Doyle, we spent one night in Trellis Bay, where we enjoyed an evening at the Island Last Resort, and one in Lee Bay in Great Camanoe, a beautiful and quiet place we would visit again.
Photo: Brandywine Bay–goat in a boat!
Channel Islands: Norman, Peter, and Salt
These were easily my favorite part of the BVIs. Norman Island has Privateer Bay, with caves you can swim or kayak in, excellent snorkeling at the Indians, and a beautiful quiet place called Benure’s Bay. Peter Island has two deep bays with good snorkeling and a resort with a gorgeous beach. Salt Island is populated only by goats, but has excellent hiking with breathtaking views and the wreck of the RMS Rhone for a good dive site (see Eli’s post). We spent the night there and had the place to ourselves. We did not stop at Cooper or Ginger Islands.
Virgin Gorda: the Baths, Savannah Bay, Prickly Pear, Gorda Sound
This is a place we could visit again and again. The Baths, with Devil’s Bay to the East and Spring Bay to the West, with their unique boulders and lovely beaches, never grow old. We stopped there three times and would go again. We loved climbing on, jumping off, swimming in the caves made by the gaps in between, and kayaking around and among the giant boulders. We also had lunch at the Top of the Baths, with its swimming pool and great view. Savannah Bay to the West, and Eustacia Sound at the far side of Prickly Pear Island in Gorda Sound are probably our favorite off-the-beaten path anchorages, though we have discovered that deserted places in the BVIs attract clothing-optional charters (see Sam’s post). Gorda Sound is a great place for a date night, small-boat sailing, or hiking to the summit of Gorda Peak for an amazing view. Rada’s restaurant above Leverick Bay is a great local place with reasonably priced food (the home-made Rotis are the best I’ve had).
Photo: At the Baths with (left to right) Sky, Aaron, Paige, Sarah, Eli, Sam
The sail to and from Anegada was brisk and fun; with a steady breeze of 20-30 knots, we were making 9-10 knots of speed with the jib and reefed main. We found low-lying Anegada to be very similar to the islands of the Bahamas, with its casuarinas, family-run places (Neptune’s Treasure), low scrubby interior, and deserted beaches. Our boys got a chance to do some kiteboarding for the first time, thanks to the patient instruction of our friend Andrew. We spent a couple of afternoons at the Anegada Beach Club (a shuttle ride from the Lobster Trap), a very-cool resort at the end of everything, and well worth the trek.