I am packing to leave on a second big trip this year. I have halved my flying but further cut backs will have to wait. To help Bob and the magazine, I've agreed to run the Share the Sails to the British Virgin Islands, Nov ‘09 , and Thailand, May ‘10. Right about the time you are reading this, know that Bob and I will be working hard, basking under the Caribbean sun, quietly swaying at anchor, coldies in hand, discussing cruising tactics with 50 or 60 of our Lats and Atts friends and family.
By next issue I’m sure there’ll be a full accounting of our BVI adventuring for your reading displeasure. The BVI are where most cruisers-to-be go for their first charter, to get the feel of what cruising might be like. I thought this might be a good time to field a BVI question from one of my seven fans:
Capt. Woody, Hope things are going well with you. I'm going to the B.V.I.'s in January. We are sailing out of Tortola and was wondering what are the best places to see, what are the best Islands to visit and the best marinas. We are cheep and plan on cooking on the boat a lot. We love to explore the Islands and meet great people. Give me your thoughts. Best wishes, Randal
Randy, First thing to do is to get the Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands by Cruising Guide Publications. We do sell it at Seafaring.com. The guide lists all the good spots and has little chartlets for each. Most charter boats come equipped with the guide but it’s fun to do some advanced planning and get a history of the islands. Though I'll go over the happening spots, there is also the option to hike the interiors of most of the islands and meet people that way. I bring down a couple issues of Lats to offer to the few real cruising boats you'll see. That is usually enough to get invited to a sundowner aboard a real boat.
Most of us do a counter-clockwise circle of the islands that looks a like this: Norman Island, Cooper Island, Virgin Gorda, backside of Tortola, across to Jost Van Dyke and around the bottom again to return to base. Keep in mind that everywhere you go now in the BVI, there are overnight moorings that cost $. The guide will suggest where you can still anchor, outside the moorings.
The first day we'll shoot across to Norman Island to hang out at the Willy T. If you get out early you can take a free mooring at the Indians for some great snorkeling. The moored schooner William Thorton is a permanent fixture in The Bight on Norman Island. The old steel boat has been there as long as I've been BVI chartering. The Willy T is a floating hamburger joint with a great bar that goes off late at night. You can dance the night away and even see the occasional naked lady jumping overboard from the top deck (they used to give away a free Willy T shirt for this). If you've got time, Pirate's beach is in the NE part of the bay and is worth checking out. Don't forget to dinghy around to the treasure cave just outside the SW corner of the bay.
From Norman we head north. If we have divers aboard we stop at the bottom of Salt Island to dive on the wreck Rhone. Kewlest dive I’ve ever done. No need to bring your gear. You can have a dive boat meet you at the site. Yes, I imagine this is spendy. Moving on. We usually stop at Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island for the night. They have a little beach bar and restaurant.
Get up early and head N to the famous Bath's on the SW tip of Virgin Gorda. Take a free mooring and then tie up your dinghy just off the N beach and swim in. Walk through the Baths and chill on Devil's Bay beach or grab a coldy on the hill (swimming pool access for coldy purchasers). From there, some charterers head into Spanish Town to take a slip for the night. There are nice bar/restaurants on the quay and the Rock Cafe has nightly entertainment, just up the road. Don't be put off by the expensive slips, you can anchor out, dinghy in and hit one of the small stores for supplies for cooking onboard.
Three days into our charter we are usually ready for a longer sail and so we line up with our other boats and engage in some tacking duels to the top of Virgin Gorda. Inside North Sound are a ton of great options. If you get there early stop at Vixen Point beach for a beverage and some volleyball. The Fat Virgin, in Birras Creek, is a Lats Harbor Hangout and a great spot for awesome affordable grub. Say hi to Ethel. The Bitter End has some high end night spots and Saba Rock is kewl if just that it is it's own island. On the BVI Share the Sail we are scheduled to stop into Leverick Bay as they are hosting free rum punch for us. They have it all there too plus a pool.
From North (Gorda) Sound we either head to Anegada or down around the top of Tortola. Anegada is awesome if you have the time. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Randy at Neptune's Treasure – another Lats Harbor Hangout. Consider a taxi or a moped to take you around the island. Usually we head out of North Sound and sail downwind to Pussers on Marina Cay or Trellis Bay for lunch. From there it's a beautiful sail down the back side of Tortola to Cane Garden Bay. Do not skip Myett's on the beach there. It's a great dinner spot and they have the best live music/dancing I've found on the island.
Most people sail straight across to Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke but I prefer to make a quick stop at Sandy Spit – the perfect south seas islet. And then there are a slew of famous places on JvD including Sidney's Peace and Love, Foxy's, Corsairs (a Harbor Hangout) and The Soggy Dollar Bar. They're all in your guide.
Provisioning can be done there at Great Harbor for quiet meals aboard. If you happen to be around on a full moon don't miss Bomba Shack for a loopy evening of free magic mushroom tea (Trellis Bay does a full moon fire party too).
From JvD we head down around the bottom of Tortola and often stop in Soper's Hole. There is a chance for some high end eating and souvenirs but we usually grab a bite at the Jolly Roger, W of the ferry. We'll sometimes spend our last night back at the Willy T., where the debauchery began.
Before you go you can become a Lats Cruising Club member for a free drink at Harbor Hangouts – Seafaring.com, click L&A Cruising Club. Have a great time (we'll try and leave you some rum).