The cruising ground in the British Virgin Islands covers a relatively small area but there is so much to see and do that it pays to have at least a tentative itinerary.
The first thing to consider is how to take advantage of the winds to make your passages comfortable and fun. Easterly is the prevailing wind so if you look at the configuration of the islands you should plan a counter-clockwise route.
Most charter companies have bases on the south side of Tortola, exposing you to the Sir Francis Drake Channel upon departure. Here is a suggested itinerary that will allow you favorable conditions.
DAY 1. Cooper Island. One of my favorites. Very good anchorage, good snorkeling and a nice, casual restaurant, Cooper Island Beach Club, with reasonable prices. Or just go ashore for a cocktail and watch a beautiful sunset. This is a great place to spend the night if you want to go to the Baths on southern Virgin Gorda the next morning as it is only about an hour away.
DAY 2. Get to The Baths early! You are only allowed to pick up the day moorings and by 10 a.m. you will find they fill up fast. Snorkel, explore the caves and rock formations and return to your boat about 1 p.m. to set out on a close reach for Gorda Sound on Virgin Gorda. Within a few hours you will have your choice of several places to pick up a mooring. The Bitter End has the most moorings and from there you can dinghy into the Yacht Club Basin for drinks and/or dinner or over to Saba Rock which has a new facilitiy offering the same. There is also a beach Tiki bar on Prickly Pear that is fun to go to if you are looking for a sandy beach.
DAY 3. Anegada. The charter companies are much more lenient now in letting their clients venture to this offshore island. It is a very flat island and not visible until you are within several miles of it, by which time you are already over the reef that surrounds it. The bareboat company will want to know ahead if that is your plan and will only give you permission after they consider your experience, as it does take navigational skills to enter the anchorage. Some will have you sign a waiver as to your responsibilities of your vessel. Once there it is fun to hire a cab (sometimes in the back of a truck), for $8 per person/round trip to Loblolly Bay on the north side for snorkeling or swimming on one of the most beautiful, isolated beaches in the world. There is a Tiki bar/restaurant called the Bamboo Hut there that serves fantastic fish and Anegada lobster for lunch. Dinner back at the anchorage could be at The Anegada Reef Hotel (rustic) or the Beachcomber. Both are very casual. This is the only place in the BVIs where I have seen the sunset directly over the water and it was spectacular.
DAY 4. Marina Cay. This is a lovely spit that has a Pussers clothing store and restaurant. Good time to get a great quality T shirt and cheeseburger on the beach. They also have laundry and shower facilities and if you need to top off your water tanks it is easy to do here. My best find here is on the nearby Scrub Island. There is a restaurant called Donovan’s Reef that is wonderful. They stand by on channel 16 (reservations are required) and will pick you up at your boat. The prices are reasonable and the food is superb. Great ambience and a lovely spot. It is not dressy but I would leave the T shirt on the boat and opt for a collared shirt. Shorts are fine.
DAY 5. Leave Marina Cay and go between Great and Little Camanoe to the back side of Tortola heading to Jost Van Dyke, home of the famous Foxy’s. The original Tiki bar is in Great Harbor where there are no moorings so you will have to anchor. He has now opened a new facility in Diamond Cay on the eastern end that does have moorings. Both are known for the fun group of people who enjoy the music and festivities and the overwhelming weekend buffets. Best if you hit it on a Friday or Saturday.
DAY 6. By now you might be low on some sort of food or beverage so a stop at Soper’s Hole is perfect. A few very good provisioning stores and another Pusssers are in the picturesque harbor. If you have not watered the boat this is also a good place but may be a bit busy at the docks. Then on to Norman Island to the Bight for happy hour at Pirates (they fire a mini cannon at 4 p.m. to announce it to the anchorage). The food is good. There is also the Willy T, which is an old ship that serves dinner (also good) and drinks in a very casual atmosphere. If you have children you may find it a bit too lively for them as it is not uncommon for some customers to disrobe and jump off the stern for a dip.
DAY 7. Peter Island is a nice quiet spot for your last night. Little Harbor does not have moorings and you cannot go ashore there. Great Harbor does have moorings and there is very good snorkeling on the middle shore. You are within 1-2 hours of reaching the base for your return the next morning. If you have no food left on board for dinner you may go into Sprat Cove instead and have dinner at the Peter Island Yacht Club (pricey and men need to wear long pants) or decide to spend the last night at Cooper Island.
If you do not go to Anegada you may want to use the other day to go to popular Cane Garden Bay before or after Jost Van Dyke. There are several beach restaurants and it is another lovely spot for sunsets.
The anchorages I have told you about are the most popular and considered to be the ‘not to be missed’ spots. You will of course find your own favorite port, and each time you return, I promise, you will find another new location that will enchant you.
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