Power boaters, it’s been said, are happy because they are going somewhere special. Sailors are happy because they’re already there.
Whatever your perspective, whatever your vessel, one thing’s for sure, when you cruise the British Virgin Islands, it’s when you snug down in one of the multitude of special places that you’re truly seduced by their siren call.
Here are five such places:
LITTLE HARBOUR, GREAT PLACE
While much of Peter Island is occupied by an upscale resort, Little Harbour is the quintessential perfect anchorage.
Drop the hook in lots of water close to shore, sheltered by steep emerald hills rising skyward. Get a ringside seat to the twinkling lights of Tortola after you hike to the ruins of a tobacco plantation.
Gorgeous in its own right, it is also close enough for that last night on the water or a quick jaunt from Dead Man’s Bay around the corner.
It’s listed on your chart as ‘Little Harbour’. They should change it to ‘Great Place’.
A DOCK AND A FAT VIRGIN
When Columbus first saw this island archipelago he remembered the story of St. Ursula, a corpulent virgin surrounded by a thousand others of her ilk. He wanted to impress his royal patrons with his find.
The math was wrong—closer to forty islands—but the name stuck.
Welcome to Virgin Gorda – the Fat Virgin.
The Baths are a must-do spot in the BVI – a picture-postcard beach guarded by towering columns of granite – but even a lunchtime stop on a mooring ball here is rolly, and a dinghy ride ashore can feel like a jaunt in the Roaring Forties.
Snug down for the night at the yacht basin, a short walk to The Rock, one of BVI’s most romantic restaurants.
Have a nightcap at dockside Rendezvous bar or head inside to an English pub called Bath and Turtle.
One night we repaired to said bar and my wife pointed excitedly behind me.
Morgan Freeman was sipping a libation at the next table.
Now that’s a testimonial.
FULL MOON FROLICS
If the twinkling lights of Tortola aren’t sufficient evening entertainment and you’ve timed your cruise to the full moon, consider Trellis Bay and a light show without equal.
When the moon is bright, they have a family-friendly party on the beach, complete with a procession of steel sculptures lazing in the surf. Full of firewood; they are set ablaze after sunset. By day there’s an excellent craft market reclining beneath the palms.
Snug down far enough out and you’ve got a perfect view of Virgin Gorda in the distance and uninhabited brown sugar beach in the foreground. A little bar named ‘Last Resort’ on Bellamy Cay is just off your port beam.
But for a nasty crossing from Jost Van Dyke, driven by the need for a bit of flat water, I wouldn’t have considered Trellis Bay, chiefly because it’s so close to the airport.
But we’re not talking JFK.
I’d snug down here anytime. And I’ve written the name of one more special place in the pages of my logbook.
Don’t be fooled by the bucolic charm of Jost Van Dyke. It’s named after a pirate and earns the moniker.
Boasting two of the Caribbean’s most infamous bars, Jost is worthy of the most rollicking buccaneer.
Great Harbour’s mooring field is hard by a tiny village and Foxy’s bar, where the tabletops are nautical charts and Foxy himself might sing you a song. Here you can sip a beer brewed on site while watching your anchor light samba in the gentle swell.
Come Sunday afternoons, Soggy Dollar on White Bay shows like a Cancun Spring Break, though it settles down when the sun sets.
Although snugged down in the lee of one of BVI’s most beautiful beaches, this can be a treacherous anchorage. It might be better to grab a ball at Great Harbour and dinghy over, that way you get the best of both worlds.
PARTY CENTRAL (PART TWO)
Robert Louis Stevenson reputedly based ‘Treasure Island’ on Norman Island – a perfect hour-or-so beam reach across Drake Passage from the Moorings base at Road Town. They say there’s buried treasure here.
The real treasure is the beauty of this bay; turquoise waters nestled in a green bowl of voluptuous hills, guarded at one end by a white sand beach occupied by Pirates Bar.
At the Bight on Norman Island discover another nautical tradition, Willie T’s, a barge decked out like a pirate ship. Nosh a hamburger here after dark, sip a cold one, and then repair to a gorgeous sheltered anchorage.
Stevenson called Norman ‘Treasure Island’. I call it ‘Party Central’.
Mark Stevens is an award-winning travel writer whose specialties include Canada, the Caribbean and boating. Credits range from Sailing magazine and Canadian Yachting to the Washington Post.