The sheer number of British Virgin Islands (BVI) enticed Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to name the area after Saint Ursula and her 1100 Virgin handmaidens. This British Overseas Territory, located 1 mile east of the US Virgin Islands at its closest point and 90 nautical miles northwest of Anguilla, actually has 60-some islands, rocks, and cays. This geography is only one reason the BVI’s are called the ‘Sailing Capital of the Caribbean’.
“The BVIs are the perfect destination for all sailors, with constant, cooling trade winds and the most spectacular scenery, a myriad of islands and anchorages to choose from and of course, National Parks (such as The Baths) and our beautiful white sand beaches,” says Andrew Thompson, director of Horizon Yacht Charter’s BVI base on Tortola at the Nanny Cay Marina. “The BVI is generally much calmer than other Caribbean waters, as our islands form an archipelago leaving most of the cruising area well protected. With a wealth of marine life, it is also a divers’ paradise. Many beach bars and restaurants are dotted around the islands providing great food and entertainment experiences. The BVI has something for everyone to enjoy, without any of the chain stores or restaurants or high-rise hotels that detract from other islands.”
It’s easy to sail around the BVI. In addition to Horizon, there are several other charter companies such as BVI Yacht Charters, the Catamaran Company, Dream Yacht Charter, MarineMax, The Moorings, TMM, Waypoints, Virgin Charter Yachts, Voyage, and more, as well such as Offshore Sailing School which offers charters as well. The Charteryacht Society of the BVI, based in Road Town, represents over 70 crewed charter yachts. Here is a sample 7-day itinerary.
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DAY 1: Nanny Cay, Tortola to the Baths, Virgin Gorda. Embark, complete boat briefings then cast off to the incredible geologic mix of giant boulders and tidal pools that are the Baths. Swim, snorkel or explore ashore to the Top of the Baths restaurant and bar. From here, cruise to North Sound, Virgin Gorda to overnight at Leverick Bay. There are mooring balls and a restaurant, bar, pool, and grocery at the resort.
“It’s easy to spend a couple of days in North Sound as it has a lot to offer. For example, Saba Rock Bar & Restaurant is reopening this season after a complete rebuild and is bigger and better than ever. The Bitter End Yacht Club is slated to reopen its Marina village,” says Horizon Yacht Charters’ Thompson.
Horizon welcomes new catamarans to its fleet this season, including an Elba 45 and Astrea 42, both from Fountaine Pajot; a Nautitech Fly 46; and later in 2022, 42- 46- and 50-foot Lagoons, a Fountaine Pajot 51, and several 35- to 50-foot monohulls. The BVI base is also expanding its American Sailing School.
DAY 2: Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda to Anegada. The flat, reef-rimmed, island of Anegada, the easternmost of the BVI, is tricky to sail to due to the numerous coral heads. But it’s well worth it. Beach walking, bonefishing, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving are superb here. The Tommy Gaunt Kitesurfing School at the Anegada Beach Club on Anegada’s north shore at Keel Point is a great place to see the island from the air in this exhilarating water sport.
DAY 3: Anegada to Scrub Island. Sail or motor downwind to this small island that’s home to the Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina. Lunch ashore or overnight and stay for dinner. While docked or moored, take the Scrub Island ferry on a 10-minute trip to Trellis Bay on Beef Island. There’s a market here, restaurants, and arts and crafts shops. Full Moon Parties are extra special here with flaming fireballs.
One of Offshore Sailing School’s BVI locations is at Scrub Island.
“Our most popular course is our combination Fast Track to Live Aboard Cruising course. You spend 3 nights at Scrub Island Resort, Friday to Sunday, and learn to sail aboard a Colgate 26. On Monday, you board a 40’-50’ monohull yacht or catamaran from The Moorings fleet and live and learn aboard the boat with up to four students and an instructor from Monday to Saturday. You earn US Sailing Basic Keelboat, Basic Cruising, Bareboat Cruising certifications to skipper a boat up to 50’, and Catamaran Endorsement if learning on a catamaran,” says Beth Oliver, vice president and director of sales and marketing for the Fort Meyers, FL-headquartered company.
DAY 4: Scrub Island to Jost Van Dyke. Cruise the north shore of Tortola with a stop for lunch at Cane Garden Bay. The beach bars and restaurants here serve specialties like cracked conch, grilled lobster, and fish tacos. Then voyage west to Jost Van Dyke.
“Jost Van Dyke with its multiple bays including White Bay and Great Harbor are among my favorites,” says Raul Bermudez, vice president of Clearwater, FL-headquartered MarineMax Vacations. “We are introducing the new MarineMax 545/Aquila 54 to our BVI fleet. The 545 is a game-changer with 5 staterooms and a lot of room to spread out. We are also re-introducing all-inclusive crewed yachts on board the MarineMax 545 power cat. We have a lot of new boats coming into the fleet making it the newest in the industry with an average age less than 2 years old.”
DAY 5: Jost Van Dyke. Walk, rent a car, take a taxi, or venture by dinghy to the island’s key harbors. Sip a Painkiller at the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay, listen to calypsonian Foxy Callwood sing ditties at his namesake Tamarind Bay in Great Harbor, and if it’s calm, venture up to the Bubbly Pool near Diamond Cay.
“There are a handful of mooring buoys off the Beeline Bar on Little Jost Van Dyke. The bar is a beach shack, but with good tunes and a mellow vibe. The anchorage is calm, and the wind bends around the coast to give a cooling breeze,” says Horizon Yacht Charters Thompson.
DAY 6: Jost Van Dyke to Norman or Cooper Island. Known as Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Norman offers the Pirates Bight Beach Bar and Restaurant ashore and the Willy T floating bar and restaurant at the Bight. Nearby, The Indians and The Caves are don’t-miss snorkel spots. Venture east if desired to Cooper Island. The Beach Club’s Rum Bar features nearly 300 kinds of rum. There are mooring balls in the Bight on Norman and bay by the Beach Club for overnighting.
DAY 7: Norman or Cooper Island to Nanny Cay, Tortola. Enjoy a leisurely morning at anchor, relax on the beach then sail back to Nanny Cay. Enjoy lunch ashore or take a dip in the pool before heading home and planning the next BVI yacht charter.
For current COVID protocols for BVI Entry, visit: bvi.gov.vg/travel-protocols