Fifty years ago, when the British Virgin Islands popped up on the radar as a place to cruise, the idea of a “megayacht marina” was about as conceivable as wireless internet. Now it’s possible for a superyacht to turn up, park in one of several marinas, and benefit from all the services they require; including excellent cell and internet!
However…there is an inherent problem with these massive yachts.
Just where does one take a 150-foot plus boat so that her passengers can enjoy the warm, shallow, turquoise waters? This is a problem the captain of a smaller yacht would never ponder over. The swinging room, shallow draft and maneuverability of smaller yachts allow them to tuck into tight corners, navigate reef areas and park, well, quite literally, on the beach.
The obvious advantages of being on a larger yacht are: more comfort at sea, they are usually faster, and they have better sea keeping abilities. Where a weekend trip to St. Barth from Virgin Gorda and back would not be possible on a 60-foot yacht, it would be relatively easy on a 150-foot plus sail or motor yacht.
The disadvantages are that they always seem to be either on the dock, or anchored about half a mile offshore in deep water. Surely if you are going to charter a yacht, you want to try and be close to the shallow waters where you can swim to the beach, snorkel, or just feel a little more like you are inside a protected anchorage. I know they have tenders to take you ashore, but it’s not really the same. It’s also not really the same having any number of crew watching you enjoy the water behind the boat, just in case you get washed away by the current.
So, do the pros, outweigh the cons? Is it better to consider a smaller boat that can take you to the BVI’s secret spots, or a larger boat, and be a little more out in the sticks? It all depends on your perception of course, but I consider the smaller yacht approach to be the most practical way to visit the BVI, unless you open the door to the idea of the “Super Cat.”
After spending 18 years working on yachts primarily based out of the BVI, I was very accustomed to being able to go where I wanted. With not much more than six feet of draft, I could park so close to beaches in such shallow waters that my guests could actually walk ashore with their cameras in hand, from the back of the boat.
In 2013, however, I found myself cruising the BVI on a 100-foot Catamaran. With her 46-foot beam and a 7-foot draft, it was a little more challenging trying to get up close to the beaches or through the anchorages and mooring fields. It occurred to me that my experience over the previous years was the only thing that allowed me to do it confidently, and that for captains with little to no experience of the Virgin Islands, it would be a daunting task to be avoided in the name of safety. Of course, local knowledge is always nice to have but when not available, the cruising guides, charts, and a 1–3 day weather forecast are the key ingredients for a spot of exploring off the beaten track.
I guess what I’m getting at here is that the solution is the “super cat.” I had no problem getting S/V Black Swan (See Pic) into the shallowest depths of Anegada, alongside the beach at Valley Trunk Bay, Savannah Bay, Cooper Island, Cane Garden Bay, inside the reef at White Bay in Jost Van Dyke, up very close to Sandy Cay and Green Cay, Smugglers Cove and Brewers Bay. I highly recommend every one of these locations to anyone visiting the BVI by yacht. All of these anchorages are considered NO GO zones for most large yachts due to depths and possible wind shifts, but are amongst the territories finest. This once again demonstrates that the limitations binding large catamarans are far less than those of proportionally sized motor yachts and monohulls.
You don’t have to compromise when cruising the BVI. You can still enjoy all aspects of a superyacht plus everything a smaller yacht can offer, without missing out on accessibility to the coolest and most intimate places in the territory.
With many years experience in both catamaran sales and charters, Captain Warren is well positioned as an expert in the world of catamarans. He manages his company from a variety of locations, most recently from his latest project, M/S Turkish Delight. She is a beautiful 85-foot Turkish Gulet that he and his partner and Chef Elizabeth Lee, operate as a luxury charter yacht between Bodrum and Antalya in Southern Turkey and the Greek Islands. www.turkishcharters.com