“Lay it on me, Card- how is it down there? Really.“
Well, it’s like this…
We all know that there’s an elephant in the chat room. It’s been hard to get a good sense of what it’s like down there post Irma and Maria. So, we up and went, on the assumption that despite boat and building damage, the islands would still be there.
Our report? Not half bad! Better than that. We recommend it.
Of course, that depends on what you’re looking for in a tropical sailing trip. If you want an endless variety of bars, restaurants, and gift shops, go elsewhere. If you want beautiful islands, healthy reefs, and an abundance of fish to gape at while snorkeling, a representative sample of shoreside fun, and some well deserved tranquility, then head on down or join us on one of our trips.
Islands: what’s good and what isn’t
Most islands in the British Virgin Islands were impacted by the hurricane. Some did quite well and it was not an issue for tuning up for the tourist season. Others had extensive shoreside damage and the facilities (restaurants/marinas) were basically wiped out. These areas are under reconstruction, and will be restored, but some have a way to go.
A-Z, to the extent we could ever bother to spell while down there…
We didn’t go this time around due to a short trip and rough weather for more than half of it. However, we’ve heard all along that Anegada fared well in the storm and was good to go. Once we were down there for our skippers meeting at Moorings/Sunsail, this was confirmed. The Anegada Reef Hotel and many other restaurants on Anegada await you.
Beef Island/Trellis Bay
Pretty beat up. Many boats still littered around the anchorage and shore, and as it’s connected to the mainland, it remains a busy and crowded anchorage. There’s a market to get supplies which might be adding to the crowding. This was from observation, briefing, and first hand reports from people who just went there.
Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
Didn’t go, but it has a restaurant open on the beach (supposedly a good one). The satellite branch of Bobby’s Marketplace is not open yet. As this anchorage is uncomfortable in any north ground swell unless you get a good mooring, either skip it or arrive very early with a Plan B in mind. Having said that, they’re recommending it subject to the swell, and based on past experience, we agree. It’s gorgeous.
Restaurant not open yet. Can sort of get ashore to walk on the beach a little; if you do, honor the signs for private property when you get close. There are plenty of moorings here, but get there early. This is the only anchorage in the area where anchoring is legally prohibited. You will be chased out if you try it, so if you’re getting there past early afternoon, have a plan B.
Snorkeling from the dinghy mooring at Cistern was above average for the location with plenty of fish. (A certain secret spot where a VERY large barracuda liked to hang was all but destroyed so didn’t go looking for trouble. To this day, dear friends/clients argue with each other and me as to whether this was actually a shark. It wasn’t.)
Jost Van Dyke
Here’s your nightlife. Most places on the island are up and running, including Foxy’s in Great Harbor, Sydney’s and Harris’ in Little Harbor, and the Soggy Dollar Bare in White Bay. One can dock up to refill water tanks in Great Harbor. Foxy’s Taboo at Diamond Cay (near Little Jost) is not open yet.
There are some moorings in each harbor, although traditionally, one expects to anchor at Jost due to the volume.
Gone. The island is still there, of course, and anything concrete and steel remains. The fuel and water dock, English phone booth, restaurants and bars are gone. The island is off limits and (fairly) strictly enforced. That makes it nice and quiet! Get there early, get a mooring directly in the lee of the island (protected from the prevailing wind), and enjoy a nice quiet night.
Snorkeling at the Coral Gardens was amazing. It’s always good, but we enjoyed something different this time. Schools of parrot fish were behaving a lot like predator gamefish, snapping at floating weeds at and just below the surface! We’ve never seen them more than a few foot off the bottom, cruising around or nibbling at coral. Their were several varieties in attendance, but the ones schooling were fairly colorless with gray/black highlights. There were rainbows and other color varieties around as well.
The Bight, or Pirates Bight, is a large anchorage that always has room for more boats, and a little more now that the Willy T (William T Thornton, a large sailing vessel semi-permanently moored in the Bight), is semi-permanently wrecked ashore. Sad. Benefit? That was a LOUD boat, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. So, much quieter now until if/when they replace it.
The restaurant is supposed to be open but we didn’t go ashore to investigate. Snorkeling along the walls at the Caves, around the corner from the anchorage, was average to slightly above for this spot (which is excellent if you do it right).
North Sound (Gorda Sound), Virgin Gorda
Mostly gone. This area’s facilities were mostly wiped out. One can anchor or moor in many places, of course, and enjoy the tranquility and the reefs for snorkeling.
The one facility open in the Sound is Leverick Bay, and the Pussers (eh) restaurant is open. I don’t remember if water was available at Leverick to top off tanks, but one can check before planning on it.
No facilities open yet ashore. Who needs it… Peter Island had an expensive and snotty facility which, if memory serves, required a jacket of gentlemen for dinner. So NOT going down there for that. The allure of Peter, as we see it, is that the harbors have nothing. Just protected anchorages and scenic tranquility. We anchored along the east wall of Great Harbor and loved it. Good snorkel trip along the rip rap on the bottom (which had been there forever). Not a coral spot, but lots of fish as they love this kind of structure. Not bad for jumping off the back of the boat!
Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda
Marina is open. This is very enclosed with slips. There are also a few moorings outside, and an area where one can anchor and dinghy in if it’s not rough. No dockside market, and might not have any restaurant facilities running yet, but there are several in town within walking distance, which lets one see how the locals live. Also, one can get a taxi from here to go to the Baths. If it’s a little lumpy in the harbors due to weather conditions, and people need a break, this is your spot. Flat calm, plus you can step off and walk around on solid ground.
Our trip revealed what we’d hoped it would: a resilient populace living in a natural environment, both of whom roll with the proverbial punches of Poseidon, Neptune, etc. If you want to see and explore the British Virgin Islands closer to the way they were before the charter industry really built up, now’s the time! Expect to provision your boat more and dine ashore less. If that’s the price to pay to play here, I’m more than happy to go back ASAP.