And our BVI Itin was…

We got back from the trip on Saturday and loved it. All a bit of a blur and a blend, and we detoured slightly from the plan. But, for what it’s worth, here’s the answer to the challenge we put to you: identify the “default itinerary” for our BVI trips.

Here’s that same DMA chart of the Virgins, with our default ITIN spots marked with my grandfather’s chess pawns (cuz, why not).

Same chart as in last post- this time, labeled with the spots. Go ahead; zoom it up! See some detail. In the meantime, here’s the list:

  1. Virgin Gorda: Spanish Town.
  2. Anegada. There’s just the one anchorage.
  3. Marina Cay. Again, the one spot.
  4. Jost Van Dyke: east end, between Jost and Little Jost.
  5. Norman Island: the Bight
  6. Cooper Island: just the one – Manchioneel Bay.

We deviated on this trip. Not by fucking up our compass, no. We just stayed two nights at Norman and skipped Cooper this time around. We adjust based on what the people who paid to play had to say. And, sometimes the weather. Here’s a synopsis of this trip!

Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. We anchored there after a snorkel and lunch stop at Great Dog. Then, we dingied into the marina and called a taxi to the Baths. Always breathtaking; never disappointing (except when super crowded. Several in our group were first timers and blown away by it. We grilled aboard that night.

Two women enjoying the largest of the natural pools at the Baths of Virgin Gorda.
Ah, The Baths… this is the largest of the natural pools amongst the famous boulders randomly arranged aeons ago along the south shore of Virgin Gorda. It’s a delightful spot when it’s not crowded.
Not even done with the first day, and we have happy campers! Enjoying drinks at the bar atop the Baths National Park. That’s our Director up front with a Bush Slide (Bushwhacker with drizzels of choc syrup). Mmmmmm….

Anegada. Our personal favorite, where we often spend two nights. One did the trick on this trip as all were eager to see as much of the BVI as possible. We anchored, lunched, and went ashore to explore the north side beaches (mostly by bicycle; one sailor opted for a taxi). The bikers did a beach crawl. Dinner: Anegada Reef Hotel on the beach. Various dishes were accompanied by a nice NZ bottle of Sauv Blanc. Chess match: competitive game with Gregor, but Captain Card managed to find a way to win despite a kibitzing (but entertaining) audience.

Steering… nailing it… and loving it! Kalindi taking a turn at the helm en route to Anegada.
The stunning north side of Anegada. Shallow lagoon area behind the outer reef; plenty of little bommies to explore before that. Choose solitude or manageable shared areas where drinks and food (and some shade) are available. Excellent swimming and snorkeling; diving possible; care to kiteboard? They have that and SUP too!

Marina Cay. Got a mooring early; had to move when crowded by anchoring cats. No problem. Then, off to snorkel the Coral Gardens which didn’t disappoint beyond slightly silty water column. The fish didn’t seem to care. No one on board had been to the relatively new and, post-Irma, refurbished Scrub Island Resort. A friend on another charter supplied intel on the merits, so we hopped in the dinghy. No one on board had been to the relatively new and, post-Irma, refurbished Scrub Island Resort. A friend on another charter supplied intel on the merits, so we hopped in the dinghy. Nice spot; very expensive drinks that were disappointing to decent, but, hey – it’s a brand new fancy joint so we should have expected it. Dined aboard once more. Gregor whupped Captain Card’s ass at chess, straight up. So it goes. (nb: the fuel/water dock was supposed to be open, despite the rest of the island not offering anything anymore. The hurricanes totally trashed MC. However, it was closed all afternoon, and again in the morning. Two yachts had parked on the pier overnight after seemingly waiting all afternoon.)

Kalindi and Gregor plotting as we begin the sail back from Anegada to Marina Cay.

Transoms 🙂 Our home for the week moored at Marina Cay. We had just returned from snorkeling the Coral Gardens. Note the change in water color toward the shore of Great Camanoe in the background, and also the starboard of our twin rudders. This boat was BALANCED heeling over in a breeze! Very light helm. Just like our Beneteau 21 sloops back home.
The swim-up at Scrub Island. Worth a shot at least once to see how they’re pourin’ em on any given day. Nice spot!

Jost Van Dyke. We did a quick snack/snorkel stop at Monkey Point on Guana Island first; surf wasn’t up too much, but water clarity sucked. Nothing special in the fish life department, but it was fun to see them regardless and the cave had a school of likeminded fin fish on display as well.

On to Jost/Little Jost, which gave us a downwind sail in swells and a few jibes for good measure and balance. We moored at the back of the bay, close to the shallows and flats and also the dinghy dock at Foxy’s Taboo (yes, offshoot of the famous Foxy’s around the corner x 2 at Great Harbor). We usually anchor here, but there was a prime mooring spot so we took it.

My college fencing coach tried hard to get me to put my back hand on my hip when swinging sabre. He gave up. Here? It just works. Chie sailing us part of the way with wind and some swells to Jost Van Dyke by way of Guana Island.

After some lunch we dinghied in to shore and made dinner reservations before trekking to the Bubbly Pool, a must-see spot that’s a light walk/hike from the dinghy dock. BVI Tourism aptly calls it “the East End’s natural sea-formed Jacuzzi.” I agree! As usual, we had it to ourselves briefly upon arrival before the hordes arrived. Just the way the luck rolls for us here.

The Bubbly Pool, about to be replenished! Still frame from a clip we shot upon arrival. For the full effect, see our Instagram with a video last year (and possible another to come from this trip!).

A wave crashes into the “hot gate” leading to the Bubbly Pool, which is behind the fotog, and sends a geyser up at him.
Gregor and Chie heading back toward the dinghy dock and anchorage. Our yacht is the monohull to the right of two cats (3rd out from the point that’s roughly center pic).

Dinner was only for us. They’d let us know when we reserved that we were the only boat/table thus far, and to be sure to advise if we changed our plans. We negotiated a time of arrival, and we showed up. This is rare for this spot; it’s usually somewhere between happening and hopping. Easy night and early closing for them. But they took great care of us. Food was exceptional for BVI; we’ve eaten there before and enjoyed it, but everything was top notch including my baby backs, which were some of the best I’ve ever had.

Rough group selfie while riding the dink after drinks at Scrub Island. You get the picture… happy campers.
Kate and Chie having hammock antics and shenanigans before dinner at Foxy’s Taboo.

Norman Island. Before stormin Norman, we stopped at Sandy Cay right off Jost. We had it to ourselves briefly as usual being the first to arrive. We did a hot drop with the dinghy, and Sir Gregor volunteered to drop it off at the yacht and swim in. nb: it’s seldom calm enough to safely beach the dink here; don’t risk it. Swim or snorkel in from the day moorings. The attractions here are to beach comb and hike the path up through the woods to several elevated plateaus with stunning vistas. It’s way higher up than it looks from shore or afar. Pro tip: hit it early in the AM before heading to your next destination. The alternative, late afternoon, is often too late for securin’ your berthin.’ (This works at many popular BVI day stops before the crowds arrive.)

Sandy Cay, almost in its entirety, as seen from under our Bimini on the boat. Some beach at each end is cut off but this is the whole island. Flat, right? It’s higher than it looks. Check it…
Open water as far as the eye can see… right after that little Island to the left! View from most of the way up Sandy Cay.
Looking down at the moored yachts, and out toward the western Virgin Islands, from part way up Sandy Cay. Our yacht is one of the last two on the right.

We enjoyed Norman itself enough to stay two nights! That’s a first on our trips. Anegada and Virgin Gorda are other spots where we’ve lingered an extra day & night sometimes. We anchored at the Bight in a spot we can usually get away with that strikes a nice balance of serenity and equal opportunity to get to where we want to play here. We snorkeled, chilled, etc and then BBQ’d for din din.

Captain Caffeine, or just a true Coffee Achiever? Either way… totally works. En route to Norman Island, which was an upwind leg with plenty of tacking practice through Thatch Cut and then Sir Frances Drake Channel, and eventually right up to the entrance to the Bight. Boom.

The next day, we chose to do the moderate hike up the ridge for amazing vistas, and then day sail around Norman before grabbing a mooring at Benures Bay for the day. Yup; both Benures and Soldiers now have some moorings; this wasn’t the case when we were last here a year ago.

Sir Gregor at the helm as we circumnavigate Norman Island for a fun sail. We’re on the south side, looking south here, with some swells. This is a still frame from a video clip we’ll probably post on our Instagram (links to all social media are on all pages and posts).

We enjoyed the day here; Gregor did a second hike to another location. Then, back to our anchor spot and drinks and Danger Jenga ashore at Pirate’s Bight before a last supper aboard.

The next morning was both gloomy and beautiful as we motored back to the base and prepared to head home. We got lucky; as soon as the boat was docked and the engine off, it rained. But, as is usual, it was brief and we didn’t get soaked before we departed, and we wished we could have stayed just a little longer.

Looks like a heart, right! Well, those who came for the first time did fall in love. Those who returned, rekindled. Final ride: back to the base at dawn and sunrise, looking roughly east.

For more about these trips…

see our Sailing Vacation Course page, and visit our Instagram!

“ITIN” Challenge, BVI!

We’re off to the Virgin Islands this weekend for one of our Sailing Vacation Courses. We go to BVI every winter, and sometimes twice or even three times (historically in the boom days; now it’s usually once but probably as we’re now going to Europe every fall).

By the way, we can accommodate one more person. Discount off the full trip price of $1650 to offset your last-minute airfare, too! (Talk to us about this, or see our BVI/Med trip page.)

Nothing quite like having the Bubbly Pool to yourselves… with actual bubbly to boot! From our January 2019 trip to BVI. Want to see more about these trips? That was your link.

Anywho… where shall we sail to this time? We do have a default itinerary (hence “ITIN”). It works: it hits the spots we prefer to take people, especially if they have little to no prior exposure to the Virgin Islands. Of course, prior exposure, weather, etc can change our destinations and our route to get to them.

Sometimes, we spend two nights in a special spot when people fall in love with it. This was especially true before the hurricanes ravaged Virgin Gorda. Gorda Sound (when did people start calling it North Sound, anyway?) had so much going on it often took two nights and days to get it done. Anegada, a much simpler place, was so appealing in this sense that, especially if we arrived on the later side, we occasionally spent an extra night there.

Speaking of nights… two here from BVI in our Instagram, along with some dawn and daytime.

So, where shall we go this time?? We have two clients who’ve been here before. We have two who are Virgins. Tell us!.. just don’t tell us here by public reply to the post; hit us up directly. See if you can come up with our default ITIN based on your own experience, what others have posted about their trips, etc, etc. Get it right, and you get $50 toward anything we do here. (Credit; not cash.) If no one gets it right, whoever is closest gets $50. That applies to all who get the same “closest,” whether they exactly match or not. If we deem two different submissions as equally close, we’ll award them both – and anyone else who submits the same ones.

Some basis for you to start:

  1. We depart from Road Harbor, Tortola, on Sunday mid to late morning (this coming Sunday, March 1).
  2. We will spend 6 nights out in the Islands.
  3. We must return the boat by around 9am on Saturday, March 7. (The gradual dragged/kicked off screaming in protest takes a little longer…)
  4. We might make day stops along the way to our “night” anchorages. Get those right, and you get extra credit to offset any “mistakes” in your guesses! (Remember: we actually want you to win the $50 to use with us.)
  5. We must be anchored, moored, or berthed no later than 30 minutes before sunset. Having said that, we always get to our destination for the night far earlier for many good reasons: finding parking, enjoying the area, sunset drinks, getting the grill started in a timely fashion when cooking aboard, etc.
  6. 40-foot yacht; near-new; total of 5 humans aboard including our “HBIC,” Captain Card. (See below for acronym to be spelled out.)

And, here’s a photo of a chart we have often taken on our BVI trips! Just in case it helps. (Of course, we took a pic of our default ITIN laid out on the same chart before we announced any of this, and we’ll share eventually to ward off any case of the shenanigans.)

Tired old DMA (Defense Mapping Agency) chart of the Virgin Islands. This chart has the entire VI chain on it with the exception of St. Croix well to the south. See what we did there with the ? That’s a hand-held compass for taking bearings and checking the ship’s compasses for deviation. Yup; this chart has been on numerous trips to BVI with us.

To submit your, well… submission, just hit us up privately.

Happy Hunting!

Back to the BVI!

“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.

The hand that steers the boat is… well, the hand that steers the boat. Balance it correctly, and only one hand is needed! 20-25 knots in Sir Francis Drake Channel with double reefed main and partial reef in genoa-jib.

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…


Anegada

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.


Cooper Island

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.

Cooper Time! People beachcombing, seeing what’s SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), snorkeling from the dinghy moorings off the large rock upcropping near top center, or just chllaxin aboard their charter yachts. Cooper is also a great place to just do nothing.

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.


Marina Cay

Open this one up! It’s a Pano – must see it full sized and scroll in both directions.  Click once for a new window and again to really expand it.  We had the anchorage at Marina Cay to ourselves at around noon. Very tranquil.  

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.


Norman Island

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.

Rain squalls have their rewards! Double rainbow looking west toward St. John from the Bight at Norman Island.

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.


Peter Island

Looking roughly south from the east headland of Great Harbor. The boats in the background are in the back of the bay where there’s a bit of a pebbly beach. They were getting more wind/gusts (expand the pic to see the whitecaps), so we opted for shiftier winds with less velocity and lighter gusts, plus snorkeling off the boat.

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!

At anchor, pointing roughly south west at other yachts in Great Harbor. The black bow of one mega private sailing yacht is on far right.


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.

Apres-snorkel sunbathing (briefly of course). Cooper Island, BVI.