The circuit anticlockwise around the British Virgin Islands takes about a week, covering 85-90 nautical miles. The winds are almost always reliable easterlies giving you a bit of work as you head past Norman, Cooper, Salt and Peter islands and reach Virgin Gorda, where the spacious North Sound allows a wide choice of moorings, anchoring and restaurants. Here you’ll find Leverick Bay (basic provisions, gifts, bar and restaurant), Saba Rock (ditto without the shop), and the Bitter End Yacht Club (ditto and a bit posh). It’s safe and beautiful.
You can sail quite close to Necker Island, the private holiday retreat of Richard Branson, off the top of Virgin Gorda. Whilst we were there he and his guests, the Obamas, were challenging each other to windsurfing races. You can hire it yourself, if you’re so inclined…
Overall the BVIs offer wonderful sailing. There’s lots of water and space, hence the number of big, ugly catamarans that can pick up a mooring buoy. From the yachties’ point of view they’re about as bad as motorboats. In the Mediterranean catamarans are a real nuisance, as the harbours and marinas were built in a time long gone, when boats were small. Twenty years or so ago we sailed in Greece in a small flotilla and the biggest boat was 33 feet. Town quays often have just enough space for a handful of yachts, and catamarans take up far too much of that space – they might charge them more but they take more than their fair share. And they don’t sail well. You can even get them where they’ve chopped the mast off and they just motor. Ban them, we say. In fact Trump should ban them, it’s just the daft, tangential thing that would appeal to him. Go on Trump, tweet it; you’ll annoy the remaining parts of America you haven’t yet reached.
Heading out west, with the wind behind you, takes you round the north east side of Tortola towards Beef Island and Trellis Bay, where the Last Resort on Bellamy Cay promises singing dogs and wall-to-wall cocktails. Much like every where else (but not necessarily singing dogs). Across the bay you’ll find Marina Cay, a tiny sandy Island protected by a reef with small jetty, bar, shop, restaurant and cocktails. Getting the picture? It claims to be the home of the Painkiller cocktail, a hotly disputed claim – much the same with the various claimants to the sacred recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding. It’s undoubtedly the Sharrow Bay, by the way. For STP not Painkillers. Mind you, if you’ve ever experienced the floral overload that is the decor at Sharrow Bay you’ll need a couple of painkillers. For the avoidance of doubt, Sharrow Bay isn’t in the BVIs.
Cay (pronounced key) is a reef. Sailors beware, they bite! Marina Cay was bought in the 1937 by American newly weds Rob and Rosie White. Although they lived here only three years, until WW2 called, their adventures are recorded in Rob’s book “Two on the Isle”.
Beach Bar and Restaurant Marina Cay