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Paradise Found: British Virgin Island Favorites

A seasoned cruiser offers his British Virgin Island favorites.

January 21, 2012

BVI Main

George Sass Jr.

I don’t want to write this article. I really don’t. I have plenty of reservations about sharing favorite anchorages, special places and hidden gems that I’ve discovered during the past 20 years of cruising the British Virgin Islands.

I’ve learned where not to go after, well, going there. I’ve suffered through family vacations with too many generations on a too small boat. I’ve waited for domestic unrest in the next stateroom to boil over into a full-blown Jerry Springer episode once the next passive-aggressive jibe was cast. There have been the horrendous waiters, arrogant resort managers, crowded anchorages that display the worst of human nature, and even a case of food poisoning where I prayed for a bullet to the head. I’ve paid my dues, so why shouldn’t you?

Well, first of all I kind of need the job. Second, the British Virgin Islands are truly paradise, and if we time our cruises right, there should be room for all of us. Here are a few of my favorite places, tips, and BVIs morsels. Have I missed yours? If you feel like sharing, drop me a line at [email protected].

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Virgin Gorda, North Sound
This bay hosts a wider variety of watersports activity per square mile than a Disney water park. The steady trade winds create wonderful opportunities for windsurfing, kiteboarding and dinghy sailing throughout the Sound.

Transient yachtsmen won’t have a shortage of mooring and docking options. The Bitter End Yacht Club offers slips and numerous moorings. The resort has done a superb job of welcoming the transient yachtsman. It also offers a good spot to create a surf and turf adventure. Take the boat, and spend a few days ashore, or better yet, send your guests. I also use the North Sound as my jumping off point to head to St. Martin or St. Barths. It’s a doable overnight trip and a favorable course.

Nearby is Saba Rock, which includes a restaurant, marina, and hotel. One of my best Superbowls was sitting at the bar at Saba while the boat tugged away at a nearby mooring.

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To the west you’ll find Leverick Bay Resort and Marina. Kids will love the pool and beach, while adults can find a number of activities, from fishing to small boat rentals. Every time I’ve pulled in, the staff goes out of their way to accommodate us, they’re kid friendly, and the scenery is stunning. You can rent a villa through the resort. It would not be difficult to spend an entire week on the North Sound.

The Baths and Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, Virgin Gorda
I need to confess, I’ve tired of The Baths, and won’t visit them during the high season. Why? They’re just too damn crowded and I usually end up staying on board the boat after I practice a full-in beach assault, toss a bunch of kids and a cooler overboard, and head back out to “watch the mooring,” which is code for getting away from the crowds. However, I’ve discovered a few hints over the years for those intent on visiting this stunning collection of boulders, caves, large pools, and underwater splendor.

See a complete photo gallery here.

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If it’s during the high season and you aren’t able to arrive first thing in the morning, grab a slip at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour in Spanish Town (this is also a fine place to leave a boat for the season). Then take a taxi and head on down to the fun. Tip: Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour offers great provisions with a variety of stores.

One of my family’s favorite places is the Top of the Baths restaurant. You can get dropped off or walk up the path. It offers incredible views of The Baths, great food, and a pool where we seem to spend more time frolicking than at The Baths.

After you’re back on shore, a superb way to top off the day is dinner at Little Dix Bay. Dining along the beach is top-notch. The boutique resort also offers unique accommodations, ranging from suites to full-service villas. If you want to win a few points, work in a spa experience at Little Dix during your next trip.

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Underwater Splendor
The British Virgin Islands are known the world over for phenomenal underwater life. Divers flock to the area, so every boat should be stocked with a full array of snorkel gear. Three of our favorite spots are the Indians, west of Norman Island; The Caves, located at Treasure Point on the western tip of The Bight, Norman Island; and around Cistern Point off Cooper Island. Norman Island is often the subject of tall tales of buried treasure, and I’ve certainly kept my eyes open for a few coins in an effort to figure out how to pay for the next adventure. The snorkeling around the Indians is in deep water and is absolutely breathtaking. Tip: Invest in an underwater camera such as the Kodak Play Sport. After an hour or so each night with a program like iMovie, you can create short takes of the day’s adventures that kids and adults will enjoy.
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Jost Van Dyke
The only time I suggest avoiding Jost Van Dyke is during New Year’s Eve. (Unless you enjoy stepping over drunk Neanderthals lying face first in a puddle or getting yelled at by grumpy, smelly live-aboards at anchor who decided to give up showers and manners for the New Year, and who have no clue about proper seamanship. _You know who you are.
More about that in a future column.) Other than during this especially crowded period, we love Jost Van Dyke! In fact, every time I go to the BVIs, I make White Bay our first stop. Why? It just sets the tone and instantly propels guests into vacation mode. The beach is spectacular. There’s casual food and entertainment, and if you can’t start to relax here, you may have other issues. Walk down to Seddy’s One Love Beach Bar and ask for a little magic show. The Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar are wonderful, and their chicken roti is darn tasty as well.

To the east of White Bay is Great Harbour. Bars and shops line the beach, including the notable Foxy’s. We also like Corsairs, although if you have time and the stamina, each one has a unique atmosphere that’s worth visiting. If you’re in the mood for a lobster dinner, be sure to head around the corner to Little Harbour and experience the all you can eat lobster night at Harris’.

Cooper Island
Every time I take a mooring from the Cooper Island Beach Club on Machioneel Bay and enjoy a tasty dinner with my feet buried in the sand, I suggest that we return here for our entire vacation, rent a cottage, bring a trunk of books, and simply chill, sans boat. The small resort was completely renovated under new ownership in 2009. The staff and management are welcoming and hospitable. The view from the deck toward the west at sunset makes for a special evening. As noted previously, the snorkeling is also brilliant at Cistern Point, located at the southern tip of Machioneel Bay. Yes indeed, the boat may stay at the dock next time, and we’ll head right over to Cooper.

Scrub Island
This newly opened resort and marina is now on the must-stop list. Log onto www.yachtingmagazine.com/scrubisland for our complete review after our August visit.

Chartering
There are a variety of crewed and bareboat charters available in the British Virgin Islands offering power and sail options. If our herd moves over the five-person mark as it did in August with a total of ten — including four active kids under the age of 12 — we prefer to go with the 474 power cat from The Moorings. Granted ten was a tad tight, but the four-stateroom, four-head layout is tough to beat. The flybridge is designed for relaxing and enjoying sunset appetizers and stargazing. The Moorings has a new base in Road Town, Tortola, and I can’t stress enough how nice it is to give kids an option to hit the pool while you get the boat sorted. There are two fine restaurants on the property, as well as a refurbished hotel.

Four Secret Anchorages from an Unsympathetic Donald Street
When the author sent a note to noted mariner, author, and Caribbean expert Donald Street over the Christmas holiday complaining about dodging dragging boats and crowds in overflowing anchorages in the British Virgin Islands, Street shot back a to-the-point quip: “George, I have no sympathy for you. If you had on board a copy of my Guide to Puerto Rico, Spanish, U.S. and British Virgin Islands (the only guide that covers the whole area in one volume) and the Scotts’ guide (The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands) and you had circled in red all the anchorages I mention that are not in the Scotts’ guide you would have quiet anchorages with no other boats!!!!! Let’s republish my 1969 article in Yachting “Gunkholing in the Caribbean.” Many mentioned are still uncrowded. Here are a few favorite anchorages off the beaten path …” Looks like we’re going back to the archives. Stay tuned.

■ Bluff Bay, south side of Beef Island
■ Money Bay, Norman Island
■ South side, Peter Island
■ Eustatia Sound, Virgin Gorda

Chicken Roti, BVI style
Every island has its preferred version of the original Trinidad roti. This BVI version is a little less spicey and uses store-bought tortilla as a handy substitute for the original chickpea roti wrap. If you want to go all out, see our recipe for chickpea roti at www.yachtingmagazine.com/bestofbvi.

Ingredients:
3 boneless breasts of chicken
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
1 green pepper, chopped roughly
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can chicken broth
½ cup water
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 Tbs. curry powder
2-3 tsp. hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
a handful of fresh chopped parsley
4 large flour tortillas
1 jar mango chutney or fruit salsa

Preparation:
In a large skillet, over medium heat, sauté garlic and onion for two minutes. Add chicken and sauté till cooked but tender. Add green pepper and carrots. Sauté 1-2 minutes. Add chicken broth, potatoes and as much water as needed to cover everything. Simmer until potatoes are very tender and broth has begun to reduce. Add all spices and flavorings to taste.

Cover, turn off, and let stand. The mixture will thicken a little as it cools. When ready to serve, heat the stew to a boil while stirring with a wooden spoon. Warm tortillas, and heap a generous portion of the chicken mixture in the center of the tortilla. Roll into a flat tube with ends folded under. Serve with chutney on top.

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