BVI Charter Recap
My family and I just got back from a 1 week charter in the BVIs so thought I would do a recap of our trip. This is something I had been dreaming about for a very long time and finally had the opportunity to make it happen. It was not exactly what I had anticipated but it was a great experience and one I would definitely do again.
Our trip started with challenges just getting to the islands. We had an early flight out on Friday morning and made it to the airport and arrived for our connection with plenty of time. We boarded our flight only for the airplane to lose all power taxiing to the runway. After a long wait they took us off that plane, put us on another plane only for the exact same thing to happen! That flight was cancelled and with no more that day were booked on a flight the next day. Our 11am flight ended up getting pushed back to 1pm which now put us at risk of not making the last ferry to Tortola. We scheduled a water taxi to take us over which was a good thing since we would have missed the very. After many delays and frustration we finally made it, 1 day late. We slept on board anxious for our adventure to start. Bobbys market arrived with the supplies we had chosen to order online. Everything was delivered in great condition and exactly what we ordered. They did a great job for us.
The next morning we went through the boat briefing which introduced us to some systems we had no experience with such as a propane stove, refrigeration and an electric windlass. Following the boat briefing we went through a chart briefing which gave us pointers on stops and areas to avoid. Our plan was to do a counterclockwise route around Tortola returning 6 days later. Once we completed the briefings we were free to go and we cast off our lines.
Motoring out we ran into our first problem having trouble raising the main. A call to the base and they sent someone out to give us a hand and the problem was quickly resolved. Apparently the reefing lines were a bit snug and freeing them allowed the us to raise the main. A quick sail across the Drake Channel brought us to the Bight on Norman Island. My 14 year old son took the helm to pick up the mooring and did so well this was his job throughout the trip and only got better. A dinner with the family on the Willy T, which we found is not a family restaurant, and we settled in for the night.
We were awoken the next morning by an early thunderstorm with very heavy rain and high winds which caused some anxiety for my family. We were secured to our mooring, very happy we did not anchor, but gear we were not familiar with concerned us. We came through it fine and set off for Cooper Island with a stop in Deadman's Bay on the way for lunch. We picked up a mooring on Cooper island and ate dinner aboard.
The next morning our destination was Virgin Gorda with a stop at The Baths on the way. Everyone says the Baths are a must see for any BVI charter and they are not wrong. This is an amazing jumble of huge boulders at the water's edge with a trail through and over the boulders to a great beach. Unfortunately we had to make it to North Sound for the night so could not linger as long as we would like so had to get on our way.
The seas throughout the trip were lumpier than expected so decided to motor the final 2 hours up to Saba Rock resort in North Sound. We made it up without incident and I was now faced with backing a 40 foot boat up to the dock between pilings so there would be no chance to throw lines to someone on the dock to help me get the boat in. This is not something I have any experience with. The boat did not back up well at all and that coupled with my lack of experience made this take some time. Roughly 30 minutes of effort and multiple tries and finally made it in with no damage. A cold Carib beer tasted remarkably good!
Being able to have AC while plugged in to the dock convinced my crew that we should stay here 2 nights and give us a chance to explore the area some more. This was a good choice as this ended up being our favorite stop. A dinghy ride around a nearby island brought us to the picture perfect beach were were looking for, the only one we really had all trip. We spent a couple hours there enjoying a beach almost all to ourselves with some swimming and snorkeling. We then zipped over to Bitter End and took a Hobie Wave out for some fun with my kids. My son had an especially good time as I handled the sails while he moved his weight as far forward as he could trying to bury the bows. We never flipped the boat, as hard as he tried, but had a great time. Dinner at Bitter End and then bed.
Casting off the lines at 7am the next morning we began our longest sail downwind to Little Jost Van Dyke. This was the most pleasant sail of the trip with a lovely 4 hour sail down the north coast of Tortola to our next anchorage. We were on our mooring by 1pm and headed to Foxys Taboo for lunch and a hike to the Bubbly Pool. This was our only hike of the trip and while the pool was nice the tide was not quite right so there was no bubbly. A quick trip over to Sandy spit for a quick swim on this unique little island. It was amazing how quickly the beach dropped off going to over my head about 10 feet offshore.
Dinner was going to be on the boat grilling some burgers on the grill. It was a lot harder to get the charcoal started in the wind than I expected but we got it going. Burgers cooked and while we were eating we noticed a visitor to our boat. Apparently some items thrown overboard while cooking attracted a small nurse shark looking for more. The poor guy had a wound on his back and had lost its dorsal fine at some point. He hung out for a little while to entertain us. We named him Bob.
The sail the next day was in 20-25 knot winds in very lumpy seas again. Under main alone we made our way to the Indians for a little snorkeling. The sail was something and I succeeded in hitting the waves just right and giving my crew a few unplanned showers. Fortunately it was warm out so it was more pleasant than anything. The snorkeling would have been better if the sun was out but it was cloudy so my daughter and I had a nice time and then moored in Great Harbor on Peter Island for our last night. An early start and we motored over the next morning in a torrential rain storm and ended our trip.
Our impression of the trip was it was not quite what we hoped for. At least where we went, which is really the most popular stops, are all about beach bars. Finding a beach to hang out on was very difficult and the only one we found was at North Sound. We found no historical sites we could visit and there were no hikes except the Bubbly Pool. We were told there were many hikes in the area of North Sound but did not have time to check them out. These were the things we were looking for and they were in short supply. The focus seems to be sailing from mooring to mooring and checking out the beach bars located at each one. We were hoping for more beaches and cultural and historical sites and from what we found the BVIs may not be the best area for this.
The vendors we worked with on the other hand were exemplary. BVI Yacht Charters met every expectation and the boat and service they provided were just right. I would easily recommend them. We found this charter company through Ed Hamilton and would also highly recommend them, especially to the first time charterer. They were a great help in picking the charter company and boat and provided much very helpful information to help us in every aspect of the trip. Recommend both companies without reservation.
I would do the trip again but don't think it would be with teenage kids. I think from what we saw the focus seems to be beach bar hopping which would be great with some other couples. Despite the areas we were not so pleased with it was a great trip and enjoyed much of it. Our daughter goes to college in the fall and it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time together as a family and we succeeded in creating a lot of wonderful memories.
You will regret the things you did not do, more than the things you did.
Get out there!
Saco Bay, Maine
2001 Beneteau Oceanis 361