Having just returned from our summer vacation to the BVI on a charter sailing catamaran, I thought I’d share some thoughts and impressions with our AMERICAN YACHT “friends and followers”. We did a bareboat charter on a Lagoon 40, a 3 cabin owner’s version catamaran of very recent vintage with a generator and nice cool air conditioning so we could sleep comfortably at night.
Our BVI itinerary on a sailing catamaran was still an amazing experience – even for Gail and I who are pretty familiar with the waters. We had great weather and light breezes for, basically, the whole week with the exception being the last full day when we had a nasty, stormy day with almost zero visibility at times.
Day 1. We left the operating company base at Hodges Creek marina in Maya Cove on the SE side of Tortola at about 4:30 pm. We made the quick 1 hour run around Beef Island to Trellis Bay arriving about 6:00 pm. We struggled a bit with the mooring harness since there were only the two of us on board the first night and if anyone was watching it probably looked pretty funny. Thankfully the bay was fairly quiet and so we got settled and enjoyed a cocktail.
Day 2. Picked up our 2 friends at Trellis Bay right on schedule at around 10:30 am when the Sea Bourne flight came in from San Juan, Puerto Rico. We sailed out at 11:30 am and headed for Gorda Sound. Passed the Dogs, heading NE and snuck slowly through the shallows (yes, you can do this carefully and slowly on a shallow draft cat..!!) at the West End of Gorda Sound, we cruised past Leverick Bay and picked up a mooring ball at the Bitter End Resort. We had a late lunch at the Pub, where the fried fish and chips were out of this world. Some cold beers and then a lovely walk on the manmade beach there. We Explored Saba Rock by dinghy and the entrance to Deep Harbour before heading back to our catamaran for an early night. Amazing how exhausting the sun can be. Of course the ladies checked out gift shops!
Day 3. Up early and out of Gorda Sound with the wind behind us, through the shallows again, and took a nice long and leisurely sail of about 4 hours Westwards across the North shore of Tortola all the way to Cane Garden Bay which is a place that I personally love, especially with winds coming from the SE..!! At this time of year it’s relaxing, not too many boats, the water is clear and the beach absolutely divine.
Day 4. Just hung out in Cane Garden Bay, I just love this beach. Bought a couple of T-Shirts, listened to the music, and downed some bushwhackers and pain-killers at Myett’s. This place is so beautiful with all the lush greenery. So great to sit in a shaded area and look out at the water and the boats. I love to just hang-out a day or two in one place to just kick back and relax.
Day 5. Crossed over to Jost van Dyke. I had wanted to show my “first time” charter companions the JVD highlights especially White Bay’s Soggy Dollar Bar and Foxy’s, etc. Unfortunately the SE wind made the moorings and anchorages choppy and bumpy so after watching the boats already at anchor bobbing up and down and rolling, I decided to skip Jost van Dyke altogether and since Little Bay is not my favorite, we turned tail and crossed Southwards towards Sopers Hole, through the narrows and then on to Francis and Mahoe Bays that are well protected. Spent the night at Mahoe which is a great mooring location with a nice beach and the sound of birds and tree frogs in the background. Always a great place for swimming and hanging out.
Day 6. Crossed over to Sopers Hole to top up the water and fuel tanks, do a little shopping, provisioning and a great lunch at Pussers. Then onwards SE, right into the wind which was starting to blow harder so I took the cowards way out and motored over to the bight at Norman Island where we found plenty of moorings and a nice new facility called Pirates Bight with good food and bevs. Not too many people in July but I can bet this place gets crowded in the season.
Day 7. Windy and stormy, luckily it’s a short haul to Cooper Island so we dodged the worst part and motored up to Manchioneel Bay with its newly renovated Cooper Island Resort and Hotel for a good lunch. Took the dinghy over to that spectacular diving and snorkeling area on the South side of Manchioneel Bay for a close-up with the abundant marine life.
Day 8. Out of Cooper Island at 7:30 am, a short 30 minute cruise across the Sir Francis Drake Channel and back to Hodges Creek marina. We tied up at the fuel dock at 8:00 am on the dot.
What a great trip..!! The boat behaved well, my crew was excellent and we could not have asked for better weather. In short, a totally relaxed and digital detox experience, we didn’t even use our smart-phones, aren’t you proud of us? It was hard for the first couple of days but we soon got used to it and now it is hard to get back in the digital world.
Here are, however some NEW THINGS we learned on this trip, charter that are worth noting.
a) Catamarans still don’t point well, even the new ones, they do most things a monohull can, and some things better, plus the SPACE, but don’t try to sail close hauled.
b) The mooring balls are now almost universally up to $30 a night.
c) Fuel and water are cheaper at Sopers Hole than anywhere else.
e) Yes, Virginia, there are other companies, besides the Moorings that offer a superlative bareboat charter experience.
f) There are some nice new resorts, restaurants and bars that are worth exploring.
g) Everything is still pricey but worth it in the context of a great charter vacation experience.
h) I think that many bare boaters do not pay attention to how they pick up a mooring. If you have never picked up a mooring in a catamaran I can tell you it takes some getting used to.
i) It is very important to keep an eye out for those coming at a mooring ball down wind and not up wind and even more to keep an eye on those approaching too fast. We saw many boats approaching the mooring ball too fast and then looking amazed when the ball floated under the boat.
This particular BVI itinerary on a sailing catamaran was a total blast – but one thing for sure – we never get tired of the Virgin Islands or its nice friendly people!
If you are a new vacationer to the BVI, this article will tell you some of the things to prepare for before your trip.