You can still find secluded anchorages and unspoiled snorkeling (published March 2013)
The British Virgin Islands, because of their near perfect sailing and cruising features, have become a hub for chartering and a winter getaway for those unfortunates trapped in the frosty north. This has resulted in the need for some management of the area (a good thing), but the resulting mooring fields have made it a bit difficult to find those secluded anchorages that sparked the attraction to these great cruising grounds in the first place. And, the moorings are usually strategically placed in the best anchoring spots.
We have had the pleasure of spending many months cruising here recently. That said, this is not a charter itinerary with the usual suspects—Willy T, Trellis Bay on a full moon, the Baths, Foxy’s, Soggy Dollar, and Bitter End—rather, here are some special spots off the beaten track that we enjoy. To us, the beauty of the B.V.I.s is the abundance of anchorages just short sails apart, with great swimming, snorkeling, beachcombing and hiking, and, with luck, you will share the anchorages with only two or three others or even have them to yourself.
Living aboard Saralane, our elderly C&C 40, we do have the urge to stretch our legs and get the blood pumping, so hiking has become a pleasant source of exercise for us. Fortunately, many of the islands have excellent hiking trails so we include some of our favorites here as well.
Norman Island, home of the infamous Willie T, is often the first anchorage of a cruise. The Bight is full of convenient moorings but we prefer Benure’s Bay to the east. It is rather deep but offers much more protection from the wind and swell than it may seem on the chart. We have enjoyed many a night anchored with a stern line to a tree ashore as the wind tends to loop over the hill and blow onshore close to the beach. The beach is stony, but just behind it is access to an old track that is perfect for hiking. The mostly overgrown roads crisscross the island and are a perfect way to see the island and get some exercise in the process.
Just to the north, Peter Island’s Little Harbor is a deep bight at the western end that is a favorite of off duty charter boat crews and is being more recognized by cruisers as a cozy spot. Mooring stern to the rocky shore is the standard approach. Like Benure’s Bay, there is no palm lined sandy beach but the snorkeling is excellent in clear water.
Farther east is Great Harbor, a large and deep bay, so one has to put out plenty of chain or tuck in close along the eastern shore. Watch out for being back winded as the wind here can loop over the hills. There are a few moorings along the southern shore, but it is the hiking that brings us to this spot, which is fairly close to the Peter Island Resort. There, a very serious road system has been created over the years, which is also perfect for a hike. The hike takes a good stretch up the ridge then up and down to the southern tip known as the “Sunset Loop” where the wind turbines are. All together, the route is about four miles long with lots of elevation changes and several strategically placed water coolers and benches.
Another out of the way anchorage on the south side of Peter Island is Key Cay where you will find good snorkeling, particularly on the windward side of the cay. The bottom is mostly rocky but there are some sandy spots to set the hook in. The wind sweeps through the low land between the main island and Key Cay, which keeps the anchorage cool and bug free.
Full moon parties at Trellis Bay and Pusser’s at Marina Cay are popular but we prefer heading up along the western shore of Camanoe Island to Lee Bay. As long as a northerly swell isn’t running, this is a very secure anchorage that shoals gently up to the stony beach. The holding here is good in sand. A nice breeze sweeps across the low area behind the beach and there are high hills on either side. There is very interesting snorkeling along the north shore where huge slabs of rock have fallen into the sea. I consider this a north shore anchorage and not a good place to be when a north swell is running.
Also on the north shore is Brewer’s Bay, a deep and picturesque anchorage. Just around the corner from Cane Garden Bay, you will likely find yourself the only boat in the harbor. There is a lovely palm lined beach and numerous tasteful homes nestled in the hillsides. Many charter companies consider Brewer’s off limits during the winter season due to the swell factor.
Virgin Gorda is well off the beaten path and perhaps our favorite. It seems most folks head to the Baths for the day, then sail to North Sound for excellent protection and popular bars and restaurants. Swell permitting, Savannah Bay and Mountain Point along the western shore are terrific anchorages. Again, some charter companies have policies that make these bays off limits.
Savannah Bay is a little tricky to enter but the cruising guides are accurate and our experience has been that it is less daunting than the guides indicate. The snorkeling is excellent and the beaches are some of the best in the B.V.I. Pond Bay (under the hillside development) is our favorite here, with pretty reefs and a great beach. Just make sure to heed the guides and enter and exit the bays from the Blowing Point (south) end of the bay.
A bit farther north, inside Mountain Point and north of the Nail Bay development is a lovely sandy anchorage at Long Bay (not to be confused with Long Bay, Tortola or Long Bay, Beef Island). Snorkeling is superb and a long tongue of sand extends to the shore where one can get close enough to run a stern line to the beach. The wind loops over the mountain and at anchor you may be blown shoreward, so anchoring stern-to works well. Long Bay is becoming well known as a good settled-weather anchorage and there is plenty of room for three or four boats.
Gorda Sound is home to several watering holes and there is an abundance of moorings to be had at Leverick Bay, The Bitter End and Saba Rock. However, Eustatia Sound is a fine alternative just around the corner. There is a nice anchorage west of Eustatia Island and also off of the beach on the northeast side of Prickley Pear Island. This is one of the nicest beaches in the area. As with any of the north-exposed anchorages, this will get rolly when the north swell comes in. These swells are generally well forecasted and one can easily slip back into the protection of North Sound in advance of a swell.We enjoy spending time here to take advantage of the numerous hiking trails at Bitter End and Biras Creek. Any one of the trails will reward you with spectacular panoramas of the surrounding waters.
Secluded anchorages are not always easy to come by, especially in the B.V.I., but with a little time spent off the well-worn path you will come to realize they are some of the most rewarding places to drop the hook and take a stroll.
Skip Pond owns Pond Yachts Sales in Rhode Island and is a dealer for Outbound Yachts. A long time professional skipper, Skip and his wife Madeline now spend their winters cruising in the Caribbean aboard their 40-foot sloop Saralane. Contact Skip through his website www.pondyachtsales.com.