Sailing The BVIs: A First-Hand Experience
We approach the bay, so slowly and quietly it almost seems as if as we are trying to sneak into it and launch a pirate attack, and start searching for a ball to grab.
Not a beach ball or a volleyball, but a mooring ball. We are in the British Virgin Islands and we are on a sailboat searching for a spot to tie up for the night.
This is our daily routine and everyone hustles around on the deck to spy out the best available location. There are often contrasts here. Me, I want to be close to shore and other boats because that’s where the action is, while others lobby to be out away from other boats where it’s quiet.
Once we’re settled – usually a compromise – then we secure the lines and break out the rum. Sunset is approaching and this is the order of the day.
The Experience Of Sailing In The Virgin Islands – Are You Up For It?
• First of all, you’re in a confined space. Even big boats are tiny when compared to hotels and hotel rooms.
• Secondly, you need to have the boat provisioned with food, water and drinks. On a sailboat, you just don’t walk down to the corner store, down to the restaurant or to the bar to grab something to eat or drink. It has to be on board the boat.
• Third, you’ve got limited water so you take very short showers (such as a minute, shutting off the water after you’ve lathered yourself and then rinsing).
• Fourth, you’ll need to do chores on the boat. This could be hosing down the deck, cooking one or more meals, cleaning up after those meals or being the one to grab the mooring balls. I found my niche as the rum-making bartender.
• Last and certainly not least, you’ve got to be good friends with the other people on board because you’re constantly bumping into them since the space is so small.
You Need A Skipper For The Boat
It should go without saying that you’ll need a skipper to captain your boat; otherwise the charter companies will not let you leave the dock. Your skipper needs to know how to read a chart, for there are sudden shallows here and a couple of islands have tricky entrances just underneath the surface.
I’ve been fortunate that each time someone has been able to do this – in fact a couple of people – so I was able to tend to the bar without worrying about running aground at Soper’s Hole (which our skipper did one time, in full view of an entire flotilla, no less!).
If you don’t have a skipper, the charter companies will happily provide one, even an on-board chef. Do note, however, that in addition to the cost the skipper will take the main bunk so you’ll not be able to have as many of your group on board, making the per-person cost much more expensive than if you provide your own skipper.
Sailing Through And To The Islands
This is the best part, of course, and it’s pretty much as you envision it. The waters are blue and clear, the beaches are bright white, the waters are generally calm with little wind and it’s pure bliss.
What’s really great is that pretty much all the islands are within an easy two-hour sail from each other, and that leaves plenty of time to go scuba diving, snorkel places like “the Caves” and spend your days walking through The Baths, drinking Pain Killers at the Soggy Dollar Bar and jumping of the back of the pirate ship Willie T’s.
Late afternoons, you pull into a harbor, grab a ball (dock space is limited and more expensive than mooring balls), have rum drinks on the deck, dinner on board, then drop the dingy and go to the little beach bar on the island for rum punches and Bushwackers. All the islands also have restaurants if you choose not to eat on board.
Time To Go Sailing & Things You Will Need To Pack
The peak times for sailing is from mid-October until around the end of April. It will be warm and humid. Summers are really bot and humid. Boats do have air conditioning in the cabins. Thankfully. Hurricane season is September until mid-October. Rarely do the Virgin Islands get big hurricanes but they do happen on occasion.
To pack, it’s pretty basic and certainly nothing fancy is needed anywhere in the islands:
• Bathing suits. You’ll be spending 90% of your time in one.
• Flip flops (no shoes here, mon!), t-shirts, shorts, sunscreen, mask & snorkel, hat.
• But repellent. If you have access to Avon Skin So Soft, take it, dilute it 50/50 with water, put that in a spray bottle and spray it over yourself.
So there you have it, this is what it takes to go sailing through the Virgin Islands. Maybe I’ll see you there one afternoon, having a Pain Killer at the Soggy Dollar.