|The British Virgin Islands is one of the most popular sailing areas
in the world. Over sixty isles and cays are scattered along Sir Frances
Drakes channel and provide a variety of places to explore, both on land
and underwater. Obviously, one of the best ways to see more than
one island is with a boat!
Public and private ferries link the five largest islands, but the only way to reach the others (and some of the most interesting) is by boat. Many visitors charter a yacht for a week and spend their days cruising the islands, while others do day trips with charter companies. Some resorts offer a land~sea package to guests who will spend part of their time at the resort and part sailing around the islands.
During a Peter Island vacation, we signed up to do a day sail with Silmaril,
owned and crewed by Paul and Judy Rydburg, a totally delightful couple
who gave us a wonderful floating tour. They have been in the BVI
for more than a decade and know every square inch of the islands.
Silmaril is a masterpiece - a 41' yacht, handcrafted in the Far East of
polished teak, and she skims the water like a dream.
Unlike most charters which only offer week long sails, Paul and Judy specialize in day trips and 1 or 2 night cruises - perfect for those who want to "test the waters", but not spend 7 days at sea. You can find one of their suggested 2 day itineraries by taking the link at the bottom of the page.
The prelude to this trip is the fact that I had not been on a sailboat
in 30 years! The main reason is that I usually get seasick, whereas
my hubby Kenny has NEVER had the problem. However, we'd been diving
for over 10 years and I seemed to be getting my "sea legs" on all those
short dive boat trips to reefs throughout the Caribbean. Time to
give sailing a try again! I took a Bonine (which I like better than
Dramamine) and Paul and Judy assured me that they were armed with all kinds
of remedies for "mal de mer" if something else was needed.
We left the dock at 9 a.m. and decided to explore the southwest region of the BVI which has some of the most popular snorkeling and partying spots in the islands - namely Callaloo on the Beach, The Indians, The Caves and the Bight of Norman Island. We didn't make it to snorkel the Wreck of the Rhone at Salt Island or Cooper Island (the next one up from Salt), but Paul and Judy often take folks in that direction for lots of snorkeling and a beachside lunch.
As Paul set sail, we noticed that the wind was fairly strong and were
in for a perky cruise! He headed west along the north side of Peter
We first drifted past Callaloo's Bar and Restaurant in Peter Island's Great Harbor. For those of you who have read about Tortola's Prospect Reef Hotel's so called "Peter Island beach" - it is on a remote side of Peter Island, not at the resort. This small strip of sand, called Buttonwood Bay has a "restaurant in a tent" called Callaloo, a pier, and some water toys. Guests staying on Tortola at Prospect Reef are ferried over twice a day. Had the bar been open, we might have stopped for a snorkel and drink. Alas, it was too early! <grin>
We left the protection of Peter Island's high hills and swiftly sailed
toward the Indians - one of the most popular snorkeling and diving sites
in the BVI. We were moving along at 7 knots, heeled over so that
my hand could easily skim the water! What fun and not a tinge of
sea sickness - we were having too much fun for that!
The Indians is called such since several large underwater mounts rise out of the water and resemble a feathered war chef bonnet. The reefs team with fish and colorful coral - the combination of snorkelers and divers is interesting (we've done both)... divers look up at groups of snorkelers floating above; snorkelers look down at rising bubbles from "schools" of divers. The sea bed dramatically falls and rises all the way around the mounts, so Snorkelers will view coral reefs up close and in the distance too. It's one of the few places in the BVI where this occurs and is one of the reasons The Indians is so popular.
We headed to Norman Island next to visit the famous "Caves", another great snorkeling spot to explore. Norman allegedly is the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Treasure Island" and no doubt a few pirates hid in the Caves back when. Today it provides a unique area for snorkeling - be sure to bring a waterproof flashlight to see the cave walls!
Next stop (just around the corner of the island) was The Bight, a huge Norman Island cove and home of two party places - Pirates Bar & Restaurant and the floating party ship The Willie-T. It was late morning and extremely quiet in the Bight, but as the day goes on and night falls, the number of sailboats increases along with a festive atmosphere!
We caught a mooring offshore and took the dinghy to the pier.
A nice sandy beach was lined with chairs and provided a great spot to sip
a drink and watch the boats.
Just across the Bight floats a big black ship William Thornton, better known as "the Willie T" -- a two mast sailing vessel, which no longer sails, but lays anchored as the ultimate "party boat"! It features a bar and menu, plus lots of rollicking good times for the yachting crowd who like late night action. More than a few have proclaimed it the resident pirate ship and walked the plank after a few "body shots"!
Sailboats usually moor in and around "The Bight" for the night and their occupants spend all evening at one or both bars. Obviously, it's one of the "hot spots" in the BVI.
We sailed back to Peter Island down Drakes Channel and enjoyed viewing
all the islands on either side of us. What a great day we had!
If you are headed to Peter Island or the BVI and want a very personalized sailing tour, contact Judy and Paul for a booking. Depending on how long your sail lasts, you can explore many parts of the Virgins. A full day sail could take you to Virgin Gorda and the popular Baths; a two day sail would allow time to explore many other islands and sites too.