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Skipper’s Tips

Secret Spots  –  When editor Owen suggested I divulge some favourite anchorages and tips and tricks for getting around the BVI, I must confess that I felt a shiver of apprehension. Might I be drummed out of the Kaptinz Klub for unauthorized tittle-tattle? Later, when I asked a few friends for some of their best hints and suggestions (since I didn't want to be in this mess alone), my worst fears were verified. The Kaptinz Klub was not about to Ko-operate. I was on my own.

Nothing unusual about that. I did manage to enlist a couple of renegades to the cause, and here follows a random selection of information that could be of assistance to a navigator in need.

 

When sailing around the Virgin Islands, it is essential to know where you are. And saying “the Virgin Islands,” whilst accurate, is incomplete. Some years ago when I was press-ganged into servitude on one of the biggest charter bases, I had the task of taking new charterers out on a test sail. Generally these were routine ticket clippings, but now and then one would stick out. Such as the gentleman who did seem to know it all and after a quick round of “Yep”s and “OK”s, I got off the boat and left him to it. He demanded my phone number which I reluctantly surrendered. Not three hours had passed before I got a call. “Dave,” he said. “Where the hell am I?”  Well, I couldn't tell him that, so I asked him had he turned left or right when he hit the Sir Francis Drake Channel? “Hmm,” he said. “Not sure.”

He thought he was close by Cane Garden Bay, but he was really in Coral Bay in St John. In order to avoid such an occurrence happening to you, here a few tips to help you along.

Most boats come equipped with a small round dome in which sits a circular card on which are embossed a series of numbers and a repetitive collection of small black vertical marks. This is a compass, and it will help you figure out the direction your boat is heading. Please make a note of it.

The anchorages most suitable for bareboaters are well documented in the various guidebooks and often mentioned by the charter companies themselves. In this article, we're going to discuss some less-used spots and some aspects of the more popular areas that might not be general knowledge.

Charter captain Kris Van Wissen says, “In Great Harbour on Peter Island, there's an often overlooked area to anchor, just off the northeast point, on the shelf, about 30 feet deep. Great sunset and protection from wind coming down the Channel. Also, a short sail to base the next morning.”  This is a good tip as there has been a reduction in the availability of decent anchoring spots since the opening of Ocean's 7.

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Another overlooked anchorage is White Bay on the south side of Peter Island. Most of the guide books recommend anchoring close to the beach, but there is a long row of marker buoys clearing a swim zone about 100 yards from the beach, so you'll have to anchor outside the buoys in about 20-30 feet. It's a good spot unless the wind or swell have some south in them, then it can be lumpy.

Across the Peter Island Passage, Benures Bay on the north side of Norman Island is a nice spot, too, but make sure you put out a second anchor if you're close in as sometimes the wind dies, and current can bring a vessel very close to shore.

Jost Van Dyke is extensively covered, but there are a couple of anchorages at the east end, by Little Jost Van Dyke that bear mentioning. Just west of Green Cay, close against the shore, there are some sand patches with room for one or two boats. Depth is about 15 feet. You may need a second anchor to keep the vessel from swinging onto the rocks.

A similar anchorage can be found in the lee of Beef Island by Bluff Bay—especially useful when there's a north swell rolling in.

Trellis Bay is as well known as any anchorage, but it seems that not everyone is aware of the extent of the reef around the Last Resort. Sailors trying to work their way into the bay should be aware of the unmarked reef surrounding Bellamy Cay (the Last Resort). Charter captain Pete Clapp says he sees boats clipping the reef all the time. “Boats should make sure they stay to the south and east of the last line of mooring balls by the reef,” he says. “Keep that line of balls between you and the reef, and you'll be okay.”  Also, brush up on the requirements for transiting the area if the mast on the yacht exceeds 30 feet. Beef Island Tower monitors VHF Channel 10.

Out on the east end of Virgin Gorda, there are any number of fine anchorages in out of the way spots. Some of these remain secrets, but others, such as Long Bay inside Mountain Point, offer fantastic spots for sunsets as well as having some fine snorkeling and peaceful anchorages when the wind is howling. Beware of the north swell though. It is possible to drop anchor close to shore and tie the boat off to rocks or trees on the shore.

There are multiple anchoring opportunities around the Leverick Bay mooring field, too. Just be sure to stay clear of the moorings themselves.

Similarly, there are anchoring opportunities close up to Prickly Pear Island inside the Saba Rock mooring field. For those who wish to take a Saba Rock mooring ball and get a tank of water and a bag of ice in the morning, take care to see that the ball you pick up is actually a Saba Rock ball and not one from the Bitter End. The BEYC balls are placed confusingly close to the Saba Rock field.

There are many fine anchorages around the BVI, and sometimes it is worth bearing in mind that a safe anchorage may not always be a comfortable anchorage. There are some spots—Deadman's Bay on Peter Island being a good example, Cooper Island another—where a persistent roll can cause some discomfort to crew, yet the boat may be perfectly safe. In some weather conditions, the distinction is worth making.

Overall, though, a fine experience can be had by following the suggestions in the various guides. Just be aware that those suggestions aren't the only ones, nor are they necessarily complete. Explore, poke around, but be sure to check your compass, check your chart and try to remember whether you took a right or a left past the channel markers.  

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