09 April 2013

BVI's in 30 days

Deep Bay @ Virgin Gorda

After arrival by boat on a foreign island first thing we (usually just the captain) have to do is clear customs and immigration at one of the official ports of entry. We usually don't need a visa as Swiss citizens cruising in the Caribbean (besides the islands that are US territory but that's another story). In the British Virgin Islands (short BVI's) private boats are automatically given 30 days to cruise around. As mentioned before we had guests for three weeks and except a few days before their arrival and after their departure we cruised the islands together. Therefore we used up the time to the last day!

Bitter End Yacht Club @ Virgin Gorda
Together with a selection of (1'500!) pictures taken during this time that you can find on our facebook page we'd like to share some of our impressions of the BVI's.
First of all: the local people are really friendly and helpful contrary to some rumors we'd heard. However it's true that there are A LOT of charter boats and that many anchorages are dotted with mooring balls to exaggerated prices. Talking about prices - grocery shopping and eating out ranks amongst the most expensive we've seen so far in the Caribbean. We learned that the best and cheapest spot for a full provisioning is Road Town. Even though it's hard to find any local produce you might get lucky in Rite Way and get some bananas, tomatoes, peppers and such. Just ask one of the staff in the vegetable section they really know what's in stock and can point it out for you. Cash'n Carry next door is really good for shopping in bulk. And close to the Mooring charter base is a very nice French bakery with the best bread in the Caribbean. If you need to do some laundry we found a good one in East End/Fat Hog Bay behind James Town Marina. They have brand new machines and it's a very friendly atmosphere (a laundry lady showed me her way to fold fitted sheet neatly on your own).
The sailing in the BVI's is very relaxed as the distances are short. You really have time to get from A to B. The sea state usually isn't a problem as you can sail in the lee of an island. We were a bit unlucky as there was a very persistent North swell prevailing the whole time we've been in the BVI's. Therefore we skipped Anegada (it's a flat island surrounded by a huge reef, known for good snorkeling and its delicious lobster) and any other islands or anchorages that are open to the North - we hate rolly anchorages!

The Baths @ Virgin Gorda

The BVI's are really divided: on one hand it's very commercialized for all the Charter boats and Cruise ship tourists. On the other hand you can find anchorages on uninhabited islands with crystal clear water with tons of fish where you're just a handful of boats. For example when you have enough from the crowds in the Baths or from the partying in Willy T you can just move around the corner to find your peace and quiet.
We've to admit that is wasn't our favorite from all the places we've been to so far. Mostly because of its lack of a certain Caribbeaness, a local touch. But it was the perfect place to introduce our guests, who never stayed on a boat before, to sailing and a cruising life.

A special Thanks goes to Diana & Joern on s/y Scooby II for all their useful tips and recommendations to the BVI's. You should write a cruiser's guide as we've grown to dislike the one we use (by Nancy & Simon Scott) for its lack of detail!

From paradise with love

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