About Tom Virden

Founder, Boatbookings.com

The BVI – 6 Months after Irma – A Charter Paradise Springs Back to Life!

We just returned from a trip to the BVI, so that we can report first person on the progress that has been made since Irma hit these beautiful islands in September. Bottom line, the BVI was hit hard by hurricane Irma, but has bounced back quickly and still offers all of the fabulous reasons why it has become one of the top charter destinations in the world with fewer crowds!

Overall BVI Charter Readiness

Throughout the BVI there is a buzz of activity as resorts, restaurants, and bars spring back to life. Newly planted palm trees are everywhere. Restaurant owners are painting and re-roofing their beloved establishments. The foundations for chartering are all back in place and working:
Yachts – fleet owners quickly fixed the yachts that had minor damage, ordered replacements for those that were total losses, and moved yachts from other ports in the Caribbean. There are plenty of yachts for charter in nearly all categories.
Provisioning – Provisioning stores are open for business and well stocked. You should be able to get everything you need.
Beaches and Snorkeling – There is no problem finding a great beach or snorkeling area on any of the islands. Coral and Fish were unaffected by the storm, and the beaches have been brought back to life. White Bay (JVD) and Devils Bay (Virgin Gorda, next to the Baths) are pristine and gorgeous. The beach at Deadman’s Bay is fine, but many of the palm trees have been destroyed and there is work being done on the Peter Island Resort so it’s not as pretty as it once was. That will no doubt be improved as the Peter Island renovations are sure to bring in new Palm Trees.
Trees and Plants – Irma was the most powerful storm to ever hit North America – with sustained winds above 180 MPH. This force blew nearly every leaf off of every tree and bush, and destroyed many of the tallest palm trees. The green islands were completely brown right after the storm and many buildings that were unnoticeable now are clearly visible. The good news is that these plants are growing back quickly, and most will soon be in full foliage. Many of the missing palm trees are being replaced by imported new ones, which will take a few years to grow back to their original height. But the good news is that nature renews quickly, and has made major progress already.
Resorts – All resorts on the island are still essentially closed – including sailor friendly ones such as Bitter End and Peter Island. So many of the amenities they offered – spas, massages, fancy restaurants, etc. are harder to come by. On the positive side, Oil Nut Bay, which used to be exclusive and off limits to charterers, now serves a daily lunch and if you eat lunch you can use their pool and beach facilities for free, including their hobie cats. Well worth a visit!
Bars and Restaurants – Excellent news here – most of the famous beach bars are now back open, including Pirates, Myetts, Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar. The Soggy Dollar Bar has been completely rebuilt, including bringing in many new palm trees. The Painkillers haven’t changed, and there are fewer day tourists from other islands so you can actually get a seat on the beach or chat with the bartender. They released an amazing book that chronicles the rebuilding process they went through. As mentioned above, most resort restaurants are still closed, so upscale dining is not what it once was, but will be coming back by next season. Corsairs on JVD is being completely rebuilt, so for now it’s best to dine at Foxy’s. Willy T #3 has been ordered and will soon be replacing Willy T #2, which is sadly still beached at the Bight.  ** New – we have a page that lists all BVI resorts, bars and restaurants that are open and closed, for each island **

Status of the Major Islands

Tortola

Road Town is still visibly damaged and recovering from the storm.  You can still see many destroyed catamarans and monohulls in the harbor (see above).  Cane Garden Bay sustained damage but Myetts is back open with live music, food and drinks.  Sopers Hole and the West End is best avoided, although Pussers is back open while it continues to rebuild.

Norman Island – 1/2 of Pirates is open and in great shape!  The second half is being actively worked on and should be open very soon. You can definitely get fritters and great drinks at sunset. As mentioned above – Willy T’s is still beached, but a whole new boat has been built and is arriving soon.

Peter Island

Because the Peter Island Resort is essentially the only business on the island, the fact that it is closed means that the island is a bit desolate. Deadman’s bay is not as beautiful as it once was because many of the palm trees are gone (see above), and there are signs warning people to stay away from the resort.  There are still plenty of sea turtles to see, but I’d be reticent to stay there until the resort re-opens – which is currently scheduled for late 2018.

Virgin Gorda

The Baths and Devils Bay are still as gorgeous as ever, as shown on the picture at the top of this article. Unfortunately, however, Virgin Gorda was hit directly by the full force of Irma, and many parts are just beginning to rebuild.  The iconic Bitter End was a total wreck, and they are only now beginning to rebuild. Most of the resort will need to be reconstructed from the bottom up.  Saba Rock began reconstruction in April when we were there, and there are hopes it will go quickly, although no timeline has been announced.

Don’t be discouraged, however!  For a fantastic day by the pool in a luxury resort, head over to gorgeous Oil Nut Bay Resort, pictured above.  If you eat lunch there, you can use their facilities including the pool and beach toys.

Anegada

Surprisingly, Anegada shows the least damage of any of the main islands in the BVI. It’s basically back to normal. The restaurants are all open and fully functional and Cow Wreck Bar is happily serving Dark and Stormy’s.  When we were there, the harbor was full of catamarans, and the restaurants were full and lively.  Plus we saw the above magnificent sunset!

Jost Van Dyke

Foxy’s is open and fully functional, in fact we spoke with Foxy and he was in great form! The Saturday night barbecue was in full swing. In White Bay, the famous Soggy Dollar Bar has been fully reconstructed.  You have to play ring toss on a newly erected post instead of the famous old tree (see above), but the charm of the bar is still there and the beach is as beautiful as ever.

Summary

The BVI is up and running and still has all of the attractions that have made it one of the most beloved charter areas in the world. It took a massive hit, and is bouncing back.  It’s not perfect, however, and will still take many months to restore all of the resorts. It was special for everyone in our group to observe the power of nature, the resilience of the people, and the fundamental beauty of the islands. And we knew that every dollar we spent was helping with the rebuilding process. We highly recommend heading to the BVI as soon as you can – it’s fine and getting better every day!

Thinking of Chartering in Greece this Summer? See our new Greek Island Destination Guides to the key Islands

Screen-Shot-2014-05-15-at-3.50.04-PMOn a recent charter to the Cyclades and Saronic Islands in Greece (see our charter itinerary), we realized that there is very little information about many of the key islands that is geared for someone visiting by boat.

We’ve begun to change that, by creating our Greek Island Visitors Guide Series, with the first 9 already researched, edited and released.

So next time you’re in the beautiful Greek Islands and want to know the key ports, what to see, best beaches, etc, then click on one of these guides to help you plan your time. We have even included maps with all the key points marked (it’s amazing how many guides describe great beaches, but give you no way to figure out where there are!)

The guides so far are:

We hope you find these guides helpful, and please don’t hesitate to let us know if we’ve missed an amazing cove to anchor in, a splendid sandy beach, or a spot that can’t be missed. We’ll be happy to add it to the map.

Our Playlist of the Best Sailing Songs to play on your charter!

Nearly all charter yachts allow you to plug in your iPod and play your favorite tunes while chartering.  Over the years, we’ve compiled a playlist of nearly 8 hours of music that all go well while sailing.  It contains lots of songs from the “must haves” such as Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley, plus lots of classic rock songs that are great to sing along with while sailing (or at happy hour).

Here are a few of our selections:

Back In the High Life Again – Steve Winwood
Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
Blue Sky – Allman Brothers
Boat Drinks – Jimmy Buffett
The Boys of Summer – Don Henley
Bright Side of the Road – Van Morrison
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
Caribbean Blue – Enya
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes – Jimmy Buffett
Cheeseburger in Paradise – Jimmy Buffett
Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Click here to see our sailing music playlist and make sure you have great tunes on your next charter!

You may also be interested on our article about technology and yacht charters to understand what to bring and how to use them on a charter, and our list of great sailing and boating iphone apps.

Planning a Sailing Vacation in the BVI? Here’s our complete list of articles, guides and boat listings

Charting in the BVI - White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

We love the BVI, and love writing about it!  In fact we have so many articles, that we figured it would be helpful to list them all in one place for you.  So if you’re planning a BVI charter holiday, you can find virtually everything you need from activity recommendations, to itineraries, to suggestions as to when to go. As well as the best listing of boats for charter in the BVI.

BVI Yacht Charter Guide – Our main information page – provides an overview of chartering in the BVI, each island, things to do, how to get there, climate and itineraries.  No yachts listed.

Itineraries:

Charter Planning Information

Charter Yacht listings

And of course, there are numerous blog posts on BoatBloggings.  See our BVI News Posts here.

 

 

BVI Crewed Catamaran 7 Day Itinerary – Final Sail – The Bight, Norman Island to Road Town, Tortola

Click here to see this BVI itinerary in its entirety

 

Snorkeling, Paddle Boarding and Water Skiing in Privateer Bay

Alex and Carla do their utmost to make the final day a fun one, to counteract the sadness of having to leave behind this magical charter.  They start the day with a light breakfast and then a cruise around the point to Privateer Bay, a quiet place with a nice reef where we had our final snorkel,  water ski and paddle board excursion.

Afterwards, we were greeted with Eggs Benedict, as a final celebration brunch.  What could be better?

Back to Road Town 🙁

Sailing back to Road Town from Norman Island
Sailing back to Road Town from Norman Island

All good things have to come to an end, but we at least still had a nice sail across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Road Town.  We all sat on the front deck, and enjoyed the sail and wind in our faces – no one said a word.

We had one final strawberry daiquiri on the deck, took pictures, and said our thank you’s to Alex and Carla, promising to be back as soon as possible. We also signed their guest book, reading other entries which clearly showed that everyone else had a similarly great time on Souls Calling!

Alex, being Alex, anchored as close as possible to the Ferry Building, and then dinghy’ed us over to the Ferry so that we literally only had to walk 10 feet to get on the Boat. It was so nice to not have to hassle with taxis and hauling luggage at the end of the charter.

Final Anchoring spot in Road Town right by the Ferry Building
Final Anchoring spot in Road Town right by the Ferry Building
Thumbs up from a happy charterer
Thumbs up from a happy charterer

The obvious conclusion after 7 blissful days is that there is no better holiday we can think of than a crewed catamaran charter in the BVI with a great crew!  It just doesn’t get any better than this!

Click here to see this BVI itinerary all in one page.

BVI Crewed Catamaran 7 Day Itinerary – Day 7 – Soggy Dollar Bar, White Bay, Jost Van Dyke to the Bight, Norman Island

Sadly, this is our final full day on Souls Calling.  But in many ways, we’ve saved the best for last!

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, and the Soggy Dollar Bar

We woke up to the quiet and beauty of White Bay, with only a few other boats there.  The first activity was for the kids to snorkel the bay looking for “soggy dollars” – a lot of people lose dollar bills when swimming to and from their boats, and it’s fun to try to find them. We collected $7, and saw a beautiful stingray swimming along the bottom, as well as many other fish.

We then took a walk down the beach to the eastern end, which is pristine and much quieter – a perfect walk to reflect on the past week at the BVI.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
White Bay, Jost Van Dyke – a view of the Eastern Beach

This beach is also home to “Ivans Stress Free Bar” – which has thousands of shells incorporated in its construction and is, well, stress free.

Ivan's Stress Free Bar, White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
Ivan’s Stress Free Bar, White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
Why Worry? A sign at Ivan's Stress Free Bar
Why Worry? A sign at Ivan’s Stress Free Bar

We continued our walk to the end of the beach and climbed the hill to get a good view of the magnificent White Bay panorama.

A view of White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

Back to the Boat, it was time to hit the Soggy Dollar Bar (and t-shirt shop). It was quiet in the early morning, which gave us the time to enjoy the hammocks and beautiful views of the boats.

Souls Calling, as seen from the Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke
Souls Calling, as seen from the Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke

We spent the entire day at the White Bay, including lunch and the requisite “painkiller” drink, which was created there, and watched the scene of dozens of boats arriving, partying, then leaving a few hours later.

The party scene at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
The party scene at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

It is clear why the Soggy Dollar Bar always makes the top 10 list of the world’s best beach bars.

Back to the Bight

In order to get to Road Town by noon tomorrow we wanted a short final sail, so we headed back to the Bight, Norman Island, in the late afternoon.

The route passes the West End of Tortola, with a nice view some of the villas and Soper’s Hole, then past St Johns to Norman Island.

We anchored in the Bight and Captain Alex saved his best surprise for last. He invented what he calls “Halyard Jumping”, where he attaches a water ski handle to the halyard, then another line to his dinghy.  The jumper gets in the water next to the boat, grabs onto the water ski handle, and then Alex floors the dinghy away from the boat.  Physics prevails, and you are vaulted out of the water approximately 50 feet in the air, for an exhilarating ride and view of all the boats in the Bight. You can choose to jump, or simply ease back into the water.

Alex keeps this for last, because it gets rid of the last day blues, and he knows that if he did it on the first day, that’s all the kids would want to do!

 

Halyard Jumping in the Bight
Halyard Jumping in the Bight

Halyard jumping was a fantastic treat for the last night, then a beautiful lasagne dinner prepared by Carla. The perfect final day in the BVI!

Tomorrow – the final sail back to Tortola, and reflections on an incredible week in the BVI.

Click here to see this BVI itinerary all in one page.

BVI Crewed Catamaran 7 Day Itinerary – Day 6 – Little Jost Van Dyke to Sandy Spit and White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

Today we start with a dinghy ride to the pier at Foxy’s Taboo in order to hike to the “Bubbling Pools” – an inlet continually refilled by the crashing waves, then snorkeling at our favorite deserted island – Sandy Spit, and onward to White Bay, Jost Van Dyke,  home to the Soggy Dollar bar and one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.

The Bubbling Pools

After breakfast, we took a 5 minute dinghy ride to the pier at Foxy’s Taboo at Diamond Cay at the far eastern end of Jost Van Dyke. Foxy’s Taboo is not the famous Foxy’s – it is a bar/restaurant that was started much more recently by the same owner. We will pass by Foxy’s later on today!

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Inside Foxy’s Taboo, Jost Van Dyke

Walking along the beach, there is a sandy path that takes you through some mangroves, by a lake and over the rocks (where you can usually see wild goats) and you’ll soon reach the Bubbling Pools. This is a great place to swim in the gurgling waters, climb on the rocks and  enjoy the rhythm of the waves. Kids also love it because of the water crashing regularly into the pools makes for great sport.

A mangrove tree, in the way to the Bubbly Pools, Jost Van Dyke
A mangrove tree, in the way to the Bubbly Pools, Jost Van Dyke
Enjoying the Bubbling Pools, Jost Van Dyke
Enjoying the Bubbling Pools, Jost Van Dyke

After perhaps an hour at the Bubbling Pools, we made our way back to Foxy’s Taboo, and then dinghy-ed back to our boat, for the short sail to Sandy Spit.

Sandy Spit

Sandy Spit is one of the most delightful attractions in the BVI.  It’s simply a deserted island with a few trees and bushes surrounded by beautiful beaches and some very healthy coral reefs.  Perfect for swimming, snorkeling, beach games, and dreaming what it would be like to be shipwrecked on an island. Anchor on the leeward side, jump in with your snorkeling gear and swim ashore to enjoy its simple pleasures.

Sandy Spit
Sandy Spit

We stayed at Sandy Spit for most of the afternoon, then headed to White Bay, which offers two amazingly beautiful beaches: one serene, one host to the daily Jost Van Dyke party scene (more on that tomorrow).

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

Approaching White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
Approaching White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
A Rainbow at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke
A late afternoon Rainbow at White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

We decided not to spend a night in Great Harbor, where most of the boats moor on Jost Van Dyke because of the lure of Foxy’s (the most famous bar and dancing spot in the BVI). It can get quite crowded and noisy there. Instead, we opted for more tranquility and anchored in White Bay and took a dinghy over to Great Harbor for dinner and dancing.  It’s so much nicer to wake up in beautiful White Bay, which is quiet and peaceful until afternoon.

Local Wisdom at Corsairs
Local Wisdom at Corsairs in Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke

Corsairs is  known as one of the best restaurants in the BVI (local fish, meats, pizza, pasta etc.), which was packed because of its excellent value.  And of course, we couldn’t avoid spending a couple of hours dancing at Foxy’s  and meeting the locals.

Foxy's Bar, Jost Van Dyke
Foxy’s Bar, Jost Van Dyke

Tomorrow – Soggy Dollar Bar, a sail back to Norman Island, and Halyard Jumping in the Bight

Click here to see this BVI itinerary all in one page.

BVI Crewed Catamaran 7 Day Itinerary – Day 5 – Anegada to Little Jost Van Dyke

This morning we took a taxi over to Loblolly Bay, which is known for it’s beautiful beach, relaxed lifestyle and beautiful snorkeling on the reef. On the way we got a glimpse of the famous pink Flamingos on the north end of the island.

This beach at Loblolly Bay  is on the Atlantic side of Anegada, so there are larger breakers. There is a small hotel there, with individual bungalows, and a bar/restaurant area.

Loblolly Bay, Anegada

A shaded Bench at Loblolly Bay
A shaded bench at Loblolly Bay
The white sandy beach at Loblolly Bay
The white sandy beach at Loblolly Bay

Sailing to Little Jost Van Dyke

Loblolly Bay took the whole morning, and after returning to the boat for a “cheeseburger in paradise”, we set sail for the long run down to Little Jost Van Dyke. This is a long sail of approximately 3 hours, and because it’s with the wind it is normally calm. It’s good to scan the sea, as often whales and dolphins are spotted.

 

Sailing toward Little Jost Van Dyke
Sailing toward Little Jost Van Dyke, with a view of whales and the north coast of Tortola

We anchored at Manchioneel Bay, on Little Jost Van Dyke.  It is has a small beach with a wind-battered out-of-business bar that is tended by a scarecrow (don’t ask, it’s the BVI), and is quite remote.  We chose it because it was the perfect place for a bonfire and dancing on the beach without bothering anyone.  It is also very close to the Bubbling Pools and Sandy Spit, two of our destinations for tomorrow.

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Bonfire on the Beach, Manchioneel Bay, Little Jost Van Dyke

Tomorrow – Bubbly pools, Sandy Spit, and White Bay, Jost Van Dyke.

Click here to see this BVI itinerary all in one page.

BVI Crewed Catamaran 7 Day Itinerary – Day 4 – Virgin Gorda to Anegada

The North Sound Virgin Gorda is well protected by islands and reefs, so there are few waves there, making it ideal for water sports.  Alex brought out the armada after breakfast, and we spent the morning waterskiing, paddle boarding, wind surfing and kayaking around the beautiful bay. Then after lunch, a one tack sail up to Anegada, which take a bit over an hour in the fresh trade winds.

Watersports in North Sound Virgin Gorda

As mentioned, Souls Calling has a full complement of great water toys, which are a treat for everyone, especially the kids.  We spent the entire morning paddle boarding, tubing, water skiing, kayaking, and just hanging out in his large float behind the boat.  Alex drove expertly, and got everyone up on skis.  Needless to say, we all were happy and a bit tired by lunchtime.

Water Toys
A few of the water Toys aboard Souls Calling
Tubing in North Sound Virgin Gorda
Tubing in North Sound Virgin Gorda

The Sail to Anegada

The constant and predictable trade winds make for an easy, single tack open water sail up to Anegada, which takes a bit over an hour sailing at 8 – 9 knots.  Leaving the Bitter End Yacht Club, you pass by Necker Island, the exclusive island that is owned by Richard Branson and was hit by lightning in 2012 and is in the process of rebuilding.

Rebuilding on Necker Island
Rebuilding on Necker Island
Full Sail up to Anegada
Our companion Lagoon 450 in full sail up to Anegada (Virgin Gorda behind)

Anegada

Anegada is dramatically different from all the other islands in the BVI chain.  It is entirely coral, as opposed to volcanic, and so very flat with little vegetation.

 

Approaching Anegada
Approaching Anegada

Anegada is known for it’s flock of flamingos, which you can see from a bus on a trip to Loblolly Bay, snorkeling on its reefs, long white beaches, and fresh caught grilled lobster dinners. The island is one of our favorite stops in the BVI, although some people find it a bit remote and quiet for their liking.

You’re also nearly guaranteed to get a beautiful sunset from your mooring.

Sunset on Anegada
Sunset on Anegada

We took the dingy ashore and had an excellent lobster dinner – there are 5 restaurants that are happy to serve you.  It’s a good idea, however, to call ahead for reservations so you’re not disappointed.

Lobster on Anegada
Lobster on Anegada

Tomorrow – Flamingos, Loblolly Bay, and Sailing to Little Jost Van Dyke, and bonfire on the beach.

Click here to see this BVI itinerary all in one page.

BVI Crewed Catamaran 7 Day Itinerary – Day 3 – Wreck of the Rhone, The Baths and the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda

Day three has two world famous stops – the Wreck of the Rhone and “the Baths”, and then a nice sail up Virgin Gorda to the beautifully protected North Sound, home of the Bitter End Yacht Club.

We spent too much time the previous day to snorkel at the Wreck of the Rhone, so after breakfast we headed directly to it, going south to the far end of Salt Island. There are several mooring balls at the Wreck of the Rhone (no anchoring, it’s a national park!).

The Wreck of the Rhone

Immediately upon diving in you see a huge sunken ship stretching out into the depths, most obviously the huge propeller and the long drive shaft. A stunning sight!

Marker for the Wreck of the Rhone
Marker for the Wreck of the Rhone

Here’s what it looks like when diving through the propeller area:

We then set sail for the famous “Baths”, an amazing rock formation at the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda.  We anchored just off of the beautiful beach at Spring Bay, had lunch, and then took the dinghy over to Devils Bay Beach.

The Baths

The Baths is a collection of granite boulders as large as 40 feet in diameter that look as if they’ve been dumped by a huge truck. The were formed when molten lava cooled slowly and formed a hard crystalline granite layer. Shrinkage and cracking formed blocks, which are visiable today because the softer rock has worn away.

The Baths Rock Formations
The Baths Rock Formations

There is a nice path with steps and handrails through the rocks of the Baths.  Best to do the hike early or late in the day, as it can get hot and crowded – spoiling your ability to just enjoy nature.  Kids will also love swimming in the pools around the rocks.

Enjoying the Baths
Enjoying the Baths
Walking through the Baths
Walking through the Baths

After enjoying the baths, the beaches, and a nice climb up to the bar/restaurant above called “top of the Baths” where you can get a refreshing drink or lunch, we headed up Virgin Gorda on the way to the Bitter End.  This beautiful coastline has  some of the most exclusive beaches and homes in the world – several movie stars call it have houses along the route.

The Bitter End Yacht Club

The North Sound at Virgin Gorda is well protected by islands and reefs, making it an ideal bay to anchor for the night. Upon entering, you will see the triangular roofs of the bungalows, as well as many moored yachts throughout the sound.  You can also see Leverick Bay on the right and the famous Necker Island (owned by Richard Branson) on the left as you approach.

Approaching the Bitter End Yacht Club
Approaching the Bitter End Yacht Club

You’ll nearly always get a great sunset at the Bitter End!

Sunset at the Bitter End Yacht Club
Sunset at the Bitter End Yacht Club

Tomorrow – north to Anegada, Loblolly Bay and Grilled Lobsters for Dinner!.

Click here to see this BVI itinerary all in one page.