Sailing in the British Virgin Islands | Carolyn Pearson

sailing bvisThere is really only one way to experience the beauty of the British Virgin Isles, or as those in the know call them, the BVI’s and that is from the deck of a yacht.

The BVI’s are some of the most beautiful and unspoiled islands in the Caribbean located between Anguilla and Puerto Rico. The main Island Tortola can be reached by a short hop from Antigua and I would recommend one or two nights in a nice resort to really relax and refresh after your flight before jumping aboard.

We spent an amazing week aboard the beautiful 51’ American built yacht Skylark under the expert captainship of British born Dan Bower and his wife Em. Skylark is run as private charter which means that guests can either hire the entire yacht with crew or share it with other guests. Dan and Em supervise the sailing and for those of you who are keen there is plenty of opportunity to man the helm or pull on a few ropes and for those less nautical there are no raised eyebrows if you just want to lay on deck sipping cocktails. Life onboard is communal and generally people who sail are of a ‘type’ who love fresh air, a touch of hedonism, freedom, a sprinkling of adrenalin and good winds. We were fortunate to share our floating home with a bunch of fantastic like-minded people who have since come to be good friends.

BVI-sailing-009The days are relaxed, the itinerary flexible and usually includes a few hours sailing, swimming in the warm seas, exploring deserted islands and beaches and lounging on deck eating the delicious and healthy meals prepared by Dan and Em. Skylark is relatively luxurious with 3 cabins, including one full height double, two bathrooms (heads) with hot showers, I even located the onboard hairdryer but did feel a tad ‘high-maintenance’ being the only person who indulged!

Life onboard is communal and generally people who sail are of a ‘type’ who love fresh air, a touch of hedonism, freedom, a sprinkling of adrenalin and good winds.

Dan and Em are well acquainted with the area and took us to see some of the best snorkel spots in the BVI’s including the wreck of the RMS Rhone just off Salt Island. After a ‘hard day’ at sea we moored off stunning coves ending each day enjoying the last of the sun with a celebratory cold beer, before each of us demonstrating our cocktail making prowess. Dinner entailed either taking the dinghy to shore to a local beachside restaurant or we dined onboard by lamp light marvelling at the clear star filled skies where we were lucky enough to see the odd shooting star.

The still waters in the sheltered coves and the gentle rocking of our comfortable floating boudoir meant for some of the best nights sleeps I have ever had. The refreshing morning dips really helped me to shake off the shackles of stress and responsibility and I was lucky enough to share it with the local turtles.

BVI-sailing-049Every day brought us something new to marvel at but my personal favourites where swimming ashore to the uninhabited Sandy Cay, with its stunning white sands and a visit to The Baths a geological formation of boulders that create warm pools in which to bathe and explore.

The refreshing morning dips really helped me to shake off the shackles of stress and responsibility and I was lucky enough to share it with the local turtles.

Life on Skyelark has the right mix of time onboard and ashore, we spent one of our days at the Bitter End Yacht Club a premier water sports centre at Virgin Gorda offering all manner of activities, including kite surfing and scuba diving, I opted for a private sailing lesson to brush up on my tacking and jibing! For those who wanted a rest from all things nautical there were bars, restaurants, a handful of tasteful shops, a lovely sandy beach, swimming pool and spa in which to indulge the senses on terra firma.

As this was my second sailing trip in the Caribbean I had the foresight to book a few days post-sailing R&R in a beach resort and we opted for Long Bay on Tortola. By contrast it is nice to have a few days to yourself after relatively communal living and after a week on board I was in serious need of a trip to the beauty salon and spa.

Things you need to consider before booking a sailing charter holiday:

BVI-sailing-211Choose a yacht based on recommendation, the personality of the skipper will dictate the entire tone of your holiday. Speak to the skipper in advance to understand what the onboard life and facilities are like and who you are likely to be sharing them with. Also find out whether the trip is fully hosted or whether you are expected to ‘muck in and help out’ to avoid misunderstandings, as many crew greatly appreciate a hand with the dishwashing. I met a lady in the BVI’s who had been ‘evicted’ from her yacht by an intolerant skipper!

And for the ladies, this is definitely a ‘low-maintenance’ activity, ditch the makeup, hair-straighteners and heels and make room for the Factor 50, you will need it.

I wouldn’t consider a sailing holiday now without ‘topping and tailing’ it with a hotel or resort stay. A few nights in a proper bed with long showers and running to your own agenda is essential to allow you to arrive and leave feeling totally relaxed and properly clean.

And for the ladies, this is definitely a ‘low-maintenance’ activity, ditch the makeup, hair-straighteners and heels and make room for the Factor 50, you will need it.

On a private charter you don’t need any prior sailing experience, likewise even if you have many nautical miles under your belt, a good skipper will tailor everybody’s experience to suit them.

About the author

Carolyn Pearson is our Travel blogger and founder of Maiden-voyage.com. maiden-voyage.com is an award winning global business travel network for professional women. Follow Maiden-Voyage: Facebook, Twitter, Linked In

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