What are the BVI’s really like?
We’ve been in the BVI’s for 3 weeks and we’re forming a pretty strong opinion of it. Before we arrived we’d heard a lot of negative reports of the BVI’s from fellow cruisers, mainly regarding the crowded anchorages, high costs and the plethora of hazardous charterers. We’d been in the Caribbean for over a year before arriving in the BVI’s and assumed it would be more of the same, except more expensive and with a high likelihood of having an inexperienced charterer t-bone you in the middle of an anchorage (as happened to our friends at sailing b+a on day).
It is all of those things. But it’s totally surpassed our expectations.
Sometimes is hard to separate the place you visit with the experience you have. In other words, you could be in the most amazing anchorage in the entire world, but if you’re, I don’t know, laid up with ciguatera or something, you’re probably not going to have a very positive opinion of it. Conversely, you could be somewhere fairly average but meet the love of your life (as happened to Nick and me in New Delhi) and therefore have very fond memories of that place. So. My roundabout point is that Nick and I have had a fabulous time here in the BVI’s and a large part of that can be attributed to all the amazing people we’ve met. I’m not sure it’s done our livers much good, but never mind that.
However, the BVI’s is, unquestionably, a brilliant cruising ground. It is totally gorgeous for one. The water is crystal clear, the anchorages well protected, the snorkeling good, and the distances are so short that we haven’t used our mainsail since leaving St Martin (suits us just fine!). And it’s not as expensive as I’d thought. Yes, sometimes the anchorages are full of mooring balls- but if you’re determined, there’s almost always room to anchor if you look hard enough. That’s not always easy to do when you’re in a brand new bay and trying to get your bearings, but it’s certainly possible. We often pick up a buoy the first time we visit a bay, but, having sussed out the best anchoring spots, on our second visit we’d be happy to drop the hook.
Weathering the storm at Nanny Cay
After almost losing the outboard off our dinghy crossing the channel, we tied up in Nanny Cay marina with the idea that we’d stay two nights, get all our laundry, internet and sewing jobs done and then head back to anchor. I had been chatting a bit with Carly from Salty Kisses on Instagram who happened to also be in Nanny Cay, and so that first afternoon I hunted her down at the beautiful pool and we finally got to meet in person. It turned out that this caused an awesome domino effect where Nick and I were introduced to a friend of hers, Brittany from Windtraveler, a blog I had been reading for many years. Brittany lives in Nanny Cay and knows pretty much everyone, so that night was spent chilling at the beach bar and meeting a load of cruisers, ex-pats and liveaboards from the area. We had so much fun that when the weather forecast showed some really wild winds for the next week, it didn’t take much to convince us to stay put and continue to hang out with all our new friends- which is how we met Bo and Alison from Sailing B+A who in turn eventually introduced us to Mike and Gena from Freebird, Paulo from Mamo, and Dave and Renee from Alegria. But more on that next week.
The crazy winds hit on the Monday, just in time for Brittany’s 3 year old twins’ birthday party! It was held at the beach bar anyway, and everyone rocked up in their foulies looking for all the world like we ought to be back in the UK instead of the tropical Caribbean. However, no-one let it spoil our fun and there was a terrific turn out all the same. The following night- still cold and windy!- a few of us were invited around to Brittany’s mother and mother-in-law’s condo here in Nanny Cay where we all had a potluck dinner followed by a bit of late-night craziness in the beach bar. I vaguely recall declaring my love for Brittany and Alison before informing Nick that we were moving to the BVI’s so I’d never need to leave my new BFF’s.
Jokes aside, it is crazy how quickly you form friendships while cruising. A lot of cruisers are very sociable people but when you’re living with just your partner and all your friends and family are on the other side of the world, you become very attached to other people very quickly. It makes cruising so much more rewarding when you get to meet such a variety of people who are sharing it with you, but on the other hand, goodbyes are part and parcel of the nomadic lifestyle we lead. Although, as I keep reminding myself, it’s not ‘goodbye’ but rather ‘see you later.’
We finally escaped the marina
At last the weather cleared and once we’d paid our eye-watering marina bill we headed off to the USVI for a night in order to renew our BVI visa. We dinghied around to Cruz Bay to clear into the US for the first time (very exciting moment) and were pleasantly surprised at how, well, Caribbean it was. How ironic that a town with such a strong local vibe was actually located in the US.
Once we had cleared in, we headed over to Francis Bay which is surely one of the most beautiful bays in the virgin islands. You’re not allowed to anchor unless you’re over 60 foot which means most boats need to pick up a mooring ball and pay the $26/night. This is because most of St John is a national park, and the mooring buoys prevent further damage to the coral and sea floor, which I heartily agree with. I have no problem paying money which is going to be used to help regenerate and protect the marine life on the island. So much coral we have seen in the Caribbean is dead, dying or at the very least very, very unhealthy which is such a shame.
Hope you enjoy the video and we’ll see you next week!