Sailing the British Virgin Islands – Lesser Antilles (British West Indies)

Cruising Capital of the World

The craggy peaks of a submerged chain of volcanoes form the British Virgin Islands, scattered across miles of incomparably blue sea. The islands have been considered prime cruising grounds since the 1600s, when pirates would find the perfect hiding place among their endless coves. Today, seven out of ten visitors come here for a sailing vaca­tion, and those three unsuspecting land­lubbers don’t know what they’re missing.

Sixty-plus islands, islets, and cays offer sailors the chance to drop anchor in inviting, deserted coves, walk empty beaches, visit Tortola’s Cane Garden Bay at sunset, or dive the wreck of the 310-foot RMS Rhone, a royal mail steamer that sank in a hurricane near Salt Island in 1867.

The Moorings, a world-famous yacht oper­ation, has its Caribbean headquarters in Tortola. The seventy-two-slip charter dock and seventy-slip visitors’ dock are a tourist destination in themselves. Stroll the boards and meet some of the most interesting boat lovers and owners in the world. Most of these yachts probably sell for more than the home you left behind, many in the millions. The Moorings’ hotel, the Mariner Inn, is a beloved boaters’ hangout that accommodates Moorings customers before and after rentals of bareboat and crewed sailing vacations.

Nearby—although way up at 1,300 feet above sea level—the lofty Skyworld restau­rant provides an amazing 360-degree view of these sailing waters, plus one of the most innovative menus in the area. Order the conch fritters, which even the locals admit are the best on the island, and Skyworld’s signature steak, prepared with port and peaches—you’ll start looking for available island real estate in the morning. Throw caloric caution to the wind and go for the “chocolate suicide” dessert, made with dark and white chocolates.

About 2 miles west, Bomba’s Shack is the island’s oldest, most memorable, and most uninhibited watering hole, and one of the Caribbean’s most famous bars. The colorful makeshift decor—driftwood and flotsam nailed together, with a sand floor and walls fes­tooned with old license plates, postcards, abandoned rubber tires, and paper leis—helps camouflage a powerful sound system that gets things jumpin’ even before Bomba’s Punches (made with homemade rum) kick in.

Crowds of yachties and folk from all over Tortola and the neighboring islands fill the beach and rock on to live music until the wee hours during “full moon parties,” and on Wed­nesday and Sunday nights aficionados gather for the all-you-can-eat barbecue of Creole specialties.

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