Every other year, I set out on a sailing trip in February with my husband and two other couples. We charter our own bareboat catamaran and sail for 10 days, island hopping, snorkeling, and generally enjoying the escape from winter. For the captain and his wife, it’s mostly about the boating; for the others, it’s mostly about the sun and sand and music and relaxing; for me, while it’s also about those things, it’s a lot about the food too. This will be a long post, but I’ll give you all sorts of tips you’ll find handy if you are going to find yourself on any of these islands any time soon!
Room with a view – from our room at the new Westin DIAFlying out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on our way to Tortola
Getting to the BVIs from Colorado is not an easy feat, so you know we must love it or we wouldn’t go through this: spend the night at DIA on Tuesday night; fly out early from Denver to Houston, then Houston to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday; stay at the crappy hotel airport in San Juan on Wednesday night; fly from San Juan to Tortola on Thursday; get briefed and sleep on the boat at the marina on Thursday night; FINALLY, begin sailing on Friday.
Moorings Marina in Roadtown TortolaCaesar SaladBeet and Goat Cheese SaladSeared Tuna with Mango Sauce
Staying at the Marina isn’t really hardship, as it turns out. We had lunch at Charlie’s while waiting for our catamaran to be provisioned, and then had dinner there again because we were exhausted and couldn’t face the notion of going anywhere that night.Our first night stop once we began sailing was Norman Island. There isn’t much there, except for Pirate’s Bight, which it turns out is a great beach, a great spot for lunch, offers a great dinner, and included live music and dancing that night. Winner!
Conch FrittersPulled Pork NachosFish Curry SoupFish and ChipsJerk Chicken
Cooper Island is a small island with just a few private residences and a eco-friendly beach club that was perfect for us. We anchored on a mooring ball, had lunch at the resort, shopped in the gift shop, relaxed on the boat for the afternoon, then returned for dinner that evening. Don’t forget reservations for dinner – it gets busy here with boaters competing with hotel guests for tables.
Chicken Caesar WrapCaesar SaladSeared Tuna with Jasmine RiceMahi Mahi
From Cooper Island it was a short sail around to the southern end of Virgin Gorda, home to the famous rock formations and caves called The Baths. Unfortunately for us, it was a cloudy day with high winds, and the red flags were posted on the beach indicating it was not safe for even strong swimmers to try to swim in or snorkel, so we only got to see the area briefly by dinghy (which was scary enough).Instead we motored around the southwest side of Virgin Gorda to Spanish Town for lunch at Chez Bamboo. As luck would have it, Levi John, with a silky voice and huge versatility, was performing live over lunch, so we settled into our Valentine’s Day celebration!
NachosTuna and Mango Salad
After an afternoon in the water, and enjoying another gorgeous sunset over the water, we headed into Fischer’s Cover for a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
Coconut ShrimpSalad with Nuts and Goat CheeseAnegada Spiny Lobster TailBeef TenderloinChocolate Cake and Ice Cream
From Spanish Town, we decided to sail all the way up to Anegada – it’s further than most people have time to do in just a week, but since we had 10 days, we wanted to see the unique low flat island wrapped in coral beds that is home to the famous spiny lobster of this area. We had lunch ashore, and I’m sure it included chicken wings and probably fish and chips, but beyond that I don’t seem to have any photos from our afternoon there other than the lobster we purchased to cook dinner on the boat.
Spiny Anegada Live Lobsters
After our first year of sailing as a group when I was horrified to see one of my friends attempt to cut apart the live lobsters with what appeared to be a wallpaper cutting snap knife, I am now in charge of dispatching the creatures quickly and humanely, and preparing the tails to grill. Since it’s a small grill in the wind on a boat, it’s easier to cook them through if you cut the tails in half and place them flesh side down on the grill.Can you think of anything better than dining on this surf and turf with friends, bottles of beer and champagne, and warm Caribbean breezes surrounding you on your own yacht? I think not!From Anegada we sailed back down to the north end of Virgin Gorda, destined for the area around The Bitter End. I might add, the winds were in excess of 30 knots, and we made it in 90 minutes, with the women clinging to the stanchions on the front of the sailboat as we dipped through the sea and waves literally crashed over our heads. We have never laughed so hard – although we actually wondered if the men were trying to toss us overboard! We used the dinghy to head over to Prickly Pear Island to the Sandbox for lunch. We were – literally – the only guests on the island, and our waiter Lall was happy to have the company. (We would see the next morning that this place is packed when a cruise ship unloads.) It’s here that I had my first Chicken Roti, and I fell in love.
Chicken Curry in Roti
We were lucky to get one of the coveted mooring balls right near Saba Rock in the Bitter End cove area. Saba Rock is only about an acre big, and is home to an upscale boutique hotel with a great restaurant that is very hard to get into. In fact, my advice for any of these places in the BVIs is to make dinner reservations at least by the morning you intend to go somewhere.
Lobster “Escargot (when in Rome!)Seared TunaWhole Anegada Spiny Lobster
From Virgin Gorda, we began sailing our way around the north side of Tortola, stopping first at Marina Cay, home to the famous Pusser’s store and restaurant. This place is home to the famous Painkiller drink, a concoction of rum and fruit juices that can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful.
After our lunch (which included Painkillers), an afternoon of swimming and snorkeling on the reef around Marina Cay, and drinks (including shots of Pussers rum) while listening to the musicians at the Pusser’s bar, we had no energy or desire for dinner, and instead ate cheese and crackers and fruit on the boat before an early night to bed. When you are on vacation in the sun and wind for 11 days, it’s bound to happen at least one night!From Marina Cay, we sailed along the north side of Tortola to what turns out was one of the better beaches of our trip, Cane Garden Bay. It’s home to a number of restaurants that offer live music, and it’s protected and pretty for swimming. We had lunch at Quitos and dinner at Myetts.
Chicken WingsStuffed Burger and FriesFish and ChipsCobb Salad
From Cane Garden Bay it was a pleasant sail to Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke for lunch at the famous Foxy’s. It was innocent enough during the day, but we could tell by the reverberating sounds in the harbour that night that the late night crowd loves this spot.
Chicken WingsMy second Chicken Roti of the trip
From Foxy’s we wandered down the beach after lunch to Corsairs. Talk about a small world – just about everyone working there is from Colorado, and a few people in our group actually know the owner, although we didn’t know about his restaurant here until this very day. We made a dinner reservation and were treated like royalty when we arrived. You know, whisked to the front of the line, let in through the ropes despite others waiting for a long time – the kind of treatment that is simultaneously great and embarrassing.
Pizza – they had lots of choices and we shared 3 of themWahoo – I chose this because it’s one of the few local fish you see on the menus around here, but didn’t love it
Fortunately Little Harbour, our next planned stop, was just around the corner from Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. After fighting the winds and rain for an hour, we motored in and got a mooring ball. We had some mechanical problems and the staff from Moorings arrived quickly – and informed us the weather further north was so bad boats couldn’t even get anchored or hook up to a mooring ball. We felt grateful, and headed into Sydney’s Peace and Love for lunch served by the famous Strawberry (one of Sydney’s daughters).
Fish and Chips – all 6 of us had it and loved it!
After leaving Jost Van Dyke on our last day at sea, we had planned to anchor on Peter Island, but finding that dead, headed back over to Cooper Island. While most of the group went back to the beach club for lunch, I had a sandwich on the boat and went snorkeling. And I had the best experience of my life, as I was able to swim alongside one of the huge turtles, his gentle face just 2 feet from me! I also saw tons of other fish, including a school of barracuda and a bunch of rays.We headed back into the Beach Club for our final dinner of our sailing adventure. While I didn’t seem to take photos that night, I’m sure our meal included some of the classics we had had all week long: Caesar salad, chicken wings, seared tuna, fish and chips, and plenty of crisp white wine and cold beer. We’re already planning our bi-annual sailing adventure for 2018. In the meantime, here is my “little black book” for the British Virgin Islands.
Moorings Marina and Yacht Rentals – we always rent a 4 room catamaran for 3 couples (extra storage and bathroom that way) and we love the 48 foot option bareboat charter.
Charlie’s Restaurant at the Moorings, Roadtown, Tortola – nice bar, great for lunch before you get on the boat or a celebratory drink when you get off.
Pirate’s Bight Restaurant – great restaurant for both lunch and dinner, nice bar, additional tapas restaurant to the side – be sure to make reservations! Often has live music and dancing at night.
Cooper Island – small private island with a great snorkeling reef just off the beach
Cooper Island Beach Club – close to Roadtown in Tortola, so popular for both first and last night out for sailboats, so get there early to get a mooring ball, and be sure to make dinner reservations as sailors compete with the hotel guests for seats. Some cute gift shops there too.
Anegada – flat, low island further north than most folks go, surrounded by a huge coral reef, very sleepy island without a lot to do, but you can buy lobster from the fishermen there for cooking on your boat.
Prickly Pear Island – a national park and uninhabited except for a beach bar and some water sports, this is just adjacent to The Bitter End Yacht Club in the bay. Cruise ships stop here and ferry people over by the tender-load, so avoid this island if you see a big ship anchored.
The Sandbox – great beach bar and restaurant, if the cruise ships aren’t in the bay. This is where I was introduced to my first Chicken Roti – thank you Lall!
Bitter End Yacht Club – famous yacht club that’s come a long way since I had dinner their with my family nearly 40 years ago (the night my mom accidentally walked off the end of the dock in the dark!).
Saba Rock Restaurant – tiny rock of an island that’s 1 acre big, with a nice restaurant – definitely need reservations ahead of time here. If you pay for a mooring ball you get some free water and ice for your boat.
Pusser’s Marina Cay – tiny 8-acre island that houses everything Pusser’s – famous rum, beach, great snorkeling, shops, restaurant, hilltop bar with music and views.
Cane Garden Bay – great protected beach – wonderful swimming, and lined with lots of bars, restaurants, music, t-shirt stands and more.
Quito’s – there’s an inn there, but we went for the beach front restaurant and the live music. Best chicken wings of our trip.
Myett’s – probably the best restaurant on the beach for dinner – definitely make a reservation
Jost Van Dyke – there is Great Harbour (called the NY of the Caribbean which I found impossible to believe it was so sleepy) and Little Harbour, each offering places to eat. These bays are not as protected as some of the others we stayed in.
Foxy’s – famous party bar and restaurant in Great Harbour – we went for lunch and drinks since we’re old.
Corsairs – many think the best dining in BVIs – fine dining, owned and operated by some Colorado folks, great pizzas, definitely need a reservation and even then you’ll probably have to wait. Owner told us they are undertaking a huge remodel and adding an upper deck which should really enhance this place.
Sydney’s Peace and Love – made famous by Sydney who died a few years ago, and now run by his daughter Strawberry. You make your own lunch order in the notebook, make your own drinks and keep track of them, and then wait – possibly a long time – for your lunch. Still, the fish and chips were probably the best we had on our trip. Lots of t-shirt and beach wear shopping in the stalls run by Strawberry and her sisters.
Peter Island – private island resort, we chose not to go here as there isn’t much offered to boaters coming in.