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British Virgin Islands: a Mecca for Sailors


 You can just feel it……when you arrive in the British Virgin Islands (BVI’s)  you know you will have a good time.  People are happy.  They smile and say hello, striking up random conversations.

Actually, the BVI’s are darn near perfect.  Mecca for sailers.  Gorgeous water.    Protected waterway.   Secluded and private coves with mooring balls, where one can latch a sailboat and sway in the wind. Strong consistent winds, but less chop and roll than found in the ocean because of its unique geographical position of two almost parallel sets of islands.


Not all those who charter boats know what they are doing.  I recently spent a week sailing in the BVI’s and I talked to a man from Canada who confessed with a sheepish grin that he spent the entire flight coming down from Canada to Tortola reading “Sailing for Dummies.”  Good thing it was a long flight.

That and a four hour crash course with a captain before heading out, he and his buddy said, “We learned a lot.”

Fortunately the captains of our floating home-away-from- home knew what they were doing.  The sailing was great, no, make that fabulous and the visual experience of being in the Caribbean couldn’t be better.

First, the color of the water.  The pictures you see on travel posters or photo books may be “enhanced” with Photoshop, but when you get there you see that they are the real deal.  Depending upon the depth of the water and the direction of the sun, the water glistened and shimmered the most amazing greens and blues.

I’ll always remember the time we sailed out of a short  gray misty rain squall to the most brilliant marine blue water highlighted with white waves and gleaming boats. When I didn’t think it could get any better, we turned to go into the  cove where we planned to spend the night, it turned mind -boggling green.  One of my sailing mates shouted, “Color change” as she grabbed her camera.  It is stunning.

The beaches are better than what you see on the postcards.    The sand is soft and silky, the water blue and the hammocks the ultimate in lazy life.


But sometimes I ohhhed and awed over the palette of silvers and grays.  When a squall came our way or the sun disappeared behind a cloud, the surreal mounds of flat islands and silvery water, made me feel like I was in an Ansel Adams photograph.   After the   short rain squalls we encountered occasionally  we were rewarded with rainbows worthy of illustrating   children’s books.  Like, how can Mother nature create such a perfect image in front of us?


 I loved sunsets and sunrises.  Watching the brilliant colors take over the sky and the reflection on the water around us amazed me every day. I got some pretty good images to share, but the memories of watching the sun come and go will remain with me forever.

Also visually delightful were the tiny gathering areas (too small to call towns) where we stopped for fresh lobster,   great fish sandwiches, a tiny bit of shopping and lazy consumption of  drinks with names like Pain Killer.  The happy mix of pastels and sunny brights are just too much fun.  In fact, it is part of what communicates that this is a place to have a good time. No one is taken back by the goofy stuff like this tree growing out of pink roof .


The boats were great to oggle. We saw lots of of huge party boat catamarans and boats  like the 37 foot Beneteau we chartered.   But we also saw yachts, old sailboats designed to look like pirate ships, a mammoth cruise ship and a plethora of other nautical vessels in all shapes and sizes.

Most of the coves where we were anchored were too small for the yachts.  When we did stay in one with  large sleek neighbors,  they looked so out of proportion and somehow silly with all the salty sailboats and folks who are happy to wear the same pair of shorts and  minimal changes of t-shirts for a week.  I wondered if our  yachting neighbors were lost and trying to find Monaco or some ritzier harbor.


Returning to the Moorings home base on Tortola I found myself taking lots of pictures of the sailboats all in a row…..actually multiple rows.  Their red and blue sails wrapped around the jibs, creating beautiful art in the water.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Mar 19, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for capturing a very magical week Susan . . . we had a great time!

    • posted by
      Mar 20, 2012 Reply

      You are welcome.  We did too! 

  2. posted by
    Mar 19, 2012 Reply

    Terrific Blog and Photos Susan!

    • posted by
      Mar 19, 2012 Reply

      Thank you so much. 

  3. posted by
    Mar 20, 2012 Reply

    Well written…takes me back to the two times I sailed in the BVI’s…I usually don’t like to do the same trip twice, but I could easily go back a third time. Thanks for sharing your week with your readers!

  4. posted by
    Mar 20, 2012 Reply

    your photos bring back our good memories of boating in the islands—makes me want to run-a-way!

  5. posted by
    Mar 30, 2012 Reply

    Susan, I absolutely love the way you describe the photographs that you post!  Your narratives reflect your artistic prowess.   Thanks for sharing your adventures.  Michelle

  6. posted by
    British Virgin Islands: Green Bag Day « turcanin. cu ţ.
    Jul 2, 2012 Reply

    […] * British Virgin Islands: a Mecca for Sailors […]

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    Yikes: Pirate Spotted in the British Virgin Islands | DesignDestinations
    Mar 10, 2013 Reply

    […] more about the BVI’s, click on this link.  Or simply enjoy the sampling of scenes–photos I took on a recent trip.  For a visual, water […]

  8. posted by
    Dec 15, 2015 Reply

    Your blog is making me think I might really enjoy this destination! Your photography is incredible!!

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