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Cut the crowds, bypass the buoys and slip into solitude for the best of the British Virgin Islands (BVI). In this article Lynda Shelley shares her favourite anchorages of this idyllic cruising ground.

The BVIs are a very popular cruising destination. There are countless boat here: liveaboards like us ply the crystal blue waters alongside both skippered and bareboat charter yachts. There are plenty of marinas to choose from, but the main attraction is the abundance of beautiful anchorages, many of which have now been dressed with neatly-spaced, well-maintained moorings. Expect to pay the equivalent of a couple of rum punches (US$30-40) for a nights stay.

Whilst this arrangement most certainly prevents the inevitable chaos of a “free-anchoring” scenario, particularly in the more crowded and shallow bays, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. We much prefer to use our own anchor, and steer away from the crowds to find a bit of solitude. Fortunately, with some careful planning, good timing and a little luck, you can still experience some of the best and most beautiful anchorages in the BVIs and not have to shell out for the mooring buoys.

Here are our favourite places for getting away from it all in the BVIs:

1. The Baths – a most iconic BVI anchorage

This small but beautiful beach graces the cover of many cruising guides and yacht charter brochures. And rightly so! It is a stunning and unique place with huge boulders scattered about as if they have been flung down from the heavens. There are 20 or so mooring balls that will inevitably all be snapped up by about 8:30 AM on most days!

However, if you are looking for a less obvious place to stay, and if conditions are calm, you can make use of a fantastic anchorage just north of The Baths called Valley Trunk Bay. Here you will find a lovely (and usually deserted) white sand beach with a few boulders of its own, and it is an easy SUP or kayak trip to The Baths. Along the way you will find two more smaller beaches that are well worth exploring too. It is worth noting that most charter companies have their changeover day on Saturday, so get up early Saturday morning and you might find you have The Baths all to yourself!

2. Anegada

The island of Anegada is a fair distance north in the BVI group, and the strong trade winds can make the trip across a quick one and bumpy one; this has the advantage that it is often left very uncrowded. The anchorage can be exposed to winds with any south in them and is quite shallow. The best place to anchor is just to the west of the mooring fields. If you prefer even more solitude then you can duck around to the west of Pomato Point and anchor there too.

Once there you can tour the whole island by scooter in a day, and enjoy the famous Anegada Lobster at The Wonky Dog restaurant in the evening.

3. Guana Island vs Little Bay

The small and popular anchorage at Guana Island now has several mooring balls installed along the beach. You can anchor, but holding is not great on a hard, gravelly bottom.

We were delighted to find the aptly named Little Bay, directly south of Guana, on the NE end of Tortola. This tiny bay has a beautiful and deserted white sand beach and great holding in sand for the anchor – plus we had it all to ourselves. A great spot to have a relaxing few days of solitude, and enjoy short walks on the beach!

4. Sandy Spit vs Sandy Cay

Sandy Spit is a tiny little sand island at the eastern end of Jost Van Dyk, directly north of the more popular Sandy Cay. The reef here offers good protection from the swell and you can anchor in nice and close to shore with good holding in sand. There is nothing on the island except for a couple of palm trees and some Lambi shells. A few power boats come and go throughout the day, with passengers going ashore just long enough to get that all important selfie. At night it is very quiet.

As you can see in the photo, we had the place to ourselves early in the morning, when we got up to write our boat name in the sand:

5. Privateer Bay

Privateer Bay, lies at the westernmost end of Norman Island. We found great holding here just south of the mooring buoys. A highlight of this anchorage is the great snorkelling, especially at the northern shore of the bay near The Caves. With a reasonable sized dinghy you can explore the other bays of the island and even head across to The Indians which boasts some of the best snorkelling in the BVIs.

6. The Bitter End

And so to The Bitter End. No visit to BVIs would be complete without a session at this famous Yacht Club. Heading into Gorda Sound, you can catch a glimpse of Richard Branson’s Necker Island with its prominent windmills, and eye watering price tag.

There are a number of different anchorages, moorings and marinas in the Sound, although some can be exposed to the trade winds. We dropped the pick in a well-protected, sandy anchorage on the SW corner of Prickly Pear Island. There is plenty of room here and you can to spread out to the north if you want even more space. It is easy to visit The Bitter End Yacht club from here and enjoy a cocktail or a bite to eat. Fuel and basic provisions are just a short hop away at Leverick Bay.

Whether you are there for a short time on a charter, or you have more time to spare, The BVIs has plenty to offer: from bars and nightlife, crystal clear waters for swimming, snorkelling and diving, as well as some lovely, secluded anchorages, you are bound to find something to fall in love with.

Here’s cheers to that!

By Lynda Shelley

Lynda and her husband Keith picked up ITIKI, their Fountaine Pajot catamaran in La Rochelle, France in 2018. They spent a couple of seasons in the Medeterranean, before crossing the Atlantic in 2021. Once there, they cruised the Eastern Caribbean from Grenada to the BVIs, before heading south to Columbia. They transitted the Panama Canal in early 2023, and are now sailing in their home waters of Australia where they are still trying to figure out what they might do when they grow up.

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