The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are one of the world’s most-loved sailing destinations. The chain of islands is beautiful, with decent winds, calm and warm waters and some of the best views in the Caribbean. It’s a paradise and not a place discounted because of recent events. We show you why sailing the British Virgin Islands is… a great choice!
In 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the British Virgin Islands. Winds reached speeds of up to 215 mph, tearing down buildings and throwing boats into the air. Around 85 percent of buildings on the islands were destroyed, leaving a population of 28,000, most of who live on the main island of Tortola, to pick up the pieces.
The region is not unfamiliar to hurricanes. They tend to happen between June and November, making the best time to sail between December and May. Yet Irma was severe, and when it hit the BVI in September 2017, it decimated the island and significantly impacted the tourism economy. It was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to have been recorded on land. The islands are still recovering, with a long road ahead.
Tourism and the Importance of Sailing
Tourism accounts for around 45 percent of the national income in the BVI, with many of the visitors arriving from the USA. Cruise ships and sailing tours are two of the most popular forms of tourism, with over half the guests coming for sailing.
Many different ways exist in which to sail the BVI. You can sail your boat there if you have one, charter a boat while you are there or go on a group tour with a captain. Also, there are regular competitions available. You can win a trip with PokerStars on the “Streamboat” to the BVI, a perfect course of entry for the keen poker player. All this brings a lot of money into the region, as sailors utilize restaurants, marinas and mooring buoys.
Hurricane Irma destroyed, scattered and sunk around 80 percent of the 4,000-strong fleet of charter boats around the BVI. Boats have been quickly brought in from the outside, but this, along with the general damage to amenities and infrastructure, has drastically affected sailing tourism. That’s why now is the perfect time to visit the BVI.
Why is now the perfect time to go?
The BVI government stresses that there are now 300 rooms and 800 berths available on the sea, while BVITraveller.com’s data shows that 90 out of 150 restaurants are now open as well as 45 out of 300 hotels. Though there’s still a lot of damage and a lot of work to be done, the BVI is now open for business once again, and it is one of the best sailing destinations in the world.
Many of the major sailing tour companies have now relaunched their solo and group tours, which is boosting local tourism. However, tourism figures are still down 85 percent from previous years. Indeed, there are fewer cruise ships and fewer charter boats.
Fewer cruise ships and fewer charter boats sound perfect for anyone looking to sail their vessel in the BVI. The region is usually quite expensive, busy and somewhat dangerous to navigate; not because of the winds or the sea, both of which typically make ideal sailing conditions, but because of the inexperienced charter boat drivers who don’t know when to give way.
Now is the perfect time to go to the BVI because it is quieter than usual, yet the islands and their infrastructure are on the up. A sailing trip to the BVI will also help to support the local economy, which relies heavily on tourism and could do with a boost.
If you do want to sail the BVI, plan your route carefully and make sure that marinas and other amenities that you intend to use are open and functional. Head out to the beautiful main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda with its baths and caves, Anegada for iguana spotting and Jost Van Dyke for cocktails on the white sandy beaches. Check out up to 50 smaller islands for the sailing trip of your life.