BVI – First Impressions
Having cleared in to the BVI at Jost Van Dyke, we moved on quickly to Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola, where we intended to use hot showers to the point of pruning, catch up on sleep and then check over and fit out again to explore the BVI.
The choice of Nanny Cay was initially driven by the fact the Ocean Cruising Club (of which I am a member) Port Officer for the BVIs is Miles, the General Manager of the marina. However, we got a bit of a surprise when we posted our intention on Facebook. A good friend, Paul Joyce promptly came up to announce his brother, Brendan, also worked at Nanny Cay. I seem to be saying “small world” surprisingly often at the moment.
Needless to say for our first few days here we have been looked after royally. Brendan has sat us down and given us an excellent what to do brief around the islands and Miles very kindly allowed us to use his car to run into Road Town, the main town on Tortola to look around and provision up.
Nanny Cay is a well set up marina with excellent service facilities with dive shops, bars, a small supermarket (bigger than most in the Bahamas) a very good chandlery and “probably the best showers in the Caribbean” quote Brendan. I will concur for the time being and have promised to report back on that with any we can compare to as we travel S.
We also felt wonderfully safe in there with a gated entry and a long way for the kids to have to wander to escape the marina sanctuary. The kids have loved it. More boat kids to run riot with and a swimming pool close to hand. What more could they ask for??
Some information on the BVIs
The population of the island is between 25000 – 30000. However, the number of companies registered to the BVIs is about 400,000 as its financial position and tax free status is well known and is utilized by large international and small companies alike. The BVI was one of the Nations that Ed Milliband wrote to recently on financial behaviour to which the BVI gave back a two fingered salute.
Most of the resident population live on Tortola. However, due to the financial market and the fact that a huge number of companies (KPMG etc) have staff positioned here, the expat community is very large, making up about 60% of the Tortola numbers.
Most staff come out for stretches of a couple of years at a time. It means that house prices and the rental market are expensive and inflated.
A few staff stay longer and we met one lawyer at Norman’s Island who had been out here for 10 years, was just planning to go back to the UK and definitely not looking forward to going back to the City.
In terms of geography, the BVI islands are all very close together. Having got used to 20-30 mile jumps required between islands in the Exumas, we have been surprised at how little sailing you need to do between anchorages and mooring here.
Most islands are within visual distance of each other and looking at the chain S of Tortola which we will travel through over the next couple of weeks, the total distance is less than 20 miles covering half a dozen islands. Our daily jump would be less than 5 miles.
The history of the place is staggering as well. We are currently at Normans Island at the SW end of the BVI chain, known locally as Treasure Island. It was thought to be used as a model for the book of the same name, has its own Spyglass Hill and in 1750, part of a treasure trove of $450,000 (what would that be worth now??) was recovered from the island.
We will also be visiting Dead Chest of the famous pirates song which really does exist a couple of islands up
All this explains the popularity of the BVIs as a sailing destination which for us is both a good and bad thing. The good is that we are finding lots of boats with kids and the last couple of days we have been sharing anchorages with Karl, Kelly, Seira and Erica, a Canadian family on Halcyon III who having bought their boat will be pushing off at the end of this year to spend some time in the Caribbean.
It also means that there are lots of facilities on each of the islands, all fit for the charter crowd which means lots of good bars with free internet and the chance of a porcelain on a daily basis (army folk will get this).
The not so good is the commercialism of the sailing here. There are hundreds of yachts buzzing around and the popular anchorages of yesteryear are no longer as they have all been filled up with mooring balls which you are expected to pay for at $30 a night. On our first night at The Bight on Normans Island (about 120 moorings), the 2015 BVI Gay Armada (about 30 boats with Rainbow flags proudly flying – never seen so many gold super tight swimming costumes……) was in as well as a Pirate Appreciation Society with a large number of Capt Jack Sparrows and lady pirates in miniskirts on show. An interesting mix and made for some loud partying! But you got nothing for your $30 other than the ability to use one of their moorings.
Saying all this, it has been pointed out by Lou that if there hadn’t been for the commercialism, then the facilities wouldn’t have been developed to the standard they have etc etc. Entirely too logical. My only answer is that the moorings last year were $25. 20% increase in a year – really?
I would just also like to state that I want to both have my cake and eat it, thank you very much……
We have now moved to a bay a couple of miles away which is too small and too deep for moorings to be placed here where we have rigged a line ashore to anchor Mediterranean style, stern in. It is interesting that all the other five boats in with us are liveaboards as well.
We will continue to look for the smaller less visited anchorages to visit to be able to live as liveaboards and not the holidaying partying crowd. More to follow.