With thanks to:

The Moorings

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Virgin territory

2: The longest journey

There are no direct flights from Europe to Tortola, which is the capital island of the BVI. You have the option of flying to neighbouring St John in the US Virgin Islands, or to one of the major Caribbean islands such as Antigua or St Kitts. We took the latter option, combined with island-hopping on the local flying bus service. These small planes are fun to ride, but be prepared for lost luggage, which is apparently typical. We lost bags in both directions, although they reappeared in time. Another hassle is the extraordinarily laboured immigration procedures on these Caribbean islands. The last thing you want at the end of a long, uncomfortable transatlantic flight is to stand in a queue for a very long time — but that’s part of the price you pay.

With various delays, it took 20 hours from home to our Moorings 403 charter yacht in Tortola, and rather longer going home courtesy of Excel Airways who provided a decidedly unexcellent flying experience. Regular long-distance flyers may shrug that off, but from my perspective it seems nuts to travel to the BVI for a week and enjoy a mere six day’s sailing. Go for a fortnight! It not only makes the travel more bearable, but you also need a minimum of 10 days afloat to get a good crack at the BVIs. Yacht charter in the BVI has been driven by the Moorings, which has a large and rather smart marina on Tortola — purpose-built for the exclusive use of almost 300 Moorings yachts, divided between monohulls and cruising catamarans. Since all Caribbean islands have strict work permit laws, the workforce is mainly provided by local people who tend to be friendly, helpful and somewhat relaxed.

Apart from the frustrations of a late arrival and lost baggage, we had no delays setting out from the marina. Provisioning a yacht for five people can be onerous, but on this occasion proved delightfully hassle-free. A charming chap drove us to a very well stocked supermarket, waited while we shopped, packed huge amounts of food and drink into his van and delivered it all to the boat in the space of a couple of hours. His service was so good that the next time we felt in need of a big shop, we returned to the Moorings base for a repeat performance.

It’s possible to pop back to Tortola, or in fact anywhere in the BVIs, because the sailing area is so small and yacht-friendly. Minimal tides and line of sight navigation make it straightforward to find your way around the islands that cluster round Tortola, with the Sir Francis Drake Channel providing a wide passage up the middle protected from the prevailing easterly swell. The only island out of sight from Tortola is the one island without high hills — Anegada is known as the ‘drowned island’ because it rises no more than 28ft above sea level. It’s at least 14 miles from the main group of islands, which means you can’t see the island until quite close, with a necklace of submerged coral reefs waiting to wreck careless navigators.

With thanks to:

The Moorings

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A climate that combines 24-31 degree Centigrade temperatures with reliable trade winds

Next page:3 Climate control

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