British Virgin Islands

Road Town, Tortola, BVI

This is Road Town, capital of the BVI and my third British territory in a row. “Road Town” may seem an unimaginative name for a town since all towns have roads. The name derives from the nautical term โ€œthe roads,โ€ a place less sheltered than a harbor but in which ships may lie at anchor. (Thanks to David Fairman for this bit of etymology.)

Road Town has a spectacular harbor, famous for being a place where British ships re-provisioned. With the gradual post-Covid recovery of travel and tourism, Road Town’s harbor is busy with boats once again.

Catamarans at the Moorings Yacht Club
Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

With warm water, steady trade winds, safe anchorages, and more than 50 islands to explore , the BVI is an ideal place to sail. The BVI describes itself as the yachting capital of the world. It’s certainly one of the best places in the Caribbean to organize a bare boat charter. I timed my visit to the BVI for the annual Spring Regatta, hoping to find a position as a deckhand on a yacht sailing south through the Leeward Islands. Although the yachtsmen I chatted with were friendly and had good stories to tell, they all had full crews.

Award ceremony at the BVI Spring Regatta

Sailboats aren’t the only boats in Road Town harbor these days. Last Tuesday, three cruise ships brought ashore as many passengers as there are residents of Road Town — 15,000. Since Road Town’s wharf can only accommodate two cruise ships, the third ship was tethered offshore. As in other Caribbean ports, the locals are ambivalent about cruise ships. Cruise ships provide all-inclusive services, including their own guided tours at each port-of-call. Consequently, few cruise ship passengers interact with locals or spend money at local businesses.

Three cruise ships squeeze into Road Town harbor

Boatless, I rented a car to explore Tortola. It’s a stunning island with a lot of untouched natural areas.

Looking southwest towards Saint John in the American Virgin Islands
Smugglers Cove beach on Tortola’s west end
Frenchman’s Cay, a quiet place for lunch

Entering the BVI, I encountered strict enforcement of current Covid restrictions. All the passengers on my plane had their temperatures checked, their vaccination records confirmed and their negative antigen tests verified. Only then were we sent to immigration and customs. Although every shop on the island required masks be worn, open air restaurants and yachting parties didn’t.

I made the most of my three days in the BVI. Although tempted to spend more time in this lovely place, I have to keep moving. Next stop is Sint Maarten.