Reach (Don't Beat) Through the Virgin Islands
Here's a winter itinerary you don't hear much about: Experienced Caribbean sailors and qualified bareboat charterers hold dear a secret that they don't want to share with you, but I will.
Whether you’re heading out aboard your own boat or chartering from the U.S. or British Virgin Islands, don’t head east, which will force you to spend most of your time beating into the wind. Head west! In that direction, not only will you find glorious downwind sailing, but also beautiful secluded anchorages that nobody thinks exist anymore in the Virgins.
Even if you’re on charter, and have only a week, sailing to the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques from St. Thomas (U.S. Virgins) or Tortola (British Virgins), then possibly making a dash for the U.S. Virgin Islands’ St. Croix, promises the bonus of a glorious sleigh ride back. On this trip, the majority of your time is spent sailing downwind, or reaching. What could be better?
If you have more than a week, or if you’re on your own boat, the opportunities to spend more of your time downwind than to windward expand even more. Even better, this opens up plenty of time for exploring many gems ashore.
Through the years, I did this run more times than I can count aboard Iolaire, my 46-foot engineless yawl. Go the nearly 40 miles to St. Croix. The sail back to St. Thomas or Tortola is without a doubt one of the best in the entire Caribbean. Want to make it happen? Here’s how.
Keep Culebra, Culebrita and Vieques, the islands smack between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, high on your must-do destinations.
En route, plan on a stop at Saba Island, an ideal jumping-off spot when heading west. There you’ll find a wonderful, secluded anchorage in all normal conditions. Anchor between Saba and Turtledove Cay. The sandbar provides a perfect breakwater, and the wind will guarantee you a bug-free night.