Sailing in Paradise and More Joys of British Virgin Islands

You’ve just cast off from the dock at Scrub Island, a marina lounging half a nautical mile from Tortola’s coast in the British Virgin Islands.

You head out into kaleidoscope waters: royal blue, neon lime, and turquoise. Dead ahead a herd of sailboats rocks gently at anchor, like babies in their cradles.

You clear Marina Cay, turning into wind-rippled seas glittering in the morning sun. Islands across Drake Passage rise up, humpbacked and voluptuous, beckoning you to their beaches, their emerald hills. There is Cooper Island and Norman and Peter.

You give the command to raise the mainsail; you gaze toward Virgin Gorda, with its towering peaks and surreal formations of granite boulders.

You call out your next command, “Trim for a beam reach.”

Your son leaps into action. You continue, “A beam reach for paradise.”

The boat surges forward and you laugh in delight.

snorkelers in BVI

Snorkelers (above) dive into the warm waters of the British Virgin Islands. At top, a gorgeous sunset sail in the Caribbean Sea is the thing to do when in the BVIs. (Photos by Sharon Matthews-Stevens for

You’re skippering a 40-foot sailing catamaran named “Parmenide” a trusty steed you’ve booked through Dream Yacht Charters, one of the world’s biggest charter companies.

For the next seven days you’ll be exploring this ransom of islands and cays under sail. But you don’t have to know how to sail for this journey through paradise, aka the British Virgin Islands, aka the Capital of Sailing.

Discover More: 5 Fun Facts of the Virgin Isles

You don’t even have to know what a beam reach is.

“Plenty of choices,” says Dream Yacht Charter’s customer service representative Isabelle Rouma, based at the marina on Scrub Island. “We offer bare boats — basically you’re renting the boat — for experienced sailors.”

If you don’t know how to sail but want to rent the boat, you can always sign on a skipper.

“You can learn to sail and work the boat for a week or just relax in the always-perfect weather,” says Rouma.

Other options include booking a chef, who will go over the week’s menu with you and treat you like royalty.

Or consider a unique Dream Yacht Charters alternative. Along with your significant other — or partner and family — you can book a single cabin (or more) on one of their boats. Between the crew and the various guests, the week’s itinerary is discussed, based both on interests and weather. “It’s always interesting for us at the end of the trip: so many times people who didn’t know each other at the beginning are friends by the end of the week.”

the indians bvi

The Indians is a popular snorkeling spot in the British Virgin Islands as well as a key landmark for sailors cruising around the region. (Photo by Sharon Matthews-Stevens for

Sample itineraries are built for maximum pleasure. “Maybe a short sail to a beach, maybe a stop for a snorkel,” Rouma says.

But that’s for the huddled masses. You don’t have to adjust your schedule to anyone because you’re the skipper.

For the next few days you might sail for an hour or two. Later in the week you do one of the big passages — five, maybe six hours. The Indians off Norman Island are both a hugely popular snorkel spot and a protected area, so when you can’t get a mooring ball you do the biggest one of the week, crossing west of Tortola and making for Jost Van Dyke.

Not to worry though. On the way there’s room at the Indians and you also hit the water with masks and fins, joined by a school of friendly lemon-colored fish.

But first you discover paradise on the island simply nicknamed Jost. Sunday afternoon at White Bay, doing dastardly and irresistible drinks on a perfect beach at Soggy Dollar, so-called because early sailors swam ashore and paid with moist currency.

Now you discover two of the chief appeals of British Virgin Islands. First, a sailing excursion is an exciting explosion of experiences: from a quirky bar to a great snorkel spot.

Second, according to Dream Yacht Charters base manager Thierry Ote, “It’s an easy hop from one island to another. All the islands are so close, but each one is different and unique.”

And beautiful. Don’t forget beautiful.

Early on the your last day you’re attached to a mooring ball in a bay that reputedly inspired Treasure Island. No. 2 son and his girlfriend have a beach to themselves. No. 1 son and his girlfriend lounge on bow cushions.

At long last it’s time to go. You cast off the boat. Then you raise the sails and adjust them.

You adjust the sails for a beam reach in paradise.


Float Plan: Savvy sailors always have a float plan. To help you add to yours, click on

Reserve a Boat: To book your own boat, a boat with skipper, or a cabin on a fully crewed adventure, check out Dream Yacht Charters website

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