All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine
Nancy Terrell -- August 2007 Issue
Sailing Virgin Gorda
If you're tired of hurricane season, forget your stress and sail to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands—if bad weather does come up, there are plenty of "holes" nearby. Sailors and locals believe that Virgin Gorda is the loveliest of all of the islands in the BVI and enjoy its many deserted coves, small inlets and beaches. Recently, I had the pleasure of sailing around the outside of Virgin Gorda to rediscover the beauty that I have always loved.
Spanish sailors gave Virgin Gorda its name because it reminded them of a "fat virgin" shaped just like the portly, irregular shape of the island. The center of Virgin Gorda is a steep, forested zenith, Gorda Peak, which divides the island into two distinct sections. Hike to the top of Gorda Peak—the highest point on the island at 1,359 feet—in about 45 minutes. The walk is challenging but worth the effort as the view from the top is exhilarating.
The most famous spot for sailors who enjoy snorkeling is The Baths, located on the southwest side, a popular destination for boatloads of tourists who, fortunately, are at a minimum during August. Leave your boat on a mooring, dinghy ashore, and snorkel among boulders that are the size of buildings. There is also a maze of caves, paths, grottoes and secret places to visit. I am sure that some of these sites were used in religious ceremonies in long ago days and absolutely, the most beautiful time to visit them is at night during a full moon.
If you are into day hiking, there is a trail that starts at The Baths' main beach—Devil's Bay Beach is at the end of this long trail. Also, be sure to visit the Copper Mine while you are on that side of the island. Here you will find the remnants of stone buildings, a mine shaft, and a cistern that have an interesting and long history. This site is currently under restoration by The National Parks Trust of the BVI and someone there will relate the history of the mine for you.
Also on the western side of the island is "The Valley" where Spanish Town is located, home to approximately 3,500 island residents. Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor is located nearby and has all types of marine facilities with a marina and boat yard available if weather or maintenance demands; both Immigration and Customs are located there. If approaching from the west, do so outside of the harbor entrance. You will notice yachts anchored on your port side as the anchorage is fairly secure at this time of year... join them but watch for rolls and ferries.
To the north is North Sound, a water-sportsman's paradise surrounded by several exclusive resorts as well as uninhabited islands accessible only by sea. Moorings are available as the BVI government discourages anchoring due to fragile reefs. There are many places in North Sound to explore, shop, and dine—The Bitter End Resort, Pussers at Leverick Bay, Drakes Anchorage and Prickly Pear all deserve stops for investigation. Currency is in American Dollars. Bring along a picnic lunch in your dinghy to nearby coves and beaches that are too shallow for anchoring.
The citizens of Virgin Gorda are extremely friendly and live in a kinder, simpler way. Be sure to greet those you meet with the customary "Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon,” or “Good Evening". Remembering your manners will get you started. The magic of the island will do the rest.