Whether you are only familiarising yourself with sailing or have years of experience, it doesn’t really matter – a holiday on Tortola is truly beyond compare. Tortola is the largest and most populous island of the British Virgin Islands with suitable conditions for sailing during almost the entire year. The temperature and the sea is warm, and the breezes continuously provide refreshment. There are short distances between the ports and islands; our trip will be relaxing and spectacular at the same time. We can expect beautiful beaches, gorgeous diving spots, amazing restaurants, and bars buzzing with life here. Tortola is a real heaven for sailors!
This article gives you an overview of the following topics:
- The climate of Tortola
- Ports and Islands around Tortola
- Sail in Tortola! Tortola catamaran tours:
- 7 days Tortola sailing trip
- A week Tortola catamaran tour
- Marine Gas in Tortola, boat gas stations around BVI
Tortola has a tropical climate. It is hot during the entire year, but the dominant trade winds somewhat cool the air down. The period between December and March is usually milder, with an average temperature of 24–25° Celsius. It is very hot between May and October: the daily average temperature is around 28° Celsius. The dry period lasts from January to April; the driest months are February and March. You can expect heavy rainfalls from May to December. The hurricane season is from July to October – it brings strong winds and heavy rains. The sea is warm during the whole year, with an average temperature of 27° Celsius.
The sailing season is between December and April. During this time, the weather is not so hot and the amount of precipitation is also smaller; there is also a lower risk of tropical storms and hurricanes. The wind is north-easterly during the winter months, then blows towards the east in February and changes its course to the southeast by June. It usually has a velocity of 28–38 km/h, with the exception of the Christmas winds with 50 km/h. The seas are fairly calm. Check the sailing conditions and wind rose diagram of Tortola.
Tortola is among the most popular sailing destinations worldwide. As a result, there are many great yacht marinas for sailors both on the island’s own shores and that of the islands nearby. Let’s see some examples!
Nanny Cay is located on the southern coast of Tortola. It is located a little over 3 kilometres from Burt Point. At this port, we have the opportunity to pull our boat from the water, among other services. Nanny Cay Marina offers 320 berths; 120 in the outer parts and 200 in the inside. They provide access to fuel and electricity in both areas. We need to pass through a narrow route for entry.
Road Town is the capital of Tortola and the sailing centre of the British Virgin Islands. We can enter the port through the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Road Harbour has several yacht marinas providing full-service and accommodation. We can find Road Reef Marina, Fort Burt and Wickham’s Cay I and II here; Road Reef Marina and Fort Burt are on the western side, while Wickham’s Cay is on the north. There are over 120 berths and downtown Road Town can be found nearby. Many sailors start their trip here when visiting the British Virgin Islands.
Fat Hog’s Bay and East End Bay
Fat Hog’s Bay and East End Bay are on the eastern coast of Tortola at Parham Town. Both bays offer great anchorages that are suitable for night anchoring. We can access them through the Sir Francis Drake Channel as well; the entrance is marked by two buoys. In the port behind the corals, there is great protection and the boats can be secured firmly. The water is fairly shallow, with a depth of 3 to 4 metres. The harbour has three marinas: James Young, Penny’s Landing and Harbour View. We can get fuel as well as water and ice at James Young and Harbour View. We can find an ATM, smaller markets and shops ashore.
BVI National Park Trust buoys
BVI National Park Trust has installed 200 fixed surface buoys on the waters surrounding Tortola. We can anchor for up to 90 minutes at these. The purpose of the system is to provide protection for the sea life of the area. The buoys are marked with different colours, based on which type of boats they can be used for. We need to pay a small fee for using them in every case. The colour codes are as follows: orange – non-diving, day-use only; white – only dive use; blue – only dinghies; yellow – only commercial vessels. We can see these buoys, for instance, at Penn’s Landing, Great Camanoe, Cooper Island, Norman Island,
The Indians, and Guana Island. We must be very careful while anchoring at these sites not to harm the fragile corals. If we cannot find a mooring ball, we can also anchor at the sandy parts. We should avoid sailing at night if possible.
Peter Island is the fifth-largest member of the British Virgin Islands. The infrastructure is not very developed, but they have designated hiking and cycling routes. We can get to know the spectacular flora and fauna of the island while exploring these. The beautiful beaches are facing the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Sir Francis Drake channel. It is definitely worth visiting the place, as the island offers several great docking spots and yacht ports. Little Harbor is a small but very well protected port, and Great Harbour – located to the east – is also a great place for docking. It is important to note, however, that the water at Great Harbour is too deep to secure our boat.
Marina Cay is located at the eastern end of Tortola, among Beef Island, Great Camanoe and Scrub Islands. The island, which has a territory of only 3 hectares, had been uninhabited until 1937. It was the writer Robb White and his wife who first settled there. Their former home is now a bar with an imposing reading room, located on top of a beautiful hill. We can find great protected anchorages on a larger territory on the northwestern side. It can be accessed easily through the Sir Francis Drake Channel or by navigating between Great Camanoe and Beef Island. It is a very popular destination, so the area designated for anchorage gets crowded soon. There is a charming little gift shop and a restaurant on Pusser’s Marina Cay.
Maya Cove – also known as Hodges Creek – is located on the southeastern coast of Tortola, west of Buck Island. The area is protected by a coral reef and is refreshed by a wind coming from the northeast. The entry points are marked by buoys, but the channel is quite narrow. Maya Cove is a port full of life, especially in the main season. The main anchoring area is at the southern end of the port. We can tie up our boat here securely. We shouldn’t get too close to the coast though, as the water there might be too shallow.
Hodges Creek Marina can also be found here – it is a full-service yacht marina where we can get water and ice. There is a beautiful view from here, and they have some great restaurants as well.
During this 7 days sailing trip, we will sail around Tortola while also passing by some smaller islands. We can even get an extra stop during the day. For example, we can navigate to The Indians after Norman Island or sail to Guana Island before getting to Scrub Island. All of these are very exciting places; however, conditions might not always be ideal for night anchorage.
Day 1. Nanny Cay, Tortola – The Bight, Norman Island
9.70 km (6.02 mi)
What makes Norman Island an amazing place is a fact that there are plenty of great docking places here. One of the most popular one among them is the Bight. It is a very well-protected bay located in an idyllic natural environment. It is located on the southern coast of the island. There are app. 75 buoys in the bay and another 17 in the nearby anchoring area. We need to pay the fee to the staff at Pirate’s Bight. The so-called Caves can be found at Treasure Point, at the southwestern corner of the island.
There is vivid sea life here, and the caves with their shallow waters are ideal for an exciting diving experience. Let’s drop anchor and get a drink while floating on the sea and enjoying the peaceful environment of Norman Island!
Day 2. The Bight – Hallovers Bay, Cooper Island
16.35 km (10.16 mi)
There are several anchorages at Cooper Island. It is a very popular spot, so it gets filled with boats quickly. We can anchor at the less-known Hallovers Bay, located a bit to the south from the resort of the island. It is a quieter bay with a large sandy area. There is always a pleasant breeze no these parts; the sea and the beach are also fantastic.
Day 3. Hallovers Bay – Trellis Bay, Beef Island
10.90 km (6.77 mi)
Trellis Bay, located at the eastern corner of Beef Island Tortola is a large and amazing anchorage. The depth of water here is app. 4 to 4.5 metres; the sea bottom is soft and ideal for securing our boat firmly. The tiny island of Bellamy Cay can be found in the centre. The water is fairly shallow around the sandbank, so we must be careful. As the airport of the island has also been established here, there are some special navigation rules.
There is a ‘No go zone’ on the western side beginning at the end of the runway. It is marked by 8 flashing buoys. Yachts with a height of over 3 metres cannot enter this zone, which also needs to be kept free for sailboats. As for boats with a mast higher than 1.5 metres, they need authorisation each time they enter. There are several restaurants and shops on the island, and the famous full moon party of the island is also organised in the bay.
Day 4. Trellis Bay – Scrub Island
2.20 km (1.37 mi)
Scrub Island is located 2.5 kilometres from Tortola. The island is barely 3 kilometres long and has a territory of only 230 hectares. Its centre is Scrub Island Resort Marina. The yacht marina provides 55 deepwater anchorages for both short and long time docking. We can find many good restaurants and shops in the village. There are also different sea tours offering the opportunity to discover the breathtaking sea life of the area. Scrub Island is very close to North Drop where the largest swordfish of the world live.
Day 5. Scrub Island – Cane Garden Bay
18.90 km (11.74 mi)
Cane Garden Bay is an excellent docking place with a beautiful beach on the northern coast of Tortola. It is easy to enter, there is a large area for docking, and we will have a wonderful view of Jost van Dyke. The bay is surrounded by marvellous mountains, and some of the local restaurants entertain their guests with live music. Many sailors consider this the best port.
Day 6. Cane Garden Bay – Jost van Dyke, Great Harbour
10.40 km (6.46 mi)
As the name suggests, Great Harbour is the largest harbour on Jost van Dyke. The area is well-protected thanks to the high mountains. The depth of water is between 5 and 9 metres. We can anchor or use the mooring balls. There are many bars, restaurants, churches and shops ashore, and we can go scuba-diving at an amazing reef nearby.
Day 7. Jost van Dyke – Soper’s Hole – Nanny Cay
18.90 km (11.74 mi)
Soper’s Hole is located at the western end of Tortola. The port has the typical characteristics of the British Virgin Islands. We can enter quite easily, as the entrance is spacious; the confluence is ideal and the port is also well-protected. Soper’s Hole Wharf and Marina is a complex offering all services in one place. They have fuel, water, ice and is a great supermarket here as well, where we can buy anything we need. There is also a marina for dinghies on the western side of Frenchman’s Cay. It is a beautiful place with a colourful design. It is a perfect spot for the last night of our trip.
We are going to do a larger distance on this route, navigating from Virgin Goda all the way to Anegada. That is where we will turn back. Anegada is a really unique destination on the British Virgin Islands. Unlike the other islands, this one is challenging to spot from a great distance as it’s quite flat. It’s surrounded by coral reefs, making it more difficult to access it – we should definitely use a navigation device. Even though this trip is quite a challenge, we encourage you to take it! You should plan your trip well in advance though, and leave early as well as in good weather.
Day 1. Nanny Cay – Peter Island, Little Harbor 6.35 km (3.94 mi), Day 2. Peter Island – Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island 10.70 km (6.65 mi), Day 3. Manchioneel Bay – Marina Cay 9.05 km (5.62 mi), Day 4. Marina Cay – Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda 17.00 km (10.56 mi), Day 5. Leverick Bay – Anegada, The Settlement 24.65 km (15.32 mi), Day 6. Anegada – Guana Island – Jost van Dyke, Little Harbor 51.35 km (31.91 mi), Day 7. Jost van Dyke – West End Tortola – Nanny Cay 16.00 km (9.94 mi)
Read more about BVI sailing
Marine Gas in Tortola, boat gas stations around BVI
- FORT BURT, TORTOLA: Depth: 2 m, GPS Coordinates : 18.412269, -64.613963
- HODGES CREEK, TORTOLA: Depth: 2.5 m, GPS Coordinates : 18.424174, -64.568258
- MANUEL REEF MARINA, TORTOLA: Depth: 2m , GPS Coordinates : 18.407174, -64.631785
- NANNY CAY, TORTOLA: Depth: 3 m, GPS Coordinates : 18.396844, -64.636066
- SOPER’S HOLE, TORTOLA: GPS Coordinates : 18.385014, -64.701245
- PETER ISLAND: Depth: 3.5 m, GPS Coordinates : 18.356766, -64.580064
- GREAT HARBOR, JOST VAN DYKE: GPS Coordinates: 18.442594, -64.753877
- LEVERICK BAY MARINA: , Depth: 3 m, Working time: 8–22 GPS Coordinates: 18.497400, -64.385500
If we visit Tortola, we will definitely want to go back several times. There is something really special on this island that is beyond compare – maybe it’s the beauty of the Caribbean Sea, the tropical atmosphere, or the fact that it’s very sailor-friendly. Let’s get on our boat and decide for ourselves what the magic of Tortola lies in! Find more BVI sailing routes or choose from other Caribbean sailing destinations.