…Is the first thing I am asked when we arrive in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. The question is asked in a dead pan, humourless voice, by an official at a tiny ferry dock. I am too tired to really register what is being said, so my “No…no, none of those” must sound a little weak and unconvincing.


James and I sailed here overnight from Sint Maarten, the first overnighter we have done just the two of us since Gibraltar. The BVIs weren’t originally part of our East Caribbean plan, in fact neither was Sint Maarten, but we arrived here in order to meet up with Roger, James’s dad, who has taken a big detour from his holiday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to come and stay.


The US Virgin Islands and the British ones are next door to each other and each consists of a few ‘main’ islands and lots of smaller outlying ones. The place is heaving with boat charterers but there are enough secluded little bays and private anchorages for everyone to share so that nowhere feels crowded. Plus, the charter folks tend to move on each day, whereas James and I like to linger a little if we can. Tortola is the biggest of the BVIs and has some really gorgeous beaches and harbours.


I can see why this is the perfect place for people to charter boats as the wind is pretty reliable and you can hop from island to island in tiny day sails and really get a chance to explore. With Roger, for example, we stopped for lunch at Sandy Cay, the picture perfect desert island, just a blob of sand with some palm trees on and nothing else, before heading over to Cane Garden Bay which had a white sand beach and delicious cocktails. Actually, I cannot rave about the BVIs enough; they’re like a condensed version of everything that’s good about the rest of the Caribbean. We had a lovely few days with Roger, hopping from one anchorage to the next, getting in a decent sail despite the trades dropping off for a day.


Since then, James and I have stayed at 4 other anchorages around the islands; swimming, snorkelling, seeing turtles, spotted eagle rays, pelicans, lizards, crabs and even a whale. Each island and even each anchorage seems to have so much personality of its own, with the landscape varying from mangroves to white sand, palm fringed beaches to giant rocks and forest clad mountains.


I should make a special note about the Baths on the island of Virgin Gorda, which is the other reason that we ended up in the BVIs, after they were recommended to us by someone in Antigua. There are several beaches at the south end of Virgin Gorda and along these are a series of large granite boulders that the sea washes into. This has formed caves and pools and strange formations in the rocks where they have been hollowed out and carved by the sea. There are some photos of us playing about in these on the Surroundings page but, what we couldn’t catch on camera, was the phenomenal snorkelling here.


Bright purple sea fan coral wafts about as multi-coloured parrot fish and sergeant majors (small, black and white striped fish) swim past, crossing the path of green, iridescent cuttlefish and squid. Add to this tiny electric blue fish, barracudas, scuttling crabs, fairy basslets (tiny, bright purple and yellow), the long-nosed trumpetfish, groupers and snapper, glistening sea urchins that look like black explosions and the shy, bug-eyed, red dusky squirrelfish that hides in the coral. It is, hands down, the most spectacular underwater landscape that we’ve ever seen.


Sorry to sound so much like a holiday brochure – we did enjoy it here but were still hard at work: re-stocking all our cupboards for Cuba, passage planning for it as well, repainting and repairing some of the boat interior, not to mention James scrubbing the hull. We also met some amazing people, like the incomparable Danno at Trellis Bay who kindly drove us to the huge supermarket at Road Town to provision.


But, we are in complete agreement that the BVIs are the hands down winners of best islands in the Eastern Caribbean so if you get a chance, come visit.


(just don’t mention that you own a kitten with a bazooka on a jetski…)