Impressions of The Virgin Islands

impressions of the Virgin islands

I have to get used to moving. A big part of cruising is moving, always visiting somewhere new, but I feel like we are not spending enough time in the places we visit. There are so many islands and so much to do and see on each of them that I know we are missing out by not seeing more.

It’s common for any traveller to have these emotions, this fear of missing out. We are fortunate: most people are in The Virgin Islands for a week on vacation and then have to go home. I have to get more in the mindset of enjoying what we see instead of regretting what we miss. In that spirit, here are my top impressions of The Virgin Islands.

Loving the Virgin Islands

5 Impressions of The Virgin Islands

1. The Water

I love the beautiful and colorful tropical water here. The beaches are gorgeous and the swimming is incredible. The water is cool enough to be refreshing, and clear and clean. Most of the beaches are protected enough that it’s calm and you can just relax and float. We have seen lots of fish and a dolphin but no turtles. Yet.

Sapphire Beach
Beautiful Sapphire Beach on St. Thomas

Top beaches we visited: Sapphire Beach on St. Thomas, Trunk Bay on St. John, and Cane Garden Bay in Tortola, all previously mentioned. These lovely beaches have soft clean sand, clear and cool water with calm seas for resting and swimming.

2. The Sailing

Sailing here is easy! Maybe it’s the timing or that we’ve improved, but it’s good sailing. Since we’ve arrived in the Virgin Islands, the wind and the sea are calm. The added bonus is we only need to travel for an hour or two and we’re somewhere new.

Almost every bay and harbor has mooring balls. In the national park at St. John you paid at a dock with the honor system at $25 a night, and in the other anchorages the businesses own the mooring balls and send someone out to collect in the evenings. It generally costs $35 a night. And, good news! We bought a new, much longer, boat hook and the mooring balls are much lighter than in Bahamas. I am now getting the hang of mooring balls. That’s a relief.

There are lots of sailors here but it still seems empty. Most of the sailors are on charter boats, sailing around for a week or so. We have met some, including a group of fraternity brothers from Georgia Tech who have done this every year for 13 years! Pretty cool tradition!

Maho Bay St. John
Empty moorings at Maho Bay, St. John

Yet it still seems empty. Some harbors have only a few boats in them and there’s always a choice of mooring balls. It makes it feel like the season is almost over, which it is. Hurricane season starts soon.

3. The Marina

We are trying to get our engine fixed and an AIS transmitter installed on Sava and are staying in Nanny Cay to do that. This marina is excellent! We thought we had scored in Samana, but this is even better.

Nanny Cay marina
Nanny Cay Marina pool

The wifi runs all the way to our boat and is strong, and the docks are calm and quiet and bug free. The pool is relaxing and refreshing, with cool water and cool ocean breezes. The showers have great water pressure, and the chandlery is well stocked. Boaters can relate and understand how remarkable and seemingly unachievable this combination is!

4. The Hurricane Damage

Sadly, the islands are still recovering from Irma and Maria. I am poorly informed and didn’t realize the extent of the damage here.

I expected it in Puerto Rico, but hurricane damage is just as bad in the Virgin Islands. We’ve witnessed damaged buildings, derelict boats, and a lot of rubble. Some has been restored, but a lot hasn’t.

We heard that the cruise ships were a lifeline, especially in St. Thomas, bringing people to spend money that is much needed by the locals. Resorts are reopening but slower than desired.

Sailors are also helping, and I am sure will continue to bring money in to these beautiful islands.

ruined church Tortola
A broken church in Cane Harbor Bay, Tortola
Road Town Tortola
Rubble in Road Town, Tortola
5. U.S. or British?

It is hard to tell the difference between the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. The customs are much the same throughout the islands. This is based on our visits to 4 islands: St. Thomas, St. John, Jost Van Dyke, and Tortola.

Our first island was St. Thomas, which is American, but everyone drives on the left side of the road there and throughout these islands. They drive like they’re British.

St. Thomas
Why are they driving like that in the U.S.?

Yet, in Jost Van Dyke and Tortola, British islands, they use the U.S. dollar. Confused yet? Me too!

Another sailor mentioned that The U.S. Virgins are more relaxed and land based, and the British Virgins are more party oriented, with the beach bars and charter cruisers. Jost Van Dyke, which is British, is the epicenter of rowdy beach bars, so they may have something there.

Like I said, everything else is uniform across the islands. English is the main language, although we have heard a lot of others. We’re in the Virgin Islands, and it’s generally laid back here. As long as we check in and out when we move between the countries, and hang the proper flag, we’ll be fine!

What’s Next

Sava is in much better shape now. Four nights in a marina and all the accompanying work have given her 2 new batteries, an AIS broadcaster, and a properly functioning engine cooling system.

We are cutting ties from the dock and leaving the marina today (sorry Domino!). Next stop is Virgin Gorda before saying goodbye to the Virgin Islands for east and southbound islands. In a few days, we’ll check in somewhere else and let you know where we are! Follow our social media for updates!

Nanny Cay Tortola to the Baths, Virgin Gorda

Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

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