VOYAGE Charters News

BVI Travel Notes

April 5th, 2021

Read the latest travel notes while traveling to the British Virgin Islands.

Pre-Departure/Getting There

Our travel dates were March 8th through the 18th using American Airlines for the domestic flights and Cape Air for the short International transfers to Tortola.

Travel insurance with medical coverage is mandatory for B.V.I. visitor entry. We opted to use Travel Guards All Season Travel Plan: Beach.

Decide which PCR testing service you are going to use well ahead of your departure. On recommendation, we used Pixel by LabCorp. It is an in-home self-collected test that uses FedEx for delivery and collection. The service worked flawlessly for us, as I know it has for some of our other VOYAGE charters guests. Each person must order their own test kit and register it before returning.

Keep up to date on any changes in travel restrictions for your destination and places you will pass through enroute. For us, traveling through St Thomas meant we needed to complete the USVI entry on their portal and obtain clearance. Yes, this was required even if just connecting straight to your B.V.I. flight. The process is quite easy to complete but make sure you have a copy of your negative PCR test result and entry approval email, you need to show this to board your USVI flight.

Timeline of our travel:

10 Days Prior

Order PCR tests kits

9 Days Prior

Test kits arrive. Open and review the instructions.

8 Days Prior

Visit B.V.I. gateway and USVI travel portal to go through the requirements of the entry process. Reach out to your charter sales agent if you need advice on what is required.

5 Days Prior

If you have not already done so, register your Pixel test kit and take yourself test. Drop at a FedEx location before last collection of the day or schedule pick up.

4 Days Prior

Track test kit back to LabCorp

3 Days Prior

Received e mail notification of negative PCR test result.

Assemble documents needed for the entry portals. Each traveler requires a separate entry. Allow 30 minutes to complete an entry on the bvigateway. Have pdf copies to upload of your PCR test, travel insurance policy and VOYAGE charters booking confirmation. Passport information is required. Complete bvigateway entry application and receive a confirmation e mail.

Complete USVI traveler entry application including uploading PCR test result. Receive confirmation e mail with tracking number.

2 Days Prior

Receive Travel Authorization document from the BVI gateway. Print or have digital copies of all passenger’s entry documentation, you will be required to show these prior to boarding flights and upon arrival.

I Day Prior

Receive entry clearance for St Thomas. Have document with QR code on phone to present on arrival.

Check in online for flights.

Put all your travel documents in one easily accessible place. You must include the negative PCR test result and BVI Travel Authorization for each passenger.

Last packing and relax.

Travel Day

Our outbound flights took us through Baltimore Washington International, Charlotte and St Thomas airports, all were less crowded than we have previously seen as were the flights but do still allow plenty of time to check in and get to your departure gate. You will be carrying or, need access to, extra documents (PCR test, entry approval) so make sure you are organized. Listen to the announcements at you boarding gates so you don’t miss having your documents pre checked. Buy or bring along food and snacks for the flight.

On arrival In St Thomas, there was a team of PPE clad staff ready and waiting to swiftly check your documentation before you entered the terminal. Our luggage was checked all the way through to Tortola so all we had to do was take the short walk through the terminal to the Cape Air check in and then wait in their air-conditioned departure lounge.

It has been some years since I have taken the 8-seater twin prop plane into Beef Island Airport and I had forgotten what a fun experience it is. Flying low over the islands gives a wonderful view of familiar spots and some excitement at the prospect of sailing these beautiful waters once again. The crowded anchorages of the USVI recede to the west and ahead of us we see the BVI’s secluded bays and anchorages waiting to be explored.

Touch down at Beef Island’s Terrance B Lettsome airport is followed by our Day 0 PCR test in the purpose-built arrival lounge. Move on through customs and immigration, then outside with our bags to the approved taxi transportation for transfer to our accommodations. At this stage visitors are issued with a tracking device appropriate to their stay, in our case, a small device on a lanyard which we would return at West End police station after our quarantine period was over.

Junie Penn provides VOYAGE charters taxi services, and he was ready and waiting for our transfer down to Soper’s Hole Marina. Our day of travel had certainly included some unfamiliar procedures but as Junie’s cab made the left turn and crossed the small bridge which connects West End to Frenchman’s Cay, our only thoughts were how good it felt to be back.

Our VOYAGE 480 was ready and waiting on the immaculate new docks, provisions stowed and air-conditioning running. Our early evening arrival meant the first night would be spent on the dock so it was time to relax, enjoy the wonderful breeze that always seems to blow through West End harbour and decide what our first meal would be. Both Pusser’s Landing and Omar’s Fusion Restaurant are approved to deliver take out service to quarantining yachts. Menus had been left onboard, so we called in an order for Painkillers and food from Pusser’s which was brought over by a cheerful server. Our first night of quarantine was most enjoyable and we looked forwards to the coming days.

Quarantine Days

Our arrival Day 0 test was on a Monday, so we planned an itinerary to accommodate a Day 4 test on Friday morning. After breakfast onboard and a socially distant dockside briefing from VOYAGE charters Base Manager Rane Downing, we elected to head out for Benures Bay on Norman Island. The choice of designated quarantine anchorages is no hardship at all and with so few vessels on the water we were excited to visit them.

Before departing Soper’s Hole we had to request permission to pass through a temporary exclusion zone that divides the waters of the USVI and the BVI. This is a simple process of sending a WhatsApp message to a dedicated number at BVI Customs stating name of captain, vessel, time and destination. All the information is provided by the charter base and concierge Nicola Van De Burg can help if needed.

The 8-mile upwind sail to Norman Island was a perfect way to get our sea legs back and our final tack gave a great view of Pelican Island and The Indians. Approaching Benures Bay we could see three other yachts on moorings and plenty of others free for us. Although there was some swell running through the channel between Norman and Peter Island, the mooring field was well protected and calm. We had rented SUPs from Soper’s Hole based BVI Watersports and enjoyed a nice workout paddling in the vicinity of our yacht. We could see yellow Q flags on two of the other vessels in the bay and each were being respectful of the bubble restriction whilst still having fun in the water and on deck. In the late afternoon a staff member came by in a small boat from the Bight to collect the mooring fee. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset and a BBQ on the back deck of our VOYAGE 480. Life does not get much better than this.

Wednesday was Day 2 of quarantine. Typically, by today, we would have received the result of our Day 0 test but a problem with testing equipment meant there was a back log in sending out results. No matter, we could still proceed to other anchorages and our next port of call would be Peter Island. With light winds we decided to motor and pass close by Little Harbour, Great Harbour and Deadman’s Bay. The Norman and Peter Island anchorages are well placed for yachts to go into Nanny Cay for Day 4 testing, and we saw several yachts heading in that direction.

I had hoped the iconic Deadman’s Bay would be suitable for a lunchtime stop but a swell was making its way around the point and causing a surge of the beach. We made do with a view of the beautiful beach and a promise to come back ‘next time’. Great Harbour was our intended overnight anchorage and we headed around to pick up a mooring off the western side of the bay.

Peter Islands Great Harbour is well protected and has some interesting history. The RMS Rhone was anchored here in October 1867, taking on coal for its return passage to England. Attempting to outrun a fierce hurricane the vessel was dashed upon the rocks off Salt Island where it still lays. Local fisherman used to row fishing nets out from the pebble beach to catch shoals of fish that swam into the bay. The steep sided shore runs down and forms beautiful coral reefs below the waters. Prior to the installation of moorings, anchoring in Great Harbour was challenging due to deep waters but now it is much more accessible. Another beautiful starry night was spent enjoying the peace and quiet of this wonderful harbour.

Following two fairly shorts days of sailing we decide Day 3 would take us up around the eastern end of Beef Island and down the north side of Tortola to Jost Van Dyke. Rounding the headland off Beef Island we could see more evidence of the rebuilding work that has taken place all over the BVI’s since hurricane Irma. Marina Cay now has some colorful buildings and looks inviting as ever tucked behind its protecting reef. Looking into Trellis Bay we see the thatched roof of the new Loose Mongoose restaurant and bar. Directly in front is an impressive concrete dock with services for yachts and the transfer vessels taking visitors to resorts on Virgin Gorda and Anegada. We motor through the narrow channel at Gt Camanoe’s western end and then on towards the cut at Monkey Point. Those familiar with the BVI’s will know Monkey Point is one of the most popular snorkeling spots around Tortola but today we could have it all to ourselves.

A sizable swell was sending waves crashing against the cliffs and beaches of Tortola’s north shore, but our downwind sail soon took us into the shelter of the little islands clustered around Jost Van Dyke. Passing between Sandy Cay and Sandy Spit, we made our way to the moorings close to Little Jost Van Dyke. This is another designated anchorage for quarantining yachts and a great spot to relax and enjoy a different view of the islands. We keep a look out for humpback whales which visit these waters to nurse their young, but they hide from us today. We hang out here until late in the afternoon then take the short sail over to Soper’s Hole where we spend the evening on a mooring, in preparation for our Day 4 PCR test on Friday morning.

Although yachts typically head to Nanny Cay Marina for transfer to the testing location at Peebles Hospital, VOYAGE charters have approval to transfer their guests from their docks. There is an extra charge for the cab ride, but it was well worth it for the convenience. Our testing appointments had been confirmed and we made sure to have our tracking devices with us. Junie had us inline for testing before the cabs arrived from Nanny Cay and we were back on our yacht by 10.15. The testing was conducted in a large tent in the hospital parking area and the whole process went very smoothly.

Back on the yacht, we decide to head over to Soldier Bay for our last day of quarantine. We knew the snorkeling to be exceptional in this small bay and felt there was a good chance we would have it all to ourselves. Another WhatsApp message to customs for clearance through the exclusion zone then we were on our way. Moderate breeze and slight seas in Sir Francis Drake Channel made for a comfortable sail and as we approached Norman Island, we could see the Soldier Bay anchorage was empty. The moorings are well located to access the reef and we had our pick. An idyllic afternoon was spent paddle boarding, swimming and watching the bird life. Our friend came by to collect the mooring fee and on his way back took time to empty his fish trap just off the rocky point. Another grilled dinner and a beautiful sky as the sunset behind Pelican Island.

Out of Quarantine and the VOYAGE 590e

Day 5. We were expecting to receive our Day 4 test result sometime after midday on Saturday, so we spent a leisurely morning at Soldier Bay. The water was so calm we were able to see straight down to the seabed. We paddle boarded over the reef getting as clear a view as if we were snorkeling. It truly was a unique experience. Our plan for the day was to head back to the VOYAGE charters base and, once we had received our negative test result, join the Downing family for our first experience of the new VOYAGE 590 “Summer Breeze”. The vessel’s first group of charter clients had given glowing reviews from their recent trip and our group of 12 were itching to get aboard. I can only say it was worth the wait as the vessel excels in every aspect of its design, construction and performance.

Even though we were now cleared from quarantine, the option to spend another evening at one of the peaceful designated anchorages was appealing. With light winds and calm seas, Summer Breez’s powerful electric motors made short work of the passage to White Bay located on Peter Island’s west side. There are no moorings here, but the sandy bay has good holding and we found a spot clear of the few other yachts already anchored. Our group of 8 adults, 2 teens and 2 kids were already enjoying the space and comfort of the VOYAGE 590 and later we were joined but another 7 guests for drinks and dinner. 20 people can spread out through the make deck level without ever feeling cramped and the flybridge lounging area is easily accessible from the cockpit. As the sun set, the vessels blue underwater lights drew dozens of silver tarpon into their glow, feasting upon the tiny bait that favor. When it was time to turn in, the comfort of our luxurious queen bedded, en suite cabin soon lulled us to sleep and thoughts of the next day’s adventures.

Another 2 days aboard Summer Breez really provided an opportunity to experience what a unique charter vessel the VOYAGE 590e is. Six equal guest cabins, two addition ensuite v berths for crew or singles. A light, bright salon and galley area that flows effortlessly into forward and aft cockpits, surrounded by panoramic windows. All house systems, including air-conditioning and water-making, run oh so quietly off the main lithium iron battery bank. An impressive solar panel array provides charge during daylight hours and standby generators switch on and off automatically to provide additional charge as needed. Even having previously experienced how well the VOYAGE 480e “Electrified” performs, it was truly remarkable to see how this “all electric” configuration has been scaled up to work on the new and much larger, VOYAGE 590e.

A lunch time stop at the newly renovated Cooper Island Beach Club was the busiest location we had yet visited. A Sunday afternoon crowd of locals joined the visiting charter yachts to make for a lively gathering with kids playing on the beach, families dining in the restaurant and others relaxing in the outside seating areas. This well-run resort is gaining a great reputation and deservedly so. Make sure to visit on your next trip.

Back aboard Summer Breez, the call was made to head for Jost Van Dyke for the evening. Usually, heading west along Drake’s Channel would be a downwind run but the fresh breeze had pulled more to the north giving us a broad reach. Under full sail, Summer Breez stretched her legs and we saw over 10kts boat speed before making the cut between Little Thatch and Frenchman’s Cay. Once clear of Steel Point, we hardened onto the wind and headed for White Bay JVD. The raised helm station and alongside lounging area were both comfortable and functional, providing easy control and great vision.

A rare treat was in store as we dropped sails and engaged the electric motors to navigate through the reef into White Bay. We were to be the only vessel in what is one of the BVI’s most well-known and popular anchorages. Tucking up into the far eastern corner of the bay, we secured a mooring and settled in for another magical evening.

The 10-day duration of our visit required a last PCR test within 72 hours of our return to the US. Whilst still aboard Summer Breez, we scheduled our appointments at Tortola’s Peebles Hospital for the following morning (Tuesday). There was also the option to test on Jost Van Dyke, but our group had planned to return to Soper’s Hole for Monday evening. The morning was spent relaxing onboard while others made the most of an empty bay to wakeboard and knee board just off the beach.

Dining is a big part of the daily actives for most charter groups and the VOYAGE 590’s integrated main deck area makes preparing, serving and clean up easy and sociable. The gourmet galley has lots of counter space, a flush electric hob top, multiple drawer fridges, freezers and an oven. A large forward, opening window creates a bar to the front cockpit. Aft and to starboard of the galley is another long counter with sink, storage cupboards, two dishwashers and more refrigeration. The aft cockpit has a prep counter with sink, in set grill, under-counter refrigeration, ice maker and a dedicated coffee/tea station. All of this wonderful functionality if finished with Corian countertops and high-quality cabinetry that blends beautifully with the stainless-steel appliances.

The sail straight back over to Soper’s Hole is short so, with time to spare, some extra tacks were made to extend the journey. The wind and seas were sufficient to warrant a reef in the main but with plenty of experience onboard we made way under full sail. The layout of the helm is such that a helms man and one crew can handle all aspects of sail handling with all lines lead back to a bank of powered winches alongside the wheel. The balanced rudders hold a course with little correction and with-out the need of hydraulics. The fine bows, ample freeboard and generous bridge deck clearance make for a comfortable ride and the chine, just above the waterline, keep the hulls fine and easily driven for such an accommodating and spacious vessel. The fat head main sail hoists and drops easily and has a well-executed headboard design. The powerful genoa can be sheeted well in towards the mast for upwind sailing and the single spreader rig is supported by twin forestays and swept back cap and lower shrouds. This latest VOYAGE yacht may look very different from its predecessors, but it retains all the sailing and build qualities than set the brand apart as capable blue water, charter or live aboard vessels.

Cutting back around Steel Point, stowing the sails and powering back toward the VOYAGE charters dock, we had one more night to enjoy aboard this stunning vessel and two days for some sight-seeing on Tortola.

Sightseeing on Tortola

Tuesday morning, Junie Penn was ready to take us for our pre departure PCR test. These additional tests are priced at $70.00 per person and scheduled from 10.30 am onwards, after the day 4 visitors have been processed. Again, we were in and out quite promptly with payment being made on site and we enjoyed the scenic route Junie took which cut up over the hill behind Sea Cows Bay and dropped down to the hospital above Road Town harbour. Back at Soper’s Hole we enjoyed coffee and breakfast at Omar’s Coffee House, shopped for some provisions at the well-stocked Harbour Market and bought souvenirs at Arawak.

Wednesday was our last full day, and we rented a car from Shaun Smith’s company located right behind the VOYAGE charters dock. We wanted to have lunch at Trellis Bay and drove out along the north coast so we could make the most of the views which were as stunning as ever. Some local friends had told us that flamingos were becoming more widespread around the BVIs and as we dropped down the road towards East End, we had a view across the large salt pond behind Joshia's Bay. We were thrilled to see small pink dots clustered all about the pond and estimated there to be at least 50 birds feeding there.

The last time we had visited Trellis Bay was May of 2019 and the beach was still crowded with hurricane damaged vessels and debris. Today it is clean and tidy with boats coming to and from the East End islands, Virgin Gorda and Anegada. The Loose Mongoose has become a focal point for the bay, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the restaurant and some more shopping in their boutique. Everyone we met was welcoming and friendly and all the renovations we saw were beautifully done.

Our drive back to West End along the south side of Tortola was less scenic but still interesting. Lots of construction taking place in East End, Road Town surprisingly busy even without tourists and Nanny Cay growing bigger by the day.

Dinner was booked at the Long Bay Resort and we could not have wished for a more enjoyable last evening. This has always been one of the very best locations in Tortola and the new owners have overseen a stunning renovation. A must see on your next visit!

Returning Home

Thursday was our departure day. We had received our negative PCR test results on Wednesday via e mail and presented these when we checked in at Beef Island airport for our 10.30 am Cape Air flight to San Juan Puerto Rico. Cape Air staff provided great service, escorting us all the way through the San Juan airport terminal from arrivals to our connection flight check in. Spring break had clearly ramped up travel out of Puerto Rico into Miami, but everyone was being courteous and respectful of travel protocols. Our flights all the way through to BWI were on time and trouble free. Three days after arriving back in the US we tested negative again and concluded this to have been another wonderful and uniquely rewarding vacation. Am I looking forwards to COVID free travel? Absolutely. Would I repeat this same trip all over again? In a heartbeat...