Whilst the pirates are long gone, sea faring is still at the heart of this settlement and continues to draw visitors from around the world.
The island of Tortola has a rich history of human habitation dating back centuries and the West End of this beautiful island has supported communities for much of that time. Arawak and Carib Indians who migrated north from the Orinoco Basin were believed to be among the first inhabitants but most of the documented history comes with the arrival of European adventurers from the 15th century onwards. The island names attest to this, being a mix of Spanish, English and Dutch. The dark days of slavery brought people from the African continent and it is their history and struggle which shapes the community we see today.
Tucked between high hills, a protecting sand spit and outlaying islands sits a welcoming harbor known today as Soper’s Hole. The name is associated with McCuthbert Soper, a former plantation owner from the 1700's however, prior to this, the harbor was a base for piracy. Privateers and freebooters preyed upon the merchant ships passing through the area and Soper’s Hole offered a perfect location as their vessels could be hidden from sight and a look out kept from the headlands. The sand spit beach at the head of the bay was perfect for careening and repairing their ships and setting up an encampment.
Whilst the pirates are long gone, sea faring is still at the heart of this settlement and continues to draw visitors from around the world. The natural features that made Soper’s Hole such a prime location in years gone by, continue to hold true. The well-protected, sandy anchorage always benefits from a cool breeze, and is high on the list of overnight stays for charter yachts touring the Virgin Islands. With deep water to anchor or dock, mega yachts are a common sight, especially in the winter months. Boat repairs are still carried out at the busy West End Boat Yard.
West End is a point of entry into the British Virgin Islands territory with a customs and immigration dock. It also has daily ferry arrivals and departures to the US Virgin Islands.
The land on the south side of the harbor is actually a separate island known as Frenchman’s Cay joined to West End mainland by a small bridge, under which, fresh clean water constantly flows through mangroves from the adjoining bay.
The waterfront of Frenchman’s Cay is arguably the most picturesque in the BVI and hosts several marinas lined with quaint shops and a kaleidoscope of Caribbean colors.