West End (Soper’s Hole)

photo of west end, tortola. from the article tortola, british virgin islands. Part 2:west end
West End, Tortola

Moving on brings us around into West End, also known as Soper’s Hole. If you are sailing be aware that at times there is very strong currents in West End that rip out of the gap between steel point and Great Thatch Island. So much so that at times you may be sailing into the current and making no headway at all.

Just watch your leeway, The shore of Great Thatch comes close fast, the wind tends to bullet down both sides of Steel Point but drops right off as you are in the lee of the point. This combined with the current makes this spot an area to stay awake at if you are a novice sailor. Once inside west end, there are many marinas and overnight moorings.

There are some very quaint Caribbean styled shops including a Pussers Restarant, a few shops to get some Caribbean memories and a decent grocery store. Fuel, water and ice can be had from the marinas at West End.

If you want to stay overnight at West End and want to anchor instead of use a mooring. The only place is at the west end of the field. This is in 70 plus feet of water but the holding is good. This is far out and the ferries tend to already be hard on the throttle so you should expect some rather large wake from them.

The ferry operators have no qualms to pass 100 feet from you whiled anchored, This is at 15 knots throwing a 5 foot wash. West End is a port of entry and Customs and immigration can be done here. Sitting overnight on a mooring here the water is very calm in West End, The wind however can be quite strong.

The shape of Tortola further east tends to funnel wind into west end. When coming out of west end and heading back up towards Road Town, there are a couple of tips to make your trip smoother. This end of the Sir Frances Drake Channel is a big funnel.

Navigating Around West End

The trip will be dead into the wind and most of the time straight into the current. It can be tough sailing. I have seen boats leave west end, tack over to St John, then back over to Tortola, close hauled and into the current, and end up further down the channel than when they started.

At certain times of the day, the current will head back up to the west. Its easy to know when its running east as it will be against the wind. The channel will be full of short, steep chop with much small whitecaps. This has earned this area the name of puke alley, or up chuck channel.

Sailing in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Part 2: West End
Bareboat, Tortola

If you’re sailing then there is nothing to do but plug away and try not to spill the rum punch. If you are motoring there is some relief when the seas are running. When you come around the point from west end, hug the shore, stay just on the edge of the drop off. You will be in about 30 or 40 feet of water.

On your port side will be the shore and on your starboard will be the rougher water. Close to the shore the current runs much slower and keeps the seas from picking up. Stay over this side until you see the sea state has dropped off.

Usually by the time you’re level with Fort Recovery the channel has become wide enough that the current has slowed and the seas will have lowered. If you are heading up to road town or nanny cay, be aware that there are a couple of reef patches offshore from Pockwood Pond. These are close to some large yellow moorings that the fuel ships tie to.

Cane Garden Bay

photo of cane garden bay from tortola, British virgin islands. Part 2: West EndCane Garden Bay, Tortola

Cane Garden Bay is where Jimmy Buffet spent much time and got the inspiration for many of his songs. His cd cover that has a tire swing hanging from a palm tree on the beach was shot here.

Unfortunately the base of the tree rotted away a few years ago and the tree no longer exists. It was just before the large house on the southern end of the beach.

Entering Cane Garden Bay is straight forward. There is some floating markers that mark the entrance, they are towards the northern shore. There can be anywhere between 1 and 6 markers depending upon how many years since they were last serviced.

Once inside the bay, you will see its full of overnight moorings. There is space for a couple of boats to anchor as you just enter the bay, or if you use 2 anchors to check your swing radius, you can fit in front of the moorings near the beach. Do not venture to far to the south of the mooring field, the reef gets shallow fast!

This is another spot that you need to be aware of north swell. Close to the entrance is a popular surf break when the swell is up. With a swell running, the bay can be very rolly, if the swell really pumps it can be dangerous. I have on a few occasions heard boats on the radio in the black of the night asking what to do when the swells start breaking over there bows while still on their mooring.

Photo of dinghy dock on cane garden bay, from article tortola, british virgin islands. Part 2
Dinghy dock on Cane Garden Bay,BVI

There is lots to do ashore in this bay. Many resturaunts line the beach, Beach bars, Quitos which is a popular spot to drink and dance the night away. During the day the bay can be filled with hundreds of tourists from cruise ships docked around in road town. This make the beach somewhat unattractive at times.

As the sun starts to get lower in the sky they all depart and the bay once again settles into a pretty place in the Caribbean. There is a small jetty to land your dingy, it is not an easy task if there is swell running. On swell less days though its wonderful.

Lock your dinghy to the dock!!! Once ashore if you turn to the right, about a 10 minute walk along the road brings you to a fairly decent sized grocery store, There are also some free garbage skips on the road as well. If the beach is calm, there is also a free garbage skip to the north side of the jetty. you can pull your dingy up right at the skip.

Belmont and Honeymoon Bay

Further west the next bay that you can visit is Lower Belmont Bay. This is a nice little bay for a snorkel or a swim ashore. There are large areas of reef in the bay and it has no protection if there is any sort of seas running. It does however make a nice lunch spot so long as the conditions are right. This is not an overnight anchorage.

Nanny Cay

The entrance to Nanny Cay is very clear, there are several marker to define the channel. As soon as you round the breakwater you will see the fuel dock. Nanny Cay is an excellent marina. It has everything you could need including fuel, water, ice, chandlery, dockage, provisions and restaurants. The only thing that is against nanny cay is that its a 30 minute taxi ride from road town, about 10 minutes from West End

Sea Cows Bay

Sea cows has a small marina, there are a couple of small floating markers on the way in, The waters all around is very shallow. other than in the main channel most is 5 feet or less. Unless you have real need to go into sea cows, give it a miss.

That takes us right around Tortola!

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