was equipped with a holding tank so our
Y-valve got quite a workout. We made a
habit of keeping it closed most of the time
and opened it only when underway and a
few miles offshore. The longer deep-water
passages, such as our gorgeous beam reach
to Anegada, were perfect for this. It provided us with the peace of mind that we
were not impacting the beautiful harbors
6. Use moorings instead of anchoring,
Protect your sanity and the sensitive
sea-floor habitats by picking up mooring balls instead of dropping anchor. We
were able to use moorings six out of seven
nights. Having grown up boating in the
Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, I’m
used to soft bottoms. Anchoring in tropical
waters can be tricky, and in mere minutes
anchors can cause damage to reefs that
took hundreds of years to grow. When
we did anchor, we chose a shallow area
where we could see the bottom clearly.
We checked that the bottom was free from
coral and grasses and then swam on the
anchor to ensure it was well set.
7. Eat local and be aware of any fish or
While we cooked aboard most nights,
we did splurge on one memorable meal out
for lobster at Potter’s on Anegada. Enjoying
the local cuisine with your feet in the sand
really makes for a memorable evening. That
said, fisheries around the world are under
pressure from over-harvesting. Knowing
which species should be avoided and the
seasons for fishing and eating certain species is important. Caribbean Spiny Lobster
is rated a “Best Choice” by the Monterey
Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch program,
making it a guilt-free treat! Lobster season
in the BVI runs from November 1 through
July 30. Conch, on the other hand, are
seen in nearly every restaurant but sadly
much less in the ocean. Due to their slow-moving nature and their late maturation
rate, conch are easy to catch but slow to
reproduce. Conch fritters and other tempting conch treats, even in season, should
many companies offer various excursions
from diving to snorkeling, day hikes, ATV
rides, and kite surfing. I researched a few of
the eco-tour companies specifically because
having a guide can enrich your experience.
Unfortunately, one company touted its ATV
rides as part of their eco-tourism offerings
and another company mentioned that they
fed the fish while snorkeling. These are two
“no-nos” in my book. The ATV rides occur
on an island with erosion problems.
While we would have enjoyed a guided snorkel, feeding fish disrupts the natural
food chain and reduces the diversity of fish
species in a given area. When considering
the various tours, ask about guide qualifications and consider the environmental
impacts of the activities. Not all “eco-tours”
are environmentally friendly.
Many companies offer “Eco” Tours: Be sure to ask what makes a tour environmentally friendly before
8. Look for low-impact excursions and
For us, the joy of chartering is being
able to be active and passive at the same
time. Sailing to a new destination each day,
stopping at a good snorkeling spot, while
relaxing on the boat, makes for a perfect
day. Upon arrival in Tortola, we noticed that
9. Dive and snorkel with care.
Our first snorkeling spot of the cruise
was Loblolly Beach on Anegada. The current was swift and the water pretty shallow.
It was difficult to hold position and make
sure that I didn’t get pulled into the reef.
Our second snorkeling destination was The
Baths at Virgin Gorda. Snorkeling at The
Baths was much more peaceful. But my
favorite snorkeling spot was at The Indians,
a group of rock formations off Norman
Island. We grabbed a mooring ball and I
jumped in the water. The marine life was
astounding, like swimming in the most
beautiful aquarium I’d ever seen.
When snorkeling or diving, it’s important not to touch or kick anything. If you’re
not a strong swimmer, stick to deeper,
current-free waters. Remember, when you
put your head up, your feet go down.
Fragile coral can be destroyed if you’re too
close and many species of urchins and coral
can sting. Observe fish from a distance and
don’t chase or touch any wildlife, especially
turtles and marine mammals.
10. Support local conservation efforts.
A new trend in tourism is volun-tour-ism, where visitors engage in service projects in the locations they visit. (see related
story, page 20). While this hasn’t caught
on in the BVI yet, there are ways to support local conservation efforts when traveling. I did some research before our trip
and learned that the BVI is experiencing a
non-native lionfish invasion and is enlisting boaters to report lionfish sightings.
I also learned about the Jost Van Dyke’s
Preservation Society (JVDPS) which had
just completed an environmental assessment of the island.
While there, I met Susan Zaluski, the
group’s director, whose office is located
behind the legendary Foxy’s restaurant.
Zaluski runs an excellent hands-on environmental education program for the Jost
Van Dyke primary school. The students
are building a traditional Tortola sloop to
serve as a platform for their environmental
By supporting local organizations that
promote conservation, you can directly
impact the future of your favorite charter
Susan Shingledecker is an avid sailboat racer
and director of clean-water programs for the
BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and
This nonprofit 501(c)( 3) organization is
devoted to generating ideas and projects
that keep boaters safer, and our environment protected. The Foundation is independently funded by donations from
organizations and individuals, and by