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The British Virgin Islands offer many sea splendors, but the RMS Rhone, a British mail ship that sank off Salt Island during a storm in 1867, is a renowned dive site. The annual Black Boaters Summit (www.honeyletstravel.com) convenes for a week in August to frolic and foster camaraderie among sailors. Each Easter, boaters seize the waters off Virgin Gorda for the Fisherman’s Jamboree.
From an aerial view, the 60 islands that comprise the BVI territory resemble a trove of fine emerald gems set upon a sea of sapphire silk. Visitors will discover that the properties are filled with enchanting folklore as they island-hop between Anegada, Little Thatch, Round Rock, Fallen Jerusalem, and Peter Island, all once the domain of Dutch settlers and ruthless pirates. Today, the BVIs boast citizens who are fiercely proud of their link to the British monarchy, although they use U.S. currency. The ability to earn American currency without leaving the Caribbean is a major draw for the 22,000 Jamaicans, Antiguans, Dominicans, and Guyanese who migrated to the BVIs to form a vibrant cultural mosaic.
After working up a hearty appetite from the sea adventures, every daring epicurean should pull up to a table at Marie Fahie’s restaurant at Fort Hill in Tortola, where kitsch charm complements hefty servings of traditional dishes such as doved pork and bull foot soup (yes, it includes the hoof).
For dinner, try fresh salmon fillet with shrimp mousse in capers sauce at 1748, a beachfront restaurant set in the restored remnants of an 18th century sugar mill at the Long Bay Beach Resort & Villas (www.longbay.com). Then slide on your dancing shoes and step in to Quito’s Gazebo, The Bat Cave or Bomba Shack to sample local vibes.
Navigating these islands by sailboat is a thrill; it’s also big business for The Moorings (www.moorings.com), which charters its yacht fleet. The Bitter End Yacht Club (www.beyc.com) on Virgin Gorda is a sailor-friendly exclusive hideaway. Sandwiched by the North Sound and Caribbean Sea, this keyless community of 85 rustic coastal bungalows is accessible only by water.
Naturally, the sea is host to the variety of attractions provided by Bitter End’s water sports crew. Windsurfing, fishing, and scuba diving will ensure that you get more than just your feet wet.
Virgin Gorda, “The Fat Virgin,” named for its outcrop that resembled a reclining figure to Columbus, spans eight and half square miles and is the third largest in the family of British Virgin Islands. Its treasured landmarks include an unusual cluster of huge granite boulders that shelter shallow pools called The Baths and the Copper Mine. When in search of fine dining, full-service resorts, and renewing treatments, the offerings are few but all exquisite. The Spa at Little Dix Bay (www.littledixbay.com) is a sun-kissed hilltop sanctuary that offers signature treatments such as a Lemongrass Spice Wrap ($70) and Virgin Gorda Goat Milk & Honey Wrap ($125).
For the less than 200 residents of Jost Van Dyke, Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar is a cherished institution. After dropping anchor in White Bay, sailors
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