One of the most elegant of the remaining tall ships, this historic
165' top-sail schooner rounded Cape Horn many times under sail alone.
Continuing the rich tradition of sailing, as seen above at The Bight
on one of its many BVI cruises, the Sir Francis Drake will be remembered
fondly by its shipmates.
A traditional first day "easy sail" for bareboaters, The Bight
at Norman Island is right across the sheltered "Sir Francis Drake Channel" from
Everyone's favorite, the Bight is an ample and sheltered anchorage.
With moorings to pick up, The Bight also has anchoring, the best of which is
toward Billy Bones on a 15-30' shelf.
Good snorkeling is available over the seagrass
or on the reef at the south end of the beach.
Beach Bar &
Restaurant A beach bar &
restaurant, Pirates Bight (VHF 16 & 69, 496-7827), open 11
AM 'til late, offers favorites such as Pirates Wings,
Cucumber salad, Lemon Mustard Chicken, curried shrimp and
Mango/Papaya Mousse (see
First we must research the search for buried
treasure by reading stories about pirates. The
book, Treasure Island, is a good choice for local knowledge and possible clues. Also see Prince of Pirates.
Next we must outfit for our voyage and sail to The Bight. Don't
forget your snorkeling fins, mask and snorkel. Also be sure to bring an underwater
flashlight and some zip-lock baggies with bread or crackers to feed the fish.
Once in The Bight, check your treasure map
above to locate the pirates' treasure in The Caves. Remember "X" marks the spot!
To go to The Caves, get in the dinghy and follow the
craggy shoreline to Treasure Point on the lower tip of The Bight. Round the point
and tie up at the dinghy mooring.
Slip into the water with your snorkeling gear. Stop
to feed the fish at the entrance of The
Look for secret markings on the cave walls with your
flashlight. Just remember, if you find the buried treasure, it's YOUR turn to pay!
Many boaters leave their boat at the Bight and travel in the area
by dinghy. At the lower tip of the Bight, is Treasure Point with dinghy moorings
for The Caves. Likewise, the Willie T and Pirates Bight, both of which are in the
Bight, have dinghy docks.
These offer relaxation, a cool refreshment and time to
chat, and food, partying and other forms of booty or "treasure" for grownups.
The Caves. Lending to the continuing legend of buried
treasure, the famous Caves, pictured at the top, are only four
feet deep, although they drop off to 40 feet near their entrance. Typically explored
by snorkeling, the Caves are fascinating rock formations.
The variety of tropical fish, the life-encrusted walls
of cup corals and sponges with their brilliant colors, and the abundant waterfowl,
including pelicans, tropic birds and laughing gulls,
make this a popular area.
The northern-most Cave stretches 70' back into
the island. Bring an underwater flashlight to see the gorgeous
purples, rusts and deep veins of the above water walls. Underwater, it's like a night
dive, with the coral polyps extending their tentacles to feed. At the end of the
cave is a small room.
The next Cave is deeply indented into the rock face.
Still another Cave is above the water line.
The southernmost Cave has a rounded rock bottom on
which to stand, underneath a natural skylight. This is a good place to
take photos from the inside. Watch for surge so as not to damage yourself or the wildlife.
A replica of a 93'
top-sail schooner has been converted to a bar- restaurant and
anchored in the Bight. Affectionately called the "Willie T," (a/k/a the
William ThorntonII for the designer of the
U.S. Capitol, a BVI native), it is a BVI tradition (the old Willie T
is now a dive wreck--now you can jump off
the roof in slow motion), known for its casual ambiance, patroling barracudas
and wild carousing like the old-time pirates with belly shots on the bar.
The Willie T monitors VHF 16 (photo: Jere Lull).
, easily recognized
by their distinctive five vertical bars, patrol for bread handouts
at The Caves, followed by yellowtail snappers, pictured here, a
popular table fish in the BVI. Note how the yellow
midline strip extends back into the yellow tail.
Snorkel Touring After The Caves, the most popular BVI snorkeling site may be The Indians.
The east side toward Pelican Island is excellent for snorkeling, especially the "fish
bowl." In the shallows, damselfishes chase the algae-grazing schools of blue tang.
Look for colorful flatworms as well.
Inexperienced snorkelers should be careful of strong winds that
kick up waves and generate surface currents here!
Snorkelers with good skin diving talents may attempt the tunnel exiting
the fish bowl.
Nearby off Pelican Island is Rainbow Canyons with
good snorkeling in the shallows.
Pelican Island. The Indians,
nearby rock pinnacles off Pelican Island reminiscent of an Indian bonnet,
is a not-to-be-missed dive site, which also offers great snorkeling. Here
in the shallow "fish bowl," swirling clouds of bait fish are
pursued by jacks and snappers below and dive-bombed by pelicans above
Dive Tour of The
These rock pinnacles rise and descend
roughly the same fifty feet above and below the water (photo: JGoldy). Pick up one of the numerous
moorings, and then proceed to circle the four pinnacles in about 50 minutes.
From the northwest mooring, descend 50' and swim over to the base of the cliff.
Go to the right for various corals, such as elkhorn, brain and star, and sponge laden ledges,
along with sea fans and gorgonians. Trumpetfish, black durgons
and blue chromis are abundant here.
on, a steep walled
canyon is formed by a sunken Indian or pinnacle on the
right. At its far end is
an active cleaning station serving creole wrasse, bar jacks and others.
Up over a ledge lined with elkhorn and
brain coral, you will enter the famous "fish bowl" described
A narrow tunnel about 15' deep and 12' long
leads out into a smaller bowl. Turn right at two smaller Indians, and follow around into
the reef shallows and back out. Sun anemones with shrimps cover the rocky
A small cave on the way out is filled with a
fascinating school of resident glassy sweepers. Their shimmering bodies
against colorful sponges are quite photogenic. Continue between two
Indians back to your boat if running low on air or seeking a shortcut. Or you can turn
right and make a complete circumnavigation (photo:
A great dive site for novices, Rainbow Canyons, on the lee tip of Pelican
Island, offers great variety and fine snorkeling in the shallow areas as well. Explore the
spur and groove reefs by following the sand canyons,
especially the one near the point. This is also an excellent day anchorage with a fine
This area is generally a water related world.
However, the Benures Bay anchorage affords a nice hike
over the hill to Money Bay for a good snorkel or dive.
In The Bight, you can dinghy over to Pirates
Bight and, from there you can hike to the top of Spy
Glass Hill. Watch out for wild cattle and goats.
An alternative anchorage from The Bight, Benures Bay is a good overnight
anchorage that is protected when the wind is from the south. Anchor off the northeast pebble
beach in about 20 feet of water. There is good snorkeling at the western end.
Spy Glass Dive Site. Just
east of Benures Bay, is Spy Glass (named after the hill of pirate
lookout fame), one of the best mini-walls in the BVI. Dropping
from 20 to 60', the wall is covered with purple tube sponges and little
holes with small fishes. Snorkel the 10' top as well as the large coral heals
in the shallows Eagle rays often can be seen out in the blue water.
South Shore. On the other side of the island from The Bight, there is a world
apart of unspoiled, rugged beauty in a primitive setting
of cliffs and surf.
Offering spectacular 360° panoramic views of the
Sir Francis Drake Channel and surrounding areas, Spy Glass Hill was used
by pirates and privateers to keep a lookout for treasure galleons, back in the days when
the Sir Francis Drake Channel was known as Freebooters Gangway (flag: ScubaMom).
Dive Touring Take a mooring for Ringdove Rock,
but use a dive flag and watch for sailboat keels as this location is in a "traffic
lane" to the Bight. This is not a snorkeling site.
On past the northern point of the Bight is a small cove that makes an
excellent day anchorage. Still further on past Benure's Bay is Spy Glass with its great mini walls.
In the other direction, a short way past The Caves is Sandy's Ledge 150' off the beach, good for
snorkeling and diving. Anchor your dinghy securely in the sea grass.
Angelfish Reef, just a
few minutes by dinghy, is a good site for a group's divers while snorkelers do The Caves,
although advanced snorkelers can join the divers.
Snorkeling. This area abounds in its variety of
diving and snorkeling sites, including Ringdove Rock, Sandy's
Ledge, Angelfish Reef, and a half mile offshore, Santa Monica Rock.
Ringdove Rock. Located in front of
northern tip of the Bight, Ringdove Rock is the intown, friendly sea
mount--a kind of structure usually found offshore in open water. Around its
gorgonian covered base, explore the honeycombed coral heads for moray
ells and lobsters. Then spiral upward counterclockwise around the formation to explore the
sand canyons on top and abundant life in this sea version of a garden.
The rock walls here
are a favorite spot to see the Sargeant
majors guarding their purple egg masses as well massing at the rock's top
(photo: Jim Jackson).
Privateer Bay. Sandy's Ledge. Past
The Caves is Privateer Bay with Sandy's Ledge, blocking the beach but
offering great diving and snorkeling. Snorkel the top of the ledge in six
feet of water, looking for specimens such as the longlure frogfish, then
dive to explore the rocky base and adjacent sand strip, a natural fish highway.
Further on is the eel grass with eagle rays and turtles possible as well
as miniature coral heads with tiny fish inside.
Angelfish Reef. An
inshore dive site with excellent water clarity due to nearby channel currents, Angelfish
Reef, past Sandy's Ledge at Norman Island's southwestern tip, is the continuation of the
rocky point into the sea as radiating ridges out to a maze of narrow canyons. Abundant
fish including its namesake, the shy Queen Angelfish, along with the French variety,
Dive Tour of Angelfish Reef. From the mooring,
slide down the sloping reef, turning left down a sand channel bordering sea grass (look
for conch). Follow the slope around the point over a field of barrel sponges
to an undercut ledge.
Turn left and head back up the slope to a rocky coral head teeming with
fish. Look for a narrow canyon leading back through and close-in around
the rocky point to the start. Check for schools of palometa cruising the
underwater surf of the crashing waves above (photo:
CSULB). Finish your dive at the innermost
mooring, watching for sailfin blennies in the sand below during your rest
Santa Monica Rock.
Attesting to the great range of dive sites in the BVI, Santa Monica Rock, 3/4 of a mile
southwest, is an open water seamount. Its topography includes a "sink
hole," craggy top, gorgonian covered walls and a dual
ledge-bowl formation with plentiful marine life. The clarity of the water
due to its current swept points are excellent sighting places for pelagic
fish such as swift silvery schools of African pompano.