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Sailing to Anegada: How to Navigate to and Visit the Sunken Island

Anchorage in Anegada at Setting Point

Anegada is my favorite destination during a British Virgin Islands yacht charter. Secluded north shore beaches, fresh spiny lobster dinners on the beach, and the best snorkeling in the Caribbean are top reasons to go.

However, many charterers avoid sailing to Anegada – it can seem intimidating, especially if you are a novice bareboat charter skipper. Shallow water, reefs, and careful navigation require extra care.

We visited Anegada 10 years ago on our first ever bareboat charter, and so can you.

Once dubbed the forbidden island since it was off limits to charter boats, it now has a well-marked channel thanks to the charting efforts of Walker Magnum.

I love the Anegada vibe, but be careful – it’s addicting. Part of the appeal is that it’s not an accessible destination. There are a several boutique hotels, but other than the couple hundred residents, the only visitors come by sea.

That leaves you an enormous tropical paradise to explore and discover in relative solitude – that’s my kind of place!

Here’s how work Anegada into your BVI sailing trip and what to expect:

dancing in Anegada
Visiting Anegada will make you want to dance like this!
Anegada overview map

One of the reasons the BVI is such a great destination for beginners is that navigation is generally easy – mountainous islands allow for line of sight travel and depths drop off quickly from shore.

That’s not the case for Anegada.

Unlike the other volcanic islands of the British Virgin Islands, Anegada was formed from coral and limestone. It’s quite flat you and you won’t see the tops of the whispering pines until you are couple miles out.

Turquoise clouds on the way to Anegada
You can often see the reflection of the shallow turquoise water in the clouds on your way to Anegada

I like leaving from North Sound in Virgin Gorda for two reasons. First: it’s the shortest jumping off point, allowing you to make the most of your first day in Anegada.

The second is that with the prevailing tradewinds from NE – SE (depending on the time of year), it allows for a better point of sail. You should be on anywhere from a beam reach to a broad reach. You can read up more about BVI weather and marine conditions here.

If winds are over 20+ knots, you may want to re-arrange your itinerary and wait for a better weather window. It could make for an uncomfortable passage.

The Cruising Guide recommends a course of 008 degrees magnetic from North Sound. In general, you want to land west of the channel entrance to give yourself room to drop sails and avoid some dangerous coral.

The Two Sisters coral formation near Anegada
Two Sisters coral formation | Source: Navionics | Not to be used for navigation

There is a coral formation named the Two Sisters that has claimed several charter boats over the years from ill-advised skippers that tried to cut the turn too closely. Give it a wide berth, stay in the marked channel, and you will be fine.

Due to leeway and a ~1 knot current, expect to be set farther to the west of your course. You might have to make some adjustments.

You might see several other boats approaching Anegada – use caution about following them. Some might disregard channel markers or use local knowledge to take a short-cut.

Keep following the channel markers to the anchorage and mooring field on the left.

Looking for coral heads on the way to Anegada
Make sure you post a bow watch (or two) to look for coral heads on your approach to Anegada

Once inside the anchorage at Setting Point, go slowly. It can feel tight, especially if it’s crowded. Watch your charts, but there is room at the back of the mooring field to turn around and approach the ball of your choice. Winds are usually from the east, so a U-turn is often necessary.

Depths can sometimes get shallow towards the back of the anchorage. Use caution, especially if you are in a monohull.

There are plenty of first come first serve mooring balls and ~10 Boaty Ball reserved moorings. You can familiarize yourself with their reservation program here. If you’d prefer to anchor, there’s plenty of room.

Anegada Setting Point anchorage and mooring field
The mooring field at Setting Point Anegada

What to do in Anegada

I think Anegada is best enjoyed over 2 days. However, if you only have time for one night during a week-long trip, it is 100% still worth going. You can either skip the reef tour, or have a single action-packed day: morning tour and north shore beach exploring in the afternoon.

Here’s how I would plan out my two days.

Double rainbow over Anegada in the British Virgin Islands
Double rainbow in Anegada

First day: sailing to Anegada and beach exploring

Get an early start from North Sound. If you leave by 8:00 and have some decent wind, you’ll be tied off to a mooring ball by 10/10:30. If it’s your first time, you can even watch/follow other sailboats as they head through the channel.

The first thing you need to do is make dinner reservations – browse through the menu and have your crew’s order ready to go. You can reach them on the VHF or do it in person.

You really can’t go wrong with any of restaurants – Potter’s, Lobster Trap, Wonky Dog, Anegada Reef Hotel, etc. Lobster, of course is the specialty, but most also offer fresh caught fish. They’ll cook it all up for you right there on the beach.

Pack a bag for a full day – water, towels, sunscreen, snorkel gear etc. You can tie off your dinghy at Potter’s dock.

The dock and beach bar at Potter's by the Sea | We usually tie our dinghy off here

If you like donuts, go find Kenny – he has a cafe at Setting Point and does them up right.

Rather than coordinate taxi pick up and drop-offs all day, get a rental vehicle. There are plenty of options, and we’ve never coordinated in advance. If you’re visiting in the busier season, this might be a good idea, however. You can also call them on your way to the anchorage. Cell phone service exists along the route.

Don’t rent the scooters unless you want to risk ending your vacation early. Many tourists have gotten in accidents – inexperienced drivers, sand/gravel on the roads, and rum don’t mix well.

If you have 8 people, rent 2 mokes (4 passengers each). You’ll have a blast exploring the north shore beaches in these open air vehicles. Check out Amazing Rentals for the mokes.

Dean Wheatley and Lauren Creque offer jeep rentals.

We’ve also previously rented a pickup truck with bench seating in the back that works just as well.

Mokes parked at Cow Wreck Beach
Mokes parked at Cow Wreck Beach - they are a fun way to explore the island

North shore beaches of Anegada

The speed limit is 30mph – driving around Anegada is a lot of fun! You don’t need a map. Head east and start exploring. Getting lost is part of the fun.

I would start with Flash of Beauty which lays claim to the best snorkeling spot. On your way, you can stop at the Flamingo pond overlook for a peak at the pink birds if they aren’t out feeding.

Flamingo Pond overlook Anegada
Flamingo Pond overlook
Anegada flamingos
Anegada flamingos | Source: the Moorings

After a morning snorkel grab a bite at Flash of Beauty or next door at Big Bamboo on Loblolly Bay. Monica at Flash of Beauty makes a mean roti and she can pour you an eye opener if that’s your thing.

In the afternoon, work your way back west along the north shore. You can drop by the Anegada Beach Club (try the lobster pizza or their famous BLLT), a popular glamping resort with a pool. If you want to visit another time, they run a free shuttle from the Lobster Trap.

Exploring the beaches in Anegada
Exploring the north shore of Anegada - go get lost!
Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
Lagoon style swimming is waiting for you at Cow Wreck Beach
TIPSY by Ann at Cow Wreck Beach - not a bad place for a sundowner: Source - TIPSY's

I would park myself for the afternoon at TIPSY’s for a rum drink or two, and some swimming. Cow Wreck Beach is more of a lagoon with shallow turquoise water and beautiful white sand. Rinse and repeat.

Get cleaned up back at the boat, put on your finest resort wear, grab a sundowner, and enjoy your lobster dinner on the beach – one of the highlights of a stop in Anegada.

Horseshoe Reef tour
Getting ready to snorkel offshore on the Horshoe Reef

Second day: explore Horseshoe Reef

A couple weeks before your trip, you’ll want to reserve a Horseshoe Reef tour with Kelly or Sherwin. I’ve used Kelly in the past, but I’ve heard Sherwin is great too.

They’ll pick you up right from your yacht sometime mid-morning. You’re going to be in the sun for awhile, so again, pack accordingly (I’ve heard some of the boats now have canopies). Long sleeve cover ups are a good idea.

It’s a fun ~30 minute speedboat ride out to the reef. He’ll set you up on a drift snorkel and you can also help him look for lobster. While it’s illegal for visitors to take lobster, Kelly and Sherwin are able to when they are in season. They can also hook you up with conch.

The reef is really beautiful, and we’ve even seen nurse sharks and eagle rays.

After the snorkel, you’ll stop by the famous conch mounds on your way back. Make sure to hop in the water and get your picture taken.

If you want more peace and quiet, consider moving your catamaran around the corner to Pomato Point. It’s well protected and Sid’s Restaurant gets rave reviews. You may also want to cook up the fresh lobster you picked up during your tour.

Anegada lobster
Lobster's from Kelly that we picked up during the tour
Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster
Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster on our charter catamaran - what more could you ask for?

Planning to go back to the north shore beaches? Grabbing the free shuttle to the Anegada Beach Club is a good idea too.

Another idea? Just beach bar hop the establishments at Setting Point.

Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada
Isolated squalls make for a beautiful sunset in the mooring field

Other Anegada Activities

Fishing

The North Drop is only about an hour’s sail to the north where you have excellent chances of catching mahi mahi, tuna, and wahoo. Check out my BVI fishing guide where I talk more about it.

If you are serious about fishing the drop, consider doing this on the morning you plan to leave. This route offers mostly downwind sailing where you can zig zag and troll over the drop for 25+ miles. It’s a long day on the water, so make sure your crew is up for it and weather conditions are settled.

You can also hit Kingfish Banks for some bottom dropping closer to Jost Van Dyke.

If you are into fly fishing, Anegada offers some of the best bonefishing there is. Arrange for a tour with one of the local operators several weeks in advance.

North drop fishing route
Possible fishing route hitting the North Drop and Kingfish Banks

Kite boarding

Tommy Gaunt offers kite boarding lessons and rentals on the north shore at the Anegada Beach Club. I’m not a kiteboarder, but I might give a lesson a shot the next time I visit.

Rock iguanas

If you are a nature lover, you might want to check out the Anegada Rock Iguana Headstart Facility. These iguanas are only found only on the island and are currently critically endangered. The Headstart Facility protects the young iguanas from their cat predators.

Enjoy this post about sailing to Anegada? Check out my other posts about the British Virgin Islands here! Also, please subscribe for more yacht charter content.

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent information !! Thanks so much for doing this 🙂


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