Tortola Island (18°26'N., 64°37'W.), the largest of the British Virgin Islands, is flanked on its E and W ends by smaller islands which dot the sea enclosing an expanse of water considered to be one of the finest cruising grounds in the world.
Mount Sage, about 3.5 miles from the W end, rises to an elevation of about 521m.
Another mountain, 459m high, stands about 1 mile farther NE and 2 miles W of Road Harbour. It is surmounted by a radio station with three conspicuous towers, attaining an elevation of 485m. Two of the towers are fitted with dish aerials and one exhibits a red obstruction light.
Road Harbour, the only port of entry in the British Virgin Islands, is situated on the S coast of Tortola Island.
Great Thatch Island (18°23'N., 64°44'W.) lies about 0.5 mile W of the
West end, the W extremity of Tortola Island.
The Narrows, between Saint John and Great Thatch Island, gives access to the channel between Tortola Island and Saint John, leading to Sir Francis Drake Channel and Flanagan Passage.
Tides—Currents.—Currents in the Narrows and the passage are tidal, and attain rates of 2 to 4 knots.
Thatch Island Cut should not be attempted by sailing vessels from the N, except with a S current, as eddies and currents are strong. The tidal currents are very strong and eddies are formed.
Sopers Hole (18°23'N., 64°43'W.), limited port of entry, is a basin lying between the W extremity of Tortola Island on the N, and Little Thatch Island and Frenchman Cay on the S. Sopers Hole affords good sheltered anchorage for small vessels.
Depths of 23m, sandy bottom, are found in the middle of the basin N of Little Thatch Island, gradually decreasing to 11m about 91m from the shore on either side and to a lesser depth in the approach to the shoal area N of Frenchman Cay. Well up in the bight, the bottom is muddy, and provides better holding ground than in the middle.
There is a ferry landing pier and a yacht marina at Sopers Hole. A light is exhibited at the SW end of the landing pier.
Road Harbour (18°25'N., 64°37'W.) (World Port Index No. 11350), on the S coast of Tortola, lies in a bay which forms the natural harbor of the island. The bay is protected by ranges of hills from all except S and SE winds.
Roadtown, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, stands on the W shore of the bay.
The main berthing areas are Port Purcell, on the NE head of the harbor; Cruise Ship Jetty, at Wickham’s Cay, W side of the harbor; and the Roadtown jetties, on the W side of the bay.
Aspect.—Todman Peak, 352m in elevation, is prominent standing NW of the harbor, and Mount Bellevue, 385m in elevation is also prominent standing NE of the harbor.
On the E side of the bay, there are several conspicuous silver colored oil tanks on Shirley Point, 0.7 mile NW of Hogs Valley Point; at night, lights burn in their vicinity. North of the tanks a conspicuous radio mast, painted red and white, attains an elevation of 92m with a shorter mast standing on a building close W.
On the W side of the bay four apartment blocks, appearing from E as three conspicuous buildings with flat roofs, stand about 0.5 mile SW of Burt Point in the vicinity of Slaney Point. Government House is white, with conspicuous arches. The Government Administration Building, a large stone-colored building with large tinted windows, stands about 0.5 mile NNE of Government House.
Little Wickham Cay, a small mangrove island lying in the NW corner of the bay, in a basin formed by two reclaimed areas and the coast, is prominent. The entrance to the inlet is protected by breakwaters beyond which two marinas are prominent.
Depths—Limitations.—The depths in the approach to Road Harbour are very irregular. Within 1.5 miles of Hogs Valley Point and 2 miles of Slaney Point there are many patches of rock and coral with depths of 3.7 to 7m.
Denmark Banks, with a least depth of 3.7m, lie about 0.6 mile E of Slaney Point. Lark Bank, marked by a lighted buoy, with a depth of 4.4m lies 0.3 mile N of Denmark Banks.
Scotch Bank, marked by a lighted buoy at its NW edge, has a least depth of 2.4m and lies on the E side of the entrance, WNW of Hogs Valley Point. The depths decrease rapidly towards the shore which is fringed by rock and coral. It is reported (2008) that a stranded wreck lies N of Scotch Bank at the entrance to Fish Bay.
Port Purcell Wharf, which is 244m long and has a depth alongside of 7.3m, can accommodate vessels with a maximum draft of 6.4m. Cruise Ship Jetty, which is 165m long, has a lighted dolphin lying 80m beyond its seaward end. It has been reported that vessels with a maximum draft of 9m can be accommodated. Vessels with drafts of less than 2m can use the Roadtown jetties.
Pilotage.—Pilotage is compulsory for vessels over 200 grt.
The pilot embarks between Hogs Valley Point and Denmark Banks. If requested, pilots will also board in Sir Francis Drake Channel.
Westbound vessels are boarded 2 miles S of Buck Island (18°26'N., 64°33'W.), while eastbound vessels meet 2 miles S of Hogs Valley Point.
The vessel’s ETA should be sent 72 hours, 48 hours, and 24 hours in advance, with confirmation sent 1 hour before ETA.
There are no licensed pilots, but experienced mariners act as such. There is a port radio station, privately owned.
The port monitors VHF channel 16, with a working frequency of VHF channel 14. Communication with the pilots is on VHF channel 16 (call sign: Tortola Pilot).
Anchorage.—Large vessels can anchor in position 18°25'40"N, 64°32'15"W in the bay S of Beef Island.
The above anchorage is exposed to winds from S and SE and sudden and heavy rain squalls sweeping into the bay may cause a vessel to drag anchor.
Road Harbour has a number of yacht marinas which can best be seen on the chart. There is a small craft jetty adjacent to the town, with depths of 0.6 to 3m alongside. 8.6 With the exception of ships supplying oil, ships awaiting embarkation of a pilot and ships anchored while under pilotage, anchorage is prohibited in an area best seen on the chart. 8.6 Oil and gas submarine pipelines extend into the harbor from the E side of the bay, to terminal berths consisting of mooring buoys. The positions are best seen on the chart.
Directions.—From a position about 0.5 mile S of The Bluff (18°26'N., 61°31'W.), a vessel should steer to pass similar distance SE of Nora Hazel Point (3.2 miles WSW) keeping clear of depths of 8.5m about 1 mile W and about 0.5 mile S of the point.
Then, the yellow dome of Fort Burt hotel in line with the 290m summit of the hill behind it, bearing 278°, will lead close aboard the 10m contour off Hogs Valley Point.
The dome is not easy to distinguish unless the sun is high.
When 0.5 mile off Burt Point course should be altered to NW to pass between Scotch Bank and Lark Bank with either the extremity of the breakwater extending SW from Wickham’s Cay 2 or the Cruise Ship Jetty dolphin bearing 318°.
When the conspicuous 92m radio mast on the E side of the harbor bears about 040° course may be altered N towards Port Purcell. The right hand edge of a long low turquoise-colored building on the quay, bearing 003°, will lead in a least depth of 6.8m to the quay.
Caution.—It is reported that the positions of the buoys in Road Harbour are unreliable owing to the poor holding ground and occasional strong winds and currents.
It is usual for vessels to berth heading SE turning on the starboard anchor. Tugs are not available and, after sunrise, the prevailing E winds may make berthing difficult. The pilot boat will assist with berthing lines.
Guana Island (18°29'N., 64°34'W.) lies close off the NE side of Tortola Island. A fairway passage between the two islands has a least depth of 8.8m. Good sheltered anchorage can be found, in 12.9m, in the entrance of White Bay, with the W extremity of the island bearing 347° and Monkey Point, the S extremity of the island bearing 112°. 8.7 This anchorage should not be used during the period of the rollers.
Great Camanoe (18°28'N., 64°32'W.) lies about 1 mile E of Guana Island. The island consists of two parts connected by a low, narrow neck of land. Scrub Island, lies close E of Great Camanoe Island, from which it is separated by a narrow channel, in which there are many shoals and rocks.
Little Camanoe Island and Marina Cay are W and E, respectively, of the S end of Great Camanoe Island.
Submarine cables exist near the S side of Great Camanoe Island and can best be seen on the chart.
Beef Island (18°26'N., 64°32'W.) lies about 0.5 mile S of Great Camanoe Island and is separated from the E side of Tortola Island by a narrow and shoal passage. The S extremity of the island, marked by a light, is a prominent landmark. Beef Island and Tortola Island are connected by a bascule bridge.
Good anchorage can be taken, in 24m, in the lee of Beef Island, about 0.7 mile W of its S extremity.
Buck Island lies about 2 miles W of the S extremity of Beef Island.