Sloppy trip report-Tortola/Frenchmans Cay

Old May 8th, 2000, 01:13 PM
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Sloppy trip report-Tortola/Frenchmans Cay

Tortola April 29-May6, 2000

Notable experiences: Not in order of priority just by memory.

Our rankings of hotel accommodations for what we think would be our top 3 choices from the major hotels on the island.
1. Long Bay-nice beach (nonswimming), nice pool, clean and fresh looking accommodations, resort type.
2. Frenchmans Cay-somewhat biased because we stayed there and enjoyed it, but no air conditioning when would have liked it sometimes. Only 9 private villas, very quiet. Air Conditioning not necessarily needed though, just as a luxury.
3. Heritage Villas-absolutely beautiful views, appeared to have nice accommodations.

Those hotels seen include: Fort Recovery, Prospect reef, Sebastian's, Frenchman, Long Bay, Cane Garden area, Heritage, etc..

Until you see it for itself you cant imagine what people were talking about when they refer to places looking kind of run down. Although a lot of places look like shacks or plywood thrown up with a few nails they really are good places to stop. It is just the way it is here, very casual and comfortable, no high rises, no huge resorts, etc..

Mrs Scatcliffes restaurant, very good food, casual, eat in her own home. Must call first and reserve your meal on the phone, she will give you her 3 choices for that evening. House doesn't look like much but good experience overall. Recommended.

Sugar Mill, upscale dining. Leave the pants at home though unless you really want to wear them. Everyone states it is dressy but I could have gotten away with nice shorts since I saw at least 4 gentlemen wearing them and it is kind of warm there being open air restaurant. Food was good, but not our favorite spot. Very expensive. Service was pushy, felt like you were being rushed so they could turn over the table for the next set of diners. Had to basically tell them to slow down. Would not go again.

Frenchman Cay-villas and restaurant. We stayed here for the week in one of the villas. Nice accommodations, mediocre beach (not swimmable). Very laid back atmosphere, Mom & Pop kind of experience. Restaurant was good food, and nice views of the channel. Recommended. Truthfully though for accommodations we would probably stay at Long Bay next time before Frenchmans only because it is nice to have the ability of getting into the air conditioning when you want it. Frenchmans doesn't have any air, gets a little warm, and there are a million roosters on the island that constantly crow. Frenchmans has the benefit of being close to Sopers Hole. Sopers is really a harbor for a large amount of boaters that stay in the BVI's. On either side of Sopers is Pussers and Jolly Roger Inn.

Jolly Rogers has great BBQ ribs and is a good spot for drinks, speaking from experience here.

We found Pussers to be a pretty commercial spot. They have their own store, rum and weird antiseptic kind of smell to the place. We did stop 2 times though for a drink on the way home since it was so close to Frenchmans and you can walk along the docks and check out some of the boats. I think their largest crowd is boaters because they don't have to take a cab or drive anywhere. Not our favorite spot.

Bombas shack-what can you say, have to see it to believe it and also experience it. Casual food as well as great music on Sundays and Wednesdays. Pick up Limin Times for schedule of all the island live bands. We made it to both Sunday and Wednesday nights. Wednesday for some reason was more lively than Sunday. Band was called Extreme (I think), awesome reggae and other music.

Jus limin-Heritage Villas. Jus limin is the bar/ restaurant just above Cane Garden area. We stopped here twice for a drink in our travels. Highly recommend the place for the most beautiful views of anywhere on the island. As a matter of fact, we would even stay there because of the views, the pool, and proximity to everything you need.

Smugglers Cove is pretty remote down a dirt road, has an honor bar with booze and sodas, good swimming beach.
Brewers Bay was our favorite location, remote as well down a huge cliff and challenging drive but worth the trip; we were the only ones on the beach at one point.
Cane Garden Bay-fun spot, good swimming area, bunch of food and drink spots along the beach. We thought it was pretty commercial, touristy, etc.. Good for a change of pace but not our favorite spot.
Long Bay-pretty stretch of beach but from what we could see, pretty challenging swimming between the waves and the rocks.

Drink Spots-Jus Limin, Quitos (live music also), Sebastians, Long Bay, Bombas, Pussers in Soper Hole, Jolly Roger.

We did only one daysail tour. That was aboard the White Squall II (80 foot sailboat). Very expensive for what you get we thought. $85 per person, power to the Baths on Virgin Gorda 1&1/2 hours under power, 1 hour at Baths lunch, power/sail to Cooper Island snorkel for 1 hour, power sail back. Very friendly and accommodating staff, free booze and lunch. Snorkeling was not very good at all. Because we were so disappointed with that day we actually cancelled a trip I really wanted to do later in the week aboard the Tamarin II (trimarin sailboat). That was a mistake from what we understand from others who did Tamarin trip it was great, oh well next visit.

Next visit to BVI's will be aboard a charter boat, whether it be bareboat or crewed charter, either way. This would enable you to get around and see all the other islands that are soooo close by.

Overall, loved the BVI's. Very relaxed atmosphere, casual for dining out and enjoying. People of the BVI's are friendly and not like the USVI's. Anywhere you stay you will end up traveling all around the island because there are so many beautiful spots to go and that are also safe and fun. Rent a Jeep for your entire stay, it is only a small fee in comparison to being trapped at your resort or relying on taxis which can be very expensive alone. A common custom here is to pick up others while they are walking along the road. We actually participated and found the people to be very appreciative and nice. Many people do not have the luxury of owning cars it appears, amazing to us since the hills are so steep and how much walking they must do. Driving is challenging but not something to fear, just drive slow and remember to use low gear 1 to climb and descend the steep ones.

Old May 12th, 2000, 06:40 PM
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We must be kindred spirits, Rick. My wife and I did all the same things and liked all the same things you did. We've been going to BVI for a long time. We've stayed a Frenchman's four times and always found it excellent. On the lack of a/c, we really enjoyed the way the breeze blows 24/7 and liked that better than a/c. We had a/c over at Biras Creek in 99 and turned it off so we could hear the surf.
On Long Bay... it looks nice, but the food is so-so, the service is a real problem. Agree totally on the surf and rocks.
You would've loved a day cruise with 3-4 snorkeling sites on Patouche II catamaran. Been out with them 3 or 4 times. Great time!
So thanks for writing a "sloppy trip report" that gave me a mini-vacation just reading it. And I agree, picking people up to give them a ride is a plus that gets one right into the swing of island life.
Old May 21st, 2000, 08:44 AM
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Congratulations, Rick, on making a great choice for your vacation; i.e., Frenchman's Cay. I've been there twice and will return, I'm sure. I take issue with your comment that the beach is not swimmable. My friends and I very much enjoyed both swimming and snorkeling just offshore. If you hang a left and snorkel just below the spit of land where they have their flagpole, you would find good snorkeling and lots of fish.
We were there for 10 days and gravitated toward afternoons on our porch watching the pelicans dive for dinner.
Fabulous place. Rivals only an inn I once knew in Switzerland for providing a relaxing, mellow, vacation.
Old May 23rd, 2000, 06:18 AM
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Ann, you may be right about the swimming beach during different times; we were fortunate to have the winds blowing as Joel stated which made swimming in my opinion impossible because the waves were crashing over the rock jetty. We are above average swimmers and still were intimidated by the waves and trying to get out past the jetty. I tried to give an unbiased opionion about the a/c thing and do agree that I would much rather hear the surf than the a/c running; however there are sometimes those moments when you just need to cool off. As I stated, I live in Florida and we live in a/c almost year round; and I still found the nights at around 2-3 when the winds may subside a bit to not be quite enough. I would stay with Frenchmans again though because of all the positive things they do have to offer. I guess I am spoiled and if I want something on vacation I would at least like to have the option. Besides, my next visit to BVI's will be land and sea I hope. I am not sure if all the sailboats have air and you may not need it out on anchor, dont know but sure cant wait to find out.
Old May 23rd, 2000, 09:51 AM
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Quick question - how are they set for fans at FC? Are there ceiling fans, box fans, etc. or are you at the whim of the wind gods? We're all set to go in November and excited as all heck, just wondering what to expect...

Old May 23rd, 2000, 11:40 AM
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RJ, they have ceiling fans, no box fans, and pretty good breezes all day and night coming up the channel. The villa we stayed in #2, was facing the side of the channel rather than like the rest of them facing the front, which probably explains some of the loss of breeze. Another thing is that the bedroom in ours was on the 2nd floor upstairs; as you know heat rises. November will probably be a bit more cool I would think than May. The villas (9 of them I think) are located on a hill and everyone of them probably has great views. You will enjoy yourselves!!!!!
Old Aug 27th, 2001, 05:18 PM
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Heard lots of positive things about Frenchmans Cay, but can't get a clear understanding of the beach. Everything from good beach to not swimmable. Can someone help clarify? Thanks.
Old Aug 28th, 2001, 04:50 AM
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Great trip report. As Joel said, thanks for the mini-vacation!
Old Aug 28th, 2001, 05:26 PM
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John, here's the beach as best as I can describe it, pros and cons(and I advise you to see it on their website to get an idea of what I'm talking about).
First, the 2 pools and beach are adjoining, along with the restaurant. You have your choice of shade or sun on the beach, with my particular favorite being one of the 2 hammocks strung under a couple of sea grape trees. The beach is average length considering the size of most Tortolan beaches which tend to be cozy nooks rather than broad expanses.
The resort is on the Sir Francis Drake Channel which means that from your private porch you have an unimpeded view of the channel and the islands lining the opposite side... a phenomenal view! But... the breeze blows upchannel towards the point that FC occupies. It's an onshore breeze so on your average day you have a 2 foot sea coming on shore. A breakwater protects the swimming beach so anyone, even a toddler can wade and splash about in a pool-sized area that the waves can't penetrate. An adult, on any day I ever spent there (I've logged more than a month there over the last 7 years), can and would normally swim beyond the breakwater to enjoy the snorkeling and various marine life. You WILL be in waves beyond the breakwater rather than calm seas you'd find in any sheltered cove (those are mostly on the north shore which is the lee shore). My wife, who is a Missourian and had never seen an ocean before our honeymoon and grew up around farm ponds, has no problem beyond the breakwater and particularly enjoys going out there with mask and fins to watch the fish watch her watch them. As to the beach in terms of sand, beauty, etc., the sand is regular ol' sand and it's probably 80 or 90 feet from the start of the grass down to the water's edge. Typically, since it's such a small resort you will literally have the beach to yourself, all 300 or so feet of it. If you go to either end you will definitely have privacy.
If a sweeping beach, flat and white, that runs on forever is a must, then you would prefer Virgin Gorda. Great beaches, but the island itself lacks most of what Rick described in his top post. I've tried to be unbiased and completely accurate. The main features of FC are: view, roomy and breezy accomodations, lots of privacy, very few guests or hubbub, great packages, great food, great management, and a totally laid-back ambiance.
Old Aug 28th, 2001, 06:27 PM
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Thanks Joel for the very good description of the beach. Our last visit was to Virgin Gorda and the very nice beach at Savannah Bay. This time we want to try Tortola, and Frenchmans Cay seems to be the favorite. After spending a week on Savannah Bay you know why we are asking. Thanks again.
Old Aug 29th, 2001, 04:49 AM
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You're welcome. If the beach should still be a consideration for you, I would investigate Ft. Recovery across the bay from FC (they have a website) or Biras Creek on Virgin Gorda; great beach, hasn't the views, and superb dining.
All in all, though, we find that half the fun of Tortola is having a 4WD and visiting all the remarkable small beaches that are in the vicinity. Top of the list are Smugglers, Brewers Bay, Cane Garden Bay (of Jimmy Buffett fame) and Long Bay (not swimmable, but a helluva nice beach).
Old Aug 29th, 2001, 06:32 AM
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Re Long Bay not being a decent swimming area: I thought it was fine! You just need to scope out which sections have rocks and which don't. We walked down the beach to the left, away from the hotel (where we stayed) and the swimming was great!
As an interesting footnote, I'll add that two of the other beaches we really liked, one on Virgin Gorda (day trip) and the other on Beef Island (where Tortola's airport is), were also named "Long Bay". Both were completely deserted and quite nice.
Old Sep 4th, 2001, 08:39 PM
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It would be good to clarify the whole Long Bay beach thing once and for all and I don't claim to have the answer. While I've been there and waded and found enough rocks to discourage me, I didn't explore the whole beach. Long ago, at least 3 years, it seems like it might've been Karen that made the point about LB being nonswimmable. Many others have as well. Last time I was there, it was after a hurricane and most of the shoreline was buried in dead coral and it was unsafe to go into the water due to all the trash that had been stirred up.
So where are the swimmable places on LB and what % of the beach is swimmable? I'm not doubting; I just would like to know.

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