If you are planning a trip to the BVI, there are a number of festivals and events in the BVI that may be well worth your time to plan your sailing trip to allow your participation in an attendance at these events.
The most significant of these festivals, held in August of each year, commemorates the 1834 Emancipation Act which abolished slavery in the BVI. This festival is sometimes called the Tortola Carnival, although it is celebrated with events in partying on all of the islands. The Emancipation Festival is a major event throughout the BVI, and events are held on all of the islands. Generally, the atmosphere includes a bit of everything from boat races to parades, parties, and things you might find at a big county fair. The party atmosphere includes lots of live music, dancing, and food along with the requisite foolishness such as donkey races and greased pig catching contests. Food booths line the streets with tempting island fare. This is a don’t-miss event if you plan a bareboat chartering trip in late July or early August.
As you would expect, given the exquisite sailing in and around the British Virgin Islands, there are a number of sailing events and regattas held throughout the year. Often the bareboat chartering services offer trips that participate in these regattas. Your participation can be that of a spectator or a participant. Trips may be arranged with an experienced captain in your boat who actively guides your participation in a race, or, of course, there are a number of these events where you and your crew can be an entrant as an active participant in an appropriate class in one of these regattas.
The most significant of these sailing events is the BVI Sailing Festival and Spring Regatta, which typically happens around the end of March. Sailors of every skill level arrived from around the world, often chartering boats, to participate in this event. You can find out more about the BVI Sailing Festival and Spring Regatta at bvi spring regatta.
For us personally, a fun event which we try to work into each British Virgin Islands sailing trip is to attend a Full Moon party. In the BVI, almost anything makes a good excuse for a party, and a full moon is no exception. Numerous places around the islands host such parties (which as the name suggests are held on the night of each and every full moon). One of our favorites is in Trellis Bay. A local artist, Aragorn, has crafted numerous steel fire balls. These are spheres with silhouettes of interesting patterns and people built into them and intended to be loaded with wood which is subsequently set on fire making an extraordinarily interesting “fire pit”. The Aragorn has similarly constructed a number of human like figures that can also be set ablaze. Perhaps this is an homage to Burning Man. A number of these fire balls are set around the beach and in shallow water. They are set ablaze for these full moon parties which, as usual, involve prodigious amounts of alcohol and food consumption–the beachfront restaurants and shops being open for the occasion.
New Year’s Eve is also a time for parties and celebration. As you might expect, you can find numerous places that will help you celebrate. Perhaps the best-known is Foxy’s on Jost van Dyke. As you might expect, Foxy’s has a different name for the celebration– they call it Old Year’s Eve (or Weekend, if they want to stretch it out). Foxy’s is the place to be on Old Year’s Eve– there are DJs on the beach level and locally big name bands out back. The music lasts from sundown to sun up, and foxy’s famous drinks (Pain Killers, Dread Fox and Sly Fox…) are everywhere. Unless you have your own chartered boat, consider taking a ferry from Tortola (or St. John’s or St. Thomas). Foxy’s is also extremely crowded for this “carnival”; call ahead for reservations.
The beachside barbecue at Foxy’s is typically $20 per person, first come first served. Upstairs (“The Upper Crust”) is considerably more dear at about $450 per person. Upstairs seating is limited and usually fills quickly.
There are these and many other events, festivals, and carnivals to attend in the British Virgin Islands. It can be a lot of fun working these celebrations into your bareboat chartering vacation. They are a unique experience, and you’ll know for sure that you’re not still in Kansas.