A glowing report was written by former American newsman Walter Cronkite and published in National Geographic’s World Traveler magazine, describing the wonders of sailing in the British Virgin Islands:
“…these islands offer some of the greatest sailing in the world. One reason for this is the Sir Francis Drake Channel, which is really not a channel at all but a vast bay encircled by islands. The waters here are protected from the strong wave conditions you would normally have in the Atlantic, but at the same time there is a highly dependable, almost constant wind, which usually blows from the northeast.”
The island archipelago is part of the Lesser Antilles chain, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean just to the east of Puerto Rico. The British Virgin Islands (or BVI) are comprised of around 40 islands and islets with subtropical vegetation, sandy beaches and coral reefs.
The earliest inhabitants of the Virgin Islands were the indigenous Arawak and Carib peoples. When Christopher Columbus “discovered” the islands during his second voyage in 1493, he named them after the legendary St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgin companions—shortened to Las Virgenes. Later, the Dutch colonized the islands, but eventually they were annexed by the English in 1672. They became part of the British Leeward Islands colony until the 1960s, when they were granted autonomy.
The British introduced the cultivation of sugar cane to the islands, and brought in African slaves to labor in the fields. Today, of a population of about 22,000, around 83% are of African descent. About three quarters of the population live on the island of Tortola, one of 16 inhabited islands.
Most of the inhabitants of the BVI claim to be Christians and are overwhelmingly Protestant. About 10% are Roman Catholics.