8 Eco-Friendly Tips from the North Sound

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Charlie Smith

Sound Sailing

Words by Charlie Smith, Professional Kiteboarder – North Sound, BVI

Photography by Charlie Smith, Lucy Smith and Marco Bava

The BVI is a beautiful place—we all know that—and whether we like it or not, the word is out on ‘Natures Little Secrets.’ So how can we keep the BVI’s beauty in a league of its own while maintaining the insurgency of development and visitors?

Here are a few of my thoughts and while my focus is on Virgin Gorda’s North Sound area of the territory where I’ve been based for almost a decade, many of these concepts are applicable across the BVI and beyond.

While I write this article, my shorts are still drying from a fun match race between me, my 11 square metre kite, and Sea Hawk, a 197ft Super Yacht with over 2000 square metres of sail area.

As I look out across the North Sound, the place is buzzing with a myriad of water users, all contributing something to this very special place. As more people select the BVI as a hotspot to visit, race, relax, and more recently, reside, what can be done to keep the BVI attractive and ecologically sustainable from a water user’s angle?

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Promote responsible sailboat chartering and boat-handling

As one of the BVI’s leading industries, chartering boats and cruising the BVI has always been a huge attraction. In order for this to be sustainable, the people in command of these vessels need to be suitably qualified, respect the islands, and avoid running aground or discharging waste close to shore.

At least once a week, dinghies, powerboats and often large yachts can be seen crashing into our reefs and seagrass meadows, which is generally due to negligence.

Anyone considering renting a boat should be more thoroughly scrutinised before leaving their respective yacht base and take the time to become fully competent, not just confident. Therefore, the environment and their safety are not jeopardised.

Also, people should be encouraged to look for sand bottom anchorages instead of anchoring on live coral or seagrass. Additionally, a neighbourhood watch for violators of speed limits could be employed to keep the waters safe for everyone that enjoys them.

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Support local companies who are promoting the BVI with an eco-friendly ethos

My personal favourite water sports are human and wind powered such as sailing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, free-diving, stand up paddle-boarding and surfing, all of which are available in North Sound. Simultaneously, there are also a growing number of power boaters, fishermen and even the odd seaplane. Whilst I’m happy to see this hybrid of activity, all need to co-exist in North Sound in an efficient way that maintains the environment.

For this to happen effectively, I believe everyone should be aware of what it takes to avoid damaging the beautiful waters around us and more importantly, what lies beneath them.

Dynamic, local BVI companies like Fusion BVI are already doing this by promoting ocean conservation through the activities they offer such as kiteboarding instruction, stand up paddle-board rentals and Pilates classes.

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Fusion are also organising sponsored litter pick-ups and youth development programs—The Fusion FastTrack—planned for later this year, which will enrol BVIslanders and offer the opportunity to pursue a career in the marine industry.

Another proactive company, SeaitClear glass bottom tours operating out of the North Sound, offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy our reefs and wildlife from the comfort of a boat while promoting the protection of marine turtle populations and raising awareness for reef protection – all good things for the preservation of our environment.

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Developers need to ensure that their contractors are being eco conscious

Whether it’s a new dock or a new resort, developers should ensure that their projects are managed properly to avoid any ecological damage to reef and mangrove systems. This can be caused in the construction process due to rainwater runoff, general litter, chemicals, oils and toxins.

Waste management is clearly an issue in this part of the world so it is with optimism that this improves with the growth of regional development.

Supply barges laden with building materials ought to be directed away from recreational waterways in active prevention of accidents. Commercial channels should be well-marked and lit for easy navigation.

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There are definitely some positive development and renewable energy methods being implemented on Cooper Island – congratulations to the developers there for setting the standard. Now it’s time for everyone else to follow suit…

Here are some basic guidelines to follow to help sustain the BVI’s beauty and safety today:

1. Safety first! Always have sufficient training before operating any water craft. Wear your kill cord, know the rules of the road, adhere to them and always stay vigilant

2. Have fun but think about others around you. Keep your speed down around other boats and mooring fields and always maintain a look out for swimmers, divers, kayakers and sea turtles!

3. Always dispose of your waste responsibly. Plastic never goes away if it ends up in the sea so try and re-use plastic bottles if you have to use them. Attempt to buy local brands to keep your carbon footprint to a minimum

4. Brown is bad, green and blue are good…avoid damaging reef in the BVI with this very basic rule and always try and navigate shallow reefs when the sun is high for best visibility

5. Power gives way to sail…there are exceptions to this rule (kiteboarders give way to everything, large power vessels are less manoeuvrable etc) so if in doubt…avoid collisions at all costs!

6. If you’re not a strong swimmer, wear a personal flotation device or buoyancy aid…you’ll live with the tan lines!

7. Cover up in the sun. Sun screen works but most brands are bad for your skin and harsh on the ocean. Try and buy reef safe products

8. Finally, a nice cheesy one for you…take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints!

Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Founder at Fusion BVI
Charlie has spent the last 10 years coaching kiteboarding and running the watersports centres on two private islands in the North Sound area of the BVI. He is a certified PADI scuba instructor, boat captain, kiteboarding instructor, windsurf and sailing teacher, and has a passion for photography and Marine Biology.
Charlie Smith
Charlie Smith

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