Although Manchioneel Bay looks quite open relative to other harbors, I have found it to be one of the best protected from the prevailing wind. Even in a good blow you will likely find flat calm water in this peaceful little anchorage. Quart-O-Nancy Point along with the high profile of Cooper make for good protection from the north east wind.
Manchioneel Bay has some of the clearest water that you will find anywhere in the BVI. Even in 30′ of water you can clearly see the rays skimming the floor beneath you (or the Cooper Barracuda lurking below your keel). There are spots of turtle grass on the bottom of the harbor that attracts sea turtles and in turn makes for fun snorkeling!
One of the things I like about Cooper Island is that there is an abundance of moorings (which can be paid for on shore at the Cooper Island Beach Club) or, of course, the skiff will come and find you!
Manchioneel Bay isn’t a great place to anchor as the bottom is covered with turtle grass which makes holding a bit unreliable. The proximity to Road Harbor make Cooper Island a very popular spot, one that is pretty full during the busy season. Typically you should be in by 2-3 in the afternoon to get a mooring. Be careful of the moorings right along the beach towards the southern end of the mooring field, they are in shallow water that may only be 7-8 feet as you swing towards the beach. This makes it good for catamarans and monohulls <35′.
There is a small but nice sandy beach lined with gorgeous palm trees in front of the Cooper Island Beach Club. There is an ample dinghy dock in front of the Beach Club and another one in front of the dive shop just to the right as you look from the water.
The Cooper Island Beach Club is a terrific restaurant. It has a combination of very good food (at decent prices relative to other similar spots) and a terrific atmosphere. They also have a nice beach bar area complete with an outdoor dart board. From the Cooper Island Beach Club you get a great view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, Tortola and other islands and gorgeous sunsets looking west down the channel.
It’s best to have a reservation for dinner, you can make one by visiting during the day or hailing the Cooper Island Beach Club on VHF 16.
Also ashore on Cooper, there is a great little boutique and a dive shop which offers PADI certified instruction and a variety of reef and wreck dives. This is a great spot for kids to learn (right in the harbor off the beach) or for dives on the RMS Rhone which is right next door off Salt.
There are no garbage facilities on Cooper, so plan ahead.
If diving isn’t your thing, this shop also rents single and double kayaks for very affordable rates.
As you look to the south from the mooring field, you will see a huge rock just a short dinghy ride away. There is a dinghy line that you can tie on to and snorkel the reef around Cistern Pt. This is a favorite snorkel spot where you will likely see rays, barracuda, parrot fish, angel fish, trumpet fish and even turtles if you are lucky.
Finally, Cooper Island is a great spot to make your last stop over before heading back to Road Harbor. It typically take 60-90 mins to get back to Road Harbor and you will likely have a nice reach all the way back. It’s a spectacular way to wind up a trip sailing in the BVI.