Next up was Virgin Gorda and The Baths, large boulders strewn
down the hillside and into the water as if flung by a giant
hand. Because of a strong surf that made landing the dinghy
dangerous, Oliver instead took us up the island a few miles
to Spanish Town, where we took a taxi back to the hill overlooking
the park, part of the B.V.I National Parks Trust.
Steve was glad we did, spotting along the trail down a number
of iguanas and red-legged hermit crabs living inside hollow
coconuts. The trail through The Baths, dappled with sunlight
and wetted by thunderous surf hissing through tight passages,
is humbling and unforgettable.
Bitter End Yacht Club lies at the northeastern most end of
Virgin Gorda, hence its name. Coming in, we saw Steve and
Linda Dashe's Beowulf, hailing them as we passed. Later they
dinghied over for a visit; they said they'd been invited to
participate in Steve Black's Caribbean 1500 cruiser's rally
from Norfolk, Virginia. At 78 feet, Beowulf was the scratch
boat; when we left the next day, no others were yet visible
on the blue-over-blue horizon.
Heading back westward, we stopped for visits at those anchorages
we'd skipped coming east. At Cooper Island, we swam ashore
and chatted up a couple from Oregon staying at the Cooper
Island Beach Club. The man and woman sat in lawn chairs pulled
into the intertidal zone. She was lounging with a book in
her lap; he, flippers and face mask.
Given that there's neither town nor ferry service to the
island, I asked, "What do you do all day?"
"Read," she said. "He"-meaning her husband-"likes
to dive, so some days he has one of the scuba boats pick him
up on the way by. Other than that, we just sit here. It isn't
for everybody, but it suits us." They were, she said,
going to be tranquilized for another 12 days. As we prepared
to swim back to La Creole, the man offered to show us an octopus
sucking the guts of a conch out of its shell.
It was very difficult to actually see this, and as he pointed
and I tried to discern the brown blob of the octopus's head
camouflaged in a crevice of coral, I realized the man must
have spent a lot of time today staring down on this small
reef. Then again, he had the time, mon, he had the time.
Sailing downwind, we rolled through Sir Francis Drake
Channel with the verdant hills of the islands to either
side. Rounding West End, Tortola, we coasted to a stop
in a confused current and fickle winds.
A charter catamaran coming out of Jost Van Dyke did
a 360 trying to head up so the mainsail could be raised.
Drifting between the rocky arm of West End to the east and
Great Thatch Island to the west, we made, as if caught in
a whirlpool, no discernible progress until suddenly, for no
obvious reason, we were cast out.
Soon we anchored in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, and there spent
the afternoon snorkeling the reef and walking ashore. Before
leaving, Oliver took us around the promontory to Great Harbor
so that we might have a drink at Foxy's, the famous beachside
bar that's said to host the world's second largest New Year's
Eve party (after Times Square in New York City). Today there
were but three or four patrons, and that's as I'd have it
any day still and desultory. [Read