Thursday was our first full day of sailing and an opportunity for Rooster Rich to rise with the sun, start up the motor and pull up lines before anyone else. He headed straight for The Baths on Virgin Gorda (below). This was one of our favorite places the last time we visited and a favorite with tourist, coming by sea or land. By the time we arrived, many of the mooring balls were already taken, so we opted for one that was opposite Devil’s Bay, a pleasant sandy beach with a roped off area for swimming.
Because of the rough water and reefs around the area, you can’t take your dingy ashore. There’s a mooring line that you can tie your dingy to and then swim the rest of the way. I don’t like this approach because even if you’re a great swimmer, the turbulent waves near the opening of The Baths can “wash” you ashore. Seven year ago, I landed on the beach, face first, rocks and sand down my bathing suit, and my dignity battered. In addition, it’s awkward and physically challenging to pull yourself up and back into the dingy after swimming back from The Baths.
The alternative was to swim from Efithia to Devil’s Bay, a lengthy and somewhat strenuous swim until you get close to shore where the tepid water gently kisses the sand (Can you see us in the picture to the left?). Rich had a dry bag in which we placed our camera, glasses, and other things we wanted to keep dry. As I had done the day before, I slathered sun block on my legs, arms, face, and chest. In the excitement, however, of seeing The Baths, I neglected to have Rich put sun block on my back. Within a few hours, my back was so badly sizzled that for the rest of the trip, I worse a sleeveless shirt, even when I snorkeled.
Rich, claiming that he’d never burned before, and therefore opted not to put on sun block. By day three, however, he wised up. By then, his back, legs, arms, and shoulders were well done and rather than slightly pink in the middle, they were red!
A short trail, south of Devil’s Bay, lead to another beach. As we approached, we could see a handful of small cairns or towers of rocks and coral that people had erected to mark the pathways or add to the landscape (above). As we turned the corner, I gasped. The beach was littered with dozens of cairns. It was very spiritual and picturesque. Before we left, I recommended Rich build a tower out of coral. The result is a bit phallic (below).
Several days later, I built a more respectful cairn at Bubbly Pool by Manchioneel Bay.
With the sun beating down on us, we headed to The Baths, which consists of gigantic boulders, the size of small houses, several stories in height and width, thoughtlessly tossed onto the beach, forming narrow passages and small pools of seawater. You amble through the boulder on narrow sandy paths and wooden steps. Using a rope, secured with heavy metal rings to a rock wall, we gingerly walked down a steep, slippery boulder into the grotto. At the bottom was a green pool of water that gently lapped at your ankles.
You can see me below, hanging onto the rope and leaning across one of the wooden stairs. In the lower picture, I’m standing on a house-sized rock.
After The Baths, we swam back to the boat, pulled up lines and headed to Great Dog, one in a series of small canine-named islands that have numerous National Park Trust Buoys for tying up and spending a few hours snorkeling or diving. Sailor, who heard barking when they anchored near these islands, named them Dog Islands. However, the barking they heard were from Caribbean Monk Seals. The seals also proved to be quite tasty and are now extinct.
Surrounding the rugged coastlines of the Dog Islands are reefs that are teeming with tropical fish and many varieties of corals. Even though the currents were hefty, we snorkeled twice, going a different direction each time.
Snorkeled-out and shriveled up from being in the water several hours, we headed for Gorda Sound and the bay by the Brias Creek Resort. The cheapest room at this very upscale resort is $585 in the summer (hot months) and from $810 to $1,710 during the winter. You need to make reservations for dinner, a four-course prix fixe for $75 per person plus 17% gratuity. If requested, the resort’s powerboat will pick you up at your sailboat or yacht then whisk you to the resort’s restaurant for lunch or dinner. After 5:30 p.m., they request “gentlemen wear trousers and a collared shirt” and “ladies wear suitable resort attire.”
You can also reach the resort by dinghy; but if you’re dressed for dinner, you might look a bit disheveled when you arrive.
Having left our snazzy clothes at home, Rich and I settled for a humble, but tasty dinner of chicken kabobs (chicken, canned pineapple, bell peppers, and red onions) and potato bundles (sliced potatoes, onions, garlic, fresh basil, zucchini, olive oil, and Caribbean Spice wrapped in foil and placed on the barbeque). Afterwards, we piled into the dingy and headed to the resort.
In the water, on either side of the walkway from the Brias Creek Marina to the resort, are blue lights that give the water an eerie glow and attract swarms of two to three foot long barracudas. We saw a handful of these fish when snorkeling; they can attack and bite humans and are attracted to shiny objects like Rich’s and my wedding rings!
The only part of the Brias Creek Resort that is open to non-guests is the bar and restaurant; nevertheless, Rich and I wanted to explore. While walking through a grove of trees, with flashlights in hand, we spotted numerous large holes on the ground with light orange crabs scampering in-and-out. This sighting was unusually because we were hundreds of yards from the water. I always thought that crabs live right next to the water.
We saw the same type of crabs near the airport on Tortola (above). Once again, they were far from the ocean. Although, a small fresh water creek flowed nearby.
When I edited this article, I typed “land crab” into Bing and amazingly, “land crab” is the common name for Cardisoma guanhumi, the crabs that we saw. There are several varies of these crabs in the Caribbean. When not turned into crab and rice dishes, they live in low-lying areas near mangrove swamps, salt ponds, wetlands, and marshes inside holes or burrows that go down on an angle to a larger living area where the crabs store food for winter dry spells.
Part of their burrows usually extends below the water line, creating alternative openings to the surface. Typically, they only venture out at night or when it’s raining to search of tasty morsels, which includes plants, dead things, and garbage.
Here’s a picture of Rich and I at The Baths. Our skin is still pale…