Panic and Adrenaline at The Baths

Our plans for Monday, the seventh of March, entailed us rising early to depart for The Baths, located on Virgin Gorda. The moorings there are rumored to fill up fast, so we left The Bight at 6:15 a.m. so as to beat the crowd for a mooring. Tracy and I let Julie and mom sleep a little bit longer, guiding Beatitude northeastward past several other islands while they rested. The island adjacent to Norman’s Island is Peter Island, the first we traveled by. The easternmost anchorage is called Deadman’s Bay. This bay and the small island nearby, Dead Chest Cay, is steeped in pirate history. A “dead man’s chest” was the name for a coffin, the outline of which we clearly saw as we sailed by. Legend has it that the infamous Blackbeard marooned fifteen of his men on the cay with nothing but a bottle of rum. Some unsuccessfully tried to swim the half mile to Peter Island’s eastern shore, giving the beautiful palm-lined bay the moniker, “Dead Man’s Bay.” Much later Robert Louis Stevenson researched events in the area, later culminating in the much-loved Treasure Island. Thus, Dead Chest Cay became immortalized in the refrain: “Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest, Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Rum!”

Sunrise as we leave The Bight

Sunrise as we leave The Bight

Dead Chest Cay

Dead Chest Cay

Tracy enjoying the early morning ride to Virgin Gorda.

Tracy enjoying the early morning ride to Virgin Gorda.

We passed several more small islands before arriving at our destination on Virgin Gorda. When Columbus came upon the entire string of the Virgin Islands in 1493, seeing so many islands, he named them after the 11,000 virgin followers of Saint Ursula, who were martyred in the fourth century. Virgin Gorda, the “fat virgin” was irreverently named by Columbus for the resemblance of the Island to a reclining fat virgin. Anyway, thirteen and a half miles and two hours and fifteen minutes later, we picked up a National Park Trust mooring in an already crowded mooring field next to The Baths. The Baths are an unusual formation of large granite boulders which allow the sea to wash in between the stones allowing the water to pool in between them.

Looking at the Baths from Beatitude

Looking at the Baths from Beatitude

Baths from Beatitude

Baths from Beatitude

The National Parks Trust has established a flag system to warn boaters of dangerous conditions in the area of the Baths. When we arrived, the yellow flags were flying. A few moments after our arrival, the red flags came out. What to do? The swells from the north were picking up ahead of the passage of a front packed strong northerly winds. We waited around, watching a few boats change their minds and leave, while the passengers of other boats took their dinghy in to the mooring lines from which you must get in the water to go the rest of the way into the Baths. We decided it didn’t look horrible, so we would go for it. Their was a floating line leading from the dinghy moorings in toward the beach, but it stopped quite a distance from shore, requiring us to swim the rest of the way. Conditions were quite rough. Julie (with a noodle) and Tracy went ahead of us and made it safely to shore, although they were exhausted and traumatized upon reaching the safety of the sand. Cindy jumped in the water with her noodle, but quickly became panicky, so I got her back into Dalí (to stay) before I jumped in and headed to shore. It was much longer and much rougher than it appeared from Dalí, but I too made it safely in, although I, too, was exhausted.

Red Flag!

Red Flag!

Tracy giving thirsty beach chickens some water.

Tracy giving thirsty beach chickens some water.

We then walked along through the baths, an experience which would have been much more enjoyable if we were not dreading the return trip to Dalí when we were done. The huge boulders and the beautiful water were actually quite nice and a unique thing to experience, but the area soon became very crowded (many of the visitors were visiting from land, not requiring a death-defying swim through crashing waves to get there). It became like waiting in line at Disney World to make it from one section of the Baths to the next. Eventually, we gave up and turned around, making our way back the same slow way we came. By the time we got back, I think conditions had actually worsened since our arrival. We sat on the beach with our hearts racing and pounding, our stress levels surging as we considered how we would ever rejoin Cindy on board Dalí. While we were considering whether our lives would soon be ending, Cindy was saving lives out at the dinghy moorings, yelling at the many more people coming to use the rope to get in. We joined her in a state of terror as we watched three people take an alternative route ashore, swimming the shorter distance through some huge boulders instead of taking the line to the beach — a big mistake! Soon they were crying for help as they were dashed against the rocks by the large breaking waves which tossed them around and swamped over them as if they were driftwood. We seriously thought someone would die. Thank God they somehow made it to safety. This event only magnified our Julie and Tracy’s anxiety one hundred times. (The photos do not capture how dangerous the conditions were.)

Tracy, Julie at the Baths

Tracy, Julie at the Baths

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Devil's Bay, The Baths

Devil’s Bay, The Baths

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Tracy in Devil's Bay

Tracy in Devil’s Bay

The Baths

The Baths

Some of the trail through the baths was a little tight

Some of the trail through the baths was a little tight

Daughter and Father

Daughter and Father

There was now no way the girls would attempt to get back to Dalí. I saw a group swim back to the line fairly easily with noodles, however, and this made me feel comfortable that I could follow suit without danger. How would Tracy and Julie get back however? We devised a plan that stipulated they would go to the car parking area and wait for us there. Cindy and I would go back to Beatitude and travel further northward to a marina. There we would tie up and take a taxi back to the Baths to pick them up. My return trip to Dalí was quite easy for the most part. I jumped in the dinghy, we returned to Beatitude and cast off the mooring lines for a short trip northward. The first marina, about two miles away, was Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour. I called and was ecstatic to find that they had a slip available. We entered the marina, tied Beatitude to the dock, and I hopped in a taxi to go back and pick up the girls. When I arrived, they were really suffering, swimming in the freshwater pool at the restaurant at the top of the Baths. Before long, Beatitude’s crew was whole again, having endured a great adventure in which no one was hurt (other than the stress and palpitations which endured for some time).

A look across the bay from the dinghy mooring to the beach on the left

A look across the bay from the dinghy mooring to the beach on the left

Making my way safely back to Dalí using a noodle.  Whew!

Making my way safely back to Dalí using a noodle. Whew!

A reptile Julie and Tracy noticed on the hike to the car park.

A reptile Julie and Tracy noticed on the hike to the car park.

The trail from the Baths to the car parking area to meet up with me and the taxi.

The trail from the Baths to the car parking area to meet up with me and the taxi.

Suffering while waiting for a taxi ride back to Beatitude.

Suffering while waiting for a taxi ride back to Beatitude.

We enjoyed a late lunch together at The Bath and Turtle Tavern at the marina. We did a little shopping and decided to spend the rest of the evening relaxing and recovering. I took advantage of the wifi to work on the blogs. Cindy made us a delicious spaghetti dinner to celebrate our second day of adventure in the British Virgin Islands.

Beatitude safely in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour

Beatitude safely in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour

2 thoughts on “Panic and Adrenaline at The Baths

  1. What a day! It doesn’t capture the terror of nearly drowning when we swam from the dinghy to the shore. At first, we could follow the rope in. But shortly after, the crashing waves pulled the rope under water and Tracy and I were left bobbing up and down with the huge swells. Meanwhile, I was trying to yell back to the dinghy to not let mom get in because it was too treacherous! Tracy coached me to time my kicks with the swells pulling in. When my feet hit sand, I sprinted in and collapsed in exhaustion on the beach. Later, Tracy and I hiked across the island rather than returning to the dinghy the same way. Luckily we found a freshwater pool that we snuck into to relax in while we waited for Dad to pick us up.

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