Off the coast of several British Virgin Islands
The boat is cutting through “the washing machine,” the rocky ocean currents that rest between the islands. My head is churning, slightly nauseous, adjusting, growing my sea legs. My senses are reset by the turbulence of it all.
With a small collective of guests, we are taking a one-day boat ride to several spots in the British Virgin Islands. Resting in the Custom’s dock in St. John, listening to Dub-Reggae, we wait for more guests to join us. The boat can hold as many as thirty-four, and we have twelve with us now. From here, we begin the day.
The island breeze is nice and cool and smells like Banana Boat, but I credit the twenty-something and sister sitting across from me. We have to prepare for more people, but ultimately we still have comfortable seats inside the ship. A lot of people took to the outside when we made way.
Out at sea now, we are in the midst of an hour-long jaunt to our first destination, “The Baths” of Virgin Gorda. The sea-water splashes at my arm hanging out the ship window, and the ground-level view uninhabited tropical paradises come within stones throw of our ship. No development, just dry brush and plant life, wed-locked to rocks, saltwater, and sunshine.
“The Baths” are an exotic display of granite rock formations on Virgin Gorda. On all fours, I squeezed through nooks to find amazing water deposits among the granite and sand. The ocean was rumbling outside the enclosed caves of granite, jealous of what was on the inside.
Locals believe the mineral deposits in the water have medicinal benefits to the skin and body. I decided to swim in the water and I felt what they talked about. I could see my feet with clarity, kicking up invisible debris amidst the clean sand and fish.
After a chicken wrap on Cooper Island, we went snorkeling off the coast of Norman Island. For the next half hour, I turned my back on the sun to look at a wild array of fish, going about their daily lives, in stunning clarity. My snorkel gear provided me with a view I had never seen before.
Queenfish and Rainbow Parrotfish, French Angelfish, Blue Tang and Bermuda Club, Bluehead Wrasse, Squirrelfish and even spotted Scorpionfish. Two giant tarpon swam within hand’s reach of me, and I yelped in silence at the thought of them attacking me, or one of the other thirty-something passengers in the water. Instead, they swam closer inland, towards pelican birds diving from two-story heights into the water to catch fish.
And, as if out of a dream, there were schools of them, stretching across great patches of ocean. Little fish by the thousands made a wall around me, and I rested motionless bobbing in the water, looking at them move and shine. Beyond the fish, the massive coral reef below was decorated with colorful algae and beautiful plant life.
I swam among the reef for a long time, and if the loud conch horn signal from Bad Kitty didn’t signal our queue to come back, I would have stayed out there longer. Hell, I would have stayed behind while they moved on to Jost Van Dyke.
Jost Van Dyke is a fun spot, a boat-friendly hotspot for tourists and locals alike. New arrivals have no other means to get on the island, other than jumping out of their boat and swimming to land. Most of our passengers held their belongings above their heads as they bobbed ashore.
A major landmark on the beach is the Soggy Dollar, a notorious beach bar responsible for the creation of the “painkiller,” a rum-infused concoction, sprinkled with nutmeg, known for its great taste and “painkilling” effect on the senses. After two of these, I was one step shy of succumbing to a booze-induced coma, lightly slouching on a plastic patio chair I found on beach. Ring toss games, gift stores, top 40 music and lots of skin-clad coeds made and retain the Soggy Dollar’s notoriety all year round.
When 3:00 or 4:00pm came around, however, we swam back to the 49-foot catamaran speedboat and rode back into the British/U.S. customs dock on St. John. It was almost disappointing that our mission through the islands and seas had to come to an end, but thanks to the mementos, pictures, and this testimonial, I will cherish this experience for years.