'Oh yeah', says the seasoned sailor at the bar in St Maarten, 'If you're going to the BVI's you've gotta go to the Baths on Virgin Gorda.' 'I dunnow', says the other Cap'n Ahab sitting next to him, 'The Baths are always full of bareboaters (charter boats)' 'Yeah, that's true, but there's a reason for that'
It's because The Baths are awesome. Not, as you might expect, another set of volcanic hot spring baths to sooth away the aches and pains, but a tumble jumble of enormous granite boulders, looking like the playthings in some pebble game of the ancient gods. Each 'pebble' is forty to a hundred feet across, and they are balanced and butted against each other in a crazy formation of rocks. Time, tide, wind and sand conspire to etch them away and carve amazing patterns into the rocks. The sea runs between them, creating little sand beaches and waist deep pools populated by little fish, whilst the sunlight filters through the gaps lighting the water with a vivid turquoise and reflecting off the rock around and overhead.
It's like nothing we've ever seen before, and we both think it's been one of the highlights of the trip so far.
We explored the area with our friends on Iceni, who we feared had already left to skip back across the Atlantic on their trip home after three years sailing, but they are here another week so we get to see them again, which is a real treat. The kids get along great, so they were dancing in the pools and over the rocks, leading us down different paths and through narrow gaps in the rock. We had the good fortune to be there in the late afternoon when most of the charter boats had already departed for their evening anchorages and the place was very quiet.
The afternoon also brought low sunlight, playing through the rocks and giving the place an almost spiritual air. We regretted that we didn't have time to snorkel, as that looked great but we can find good snorkeling in many places, the real joy here was above the water. As we headed back, Max wanted to swim a little more so the rest of them went on ahead and Max and I had a great father/son moment, floating on our backs in a sunlit pool with a rock ceiling and sandy floor, just chilling out and being alive.
If you ever come to the BVI's, The Baths have to be on your 'must see' list. Come early in the morning or late in the afternoon and experience it at its quietest and most wonderful.