Monday, July 04, 2011

VirginSSUDs2011 Trip Report - Day 6

Fallen Jerusalem
He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying... and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another.

On the far Southwestern end of Virgin Gorda there is one of those must-visit areas called “The Baths.” It’s called that because it’s a batholitic formation, although people usually mistake the etymology of the name for its many pools and watery nooks among the boulders. The trouble with The Baths is that it is a popular, must-see spot. It is heavily visited and the tourist load is increasingly larger every year.

The first time I visited the BVI, there were no park service balls, you had to anchor off, which is no longer allowed (You must use a ball.), and dinghy ashore. That, too, is no longer allowed. There is one little bay at the farthest end of the area where you could fit one boat with bow and stern anchors to keep you from swinging and make it your own private hideaway for a few daylight hours. The Baths is not a place to anchor overnight, too exposed.

But, as I said, it’s too crowded, too busy, and too controlled for those sorts of hijinks these days. Nonetheless, The Baths are a must-see so ya gotta go see ‘em and simply endure the madding crowd. Except…

The formation which constitutes The Baths continues above and below the water from Virgin Gorda to a separate small islet called Fallen Jerusalem. It is the same as The Baths but less accessible, except that the park service has put two, and only two, mooring balls at Fallen Jerusalem, making this site a lot like The Baths was 30 years ago, except perhaps even better in the sense that only two boats can ever be there at one time.

As we proceeded from Cooper Island (Good riddance, you ice miser bastards!) toward The Baths we could see, even from a distance, that the site was already crowded with boats. But what’s this? Despite the density at The Baths, I believe I see the bay at Fallen Jerusalem empty of boats, completely so, with no other boats on course for that area, and two beautiful mooring balls just waiting for us to choose the better one. Well, happy day!

We slipped quietly into Fallen Jerusalem’s Lee Bay and reveled in our private site. We loaded our snorkel gear and some drinking water into the dink and went ashore. Jon unlimbered his camera and we all set out to explore the fascinating boulder field in that transition zone between water and land. Alone.

After we tired of land exploration, we headed out to snorkel the area. It turned out to be magnificent. The Baths have had so much traffic over the decades that the small reef systems around them have been significantly damaged and degraded. Not so the reefs of Fallen Jerusalem. We saw a lovely variety and plenitude of reef life. We’d been there quite a while and were nearly done when another boat finally took the remaining ball, forcing us to share the area with four other people. Oh, woe! It was a terrible hardship but we held up like men.

We eventually decided we were satisfied with our exploration of Fallen Jerusalem and returned to Kokomo to zip into Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, and Spanishtown, to reprovision and maybe get some ice. We passed along the length of The Baths as we proceeded to Spanishtown and eyeballed the dozens of boats moored like cattle in a slaughterhouse holding pen. See ya, suckers! Tied up at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor and bought some water, $12 worth. We also spent $2 to dump our garbage with them, then took ourselves ashore to make some groceries, as they say in New Orleans.

A mostly successful shopping trip and grocery storage on board completed, we decided to pay for an extra hour at the dock to do some shopping and maybe eat a meal there. I had to stop by the chandlery to buy a new dinghy lock because I’d thrown the supplied one overboard. Oops. We all enjoyed shopping at the dive store. Jon found the ice cream shop I remembered from my trip with Ronnie and the girls in 2001. Hunger made its claim on our souls and we sat in the al fresco restaurant/bar to order a meal. Whaddaya know? It’s two-for-one painkiller time. Well, well, well. Happy hour indeed. Painkillers all around. Oh, and maybe some food.

Later, with bellies full and whistles wetted (and pain successfully killed) we left the upscale, soulless haven of the marina for something more elemental. The hour dictated that we should probably head to Marina Cay for the night. So we did. A mooring ball just inside the protecting reef and we were safe and snug for the night.

Tomorrow would bring new adventures but for now it would be the night and the stars and the companionship of good friends on a yare craft. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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