I love boats. I’ll take any excuse to head out on the water on just about anything that at least partially floats (unless it involves Rose Dawson and a life-or-death situation). I love gliding across the water towards a seemingly endless horizon to the hum of the boat’s engine, feeling the crisp wind steal the breath right from my lungs. Especially when the 360° view is nothing but deep blue waters laid like a welcoming path through the perfectly spaced mountains. So it only made sense to spend some time island-hopping down in the Virgin Islands.
As luck would have it, on one of the nicest mornings of our trip our speedboat journey was canceled due to mechanical problems with the boat. So rather than sit around on the beach, we headed over to Road Town and jumped on the ferry to Virgin Gorda.
After gliding through the sea and mountains, we docked at Virgin Gorda and frankly, I was struggling to see what the big deal was. Sure it was nice, but it looked no different than the numerous islands we’d just sped past. So we hopped in the back of a poorly-marked pickup truck and made our way to the Baths, hoping for something to change.
We jumped out at a seemingly desolate area with signs leading us towards a gravel path that weaved through a patch of trees. We started on our way, encountering a few peculiar chameleon-esque lizards along the way (which also looked lickable for reasons other than the mountains).
Then we reached the top of the baths and it all made sense. We were staring out at slivers of beautiful, postcard-worthy beaches peaking out from gigantic boulders. I mean huge boulders. The luxurious, P-Diddy style yachts anchored just offshore looked laughable in size compared to these boulders that were strewn about the beach.
There were plenty of nooks and bays to set up shop and do some sun-bathing, or go wading in the crystal clear water. Or you could take the more adventurous route and squeeze your way through the boulders along the Devil’s Bay Trail.
We opted for adventure. Bikini-clad and barefoot, we carried our snorkeling gear and squeezed our way through the narrow passage to begin our journey.
The hike winds on for about 20 minutes through caves and pools of water trapped by enormous boulders. Beams of sunlight squeezed through every tiny crack, leaving some spots dark. Turning, crawling, climbing, squeezing through narrow passageways better suited for children. Or cats. Ropes and wooden ladders provided assistance at times, as crabs scuttled by without hassle.
Once we made our way through to Devil’s Bay we did some snorkeling. Stephanie had had enough so I ventured on by myself. I’ve done my fair share of just-off-the-beach snorkeling, so I decided to get a bit adventurous and navigate my way through the caves. Floating serenely and completely lost in the moment, I saw a curious blue fish taking an interest in me. I started to follow it, unbeknownst to everything else around me. It kept looking back as if to say “hurry up!” (though I’m sure it was more like “what is that and why is it following me?”).
Before long, I was following an entire school of fish as they swayed with the current and made their way through a two-foot-wide opening into a canyon. I gave it a second thought, but before I could turn around the current had swept me in. The coral was so high all I could do was try to stay afloat while sucking in my gut, and try to master Jedi mind-tricks to push myself away from the rocks. I had a brief moment of panic, wondering if I’d be able to get out considering there was hardly enough depth to properly swim. And more importantly, do sharks hide in caves?
Just when the water deepened and I was able to exhale, I turned to see a pinkish blob floating in front of me. I was in a state of confusion, intrigue, and general euphoria with the peace of the ocean, so I—and by I, I mean the current— decided to swim towards it. The pink blob was also interested in the flesh blob in front of it, so it lunged towards me in quick, assertive motions. Before I realized it I was face to face with a jellyfish, which appeared ready to latch on. Only knowing that these things can sting and I wasn’t ready to ask Stephanie to pee on my face, I turned around and swam as fast as my finned feet could take me, over the coral, through the canyon, around the boulders, and all the way back onto shore.
After the threat of heart failure and subsequent/necessary relaxing on the secluded beach, we made our way back through the boulders and stopped for a quick bite to eat. I took part in observing an intense polarized conversation between Stephanie and a local: Stephanie, arguing for modern communication in a world that would fail without constant iPhone connectivity, against the BVI-born guy who’d spent some time in the overwhelming streets of NYC before moving back to his simpler, more enriching island life. Shit got real. Let’s just say I’m glad neither of them were packing heat.
The next day our boat charter was ready to go. Stephanie—the poor girl had to go all the way to the Caribbean to realize she wasn’t a fan of island time, beaches, boats, or water—wasn’t feeling up for the ride so I went solo.
I was on a boat with about 9 other people from Arkansas and Barcelona aboard the Mystique, which I can’t speak highly enough about. The crew were all around great people. Helpful, fun, and they kept us happy with unlimited rum punch and snacks. We anchored out at a tiny secluded island no bigger than a soccer field for snorkeling on the way to Jost Van Dyke. Having grown some balls since the previous day’s underwater experience, I set out to explore the underwater world again. Thankfully this time was much less eventful. There was plenty of colorful marine life, but this time it was terrified of me, not trying to attack my face.
We made our way to Jost Van Dyke for lunch at Jewel’s Snack Shack. Having a chat with Jewel, the hut’s vibrantly outspoken owner, and reading the words of wisdom that adorn the walls are both reason enough to stop for a drink. Plus it’s home of the fabulous “Party Punch,” which she calls “rum punch with a touch of class.” Maybe it was the convincing marketing, or the extra sprinkle of nutmeg on top, but this really was the best rum punch I’d had on the islands.
After scarfing down a hot dog quicker than it took to heat it up, the bulk of us made our way over to the Soggy Dollar Bar. I grabbed a Virgin Islands Islands Summer Ale and kicked back in my first hammock ever, which, though it was extremely comfortable and just as relaxing as you’d imagine, the task of getting out gracefully proved to be quite daunting.
Before I knew it, the day was coming to an end. I started making my way back to the boat before realizing that the only thing standing (technically swimming) in the way of me climbing onboard was a giant barracuda. Great. Jellyfish flashbacks ensued.
Luckily I made it back injury-free, and planted myself in one of the seats at the front of the boat. I was accompanied only by my decent buzz as everyone else hid in the shade. I spent the next hour speeding away from the sun with the wind in my face. And I struggled to remember a more perfect moment in my 26 years of life.