Monday, December 8, 2008

BVI Day Three: Cooper, Salt Island to The Baths and Virgin Gorda

(image above) On the beach on Cooper Island in the morning, the 'queen of the beach' resting nearby.

A rolly night at the Cooper Island bay, once the sun went down and the nightly breezes began to blow, they switched around from the east to the northeast, and we were rockin' and rollin' all night long. Not all bad, though, because when you awaken at 3 am to check the boat your breath is taken away by the sheer number of stars up in the sky.

We woke bright and early, and headed up to the dock to see when the gift shop opened, because I broke my pair of sunglasses the previous afternoon, and the salt spray really bugs my eyes when we are underway. We took a quick dip in the bay, and played catch with the resident beach dog until we happened upon the proprieter of the dive shop, who sold me a pair of sunglasses and shot the breeze with us for a spell.

(map left) Our sailing route for the third day, motoring back to Salt Island, then tacking back and forth on the way to the Baths and Virgin Gorda.

Our first destination of the day, after breakfast, was to backtrack over to Salt Island, and try snorkeling again over that shipwreck. The seas were a bit more choppy than the day before due to the wind change, and when we got there, it took three passes at the mooring ball to successfully pick it up. (Terri got it each time, but had to drop it due to the wave action driving the boat out of range).

All the while we are making our passes, I was being careful to avoid a pair of scuba divers who were quite a distance out away from the usual 'diving area', verging on getting out into the channel between Salt Isl. and Dead Chest Isl. By the time we had successfully tied up to the mooring ball, I noticed that a dinghy had joined the pair of scuba divers and that there seemed to be some sort of commotion out there.

(image above) The rescue vessel eventually arrives to take one of the divers to the hospital.

I jumped into our dinghy to go out and see if I could lend a hand, as it was getting clearer that something was not quite right with the situation. I noticed as I approached the group, that one of the divers was getting frantic, and the person in the dinghy hadn't shut off his outboard engine (very dangerous with two divers in the water clinging to your boat), and he was having a hard time getting them into the boat. By the time I arrived by his side, he had the 'frantic guy' in the boat, and he was blue. Scary blue. Zombie blue. Foaming at the mouth and obviously in shock. I quick motored halfway back to Terri and shouted for her to call 911, then returned to the boat to help out. The guy in the dinghy left the remaining diver with me, and returned to the sailboat to try and get the guy some help, and I tried to get the remaining diver into my dinghy, and when that failed (he was a rather hefty fellow), we tried towing him back to his sailboat, but that wasn't working either, because I was worried about drowning him behind me, or chopping him up with my propeller. Thankfully, a couple of guys from another sailboat came by, one of them announcing he was a 'dive master', and helped get the guy out of the water (he wasn't as bad as his friend, but he was starting to look a little shaky). By the time we got back to their sailboat, them with the diver and me with the tank and gear (it didn't occur to me to try and take it off in order to get him into the boat - and man, that shit is heavy), the 'blue guy' had his color back, and was breathing, but still didn't look 100%. More helped showed up from a nearby commercial dive charter, with a gal who had some medical training and oxygen, and eventually the rescue boats arrived and the guy was whisked off to the hospital. Meanwhile, Terri was worried about me, because I jumped into the boat so fast I neglected to bring my life vest, and the current was so strong out there in the channel that we were starting to drift off during my half assed rescue attempt. We kind of hung around and waited until the rescue boats left, and it was clear the guy was going to be alright, and then afterward, we decided to go ahead and try and snorkel (but Terri wasn't 100% gung ho about it after the emergency incident - and Tim was still pretty shaky and full of adrenaline as well) We still don't know exactly what happened to start off the whole thing, either they got a bad mixture, or just panicked when they couldn't get back in the dinghy with all their gear on - who knows. I think he's going to make it though.

The snorkeling was absolutely beautiful. Below us in the water about 20-30 feet deep was the wreck of an old wooden hulled ship, covered with fish and coral (and to make it even more tempting to jump in the water, a couple of other snorkelers warned us that a 3 foot barracuda had just swam our way - we never did see the barracuda). Not quite as many interesting fish as the other site, but the wreck was spectacular. But the fun was just beginning, as we had to get back in the dinghy. Yesterday, it wasn't easy, but we eventually managed it, but for some reason today, whether it was the choppy waves, or being tired and strung out from the rescue, but we just couldn't seem to get back in the boat. At one point we thought of either swimming for the sailboat (but the swim ladder wasn't down), or swimming over to one of the other boats and asking for help), but eventually Terri managed to get in using the outboard as an additional 'handhold', and then she was able to help me aboard (as she said, it was like 'boating a marlin'. Enough excitement for one day, we thought, lets head for our next destination (after a quick lunch, that is).

(image above) Ashore at 'The Baths' for our brief visit on the evening of the third day. We would spend a lot more time here the following day, but didn't bring the camera ashore.

Next stop was 'The Baths', an area of huge boulders and beaches on the southern end of Virgin Gorda. The wind wasn't cooperating again today, so we had to do several tacks in order to reach it by sail. We were beating into the wind again today, but we seemed to do it a little more efficiently this time, and only had to make 3 zigzags, past Cooper Island, then Ginger Island, then Round Rock and Fallen Jerusalem (we almost stopped at this island, which looked very similar to the baths, but there was only one mooring ball, and it was taken).

We got to the 'Baths' around 4, and decided we'd try and take a quick peek at it before heading north to our night destination. More snorkeling, and one more time we had to try and climb into the dinghy from the water, so I rigged up a rope across the dinghy to aid in climbing aboard, and it seemed to help a little bit (still took me two attempts to get in though when it was time to go). We'll be heading back to the Baths again tomorrow. This place looks way too cool to try and fit into a rushed 45 minute time period.

(image above) another parting photo of the beach at 'The Baths' before we swam out to the dinghy for yet another attempt at 'boarding from the water'.

We hit the anchorage around 5, just in time to tie up, straighten up the living quarters and sit down to watch the sunset. This area is less scenic than the last two anchorages we had. Nearer to a large town, and there are two freighters moored out in the channel nearby, and a marina just around the channel. Not many mooring balls to choose from either, I think we got the last one. I'm wondering if this is going to be another bumpy night. Every time a boat comes out of the nearby harbor, we get a nice big wake.

(image above) the colorful sunset from our rather dull anchorage outside Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda.

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