We love islands. Especially those that are surrounded by ocean. Lots of ocean. And we like islands for their beauty, their people and not for golf, or gambling or poolside party scenes.
This year we’re visiting Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands and we’re enjoying ten days in a cabana for two smack-dab on the beach. Here, and especially this week, the ocean is reining supreme with crashing waves, dangerous rip-tides and under-tows. Even the local folks are talking about it. All day and all night, the waves are crashing loudly onto the beach, so much so that other vacationers who are staying further up the hillside have complained that the ocean’s roar has kept them up at night.
But not us. We’ve slept every night with only a wide screen door between us and the sea’s intoxicating uproar. Maybe it’s just me but I find it hilarious that people would spend serious money to come to a Caribbean island and then have a problem with the noise of the surf!
Sound though is one thing, and the power of all that water is yet another. A few days into our stay we joined a charter and sailed over to Jost Van Dyke Island for snorkeling and exploring a local attraction called the “Bubbly Pool,” which is basically a basin between two large rock formations where raging surf barrels in, that pushes hard against swimmers standing chest deep, then instantly tries to suck everything in it’s path, including swimmers, over large boulders and out to sea. Tour boats come in one after another all season long and invite their guests to give it a try.
We did that too, but just long enough to realize that the force that day seemed too strong to enjoy it without a overarching feeling of being in danger.
Later that afternoon we learned that just the day before a young man had died at that very spot. According to news accounts a man climbed up the rocks alongside the pounding surf to take pictures, when a not-so-random huge wave came in and swept him out to sea. Two of his companions came to his rescue, but one of the would-be rescuers died trying to save his friend who was swept out. The second rescuer, did mange to retrieve and save the man who was initially swept out, but he was badly injured in the process. As I write this piece both men are recovering in the hospital.
As much as we had enjoyed our day of being on the water, learning of that tragedy was a sobering reminder of the ocean’s unrelenting power and how it fools us time and time again into thinking that all is well when it sometimes is not.
Later that same night I overheard two young surfers talking about the awesome waves and what beach they were headed to the next day, even with every north facing beach now bearing bright red “no swimming” flags due to the extremely dangerous surf. Of course. So the love and lure of the sea continues no matter what.
As for me, I have plans for the weeks and years ahead and will stick to swimming on the calmer south facing beaches and enjoy the surf’s roar at night for the rest of our stay.
“Bubbly Pool” photo by BVI News.com . Other photos by K. Lee