Saturday, November 14. 2009
Where were we this morning? Itís hard to remember back that far when we do so much in a day. Ah, yes, Salt Island. We planned a great swim - a one mile loop around Salt Bay - the goal was to swim it twice, the second time faster than the first. We dove in, Busby Berkley style in a peel off the boat. We all made it around once, and some of us headed off for the second round, but the current was crazy and we decided to play it safe. We all worked plenty hard for nearly two miles. No complaints from this crew - they suited up for a hike on Salt Island.
While they explored and hunted down the Geo-cache, Lisa and I enjoyed a lovely dive to about 55 feet just a short distance off the back of the boat. Our mission: come back with conch for fritters. We only found one, and decided to let him be, but on our way back to the boat, we were aggressively courted by two giant remora looking for a ride! We lead them back to the boat for our swimmers to see, but alas, they were not back from their island exploration yet.
A lunch of burritos under weigh as we headed back to the Baths - so glad to return, having missed a shore landing on our first visit earlier in the week. Before we left the boat for our swim, Captain Rich hoisted me up the mast so I could get an eagle eye view of our swimmers in the Promenadeís trampoline.
We swam in to shore and followed the path through the magical boulder field. It was a great thing to do on our last day in the islands. We ended our water sports with a 2+ mile swim from the boulder beach all the way to Spanish Town - current against us. No matter, we dug deep and left it all out there. Everyone was so glad to have made the swim.
As we sailed back to Tortola, Christy zipped me around in the dinghy so i could get pics of our swimmers on our lovely sea-home, sailing off into the sunset.
We gamed over cocktails, stuffed ourselves on a fantastic meal of steak and potatoes. followed by chocolate moose and a slide show recapping the week.
Now the eveningís activities have ended, but weíre all still milling about, procrastinating, not wanting to pack, not wanting to leave. Itís been a special week. Weíve all pushed ourselves more than we could have imagined, found strength in our strokes we didnít know we had. Weíve seen wildlife, made an historical crossing, and supported each other in swims long and tough. Will declared that what we do is pretty bad-ass, and we all agree that weíve earned it.
Here are some interesting stats:
We ate 15 lbs of cheese, 8 dozen eggs, 6 blocks of butter, and drank (and rinsed with) 1600 gallons of water. We also swam just about 16 miles, covering Virgin Gorda, Cooper, Salt, Peter and Norman Islands and saw sting rays, a manta, turtles, tarpon and countless other species along the way.
What a week.
Tomorrow weíll trickle out of Tortola, on our way to homes across the States and Canada. But weíll be bound by this Caribbean Sea and the strides weíve made within it.
Itís almost too much to take - another jam packed day for our SwimVacationers, with many phenomenal experiences and a few historical moments.
We started in Little Harbour of Peter Island and had a 2+ mile swim. Conditions during our swim ranged from flat water and sunny skies, to contrary currents, high wind (against us), thunder, lightning and driving rain. Wildlife sightings included a squid and two turtles.
After another wonderful Lisa breakfast, some went up to the top of the island to check out the ruins of an old mansion, while others rested and I edited the bazillion great pictures weíve made this week.
Back together, we got into the water for some play - a few of us took a free diving lesson with Rich. He taught us a little about breath control, and how to prepare the body for a deep free dive experience. By the end of our time in the water, Will and I had both made it to 55 feet! A personal record for us both. In spite of her shoulder injury, Adriana has made the most of her time here, and has jumped in to participate in as many of our activities as possible.
Lunch was burgers on home made buns (enough already! my hips canít take much more!) and salad. We digested for a while and set off for our next destination. Lisa and Rich were being very mysterious about what was to come. Quietly Rich put up one sail, and strung some lines beneath the bow and stern. ďPoolís open everybody!Ē Lisa chimed with her delightful accent. We jumped in and gently glided along beneath the slowly moving Promenade. What a ride. We took turns out-swimming the boat, climbing the lines, and had a ball. Craziness.
Six of us rode the banana towed along by the Promenade, out in between Islands. A silly ride to our next swim spot - the infamous Dead Manís Channel.
Here, many pirates lost their lives when punishment saw them thrown over board in front of Dead Chest Island. Most of them couldnít swim and were left for dead on the uninhabitable isle. Their only hope for escape was on Peter Island, across the channel, about 3/4 mile through swell and current. Pirates died making this swim, and their bodies floated up on Dead Manís Beach on Peter Island. Hopper and Hodding made this swim on their unprecedented inter-island swim, and it brought them to their knees. To our knowledge, no one has done it since.
We were lucky to have such calm conditions today, so we decided to give it a shot, and be the only people besides Hopper and Hodding to swim the channel and live to tell the tale.
Our intrepid SwimVacationers didnít even blink. Off the boat, swam to Dead Chest, quick regroup and away we went, across to Peter Island. We all made it, safe, sound and exhilarated.
Margaritas, fish cakes, chicken satee and crazy brownies and ice cream filled us up after our day of physical activity. All in all we had another 3 mile, spectacular day. Itís hard to believe thereís only one day left, but Iíll dream tonight about what we can cram into it.
Another full day, another fantastic BVI day. Itís almost hard to believe!
We got in the water a little late this morning, somehow all of us up to a slow start. Captain Rich moved the boat half way out of the Bight of Norman Island, and we all jumped in for our BIG morning swim. We warmed up with some stroke drills lead by Will, and then proceeded to an over 2 mile swim. Past the caves (where once was treasAAAAAAAR found) and to the very southern end of the British Virgin Islands. We swam back to the boat and found bacon, eggs and toast waiting for us.
We decided to give our swimmers a break and make this our one-swim-day. In spite of that, we all managed to spend more than 6 or 7 hours in the water, between snorkeling the caves of Norman and then hours of crazy water toys in Little Harbour of Peter Island, where we are now moored for the night.
The seas have calmed for us it seems, and we can hardly believe we are sliding down the back half of our amazing SwimVacation week
Weíve all gotten to know each other pretty well in our time together so far, and it has been so much fun to discover little-known facts about each of our guests:
Linda was one of the first women engineers and has traveled the world in that capacity. Now she plays water polo, swims, rows and sings in a choir.
Keith once met the Queen of England while playing clarinet in the 48th Highlanders Military band.
Mark has two kids and two grandchildren, and he just. keeps. swimming. No matter how much we swim, Mark swims more. He just canít get enough.
Chris eats one cup of blueberries every day, and has a sneaky, devilish sense of humor that cracks us all up when we least expect it. Heís also a junkie for the Predator.
Steve is a stock car racer and always laughs at my dumb jokes. He loves trimarans, sailing, the ocean, and swimming (welcome to SwimVacation!)
Adriana has had several brushes with famous folks, including Paris Hilton (as an infant - Paris, not Adriana), Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and Glenn Close.
And those are just a few facts about our intrepid group of SwimVacationers. Weíve enjoyed our days and nights together, and will continue to for the rest of our special week.
Chris has asked to contribute to the blog tonight, and Iím so grateful! Here he is:
Greetings to Hopper, Cortney, Liv, Gaffney, and Fletcher, we miss you here Hop.
My goal for the trip was to take every opportunity to swim that the trip provided. It has been more than
I could have imagined thanks to our fantastic guides Will and Heather and the excitement they have brought to each day.
Iíve gotten into the routine of Swim, Relax, Repeat... the way a vacation should be!
What a day.
What a day.
We woke up in Great Harbour, Peter Island. I remembered that this was one of my favorite spots on last yearís SwimVacation. This trip, it did not disappoint. Not a bit.
After all of our miles in big swells, we were rewarded - very little surge, and a lovely rainbow as we dove in. We planned a swim hugging the shore of the harbor - about one and a half miles. I lead the pack.
First, a stingray. Our first of the trip. A lovely calm swim over beautiful reef nursery habitat - lots of little juvenile fish species, sea anemones, flamingo tongues, on and on. We rounded the corner and hit a spectacular patch of reef. Filled with schools of silver sides and huge tarpon in to feed. Pelicans diving all around us. An aquarium.
Then, out in front, I saw it. I could not believe my eyes.
A Manta Ray.
Not a sting ray, not an eagle ray. A bonafide Manta Ray. A Manta holy-moley ray. A manta ray, people. If you know anything about marine life in the Caribbean, you now have your jaw on the floor. Yup, a once in a life time sighting.
I picked up my head, nearly breathless. The nearest swimmer to me was Chris, who was suddenly right next to it. He had a good close up experience with it. Then came Keith, who caught a glimpse. Sadly, the beautiful creature swam away from us before the rest of our team caught up. But we were all ecstatic for the experience.
Barely recovered from this remarkably rare event, we continued our swim to the in water play ground in Great Harbor. A huge inflatable ice burg to climb, and a water trampoline which we managed to climb up on. We literally jumped with joy after such a magnificent swim. So much fun.
After our play time, it was time to head back to the Promenade, which was about 1/2 a mile across the harbor. The swell had picked up, and we had a rough swim back, but the whole experience was well worth the effort.
We did some underwater video taping for tonightís stroke clinic, and then had a hearty pancake breakfast. We had a magnificent sail under the Promenadeís red and white spinnaker and landed at the Indians, where we snorkeled and played and did some more video taping.
Weíre being dogged by an impending weather system, and in order to stay ahead of it and get in all of our special SwimVacation traditions, we moved to Norman Island to do our Willy Tís swim, which we normally save for the last night.
FIrst, we hit the beach, where Will did a beach start and finish clinic. We practiced our race starts and finishes to a slightly inebriated and amused audience of beach loungers. After our last start, we made the 1/2 mile swim to Willy Tís floating bar, where deck hand and dinghy queen Christy met us with our clothes. We enjoyed our cocktail hour there, and are now back on the Promenade for dinner. Tonight weíll have a look at our underwater videos of stroke and WIll will give us the run-down on our technique.
A full day. A phenomenal day. Itís SwimVacation. Itís the BVIs.
It was a Manta Ray.
Swim open water indeed
Awoke to calm breezes in Cistern Bay off Cooper Island. Will and I planned a big swim this morning - just about 2 miles. The water was so warm and clear, the reefs beautiful. We had the wind at our backs most of the way, but when we turned around and came back we had to dig deep. Adriana is being haunted by and old shoulder injury, but she got in and snorkeled so as not to miss the lovely reef life. Everyone else made the entire swim and felt great, especially when we returned to a hearty breakfast of Eggs Benedict.
We lunched on fantastic shrimp, bruschetta and deviled eggs, and made a quick stop back to Road Town (Tortola) to pick up Markís luggage (hooray!). While we were in the harbor, a dolphin came to visit - not an very common site here in the BVIs.
Off to the wreck of the Rhone, where our swimmers got in to snorkel and play, and host Lisa and I made a spectacular dive. I photographed a sea turtle, which later made an appearance for the swimmers.
A short break, and on to our afternoon swim. Some took a pass after our massive morning swim. The rest of us jumped in at the Rhone and swim about 3/4 mile east along Salt Island, while Captain Rich followed us in the Promenade. Linda, Chris, Mark and I decided to challenge Will to a race - but Will had to wait two minutes after we started get in. He caught us at about the half way mark.
The swells had really picked up by the end of the swim...but no complaints from our swimmers. They are ready for whatever this beautiful Caribbean blue has to offer, and embracing this experience to the fullest.
Cocktail hour with fabulous dip and crackers, mojitos, stories and learning more about the intrepid members of our group. We were rewarded for our day of hard swimming and play with a fantastic sunset.
Moored at Great Harbor off Peter Island tonight. Looking forward to whatever tomorrow holds!
We had a leisurely morning. Some of us went to Village Key to walk around before our charter start. We passed goats - lots of goats, and got a feel for the island of Tortola. Mountain roads and an open air cab ride back made for a delightfully hair-raising ride.
First stop: The Baths. A swim briefing, a quick talk about sighting and navigation, and our swimmers plunged in. We totaled about 1/2 mile up and back, with an attempt to go ashore at the famous boulders. The swell increased over the course of our swim, and by the time we tried to get to shore, the breakers were just too big. No exploration today - weíll hope for another shot later in the week if the weather pattern changes.
Overall, a very nice first swim. Our swimmers proved hearty in challenging
conditions - and this was supposed to be our breezy introductory swim! They are more than ready for this week
Weíre moored tonight at Cooper Island. We should have a nice protected swim in the morning. For now, itís cocktails and goofy shades Guide WIll was kind enough to bring for all.
Travel days are always interesting....Will, Chris and I traveled from Portland together, and the first SwimVacationer we met in San Juan was Linda. A quick hug and she was off on her flight to Tortola. Soon after we found Steve, followed by Keith and Christy (our deckhand) and all boarded our AA flight to Tortola.
ďAnomalyĒ and ďEngineĒ are never words you want to hear your pilot say in the same sentence, especially at 7000 ft. He did, and we did a U turn and headed back to San Juan. Not to worry, we shared laughs in the airport and made the most of it.
By 11 pm we had all SwimVacationers aboard the Promenade safe and sound, and were only missing Markís luggage, which is on its way.
Flying into Tortola in the dark meant that our guests woke up this morning to the spectacular view of the BVIs volcanic peaks for the first time. What a way to wake up.
Odds and ends to attend to this morning before our charter begins at noon. Thanks to Linda who hand made scones - individually wrapped and labelled - and found room for them in her suitcase!
Welcome to SwimVacation!
Woke up to snow on the rooftops. Amazingly, 3 roses still bloom in the garden. Linda wrote to say the temps in Texas arenít much different than in the BVIs right now. Wonít feel too different for her, but I canít wait to feel that blast of heat when I step off the plane tomorrow...
Tomorrow! Iíll leave Bath, Maine at 4 am and arrive on the deck of the Promenade by 7:30. The pic above is where weíre headed...I think I dreamt of sea stars last night.
Finny and I had a swim with Hopper and Cortney and 2 of their 3 swimming superstars this morning. I meant to bring the camera for a last blog pic from home but forgot (itís in my suitcase). So hereís a corny swim pic taken in my living room.
A special dinner tonight for the 3 of us and then to bed...Iíll creep out before the sun rises, and watch it set in the beautiful blue Caribbean.
Rest and travel safe, swimmers!
It's snowing outside. I am wearing a hat inside because I am trying not to turn the heat on, but I might just have to go ahead and do it.
I'm packed a whole day early. Most SwimVacationers will only have a small duffle bag to bring what the need for our open water week, but as team photographer I have a little more to lug to the British Virgin Islands.
One more pool swim tomorrow morning, and then into the little pool with my 3 year old, Finn, where we will be joined by SwimVacation President Hopper and his family. Finn loves to swim already and i canít wait to get him out into the ocean one day. It will be good to go over things with Hopper one more time before i leave home at the crack of dawn on Saturday.
I love to go, but leaving home is always hard, especially with a kid. Good thing I know just how great the next week is going to be - sun, blue water, ocean creatures, a great boat to call home, great people and swimming. Lots and lots of swimming. Canít wait!
The snow has stopped for now, but Iím planning on soaking up as much of the BVIís sun and surf as I can to hold me over for the winter.
Not long now!