Big swims. Pig swims.

We haven't ever run a trip that we haven't scouted first. Until this trip. Between the time Hurricane Irma devastated the BVIs and the start date, we just didn't have enough time. Instead, we get information from as many sources as possible for all the elements of the trip, from transportation to groceries to the swims.  We also use technology: google maps and various apps to judge depths, wind direction, currents, distances, and to find generally cool underwater stuff to swim over. The reality: you really don't know until you're actually there. 

Jamie & Brett discuss their strategy for a morning swim.

Jamie & Brett discuss their strategy for a morning swim.

We plotted our one-way swimming course, one group was to hug the north end of Great Guana Cay, the other group planned to circle a couple of small cays just offshore. Guide Dave was on the SUP watching over guests Jamie and Brett, and guest Paul and I swam together. Heather took island huggers Art, Stephanie, and Jenny. The first 1/2 mile of the swim was along bright white sand (more batfish sightings). Paul and I could't help but to stop and walk around a bit to feel the sugary grains on our feet. With calm waters and a tail wind, it was a confidence boosting cruise. A meditation.

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The sea of Abaco, which lies between Great Abaco Island and a string of Cays to the east (the ones we've been swimming along) is a 65 mile-long shallow saltwater lagoon. It has a sandy bottom and big fields of turtle grass. To the east of the string of smaller Cays lies the mighty Atlantic. The water out there is a different animal. And it has different animals.   

As Dave, Brett and Jamie, tailed by Paul and I, rounded the northern end of the Cay, everything changed at once. The water got deeper, from 3 feet to 30 feet in a few strokes. The color became a richer blue. Big waves, walls of water, lifted us just high enough to see the direction Dave was headed.  Underwater, a scene to rival any aquarium. Big schools of Jacks, Tang, and Parrotfish crowded the reef. Coral formations teemed with color. A giant nurse shark napped under a ledge. Everything was suddenly more intense, serious. 

Concerned that I'd lose sight of Dave, who I just saw fall off the SUP, I went to my mental picture of the chart of the area. I knew there were a string a small cays running north-south, and that the first two had really shallow water between them.  Our goal was to circle the cays, then head to the east side of Great Guana, where we'd (hopefully) find our boat. 

After swimming past the first little Cay (Gumelemi), we headed to Lilly Cay, keeping it on our left. Waves were breaking to our left and right, and we were swimming against a stiff current, barely making headway. We had lost sight of Dave, and at this point I was really worried about Heather and her group, who I hoped had decided to head straight to the boat rather than rounding the little cays. Paul and I took a break, agreed to stick together and stick to the plan, put our heads down and went for it. As we re-entered the sea of Abaco and rounded Lilly Cay, we headed into the wind and sun, battling for another 2 miles back to the boat. A bad-ass swim I'll never forget. We climbed onto our boat, and I was relieved to see everyone aboard safely, swapping their own tales of adventure from the morning over eggs and hash. Everyone was game, everyone trusted their guide, and everyone pushed their own perceptions of what they could do. Everyone felt good about this effort.

Maps of our groups' different swim routes. Thanks Dave for tracking our moves!

Next up: swimming with pigs at No-Name Cay. I'll let the pictures tell that story. 

These two awesome piggy shots by our awesomest deck hand Zack! Thank you Zack!

Our evening swim was a shallow mile or two in shallow, calm water, a string of cassiopeia jellyfish beneath us (harmless and beautiful). Nothing serious, just fun. Paul and Heather went stroke for stroke in a zig zag looking for water deep enough for Paul's long arms. I joined them on their way back. The three of us swam hard and in sync. A great way to bond.

The best part of it was the warm cookie offering as we dried off. Chef Chris then moved on to grilling pork ribs (sorry swimming pigs) and tofu. We try to accommodate lots of different diets on SwimVacation. It keeps our chefs busy but our guests happy. The goal.

Stephanie took out the SUP and caught some amazing late afternoon light against distant stormy skies.

Stephanie took out the SUP and caught some amazing late afternoon light against distant stormy skies.

So in addition to gaining boots-in-the-water experience here in the Abacos, what we are also learning is that while our guests have very much appreciated our expertise in our various locations, they are also game, flexible and very willing to scout along side of us. It feels good to know we've earned their trust. It feels good to have their company on this trip.

- Hopper & Heather

Hopper McDonoughComment