Going back better.


The skies above Norman were showy with a vivd rainbow that wouldn’t quit. It followed us around our whole swim.

We had Privateer Bay on Norman Island to ourselves for a few hours this morning, a first for us on SwimVacation. I’m guessing the absence of Willy T’s, the infamous floating bar, from the nearby Pirate’s Bight has kept the party crowd at its new, temporary location at Great Harbor, Peter Island. Like many west facing bays in the BVIs, the wind swirls from different directions, but the water was glassy as we jumped in for our morning swim. Heather pointed out lots of baby fish during some brief breaks as we headed to Angelfish Reef. On the return trip, the wind picked up, and a head current flowed. Aboard the SUP, I got on my knees to avoid being blown off, then watched our swimmers charge around the bay, stronger than wind or current. They are visibly stronger and faster than they were just a few days ago, and while that isn’t necessarily our goal on SwimVacation, it’s a nice perk. We’ve always been careful not to present ourselves as a swim camp - this is a vacation first. And it’s not about the miles (though many); it’s about being present in the water, giving over, and swimming what we are given.


An bawdy rainbow and satisfied swimmers - we got to see a barracuda waking up while swimming through rock valleys.

Arriving at the Norman Island Caves at the end of our swim, an excursion boat full of lifejacket wearing snorkelers appeared, so we made a quick tour of the biggest cave before civilization descended upon us. These were the caves that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Our happy magnificent six.

Our happy magnificent six.

Captain Jason yanked the hook and motored Rumba around to the opposite side of Norman Island into Benures Bay. There was only one other yacht anchored there, and we tucked into a private corner. All of the beauty of the BVIs was on full display here: recently re-vegetated (after the hurricanes stripped them of leaves) Gumbo Limbo, or Turpentine trees line the shore and the hills. Their copper colored bark has an ancient look to it, and deep green leaves dapple the island and shoreline in shade.  Birds sang as they flew between the trees, as waves were gently lapping at the cobbly shore. Bright white sand beneath the bay reflected back the sun and sky, creating 30 shades of turquoise. We just sat on the Rumba, mezmorized. I use these moments to recharge my batteries for the coming winter months in Maine.

Heather jumped in for an underwater photo session with each of our guests. This is the moment when the benefits of a week in the sea really shine through in each guest, and Heather just can’t help but make photographs of the result.

Time was slipping away from us, and we wanted to squeeze the most out of every remaining moment. First, a swim around Benures Bay. Gliding across the mouth of the bay, we saw only endless blue beneath us in 100 feet of water, with the wind at our backs. Rick, watching from the boat, said later that we were flying across at an impressive clip. As soon as we were back aboard, Captain Jason had us sailing off to The Indians, a rock formation in the Drake Channel with reef life that largely survived the hurricanes.

Our swimmers have become so close this week. They began a tradition of sending each other inspiring messages during sunblock application, not telling the person what message is on their back, but photographing it for later sharing. What a delightful thing.

A brown booby greets us from an outcrop at the Indians, a place in the BVI that wen’t largely unscathed by last year’s devastating hurricane season.

A brown booby greets us from an outcrop at the Indians, a place in the BVI that wen’t largely unscathed by last year’s devastating hurricane season.

We explored for a bit then hopped right back on Rumba for a sail to Road Harbor, where we were due in at 4:00. Pulling into the fuel dock at 4:20 was close enough, I guess. The reality of people and cars and civilization was creeping back in. One nice thing about being back on island though was the availability of ice. We filled a cooler with it, chilled beer and wine with it, mixed drinks with it. Good heavens, we had been without ice for almost 8 hours. Your thoughts and prayers helped see us through.

We set up our fancy digital projector and Heather played her slideshow to the accompaniment of songs played on Zack’s awesome bluetooth speaker. Heather’s photos are always a hit, and there are always lots of oooohs and aaaahs as we relive the amazing moments of the week. Chef Miriam produced curried chicken and rice and teriyaki shrimp. Stories from the week and of plans for life back home floated around the stern.

I’m so proud of the crew on this trip. Captain Jason, Chef Miriam, First Mate Zack, Photographer and swimming guide Heather, and the newest member of our swimming guide team, John. They all worked hard and made it look easy. Professionals.

This straight-swimming, fun-loving group of guests gelled in the most spectacular way, and I can’t wait to swim with them again. I won’t have to wait long, as several have already registered for upcoming trips - something I take as a sign that we are doing this mostly right, and letting the ocean do the rest.

Myssie, Rick & Karen, Susan, Miriam, Amy, and of course, storm survivor and intrepid Rumba, thank you all for such a great SwimVacation.

  • Hopper

PS. This blog entry by Hopper is being posted by me, Heather, from my cozy couch back in Maine. A busy final day, spotty internet, hurried, early departures and extended return travel often delay our final post of a trip. Sometimes I feel anxiety about leaving our guests and readers hanging. But in truth, a delayed posting from home offers some perspective we might not get to roll in otherwise. As I sit here with a hot cup of coffee looking out through frosted windows, it’s stunning to me that I could wake up in a tropical climate and go to bed in a cold one. That my bathing suit, crammed hastily in my bag, is still damp with Caribbean salt. That the photos I made of our special guests, on the bow, in the water, are barely two days old. And yet I’m looking at snow and Christmas lights and cuddling with a cat who is trying to curl up on this laptop and make up for a week’s worth of my absence. I’m wrapped in a thick robe, still tan, though likely not for long. But all of these disjointing juxtapositions remind me that our Caribbean home isn’t as far as it feels sometimes. Albert and Iris are a simple text away. A warm sun and turquoise sea are a short day’s travel. And most importantly, the strength, confidence and calm our swimmers uncovered in themselves this week is still within them now. I know they have all gone home better, and that’s a thing that lasts no matter the time zone or temperature.

Until next time open water. Thanks for the ride. We’ll jump back into you in Bahamas in March!

  • Heather

Jason. How we feel in the sea.

Jason. How we feel in the sea.