Mermaids and Green Onions

Friday and Saturday

First, a bit of charter yachting terminology. “Fully crewed” refers to a charter yacht that has a captain, chef, deckhand, and as many other crew that it takes to run the charter. “Full board” means all meals are including with the charter. “Captain only” and “half-board” are other terms that define themselves. “Bareboating” refers to a charter where only the yacht is provided, and pretty much everything else needs to be procured or provided by the charterer, including the crew. The yacht chartering industry is a bit of a throwback to another era, and our friend and yacht broker Kerry has helped us navigate it for the past several years.  

Since the loss of our beloved Yacht Promenade, which was fully crewed and full board, we’ve been building our trips from scratch on bareboats. We’ve looked for another crewed yacht, but the numbers never even come close to working. So we bareboat, and though we miss Promenade dearly, bareboating has been a gift to me and SwimVacation in several ways I never expected. We get to pick our own captain, chef, and crew. This has allowed us to reconnect with old friends and find new ones, and to build really cohesive teams with a variety of skills that we pool to execute these complex trips. I think it would be cool to list this trip’s crew, with an explanation of how they got here.

Jason taking just a minute to relax on his vessel charge for the week.

Jason Buccheim, Captain. My SwimVacation partner Heather Perry first worked with Jason in 1996, when he was just starting up his own business, Odyssey Expeditions, where he runs teen summer camps aboard sailboats in the Caribbean with themes of marine biology and scuba diving.  Heather, as she tends to do with people, has kept in touch with Jason over the years, and hit him up to work with us on this trip. He’s maneuvering our 52-foot catamaran around the marina as I write this, into an impossibly small space at the fuel dock. I like him a lot and expect we’ll be hitting him up for more work in the future.

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Zackary Roland, Deckhand. Our longtime friend and sometimes SwimVacation boat captain Simeon introduced us to Zack after working with and being impressed by him on boats in Florida. It just so happens that Zack is also a swimmer and lives minutes from me and Heather in Maine. Weird. Zack is a utility player in baseball parlance, able to yank up a mooring ball, haul tons of gear, and run complex systems on the yacht. He can guide swimmers when called on, DJ a dance party, drive a dinghy, and keep all the coolers full of drinks, plus a lot of other things big and small behind the scenes. He’s on his 5th trip with us.


Miriam Molinet, Chef. To say it’s a trick to cook for 12 people in a tiny kitchen on a boat with limited storage space, limited ingredients, and just a few utensils would be an understatement. But Miriam grew up in New Orleans, so cooking is in her blood. Her style of cuisine has roots in the Caribbean and Africa, perfect for the British Virgin Islands. She’s off the yacht right now, searching the little grocery stores for some last minute fresh ingredients. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has our driver Iris pull over on the side of the road so she can pick some green onions, which the grocery stores have run out of. This is Miriam’s third trip with us.

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John Stevens, Swimming Guide. I first met John in 2000 or so, when he was in college and I was working for his father Paul Stevens at his architecture and engineering firm in Portland, Maine. John and I have crossed paths dozens of times over the years, mostly at open water swimming events, and more recently at SwimRun events, where John is really kicking butt (including Lance Armstrong’s butt - I’m not kidding here). John grew up around boats and islands and salt water, and he’s been a running guide in Portland, so he’s a natural fit for us. This is John’s first trip with SwimVacation.


Heather Perry, Swimming Guide, Photographer. After cold-calling me, SwimVacation founder Hopper McDonough in 2008, looking for a gig on a yacht after recovering from a long illness, Heather is our steadfast mermaid. She works EVERY trip, and is ambassador to the ocean for our guests with a calming, steady presence. Her SwimVacation photos have graced this blog,  the covers of magazines, and have been used in advertisements around the world. She has created SwimVacation’s web presence, and keeps in close contact with our former guests, many of whom come back multiple times. It’s impossible to list the contributions Heather has made to this little company, but suffice to say SwimVacation wouldn’t have gotten where it is today without her.


Getting a crew down here is always a feat, but we all made it with only typical Caribbean travel burps. Our AirBnB in Puerto Rico cancelled on us at the last minute due to a power outage. Miriam had a bottle of sesame oil explode in her luggage. We had left guide John with the task of getting our bed splitter here, and the little airline that charged us $80 for the (very) large bag last year charged us $250 this year. Typical stuff. Once here, we hit the ground running. Liquor store, grocery store, internet company store, charter company office. Lots of hauling stuff around and storing food and gear in every crevice of this boat.

(Left: Iris, our island Mom and driver, wife of Albert, waits for us as we arrive on the ferry. We love her!)

(Photos above: 1. We are NOT a cruise ship. 2. Hopper admires island ingenuity, with this float made from surf boards, plywood and a cleat. 3. Mutton carcass. Not on our menu. 4. Our crew stops for a much needed lunch in the middle of our hectic prep day.)

Guests arrive in 2 hours. We’ll be scurrying around until then, cleaning up the yacht, icing down drinks. I used to be really nervous at this hour, to the point of nausea. These days I just get a healthy case of the anticipatory butterflies, confident we’ll pull off another great trip with the help of a hand-picked crew of truly amazing people.



(Another funny island quirk: Hopper and I (Heather) texting each other during errand runs. Somehow our texts got caught in a time space continuum and continued to deliver for over 12 hours. Welcome to the Islands!)