Swimming CIA Agent



Just over a year ago, hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, leaving mass destruction. Signs of the damage are still everywhere, and will be a part of the islands for at least a generation, perhaps several. Our driver/Island Mom Iris pointed out the temporary school building, which is being shared by the elementary and high schools. The young kids attend school in the morning, and the older kids go in the afternoon. Iris said this was less than desirable, with lots of bored kids hanging around for half the day. 

I’ve read that when CIA agents visit a foreign country, they take notes on things like the price of bread, the availability of electricity, the water supply, trash removal. I decided to play CIA agent for a bit while getting provisions in Road Town yesterday. The grocery store was well stocked, even though the last shipment of food from off-island was almost a week ago. There were few leafy greens, but this could be due in part to the e-coli scare in the US. Prices were mostly reasonable. The average loaf of bread was about 3 bucks. I didn’t notice any interruptions in the electrical supply in the brief time we were on-island. I don’t know how steady the public water supply ever was on Tortola, but there was a LOT of bottled water flying off the shelves. Back on the streets, I saw no piles of domestic trash, and demolition debris around construction sites was generally tidy for Caribbean standards. I was most impressed with the smiles on the faces of the Islanders, and there was a lot of gabbing and laughter everywhere. I find this to be the most positive sign. Islanders everywhere must be the most resilient people on earth, and we mainlanders can learn a lot from them as our climate changes and we experience the kind of weather that they have always known as a part of their lives.  

Our guests arrived just after noon, and we quickly got them settled and fed. We get a lot of returning guests on our trips, and this one is no different. Amy, Myssie, Susan, Rick, and Karen are joining us again, and guest Miriam (not to be confused with Chef Miriam) are sailing and swimming with us this week. Chef Miriam had cuban sandwiches ready to go, with a nice pasta salad on the side. Captain Jason gave a boat safety talk, and I gave my seasick talk. The Drake channel was a little bumpy as we weighed anchor and sailed across to Peter Island, and I think the seasick talk made a difference. Pulling into Little Harbor, guide John and I swam the stern line to the shore, picked a rock to tie off the boat, and swam back. I love this first splash, when I’m reminded of everything I love about swimming in these waters. The perfect temperature, crystal clear, lots of colorful little fish. I could drink it all in.

The three swimming guides, me, Heather, and John, plotted a course and we jumped in for our first swim. 20 minutes out, turn around, and whatever it takes to get back. 2 guides in the water, one on an SUP. Conditions got fairly sporty as we got to the 20 minute mark, and we turned around facing into the wind. Our guests plowed through it and returned to our yacht Rumba to enjoy a pitcher or 3 of the famous local drink, the Painkiller. Thai peanut noodles appeared and disappeared. Memories of past trips were shared, and laughter filled the yacht. Many of us went to the bow to see a million stars. Gusty winds overnight refreshed our cabins as we dozed. 


(Hopper gives John a high five after his first swim as a guide! Fun conversation over apps and painkillers)