A long swim, a smooth sail, and a kiss.

First stop on our long swim - the sunken Kodiak Queen with her collapsed kraken.

First stop on our long swim - the sunken Kodiak Queen with her collapsed kraken.

With their knack for navigation and a good level of fitness after swimming twice a day all week, this group was ready for a big long swim. We woke at Mountain Point, on the north end of Virgin Gorda. I’ve been eyeing a long swim from here for a few years, but weather and schedule has prevented it. The morning’s gentle east-northeast breeze and zero swell gave us the green light. Mountain Point to Savannah Bay, about 3 miles, a fairly straight shot. No marinas along the way, reducing chances for boat vs. swimmer. Off we went.

Our first stop was at the wreck of the Kodiak Queen. She was the last surviving ship from the attack on Pearl Harbor, and wound up rusting away in Road Harbor. Sir Richard Branson’s photographer took up an interest in the Kodiak, and a plan was hatched to sink the vessel to create a dive spot and artificial reef. Sir Richard thought the plan was too pedestrian, so he sent the team back to the drawing board. In the end, the decision was made to fabricate a giant kraken from rebar and place it around the ship. It took a hit in the hurricane, but it’s still a cool thing to swim over.

Rendez-vous: Kayakers Rick and Myssie produce a travel sized bottle of Pinot Grigio for Miriam mid swim. She is delighted.

We kept a fairly tight grouping for the next ½ hour, the time we set for our second rendezvous. The three guides, me, John, and Heather took turns on the SUP. Our strokes lengthened with the tailwind. The bottom changed from sand to reef to turtle grass and back again. Karen and I found a nice rhythm together, and I heard Miriam and Susan being chatty behind us. Amy quietly glided along gracefully as she does. Rick and Myssie watched over us from the 2-person kayak while Captain Jason and Zack watched over them from a drifting Rumba. It was a full team affair.

Rather than swim in and out of Savannah Bay to end our swim, we decided to stay on the outside, in the Drake Channel.  As we passed a saddle in the Island, the wind quickly built from 5 to 15 to 20 knots just as we hit the 3-mile mark, the planned end of our swim. Whitecaps appeared, and things suddenly felt intense. It was way too rough to climb aboard Rumba at this spot. I asked Rick and Myssie to paddle over to Rumba with a message for Captain Jason: drive Rumba to a place that’s calm enough for us to climb aboard and wait there while we swim to you. Then I asked the swimmers to form a tight group as we waited for Captain Jason to settle with Rumba. We gave our swimmers instructions to stick together, and to climb aboard quickly when the time came.  When Jason had Rumba in a good spot just 500 yards from us, we charged at her and the guests zipped up the ladder one by one. Rick eased his kayak exit by jumping in the water then up the ladder rather than trying to go kayak to boat. In less than a minute, we were all back aboard, congratulating ourselves for a great 3 miles, and also for the way we handled ourselves in an intense situation that could have gone wrong in so many ways. Huzzah!

We sailed down the channel, the wind behind us, toward Norman Island. Shrimp gumbo materialized. Pulling into Privateer Bay, the afternoon lengthened in the hot sun. Heather and I went on a scouting snorkel that revealed Angelfish Reef still has a long way to go after being scoured by the hurricanes. We spied a big hawksbill turtle munching on algae growing on the reef, not at all affected by our presence.

Karen in a rare moment of repose.

Karen in a rare moment of repose.

WIth all those miles in our muscles, we planned a short swim that was bound to be more marine biology lecture than workout. We found the same hawksbill from earlier, and she followed us as we swam along the reef. We watched as the curious turtle saw a stingray, approached it, then gave it a kiss. Having none of it, the stingray swam away.

Cocktails of all kinds flowed back aboard Rumba as guest Miriam took over bartending duties. Reggae played. The sun set as Heather took portraits. Cornish game hens for dinner. Stars. Heads on pillows. Dreams of blue water and new friends, kissing.