Seeking the stuff that great vacations are made of (Found).

Miriam is our chef for these April SwimVacation trips. She’s originally from from New Orleans, but all you have to do is eat her food and you’d know that right away. I just finished some amazing gumbo she prepared for the 14 of us aboard tonight. Being a chef on a yacht is a tough gig. I know it sounds romantic, sailing around the Caribbean, grilling some steaks, sipping a beer. Wrong. Being a chef on any boat is grueling and hot, with long days working in a galley 1/10th the size most chefs work in. Provisioning is difficult in the Caribbean, with lots of trips to lots of little stores. Food is difficult to store on a boat, we fill every crevice and use a lot of ice. Vegetables are difficult to chop on a boat that’s rocking and rolling in a 6 foot swell. Guests have different tastes, allergies, are vegetarians or vegans. Miriam somehow makes it all look easy. I was thrilled to see her jump in for a snorkel before dinner tonight for a quick break. 

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Our morning swim was a circumnavigation of Little Harbor on Peter Island. The portion of the swim across the mouth of the bay with the wind at our backs allowed us to stretch out our strokes, find balance, feel fast. We turned around to head back to the boat and found quite the opposite. Back at the yacht, we found calm clear last water, and I decided this would be a great time to take stroke videos of our guests. Heather grabbed her fancy underwater camera housing and got it done.  Cuan Law, a trimaran we know well, anchored near us, and we waved to our sometimes captain Simeon as we motored out of the harbor. In a sign of grit and determination, the owners of the Cuan Law are running her without a mast, which was lost in the hurricane. The show must go on!

The prevailing winds down here are East-Northeast, but a change of only a few degrees can affect where we swim, where we anchor, where we spend the night. Today we had our eye on an iconic SwimVacation adventure, Dead Chest Island to Deadman’s Bay. One look at the channel between them changed our minds: 3 foot chop on top of 4 foot swell and a 20 knot wind. This is a vacation, not a suffer fest. We moved on to the wreck of The Rhone for a snorkel.

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 Hopper turns the camera on Heather during a free dive on the wreck of the Rhone.

Hopper turns the camera on Heather during a free dive on the wreck of the Rhone.

I’ve written about The Rhone several times in this blog, so the abridged version is: In October of 1867 a 374 foot ship carrying 145 passengers smashed on the rocks on Salt Island during a hurricane, and sunk in relatively shallow water. It is a rare wreck in that it’s shallow, in clear water, and has a lot of cool recognizable parts visible form the surface, like its huge bronze propeller. Our guests snorkeled around her for a bit, then we swam to a rock formation around the corner in Salt Bay called Man Head. I swam with guest Steve, who is a tall multisport adventure type guy. We battled into a headwind for about 1/2 mile, but Steve has this determined stroke and demeanor that make me think we could throw him into any situation.

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Our next task was to find a place to anchor for the night. We were in Salt Bay, which can be a good overnight spot, but the wind was a few degrees off to the north of east, making it too choppy.  Cooper Island was nearby, but as we cruised the marina, all the mooring ball were taken. Besides, our guests are already getting used to the seclusion that yachting can offer, and they’re also becoming a unit, not interested in mixing with the general public right now. I get this. Instead we moved just around the corner to a little tuck in that Captain Bob (with decades of BVI cruising experience) knew about. Alone and out of the wind, we jumped in for more snorkeling. Lots of healthy reef life here, reminding us that marine life will return to balance given a little time. Cocktails in sunshine, appetizers at sunset, dinner and chatter beneath a sky full of stars. 

 Tammy and Deb enjoy some floating in the lee of Cooper Island, our anchorage for the night.

Tammy and Deb enjoy some floating in the lee of Cooper Island, our anchorage for the night.

Stuffed with Miriam’s pineapple upside-down cake, we all drift off to sleep, shoulders perhaps a little sore, nose slightly sunburned, souls satisfied.  

- Hopper

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