First mornings in Little Harbour are special. Crossing that channel and a night’s sleep on the boat encourages people to let go, embrace calm. Something about Little Harbour enhances this transition - maybe it’s that particular shade of turquoise, or the flat calm water we always awake to there. The turtles that invariably break the surface of the water to take a breath, the little schools of silver sides that skip like flat pebbles across the harbour, all of these things remind us that we are somewhere else. It’s amazing how quickly potent it is.
Our swimmers rolled into the galley one by one, for coffee, tea, yogurt, just a little something. At ease. Patrisha jumped in for an early morning snorkel, discovered the resident schools beneath the pier. Even our octogenarian Louise, who came to us with a fever and bad cold, came out from her cabin this morning like she was emerging from a cocoon. She smiled and we had our first conversation of the trip. She said she’d like to go for a swim. Ah yes! Little Harbour does this.
It looked so calm that I for one was lulled into thinking the whole Caribbean sea must be flat, so let’s do an ambitious swim from Little Harbour to Great Harbour, the next one over, about a mile and a half. Patrisha (fresh from her snorkel) and Louise (fresh from her fever) and Charles (who’d already exceeded his own expectations for himself on Sunday afternoon) were wise to pace themselves and opted for a splash in at the destination. Chris, Susan, Cynthia and Art were game and jumped right in. Susan is a joy to be in the water with. Every shell, every fish, every thing she sees in the water is new. She barely made progress for stopping with delight at anything that moved beneath her.
Of course, as soon as we headed around the corner and left Little Harbour, we faced a brisk wind, a head on current, and swam directly into the sun.
Welcome to SwimVacation! Oy. We really christened these guys first thing. No worries, they put their heads down and faced the challenge, enjoyed the view underwater, and kept on. Wildlife sightings included a Southern Sting Ray, a turtle, two Barracuda, a puffer fish and lots of wrasses and tang. Around another corner and we were into Great Harbour. The wind kept on until we boarded the boat. But they did it, and were glad to have done so.
I like that these guys aren’t in a hurry and aren’t always clamoring for more. That gave us lots of time for lounging, and half the group went ashore for a walk before lunch, which was a fantastic chicken Caesar and still more birthday brownie.
A little more lounge time before an afternoon swim in Great Harbour, this time in the other direction, along the inner wall of the bay. We’ve loved Great Harbour for so many reasons for so many years. In our early days, there were the water toys - the floating trampoline and rock climbing wall that let you fall back into the water. These were part of the little yellow resort compound in the western corner of the harbour. For 10 years I’ve enjoyed the vibrant reef along the wall - I’ve watched it die some, I’ve watched it recover. I wasn’t quite prepared for Great Harbour and her scars today. It hurt a little to see the once bright yellow buildings in ruin, and our swim along the reef revealed that this little underwater habitat was no match for the crushing force of Irma. Most poignant was the large school of fish swirling around and through a submerged tree - the juxtaposition of environments that can only come from a massive natural event.
These realizations sting. But there’s more to it than just the obvious. Life always finds a way. As the cleaners continue to do their jobs, more, maybe new creatures are going to move in. Who will return? Who will move in from somewhere else? This place will recover, and it may or may not recover the way we remember it. Evolution is everything in the natural world, and some creatures will take full advantage of this disturbance, adapt, and eventually thrive. We don’t get to know what it will look like as time reshapes the life of this harbour. And every thing, every life phase is temporary.
The wind died for us this afternoon, and our swimmers all found their paces in this place. Stretching muscles and gliding along in the clear blue. This is a place of potential now.
Back on board, we tested out Miriam’s first ever try at conch fritters. I wasn’t sure she had it just right so I had another. And another. Ok. She nailed it.
We moved around to Dead Man’s Bay, where we ran into Simeon (our captain in the Abacos last December) on his new post ship. We yelled teasing remarks back and forth until his boat left. I’m sure we’ll be running into him again over the next two weeks.
The sun set with a showy cascade of colors, getting better each minute until a gentle fade to dark. Dinner, an absurdly good pineapple upside down cake, some skinny dippers treating us to an exceptional display of bioluminescence that mirrored the sky full of stars. Captain Bob pulled out his ukelele and Miriam joined in with her fantastic voice and we were serenaded to the evening’s close.
Things move on, the joy of being in the Caribbean is alive in this group tonight. There are gifts even in the wake of upheaval. We are one of only two boats in what is usually a very busy bay. This new landscape is ours to discover, and we don’t have to fight the crowds to do it. It’s a very special time to be in these islands indeed.