Soup to nuts.
Have you ever been in a room with a sealed Yeti cooler full of Brussels sprouts sitting in water for two days?
If you have, and if you are sitting with your fellow guides and crew mates, you probably think the pungent, strong smell is one of them, and they probably think it is you, and all of you are too polite and love and respect each other too much to say anything.
That’s what happened tonight. I thought the smell was Zack, as did Dave and Bob. Zack thought the smell was me! ME! Fitzy didn’t know who it was and just left. Finally, Zack realized it was the cooler we were all using as a foot rest and opened it up. Brussels were dumped over board and laughs ensued. Such is life living and working in close quarters on a boat. Even one that is a fancy yacht.
Let’s talk about this day. Mountain Point is north of Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda and we love this spot for its reef and moon pool. I was anxious about visiting its long reef after seeing the damage in Great Harbour, but we jumped in and made for the beach at the inner most corner of the bay. Once we turned around, we followed the shore line and I was relieved and delighted to see the quantity of fish here. Lots of reef structure remains, though a little dusty, and schools of tang, sergeant majors, many trumpet fish, a box fish, a very camouflaged lizard fish (great spot, Chris!), a baby hawksbill turtle and even a baby moray eel! Great show Mountain Point! Oohs and Aaahs all along the wall.
When we got to the corner, some returned to the boat while Fitzy and I took a few others around to the Moon Pool. You’ve read about this before - the Moon Pool is an open air pool surrounded entirely by rock formations, and the only way in is a free dive down to about 6 feet, then an ambitious swim through a short tunnel before surfacing in the pool. Add to this challenge the pull and push of a minor swell, and this little feat is not for the faint of heart. A smart swimmer / free diver knows her limits. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t. Today I did, and Fitzy, Chris and Susan joined me. As with every shell and fish she sees, this experience thrilled Susan to no end. Chris and Fitz both made it in (and back out) with no fins, which is particularly challenging. We all emerged a little high from the experience, and joined Cynthia (kindly hanging on to our swim buoys) in a half mile windy swim back to Camano.
Once back aboard we dropped our mooring and made off for the Dogs, a small cluster of uninhabited rocky islands to our west. There’s a chimney that everyone can swim into on one of these Dogs, and Captain Bob was good enough to motor around helping me look for it, but no luck, and we dropped anchor in a protected bay on George Dog. Lunch was burritos and naps quickly followed, even by me, which I almost never do!
Have I told you how Dave Barra always gives us a slog, slightly (or more) longer or harder than he’d like to admit it’s going to be before we get in? Yes. Well maybe it was the nap I had, but I lacked the fortitude to fight him on his ambitious plan for us to circumnavigate George Dog island. Sure, the distance is a mere 1.3 miles around. And yes, it was nice and calm….at our anchorage on the western side. I knew from our search for the chimney that it was big and rough - or “Sporty”, as Dave likes to say - on the other 3 sides of the island. We had a long briefing about it, our guests dithered a little about wanting to try it. I dithered about wanting to try it. In the end, we all jumped in and made a go of it. Charlie had swum his best distance at Mountain Point this morning and met his match in the 3 foot swells. Fitz accompanied him back to the boat with the SUP. Nothing to be ashamed of there - he more than proved his metal, especially as a guy who took on swimming just a few years ago at the age of 76 and has had surgery on both shoulders!
The rest of us made our slow, sloggy way around the island, through white caps and big rollers. The sea lapped and crashed along the shore making for a dramatic and chaotic soundtrack to the adventure. On the back side of the island, we suddenly found ourselves in a thick soup of jelly ropes, which I quickly identified as thousands of pelagic tunicates, mating and budding (yes, they actually reproduce both sexually AND asexually….it’s complicated) en masse! It was amazing! A translucent bouillabaisse of gelatinous spinning twisting protein. I felt them slip through my fingers and around my cheeks. My vision blurred with the thickness of them at times. It was magical and cool. What a rare thing to come upon, and had we not taken on this Dave Barra (probably absurd) challenge, we never would have experienced it. Now I know where all of the pelagic tunicates go to mate! Behind George Dog Island on a spring day! It was hard to photograph, but I managed to get a few shots.
We finally rounded the last corner just as Louise, 80 in a few months, had had enough. She called to Fitzy on the SUP and being the prince of the guide he is, he put her on the board, then jumped in the water himself (wearing shorts, t-shirt, sunglasses and base ball cap) and pushed her the final hundred yards to the boat. Louise gets credit for completing this swim, as she did all of the hardest parts!
Chris and I paused at the edge of the calm and chatted about the truncate stew while looking out to sea. Suddenly, he yelled and when I looked where he was staring a few hundred yards away, I saw an enormous splash - he described what he saw flying through the air. It was a manta ray. A giant black manta leaping from the sea, crashing down in a most majestic belly flop. Rare, exciting, absolutely spectacular. I’m quite certain the manta was visiting George Dog for the tunicate soup of the day, and how lucky we are to have caught a breech. A lightening strike, really. We lingered and stared at the same spot in the hopes that lightening might strike again. Finally we left, satisfied, and returned to the boat with all of our fellow circumnavigators.
I should mention that in 2009, on Chris Matava’s first SwimVacation, he and I were swimming together in Great Harbour when we had the great luck of being visited by a giant manta ray, fairly rare in these parts. I guess I will have to refer to manta sightings on SwimVacation as #thechrismatavaeffect. I like that we have certain repeat guests who are apparently magnets for crazy cool creatures.
From the Dogs, we set sail. Two sails up and ever westward to my favorite overnight spot in the islands, Muskmelon Bay at Guana island. She gave us a soft and lovely setting sun, and here we rock, gently and alone in this wild and wonderful Bay.
Miriam filled our bellies with quiche and soup (more soup!) for dinner, followed by chocolate covered cashews for dessert. Dave did a great stroke review of videos we shot yesterday, and everyone went to bed thinking about propulsion, streamlining, and probably tunicates.
Have you ever swum into a sea of life making more life? If you haven’t, I really recommend it. But definitely don’t leave the Brussels sprouts sitting in water in a sealed cooler for more than a few days. All kinds of soup today. Soup to nuts (cashews), it was a surprising and great day today.