24 minutes minutes to spare
After another cancelled flight and a couple more chances to practice my Spanish, we're sitting in the basement of the San Juan airport, hoping to finally catch the short flight to Tortola. It's cold and damp. We find a sunbeam and some hidden seats in a window, where we can see the Cape Air planes taking off for the far corners of the Caribbean. We’ve been trying to get to Tortola for 2 days now. The best we can do at the moment is eat a stale ham and cheese croissant and smile. One of the pleasures of travel to the British Virgin Islands is the last hop from Puerto Rico to Beef Island in a tiny Cessna, props humming, fabulous views of the Spanish Virgins, then St. Thomas, St. John, and dozens of barely vegetated, uninhabited rock islands surrounded by turquoise water and white foamy waves. Over the Drake Channel, I can see all of our old swimming haunts, and I think about the hundred or so people I’ve swum with here since 2008. It’s a very nice feeling.
Our go-to guy on the ground here, Albert, picks us up in a souped-up Chevy van with a fancy purple paint job and mag wheels. He’s got our Island phone with him, which he’s topped off for us. We are traveling with guests Craig and Pam at this point, they are friends from mid-coast Maine. Albert picks up another 6 people, a group of kids in their 20s taking a break from a long work week on Virgin Gorda, on their way to a pig roast. They talk about late nights in bars, surfing, music.
This trip starts at noon, today, Sunday. We roll in and jump out of the hot rod Chevy at 11:36. We started this trip on Friday evening. That’s 41 hours of transit. The record time for flying around the entire world is 42 hours. AAAAnywayyyyy, we're here now.
The whole gang is at the marina. Mark, Yafa, Art, John, Frances, Amy, with Craig and Pam arriving with us. Guides Fitzy and Dave had a smoother trip down here, and they pull up in a dinghy. The upshot of having been delayed till now is that we reflect on our lack of panic - having done this thing 19 times (here comes twenty!), and with the expertise of our team, we know what we are doing and can roll on to this boat and be ready for our guests. This thing works. That's a very nice feeling too.
The first day of SwimVacation is filled with a lot of welcome/safety/boat talks, but it ends with a swim in beautiful Little Harbor, Peter Island and a hike to some ruins. Painkillers are served alongside a garlic hummus. Chicken dinner, wine, chocolate chip pie. Old stories are told. New friends are made. The generator gets shut off, and we drift off to sleep, rocking gently in the waves.