March 23: Day 5

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Day 5: How Quickly the Time Goes It’s hard to believe we’ve come to the last full day on SwimVacation, and we’re already reminiscing back to our first day, when pale and nervous, we jumped off the boat for the first time. Today, we’re tanned, relaxed, and more accomplished swimmers after a week of two swims per day and many snorkeling and swim touring sessions.

We woke up at White Bay, Peter Island this morning and got off to a leisurely start for our last morning swim. Figures, this morning was the first swim I forgot to take my camera along for, and we happened upon another snub-tailed ray, a Caribbean lobster, a huge blue barracuda, and a friendly sea turtle. I guess I’ll just have to treasure those memories without photos!

  

Carter, Debbie & Jori swimming strong.

A storm blew into the harbor as we returned to the boat, with some wind and drizzle, but that didn’t stop Heather from conducting a photo shoot with each swimmer and us guides to get action swimming shots for the slideshow. We did laps along the boat as Heather followed tightly beside to get the best angles.

Mary.

After we finished the portraits, we had hot breakfast—including banana bread muffins straight from the oven— and then headed for Salt Island where we anchored near the Wreck of the Rhone. Kerry told us the history of this ill-fated British cargo and mail ship that sank off Salt Harbor in a late-season hurricane in the 1860s. More than 130 people died in the accident, but the handful of survivors were well-care-for by the people living on Salt Island. To demonstrate her thanks for the care her citizens found among the inhabitants of Salt Island, Queen Victoria released ownership of the colony to the people for the price of a single bag of salt per year.

  

Dan, Janine & Walt at home in the water.

We then had the opportunity to scuba dive or snorkel and check out the Rhone and the animals that have made this manmade structure an underwater jungle, as wild as any other place we’ve seen this week. We saw great branches of orange coral, thousands of tiny fish, and big green groupers. I also had one of the most amazing experiences of my life when I stumbled across four squid— each about 6 inches long— imitating a fleet of Blue Angels in their perfect timing and turns and swirls. I swear, they were playing with me, perhaps having learned that some people feed the animals on the reef. Their chromatophores running like moving Christmas lights, they were clearly communicating with each other and I think they were beckoning me to chase them. When I’d pause, they’d pause to wait for me. If I backed off, they’d swim towards me. They zoomed around that reef fearlessly and in such syncopated beauty, I was completely transfixed.

  

Awesome, inspiring Trudi.

But soon it was time to move on to the next adventure, which we had planned to be originally in Salt Harbor. Alas, the wind was not conducive to a swim there, so we headed for South Bay on Salt Island, a brand-new and fantastic swimming spot.

 

Guides Elaine & Fitzy

For our last swim of the trip, we jumped in at about 4pm after a seriously delicious late lunch of homemade pizza smothered in vegetables, salami, and pineapple. We cruised along the shoreline and headed for a pile of rocks at the far side of the bay. Along the way, we spotted lots of fish, but most notably a few lion fish.

Lion fish are not native to the Caribbean, even though they might look like they should with their brilliant red and pink zebra stripes and palm fronds swaying delicately in the tide. Apparently, Lion Fish are becoming a real problem in the Caribbean as an invasive species with no natural predators. The story goes that Hurricane Andrew damaged an aquarium in Florida and a tank containing lion fish burst. Situated on the waterfront, the aquarium somehow dumped the fish into the water where they thrived and are now multiplying rapidly and spreading through the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean and Central America. Though they may be pretty, they’re highly venomous and it’s best to tread lightly around any animal that has high-tech defenses like poison. Still, I dived down to snap some photos and marvel at how intricate the lion fish is.

A little further on, Debbie spotted a nurse shark snoozing under a ledge. Our only shark encounter of the trip was completely safe, as nurse sharks are harmless and this one was sound asleep anyway. Still, it was a highlight of the trip, getting to take a close up peek at a shark in the wild like that.

After about an hour, we decided that it was time to call it a day in the water, but not before Walt, Debbie, Fitzy and I took one last lap around the Promenade to say good-bye to all corners of this fine ship. We showered up as Bazza and Felix, with Mary and Fitzy’s help, raised the sails. Dan got a turn at the helm as we headed for the Promenade’s mooring in Road Town. Meanwhile, we mixed up a few pitchers of Painkillers, the islands’ most delicious drink, and settled in to enjoy the trip. Once moored in Road Town, it was time for the slideshows!

  

A relaxing sail back to Tortola

With two underwater photographers on board this week, we had two shows, the first by Kerry. She captured a little bit of everyone and a slew of amazing fish during the several dives she took this week. Immediately following Kerry’s show, Heather presented the images she’d captured this week of us and all the beautiful adventures we had. What a way to cap off the week, with a retrospective exhibition of exquisite imagery, and us all in starring roles.

After the shows wrapped, we headed back up to the deck for a “fancy” dinner—with a tablecloth!—of spaghetti and meatballs, Caesar salad, garlic bread, and lots of wine. We talked about all our favorite swims and what we’d seen, and it was like hanging out with a quirky family that had just had the greatest road trip ever.

After dinner, we surprised Fitzy with a birthday cake, laden with trick candles. Kerry baked the cake in the shape of the Promenade and we all signed a sail-shaped card. Cake and ice cream in good company wound down the evening while we all swapped email addresses and made travel arrangements for the morning.

Leaving the islands for our respective realities tomorrow morning won’t be easy, but we still have one more sleep before we really have to say good-bye.

- Elaine

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