Nudibranchs and Night Swimming.
Monday March 16th
We woke up in Great Harbor to a rainbow and a gentle breeze. Our guests were hungry to swim. Guide Dave gave a sighting and navigation clinic. We do this early in the trip for obvious reasons. It worked, and as we swam to the north side of the harbor, everyone was headed in the right direction. We had a loose plan to circumnavigate the harbor, which soon turned into a reality. I’ve done this swim dozens of times, but I’ve never seen such a variety of marine life as I did today. Tarpon, turtles, blue tang, southern rays, brown pelicans, huge schools of silversides. Dave came upon a nudibranch, this amazing little snail without a shell that was dancing in the water column.
Several of our guests have some big swims coming up this summer. Janine and Martina both will do some marathon swims and one of the reasons they’re here on SwimVacation is to get some mileage in. This morning was a good start, with almost 3 miles around the harbor.
Don’t forget: we’re on two boats again this week. We keep them rafted together when we’re not sailing, making one very large swimmer barge. After our morning swim we untied them for the quick trip to Little Harbor, Peter Island, just around the corner. Dave made the swim and looped the line without the usual fanfare, and Captains Chad and Laila expertly secured us in this beautiful spot.
The water here has this deep turquoise color, with lots of variety at the edge of the bay. It was particularly fabulous today. We couldn’t stop jumping in. You could easily pick out rays and turtles 20 feet under the boat even without sticking your face in the water. For the first time since the trip started, we had nothing planned, which was perfect. We don’t have an itinerary on SwimVacation, and we only tell our guests what they’re doing in the next 2 hours. Beyond that, we honestly don’t know. Swimming and eating are the only sure things. We go where the wind blows us, go for a swim, eat, then do it again. This was our “next two hours” talk today at 11: “Hey everyone, our next two hours look like this: nothing, lunch, nothing. Suggested activities: napping, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, reading. This was welcome down-time, we’d been running hard since the ferry terminal yesterday.
Lunch was salad and quiche, quite delicious. Soon after, I saw some naps happening. At 3, we had our guests jump in so Heather could capture underwater video of their strokes. We’ll review them with each guest, suggesting stroke improvements. We segued right into a cross-bay swim, with the wind behind us. We swam back to the boat along the shore, and saw lots more of that healthy coral we’ve been seeing more of down here. It’s a very welcome sight after a long decline after a bleaching event several years ago. This happens when the ocean gets too warm for an extended period of time, killing the coral and turning it white.
I’ll skip right past happy hour and dinner and go to our night swim. Guide Dave is always the inspiration for these, so he had us strap some waterproof blinking lights to our goggles. We picked a row of mountaintop lights on St. John as our navigational aid, and swam as a group toward them. Bioluminescence sparkled around our arms and floated past our eyes from the kicks in front of us. We stopped, floated on our backs, and saw a billion stars. Sublime. Back on the yacht, guest Martina said “I felt like I was Captain Kirk, flying through space. Thank you for bringing me swimming at night”. All in a day’s work!