Three swims, two photo shoots and a dance party.
Saturday March 14 When days are so full and nights are dwindling to only a few, it gets harder and harder for me to be prompt in keeping you abreast of our adventures.
I’m writing to you now from St. Thomas, where I’ve just said goodbye to some amazing people. It’s the first time I’ve been alone since I don’t know when and it’s nice to take a breath in the quiet. But I keep expecting Yafa to holler across the boat decks to see if I want to dance, or for Jamie to walk in and tell me he just did another 5 mile swim (he finished the week at 36.5 miles, not to diminish the significant accomplishments of the rest of our pack, who clocked in somewhere between 19 - 21 miles. Not bad at all for a vacation!). But my swimmers, my friends, are all on their way to somewhere else now. And though I feel really certain that I’ll see everyone in this group again, it’s really hard to let them go.
Let me back up and get you up to speed, as the last thing you read was that I had narrowly escaped the ever loving, sometimes bratty reach of my beloved Muskmelon.
That was Thursday. We left Guana and relaxed into an easy three hour sail down to the western side of Norman Island, home of the Bight, the caves and the fantastic Angelfish reef. It’s one of our favorite swims in the BVI (i know i know i say that a lot) and I couldn’t wait to give our group a tour of the diverse offerings of Norman.
We arrived, had a great swim of up to two miles. It included naturalist lessons on reef creatures, a great group portrait at the southern-most point in the archipelago, exploring the caves, and finally, a great swimmer portrait session. We kicked off the shoot with Jamie and a snacking turtle who was happy to hang around munching on the sea grasses while Jamie and I free dove down again and again. I photographed about half of our swimmers before I lost the spectacular evening light. As i climbed aboard I was greeted by Yafa and the gang, ready to hit Willy T’s in the Bight for happy hour. No rest for the water-logged! I dried off, put on my flip flops (Unlike Hopper, I will NOT go to Willy T’s barefoot <gag>) and hopped in the dinghy to zip in.
We danced. We drank. We made quite merry and it’s possible that four of us were licked within an inch of our lives getting (temporary) tattoos but I’ll never tell who. It was a really fun night. These guys have been swimming so hard, it was great to watch them find another ounce of energy for a different kind of thing altogether. The only thing that bonds people more than swimming together is dancing together. And that’s what we did. There are photographs. I'm not showing them to you.
Back to the boat to eat and collapse. We had an early departure planned to spend our last full day at White Bay, Peter Island.
Friday. Thanks to our crew who got up for the move, we arrived at Peter by 8 am. Breakfast, and of course a swim.
There’s something really special about the last day of SwimVacation. The swimmers have been guided all week, making little forays on their own to a point or to check out something around the next corner. By Friday, they are all confident and happy to jump in on their own, or in pairings with their new friends. Guides are winding down and prepping for departures. Sometimes I look around and can’t find anyone to swim with because they are all comfortable enough to go do it whether I’m ready or not (im often not by first thing on Friday morning)! This group has been confident and independent from the start. But I will admit, there was something parentally pleasing to stand on the bow and see pairs of orange caps all over white Bay yesterday. Look at my little fish. They’re all out there doing what they love. When I finally jumped in, it was to swim with friends, rather than dependents.
They really swam for the better part of the day. Breaks for snacks or lunch. I finished swimmer portraits and we pulled anchors at 3 to head for Tortola.
We hit the Sunsail docks and everyone wandered off for a taste of land. Some shopped, some showered, some kicked back in their cabins to read or pack.
After steak dinner, we all watched the slideshow from the week. On seeing photos from our first swim at Great Harbour, David said what I always feel on Friday night: “That feels like forever ago!”. Because they’ve swum so far and done so much. This blue water feels like home now. I love for our guests to see their portraits - i take some early in the week and some later. By the second round, everyone is different - lighter, brighter, easier, younger. After a week like this, how could you not come back better?
I said this to our guests, but it’s worth repeating: Hopper and I cannot thank these folks enough for their flexibility and openness to the new and untested experiment we tried this week. Two brand new boats, lots of quick last minute changes - these guys never complained or lost faith in us, and for that, I am so so grateful.
Everyone had nice things to say, about SwimVacation, but also about each other and this experience they shared. There really wasn’t a dry eye on the boat.
To my new friends: As I said to you all, these photographs are a mirror of how you look in the sea, when you are closest to your true self. This is how I see you, this is what you’ve found within you. This is what you brought to the water. You let her polish you off and make you shine.
Thank you for being brave and sharing this week with us.
On the ferry on the way back to St. Thomas today, I got a little choked up when I caught David in the same spot I’d taken my first photo of him - at the railing, checking out the view, even in the light rain. As Karen said to me a few hours ago, this isn’t goodbye, it’s see you next time.