Hopper and I skipped out of Maine a night early to avoid an early morning storm on departure day. This isn’t the first time we’ve jumped a trip start to avoid getting grounded by a winter that seems reluctant to let us escape.
We boarded our plane in Boston and flew away away away from the weather, directly to sunny San Juan, where we had some awesome authentic snacks while waiting for Will. We found him and the three of us wound our way for a slowly modernizing but still maze like airport to the departure gates for Cape Air. What we’ve learned over the years is to get to these little local airline gates on time, without the expectation of leaving as scheduled. Fine. Good company made the time fly.
We were finally called to walk out on the tarmac toward our little 6 seater plane. I love this walk. The first few breaths of hot, humid tropical air. I swear I can feel the pale leaving me. Bring on the vitamin D.
We cruised above the sea and little islands here and there, for about 45 minutes till our landing on the notably short runway of Beef Island, Tortola. All in all, a pretty smooth trip, start to finish. As we approached Tortola, we flew over Road Harbour, where we could see Promenade below us, dwarfed by a monster cruise ship. When I see these behemoths, I always take a moment to congratulate myself that THAT is not where I’m headed. No, our yacht is workable, not too big and not too small, comfortable, flexible, home. She will be full this week, with 9 guests and an unprecedented 7 crew (including our 3 SwimVacation guides), but the beauty of this boat is that no matter the crowd, there are always quiet corners to escape to.
A cab ride from the airport to the dock by our old friend and reliable cabby, Albert. Reconnecting with Chad, meeting new crew, dinner out for guides where we mapped out our first two days’ itinerary in a what is shaping up to be a wind-less week! A pleasant change from our last 2 December trips which have been so windy.
Waking up this morning was like returning to a dream. Warm breezes, quiet except for the gentle lapping of water on the hull. I’m rested from a great night’s sleep.
We’ve busied ourselves this morning getting ready for guests and setting up equipment and going over plans. We even took Drone Sally for a test spin – I’ve been nervous about launching and landing on a sail boat – everything went well.
Soon we’ll pick up this great group of swimmers. Four of them have been here with us before, the other five are new. I can’t wait to meet them and get started.
More tonight after we’re settled and have had our first swim.
I started my day looking up at blue sky through the overhead hatch. A great sign. Day 1 of Swimvacation is a busy one for both SwimVacation guides and Promenade crew. In a flurry, we got a lot of work done quickly. We’re anchored near the mouth of Road Harbor in Tortola. This is the epicenter of the British Virgin Islands. Ferries, barges, cruise ships, bareboats, and charter boats like ours zip in and out. This is a working harbor, the rusted hulks of shipwrecked working boats line the shore, victims of the hurricanes that haunt the Caribbean. Still this harbor and the little town that surrounds it has charm. There’s still a few hours before our guests arrive, and I scan the shore, looking for adventure. Between some of the rusted hulks and a haphazard stone jetty, I spy a tiny beach with children splashing around. It looks like a swimming lesson. For years I’ve been looking for an opportunity to make some kind of contact with the local population in regards to swimming. From everything I’ve heard (and seen), BVIslanders, for the most part, don’t swim. Can’t swim. I jumped on our SUP and paddled over.
Alistair is a member of a local church on Tortola, and as I beach my paddle board, he is teaching about half of his group of kids how to dive. He goes first, climbing onto a big rock in the jetty and leaping off. The kids follow, belly flopping and laughing. I asked Alistair if I could help with the younger group of 10 or so less experienced kids near shore. He reluctantly agrees, and I get started by saying “Hey Look!”, and back float among them. They copy me. We try a few strokes on our backs, then our fronts. They’re enthusiastic, charming, curious, silly, beautiful. I’ll do this again.
Captain Chad maneuvers us over to the Village Cay Docks, and Heather and I find our guests. We know 4 of them from previous trips, and are thrilled to connect again. The other 5 we fall in love with immediately and bring them all to the Promenade. This is a busy hour for us, getting guests comfortable and in their rooms, teaching them how to work the boat toilets (not so much different from home, I promise!), and giving lots of talks: welcome talk, personal health talk (drink lots of water and use lots of sunblock), and safety talk, all as we are serving lunch and moving the boat across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Little Harbor, Peter Island.
The male guides of SwimVacation have a ritual of swimming the stern line to shore, and Will and I decide to do it in tandem today. The results are goofy, but as always, it sets a relaxed tone.
We plot a swim around Little Harbor. We run a quick Navigation clinic. Our guests leap in. It’s a little choppy but guests Andrea and Jean plow through, guided by Heather. I’m on SUP duty, paddling near Mark and Marianne, while guest Gary accompanies on kayak. Will strokes with guests Frances, Mary Parke, and Charmine.
Back on the Promenade, this intrepid group takes to the local libations rather quickly, downing a good deal of Painkillers: pineapple, coconut, orange, rum, nutmeg. I could make these in my sleep. I believe I have, once or twice. Chef Mo put out a great BBQ chicken spread with an berry crumble dessert. There’s a hike planned for early tomorrow here at Peter Island. What a day we had!