Open water swimming requires presence. Conditions change in a fluid medium. Flux is the rule. It’s important to stay flexible, stay in the moment. Say yes to what is right now.
The first thing I said Yes to today was the brownie batter bowl. God love Rebecca who made 20% more-from scratch brownie batter than would fit into her pan. She called me to the galley with a bowl of leftover batter that would have made my mother gasp aloud. I put that thing on the table with a pile of spoons. Puppies came running. Not a bad way to prepare for a big swim…once in a while.
Any of you that know me and have swum with us here before, or even if you’ve followed this blog, know that I personally have a love / heartache relationship with Guana Island, specifically, Muskmelon Bay.
For years we haunted this wild place. I found my favorite swim in the BVI here (3+ miles from Monkey Point, under the “iguana Head”, into and around Muskmelon Bay), fell in love with free diving here, watched two Geminid meteor showers here, used to make all of my swimmer portraits here. I always say my happy place is 25 feet down on the white sand in the north east corner of Muskmelon Bay, on one breath of air. It’s an unspoiled, wild, bossy sort of place. Perhaps a tad arrogant. I always know who’s in charge when I swim in Muskmelon. It’s the Sea, not me.
For the last two years, Guana has been in a mood with me. Tempting me to return, usually spitting me out with swell or sea lice or just a taste of a swim. I did manage a fantastic photo shoot there last December, but it’s been years since I’ve been able to attempt and guide my swimmers through the full 3 mile swim here.
I’ll admit, I take it personally. Silly, I know.
Every time, I say: I’m done. I quit you Guana.
Every time, I try again.
With favorable seas, and weather conditions, I’ve been secretly cueing us up to try again this week. We overnighted at Marina Cay last night to be just a short ride away from Monkey Point to launch the big swim. We discussed it last night, and everyone was game. We all slept in a little, took a slow and easy start to the morning. Headed over to Monkey Point for a 930am splash down. Carter put us in the mood for adventure with some great tunes. A spontaneous pre-swim dance party happened and set the tone.
Launching at Monkey Point.
We structured the swim with Simon in the lead, me in the middle, and Alina in the back with the SUP. Guest Charles accompanied the front pack in the kayak, prepared to jump in and join us in the swim once we entered Muskmelon. Captain Chad escorted the middle and back groups with Promenade. It’s comforting to see her hovering there a minute swim away, when we’re making a big push.
It was a spectacular swim.
The water was clear and welcoming. We swam over flotillas of tarpon in White Bay. We gathered and paused for a group photo under the Iguana Head. Just around the bend there, where it can be particularly challenging, the sea was calmish with just a little bounce. Nothing like the 4 or 5 foot swells I’ve experienced there in the past. Muskmelon was gleaming. Clear water, teeming with silver sides. Canyons of rock and coral full of fish. A few little stingy zaps here or there, but nothing at all bothersome. Frigates, pelicans and boobies flew over head. At last, I felt like an organism this Bay wanted for a change.
Congregating beneath the Iguana Head.
I swam nearly the whole way stroke for stroke with Lizzie and her baby to be. I was proud of her dig – she never slowed and took it all in. We paused and I told her we’re doing this together. We make each stroke as a team. We stuck inches apart and tapped into our joined energy. She said she’d never done that before. It was an honor to share these waters with her today. I hope I get to swim with baby Fallows one day.
Lizzy swims among silver sides.
Because some of our swimmers had decided to wear fins, we found ourselves all together at the northern point of the bay. It was so gratifying to have made it that far, and be there together. We took a few pics and hooted and hollered a bit – the birds ignored us, the fish below just kept on schooling. I got a little choked up, I was so glad and happy we’d done it. Hey, Thanks, Muskmelon.
All together at the northern point of Muskmelon Bay, our swim nearly finished.
We turned around to head back to Promenade waiting for us in the bay, arriving together. Team effort. Well done all.
Natalie wanted a little more, just to make sure we’d gone a solid 3 miles, so a few of us swam a little more out and back from Promenade. We climbed out having gone 3.2.
I’d like to say I’ve reclaimed this swim, that Guana is firmly back in our permanent itinerary. But the reality is we successfully made this swim today. And during that swim, I had to be present. Forget about the past, resist the urge to project into the future. It was an amazing day in and around Muskmelon Bay, today, this morning, and the few hours we spent in the water there was an exercise to remain firmly planted in the moment. For a mind like mine, this is no easy feat, and that is the offering and the discipline that open water swimming affords me. Maybe that’s what Muskmelon has been trying to say to me all along. It’s not personal, it’s just right now. Say Yes.
We enjoyed a long ride back down to the southern islands. After the (insane) 7 minute plank done with discipline by Sara and Chris, it was quiet on the boat – our kids were tired and took advantage of the time out of the water for the Rest portion of our program.
We made a brief stop in Road Harbour, where we bid farewell to our great chef, Rebecca, and picked up new crew member Bob, who set right to work in the galley preparing tonight’s meal. At last we welcomed back our beloved Felix. He set foot on this boat like an extra ray of sunshine.
Sara requested a sunset swim earlier in the week. I knew that White Bay of Peter Island was the perfect place for it. So we pulled in just before dusk. Suited up with our small flashing lights for night swimming and jumped in. The evening light was so soft, and the water in White Harbour tonight was glassy. Sara described the feel of it all as “velvety”. Perfect.
We cruised along the wall for maybe a quarter mile. None of us needed anything but to stretch out after our big morning swim. Alina guided us from atop the stand up paddle board. She looked stunning silhouetted against the pastel sky.
We finished the swim and a few of us lolled about in the near darkness and stripped down for a starkers dip beneath the stars. Nothing between me and the sea tonight.
Dinner was a fantastic assortment of kabobs and salad. Brownies and fresh whipped cream for desert.
Mr. Felix provided light entertainment with stories and his bright smile. One by one our tired swimmers ambled off to bed. Each one of them popped their head down to the salon where I sit now and said “thanks for a great day”.
That makes me happy.
Everyone was in the moment today. Faces were light. Easy. There wasn’t a Tuesday or a Thursday. Just a today. And I do believe we made the most of it.