Tuesday, December 6th
When I first came up with the idea for SwimVacation, besides knowing what I wanted it to be, I also knew what I didn’t want it to be: a swim camp. What I wanted to create was a vacation based around open water swimming. The balance I’m always seeking is to provide enough swimming to satisfy the workout craving many guests have, but not so much that it becomes a daily slog. It’s a vacation first, and I remind myself of this every day.
Sunrise today in Lee Bay at Great Camanoe Island, just north of Tortola. The swell was still pumping, so I asked Captain Ken to drive me around in the dinghy to scout things out, keeping in mind our morning swim and our next anchorages. We were surfing down the backs of the waves, big black walls of water on their way to Tortola. Our anchoring options would be limited up here. Back on the yacht, Heather, Will, and I plotted some swimming courses. I took Greg, Heidi, and Karen across the mouth of the Bay, into the swell. I love feeling the power of the ocean like this, no boat, no surfboard, nothing but a bathing suit and a pair of goggles between you and this massive body of water. At this point in the week, we often see an increase in speed in our guests, but it’s extraordinary on this trip. Tim in particular has found his gills.
We moved to White Bay in neighboring Guana Island, and personal soufflés appeared for lunch. Naps and reading commenced. Sometimes it’s good to have the boat anchored in one spot for more than 12 hours. The crew can do maintenance, the guests can catch their breath, and the guides can stretch out and catch up on editing photos and the blog.
Plumbing and internet access on a yacht are both touchy concepts, and the Promenade isn’t immune to this reality. One of the stern heads was acting up, the crew head was plugged, and despite Captain Ken’s best efforts, the wifi was down. Heather and I could sense that the guests needed an update, so we called a meeting and told them what was up. The prognosis was good, everyone took these inconveniences in stride, and by the time of this writing we had gained the crew head back and wifi had returned (note: the Promenade has 5 heads, or toilets).
It was time for a big swim. Luckily, we were anchored in a big bay. We set up the courses from the Promenade to Monkey Point, a little over a mile away. We made great use of Rick and his enthusiasm to be part of this big swim, who was a beacon with water bottles awaiting us in orange kayak at Monkey Point. From there, one group would retrace their strokes back to the yacht guided by Will and Rick, while the others would cut across the mouth of the bay and beyond, to the Guana Head, a rock formation that looks like an iguana’s head, the Island’s namesake. I swam with Heidi, who has a smooth, powerful stroke and looks completely at home in the ocean. We fought a current to get beneath the Guana Head, did a high-five, and returned to Promenade after hammering out about 2.5 miles. We watched Greg, Tenley, and Heather synchro-swim the last 200 yards, it was beautiful.
….Heather here to interrupt for a minute…What a swim I had with Tenley and Greg. Big water, stops for mind and body assessments. Here’s something I love – when swimmers know what they feel in the moment and aren’t afraid to say it. Tenley hadn’t ever done a swim through deep open water, and was totally game for this swim. About half way across the mouth of the bay, she admitted she’d never experienced something like this. It was a combination of thrilling and unnerving. I admitted I had moments of an eerie feeling too, and was glad to be swimming with these two intrepids. When you own what you feel in the water, you’re one step closer to being one with the water. We decided to synchro swim to focus on each other, and on the shared task at hand. It worked. Greg to my left, Tenley to my right, we three kept pace and had matching strokes, made eye contact during breaths and even shared some underwater smiles. We felt totally connected, and before we knew it, we were at the point. By the time we hit the Guana head under a beautiful setting sun, I think we all felt like we’d just been a part of something special in the water. A pic and we headed home to Promenade, delighted and happy when Hopper and Rick met us on SUP and kayak respectively for our final escort in. A group celebratory finish. These are some of my favorite moments on SwimVacation. – HP
Cocktails! Tonight’s happy hour started with a frozen mango drink that wasn’t overly sweet. Erica, our steward, has been blending great drinks for us every night. Another pitcher appeared, music filled the cockpit. I had the honor of grilling some aged New York strip steaks, one of my favorite evening pastimes on a yacht. We have a vegetarian on board and some no red meat people, so salads and fish came out of the kitchen, as well. Will had planned what he calls The Celebrity Game for us after dinner. Everyone writes down the names of 6 celebrities and tosses them in a bowl. The game is a combination of Taboo and charades and the $64,000 pyramid. We did men vs. women. Hilarity ensued. Still giggling, our guests heads hit pillows as the Promenade did her thing, rocking us to sleep.