Swimming is often seen as an individual activity, but open water swimming in particular can bring people together, both in and out of the water. One of my favorite things during our trips is watching two or three guests, and sometimes a guide, swimming side by side for mile after mile. There are practical elements. Swimming next to a partner, you can observe their strokes. A weaker swimmer can mimic the movements of the more experienced swimmer, and make improvements mid-swim. More importantly, connections are made here. Any muscle discomfort is shared then magically fades as each swimmer’s focus switches from their inner self to their partners. Concerns of the day, of life, fade into the distance. No words are exchanged, but tons of energy is shared. Occasionally your eyes meet, one goggled eye catching the other. Sometimes your strokes synchronize, and your fingertips touch, often several times in a row, and there’s comfort there, too, where on land it might be awkward. I’ve personally grown closer to people I swim next to, even when we don’t have a lot in common on land. Swimming creates these bonds, and open water swimming does it in the backdrop of the natural aquatic realm. I’ve spent much of my life making and sharing these connections, and it’s been more rewarding than I could have imagined.
Wednesdays on SwimVacation often throw us a curveball, but I think our attention to detail and following a tight schedule helped us get through it unscathed this trip. We started the active part of our day at The Baths on Virgin Gorda. Once a place where slaves were washed after long, miserable ocean crossings, it’s now recognized as one of the most beautiful places on earth. We hiked through the massive grottoes formed from mysteriously placed granite boulders, not seen anywhere else in the Caribbean. Then we jumped in the water, where we’ve created an unmarked swimming trail through the same formations. We swim through narrow cracks, the surge spitting us out the other side, into a pool of clear blue water filled with fish of every color. We end at Spring Beach, with bright white sand and turquoise shallows.
Guana Island is a wild place. We plotted two different swims here, a 3 mile and a 1.5 mile course, both of which went under the big iguana head rock that juts from the cliffs, where the island sticks out into the sea. Every time I’ve swum under the ‘guana head, I’ve felt the energy there. This time a big school of tuna swam under us, and just as they did, one of the tuna bit another fish in half. The next one finished off the snack, and they swam on, not missing a beat. This place always reminds me that we are only guests in the ocean.
Stars fill the sky, and some Brazilian/Jamaican rhythms fill the cockpit. Our guest flop onto the trampolines and the mats on the bow, bellies full, muscles sore, maybe thinking of the connections they made today.