Laurie Ellis of Arlington, MA chose to vacation in a place where most people choose to sit lazily on the beach and wait for the waiter to bring them a drink in a coconut. But her idea was much different, because she loves open water swimming. So she took what’s called a Swim Trek, where the tour company organizes ocean swims with a safety boat and other swimming fans churning up the water right next to you.
Her base for the week was the exquisitely situated Leverick Bay Resort and Marina on Virgin Gorda, where each room had a balcony overlooking the bay. After a short introductory swim on the first night, we were divided into three groups according to speed, and each group was given a different color swimcap to wear for the week. Each swimmer was responsible for their own swimming goggles but the people at Swim Trek took care of all the rest.
The specially colored caps allowed the guides in the boats to keep track of everyone. It just so happened that we ended up in three groups of five. For the next five days, we would swim with our designated group. It’s not as rigid as it sounds; on other trips people have been known to switch groups as their speeds changed, but that didn’t happen with us.
Most days we did two swims, one in the morning after a healthy breakfast in the guides’ suite, and one after lunch, which we had on the boat while anchored at a prime snorkeling spot. When we got to the swim’s starting point we were given something to sight/swim toward like “See the road above and behind that little island?” or “the second larger hill to the left of the antenna.”
There is always a support boat nearby.
We’d smile and nod, or argue about it, and then set off trusting that Lizzie or Simon or Mike, the boat pilot, would reel us in if we veered too far off track. We did and they did. It all worked out fine.
While swimming, I could always see one of the small support boats or the big boat, as well as my other yellow-capped group members. I felt completely safe even as I rocked and rolled my way through some rougher water.
I knew that if I needed help, all I had to do was wave my arms in the air and I would get picked up within seconds. The guides were also very careful to keep us properly hydrated. They would stop us on occasion to toss us water bottles. Due to the sun and salt exposure, it was really important to drink along the way.