There's no place like Home

Ah Paradise...

by Tracy on

Island in Tobago Cay used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie Ok so you've seen those glossy magazine photos, you know the ones- those impossibly perfect aerial shots of the Grenadines, the ones that show all those delightfully green little islands, each one rimmed with its own petticoat of snow white beach and surrounded by an ocean of gin clear turquoise perfection. Yeah, that stuff, well guess what? It does exist...it's for real. But those slick glossies leave out a lot of detail; the reality of this place is more raw, and frankly, much more interesting.

One of the pleasures of cruising these islands on a private boat is inviting along the kind of people you actually enjoy spending time with. My friend Maya being an excellent example, she's Swiss, she's fun, and she'll try anything. That said, if you've never had the privilege to know a Swiss, let me clue you in on something; if you tell them you're going to do something, then you'd better be fully prepared to follow through.

Wind, well yes, there's a lot of it here in the Grenadines, strong currents? Yes, there's a lot of that stuff going on too...what? Didn't see that in the glossies? Here at ground level, at anchor, we're actually getting winds up to thirty knots, FG is currently bobbing around on her chain, being pushed off to one side and then another by the competing forces of a strong current heading in one direction coupled with powerful winds blowing in another direction. With hatches open, the omnipresent wind blows through like free air conditioning, until, that is, yet another one of those pesky little rain showers comes through- hatches open, hatches closed, hatches open, hatches closed...get the picture?

So it was under these conditions that my friend Maya decided we needed to go for a late afternoon swim; the one I told her I would participate in. She's been eyeing that Johnny Depp/ Keira Knightly island all day, a tiny spit of land covered in coco palms that was famously used in a scene of the original Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. This little postcard of an island is surrounded by coral reef and yes, gin clear turquoise water..irresistible right?

Despite the wind and current, Maya is determined, and I did say I would join her, so there was no backing out when we motored over to the edge of the reef in the tender, only to find the waves, wind and current to be even more powerful than what we were experiencing at our anchorage. Our plan was simple, we jump in with our snorkel gear, cruise the reef, then we drift back to the boat with the current; what could possibly go wrong? Did I mention FG was almost a kilometer away? Oh and she's surrounded by a mooring field of about thirty other yachts?

Into the water we went. Despite a powerful surge and a hefty current, the reef was pretty fantastic, we kicked and huffed our way through schools of brightly colored tropical fishes, careful not to get ourselves swept up by the surge into the coral where we would no doubt be shredded like hamburger. We encountered sea turtles and stingrays, Maya was loving every minute, but the sun was getting pretty low on the horizon, we decided to head back.

"I just saw something", she said, "something really big!"

We'd been swimming for a while, making our way through the mooring field, when Maya suddenly grabbed me sharply by the arm, "I just saw something", she said, "something really big!" I peered down into the blue, but saw nothing, only anchor lines and white sand. We continued on a bit further, when I spotted it myself; a two and a half meter long shark..Shark! Well, ok, not a man eater, but a damn big Nurse shark out for his evening prowl. There were in fact lots of other boats nearby, I suggested we pop up on somebody's swim platform, radio back to FG for a pickup, and avoid this whole swimming with a giant shark thing...but that would require changing our plan, and changing the plan, well, that wouldn't be Swiss. As far as Maya was concerned, shark or no shark, we were out for a swim and gosh darn it, we were going to swim!

We kept the big fella in sight as much as possible, careful to stay behind him. Honestly, he didn't seem interested in us, he was pretty oblivious, he looked pretty calm, but we weren't taking any chances. We kept on bravely swimming towards our goal; FG and a rum punch, when we bumped into another snorkeler. He was a man from the UK, who excitedly announced that he'd just seen a turtle. Well, I told him, if you want to see a huge shark just keep swimming that way, I pointed in the direction of Mr. Big, "wow thanks!" He happily splashed off in the shark's direction, which left us feeling that profound sense of relief one feels when you realize that if somebody's going to die, it ain't going to be you...thank you hapless British tourist...your sacrifice was greatly appreciated..we are feeling good!

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