It’s 8pm and nearly everyone aboard the MV Sharifa has turned in, gone to their rooms below deck for a decent night’s rest. Understandable for those who flew in just this morning after horrendously long flights. It was a big day.
It’s always exhausting doing things for the first time. Today everything was new: from place to time zone to people.
The people! Swimmers are the best type of folks. Easy going, always up for a challenge, and open if not downright friendly. As for day 1, I couldn’t find a single asshole among the 14 folks on the trip. And I’m judgy, so that’s saying something.
After coming onboard the boat (and some issues retrieving the anchor off the bottom), we left Male harbor for Guiradhoo Reef and our first swim.
The color of the water here is the deepest blue I’ve ever seen salt water achieve. It’s the exact color of blue raspberry KoolAid. Or blue curacao. No kidding. It’s also extremely salty.
Our first swim was strictly an acclimatization swim, so just three laps of a designated triangle, meant to see everyone’s speed and skill level. There was a bit of reef, and so many fish it was hard to stay focused.
We all had a touch of anxiety to “perform,” but as with every swim, once we’d finished and gotten out of the water, we were a united whole. No one cared about who returned first, or who finished last.
I’ve always loved water’s ability to bring a group together. I see it every year at the Whidbey Adventure Swim. Everyone’s nervous beforehand, but once out of the water, everyone’s friends with everyone else.
Back aboard the Sharifa, we all showered off at the back of the boat, and stood around in our drippy swimsuits drinking tea, chatting, and wolfing down cookies.
Ahh, the cookies! A variety pack of creme-filled, wafers, and shortbreads, we went through at least two full boxes after every swim. And it didn’t matter that they had a strange aftertaste, like they’d been stored next to the frozen shrimp.
Water is a sacrament in nearly every known religion. It signals change, rebirth, or a coming together. And while I personally have issues with religion itself, I love watching this process happen, the bringing together and melding of a group around water.
Tomorrow we swim a 3K in the morning, eat lunch, and then swim a 2K in the afternoon. There better be a damn lot of cookies on this boat.
–TJ Wiley Forsyth