The wind in our hair, the scenery evolving around us, the four of us moving along in tandem – to many, these images may conjure up the time-honored family bike ride. Except for our family, our outings are always on Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Boards.
Before our children, Mia (10) and Ethan (8) learned to ride a bike, they mastered the paddle board. When they were younger, both kids would ride on my board, one in the front and the other in back. Needless to say, the sight of the three of us on a single board would attract a lot of attention from boaters on the open water.
But this year, as the kids’ combined weight exceeded 120 lbs, we decided (mostly I decided) that it was time to buy them their own board, and now they take turns riding with me.
On a cloudless, sunny day, the pristine waters mirror the vast expanse of blue sky above. The sea is poetic in its beauty, and words cannot do the scene justice. The lush greens on the islands and the myriad shades of blue are a visual feast for the eyes.
Each trip out to Christmas Cove is different. Some days the wind is so intense that it is difficult to move forward— but that makes the end result even more enjoyable. Other times, the water will be perfectly clear, tranquil, and you can paddle easily as if in a swimming pool. The visibility in the water varies as well. Some days the surface of the water becomes a looking glass into the intricacies of coral and rock formations.
Typically, we make our journey from Great Bay to Christmas Cove. We start at the beach at Great Bay, pass by the center island, and end up where all those boats are, but first there’s crossing Current Cut. It is a major crossing for all sorts of boats, and a small island right in the middle of it means that ship captains can take either direction. Sometimes, you don’t know which way they’re going until the last minute. On top of that, Current Cut (as its name suggests) can have a much stronger current than surrounding waters. The ferries, yachts and pleasure boats that speed through Current Cut create enormous waves to handle and to enjoy. Put it all together and it’s easy to see why it presents the biggest navigation challenge of the trip.
When Mia and I aren’t chasing the waves made by boats, we all stop to admire the marine life teeming beneath the surface. We frequently see turtles popping up from the depths of the sea. We try to follow them at a respectful distance. We always see colorful Caribbean fish and occasionally we might find sting rays, squid and jellyfish. On our last trip, a trio of dolphins circled Mia, who thought they were sharks! When the scare passed, we spent minutes watching them.
When we arrive, Christmas Cove allows us to relax. We swim and snorkel, and like to visit a special restaurant called Pizza Pi . The eatery is based out of a boat and sells gourmet pies, including a gluten-free option for Mia (she has a gluten allergy).
The Great Bay Christmas Cove trip is a favorite, but not the only one. We’ve occasionally circumnavigated Great St. James, and I’ve paddled from St. Thomas to St. John with a friend. Who knows, maybe the whole family will join me for that trip some day!