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Early Alpha, Charlie, Foxtrot and Sierra, Day 3: Cooper Island and The Wreck of the Rhone

By wpdev June 12, 2019
Written by Meredith Evridge

The sun rose with grandeur and hovered over the horizon, sending light and warmth to Cooper Island. On each Sail Caribbean catamaran, the skipper of the day knocked on doors to wake everyone up. Breakfast prep began, making the table laden with cereal, bagels, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit. As spoons scraped the bottom of the dishes, those on breakfast cleanup headed to the galley. The Captain reminded everyone to apply sunscreen and bug spray, fill up their water bottles, and be ready to head out to that morning’s explorations.

Cooper Island is adjacent to Salt Island, home of the Wreck of the Rhone. One of our returning students who was familiar with the story filled the rest of the students in on the tale of the royal mail packet steamer that was tragically caught in a hurricane just off of Salt Island in 1867. This is one of the most well known scuba and dive sites in the BVI with its shallowest part only twenty feet from the surface of the water. Our Advanced Open Water divers took this opportunity to explore this national marine park, scouting out the propeller, stern, lucky porthole, gearbox and dance floor! They also reported sights of sharks and frog fish. Our Discovery divers dove at Thumb Rock, happy to see tarpon and a Caribbean reef shark. We also had a Discovery skills session in more shallow water but it didn’t disappoint: they saw a turtle! Always extremely exciting.

For those that were not signed up to dive, there was a short hike up two peaks on Salt Island where we could see the Wreck of the Rhone. Though it was hot, students diligently drank water. We took several pictures of ourselves and the beautiful view before heading back down. At the bottom, small groups were dinghied back to their boats, going for a dip in the water while they waited their turn. We also found beach glass and amazing pieces of bleached coral.

Chicken caesar pitas were prepared and enjoyed. We knew we must take care to have enough to eat for our next round of activities! At 1:30, we hopped back in the dinghies to head ashore. There was plenty to do. Not only did we have kayaks and Stand Up Paddleboards being taken out, we also had rotations of wakeboarding, the Colgates (our smaller boats that are nice to learn basic sailing skills on), and an ice cream shop with the tastiest and coldest treats. Those that wanted to stop by the shop made fun purchases, notably an intriguing cup in the shape of a grapefruit, an inner tube, and unique T-shirts that nobody back at home will have! There was truly something for everyone this afternoon.

After a day in the sun, everyone headed back to their boats to shower off the sunscreen and replace it with aloe vera. Dinner was prepared and vacuumed up by our hungry students, and then those that were signed up for a night dive headed off to the depths. It was announced that everyone else would be heading back to shore for an evening social. Once everyone was dingied back to the docks, they were free to grab an ice-cold soda and mingle with other boats, talking and laughing. The night divers showed up full of excitement at their sightings; a free swimming moray eel, a lionfish and bioluminescence!

Five dives in one day…that’s one definition of “carpe diem.” Needless to say, everyone was sleepy as they climbed back onto their boats, had a boat meeting with a game or two, and said goodnight.

The greatest challenge during the program was staying entertained during the quarantine period. Not being able to leave your boat and not having a phone, which was a crutch against boredom, it was difficult at first to stay entertained.