The next morning was bright and beautiful; another day in paradise! Sean and I had fantastic banana pancakes with hot coffee at the resort restaurant overlooking the white sand and blue water of the Caribbean and the swaying palms. We planned our day. I couldn’t wait to get back into the lagoon and snorkel and Sean wanted to head out in the Jeep and explore the island. So, we decided to divide and conquer, as we sometimes do.
So, he took off in the Jeep and I ran back to the room and got into my hot pink Speedo workout bikini (slathered on the sunscreen with high SPF) and matching fins and snorkel mask and headed back for the lagoon. In I went. Basically, I was again lost in the wonderful underwater tropical world again. I saw everything I had seen yesterday, except the ray, plus I saw a squirrel fish furtively peeking out from under a rock. I lost track of the time.
By the time I got out, Sean was back from his drive and I had a burn in a line across my back under the strap that holds the top of my suit on my chest. Either I did not manage to get the lotion on back there, or it rubbed off while I was swimming. It was a pretty bad burn and looked like it would blister sometime soon. My one piece would not cover there, so I had to wear more in the water from now on. But what? I had brought some Coolmax running tanks and shorts that would dry fast, so they would have to do. They would cover more and I would have to use far less sunscreen.
Sean was all excited that he had gotten us both dive/snorkel boat tickets to sting ray city that afternoon! He also made a deal with Tortuga Divers on the east end of the island for PADI dive instruction for him. The water visibility here on Grand Cayman was so good that I could see everything the divers could anyhow. But, Sean really had the bug to learn. So, I supported him fully. I knew he would love it. My biggest concern was that he find a really good partner and be safe. In any event he was stoked. They had agreed to take me along on the dive boat for no extra charge and let me snorkel.
I had already had a dive course in college, but never earned my card, since the open water dive (a required element) was in Skaneateles Lake in winter and they were planning to cut a hole in the ice.
Skaneateles Lake, Upstate New York
Not. I had decided then that diving was generally unsafe and not worth it. I hate being timed. I prefer being able to do something until I say I am done, not my air tank. My partner in college, while cute (I later dated him briefly) was a dullard and almost inadvertently killed me. One of the exercises in learning to SCUBA is the dolphin don, where you remove all of your gear in 10 feet of water, surface, and then dive down again. You put it all on, find your regulator and breathe before surfacing. Your buddy is there the whole time just in case. So, I dove down, took off all of my equipment, surfaced, and dove back down, put it all back on and when I reached for my regulator, it was not there. I kept hunting for it, but it was nowhere to be found. So I gave the signal to my buddy that I had no air at which point he should have offered me his regulator to buddy breathe or found mine. But he shrugged. He shrugged. Again I signaled that I had no air. Again he shrugged. Frustrated, I surfaced, exhaling slowly as I did, so as not to kill myself as the air in my lungs expanded. Good thing I wasn’t in deeper water or I would have been toast. It seems that I had put my equipment on backwards, and my regulator was on my left side, not my right, where it should have been. So he saw me signaling that I had no air, but did not understand why when he could see my regulator. I couldn’t see it because of my mask. Why he didn’t just point to it or grab it and hand it to me, I’ll never know. See what I mean; too easy to die.
So, after lunch I excitedly got ready to go to stingray city. The departure dock was not that far away; we could have walked. We boarded the open dive boat which held about 20 people and started north out to the sandbar where the stingrays congregate. They say that long ago, fishermen used to go to this shallow sandbar to clean their fish. Over time, the normally shy stingrays noticed and learned to associate the boat motors with an easy meal. In the early 1980’s divers began using boats and squid to attract stingrays.
As we slowly approached the site, and the captain looked for our mooring, the stingrays began to approach. They looked black and ominous and they quietly flew through the water towards our boat. There were so many of them, coming from all directions. Some were huge, with a wing span of about 6 feet. I could not wait to get into the water. The lead diver gave a safety talk about not harassing the rays and not wearing dive tanks or fins so as not to stir up the sand.
I was the first one into the water. I was completely mystified by these cartilaginous creatures. Their huge wings just flew through the water; I’ve never seen anything like it. They were completely quiet. I examined their eyes, mouths (they have no teeth), tails, everything. The lead diver had some squid and I took some to feed a large stingray. I held it in my fist, palm up as I was shown and twirled around so that the ray twirled around me and felt like a big wet blanket. When I finally let him get the food, he just sucked it out right of my fist. Sean and I swam around a bit with the rays. I will never forget stingray city.
Then it was back on the boat for our next stop which I think was called the coral gardens. Again, I was first off the boat. Divers were allowed on this spot. We all followed the lead diver to see the green moray get fed. I was a bit scared. Morays bite hard.
Then I went off on my own. I found a pack of blue tangs and began to play with them. I would chase them down to the bottom in 15 – 20 feet of water, turn, and they would chase me back up.They were always just out of my reach. I could see their scales so clearly! I would turn and there they would be waiting for me to chase them down again, so I did. This went on for I don’t know how long.
Then I thought I heard a life guard whistle. So, I surfaced and looked towards the boat. Everyone had gotten back on board and was waiting for me. The lead diver had blown a whistle to get my attention and was standing there arms akimbo looking impatient. Oops. Sorry guys got distracted. Stay tuned for the next part…