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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Swell Snorkeling in Swells

Please say you do not recognize me in this photo.

”She took to it like a fish to water.”  No one has ever said that about me and swimming.  How-EV-er....If I wear a wetsuit and a flimsy vest that I inflate with just a few puffs of air, AND a pair of neon colored fins, (cuz neon makes me feel snazzy) then I can go almost anywhere on the surface of the water…..for nearly forever!  Just floating around with very little expenditure of energy.  Yes—this is true!  Why did no one tell me about this, say, oh….30 years ago.

We ran into some folks within the last week and the topic of snorkeling arose.  (These little random conversations are a wonderful mechanism for gathering useful bits of information.)  It became clear that what we needed to do was to proceed directly to a reef off of Sandy Cay, apparently one of the most popular places to snorkel in the Bahamas.  We would snorkel when the ocean was fairly calm because there’s an inlet onto the ocean nearby and so the surf pushes right on through up to the snorkeling area inside the Sea of Abaco.  
One type of brain coral

We would heed the advice of those in-the-know by planning our snorkeling for slack tide.  Slack tide is a period of about an hour near the high and low tides when the tidal currents are about to change direction.  That is when the current is neither strongly pushing inward, nor pulling outward.  It’s as if the water is sloshing back and forth just a bit, before it has committed itself to pushing headlong one direction or the other. In the interest of neither being pushed onto the sharp reefs, nor being pulled out to sea, we thought the slack tide idea was a marvelous thing. 
Reef is on this side of the tiny island.  We will anchor on the far side of the island and dinghy here.

So, our planning commenced as follows….
#1:  Position our sailboat close enough to the reef to anchor safely but away from the ocean swells that roll through the inlet.  That was accomplished after an easy three hour sail. 

The wetsuit and neon green fins  
#2:  Don the wetsuit.  This is actually one of the more difficult aspects of snorkeling, in my opinion.  Putting on a wetsuit is a lot like squirming into a girdle that I used to have when I was a lot slimmer—back when I really didn’t need a girdle.  Frankly, now is when I need one, and I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one.  Just sayin’.  But now…..this full-body girdle/wetsuit?  Ya, this I need.

#3:  While we are attired in wetsuits, take the dinghy out to the reef, (about 1/2 mile ride) and attach the dinghy to a mooring ball, conveniently placed by the reef to accommodate the snorkelers’ dinghies.   Obviously, this is to prevent our dinghy from being swept out to the ocean while we are snorkeling.

#4:  Get into the water and snorkel over and around the reef. That was the relatively easy part.
#5:  Swim back to the dinghy and climb up into it, while slightly water-logged and sporting rubbery, somewhat crampy legs.  This was the Not-so-easy part.  Fortunately, we (or rather, I) practiced this technique for a bit before we dinghies over to the reef.  

I rigged up a set of three steps connected by rope that I attached to the pad eyes on the dinghy floor.  It wasn’t pretty but I was able to get back into the dinghy.  Actually, I must have done a fairly decent job with the “ladder” because when we swam back to our dinghy after snorkeling, lo and behold, there was an unknown swimmer climbing the ladder into our dinghy so that he could then transfer himself into his dinghy alongside.  (What was his original plan for getting out of the water, I wondered?)

#6:  Return to the sailboat by dinghy and remove wetsuit.  I don’t quite get how other people get these things off—I need help.  (My brother taught me how to skin a squirrel when I was little.  Kinda reminds me of that experience.  Except that the squirrel [me] remains alive and relieved to be shed of the hot “skin”.)

Snorkeling the reef in the ocean swells was awesome!  Carl kept me nearby, fearing that I would get swept onto the top of a coral head, some of which pierced the surface of the water.  Coral heads are like giant moose antlers, enormous and elegant in their severity.  Lavender, green, blue and pinkish sea fans waved languorously with each swell.  Some of the fish were curious, it seemed.  They stayed right beside and below us as we swam—yellow and pale blue beauties.  

Tiny little electric blue fish made a checkerboard against the sand bottom.  The odd singleton fish representing other species ducked in and about between the many types of coral; large dark aqua blue fish, deep gray with wide white slash marks across their chests, pinkish, purplish, tiny yellow fish with burgundy fins, and of course those striped yellow and black fish.  Such a wealth of color!  
Parrot fish surrounded by little fish.

At times, the fish seemed to relax and just ride on the ocean swells, as if they cared not a whit about where they went, only to then dart away abruptly as if on a mission.  They just take a break from the chore of swimming and deciding where to go, I guess. I only wish I could have taken pictures.  My camera, with which I took hundreds of photos during the last snorkeling adventure, has decided it does not want to be an underwater camera any longer.  So, my photos here are from that previous snorkeling day, and do not reflect the rich diversity that we saw on Sandy Cay.  From now until we return to the U.S., we’ll be looking for every opportunity to snorkel wherever we go.  

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