In honor of the close of “Shark Week”, and, For Captain Ahab and my family – blood and other.
My brother is brave. Military, kinda-brave. I’ve not seen him shaken up but once in my life.
On our illustrious Bimini trips, all of us kids would take turns jumping off the docks into the crystal clear blue waters of the marina. That water was stunning. I didn’t realize it then, but the pure joy of jumping into water that you can see clear through to the sandy, starfish and sand dollar strewn bottom of, was a gift. We took it for granted.
Youth is wasted, and all that.
We also took for granted that there would ever be anything in that water that could hurt us. The marina felt safe. It was a haven, not only for the boats that would make the trek over from South Florida for their various fishing and diving ventures, but for us kids, too. We knew only safety in the incessant jumping in and climbing out of those waters.
One of the most majestic sea creatures that you could ever encounter are the giant Manta rays that glide through the waters of the Bahamas. They are massive. And docile. But, massive. The “babies”, alone, are from three to five feet across.
One fine afternoon we all ran down the dock, taking turns jumping into the crystal waters. When it was my brave brother’s turn, wild and reckless, even at 8 years old, he took a gigantic flying leap out into the marina. And promptly walked on water right back up onto the dock.
We all came running to look down and see what could possibly instill fear of that magnitude in my brave brother’s heart. Four gargantuan Manta-rays gracefully passing through held us transfixed.
It took a couple of minutes for my brother to get his color back. And, you can be sure that we all looked before we leaped from then on out.
We would also waterski everywhere when we were in the Bahamas. If the boat could fit into the area and the stretch was long enough to get a decent run in, then we would go for it.
From time to time, we would actually have one of us in the water getting skis on and ready, while someone else was making a run. If we were the one waiting to be taken on a run, we’d sometimes have to wait for 5 minutes or more for the boat driver to circle back around. Once in a while, if it wasn’t shallow enough to stand, we’d just lay on top of our skiis until it was our turn.
And so, one cloudy day, that was me. Bobbing around on top of the skis waiting to be picked up. Happily.
Until I saw a fin. At fifteen, I was plenty old enough to know that all of the many sharks we had seen over the years had been incredibly kind to mind their own business. I knew how much pain a shark could inflict. I started to breathe in and breathe out, keep my eye on that fin, and pray to hear the motor of the boat approaching.
The fin seemed to be about 40 or 50 feet away. I still have no idea. I’m not very good at gauging distances, and even less so when I think a shark is eye-balling my person. I decided at some point to just lay on top of my skiis, stop watching the fin, and hope for the best.
And about that time, I was so zoned out that I completely missed the approach of the boat. I only knew rescue had come because Ahab had reached down and pulled me up into the boat, all calm-like. No one said a word and we hustled back to pick up the other skiier.
But I’ll tell you this – I never offered to be the sitting duck again, I’ll tell you. Oh no I did not.
And we were all more aware of what lurked beneath.
Oh, yes indeedy.