It was my idea to sign us up for a bunch of excursions during our honeymoon. The cruise line offered so many and I signed up for two per island. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. My wife just wanted to lay out in the sun and relax on a beautiful beach.
St. Thomas has one of the top ten beaches in the world and so I made sure we went there. But only for a half day, because I just couldn’t lay there the entire day. The rest of the time we were touring, sightseeing, cave exploring, etc. For what we were spending on this trip, I wanted to make sure we crammed as much sightseeing and activity into the short week as possible.
Even though I didn’t know how to swim, one of the things I was super excited about was scuba diving. I know that doesn’t make sense, but I figured having a tank of air strapped to me while floating around the ocean would be easy. When trying to swim, sinking straight to the bottom and keeping water out of my lungs were my only problems. This was a perfect solution.
We were taken from the ship to a little lagoon, where we met our scuba instructor. He was waiting for us and all the other people from the ship who signed up for this adventure. We received a quick introduction with an equally quick lesson on how to use all of the equipment we were issued. Once we had all of our gear on, we waded into the lagoon to practice everything that we were taught.
The most important thing was how to grab the regulator if it came out of your mouth and how to clear water from the mask. He also told us that the best way to swim with the gear was to stretch your arms out in front of you like Superman while kicking your fins up and down. This would propel you through the water. We also had a vest that you could inflate and deflate with the push of a couple buttons. This was for buoyancy when under the surface. We were told not to touch the coral because it was harmful to the coral and potentially to us.
They put us on a boat and took us out further so that we would be in deeper water. We were told that the original plan was to swim around a wrecked ship. Because the water was a little rough, there was a change of plans and we would stay closer to the lagoon. The instructor told us that he would find something for us to look at. When the boat stopped, everyone was instructed to jump in.
We all splashed into the water and everyone headed down following the instructor. I, however, couldn’t seem to descend. Normally my issue was sinking to the bottom but because of the vest, I was now suspended near the surface. So I squeezed the down button on the vest and plummeted to the ocean floor. When I hit the bottom literally, I noticed I was still holding the down button. Realizing, I was on top of sharp coral, I panicked and hit the up button on the vest which rocketed me back to the surface.
I discovered that if I just tapped the button instead of holding it down, I ascended or descended a little at a time instead bobbing like an underwater yo-yo. The rest of the group, including my wife, had taken off as the instructor-led them to a different area.
So, in my best Superman impression, I put my arms out and kicked myself over to their location. As I got closer, I saw that I was the only one using the Superman method. Everyone else was moving around like mermaids and Navy SEALs as if they were born in the ocean.
They were all looking at me like they were thinking, there always has to be one.
The group hovered around the instructor as he showed them something in the palm of his hand. It was some sort of creature. Not wanting to leave me out, he lifted his hand up to me to show me what looked like a huge spider. Fear gripped me and I remember propelling myself in reverse, rapidly away from the horror of an amphibious arachnid.
My wife remembers me shaking my head back and forth with lots of bubbles coming out of my mask. As well as an image of me running in place, as if in molasses. Thank goodness, screaming like a girl is silenced under the sea.
In hindsight, it was probably just a shrimp or something, but I don’t like those either. For the rest of the undersea exploration, we were able to see more coral, some small fish and a sunken lawn chair.
Somewhere along the way, a problem developed with my mask and water started to seep in. Not sure what effect salt water had on contact lenses, I kept trying to clear the water from the mask. Nothing seemed to work and water continued to leak in. For the most part, I wasn’t drowning but I did manage to swallow several mouthfuls of salty seawater. Thank goodness, it was time to go back up to the boat.
Once we all were out of the water and onto the boat, we headed back to the shore. The water was choppy and the boat bounced up and down with each wave that it hit. With a combination of the Caribbean sun beating down on me, my head bobbing around in a circle and the sea water churning in my stomach, I began to feel the inevitable coming on. The neck sweats, the pressure rising in my gut and the queasy gurgling were a clear indicator that I was about to expel the contents of my stomach. Which I am sure was ninety-nine point nine percent sea water.
As I surveyed the group in the boat, I remembered a scene from the movie, Stand by Me. A character downed a bottle of castor oil and swallowed a raw egg before eating five blueberry pies in a pie eating contest. After puking all over the person next to him, a chain reaction resulting in every contestant and member of the audience puking on each other ensued. (Click here to watch the scene if you dare.)
I was sure this same thing would happen to everyone on the boat if I hurled in front of them.
So, when I finally couldn’t hold it in anymore, I threw up in my mouth and swallowed it.
You may call me a hero, but I was just trying to save everyone else.
On second thought, maybe my wife’s desire, to just lay out in the sun and relax on beautiful beaches, wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
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