Sunday, February 08, 2015

USVI 2015 - Day 4, Part 2: Snorkelling Excitement!

1/19 continued: "CA-su-ALLLLL! Like a giant monkey with a hat on." - Jenn's nephew Jacob, aka The Munstah, explaining how we should dress for dinner at his parents' restaurant. All conversation ground to a halt for a moment as we all rolled around the cockpit convulsed with laughter. Sad day today, time to turn Sailor #7 back over to his folks since being 10 and all, he had to go to school. It was great having him with us for a couple of days, he's a terrific young man -- how many young people these days could go off on a boat with a bunch of grown-ups for three days and not ONCE have their nose stuck to a device, right? 

No doohickeys for Jacob, he was right there with us the whole time. Of course he loves sailing and the outdoors and that's what we were there for. He's very observant, he knows a lot about the island he's lucky enough to call home and shared much of that with us (in addition to the cactus fruit, for example, he warned us about the machineel, also known as the Caribbean death apple), he had us laughing at his sailing-school stories, and on this, his final day with us, he did something extra-special while we were snorkeling. 

After we got back from the hike, some of us decided to cool off with some snorkeling, and this ended up being probably our most exciting day. There's good exciting and there's bad exciting and we had both kinds.

The bad-exciting part involved this guy:

Can't quite make him out? Here, here's a clearer view.  
Ooooh, barracuda! bum-bubadum-bubadum-bubadum-bubadum...

It was around a yard long and just hanging out under the boat, minding its own business - we watched a couple of schools of bar jack swim by unmolested and apparently unconcerned and decided that we were going to go ahead and go snorkeling, figuring that if we gave it a wide berth as we went in, it would be OK.

Well, as sometimes happens, the fish hadn't read the books that say that barracudas generally don't bother people (although ok, the book DOES mention that they will sometimes follow people), and unfortunately the person he chose to bother was Lenore, who was one of our less-experienced snorkelers (she and Dave are from Rochester, lovely lakes but not much reef there). She went in before me and went around the opposite side of the boat from where the barracuda was hanging out. I went in right after her but was actually curious to get another look at him so I made a wide circle around the side of the boat where it had been, but hmmm, no more barracuda. Oh well, maybe too much commotion for it.

A minute later I headr Lenore (who had gotten a ways away from me, although we were heading for the same reef) call out that the barracuda was following her. At first I didn't hear the concern in her voice; she called out again as it kept following her and at that point I realized that she was actually upset and I got over to her as quickly as I could. The barracuda was gone before I got there but she was still a bit spooked. As it turned out the barracuda had not just been swimming with her, but was very pointedly messing with her -- first she'd felt a bump at her toes, and thought it was me, and then she turned around at the second bump and it was the barracuda, and then it started doing some weird s-curve dance moves around her, at which point she just couldn't watch anymore and turned over on her back, which is when the barracuda went away. She wasn't wearing any sparkly jewelery, which is one thing that does sometimes catch a barracuda's eye in the wrong way, but she was wearing some hot-pink nail polish, which she realized later, as she was watching a Go-Pro video she'd made while snorkeling, absolutely glowed in the blue Caribbean water - with the toe-bumping, we thought that might well be the attractant (which would also explain why it went away when she turned over, the shiny pink polish went out of sight when she did that). She asked me to stick close for a while while she got herself calmed down, which I was of course happy to do (I felt bad that I had taken as long to get to her as I did).

We went on over towards the rocks that we'd planned to go swim around.

Another very pretty reef

Nice assortment of fish and coral

Walking in a wrasse-y wonderland

I was thinking that this would be the most perfect time possible to see a sea turtle - Lenore had seen her first one from the boat a couple of days before, and although she recovered her composure pretty quickly as we swam around, pointing out the prettiest fish to each other, I thought that a sea turtle sighting would be just the thing to really and truly chase out the scare. 

No luck on that score, but the rest of the time was fine, and we only decided to head back to the boat when we started getting a little bit cold. 

Jacob was snorkeling around near the swim deck when Lenore and I got back. Lenore boarded, and just as I was about to follow, a sea turtle was spotted by one of the folks on deck. Jacob and I saw where it was and I asked him if he wanted to head over in that direction, just to see what we could see.

We swam over to the area where the turtle had surfaced, but he wasn't in sight. We swam around a bit without seeing anything in particular. After a couple of minutes, I told Jacob that I was kind of cold and ready to get back on the boat, and we started swimming that way, and then all the sudden Jacob starts shouting through his snorkel, "Urrrle! Urrrle!", which is of course Snorkelesian for TURTLE! TURTLE! Woohoo!!!!

I looked left, I looked right, I looked ahead I looked behind, I looked at Jacob and shook my head, thinking I'd been too slow, and started swimming towards the boat again until Jacob grabbed my arm, shouted again, and with his eyes all lit up, pointed in the one direction I had completely not bothered to look --


 Holy honu, there it was! 

We quietly hung there in the water above the turtle and watched it for a while as it sat on the sand, peacefully scratching its flippers and nibbling at the grass. Eventually we started calling for Lenore to come back in the water - turned out Jacob had been wanting to find her a turtle for the whole time he'd been on the boat, and as for me, well, I can't believe that I would've swum right over the very turtle I'd been hoping for if Jacob hadn't been there!

The turtle stayed right there, giving Lenore plenty of time to put her mask back on and come join us. After a little more time, the turtle floated gently up off the bottom. I expected it to swim away -- but a moment later, with a swish of its flippers, the turtle started ascending straight towards me. Oh. My. Gosh. BEAUTIFUL!!!

It got pretty close, then peeled off, swimming in a smooth curve past me and Jacob - 

and then so close to Lenore that she said she felt like she could have reached out and put her arm around it if she hadn't understood that would be the wrong thing to do. But the turtle got that close.
A minute later, the turtle seemed to realize just how close and kicked into high gear, impressing us with a sudden burst of speed that sent it rapidly vanishing into the blue. But what a magical moment while it lasted!

And I think I'm going to wrap up this post here, I'd planned to finish off Day 4 today, but I've got a cold and I need to get some sleep -- and besides, our evening at Sweet Plantains deserves a post of its own.


JP said...

Cool turtle! They really can swim fast when they want to, can't they? I saw one once when diving in Australia (a long time ago).

bonnie said...

Yes, those sea turtles can move! It was especially impressive seeing the burst after it had done this very slow, low-key loop past us.

This was my coolest underwater turtle encounter ever - not that I've had that many, but in all of my past turtle sighting, I would just see the turtle cruising by. To have a turtle actually approach me like this was just breathtaking.

clairesgarden said...