Close Encounters of the Caymanian Kind

I wake up early here in Grand Cayman and try to get a morning beach walk in before I hit the books. I don’t think my fella could’ve picked a better place for me to study for my master’s degree, OR for him to get a hip replacement.  We’re juggling both just fine.  I use my walk and an occasional snorkel to motivate me work on a few hours of studying each day. 

I walk out the front door and head down the road, which is parallel to the beach, for about ½ mile where the entrance to the public beach is located.  This morning after my walk I decided to grab my scuba gear and go right back and hop in the water there.  The strong current would help push me back down and around the point – where I can then swim right up to the beach. From there I walk across the street to our front door. (I know- I hate myself these days.)

When I got to the public beach I hid my sandals in the bushes and walked down to begin my snorkel.  It’s a bit rocky along the coast here in Cayman Kai, but fortunately there’s a nice sandy patch right near the public beach entrance.  I rubbed the Baby Shampoo into my mask so it wouldn’t fog up (It’s the miracle de-fogger) and then once my mask was secured I slipped on the flippers and floated out to sea.

I always feel such peace when I venture underwater for a snorkel. I can’t describe it, but I can honestly say I am in love with the ocean.  Because it was early and I was quite alone on  this side of the island, I decided to swim closer to shore than I normally do.  In hindsight, I would say that might not have been a great idea.

I swam slowly for about ten minutes, enjoying all of the beauty of the ocean floor and its inhabitants.  It was about then that I noticed many of the fish swimming very quickly past me. Perhaps fleeing for their lives would be a more appropriate description as I would soon come to realize.  I was surprised by their rapid movement and glanced to my right.  I was stunned to see a huge barracuda swimming right beside me.


While it might have looked like this..

Or even this...

THIS is what I saw...

I back pedaled so that I could get a better look, and realized it was at least as long as me! (Let’s say five feet, give or take an inch.)  He seemed to stop when I stopped, and then I decided to start swimming as fast as I could.  Now remember, I am pretty close to shore, so I was very surprised that he kept pace with me while I tried desperately to flee.  As I was kicking and swimming as fast as I could I kept wondering if barracudas were man-eaters.  Are they? The teeth on this fella were ferocious looking, and I was sure he was eyeing me for his next meal.

I stopped again when I realized that he was keeping up with me, and he swam forward. Then, he turned and faced me like a bull in a ring.  I looked at him and was SURE that he was ready to come in for the kill.

“This is NOT happening.” I said to myself, and I stood up in the water.  I was thrilled that it was knee deep and tried to quickly make my way to shore.  I took off my flippers and mask and ran up the sand. 

“Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!”  I said to myself.  I stood for a minute and tried to compose myself.  I am pretty sure that this was the most scared I have been on a snorkel.  Sure, I was in knee deep water and it was ONLY a barracuda, but yikes!

Then I made a decision. 

I walked down the beach a short distance, say about ½ a city block, and decided to get back in the water.  I know, I know!  It’s like going BACK into the house when you know the bad guy is waiting in the closet.

But I did it anyway.

I went back in and immediately looked for fish that weren’t fleeing.  When I scanned from left to right and felt pretty sure I was in the clear, I continued my swim.  I made it around the point and went under the pier.  I snorkeled to the spot where I always make my exit and sat on the beach with my snorkel and flippers in hand.  My heart was beating like a racehorse, and I felt like Sheriff Brody as he was paddling into shore after blowing up Jaws. 

Well, except for the dead friends and blowing up the shark and all. But other than THAT, I felt an enormous, barracuda-sized feeling of relief.

Tomorrow, I decided, I would swim STRAIGHT at him.  Yep.  I’m going to walk right back into the scary house and look the bad guy in the eyes. After all, you never really hear of a barracuda attack, right?