SNORKELING OFF GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND
It was mid morning on a warm sultry day on Grand Bahama Island. From a near cloudless blue sky, the sun reflected across the water like a million crystals.
Rachel had wanted to vacation in Hawaii, but like all the other decisions in their marriage of six years, Kevin chose for them. She found it futile to argue and went with the flow. From movies, to dinner, to picking out furniture, he always asked her opinion, then chose what he wanted. This had created friction over the years, thus, they were taking the long needed vacation to save their marriage.
Rachel knew the reason for his choice; so he could fly their twin engine plane.
They strolled down the sandy shore discussing the day's plan after having just landed an hour earlier. They had decided snorkeling sounded fun and turned for the hotel to gather their gear.
Kevin rented a motorboat and they ventured out a couple of miles where the water was only eight to ten feet deep. Rachel saw clear to the bottom. After anchoring the small craft, they put on their snorkeling gear and fell backwards into the water.
Rachel hunted for sand dollars along the ocean floor, while Kevin searched for starfish. They collected a few of each, and then headed for a different location. After awhile they stopped in another beautifully clear area. Kevin had spotted the largest starfish he'd seen all day, while Rachel swam around the boat. Sand dollars were a little harder to locate against the light colored sand.
There it was, a huge white sand dollar. The best one she had found all day. Taking a deep breath, Rachel dove straight for it. Suddenly she got the strangest feeling something or someone was stalking her--the kind of hair standing on the neck, chills down the spine feeling. She stopped midway, glanced over her shoulder, and found herself face to face with a huge fish barely ten feet away.
Stationary, he turned his whole body and watched her with one eye, his sharp teeth baring a sinister smile, then turned and stared with his other eye. Rachel swam to the surface.
“Kevin,” she yelled from twenty feet the other side of the boat.
“Kevin,” she screamed louder, beginning to panic. She checked below to see if the fish moved.
“What?” he said with an annoyed tone as he swam around the front of the boat.
“What type of fish is that stalking me?”
Kevin cleared his mask and looked past Rachel.
"Rachel, swim to me and do not panic,” he said distinctly.
All he needed to say was 'don't panic,' and her heart began to pound. She promptly swam towards Kevin, stopped briefly to peer under the water only to find the huge six-foot fish kept pace with her. She reached the boat, and without any ladder had difficulty climbing the side. Kevin came under her and pushed her up over the side. Once aboard she helped him in, all the while laughing because of her weakness.
"It's not funny. The fish is a Barracuda. They’ve been known to attack people with a ferocious bite," he said.
Rachel shuddered and glanced over the side. The Barracuda still idled.
"Whew, that was a close one," he said. He turned the key, and the motor roared to life as they sought another location, both sad they had missed out on the best sand dollar and starfish they'd seen all day.
Rachel was glad she paid attention to her gut feeling to stop and look. She could have been fish bait.
Kevin took them to the Southeastern side of the island approximately five miles from the Barracuda encounter. Without any hesitation they anchored the boat and dove into the most beautiful clear blue waters. Kevin immediately found a huge starfish, while Rachel scouted for more sand dollars.
Still skittish from her encounter with the big fish, she checked the perimeters, constantly searching for any lurking Barracuda's or sharks. The time was approximately two in the afternoon, and she enjoyed the ease with which she swam as she snorkeled and combed the bottom for that perfect sand dollar. After about ten minutes, she found nothing and surfaced to check on Kevin.
In horror, she found she had swam a quarter mile from the boat. She couldn't figure out how this was possible, and began swimming back. For every three feet she swam forward, she was pulled out six. She realized a current was carrying her out to sea, and she continued to try without success.
Rachel yelled and waved for Kevin to bring the boat and rescue her, but to no avail. She saw him surface and look around, but he couldn't see her. She barely saw him, but could see the boat. She continued to wave her hands and then tread water, while drifting further and further away.
Forget the Barracuda, she thought, now I'm going to be lost at sea.
She looked around for other boats, but to her dismay saw nothing but a vast ocean of blue. Then Rachel gauged her distance to the island and thought she could swim the few miles in that direction; again with no luck. Even with fins she found it difficult to get out of the current. No matter which direction she swam, the current carried her further out with every stroke, her view of Kevin decreasing each second..
He climbed into the boat to get a better view.
Rachel continued to wave.
Kevin started the boat and combed the area. Rachel could see him looking in all directions. She waved and yelled, and then yelled and waved some more. She realized with her light hair and fair complexion, he may never see her, and thought she must have looked like a tiny speck in the middle of all that water.
Like seconds before death, her life crossed before her. She wondered how long could she tread water, and how long before she could get out of the current? How far would it carry her away from everyone that was dear to her? Then she thought, this is something that happens to someone you read about in the newspaper, not her. She had never imagined she'd die this way, lost in an ocean of water. Panic began to take over, and she knew she had to get a grip, or she'd drown for sure.
She tried to swim harder, but with no luck. Finally, she prayed aloud, "Dear Father In Heaven, please let me see Kevin and my children again. Please don't let me be eaten by sharks or Barracudas. Please let me have the strength to swim, or please let him find me, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
No sooner had she finished her prayer, she opened her eyes and raised one hand and waved--no yelling--just silence. Suddenly the boat started heading her way. He had finally spotted her.
Minutes later, Kevin pulled her aboard, and hugged her tightly."How did you get so far away? I couldn't see you anywhere. I panicked. I couldn't figure out where you had gone." Kevin rambled for several minutes, and then he released her. His lashes wet with fresh tears, he gazed into her eyes and said, "I love you so much. Don't ever scare me like that again."
They discussed what happened as she relived it all for him.
Kevin pushed his dark hair away from his wet Caribbean green eyes and said, "A flash of light caught my eye, like the reflection of the sun in a mirror. It must have been the water on your hand when you waved."
They both realized it was Divine Intervention. They thanked their Father in Heaven and remained quiet for the fifteen-minute ride to the north side of the island where they had not yet explored.
The water on the north side was much deeper and Rachel could only see about ten feet as she watched the schools of bright colored fish swimming around the white coral reefs. Kevin dove in and waited for her.
“I can’t do this, Kevin. Around these coral reefs lurk sharks. I think I’ve had enough adventure. You go ahead. I’m a magnet for trouble today, and I don’t think I should push my luck.”
“You sure,” he said sadly. The water glistened on his tan muscular shoulders as his hands treaded the water, creating small ripples across the surface. He waited patiently for Rachel’s answer.
“I’m sure. Go…take lots of pictures. I’d rather soak in some Vitamin D.”
With a heavy sigh, he placed the mask over his face, inserted the snorkel, and dove into the deep blue ocean.
Rachel inhaled the warm, salty air as she basked in the sun, her long legs stretched out across the deck. Since their arrival hours earlier, she had aged years. She pondered how fragile life was, how snorkeling, swimming, flying was an adventure, but no adventure meant more to her than her family. She felt free and grateful to simply breathe. She still wished they'd gone to Hawaii.