swimming oops and pictures

swimming oops
Huge moment yesterday – I went swimming. OK that may not sound like a huge moment, but I haven’t been swimming for well over two years, possibly closer to three. Even in the run up to me using oxygen 24/7 the sheer effort involved in the whole procedure, walking there, stairs (of which there are often many) getting changed, actually swimming, getting showered and dry (huge issue when constantly breathless) and getting changed again seemed far to huge an obstacle to overcome. Since my transplant I have been building up strength and waiting for the time that the risk (and there is always a risk as I am immunosuppressed) of picking up bugs is at its smallest.So yesterday, after a significant amount of nagging from my mother who was not moved by me pointing to my diaphragm and reminding her it was paralysed, we drove to our local gym and pool to sign me up – a years membership being a birthday gift from my lovely grandparents. As we pulled up to the centre, I had butterflies in my tummy. It really shouldn’t have been a big deal at all but to me it was another landmark, another sign of returning to a life that somewhat resembles normal. We walked up the stairs, leaving Abby to study in the cafĂ© but be able to wave at me through the window, and my mother and I disappeared into the changing rooms.As I child, I used to accompany my mother on her ticket, and so spent many happy hours there splashing around and racing my parents or my sisters up and down the pool. I have always been a bit of a water baby, and used to swim regularly once a week for as long as I can remember; something which I attribute the strength of my old lungs to, and one of the key reasons they managed to keep on working right to the end. Apparently on one holiday very early on, we arrived at the poolside and with a squeal of delight I hurtled myself into it, completely oblivious of the fact that a) I required armbands to stay afloat and b) this was the deep end of a rather large pool therefore had to be promptly rescued.Anyway back to yesterday. We walked down the corridor and onto the poolside. It was fairly quiet, with only one or two members dotted around, casually making their way up and down the length of the pool or sitting relaxing in the Jacuzzi. I suggested to my mother that I sit and watch her first, which did not go down as well as I would have hoped. So instead I was swiftly cajoled into walking down the steps into the pool, where my mother took off and swam rapidly to the other side. I stood there, with water up to my knees, and looked down at the pool. I am not scared of
but somehow I couldn’t quite bring myself to launch in with carefree abandonment. I slowly edged myself in, bit by bit, the feeling of being immersed in water was strange and took me back to being on holiday in Greece where I would spend hours just floating or swimming in the sea.
swimming oops pictures

swimming oops photo

swimming oops pic
AT SIX O'CLOCK THE NEXT MORNING, I wasn't so sure. We were leaving Virgin Gorda for the four-mile swim to Ginger from the Baths, a boulder-strewn volcanic peninsula that looks more like Joshua Tree than the Caribbean. This was where, according to the Australian woman, we'd have our asses handed to us: The ocean has had thousands of miles to build up its tempo here before it pounds the rocky beach. Indeed, beyond the rocks, I was sure a hurricane waited for us. I felt like I could see shark fins, roiling whitecaps, and marauding speedboats everywhere.
"Hey, Hod," Hopper called, casually treading water beside me. "What a perfect day to begin our journey, huh? Let's get going, though. Get this under our belt."
"Yeah, you guys go," Paolo said from the safety of his speedboat, which wasn't turning out to be so speedy. Not only was it impossible to start, it also wouldn't plane. We'd be half eaten by the time they ever got to us.
Thankfully, Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes, was smiling down on us: The winds were out of the east-northeast instead of the prevailing southeast, and both the water and the sky were clear and warm. And a chain of rocky islands guards much of the crossing from the Baths to Ginger, blocking the east wind and creating shallow water most of the way.
We didn't see much. Millions of tiny glistening fish streaked along the surface, so small they seemed more optical illusions than aquatic life, and a couple of barracuda swam urgently toward us and then appeared to back up when they saw our size, as if thinking, Oops—my bad. That was it, if you discount the hundreds of jellyfish attacking us. For an animal that has no brain, bones, eyes, or heart, the thimble jelly is a tricky little predator, filled with stinging cells called nemocysts that inject their venom into you with teeny-tiny harpoons.
As the minutes, a half hour, and then an hour ticked off and the water got deeper and deeper, I grew ever more freaked out, despite our mother hens, Paolo and Derik, constantly hovering within a few hundred yards. For some reason, I was most afraid of sharks in the deeper water, although most attacks happen in shallow areas and, even more pertinent, my own not-so-casual research showed that there have been only four unprovoked shark attacks in the Virgin Islands in the past 100 years. Even so, I took comfort in the fact that Hopper was in the rear, pulling the surfboard.
Suddenly, Hopper stopped swimming. We were about a quarter-mile off Ginger Island in 100 feet of water. Not a good place for a chat.
"We gotta do something different," he said, taking a swig from the water bottle strapped to the board.
"Why would we do that? Let's keep going," I answered, a little pissy. "We're nearly there."
"We're not going anywhere. I've been watching that white scar on the cliffs over there for ten minutes. We haven't moved."
Now that we were no longer in the lee of the outlying islands, those whitecaps I'd imagined had become very real, along with an accompanying 15-knot wind. The one-knot current our chart indicated was more like two to three. Our destination on Ginger—a lagoon behind a northeast peninsula—was now upwind.
We strapped on our Zura Alphas, flexible, lightweight fins that would give us just enough of an advantage to compensate for the wind and current. Except they didn't. We swam for another ten minutes, but we were still going backwards.
Clearly outpowered, we decided to put the wind on our port beam and head for the less desirable north shore, where there appeared to be a boat anchored. Fifteen minutes later, we tumbled ashore, arriving like bewildered shipwreck survivors as breakers sent us rolling over spiny sea urchins. What had looked like an inviting beach 400 yards away turned out to be a 15-foot-wide shelf of broken coral. And the boat that was going to be our salvation was actually a wrecked charter sailboat, itself forlornly waiting to be rescued.
That's how we spent our afternoon—forlornly waiting. While Paolo and Derik went back to Virgin Gorda to get their boat fixed, Hopper and I swam another mile to the western edge of the island and generally wilted in the inescapable sun. That evening, they finally returned with food, drinks, and a still-broken boat.
"Well, day two down and no shark. That's a good thing," I said, toasting with a shot of rum-spiked Gatorade.
Derik looked at Paolo, as if to ask, Should we tell him? "Paolo did see this really big thing come up behind you once."
"Really big," Paolo said, smiling.
That night, camping through two storms on the beach without a sleeping bag, rainjacket, or even a tarp, I dreamed of shark-shaped jellyfish eating holes through my sodden brain. About the only thing that made me happy was watching Hopper hiding from the rain, huddled under a fish crate.



No comments:

Post a Comment