We were on a Caribbean cruse on a big sailing vessel with auxiliary diesel power. The ship was anchored off shore. The shore boat was loading to take a group of passengers to a native village. I was asked if I wanted to board the shore boat and I replied as I had done before, “No thanks, I have my own transportation.” Which meant I was going to swim. I did this frequently and it usually worked out OK.
The boat left and I went down the ladder and into the water. There was no wind and the ocean surface was glassy. I had a sandwich wrapped in plastic to take with me for lunch. My plan was to swim on my back (it’s easy to float in sea water) with the sandwich on my chest and paddle with my hands. I would steer by looking back over my toes at the boat. I reasoned, “as long as I have the boat right over my toes I would be headed in the right direction.”
After paddling this way for a while, I turned around to check my course. I was not heading for the village. Current was carrying me sideways to my intended course, so I had to get a new target to watch over my toes to again aim me at the village. I made a couple of course adjustments this way and was finally getting fairly close to the shore by the village when I felt something sharp and rough scratch my back. I had come upon corral. The corral was growing like little trees up from the bottom. It was flat level on top at the low tide level as it can’t grow out of the water. At this time the corral tops were just about a foot below the smooth surface of the water. This was just enough to allow me to paddle over it on my back, only touching it now and then.
If the tide had been out far enough to make the water even two inches lower I could not have swum over the corral. I’m not sure what I would have done then. I could not swim back to the boat. There was too much current. I would probably have had to swim parallel to the shore until I found a place where there was no corral if there was such a place.
I made shore all right, rejoined Phyllis, ate my sandwich, had a good time and bought, for $10.00, a hand made, tuned metal drum, on which music can be played. I still have this drum.
Moral to this story: Unless you’re familiar with the territory, take the shore boat. It beats hell out of drowning.