Friday, January 13, 2012

My Bahamian Friday the 13th

In 1997, I was invited to go on a three-week boat tour of the Caribbean with friends of the family.  In my world, this is something you don’t turn down!  John and his dad, Bill, were taking their 42-foot Bertram from Mobile down through the Intercoastal Waterway in Florida and over to the Bahamas.  This had been a long-term dream for Bill, and he was making it happen.
I grew up on the water – Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico – to be specific.  I had visited the Bahamas once or twice, so I knew the lure of the aqua waters, the pastel houses, the easy smiles, and “island time.”  And I loved it.  An island girl I was, and an island girl I will always be.
      We had many adventures in those three weeks, but one day in particular comes to mind.... a certain Friday the 13th.
      We had docked in Walker Cay, still one of my favorite islands to this day.
marina at Walker Cay

Bill and John and some other folks that had joined us for part of the trip wanted to go scuba diving.  The dive shop told us about a reef some ways out, so we made for it that morning, excited to see what the day would hold.  I wasn’t certified in diving at the time, but I do love to snorkel, so I too was looking forward to it.  And yes, it was Friday the 13th...
Bill, with his masterful captain skills, found the exact spot – the island was out of sight – and he put John and I (mostly John) to work on putting out the anchor.  We were both on the bow, when I spotted a huge shadowy creature swimming fast right by the boat.
“Shark!!!” I yelled.  John sprinted to the port side of the boat where I was. 
“Where?  Where?”  he asked, ecstatic.  He, unlike most humans, loved sharks.
“It just went under the boat.” 
We both went starboard. 
Then we saw another shadow, and another.    Big ones.  All around us!
A thrill rose up my body.  These were not sharks.
“They’re dolphins!” I said.  This time it was my turn to be ecstatic. 
It had always been a distant dream of mine to swim with dolphins.  Ever since I was a little girl, I fantasized about being the girl in all those almost-cartoonish images of a person holding on to a dolphin’s fin and being carried swiftly through the waters.  But it was one of those far-off notions.  At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had swum with dolphins.  If Sea World or Disney had such an experience, I wasn’t aware of it.  We had porpoises in the Gulf, but they were just pretty things to spot, mostly through binoculars, not creatures that may take us on a joy ride. 
But here on the bow of this boat in the middle of the waters, a new reality came to light.  Everyone on the boat livened up at the realization that we were surrounded by twenty-five or so dolphins, swimming freely in the blue-green waters.  While everyone peered over the sides, I ran for my snorkel gear.  (John was close behind me, I have to add.)  Within minutes, I was in the water, observing these gorgeous creatures through the lens of my mask.
that's me swimming with the dolphins!

beauties -- all photos taken by John Haffner

So close....

At first they were intimidating.  They were big!  Even from a few feet, I could determine their massive strength and the fact that, well, if they decided to turn on me, I wouldn’t have a chance.  But after a few minutes of swimming near them, my nerves settled.  They squeaked that familiar sound that I had heard recordings of so many times.  Some of them would swim near the surface, while others would dive up and down.  It was if they were putting on a show.  Some swam in unison, and there was even a baby close to his mom in the mix. 
By this time, everyone on the boat had jumped in, all geared up.  Oh, and did I mention the reef?  This was all happening amidst a backdrop of the vivid colors of a natural reef just below. 
After about a half-hour of swimming with the dolphins, John and I got a little bolder.  (Okay, maybe John got bold before half hour.)  They were swimming so close to us, that we could just almost touch them.  We'd try to reach them, but like puppies playing a game, they’d move out of our grasp – an inch or so – just before we could touch them.  They were sensitive to even the slightest movement, and the grace in which they slipped out of reach still impresses me. 
The mom and baby got close to me.  Just as before, I reached out to the mom, and for a split second, felt the smooth surface of her skin!  She let me touch her!  Strange, because it was definitely by choice  -- HER choice…
After about an hour, the dolphins started to scatter.   Only a few remained and then they left too.  It was about time for us to pull up anchor and head back to land anyway.  But what an experience! 
That day, I discovered that dreams do come true.  Cheesy as it sounds, it’s true!  My view of reality changed that day.  If something as amazing and elusive as swimming with wild dolphins could happen to me, what else could?! 
Interestingly enough,  this all happened on Friday the 13th.  
The dolphins and me.  Note the date!
I had never been entirely superstitious of that date, but after that episode, I definitely am!  From that day on, how could Friday the 13th be anything but lucky!  Not UN-lucky.  And since then, I’ve had peaceful and happy Friday the 13ths ever since.
Life truly is how you look at it…

Here are some more photos from the trip.  All taken or choreographed by the talented John Haffner (find more photos from this trip or more under the name "gorgeouscoyote" on  A big thank you to the Haffners for such an amazing trip!
John, Bill, and I on board the Gung Ho

The crew that swam with the dolphins

John and I with some new friends in front of the Gung Ho
John finds a starfish

Wishing you a dream-come-true day -- today and every day!


Meredith C said...

What an amazing adventure! I got to swim with dolphins and psuedorcas but that was at Sea World when I was a trainer for a day. Nothing like swimming with wild dolphins! And what a great attitude...I so look up to you!

Katie Feng Shui said...

Sweet Mer! Yeah, but trainer for a day sounds awesome too! xoxox

kemp said..., love it!!!!!!!!! :-) Oh, the Bahamas!!!!! Too wonderful............Great write!!!

bluedogz design said...

totally magical! a day I am sure you will never ever forget! so cool to read about it, xo

Kimbundance said...

That's amazing! Looks like fun. I enjoy your blog btw, keep up the great work!

Katie Feng Shui said...

Thanks, Y'all! I love when you read!