I have a love-hate relationship with the ocean. Mostly I hate it. Because it scares me. Hey, I’ve seen JAWS. Scary things live in the ocean. Scary things with teeth.
I’m not much for adventure (I’ve never had a craving for adrenaline). But I’m firmly in my 40s now, and I told myself I’d stop saying I’ll try it later and Carpe the Diem. So a few years ago, while we were in the Cayman Islands, I tried snorkeling. In the ocean. Way out in the ocean. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Right up until a rogue wave tossed me into a patch of razor-sharp coral I had no business swimming over. At that point, I should have resigned from snorkeling, but I got back on the horse . . .
Since my brush with Freddy Kruger coral in the Caymans, I’ve been snorkeling in the Bahamas several times, without incident. Snorkeling in the Bahamas is like snorkeling in an aquarium. I’ve never been disappointed . . . or tossed into coral. Mostly because I won’t go within 5 feet (in any direction) of coral.
Our trip to the Bahamas this summer was packed with snorkeling (and scuba for the boys). Our last day was no exception — we all wanted to squeeze in one more snorkeling trip. We hopped on the boat and anchored in about 7 feet of crystal-clear water near Tilloo Cay. Everyone wanted to swim with the magnificent sea turtles and sting rays we could see from the boat . . .
I like sea turtles. Sea turtles are nice.
As usual, I was the last one out of the boat. Because I had to go through my OCD checklist. Is my mask de-fogged? Is it tight enough? Wait. Is it too tight? Is my snorkel clear? Did I remember sunscreen? Double sunscreen? Do these fins make my feet look fat?
My daughter stayed behind with me. She jumped into the water, swam out about 10 feet, popped up and shouted,
“SCARY FISH SCARY FISH SCARY FISH!!!”
At this point, I’m a lock for “worst mom ever” because I told her to knock it off and stop acting like a 3-year old.
I jumped into the water, swam out about about 10 feet, popped up and shouted,
“SCARY FISH SCARY FISH SCARY FISH!!!”
My daughter gave me a well-deserved eye-roll and said, “Told you so!”.
JAWS was under our boat.
What the shark looked like in my mind:
That’s not a photo of “the” shark, but it’s close. It was a smaller shark, about 3 feet long. But, I have no idea what kind of shark it was. Doesn’t matter. It was the kind with teeth.
Sharks in the Bahamas are mostly limited to reef sharks and nurse sharks. Hey, I did my homework. If a great white lived within 100 miles of the Bahamas, I would have stayed in the boat.
I’ve been in the water with sharks before. Mostly, they ignore you. They aren’t interested in you.
This is my son (in the plaid shorts) . . . hanging out with a well-behaved shark:
So I thought to myself, knock it off and stop acting like a 3 year old. He’s not interested in you. He’ll ignore you. Just swim. So I put on my big girl bathing suit, and my daughter and I swam.
And that damn fish followed us. That damn fish tried to HERD us. I’m no marine biologist, but that kind of behavior seemed, um, alarming.
Luckily, I’ve seen every episode of Shark Week, so I knew exactly what to do: Panic.
Girl . . . you’re in trouble now.
This was a either a cranky shark or a really curious one. My daughter and I swam as fast as we could back to the boat (all the while, I’m thinking it doesn’t matter how fast we swim, Sharky can swim faster). And then . . . SpongeBobCrankyShark got up close and WAY too personal. So I punched him in the face. Read as: I flailed my arm in the direction of the gray blur moving through the water, and I happened to connect. I’m sure it looked like an Elaine Benes dance move. And I really hope it never turns up on YouTube.
When Sharky tells the story, it’ll go something like this . . .
I hurled my daughter into the boat, and then I flung myself into the boat. Have you ever tried to climb a boat ladder with fins on, while trying to dodge a cranky shark? Not easy. Or elegant.
Then we calmly (or it might have been frantically) called everyone else back to the boat.
I didn’t realize the irony until later. Hey, there’s an aggressive shark under our boat. Swim toward the boat.
Palm to face.
Everyone swam toward the boat. Don’t you just love it when people follow direction? Dads tossed six-foot tall teenage boys into the boat like Nerf footballs (not funny then, but funny now). And both my husband and our friend made fin to skin contact with Sharky before everyone got safely back into the boat. For the record, my husband says their shark kicks were spinning roundhouse kicks.
And that about wraps it up for me and snorkeling.
Now . . . I know you’ve all been waiting very patiently for me to get around to connecting this trouble with wine.
What does this story have to do with wine? It provided the backdrop for one of the most unforgettable wines of my life — a wine that’s soldered to a memory. When we pulled into the dock, the first sentence out of my mouth was, “Who needs wine?”. Four adult hands went up. We got back to the house, and I grabbed the last bottle of wine we had: a 2004 Bodegas Ismael Arroyo Ribera del Duero Reserva Val Sotillo.
We divided that bottle between 4 adults . . . and drank it as a nerve tonic. I love Ribera del Duero in all its earthy, dusty glory. But this wine tasted like safety. This wine purged the adrenaline from my body. And it will forever be known as . . . The Shark Wine.