My adventures have now led me to a very interesting position teaching clinical skills, welfare/ethics, and professional skills, at a major veterinary school in the Caribbean. Today was the annual swim
between the neighbouring island (Nevis) and mine (St Kitts) – 2.5 miles of open water with worrisome currents, 12 foot hammerhead sharks (one was spotted during the swim two years ago) and a signed waiver that "participation or observation [even!] of the sport constitutes a risk [of] serious injury, including permanent paralysis or death"
. I hadn’t trained, but how could anyone possibly resist such a combination? My mind was made up when I discovered they even did a free breakfast for survivors! Surely there would be something tasty and vegan.
I was slightly concerned about bleeding into the water, given that my skin was so fragile/dehydrated after a 1.5 hr test snorkel 2 days ago that I rubbed off some skin when drying my foot (sharks can smell blood from miles away), not to mention the fact my training has been precisely zero, and my idea of a hard swim is about 50 feet. And of course there are the currents - if they drag you off course (hard to see given the height of the swells, when you’re about a mile from land) the Atlantic Ocean seems like an awfully big place.
But there were old women, men, and small children doing it (the locals are unbelievably brave), and worse - a female work colleague was doing it. To back out would have revealed me as the coward I truly am to people who knew me. And so I said my final goodbyes and stepped (swam) out into the great unknown…
In the end however it was really cool! I saw a giant marine turtle and 3 rays with 6-7 ft tails, and the hammerhead sharks stayed away. I was partly sorry, as it would have been a great privilege to see one of these awesome creatures, but not 100% sorry…
I'm already looking forward to the next one. And the world of ocean swimming races has been opened up to me (you can fly around the globe doing these). I might even train next time. This time I was thrashed by every woman and old person I knew (including my work colleague), and many I didn't. But I survived… and the marine wildlife out here is awesome