You would think that having a near death experience would make a person fearless. Not me. When a friendly group of tourists from Belgium invited me to go sailing with them yesterday , I trembled in my flip flops. You would have thought by the way I responded that they were asking me to walk into myself a swarm of bees. I was about to give a whopper of an excuse when Isaiah walked by. I couldn’t lie in front of him, plus I know he would think it would be good for me. So, poor me reluctantly conceded to go out to sea on a beautiful 41' sailboat with some very cute and single men.
The Belgians had arrived at Brewer’s Bay a few days previously. They moored their sailboat in the bay and rented a few campsites. There were 4 men and 3 women and 2 of the men were single, as one of the women was a sister of one the guys. They took sailing trips all over the world together for the past few years. They were all in their late 20’s, good-looking, cool and fun-loving. They made an impression on everyone at the campsite. We nicknamed them the Bellies. After reading the chapter entitled, “Visitors” in Walden, I decided to be more social with the tourists staying at the campsite. In particular, these tourists. They were fascinated with the fact that dolphins saved my life. I had dinner with the Bellies one night, danced with them at Quitos another night and showed them my tepee.
It had been since my near-drowning accident that I was even near a boat, let alone on one. Granted, this was an exquisite yacht and as opposite of my little dinghy as it gets. I had absolutely no sensible reason to fear that anything remotely close to what happened to me would ensue again. Besides, the reason I almost drowned was directly and completely due to my stupidity and lack of basic seafaring knowledge. Rules like: never, ever leave your boat when it’s unanchored. Nevertheless, I didn’t sleep a wink that night.
We all gathered at the beach at dawn. When they said, “Good morning” to me with their cute accents, I replied, “I’m fine”. Clearly I was not fine.
I do love sailing. I find such beauty in the sport of harnessing the wind to make the vessel move in the direction you want. But I was now afraid of boating. When we motored the zodiac (like my boat) to the moored sailboat, my body was clenched so tightly. In fact, I didn’t relax at all until we were in full sail and was being distracted by some heavy flirting with one of the Belgians named Sebastien. As he began to say, “ I’ve been wanting to tell you since I met you…” the captain yelled, “dolphins!” Everyone dashed to the bow (front of the boat) where the dolphins were riding the wake. I came to find out later during lunch that even though it looks like they are swimming really fast, they are catching a free ride.
“Should we stop?” Everything was happening so quickly and everyone was excited. Within an instant, they all decided to drop anchor, grab their masks, snorkel and fins and had jumped into the ocean. I was standing on deck bewildered and Maarten, who was the captain, asked me why I wasn’t in the water. Justified terrifying thoughts raced through my mind. Then he said, “Dolphins love you, jump in”. I guess they were magic words because I then grabbed my mask (loathe snorkles) and lept into the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The first thing I noticed before I even saw a single dorsal fin was hearing the clicks, whistles and raspberries sounds the dolphins were making. The water was electric with the way they communicate. It was pure exhilaration. I didn’t know what I was doing or supposed to be doing, so I just treaded water with my face looking down into the ocean.
Obviously I was still afraid of the ocean by the way I held onto the rope that was tied to the anchor. Then in the distance of the clear aqua water I saw a dolphin swimming parallel to me. It was so exciting to see him/her undulate that I wanted to scream out to someone, “look!” but I did not see any of the Bellies. Then another dolphin came into view and was swimming towards me. I was smiling ear to ear as he approached me. He was about 6 feet away when he dove deep down into the ocean out of view. It nearly took my breath away.
Then I heard some of the Bellies talking on the boat. The “encounter” was over and was the best they ever had. Unbelievably it only lasted 15 minutes, as the adrenaline made it seem longer. I hopped aboard and everyone was giggling and talking over each other, sharing their experiences. Most stories included swimming around the dolphins in swirling motions, trying to engage the dolphins before they would swim away. Eva said she looked right into the eye of a dolphin and the dolphin was telling her that her Mother would heal from cancer. We all counted and decided with great ‘scientific research’ that there were 11 in this pod (what you call a group of dolphins).
We all took a quick freshwater shower and cast off on our way to our lunch destination. Dolphins dominated the conversation on the way to and during lunch. I was full of questions. I was uncertain of the proper dolphin etiquette, to which Lisse filled me in on all the details. She told me that it is ok to touch them gently if they approach you, unless they are showing signs of aggression such as tail slapping. Dolphins love to play games, but you have to engage them. Don’t make sudden hand movements or try to ride their dorsal fin. The Bellies have discovered that dolphins stay longer if the swimmers are not being aggressive with the dolphins, but rather just having fun in the water. They all wanted to know what I experienced. What I learned today about dolphins is there is something thoroughly amazing just being in their presence. They also lured me back into the ocean.
We were all elated from our experience with dolphins, but there was more excitement to come. It was a Full Moon and of course we had to go to the party at the Bomba Shack! After lunch we set sail, so that we could get a choice place to moor our boat. People come from all over the island, as well as surrounding islands just for this night of revelry, so finding an open anchor spot can be as difficult as parking in NYC.
It had been a great day and luck was on our side. We squeezed into the crowded bay and cast our anchor. Maarten drove us all on the inflatable boat and dropped us on shore, he then swam to shore. I was attracted Sebastien. I started to feel like a typical girl and wished that I had something new (and dry) to wear to the party! This feeling didn’t last long because soon we began drinking the infamous Bomba punch with its not-so-secret ingredient of magic mushrooms.
I was already high from swimming with the dolphins earlier and the beverage made me giddy with just how beautiful life can be! I wanted to be in the water. Scratch that. I NEEDED to be in the water and swimming without my skirt. I tore it off and was about to rip my bathing suit off, too, when Sebastien kindly stopped me. “I need to feel the water all over my body”, I proclaimed. Attempting to distract me from sheer nudity he said, “I want to swim too, my little Dolphina, so let’s go into together”.
That was the first time anyone ever called me Dolphina.
In addition to officially naming me, he was a great chaperone, which can be very helpful on a psychedelic trip. The water felt sooooo good on my skin. I was giggling and swimming around. Suddenly, I had this realization: that the dolphins that I saw earlier in the day were the dolphins that saved me. Then I felt like they were calling me to come out to sea with them. They were sending me a signal. When I wanted to swim out to sea to be with all the dolphins, Sebastien coaxed me to shore.
The party was in full swing with BBQ and a reggae band was playing. I put on my skirt and twirled around and happily danced for what literally was hours. I danced by myself and with others, while Sebastien kept a watchful eye on me. I was flying high and was void of sound judgment. Everyone I met was laughing and dancing and hugging. While I was dancing, someone pointed at me and said, “Hey that’s the girl that the dolphins rescued”. A group of about 12 people made a circle around me while I danced in the center. Sebastien smiled at me and said, “That’s Dolphina.” I was so happy at that moment. Then, I started to freak out that I nearly drowned.
Abruptly, I wanted to go back into the water and Sebastien came with me. He suggested for us just to put our feet in a little bit before going all the way in. I stopped feeling scared. The full moon was rising up and was so magnificent. I stared at it and the illuminated path it made on the water. It appeared like another sign. I am so grateful to the dolphins that saved me and was feeling like I need to swim with them again. Almost like I need to get to know them better – as I would a friend. I made a decision there that I would spend my time getting to know the dolphins better.
The feeling when Sebastien reached out to hold my hand was electric. We held hands while looking into eachother’s eyes feeling the intensity. This comes with the disclaimer (and the rest of the night) that I was seriously tripping, but we were in love instantly. We hugged so tightly until we felt like one or in other words, until the sun started to rise. When the party started to loose steam, we swam to the boat, took off our wet clothes and slept.