by Sherri Crilly
Living on an island for 2+ years now, I have become a pretty good boat captain with a passion for snorkeling. I own a 17’ whaler and I am on or in the water every chance I get. My friends and family have decided that I am proof that mermaids exist. However, jumping in the water with goliath grouper, sharks and barracudas did not always come naturally to me. In fact, I was petrified of being in the water, and as much as I was yearning to get below the surface and explore our tropical wonderland, I was crippled by fear, anxiety, and panic attacks.
I finally got tired of being limited to the confines of my boat when it came to seeing all of the parrot fish, yellowtail snapper and sergeant majors, so I devised a plan to submerge myself into the warm aqua blue waters of Looe Key Reef. This plan may seem silly to some, but it’s what has converted me from a fearful landlubber to a free swimming mermaid.
- Don a snorkel and fins and “play” in the water. Any of our state parks here in the Keys are a great place for beginner snorkelers. The water is calm, shallow and, you can simply stand up anytime you want!
- Ok, here’s where it gets silly, but it worked! I tied a 25 foot line to a boogie board, which was tied off to a cleat on the boat. I “snorkeled” around the boat confident that I had something to float on, AND I wouldn’t get carried away by the current. I can’t tell you how my kids laughed at me when I would order them to tie me off to the other side of the boat so I could see what was “over there”.
- I graduated to a 50 foot rope and swapped out my boogie board for a fun noodle. At this point, I was actually IN the water swimming! And wow! I was overcome by the beauty of what I was experiencing.
- Keep practicing at those beach areas! This is where your confidence builds and you realize you won’t sink (yes, what they say about the salt content and floating is true!). Plus, your swimming skills will greatly increase once you learn how to properly kick with fins. And FYI…. wet suits greatly add to your buoyancy!
- Finally, once your comfort level increases, “cut the cord” and swim away from the boat with a friend, even if it’s only 25 feet. Once you do this and you see the plethora of tropical fish and coral beneath, you will be in awe of, not only what you have become a part of, but of what you have accomplished as well.
Before you know it, you will be swimming after a sea turtle, hearing the clicking of nearby dolphins, or mesmerized as a spotted eagle ray glides beneath you. I find it ironic that what I feared for so long, I now find relaxing and therapeutic.
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