I am encouraged
to tell about my back. Sympathetic murmurs from all.
very good diving weather anyway," Coles says.
calmly, "Oh, I'd be much too afraid to go under in this rough sea."
I say gloomily,
"Don't think I can even snorkel."
Art and Don
exchange those knowing glances. I struggle down to the forecabin and swallow
two aspirins to fortify myself against the pain. I feel humiliated: I am a
crock who can't even snorkel on the first day out.
Two hours and six
miles later we circle about off the Southwest Reef area. Don and Art go over.
Seiler comes up yelling, "Nothing down there but weeds and lousy
feathers." Coles says, "He means sea fans." Lousy feathers? Sea
fans? Almost the loveliest things that grow in the ocean!
pitching of the anchored boat gives my back a beating. After all, it just might
be easier on it if I floated about above those "lousy feathers." With
Louisa's help I get into my suit and go aft for mask and flippers. Art,
surprised at this turn of events, slings me as lightly as he would a sack of
potatoes (rather tender potatoes) over the stern end and onto the diving
platform. I slip from it into the dark running waters. Art emerges at my
shoulder. David, who has roused himself from the floor, comes in after us.
Coles and Louisa follow. There are six of us now spread out on the dark tide
which is running hard away from the boat. The liquid mattress of the sea buoys
my body in a natural position, taking the strain off my back. I swim easily,
looking down. Forty feet below I see long reaches of ghost gray sand, sparse
spooky-dark coral heads, a Medusa muddle of sea grasses, a few sea fans, waving
mournfully as widow's weeds. Then an itinerant triggerfish or two. And slipping
past, like a medium's ectoplasmic dagger in the gloom, a small barracuda. This
is not the fabulous fairyland I promised Louisa. I see her, her long black-clad
arms flailing the water as she fights the running tide back to the boat. The
boat looks small, and is getting smaller, but Coles is with her. I swim hard
toward the boat. Now Art comes abreast, and passes me, even though he isn't
using his hands. He can't. He is ferrying 15 pounds of hogfish on his spear. We
hang like bunched banners to the stern of the Big Seven, while the men boat us
in order of importance; fish first, then the ladies.
downpour. Thunder claps, wind blows, waves chop, we lift anchor and head for
returns. So does Dave's upset stomach. We stretch on bunk and floor again,
soaked and silent.
Comes a strange,
mournful sound. Is it a sea sound? Does it come from the desolation of the lost
Atlantis we have seen? On the prow Don stands, stout legs spread, striking a
Neptune pose, red beard dripping silver sea spray, blowing a great blast in the
teeth of the storm on a king conch shell.