Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Swimming in their kitchen

The saying my life flashed before my eyes is one that you don't expect to experience but when it does you get the sense that the person that coined it nailed it.

Marineland, Florida, 2011
Marineland back in 1963

Just south of St. Augustine Florida is Marineland, built in 1938 it was Florida's first marine park and boasts the worlds first oceanarium.
The family and I took a day trip to Marineland beach, a spectacular and surprisingly secluded spot on Florida's crowded east coast, the following event caused the me to change my ocean going habits...

12:25 Saturday.
The four of us are playing in the shallow surf about knee deep, the water is very clear almost crystal and my oldest son wants to swim out to the sandbar.
The sandbar is roughly 125 yards from shore and is visible from the beach, many people swim out there and relax for a while before the tide changes. This is something we have done many many times in the past without hesitation, we are all strong swimmers and both my children have grown up in the water and will probably grow gills someday but after this experience we will never do it again. We all made the swim and are now standing on the sandbar, it is quite unique and ethereal to be that far out and standing ankle deep in the ocean, after 10 minutes we decided to head back.

We start swimming in a line with my wife and I on the outside and the boys in the middle, about 30 seconds after we departed the sandbar my life flashed before my eyes.
I looked behind me and saw a shark!!!!
How big you ask? well lets just say if sharky wanted to lie down on your sofa he would not fit, that according to the flash measurement I guessed at while trying to beat the best time of Michael Phelps with a child under one arm. I grabbed one son and my wife grabbed the other, without trying to alarm them I screamed for everyone to move and move fast, swimming with a child in one arm while a shark is behind you is akin to walking on quicksand the more I vehemently paddled the more I seemed to be stationary. My wife not doing any better I waited for contact with the shark feeling at any moment that one of us would be the next statistic on the shark attack file for the year.

We finally made it back to the welcoming shore, the panic still fresh it infused me to the core and I could have stopped breathing right there and then. I felt sadness that I put my family in such jeopardy, swimming out to the sandbar is a right of passage down here and we were one of a dozen or more people out there the shark just happened to tail us and not the others.

That evening after a few glasses of  calm down juice aka Bunnahabhain  I researched the habits of Florida sharks and found that some sharks patrol the areas between the sandbar and the shore for bait fish. One of the suspects was the Sand bar shark, how apropos. Other suspects were the hammerhead, the blacktip, and most frighteningly the bull shark an ultra aggressive killer type shark up there in status with the great white.

So I put that on the list of things not to do again, especially with children. Even yesterday I saw families camped out on the sandbar about the same distance that we had the encounter. I did mention the experience to some of them and they waived me off as some kook. Good luck.

My whole life did not flash in front of my eyes but I did see things that have happened in the past, that phenomenon surely is a strange one.

Somewhere out in the deep blue sea a shark is telling a tale of the day he almost caught a Sausage in his kitchen, not today sharky....not today.
A killer among us...the bull shark.


  1. good grief - I think this is where we differ - if it had been me, I'd have thrown one of the kids back and told my wife to go and fetch him, which should just about have given me time to get to the shore and then shout at my second child to come and join me!

    I'm not sure I'm the right person to have about in a crisis

  2. Yikes! That's not an experience I ever want to have. Glad you all made it safely to shore.

    We don't have sharks up here... just bears, coyotes, and occasionally cougars and wolves. And moose... you don't want to piss off a moose. 1500 pounds on stilts with a rack of antlers 6 feet wide. He'll take out you AND your car!

  3. Glen - luckily sharks are not attracted to the smell of shite....if you know what I mean.
    Have you picked the specific child you would use for the salty sacrifice?

  4. Ponita - We have cougars also but mostly at the tiki bar on the beach. They hang out in gaggles of four or more with poofed up hair and way too much mascara. They will bite of you get too close, luckily I am over 30 so they don't usually bother me.

  5. as a scuba diver, i've seen a few sharks - mostly the sleepy nurse sharks, and a couple small lemon sharks... and maybe one bull shark near miami, florida while snorkeling that got my seal-like carcass our of the water pretty quickly. but i'll keep diving...

    the thing that would make all the difference in the world, however, is if i were with my children. i'd have been right there with you, Mr. Fingers...

  6. How silly of those people not to learn from a local's experience.
    Once in Greece I was having a refresher sailing course and - not used to boats other then wooden ones which adhere to your bum - I toppled backwards into the beautiful Greek sea. As I sank my thoughts were what a gorgeous colour the water was - turqoise. When I surfaced the boat was half a mile away - in my estimation and I remembered that I had never swum out of my depth before.
    Amazing what sheer panic can acheive.
    No sharks praise be!

  7. I always thought that'd be the worse way to go. To be eaten by a shark or bear or tiger or something. You don't die right away. You get to watch yourself be eaten. And how humiliating! You're food! No better than a hamburger or a pickle.

  8. Daisy - too bad sand bars don't serve cocktails then I would have stayed longer

  9. Pat - Holy cow reminds me of the movie where the 2 scuba divers were left behind in shark infested waters. How come they call the waters infested? the sharks bloody live there!!!

  10. UB - Sausage is a delicacy to the fin species.
    Scottish sausage marinated with a 12 year old whisky then brined in a corona with lime topped with a fish taco and hot sauce...

  11. Ha - there would certainly be a trail of that! Oh and whichever was closest at the time :-)

  12. Last time I was in FL I had a manatee swim up to me. Damn-near shat myself.

    I canNOT imagine the panic you felt...


  13. Everything I've eaten this weekend would likely make me tasty eating.

  14. I was once nipped on the big toe by a pissed off crab on St Andrews west sands.....

  15. see? this is why i don't visit sharks and they don't visit me!!!!!!! glad all y'all got out safely, sugar! xoxoxo

  16. Sharks?
    Not anymore.
    They got slaughtered and it took a whale.
    But the whales came from all these logbooks on OSIRIS- HYDRA- PETWOOD.
    And FOCONTEN did their numbers!
    And CONDOLEEZA RICE is getting fucked right now by RISA & GER and GOOD RIDDANCE!

  17. I woulda SHAT myself!!!

    Thank you for the Christmas card. I got it in the mail this morning.