Monday, March 05, 2007

Close Encounter of the Fishy Kind

Scans of slides from late summer of 1984, when Lovely Wife and I were living in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

A storm had come through the area, and the next time we were at the beach, the wave action of the storm had washed the sand around until, as you entered the water of the Gulf, there were "pools" along the length of the beach. As you went out farther, the water got shallow, to just a few inches and then gradually deepened to the normal Gulf depth.

Now the Gulf of Mexico is like a big ol' lake on most days, really smooth and many days the water is a beautiful, clear, turquoise. I had bought myself a decent mask and snorkel set. Louisiana boy plays Marlin Perkins.

So this little water-filled trench along the length of the beach that had been formed by the storm had quite a bit of fish and underwater life trapped in it. All I had to do was float on the water with my mask/snorkel and the depth was such that I just pulled myself along the bottom of this new trench with my hands.

Just slowly moving along in the water, looking at a few fish, looking for cool shells, and the water was warm, the day was warm, it was after tourist season so we had the beach almost to ourselves. Perfect.

As I continued to slowly and gently pull myself forward with my hands in the bottom of the trench, I touched something and immediately there was a flurry of activity right under my hands, about 3 feet from my face.

It was about three flounder who had burrowed themselves slightly under the bottom sand and were just laying there. I hadn't seen them until I touched one of them. All of a sudden, they're kicking up sand and darted away from me, while I pulled my legs back under myself and shot up out of the water.

Total elapsed time, about 2 seconds, from calmly floating there to standing in the water with my heart at about 180bpm.

Of course I realized what had happened right away and started laughing, but realized that Lovely Wife was also laughing.

I don't know if flounder scream when scared, but apparently I do, and did, and Lovely Wife said that the sound of my scream through the snorkel was funny, so there she stood laughing at me. She said that the snorkel gave my scream a really peculiar tone.

Good thing I don't take myself too seriously, and I don't get mad when folks make jokes at my expense, but it was kinda tough proving that I was a girly man when encountering a flounder, and screaming in front of my new bride.


Hammer said...

I was thinking at first it was going to be a shark. I've been known to walk on water after something brushes against my legs while I'm wading in the surf.

julie said...

Sometimes the little wives get the biggest kicks from watching our manly men get startled! I know I do. But to catch my man off guard...rarely ever happens!

Great story JAM!

thethinker said...

You scared me for a moment there. I expected it to be much more dangerous than a flounder.

(By the way, the portion of the Gulf over here in Texas is not near as pretty as the way it looks in those pictures. We get brown water.)

JAM said...

Nah. No sharks. There aren't many up in that part of the state.

The Panama City Beach to Fort Walton Beach areas are easily the prettiest beaches I've ever seen. And that includes the ones I went to on Oahu in Hawaii. The panhandle of Florida has beaches that usually rank in the top 15 or so in the world.

We like it here on the east central coast of Florida, but it pales in comparison to how pretty the panhandles beaches are. We have better weather year 'round down here though.

There are definitely more sharks here, and I rarely get in the ocean. Jaws came out when I was 12, and I'm one of those pretty much scarred for life. Actually, that should be scared for life to be more accurate.

I've been to the Gulf coast of Texas at Galveston, but it was rainy and yucky the whole time and even the Florida panhandle looks bad in turbulent conditions.