This is my cousin T in Harvest Caye, Belize. She’s one of the strongest, most determined women I know.
When I arranged for T to participate in the cruise with other cousins, a spouse and friends, I knew she was a tough cookie, dealing with a bum leg that she’d refused to amputate, despite the fact that the broken ankle had led to bone failure as it deteriorated, and the fact that T is in incredible pain each day.
When I found her in baggage claim in New Orleans, she was very much as you see her now, with a bad leg due to a hip replacement on her left, and a failing leg on her right, with the bonus addition of 3 broken toes !
But, like the rest of the stubborn cusses in our family, T is nothing if not resilient.
So, I thought I’d arranged a handicapped-suitable reef tour boat, with a swim-up dive platform and easy access on and off the boat when swimming from the shore off which we’d be moored.
You know, something like this:
No such luck !
Instead, I’d chosen a tour that changes its itinerary based on the whims of the winds and current, and we ended up going out to the reef on a speed boat with a rickety ladder for climbing on and off the boat.
It wasn’t until AFTER we got on the boat that we’d found the itinerary had changed, and that we’d be climbing on and off the side of the boat from the moveable (and rickety) ladder, and that we’d be traveling about 30-45 minutes at high rates of speed to get to the snorkeling sites chosen for that day.
So, I took off my baseball cap and used it to cover my nose and mouth, ensuring that the speed of the boat didn’t cause the breeze generated to steal my wind.
I also tucked my body as far forward as possible, under the covered part of the boat, to stay out of the breeze. No way did I want my choice to snorkel causing breathing problems or even a risk of a cold or pneumonia.
The bouncing of the boat was hard on my body, but our captain was good and kept the bouncing to a minimum.
Once we arrived at our drop off point for the guided reef swim (NOT what I’d agreed to) to begin, T and I stayed behind on the boat while the Roomie swam off with the tour.
The captain and his crew could not have been nicer or more considerate to the two of us remaining on the boat.
He rigged up a life preserver and a rope for both me and T to hang on to the boat while snorkeling, and I’m glad he did as I did not have the strength to fight the waves and stay near the boat without assistance. Just too much energy was needed, and the waves were too strong.
When it came time to get back on the boat, the three (3) crew members assisted us both on and off the boat so that we didn’t hurt any of our existing handicaps worse than they already were.
We swam at two stops, where the boat went ahead of the stronger reef swimmers to be able to meet at specific points for anyone ready to climb back onto the boat, and then we went off to a third location where the boat stopped to allow everyone to swim with the manta rays and nurse sharks. (Being tired out and a big chicken, I stayed on the boat during that stop), although my for er Roomie loved it.
At the end of the day, I love snorkeling, BUT… I’m still afraid of deep water and big fish (thank you Steven Spielberg and JAWS), but it was a great day where we all got sunburned, at least a bit.
Heading back to our cruise ship, I retired to a cabana in the Vibe beach club area, to hide from the sun while warming up and taking a nap.
It doesn’t matter how much or how little energy I have to do any of the planned excursions – any day at sea is the best kind of day for me.