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After escaping on a cruise ship from winter, I turned snorkeling correspondent

By John Toth

The Bulletin

The guide was asking whether I wanted to snorkel. I told him that I hadn’t decided yet. He said take your time.

The reason I answered like that was because the waters of the Caribbean were somewhat cooler than a year ago, when for the first time in my life, I swam in the Atlantic Ocean in January.

I also didn’t want to hassle with the snorkeling equipment. It was a lot easier to stay on the glass-bottom boat and watch the coral sway back and forth in the current as a few fish swim by.

Some of my friends who scuba dive are now laughing.

I have only snorkeled once before, and it was just O.K. I was the oldest and klutziest one in the group, and they just left me behind. I caught up, put on the gear and joined the rest. Last year’s guide was in a hurry to finish the snorkeling part of the excursion because we also were going to other places.

It was fun to see and video underwater, and I lucked into some nice shots, but I’m not an avid swimmer. I just like to float around in warm ocean water. That’s more my style.

On this most recent excursion in Costa Maya, Mexico, I was sitting in the boat as it made its way to the snorkeling site. As I looked around, everybody was getting ready, including passengers older than me.

“Señor, do you want to snorkel,” the guide asked again. I got shamed into doing it. I had to say “yes.”

I put on my gear and waited for my turn to lower myself into the water from the side of the boat. We just had to jump in. That was actually to my benefit. If I would have been allowed to slowly ease my way in, I may have chickened out. The water felt cold - to me, at least.

My scuba diving friends are now laughing harder.

I didn’t want to tell the guide that I’m “allergic” to cold water. My skin sends a signal to the brain, and the brain says this is not worth it - back off. I like the water at 80 degrees or higher. This was not even close.

But, it was January, and even in the Caribbean, the temperature of the water in deep winter is a gamble.

I plunged in. I’m glad now that I did. At the time, my mind was urging me to climb back in the boat (you can call me chicken I couldn’t. There were too many people - young and old - watching.

I grabbed my GoPro 11 camera and started recording. This time I shot frames of myself to prove that I was actually doing it and did not rip off a clip from the Internet.

The group started moving. I stayed near the guide as much as I could. At one time, I thought I swam toward him, but it was a guide from another group, so I quickly swam back to where I belonged. It didn’t take long with those big fins on my feet.

The guide then tugged on my shoulder and removed his mouthpiece. “Give me your camera,” he said.

I clicked it on and gave it to him. He dived underwater and started to swim toward a stingray. The GoPro doesn’t have any zoom, so to get a close-up video of something, you have to get close up.

He was amazing. The stingray didn’t want to be on camera and took off. They can swim fast - faster than my guide could follow.

I got my camera back, just in time to video our guide holding a starfish in his palm - another great clip.

I went off on my own again when one of the other snorkelers tapped me on the shoulder and pointed downward. There was a turtle right under us. I didn’t dive down because life jackets were mandatory for snorkelers on the excursion. But I extended the GoPro downward as far as I could. I later thanked the young man who alerted me.

I was the only snorkeler with a GoPro, which I found strange. You’d figure that if you are going to do something like this, you’d try to get some photos of videos under water.

The excursion put my GoPro to the test. It stayed in or under water for about 45 minutes and worked perfectly. I have mostly used it on land since I bought it. If the water was going to leak into it, this would have been the time.

I am so grateful that I decided to snorkel. It was a great experience. If I return to Costa Maya (I probably will,) I’ll book another tour with those guys. They took good care of us.

Yes, I’m going to jump back into the cold water. Hear that brain? Don’t try to talk me out of it.

I’ll just pretend that I’m back in Lake Ossippee in New Hampshire in the middle of the summer, and it’s the 1970s. I was a little younger, and that lake never warmed up.

But we didn’t care.


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