Diving au naturel

There’s an important reason divers keep their hands and other appendages out of the way. One wouldn’t want to lose anything important to a hungry fish.

The big dive was coming up—number 100—so my sweetie pie and I were trying to sort out the specifics, because scuba tradition dictates that this dive is different.

To backtrack a bit, note that scuba diving requires a lot of learning. Afterall, when underwater, one is on life support, so getting things right is imperative. With that in mind, divers keep a logbook where they reflect on their first 100 trips below the surface. What were the conditions: water temperature, visibility, dive profile, and depth? What creatures did they encounter? What did they do well? What do they need to improve upon, with special focus on things that might have put them in danger. As a former teacher, I think the log process a great idea and a fabulous learning tool that culminates in that centennial dive.

But as Ryan and I approached the 100-dive benchmark, we realized it also comes with a caveat. You see, at that point, custom dictates that divers descend…um…naked.

Long before we arrived at our little place in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands we discussed diving au naturel. We always claimed we would perform the ritual, but the closer we got to the moment, the more we started to quibble.

“I don’t think I’m going to do it, Ryan said, as we stared at the sea.

Divers keep a log of their first 100 trips below the surface, in order to become better at the sport.

“You always said you would,” I answered wondering about his apprehension. I considered my own concern, which was mostly getting arrested for public indecency, but a scuba boat captain insisted that once underwater, rules about nakedness don’t apply. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I wanted to believe him. I stared at Ryan. “So, Mr. Tough Guy, what are you so afraid of?”

He let out a breath. “Dangling.”

I burst out laughing, but when I looked into it, it seems that, yes, men who dangle in the water, do sometimes lure passing fish into taking a nibble. It’s the same with fingers, if one isn’t careful.

We were on-island for ten days and had planned on doing our 99th and 100th dives, so the question of naked diving splayed before us. The plan was to walk in near the Frederiksted Pier, a place where people were always nearby, so my concern was the logistics of getting into my gear with a bathing suit and then having to remove it all and, upon exiting, putting it back on. It’s not a simple as it sounds. And, while there’d be no dangling, in my case, the thought of placidly swimming past a nice young family with my 67-year-old butt prominently displayed was a bit daunting.

A friend recommended that I just slip into a thong, which she felt, despite the flippers, would be easier to remove. I paused, considering whether she actually believed I might own such a garment. I was tempted to lead her to my top dresser drawer where my mundane undies resided in a heap, but I demurred.

As we considered the logistics of our 100th dive, weather intervened. A strange trough of cold wind rotated north of the island, churning up the biggest waves we’d ever seen in the Caribbean. Ten-to-12-foot swells pounded the shore on the cliff beneath us, sounding like a jet engine. The National Weather Service issued flooding and riptide warnings, explaining that even the most seasoned swimmers would be in danger if they headed into the water.  We waited for the surf to calm, but the entire time we were there, the conditions persisted, as if the sea was warning us off.

In the end, we opted to save our dives for a later date. Still, while we’d been given a reprieve in regard to diving in our birthday suits, the issue of our 100th dive remains.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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