When hurricanes hit coastal areas near dolphin preserves – the first thing to do is let down the nets at the mouth of the bays which provide natural habitats. Theoretically, the nets keep predators out and the dolphins safe. When the hurricanes hit an area dolphins are able to navigate deep and shallow waters for breathing despite horrific wave heights, turbulence, and rip tides near shore. When the storm passes – the females all return grinning, exhausted, and pregnant.
Storms, like the ones experienced in the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and Louisiana were ripe for Derby weekend –as they kicked up some wicked strong rip tides and California-like rough surf. The winds blew steady from the south as a low pressure weather system raked across the northern border of the Gulf of Mexico. The water at our beach became balmy with confused waves after weeks of cold fronts that had kept most beach goers, chilled. There was a fierce undertow the final day of our vacation, but the rip currents seemed clearly marked by a flow of bubbles and clearly identified patterns where swimmers dared not venture. We marked these spots, jumped the breaking surf and frolicked until a blackening sky sent us packing.
From a safe vantage point on the beach we could clearly see the rip currents. It’s just about impossible for a human to swim against a rip current to get back to shore. The common wisdom for anyone caught in a rip, is to gather your wits, stay calm and swim parallel to the shore. Nobody ever mentions just how far or how difficult this survival exercise is when the surf is breaking between your nose and the beach, arms begin to weaken and kicks become more difficult to coordinate with the critical process of breathing. Being caught in a rip is terrifying.
The term ripped is often used to describe anger. It’s also a term that describes young male torsos with clearly articulated physiques, as in, “He was so ripped in his hip hugging, happy trail revealing swim trunks.” To be ripped off is to be taken advantage of, which triggers the feeling of being ripped. This colloquial term has absolutely nothing to do with ripping off said swim trunks and skinny dipping while body surfing and I’m not going to explain the cul de sac at the end of the happy trail can get very ripped up during such beach play.
Fresh from our Florida retreat, we went to the river today and began spring decommissioning – a fancy term for putting up sails, restoring order to the cabin and reattaching water hoses, draining antifreeze and discouraging mud wasps from making your boat their summer breeding ground. We only had time to hank on the main sail, set the reefing lines, clean the topsides and make the list of all the things needed on the next trip to West Marine (WM = Woe’s Me). Our friends advised that the river current was very strong and sailors who ventured out the day before spend most of their time losing ground every time they came about – another fancy term for making a U Turn on the water when under sail.
We stayed in and cleaned – a necessary beginning to the boating season. We met two couples new to the harbor – one couple, proud owners of the Luna Sea, a 25’ O’Day ,set forth on their maiden voyage. The First Mate, who is in superb physical shape for the work of sailing (if she were male she’d be happily ripped) announced that they were novice sailors – first boat – first time on the water – and ready for adventure. Everything they knew so far had been gleaned from books and You Tube videos. I immediately liked her tenacious confidence and love messing about in boats.
Current warnings from old salts be damned, they left the harbor at noon and returned victorious around 4 o’clock. They met their rip in the form of a southerly wind that managed to spin their boat around and about a couple of times as they tried to dock for the very first time. I went down the dock, grabbed a line and quietly made suggestions for going against the wind. Two friends followed, one held a dock line the other calmly boarded their slip mate boat to ensure no accidental encounters between hulls. We directed the Captain to head directly into the wind, let the current work for him and with one simple maneuver they were safe in their new berth. We congratulated them for keeping calm, learning new things about their boat and the river – and for having the chutzpah to venture into the current and test their seamanship.
Managing storms at sea, riding the surf, beach combing for treasures given up by Neptune’s maidens, navigating stiff currents, respecting the wind, and dodging hidden obstacles connect us with the greater part of the earth that’s wet. And like the dolphins, for most of us, what happens when on the water – is really none of your ripping business.