Snorkeling in Roatán last month I swam out through a fairly narrow channel between some sharp corral, explored for about 20 minutes, then had a few moments when even though I could see the shore I couldn’t see a safe way back to it through the dangerous maze a foot below the surface.
Ten days after debarking from our second family cruise vacation, stepping back ashore onto the south bank of Texas, slowly making our way through customs, airports, and a yearly allotment of seasons in a single twenty-four hour span, I realize I haven’t written much about our little adventure.
I usually write something.
In November 2017, we found ourselves lost at sea. Not physically, of course. Physically we were aboard a 155,889 gross tonnage, 14 story, 5000 passenger mega-luxury cruise ship plowing through the Gulf of Mexico at 21 knots. Physically we were wrapped tightly into a billion-dollar industry’s bosom of comfortable pampering, eating too much, water-sliding in places only a twenty-first century human would find reasonable, and jogging on treadmills at ten-thirty at night in the middle of the Caribbean sea while thousands of people drank and gambled and watched country line-dancing seminars all aboard this gleaming white technological marvel of nautical engineering.
In November 2017, we found ourselves lost, but lost moreso in a cultural mismatch of vacation priorities. I claim no moral superiority in my vacation interests, my tendency to seek quiet contemplative moments on some less-travelled gang staring out at the sea counting the swells of the ocean in a meditative trance, is just different from the bustle implied of basking in the sunlit upper decks amid a wash of music and pool noise while nursing a twelve dollar drink from a carved out pineapple. It’s just my preference and while my choice was relatively more difficult to find, it was available in heaping abundance compared to any other day of my life
I found some of those moments under the water as well.
A mask sealed over my eyes and nose. A plastic tube protruding from the waves. A camera.
A hundred meters off the shore of Roatán, Honduras I swam our past the tangle of wilting reefs and floated in water ten meters deep as I lolled along the border of fractal crops of sea life as they dropped into a bare sandy abyss disappearing into the clear water murk of the Caribbean.
A few days later we, all three of us, dropped from the back of an unsteady boat and floated above the protected reefs of a Mexican protected aquatic wilderness a few kilometers from where our behemoth of a cruise vessel sat seemingly so quietly at the Cozumel dock.
There are a hundred interesting moments on cruise ship, temporarily cut off from internet and media and land and slugging through the waves towards some unknown land which will inevitably be pocked with a nugget of tropical culture perfectly aligned to selling cheap souvenirs and overpriced beer to fat tourists. The trick… my trick to find a perfect moment in that clutter, was to ignore the feeling of being lost in that fury and find a moment of clarity, rare and precious for a land-locked doofus like me, under the water snorkeling with a camera in my hand.