Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stupid Things I Have Done: Frosty Floridian

(A scanned old photo from December 29, ... 1997?)
Way back in the latter half of the 1990's, my college roomie Dave, and his wife Tammi, came down for a visit. It was in December, a time of the year when frozen midwesterners sometimes think about the warm Florida sunshine. They had some free time, needed sun, and we were thrilled to host them, so down they came.
We were having those perfect Florida crystal blue skies that grace us in the winter and the temps were mild, so we all went out to sea in "Summer School", our 19 foot Carolina Skiff.
The weather was sparkling and the Gulf of Florida was cooperating with glassy seas and clear water.
(You have to call ahead and reserve those conditions and I was glad that for once I had done so ... FYI: 1-800-NEPTUNE)
The Gulf at Cedar Key is dotted with a sprinkling of sandy keys that are merely the iceberg tips of broad shallow sandy flats that go on and on and on. Much of these are covered in meadows of seagrass that literally teems with marine life.
We were doing one of my very favorite things on Earth ... cruising slowly at idle speed over water so clear that every detail of the bottom was visible. I love doing this, just gawking at the life below, the birds above, and the interface interruptions of seaturtle or dolphin breaths.
We were laughing alot too. You do that when you are with Dave and Tammi.
Somewhere along the way, someone (was it you Tammi?) spotted a large whelk below and on a whim, I dove over the side for it.
Now, at the peak of the summer's heat, water temp in the Gulf of Florida gets into the high 80's ... so warm that you crawl out of it and back onto the boat just to cool off.
This was not summer.
This was December 29.
At first, when I entered the water, it was shocking, but not too bad. We're used to diving into springs around here, and in the triple digit heat of the summer air, their 72 degree water temp feels icy. It was kind of like that for the first 20 seconds or so, and then you could tell, this was really, really different.
Of course, now everybody in the boat was looking at me, expecting me to do something FC'ish, like dive down and bring up that big whelk.
The nurse was looking at me with that, "You are out of your mind" look, but I'm so used to that I hardly noticed ... that could be because tiny icicles were beginning to form on my eyelashes and you know how that can interfere with your vision.
Funny, the water was deeper than I expected too. That's the thing about really clear water, its depth can be misleading.
Someone tossed me a mask, and with a few rattly hyperventilations, I dove down for the big snail.
It was pretty cool down there, and with my increasing numbness, the cold didn't seem so bad anymore.
I brought up the whelk, went down for a few more items a starfish I believe, and poked around beneath the boat a little while.
Funny, but I didn't remember my arms and legs weighing so much back on the boat. Had I put on weight during this swim?
And what were all these ripples surrounding me? I was starting to shiver pretty violently ... kind of like a Whirlpool agitator in a brand new washing machine.
The nurse, who had assumed control of my crew the moment I left the boat, was now commanding me back aboard the boat. This seemed like a pretty good idea, so I paddled back over to the side and hoisted myself up and over the gunwales.
Somebody wrapped a big ol' beach towel around me and THAT is when some serious body wracking shivering set in.
That was a weird feeling ... to be shivering vigorously and uncontrollably for at least ten minutes, although it seemed much longer.
Eventually, my blood, which had left my extremities for the comfort of the core, returned to my feet and fingers, and all was well.
So, maybe the next time I'll tote the shorty wet suit along just in case the urge to leap into the sea during the middle of winter strikes me again.
See? I'm older and wiser now.
No, really, I am.
It was a neat snail though.


robin andrea said...

It is so interesting to read this, fc. It shows just how easy it is to get into trouble, and not even recognize that we have crossed the line. A very good cautionary tale.

roger said...

the high sierras can be brutally hot in summer. all those rocks and granite faces. and the lakes look so inviting. "jump in" they coo invitingly. and the water is so cold it feels solid when one hits it. instant "ice cream head."

Thunder Dave said...

I remember that trip well!
I think it was probably the turning point for seriously searching for property down that way. If I remember correctly you came back up to the surface with a "Red Horse Conch". I also remember the bottom being lined with live Sand Dollars sort of like a fuzzy green cobble stone road.

Doug Taron said...

So what was the water temperature- like 65, 68? That's a warm water day in New England where I grew up. I remember being in Bermuda Dec. 31, 1980. My sister and I went in the water and were amazed at how warm it was. That evening the newspaper announced a polar bear swim the next day for "anyone daft enough to go." Totally cracked us up.

pablo said...

Finally, another "Stupid Things I have Done" post. Seems like it's been since November that I've seen one.

Anonymous said...

FC- This is the same trip that a very young Jr pick up something and asked you what it was? To which you replied "Yuck son I don't know throw it down" It was pretty disgusting! It was a great time. I also remember all of the horsehoe crabs on that one island.

Anonymous said...

You are a perfect example of the Chroniclation Fortuosity theory. Supposedly, in younger years, we are all nearly statistically disinclined to have something bad happen when we have a stupid moment. As we put on a few more candles on the cake, that probability slides toward the other end of the scale. Wisdom is nice to have then, isn't it?

Susan said...

"Chroniclation Fortuosity"?... Google and Wikipedia have not heard of this... It's not in the Bible either.

Maybe there's no such thing. Maybe we're indestructible into our 90s.

: )

Anonymous said...

---> Susan,
LOL well it exists if you believe it does. :-)

amarkonmywall said...

Hey, FC! Come on up to Lost Loon Lodge this August, where the water temp will peak at 19 c! For the first two summers my folks had the place, there was no indoor shower. It took even a clean freak like myself a good 48 hours to screw up the courage to head in with a bar of ivory...
I'm in Florida getting ready to fly back to Chicago and it's frankly miserably hot and humid down here. ;-)

But the whelk? Worth diving for.

Anonymous said...

How about water skiing in Lee's Summit, MO. on April 1st. There was still a film of ice on the water back in the coves. It was still fun.
Bro J

Floridacracker said...

Okay, some of you are obviously insane ... water as cold as you describe is not meant to be swam in by humans. Skiing with ice still on the water?
Brrrr Bro.
This water was probably about 65 degrees, which if we take Vicki's 19 C, multiply it by 1.8, and add 32 we get 66.2 degrees F, so it wasn't much different from Yankee summertime water temps at lost duck house or new england.
Susan, Freste is quite the wordsmith so don't be alarmed if either of those two sources lack his lexicon.
Thunder and Lightning, it was an excellent day wasn't it? A horse conch of course ... our state mollusk.
Pablo, there are more.
Robin and roger,
Caution is my middle name ... no wait, that's Pablo. i think my brain freeze must have happened at the moment I decided to jump in.

threecollie said...

Swim until numb...we do a lot of that. I watch for blue lips and then tell them to get the heck out of the lake and sit on the dock until pink again. Really...
That sinking feeling is awful though. Only felt that once when rescuing my boss's duck from my marauding dog in the middle of the pond in the middle of the fall. Stupid about covers it I guess.

Floridacracker said...

We all have our moments ... I hope you saved the duck.