The wind is only PART of the weather forecast

M was very keen to head to Lady Musgrave. There will be no ‘but’ in this sentence – suffice to say, when he checks out what the weather is going to be doing, he looks at the wind and the swell, not the sun and predicted precipitation.

Our second day at Lady Musgrave Island was enveloped by steady rain. It stopped at about 9am and we were cautiously optimistic. M was the most optimistic – and it was this admirable character attribute that enabled him to exist through the following two hours without losing his mind.

He’d spoken to campers the day before who had, he said, given him All The Necessary Information. The Gold. He was shown where the best snorkelling was – out past the breakers opposite the campsite. He was practically guaranteed a manta ray and seven turtles.

I will gloss over the time it takes to get ready for such and expedition and the wetness of everything. We took off in Foamy to head out of the cay and around the outside where we planned to anchor and snorkel off Foamy. However, we had too much gear/weight in Foamy to get much speed happening, and the length of time a slowish putt-putt ride would take was not equal to the amount of petrol we had left in the tank. We turned back. Went via Bella Luna to get shoes for walking on coral remnants (the whole beach) and Small Z started to cry.

She has developed a cone snail phobia. I had thought that getting her to educate herself about them (knowledge is power etc) would slay her fear with the bullet of logic. I had thought wrong. I hate that. If we had gone around the outside of the reef and snorkelled off Foamy she would not have had to negotiate walking from the beach and out past the breakers, dodging potentially lethal cone snails all the while.

M made a lateral suggestion that we would bring the kayak and she could kayak from the beach to the snorkelling spot, thus evading certain death on the way. We tied the kayak on the back of Foamy, dried our tears and tried again. Because there is nowhere to pull Foamy up on shore that was near the snorkel spot, we left him anchored in the universal ‘going ashore’ spot used by everyone, and then M (carrying a sack of snorkelling stuff that weighed about as much as an extra child) and the Smalls trudged around a quarter of the island.

I took the kayak and this included the other bag of snorkelling stuff (including weight belts) and an anchor. I swear to god, next time I catch up with someone I know they are not going to recognise me because of the awesome ripped quality of my previously non-existent shoulders. I had to paddle into shore halfway there, get rid of my luggage so M could carry the kayak across a rocky outcrop, and then reload it and continue on.

I will gloss over the dicking around on the sand, the Smalls not knowing which mask and snorkels belonged to them and merely say that M and Small Z went in the kayak, while Small DB and I decided to take on the waves and began walking the 100m or so out backwards in our flippers.

This snorkelling bullshit – it’s always so fucking fraught. It was difficult, so we started to swim, but had to stop each time a wave hit us and filled Small DB’s snorkel. My full face mask had, within a minute of submersion, become the kind of foggy outlook that leads to aeroplanes being grounded. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Once we made it out to where the others were we all snorkelled along together. M with the kayak strapped to his ankle. Yeah, it was pretty. Like a goldfish, I experienced a little shock of surprise each time I sluiced a bit of seawater down the inside of my mask and was granted a few seconds of technicolour before the fog rolled in again. The Smalls also had fogged masks – Small Z’s was so tight that her brain began to leak out of her ears. At one point Small DB and I started getting rolled around by waves – we’d mistakenly swum into the breakers.

I spent most of this time visualising the soup I was going to make when I got back to the boat, and how I would tamp down my acute loathing of snorkelling until such time as we were all engaged in a convivial family game of cards, when I would state very simply and without rancour, that I would not be going snorkelling again. Ever. Just so M would know that my decision was not a knee jerk reaction to being buffeted around by breaking waves over crappy coral and under grey skies with a mask that looks like the inside of a bathroom after a hot shower and no extractor fan.

Eventually we made it to shore. Small DB and M derived great pleasure from being pushed along by the waves. Small Z jumped back in the kayak and began paddling, while I, like a human remora, clung to the back of her vessel, flapping my flippers in a hopeful manner, my thoughts now swinging between soup and a cup of tea.

Once we got ashore, of course, it was the same as our arrival but in reverse and with the helpful addition of pounding rain. I did not paddle back to Foamy, but instead set my sights on Bella Luna, preferring hard work over the logistical kaleidoscope of getting everyone and everything back into the dinghy.

[M will want me to add that the following day he took both Smalls for a astoundingly amazing snorkel in a different spot and they saw turtles, a cod bigger than Small DB and giant clams. Did I go? I did not.]

221/365 • Z on one of the several dead trees becoming driftwood on Lady Musgrave Island •

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