5 Feb, 2015    #33

Dancing With A Cuda

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After school, I often went snorkeling in the Stock Island Channel, less than 50 meters from my front door.  We were a Navy family and lived on the grounds of the US Navy Hospital in Key West.  I never had to cut the grass or help with house maintenance.  All that was done by the Navy; freeing up most of my afternoons.  However, years later, after buying my first home, my home repair skills were limited.  Life works that way!


Anyway, on one particular afternoon, my younger brother George and I were on the Officer’s Pier preparing to snorkel in the crystal clear water.  The pier’s narrow, railed walkway jutted from an opening in the cement seawall onto a small rectangular deck.   As always, we were greeted by several resident angel fish that darted for safety as our steps vibrated the wooden walkway.  Once on the deck, I instinctively scanned the channel’s tidal flow for passing predators.  Satisfied that everything was OK, I climbed down a slippery ladder wearing my brand new iridescent red bathing suit and dipped a test foot below the liquid interface.


Expecting the water temperature to be 80ºF or 27ºC, to my surprise, it was much cooler.  Not willing to take a decisive plunge, I decided to inflict excessive torture upon myself by entering the cold water inch-by-inch.  Once immersed up to my bathing suit, I executed a different tactic by hanging from the ladder with both feet and hands on separate rungs, so that only my dazzling red buttock was bobbing in the water.


This bobbing tactic continued for a while with my younger brother threating to tell everyone what a chicken I was.  Just as my body was beginning to acclimate to the water, I screamed out in blood curdling pain, as if several bumble bees had somehow entered into my bathing suit.  Scrambling up the ladder, I started whirling erratically in a crazy pier dance. Finally, I felt something pulling and swinging from the back of my bathing suit.  My brother broke out in laughter, “Mike, you’ve been bitten by a “cuda” and he is dangling from your ass!”


Sure enough, a 45 cm baby barracuda had viciously attacked my iridescent red bathing suit; sinking a mouthful of painful icepick-like teeth into one of my tender, virgin cheeks.


While wiggling fitfully, we disentangle the scaly creature’s piercing teeth from my suit’s nylon webbing, and tossed him back into the flowing channel.   Back home, mom came to the rescue with mercurochrome, band aids and restrained laughter.


I never again wore that red bathing suit while diving.  One bloody bite was enough! 


Mike Kohut, President, DDMS




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