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That's What Friends are For Print
Written by Carole Connolly Castle   
Sunday, 01 February 2009 00:00
Carole Castle relaxing with All At Sea

So there I was treading water nose to nose with our 50 something male charter guest who was spitting blood, hyperventilating, and on the verge of panic. This is where all your years of Red Cross lifeguard training, and STCW refreshers kick in.

John and Betty were friends from Fort Lauderdale. They started out as clients from my previous life in Florida as a real estate agent. They bought an expensive waterfront home from me or should I say, they bought a dock for their 55' boat that came with a house? They were avid boaters, youthful and adventurous. This was to be their winter home as they were full time residents of Delaware. I kept in close touch with this couple long after closing the deal. When I escaped from the real estate rat-race and moved to the Virgin Islands they were captivated by the tales of my new life in the Caribbean. I convinced them to take time away from their busy life running two demanding businesses; a fine-dining restaurant and a girly bar to spend a week touring my favorite spots in the BVI's.

We had a free week in between charters and Captain Jack had generously agreed to let my dear friends come for the cost of provisions, water, and fuel. Such a deal they couldn't refuse! They got rush passports, booked airline tickets, made arrangements for their businesses to be covered by trusted family members, and the plans were laid.

Betty and I were famous for solving the problems of the world over a bottle or two of chardonnay. I asked her to bring a couple of bottles with her since I couldn't always find our favorite, La Crema, in the Islands. I was surprised and delighted when she arrived toting a whole case of it. We made a large dent in that case the very first night. As often happens with the excitement of the first night of vacation, we over-did it! I happen to have the well-deserved reputation of having "iron-stomach". I can drink 'till I fall off the bar stool, sleep it off and wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to tackle the day. Betty kept up with me glass for glass and woke up paying the piper big time.  She surfaced, looking green around the gills, crawled to the bow, and asked to be shot on the spot. I fetched a bucket for which she was grateful and put to good use. I kept by her side urging her to sip water, take deep breaths, and focus on the horizon. Jumping in the water has always been a good remedy for me, but she was having none of that.

Time passed, she recovered, and being the trooper that she is decided to get in the water with her hubby who wanted to snorkel. We had anchored at a pretty spot just off Tortola and pointed out the best part of the reef to the couple. Perhaps we should have been clearer about going together as a group. Betty hadn't even gotten her gear on when we heard the splash.  We thought John had just gotten hot and would wait for us in the water by the boat. We didn't think too much of it, since he had told us he was on the swim team in high school. In his mind, he still had the skills of an eighteen year old. In reality, he hadn't been keeping up on his fitness training as became apparent shortly after he entered the water. There was enough current to take him off course from the destination point. When we saw his arms flailing Captain Jack and I looked at each other, nodded and he said: "Let's go! Betty, stay here." Captain Jack, an ex-lifeguard from Huntington Beach, California had his gear on lickety-split and was kicking out to John like he had a motor attached to his fins. I followed and got there after Captain Jack had gotten John under control. He instructed me to stay with him and keep him calm until he got back with the dinghy. I displayed false bravado, told him he was fine and secretly wished they had stayed in Delaware. As he spat blood, I kept a keen watch on his eyes praying that they didn't roll back in his head. He did not go into seizure mode, nor did he start clutching his chest and complaining of sharp pain in his left arm (symptoms of a heart attack) for which I was grateful. Capt. Jack raced up with the dinghy, we maneuvered John into it using the push-pull method – Capt. Jack pulling his arms, me pushing his butt – and got him into the little rubber boat and safely back to the cat. He continued to spit blood for several hours which was a concern but didn't appear to be life threatening; probably just your ordinary stomach ulcer from all the stress of running a girlie bar. Once everybody calmed down, Capt. Jack and I toasted each other on a job well-done. John and Betty finished out the week quietly, thanked us kindly for the trip and decided to check "Sailing in the Caribbean" off their list. The next vacation would be touring the museums of Europe!

The moral of the story is: Stay current on your emergency training!


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