Note: This post comes to you out of concern and anxiety and not anger. I do not think that anyone involved was an idiot. They just didn’t know or consider the extreme consequences.
I was swimming in the water today when I mentioned offhandedly to my dad that back in the beginning of June when my friends were here, two of them decided to jump off a jetty into the harbor.
He made a gasp so dramatic it sounded fake and said, “THEY DID WHAT?!”
“Yeah,” I said and preceded to tell the whole story.
Everyone else had left to go take a walk on the beach while I was back at the house doing pre-calculus homework on the front porch and humming the Olympic theme song with much gusto and quietly fuming over the injustice of being graded on concepts I had to teach myself from a severely outdated textbook. It didn’t explain how to do the concepts without a graphing calculator which I a) didn’t have and b) was expressly told not to use. The internet wasn’t offering any solutions, and Khan Academy didn’t cover it in any of their videos. So I switched over to singing The Little Drummer Boy à la Dwight Shrute in episode one of The Office and making up answers that mostly looked right.
They had been gone for quite a while, but I wasn’t too worried. Our beach is nestled in between two harbors and runs for about a mile and a half along, and I just assumed that they were walking to one of the harbor jetties and back. No big deal. And they probably stopped to swim in the water at the base of our street. Well, just like all of those calculus problems I was messing up, I was wrong. Really, really, really wrong.
I was staring at the last page of the packet wondering how on earth I was going to be able to write down something that even looked remotely reasonable when I heard voices and looked up. As I heard them pass the porch and turn around the corner of the house to wash the sand off at the spigot in the back I heard, “Yeah, it was really hard to get out of the water.”
“That’s weird,” I thought, “The water’s in the low fifties and it can’t be hotter than seventy right now. I wouldn’t even be able to stay in longer than a few minutes.” So I put down my pencil and walked through the house to the back door. They were all laughing and two of them were sopping wet. “How was it?” I asked.
“It was great! We walked down to the harbor and jumped in!” One of them said.
“Off the harbor’s jetty?”
“Yeah! We had a lot of trouble getting out and there was a boat, but it was really nice!”
“That was very dangerous and incredibly, incredibly stupid,” I said and left before my anxiety got the better of me and things started coming out of my mouth that I didn’t mean.
I am no authority on swimming and boating, but I know safety inside and out. Jumping off jetties–ANY jetty– is on the no-no list. And jumping off the harbor jetty is so dangerous that it’s on the WHAT-ON-EARTH-WERE-YOU-THINKING list.
Let me list just a few of the problems with harbor jetty jumping:
One. Like an iceberg, most of jetty’s mass is underneath it, and when you leap off a rock on the top, you’re quite likely to hit one a few feet under the water. It will probably be sharp, and you could get your foot caught in a crevice. I’ve jumped off a beach jetty and cut my leg. It wasn’t fun. And I can’t imagine how lovely it would be to have a foot stuck in it, especially if it kept your head underwater.
Two. Things live right next to the jetty and in it. Any kid here knows that you can capture all sorts of things just standing on a jetty with a butterfly net, not to mention the things you can catch with a proper net or a fishing rod. I just watched a kid this afternoon capture several large crabs and horseshoe crab off a beach jetty. Those things are mean and will try to harm you. A few years back, I saw what I thought to be an eel. My father has caught loads of fish, and a while back at the harbor jetty he caught a baby shark. It was eighteen inches of fury. (He threw it back.) I don’t know about you but throwing humans in with that mix of aquatic creatures just seems like a fabulously bad idea.
Three. The harbor belongs to boats. The jetty is right along the narrow channel into the harbor and boats get close to the jetty. The people driving them are looking ahead, not down into the water, so it is really unlikely that they will spot swimmers and avoid them. Furthermore, motors on boats create vacuums that can suck you under the boat and then slash you to bits with the rotating blades. Seals die all the time from this, and they’re far stronger swimmers than humans. I really don’t want anyone to get their head chopped off. It’s best to leave that business to the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution.
Four. There are some pretty serious currents right off that jetty in the channel into the harbor, and it is very easy to get caught and drown. I was just reading in the paper today about some people who got caught in one a few miles away at a different beach and had to be rescued. It’s not just something that kills the odd surfer. Drowning or getting caught can happen to anyone.
I could go on, but you get the point. Jumping into the harbor is a tremdously horrible idea.
Though while I know all the problems with this decision, they didn’t. I’ve been spending springs and summers here all my life, and for most of them, this was their first time here. The topic of jetty jumping had never come up, and the likelihood of them jumping off a jetty seemed so miniscule I didn’t mention it. Besides, in my head it was rather obvious.* Most of the dangers are pretty straight forward.
For them, jumping off the jetty probably seemed like a nice way to go swimming. If you want to get wet in the ocean, you have to run in, and when it’s cold like it was, you usually end up stopping after after a few leaping steps. But if you get throughly dunked immediately, your chance of actually swimming is greatly increased. Jumping is over so quickly you don’t have time to chicken out, and your body warms up to the water much faster than when you wade in in stages. So if you don’t know the dangers, jumping seems like a fine plan of action. What they did was an innocent accident.
I only bring this up today because it’s been making me nervous. I really, really, really don’t want anyone to get hurt. I adore my friends; I like them alive and in one piece; and calling their parents to tell them some horrible fate has befallen their child is not my idea of fun. Furthermore, when someone is at my house, I like to make sure they’re safe at all times.
Every time I’ve looked down at the harbor since I’ve thought about it, and how easy it would have been for something horrible to happen. And the whole incident did not help with my mood regulation for the rest of the trip.
*Of course, what’s obvious to me, is not obvious to everyone else, something that I’m reminded of every time I start speaking halfway through a thought or begin a story in the middle.
P.S. I finished this post at three a.m. so I fully apologize for any errors and confusion. I’ll edit it more tomorrow the way I do with all my posts.