I'm sure many of you have heard of the Bahama shuffle: the way you are supposed to drag your feet along the sandy bottom when entering the ocean in the tropics. It's meant to help alert stingrays to your presence, and keep you from accidentally stepping on them or their stingers.
When I lived in Florida, I employed the Bahama shuffle every time I went to the beach. The sandy-ness of the sea floor at the gulf beaches meant a strong possibility of stepping on a stingray. Since moving to the BVI, though, I've become a little lax in my shuffling. After snorkeling Brewer's Bay five or six times and never seeing a stingray, I figured I was pretty safe from barbs when bathing there.
All that changed on Friday. HB and I spent about half an hour snorkeling our usual spot right in the center of Brewer's Bay, before I decided I wanted to check out the reef up against the cliffs on the west side of the bay. A wide expanse of sandy bottom lies between the reef in the center and the reef to the west.
As we swam over the sand, accompanied by another fishy guide, we saw the biggest stingray I've ever seen. I think it was about five feet from wingtip to wingtip, although HB claims it was closer to four, and its stinger added easily five or six feet to its length. We watched it glide along the sand for about ten minutes, at times only able to distinguish it by the white underside of its slightly-upturned wings.
Although I doubt we'd encounter such a behemoth in the shallower water near the beach, I will be sure to practice the most vigorous Bahama shuffle when bathing in the ocean in the future.