The Miss Ellie was too small to be an off shore long line boat but that's what we were doing. We were about 70 miles offshore of the panhandle, heading southwest towards the Louisiana coast. Suddenly, we had company.
A pod of spotted dolphins started playing around in the bow wave. I went forward and laid down on the deck. I hooked my ankles under the bow bollard and hung my upper body down over the bow. The captain started jumping up and down like an organ grinder's monkey calling me a lunatic dumb ass son of a bitch. He seemed to think I would end up as chum in the wake.
I didn't care. I stretched out my hand as close as I could to the bow wave. I couldn't quite touch the water but the dolphins started breaking the surface and rising close enough that I could lay my hand on their backs. They were taking turns. One would rise up and hold him or herself high out of the water and blow.
The spray was hitting me in the face and I was laughing like a lunatic dumb ass son of a bitch. Immediately after the blow I could hear the sound of them taking a big breath in and the hole would pucker closed. I'll never forget the meaty smell and the feel of the muscles squirming under the dark, mottled skin of their backs.
As one fell back into the water another would dart in and use the wave to rise up where I could touch its squirming back. I got the distinct impression they were vying for my attention.
Where is the snorkeling lesson plans here? Well I'll tell you now.
We don't breathe like the dolphins. When they're on the surface they don't continuously breathe in and out. What they do is blow. They exhale very forcefully. Then they take in a deep, lung filling breath and hold it.
Have you ever thought about doing that while you're snorkeling? It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. How many times have you swallowed water that splashed into your snorkel? How many times have you had to raise your head out of the water and pull the snorkel out of your mouth because it filled with water after you exhaled but before you could inhale.
Here's the technique. It will be a little weird at first but if you stick with it you'll feel very natural soon.
First, you take in a big breath and hold it. Don't force it. It should be bigger than a normal breath but not so big you have to strain to hold it.
Now, place your snorkel in your mouth and put your face in the water. Just float for now.
Don't wait until you're starved for air to take your next breath.
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It's very important to remain relaxed. Take your next breath before you need it.
When you take your next breath first you exhale forcefully then immediately inhale and hold it again. What this does is clear your snorkel if it has flooded and allows you to breathe in through the cleared snorkel.
You're now relaxed and ready to do it all over again. With practice this breathing pattern will become second nature. It saves energy and helps prevent panic triggering water inhalation.