Snorkel Save by
(7 Stories)

Prompted By Close Calls

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In 2006, while on a sailboat charter vacation in the BVI, my wife’s best friend (since childhood), Bonnie, drowned during a snorkeling expedition. My wife and the friend’s boyfriend performed CPR on her friend for 45 minutes before the local medical authority arrived and declared she was dead. This was obviously an extremely traumatic experience. We learned afterward that if she had been wearing a snorkel vest, she might have not drowned.

Fast forward a few years, and we are on another sailboat charter, once again in the Virgin Islands, USVI this time. We were doing a lot of snorkeling, and as you might suspect we were very rigid about always wearing our snorkel vests, purchased after the accident. We anchored in Leinster Bay on the north shore of St. John and were snorkeling in sunny, calm conditions. There were perhaps a dozen other people doing the same. As we neared the end of our “circuit” around the bay, I noticed a man, about twenty feet away, thrashing around in the water.

I swam over to him and asked if he was OK. He was an older man, and sputtered, “No, I’m too tired to swim.” I assured him I would help him, and quickly inflated my snorkel vest. Then I went close and told him he could grab on to me and the vest would help us float. He did, thankfully not struggling, and I slowly swam him into shallow water where he could stand and then sit on the beach. By this time, his wife had swum over and took charge of him. Without so much as a thank you, off they went.

It’s OK that I didn’t get thanked, partially because my wife and daughter were effusive in their praise for perhaps saving the guy’s life. I’ve thought ever since that at least a little good came out of Bonnie’s death through that snorkel vest.


Profile photo of Joe Worth Joe Worth

Characterizations: moving


  1. Suzy says:

    Wow, what a story! First the tragic death of your wife’s friend Bonnie (didn’t that put you off snorkeling for a while?), and then the close call of the older man whom you rescued. Unbelievable that he and his wife took off without even thanking you! Glad you were okay with it. And I’m also glad to learn about snorkel vests. Welcome to Retrospect!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Well, you certainly did your good deed. Too bad the elder man and his wife didn’t have the good manners to thank you! You did learn a valuable lesson from Bonnie’s tragedy and put that lesson to good use. At least your family recognized the contribution you made and you can feel good about yourself, knowing what a hero you were that day.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    So sorry to read about your friend’s death. You are right that the only good to come of it was saving another person’s life, which is huge. I’m so sorry you were not properly thanked. Maybe they were in shock? But I belatedly thank you and welcome you to Retrospect.

  4. What a very traumatic experience, and glad you it taught you to be better prepared. and did not scare you off the sport – and you saved a life to boot!

  5. Marian says:

    You did a great thing, jworth, even if you didn’t get thanked. I’ve snorkeled for years, but it’s only in the last five or so that I’ve worn vests. The first time I was skeptical, but later when I got fatigued I really appreciated the safety. Glad this was a good outcome but so sorry about your wife’s friend. Welcome to Retrospect!

  6. Well, WE know you’re a hero, not only for perhaps saving someone’s life but definitely for spreading the word about snorkel vests! Not that I’m about to go snorkeling (sigh!), but if I heard that, say, my granddaughter was going snorkeling, I’d be sure to share your story, and she might share it, and so on. I am truly sorry that such a traumatic event brought you here, but welcome to Retrospect nevertheless.

  7. John Shutkin says:

    What a story, Joe! I know no good deed goes unpunished, but does it also go unthanked? I really wonder what the guy’s story was. Maybe he was in shock or just didn’t want to admit — especially in front of his wife — that he had had to be saved.

    In any event, good on you for your good deed. And I assume you would do the same thing again, even if wondering if there would be a thank you at the end of it.

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