It’s overcast on Roatan today. A weather system blew in during the night. The sunrise unseen covered with grey rolling clouds. In the distance, the usual soothing sound of waves encountering the reef—replaced with the roar of them breaking hard. These are the days I love to walk on the beach. It’s too breezy for the sand-flies to grab on and bite my shins. No need for sun-screen or hat—it would blow away anyhow.
Strolling along with Mona (my dog), she chases crabs, and I comb the shoreline for new found treasures. Pieces of coral, shells and sponge litter the beach, all worthy of being admired. Occasionally I find a starfish or two, too far from the receding tide to return to the sea on their own—I toss them back in the water. Hopeful the rescue will be successful.
I’ve also learned a lesson on what NOT to try to rescue.
During one of my walks, on a day such as this one, I came across a creature I had never encountered before. It was the most unusual thing I had ever seen. A translucent blue…bag, water sloshing inside, with pie-crust crimped edges, and sand encrusted stringy tentacles bunched up underneath.
I nudged it with a stick, and shooed Mona away when she came to take a sniff. I suspected it was some kind of a jelly-fish, but with my limited (zero) knowledge of marine life—I really wasn’t sure. Even if it was something that could sting me, didn’t it deserve to return to the sea? It obviously couldn’t get there on its own.
I tried to pick it up with the stick. This didn’t work. Poor thing just plopped back down on the sand—getting even more coated. The next available rescue tool was my flip-flops. One in each hand, bring them together like salad-tongs ready to toss a salad, I scooped up the creature and flung the blue glob toward the sea. I stood back and watched as the creature bobbed along. Proud of my accomplishment I whistled for Mona, and we continued our walk.
After progressing only a few feet, I felt a strange burning sensation on my arms and legs, red angry welts confirming the locations. I realized my error. When I launched the creature, I was unable to contain all the tentacles with my footwear, a few grazed my arms and legs—I had been stung!
Racing back home, I skirted around the creature. It had washed ashore again, only moments after I had thrown it in the water. While I read-up on what I had tried to rescue, confirming it was a Portuguese Man-of-War, the stinging began to ease.
I told marine-suave friends what I had done, they jokingly suggested that the next time I attempted this kind of thing, I just have to get someone to pee on the stings (supposedly the best remedy). I assured them that wouldn’t be necessary. I learned my lesson—don’t try to rescue a Portuguese man-of-war!
This story was also featured in Honduras Weekly Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War