Me, the Stingray & the Squid…

My beloved and I went on a Princess Cruise in January of this year.  We’re avid cruisers, she and I, although we sometimes disagree on activities and where to hang out.  This was our 25th anniversary cruise, long planned, through the Panama Canal, and our first excursion was a “Stingray Encounter, Snorkeling and Lunch on the Beach”.  

Ooookay, I’m in, I love swimming and those cutie-pie little black stingrays at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, are adorable as hell.  They’re the size of small salad plates and they like being petted (“two fingers on their foreheads, please!”)

Um…Cayman stingrays are not salad plates.  The females are the size of armor shields that knights of yore wore on their arms while clutching their swords.  They’re friggin’ HUGE.

And lovely.  They’re quite docile, almost tame, and they know after they’ve been handled they get squid treats so they’re in for playing nice with the tourists…they glide around the sandbar you boat out to stand on and will let themselves be held.  And smooched.  

Yes, there’s a thing about kissing a stingray, and they’re so used to it, if you lean your head towards the front of their body, they lift their edge up to be bussed.  It’s adorable.  Probably seriously wrong, but cute as hell.

So we got to hold them, purse our lips together hard and lean against their flappy edges, feel them glide around us… it was cool.

Then out comes the squid.  For those who are familiar with my escapades with feeding wildlife, you’ll understand why I leapt back into the boat, where Beloved already resided.  She wasn’t kissing no fish.

Yeah.  So, the wildlife thing.  Trafalgar Square.  Me, usual effervescent self.  Beloved:  usual centered, calm self, and my (then) young cousin.  Rain.  November.  I gleefully think, hey, I got the joint to mahself, I’m gonna benevolently feed these sorrowful avian victims of missing tourists.

One purchased cup of birdseed later, all hell breaks loose and we witness Hitchcock’s inspiration for his movie.  This furious, hungry flying rats descended on my head with the anger of a boatload of grannies whose dining room opened ten minutes late.  Holy crap.  I screamed, threw the cup as hard as I could and ran for cover.

The other feeding experience was sadly similar, involving Hanauma Bay in Hawaii and me thinking that fish would somehow politely line up for fish food rather than swirling madly around my vulnerable being, nearly nekkid, clad only in a one-piece.  Oh, hell, no.  I coulda qualified for the National League with that throw.  Those fish took off and I was outta the water like a rocket.

So, back in the boat, I was watching the other holiday makers happily feeding squid to the lovely, grateful stingrays as they gracefully glided by.

Goodbye, common sense.  Hello, squiddy bits.  I weirdly morphed into a three-year-old as I zoomed to the back of the boat, pitched my pudgy self into the ocean and heaved toward the bucket-o-squishiness.

“Okay,” cautioned the boat captain, “remember to hold it sticking out of your closed fist to offer it to them and DON’T rub it on any other part of you since they eat by smell.”

“Yupyupyup!”  Three year old me shoves paw into bucket, retrieves squiddybit and gleefully feeds one of the two foot wide stealth bombers gliding past, after which I giggle manically.

Paw back in bucket, repeat process.

“Oooh!”  says another three year old adult.  “A fish just stole my stingray’s squid!”

General outrage from the toddler room standing around.  No stupid fish is getting OUR stingrays’ squiddybits.

I took another bit, placed it strategically in my fist and angled it towards a ray, to make sure no damn poisson would grab it first.  Unfortunately, this particular critter apparently had an impaired honker.

Damn, those things can BITE.    She let go as soon as she realized I wasn’t squid, and immediately grabbed the real stuff and took off.  However, I was left with two bleeding puncture wounds and a two-inch bruise on my wrist.

Fortunately, not painful.  More like a hickey.  Great.  Made for a good way to garner sympathy during the rest of the trip as it bruised up impressively.

The females (like this one) are huge.  The males are smaller.
Stingrays can BITE.  Weirdly not painful, and I was the only person who got chomped on.  No infection, healed cleanly.  Would I do this again?  Oh hell yes!

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