How I Nearly Died in St. Croix




End of December is not the best time to visit St. Croix. Although warm and beautiful, mighty Eurus shows his colors. The locals referred to them as the “Christmas Winds” which caused the waves to become so treacherous that snorkeling was ill-advised. The problem for us was that there wasn’t much else to do and we yearned to explore the oceanic world.

We hardly got any sleep. Our airbnb host had electrical problems that gave rise to the ring of fire alarms every night. Despite our fatigue we were steadfast in making the most of our day. We drove all over the island looking for a spot with placid waters. We finally decided to go back to our known spot – Isaac Bay. Since Hurricane Hugo decimated coral and marine life, it has taken years for aquatic environments to recover. Fortunately there were a few spots around the island that have been somewhat restored. Isaac Bay was our primo spot.

The waves were nearly parallel to the beach. For some reason, this did not worry us. The current was robust, but after we got out 100 feet from the beach, we let the current carry us along the beach as we tried our best to avoid running into coral.

All of sudden we realized that the current was taking us far and we were running out of beach. We tried to swim against the current but the waves were tenacious, especially for me. I kept going backwards. Once I realized I was doomed against the current, fear settled in. I had the strongest panic attack I can remember having. I couldn’t breathe. I swallowed water. The snorkel kept filling up. Andy kept trying to help me but he was struggling too. He could have made it back on his own, but trying to keep me from drowning nearly drowned him. He was yelling at me to calm down but I couldn’t. I was choking on water but also crying hysterically. Death seemed imminent and we had so much to live for.

The only way out was over rocks that were covered in sea urchins. If we didn’t go that direction we would have been swept into the vast sea. Each step on those rocks was excruciating. We had to crawl on them and if we even tried to be careful, mighty Poseidon would throw us on the most perilous of urchins.

Each time we landed on them I let out a gut wrenching scream- like a witch. I amassed 40 sea urchin quills in my feet and same amount in my hands. They were deeply embedded so I couldn’t pull them out. To make matters worse, we had to hike more than a mile uphill to our car. With each step, I could feel them going deeper. Once we got to our airbnb, I used my sowing kit and tweezers to operate on my extremities. Andy refused to dig his urchins out with needles and opted for the vinegar bath instead. He is still part urchin part man – a new superpower.

I’m glad to be alive. Life is so fragile. I need to be grateful for every moment.

Lessons learned:

1. Don’t go to the Virgin Islands around Christmas if you plan to snorkel
2. Always wear foot gear when snorkeling – you never know where you will end up
3. Listen to advice of locals
4. Don’t attempt water sports on 3 hours of sleep
5. Marry a husband that can swim and will save your life

About the author

Lona Sharma-Laughhunn was born on the other side of the world in Assam, India, prior to her relocation to Ohio. Although she grew up as a Buckeye amongst cows and corn, she now resides in the foggy shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, and has seen much of the country in between. During the week, she spends her 9-5 as the PEAK Program Manager for UCSF Health in the heart of San Francisco. During nights and weekends, she leaves the working world behind to paint, practice yoga, hike and travel. Visit her art website and blog at

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