Tragedy in Paradise
27 November 2011 | Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada
A couple of weekends ago we went on an island excursion with a group of cruisers. The plan for the day was to first go to the Seven Sisters waterfalls, then go to a place where we would be tubing down a river and then go out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. To get to the Seven Sisters waterfalls you have to hike into the bottom of the falls. At the beginning of the hike the guide gives each person a walking stick based on their height. A stick that comes to just above your waist being described as the best. The hike to the base of the falls is over a path that is muddy, sometimes steep and rock strewn. At times you are climbing over rocks with your muddy (read slippery) shoes. And other times you are descending a steep muddy path with rocks, tree branches and roots on either side of you. The rocks, roots and branches become your friends as they act as hand holds. Needless to say the hike is physically demanding for folks not use walking in this kind of terrain. And don't wear shoes that you can't do without because the mud is thick and sticky. So sticky that sometimes a had to pull significantly to withdraw my walking stick from it. To make the mud worse we got hit by a rain squall just before making it to the base of the falls. Once at the base of the falls the view of them is very nice. We were chilled after the rain and the overcast conditions of the day. So going in the cooling water of the falls was not an attrachtion to Pam and I so we just watched the other cruisers. The base fall is the biggest one of the group at a height of thiry five feet. It is quite a site. But viewing the falls is not the only draw for this excursion. If you chose you can hike to the top of the falls and jump down each of six falls finishing by jumping off the thirty five footer. Prior to doing this we had heard of several people that had been injured doing the jumps. So, Pam and I had decided that we would do the hike but not the jump. Pam primarily due to her fear of heights and me because I had heard of people getting back injuries and my back gives me problems from time to time so I decided to forego the jumping. Also, we hope to make a passage from Grenada to the US Virgin Islands early in December and neither one of us want to do an offshore passage with an injured anything. Irregardless of the stories some of the cruisers decided to do the jumps. As they hiked up to the top with the guide we waited at the bottom getting rained on by another squall in the process. Then they appeared at the top of the thirty five footer to the cheers of all of us. So cameras at the ready we prepared to try to catch them in the act of jumping. Sure glad Pam had the waterproof box on her camera as it was still raining on and off. As each person jumped a cheer was heard from waiting crowd was they came to the surface of the pool below the falls. Martha, a very nice lady off of the vessel "Lightheart", was one of the last two left at the top. I can only describe Martha and Peter from "Lightheart" as aquaintences of ours but each time we have encountered them they have always seemed to be people that we would like to know better. Anyway, Peter had already successfully jumped and was waiting at the bottom for Martha. I was standing with Ronnie, off of "Compechano", and as we watched Martha's body language we both said, "she shouldn't jump." She had a couple false starts while we could see the guide talking to her. Not sure whether they were words of encouragement or otherwise. Irregardless after several false starts, where we could see her lean forward only to back off, she stepped aside to let the guy behind her go. After he jumped successfully, Martha stepped up to the challenge again. Once again, in my opinion, her body language was all wrong. Then cheers of encouragement came up from the crowd below. At which time I didn't join in the cheer because I didn't think the peer pressure was a good thing to apply at this moment. I thought that the decision to jump or not should have been hers alone with no outside influence. In any case Martha decided to jump. At first is appeared to us that she had made it and a cheer went up from the crowd. However when she came to the surface of the water we were told that she said, "I'm not alright." I say we heard this because were were not within earshot from our viewing position. Making a long story short Martha had to be carried out on a stretcher brought by medical personnel from a hospital's ambulance. Martha was taken to a hospital. As for us we hiked out and waited for them to bring Martha out from the base of the falls. After she was taken away in the ambulance we went left deciding to forego the tubing trip. We did go to dinner though. The day after the incident we heard that x-rays were negative and that she was resting. Then the next day we heard that she was being flown to the States. In subsequent email updates we read that as a result of the jump Martha got a compressed vertibrae. She has had to surgeries on her back since then and is looking at significant rehab time. Our prayers are with Martha and we hope that she and Peter can return to their cruising lifestyle if they chose to do so. God bless you Martha.