Belize’s Turneffe Atoll or Nothing at all

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Now, back to the cruise. Our next port stop is Belize.

An enlargeable map of Belize

Image via Wikipedia

If you have never been to Belize,  it should be one of your Bucket list stops.  But be forewarned. Belize is a beautiful country abundant with culture, beauty  and nature. The diving is some of the greatest in the Yucatan, if not all of South America  the Caribean. Belize City is an unsavory place that is rife with petty crime. Excursions don’t stop in the city.  The port is surrounded by   security fences topped with razor wire. Not entirely welcoming. Visit the zoo, go to the ruins, stay at the resorts, skip down town for the most part.

And of course,  you must check out to the many islands for famous dives. Ambergris cay, caulker cay, the blue hole,

Deutsch: Das Great Blue Hole ist eine kreisrun...

Image via Wikipedia

English: Bird's Eye view of Ambergris Caye - S...

Image via Wikipedia

the list goes on and on. And swim with the sharks- Most of all, Dive Turneffe Atoll, about 15 nautical miles out to sea, the Atoll is an incredible reef. The Atoll, at least as we dove it, is  a misnomer. In the purest sense, an atoll is a barrier reef. An  island made up mostly of coral.  Turneffe Atoll is totally submerged. Not by much,  but it is submerged.

Interesting about the weather in the Yucatan. We all believe that because the Tropics are, well, tropical, when we are on vacation there the weather will be spectacular. As long as that vacation is  not during hurricane season. And that is only occasional risk. The first week of January 2012 was not that way. In North America, a cold front was moving from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast. Guess what?  That front stretched all the through Central America down to the Northern reaches of the South American Continent.  As our ship was pulling into the port of Belize, the front was moving through. Now a midwinter cold front is still not the same as, say, the Yukon, or the Dakotas or even the Texas Panhandle.  It was colder than normal in the Yucatan, but still quite enjoyable. On land, a  muggy overcast rainy summer day. But at sea, another story.

Oh, and did I mention that super cruisers are not allowed to dock in  Belize city. The Reef runs all along the coast with no breaks and is relatively shallow. As such,  there is no allowance for a cruise ship to dock  in a deep water, safe harbor. Ships  weigh anchor 5 miles or so off shore and everyone tenders off the ship. In this case, tendering would be done in 15 foot swells.

7 am arrives, and we head down to breakfast.  During breakfast, an announcement that the tenders will be delayed due to weather  conditions. At 8 am muster in the theater. Announcements start getting made. Beginner Scuba, Snuba, snorkel, all the beach excursions, all the  boating excursions are cancelled. The 2 tank advanced scuba dive to Tenriffe Atoll  is not.  The only water based excursion that is still on is the  advanced dive. This is both a good thing and bad.

=Hugh Parkeys Adventure Lodge

The good is that we still get to dive. The bad is that we have to go to Turneffe Atoll.  The first challenge is to get onto the tender. If you have ever tried to get on a  bobbing tender boat  in high seas, that is severe enough. We have all gotten on and off a dive boat  in 3’ swells- now consider 10’ swells. Add to that trying to navigate your dive gear, as well.  The dive company was first rate- Hugh Parkey Dive Adventures. They have their own tender service boats to pick us up at the ship. The tender they used was a high speed tender and clearly superior the almost any tender I have been on. We have a 45 minute trip to their dive shop on their island and dive shop. Some people have to get rental gear. Everyone has to sign their waiver and have their C cards checked then switch to the dive boat. The dive boat is even nicer than the tender was. This is a deep sea dive rig. Designed to handle rough seas, ….fortunately.  The captain explained that we would leave the dive harbor island. From there, we would head into an open space known as the gut. The Gut was the crossing to the mango islands. This would be the long crossing  of 10 plus nautical miles in 15’ seas. Everyone had to pick a deck and stay there. It would be an 60 minute trip out. The winds were blowing. The skies were pretty forboding, but we were going to dive.

Everyone made it over without any green. When we reached the Atoll the seas calmed down to maybe 3-4 foot swells, but then again we were sitting in maybe 20 to 30 foot waters here. Essentially a submerged island was just below us acting as a wave action breaker.

The first dive was going to be a multi level dive – down to 25’ and then down the reef wall to about 90.  After yesterday, I decided that I was diving heavy. Reduced my weights by 2 lbs.   After Cozumel, the difference here is substantial  under the boats is  just as I mentioned, a submerged island- first 15 minutes we were on the “island” which was an edge filled with sand and a lot of small fish. There were a lot of small canyons leading off to the edge. We slowly worked our way across this table area towards the edge. We dropped down the bank to 90 feet. The island was similar to a table mesa. Unlike the wall in Cozumel that dropped off for hundreds of feet, this went down about 180 and leveled off. We saw some spectacular sealife as we swam around the wall.  A Grouper swam by that was probably tipping in around 40-50 pounds. A  lobster came to visit that looked about 8 to 10 lbs. And  a Morey eel, who apparently is known locally as Maury. Maury decided to come out and greet us. And come out. And come out. And come out. Easily Maury is 10 feet long and apparently not of even temper. I never knew I could swim backwards so fast. As quick as she swam out, Maury was back in her  reef caves, just a face full of teeth staring evilly out of the rock.

Breathing was much better today, about 35 minutes on the first dive.

-www.aggressor.com

The second location was about 10 minutes away on the other side of the atoll. It was shallower here. The same depths on the top, but the island wall only went down to about 110 feet. We were going to dive to 60.  As we approached the  site, off in the not great distance was one of the Aggressor Fleet Liveaboards- that is another bucket list item.

The dive was remarkably similar to the first, but there were massive amount of Lionfish here. Lionfish are beautiful  to look at and delicious to eat and the only fish that are open season all the time in the MesoAmerican reef for spear fishing. Lion Fish don’t belong here. They are Pacific Native fish that accidentally were introduced to the caribbean. These little beasts are devouring the shrimp, scallops and plankton and other small fish that the coral are dependant on. This is severely damaging the  reef. The other problem with Lion fish is that the breed like rabbits. With no natural predators, we are their only counter agent. So, if you ever see Lionfish on the menu for dinner, enjoy heartily, with some conch sauce..

The trip back to the ship was no less eventful. We were now in the wind and the against the tides. The swells were easily over 20 feet.  By  the time the return ride through the Gut was over, we had several green gills on the boat, none of which belonged to fish.  The one significant negative that I could say about the dive shop was they did not have any  shirts that were for  “adults”.

Men of Valor- Diving in Canvas and Metal

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Unabashed Prelude Commercial to Save the world

Eco-Sushi- I love sushi- I admit it. I have been eating it for years. The last few years my metabolism has forced me to give up sushi due to a bad reaction.  Even if I didn’t have to give up  sushi for reasons of dietary pain, I would have to consider giving a much of it up.Why you might ask? Because of Eco-friendly considerations. Some fish  that are used for sushi are  coming from fishing grounds that are so badly contaminated, that they are down right poisonous. Other fish have been so badly depleted  that they are barely sustainable as a species.

Don’t get me wrong, if you love sushi, you should enjoy it, but you should eat it with intelligence. The Environmental Defense Fund publishes a  .pdf  Document that is formatted both for your pc or your smart phone

Educate yourself about sushi you eat.  When in doubt,  ask your sushi chef about the origination  of the fish he/she is using to make your sushi. Forewarned is forearmed to protect you and our environment

Complete Sushi Eco-Ratings List from the EDF

Now back to my story. This post is another interlude  in my story of diving with this posting.  I decided to drop in to the Neutral Bouyancy Dive Club meeting last week. NB is a dive club affiliated with NorthShore Aquatics, a LDS in Northport, NY run by Mike and Joe. Haven’t met Joe yet, but Mike is a likeable  guy, and  they run a tight dive shop. Their Dive Master (or Mistress) is Lisa Morreales who also runs the Dive Club events. I have not gone on one of her dives yet, but I am sure she runs  solid dives,  as well.

Anyway, last week’s meeting was all about technical diving. But not technical/military like you and I think about. This was about historical diving. Diving in a couple hundred pounds of canvas and rubber and metal tethered to the surface for air. If you have ever seen the movie Men Of Honor  (starring Cuba Gooding Junior and Rober DeNiro), that’s what we are talking about here. Life and Times of Master Chief Billy Sunday and Diver Carl Brashear

English: Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brash...
Men of Honor

The guys from the Historical Diving Society brought in  a Mark V diving apparatus.

O'ahu - Honolulu - Pearl Harbor: USS Bowfin Su...

The Mark V was state of art for the US Navy from the late 40s to the early 70s. In reality this Diving helmet was designed before 1800 and first started being tested by the Navy department as early as 1916. If a ship needed  a propeller repaired, a hull plate needed electric welding in the water, or a deep water salvage operation had to be done, these were the guys for the job.  If Seal Team Six are the super soldiers, then these Diver Dans are the Marine Corp of Civil Engineers Extraordinaire.

Dive Master Lisa was the guinea pig or rather, dress up dolly for the evening.  Our two visitors from the HDS,  Bob Rusnak and Jerry Takasc were going to be her dive team. They were going to dress her down in the gear. Bob was one of the last Navy Diver Classes train on the Mark V in the early 70s.

To give you and idea of the scope of one of these rigs – just the boots weighed in at 30+ pounds a pair. The weight belt weighs in at a tidy 80 pound for the light version- complete we are topping the scales at over 200 pounds dry weight. While this was considered a dry diving environment, it was anything but dry. The suits leaked. It took 3 people to get a diver suited up, and from beginning to end, they had 5 minutes to readytheir diver  to  enter the water.

Suiting up Lisa took about 20 minutes. By the time they dropped  the diving helmet on her head, it had become  patently obvious that there had to be complete confidence and reliance between these divers and their dive crew. There was no such thing as getting out of that suit without the assistance of the dive crew. You were bolted and secured fully into the rig. When the maskplate  was closed you were entirely dependant on  the umbilical cord that would supply air from the surface. There is no pretense here. This is work, diving in the  Mark V rig. Very dangerous Work.

The Rig that Lisa was fitted into was a fully working dive rig. And truly vintage. The Helmet was manufactured in Brooklyn, in 1943. In one year that will be 70 years old.  And while this is not yet used for commercial or naval service,  this is still a working dive rig.  This suit and helmut have not retired. Just 2 years ago  Bill Pfeiffer of  Long Island Divers Association was  dressed down in this Mark V rig. Bill then dove  the south shore of  Long Island in  this rig for a film that was presented at Beneath the  Seas Diving Expo at the Meadowlands in NJ, 2010. The film can be found on  YouTube if you want to check it out.

If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating subject of Vintage Diving check out the Historical Diving Society website (www.hds.org).  If you happen to be in the florida keys, on Islamorada Key,  stop in at the  History of Diving Museum

82990 Overseas Highway  Islamorada, FL 33036-3600
(305) 664-9737

They have the largest collection of Vintage diving through modern diving systems in the world and is worth a couple of hours. your kids will love it!

Drift Diving the other San Francisco and San Clemente

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Cruising to the Drift

Remember the rules of EcoCitizenship- when in Tropics (or anywhere near a living body of water)
Always Protect the Reef
If you are traveling to on Vacation everyone needs to protect our ocean environments:
 Don’t buy coral souvenirs.
● Support marine protected areas.
● Don’t order turtle, shark fin or other restaurant dishes made from threatened wildlife.
● Avoid “live-fish” restaurants where the fish may have been captured using cyanide.
If are diving/snorkeling or doing any water based sport on, or near the reef

:
● Maintain control of fins, gauges and other  dive equipment so they do not bump against the reef.
●  You should practice diving in a swimming pool or sandy area before diving near reefs.
● Get trained by experts so that you can understand and enjoy your dives more.
●  You should aways adhere to the marine park rules.
● Educate others not aware of the marine park rules when the opportunity arises.

Cruising to the Drift

So, while I am sure some cruise lines have excellent itineraries for diving, Carnival happens to have a Great one. The Carnival Liberty sails out of the Port of Miami for a 7 day cruise that stops in Cozumel, Belize, Roaton, and Cayman.

The Carnival Liberty, in port at St. Thomas on...

Image via Wikipedia

If you have previous cruising experience, before your say, “but Carnival?” Carnival has vastly improved through the years and is

now in my estimation a family friendly venue, not just a floating party resort, especially if you are on a ship that has gone through FunShip 2.0 upgrade.

Enough of that. First and foremost, while we were planning on diving on this cruise, most people on the  cruise ship don’t even think about advanced diving as an option. I would never go scuba diving on my own off a ship with only one day in port. If anything happens with returning to the cruise  ship, you get to watch it sail away. It’s one thing being on a private excursion on the land; it’s a whole different situation being on a dive boat 20 miles out to sea.

So our first dive excursion was in Cozumel. I have never dived in Cozumel before.

Français : Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997), ...

Everyone has told me that this is the diving capital of the world, made famous by Jacques Yves Cousteau. If Cousteau considered this the ultimate driving site in the world, who am I to disagree.

There were 18 of us on the dive boat. We were meeting the dive company on the Pier – BTW, it is a LONG HIKE the length of a pier that can accommodate 2 cruise ships each the length of 3 football field when you are carrying your gear bag. so after working our way through inevitable Duty Free Port Store

Cozumel Island, Mexico - May 1996

run by Dunfreys- we are met by the dive excursion operator in the pier plaza Sand Dollar Sports. After everyone was gathered together, there is always someone on a cruise excursion who shows up at the meeting place 30 minutes late. We are required to hike out another pier to the dive boat the Sanddollar Express. The Express is a fully outfitted dive boat with tank racks for 60 tanks. Considering they limit to 18 plus the 3 dive masters. This is pretty well set up – We are doing two dives the first on the San Francisco reef and the second on San Clemente Reef. Both of these reef areas are part of the National Underwater Preserve encompassing Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel), which covers a small part of the Meso American Reef System, only about 29,000 acres of the reef system that stretches for 175 miles. The Mesoamerican Reef system is the second largest Reef system in the world

Sand Dollar Express

Our first dive site, San Francisco Reef,  is my first Caribbean dive in more years than I care to remember. I am diving with equipment that is all pretty new to me.  I was anxiously awaiting this dive. I am both excited  and nervous, at the same time. How am I going to do? I haven’t done a drift dive for 30 years…..
Our dive group is John and me, Julie and Dave, and Adrian and his daughter. we are the first group in with our dive master Jose.- First dive is down to 80” and drift the reef,  then circle back to the boat with a 3 minute safety stop at 15’. I still hadn’t gotten used to the abbreviated deco stops for most recreational diving – a major change from when I was first certified.

The dive was amazing- the reef astounding. But I needed to learn how to breathe better and not depend on the BCD it’s not an elevator. Unfortunately, my down time was all too short for that first dive, no more than 20 minutes.

After everyone was back on the boat, we relocated to the San Clemente Reef. San Clemente is a little different from San Francisco. First the reef. San Clemente starts as canyons near the shore. We follow a canyon to where it abruptly drops down into the reef itself. A second dive is on a relatively quick turnaround. We are not going as deep. 60’ down the reef face and then drift along the reef face. This  second drift is even more remarkable than the first. I managed this second dive more skillfully  than the first- down time of 35 minutes before I have to start my safety stop.


During the two dives,  we saw some of the most spectacular and colorful sealife I have ever encountered. I will be back to Cozumel to dive again.

6 hours later back to the Pier. It’s remarkable how much heavier that  dive gear gets and how much further it is to lug it back to the ship!

(Julie and Dave- thank you for the pictures)

There is no Off the Rack Wet Suits for Big & Tall Men Sizes

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There are no Big and Tall Men’s Shops for Wet Suits.   This was a hard lesson to learn over the summer.  I am a big man, not tall big. Currently overweight. Yes Dr.Bergman, I am working hard on changing the overweight part. But when I was 20 years old, I was still a big man.  What was once called Barrel-chested.  When I had a 36 inch waist, it was a pretty good physique. Add to that a front close wet suit with heavy zipper or industrial grade Velcro. Guess what, fit is not so much of a problem. Now let’s add 30 years and 50lbs. Also, changes in market concepts.  The companies that used to make the suits were almost all mom and pop operations and you could just call in and get a suit in the size you need. Colors, sure any color you want, just as long as it was black. (Apologies to Henry Ford) Now the “best suits” are from multinational companies, who don’t really want to talk to their potential consumers. No correct that, can’t afford to talk to their potential consumer until they have already bought the product. Otherwise, go to one of their resellers. XS, S, M, L XL XXL. Those are the universal sizes. Now a XXL should fit my waist and shoulders, but here’s the catch- I should be 6’1 to 6’ 5 for this suit.  The Large suit for most actually fits me for the waist and height but can you image trying to squeeze 36” wide shoulders into a suit meant for 30” shoulders? The sardines all get squished together. A couple of companies made a suit that I could fit, but none were to be had. Among them were Pinnacle with their King 2XL sizes.   Over the summer, I had two dives on long island- one a beach dive and one a boat dive. Both were meant as workout dives to get acclimated to diving again open water. Open Water Dive was off Oak Beach, Long Island, NY.

U.S. Census 2000 reference map for Gilgo-Oak B...

Fresh water springs off a jetty beach on the ocean. I thought it  an easy dive. Jeff at QCScuba was great.We went through every Bare Suit he had in stock till we found one that I could squeeze my shoulders in(the XL).  So we gave it a try. The weights were lead blocks on a belt. This would ultimately,  be my Waterloo, i would find out.   I was meeting John at the beach. It was a cool day.  Climb down to the beach. Suit up. Everything was fine Until I belted up. As long as I can remember, I have been told by my wife and tailors I have no waist- not a problem, except if you want to wear a weight belt with 30 lbs on it. Without a waist, weights want to do what gravity tells them to, fall to the ground.

A bag weight belt and a traditional weight belt

So, I had to put the belt on after getting chest deep in the water.   With help this is not a problem, but it doesn’t feel right. When I got out to the dive flag, without any warning, down goes the belt, taking one of my fins with it. So now, not only am I out a weight belt, I am out a fin. Fortunately another diver is able to recover the fin. The weight belt is gone. The dive day though, is a bust.

2 weeks later, a wreck dive on a boat out of Tamaqua Marina in Sheep head Bay with QC crew. Early august in NY is promising to be a warm day. Same suit, 7 mil thick.  I solved the weight problem by switching to a weight harness instead.  By about 9:30 we were on the dive site. Everyone was getting suited up. And the day was heating up. John was diving with his new rebreather. Discovery MK VI

Only problem was his computer would not set up properly. The day was heating up. And 20 minutes after suiting up so was I. John was finally ready. But I was heading for trouble. I was severely overheated.  Now everyone went in the water, heading for the line marker at the front of the boat. The 5 to 10 minutes or so from off the boat to the marker was all it took. I went from severely overheated due to an extremely hot day, wearing a poorly fitting suit, into the always cool North Atlantic Waters. Bam! That was it for me. I pulled myself off the dive, I was stressing out before I got under the water. This was not working out well for me.  We needed a new solution.   So, after an abysmal experience, Jeff, John and I sat down to discuss the options. One was a semi- custom suit from one of the Major Suit manufacturers such as Bare or Henderson.

Thermoprene™ Men’s Jumpsuit (Back Zip)

Essentially the mix and match the “right” size parts and put them together. I was not in love with the idea. The alternative was a custom suit manufacturer like Wet Wear. WetWear is a small custom shop that has been in business longer than most of the big boys. WetWear has great design features and everything is truly custom tailoring. And you don’t deal with a sales person; you talk to Connie, who runs this family business.   The suit I got is 3 mil compressed cell, neoprene semi dry with wrist, ankle and neck gaskets. Zippers from wrist to elbow and ankle to thigh and a back zipper that is like a dry suit  but in back – diagonal hip to opposite shoulder makes it easy on and off. When all was said and done, the WetWear Custom suit ran only about 10-15% more expensive then off the rack. So by pay what amounted to about $75 and giving up spontaneous gratification ( took total of about 2-1/2 weeks to get the suit done).

I dove with it already 3 days in a quarry and have decided that I will probably need to add a Shorty jacket for cold water, but other than that I am one happy camper- THANK YOU CONNIE!!! (next- my reef dives)

A Diving Time Capsule- Flux Capacitation without a DeLoreon

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So, I dug up some photos I took 1976 when I first learned to dive, there were a lot more than these three, but ironically the prints suffered from extensive and unrecoverable water damage. Several reasons why I want to post them here. first I like them. but more than that, they are a study of the state of the technology when I learned how to dive. to wit

So, in ’76, I was a Radio, Television and Film Major. It made natural sense to me to do an underwater photo shoot. The Radio Television and Film Department owned a Single Ikelite housing with a light and a camera. I am pretty sure it was  Canon AE-1. One of the Gaffers in the Theater department had fabricated a waterproof,  weight balanced  tripod, so the camera could be bottom anchored and  used for underwater “still life”.  This nifty rig was put together for a professor in the Journalism Department, which was part of RTF. He had gotten a grant to do an underwater text-book of some sort. But by time the $5000.00 was spent to get everything ready, he got offered a better paying job somewhere in California.

How did I know all this administrative gossip, you might ask? well, I was good friends with Jane, who was the  Photo Lab Manager. I got her into our Frat parties, she let me use the dark rooms when it wasn’t my class time. Jane also has custodianship of this camera rig.  So thanks to Dear Sweet Jane, I knew it existed. (BTW,Jane, the recipe for jungle juice punch was  50/50 Grain Alcohol and Hawaiian Punch.)

So after convincing Dr Lynch in the Health and Physical Education Department he should let me use the pool, and convincing the Dean of  School of Communications and Theater/RTF  that he should let me use this equipment  that no one  even knew they had, let alone how it meant to be really used, I got the okay.

this picture is not upside down. I am. the camera is sitting on a tripod on the bottom of the pool being operated by my fellow Scuba Enthusiast and  Frat Brother Ace Harris. Where ever you are Ace, I hope you got your pilot wings and are  flying high.

some interesting things to note, besides my ridiculously long hair. single hose line, no octo, no gauges, no secondary. If you take a good look at the BCD it’s not really more than airline type emergency flotation device. If I remember correctly, you inflated it by blowing into the tube on the jacket. Where is the flight attendant to give me instructions?

here is where it starts to get interesting look at everyone standing around the barrel.  notice the wetsuits we are  all wearing? (that’s the relative “we” . none of those  “cool” looking guys are me) Notice in particular the blond and hirsute gentleman (another frat brother  Iranian Jew Ex-Patriot Shararam Banayam. Say that name when you are under the influence of jungle juice described above).  The suits are all 2 piece and have no zippers. that’s right. no zippers. Industrial Grade Velcro closures. also every single suit has a front zipper. how often do you see a front zipper on a wet suit today, not very often in my experience.  What the pictures don’t show but my memory recalls, these suits were not made from Neoprene, but rather from a rubber material. We were able to dive this quarry in what was a 3 mil suit in Late  November. No problems. This was in a fresh water quarry in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I have tried to  figure out which one it is, but so far, no luck. maybe one day.

A short digression- my family

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English: SCUBA diving Español: Buceo SCUBA

With my daughter home for a long weekend from the west coast, I thought I would digress here. Surprisingly, my wife and daughter both reacted differently to my decision to take up the sport of recreational scuba diving again at this point in my life.

The first is consideration of why. When I was in college and thought I was almost super human (in spite of a broken spine, by the way). I was a jock. at that point I had been a  foil fencer, a shot putter, a weight lifter, a martial artist a 10K racer and a scuba diver along with a few other sports. (Notice none of these are team sports. I didn’t like team efforts)  Anyway in college, after the back thing martial arts was over. I loved martial arts. I was top seated in Shotokan Karate. But I was never going to compete again. Also, I was done with almost all the rest. Except Scuba and road racing. And the road racing probably wasn’t all that great for me either.

Regardless, for a time everything extracurricular was on hold. College ended. I had a career to start, which very quickly became my first business.  Not too many years later, I met, and then married my wonderful wife. And then our daughter was born.   Scuba drifted slowly into the background. My wife never really knew how much I loved to dive. My daughter never even knew I dove.

But now it’s my time.  I decided to take the plunge. With John’s help and encouragement I was going to do it again. My wife’s reaction? Is it safe? How much Life Insurance do we have on me? Do I know what I am doing? Is john going to make sure I know what I am doing? How much insurance we have on me?

When we got past that. My wife was good. As long as I was going to go through certification again with John over the summer she was good with it. Matter of fact, the cruise sounded like a good deal to her.

Now, my 22-year-old is another story. My investment in our daughter included teaching her fearlessness and  thrill seeking, without being stupid.  Roller Coaster parks were high on our agenda.  She group up with skate boarding and razor board. And anything else she wanted to try.

When I told her I was going to try diving again, the reaction was, “Why?” followed by “that’s silly. Get over it”.

“Baby, this is something I am doing for me. I love diving”.

With that, she asked mom how much life insurance we had on me. A few weeks later.  I was doing my pool skills work. I had a great time. When I spoke with her after that, her first comment was “are you done with this diving thing, now?”

“No, baby, I really want to do this. Diving is great”

Her discussion to mom was, “is daddy crazy?’

A few weeks later, I did a beach dive that did that did not go so great more about that later.

When she heard about that, she immediately asked, “So have you gotten this diving thing out of your system now?”

Just a few weeks ago, when I suggested a piece of dive equipment to her as a holiday gift to me, she informed me that she didn’t think she wanted to support this diving thing.

Baby, I love you, but I am diving because it is fun and special and something I really want to do.  Please support it – maybe someday you will learn to dive and go with me as well.

Research and Buy, and buy, and buy….

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The first thing I have learned is that the cost of entry for owning your own Dive equipment i.e. – equipment that you can trust at 80 feet  to safely get you to back to the surface – is not a small number. You can buy cheap or you can buy safe, but you can’t buy both. And the choices have grown exponentially.  Back in the day there were maybe a dozen or so masks to choose from, and if I remember correctly, the standard-bearer was US Diver. If you needed a prescription glass face, you went to an optometrist to get it cut and fitted to the mask and hope the lab understood the requirements for gasketing seals. Today. Get your prescription and for any of the better mask manufacturers, send it back to them with a credit card and your mask and they take care of it. Fins have become feats (no put intended) of engineering and must include consideration of diving conditions and type of booties, as they have co-dependency.

So with research and consultation I made some decisions for my mask and snorkel I went with Atomic Aquatics.  For the Mask I chose the Atomic Sub-Frame Arc Mask. The first decision factor for the choice was the fit. The moment I put it on my face it formed a good tight seal without feeling like my face was being squeezed in. For me this is really important factor at a size 7 5/8 head size (no fat head jokes please!). The fit is everything.

Atomic Aquatics Sub Frame Arc Mask

Atomic Aquatics Sub Frame Arc Mask

The next decision was on the glass type.The Frame Arc is a very low prismatic ratio a lot less loss of color transmission – again a consideration if you are colorblind. Of all the great positives they talk about on the site about clarity and reduced ghosting, if you have red/green issues, the last thing you want is to add the extra confusion of looking through green float glass in many masks.

As per the snorkel. Well, I just liked the Atomic mask snorkel that was paired with it

Atomic Aquatics Sub Frame Arc Mask Atomic SV1 Snorkel

Atomic SV1 Snorkel

The truth is told, for me a snorkel is like a withered limb. I know it is there. I don’t like skin diving. I like scuba diving. I don’t see a snorkel saving my life. I never did. I probably never will. But I will keep attaching it to my BCD and letting hang there. Every now and then, when I am bored. I will practice my snorkel techniques and try not to swallow the ocean.

Now we come to fins. I thought my head would explode when I started learning about new fin design. Back when the choices were ankle strap or, for the latest in technology, boot integrated, which really wasn’t a boot but was a heel cup

So here is how I went I again selected Atomic- I did not go brand centric – just these 3 items. I am a big guy. I admit it.  Moving big body mass through the water is work. Traditional fixed fins are oars, lots of propulsion surface to drive with a mechanical engine. In this case leg muscle. For me leg muscle is not an issue really, ask my wife, I have great legs. But fatigue is fatigue. I opted for split fins. Split fins use propeller technology applied physics two attached surfaces moving together through a medium will move to complement each other. Lift and propulsion. Less drag, less fatigue.

These fins have a great design. The downside is that they use a spring-loaded ankle strap, which is also a good thing.  The downside, I had to buy good booties. The upside. Not likely to lose a fin when they are fitted properly (hey Jeff – Hint, Hint- story for another day) more about the boots in my next post.

What to buy- or everything old is old

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So now it was time to begin. Clearly none of my old equipment was of any value any longer. So I have to start at the beginning. Last May John and I decided that I would do my pool skills again. We can get into Queens College pool on one of their class nights.

So my first trip to a dive shop in 30 years is culture shock. Everything, and I mean, everything, has changed.  Dive computers, didn’t exist for diving in ’78. Wetsuits was rubber not neoprene.  Each gauge was on a separate hose, analog console were just beginning to appear. A new diver recently out of college, that wasn’t even on the table.

John’s affiliation is with QCScuba, in Wantagh, NY. QC is a great shop. Jeff Hirschman, who runs the shop, treats it as much like a club as he does a business. You might come in to get something, but you probably end up hanging around shooting the breeze for an hour or 2.

So, now to make some immediate decisions. What should I buy, and what should I initially plan on renting to dive. It all seemed simple enough. Dive Mask. Fins, Boots, snorkel. Those are on the buy first list. Regulator, BCD (Buoyancy Compensation Device), Wet Suit, and tanks are rentals. Dive Computer isn’t even on the table I don’t know what it does yet. Completely overwhelming. Time to make a decision.

 

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How it all began- all over

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Six months ago John, a friend from cruising says, “Helen and I are going on a cruise New Years Eve  that has great dive sites, why don’t you and Donna come with us?”.

“But John, I haven’t been diving since before I getting married. I don’t even know if I know how any more.” I replied.

His answer was simple. He is a PADI  (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) instructor. we had all summer for him to get me recertified.

When I discussed it with Donna, it took about 15 minutes to say sure. Helen doesn’t dive. So the two of them can find stuff to do.  And our other friend from cruising and her new beau, are thinking about going on the cruise as well.

I had learned quickly that Certification was for life. So my open water certification was still valid. only i know longer had a dive card and YMCA SCUBA was recently disbanded. My first mission would be to figure out how to handle that with only my dive certificate and no ID card.

After some research, I found another Dive organization, SDI (Scuba Dive International) has taken over managing  the former YMCA certification.  so the mission was to get in touch with them.  Of course. 38 years ago, record keeping was not digital. the transfer of records from the YMCA SCUBA to SDI was not universal and they only had a few years worth of records.  Fortunately for me,  my brother had my first dive certificate framed as a  gift and I remembered that it was somewhere.  Digging though boxes and shelves ( it wasn’t now hanging on any walls) i did find the certificate to send a scan to them. Thank god for technology.

Two weeks later my SDI Open Water  Card Arrives! I am officially a Scuba Diver once again

And so my Journey back to the depths of the Seven Seas has begun…..