Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Catching Up: Halloween

So it has bene a while since my last post. I think I got really worn down by the travelling in the last month. But enough with the excuses...

One story I have been wanting to blog about is what I did for Halloween this year.

Picture being in Miami, FL. The weather is in the low 80's and South Beach is just a short drive away. Everyone tells me that the town is going to be crazy and wild. Sounds like a great time but I wasn't interested.

I decided to drive down to Key Largo and go Scuba diving instead. I went to bed extra early the night before and got up at 5:30am to make it down there and catch the boat. I had travelled the entire semester with my dive equipment taking up a large portion of the space in my car and I needed to get some use out of it.

I had heard about a small dive shop in Key Largo from another diver I met in the Caymans last summer. He is a doctor in Maryland and dived all over the Caribbean. I told him that I was often in Southern Florida for business (it makes me feel like such a grown up to say that). He reccomended a dive shop called Quiescence. Here is their site: (and if you are wondering, quiescence means "a state of repose, still, tranquil, serene, the essence of quiet).

I arrived at the shop around 7:30 ready to dive at 8am. I walked in and showed them me C-Cards (cards that prove you are a certified diver) and started filling out the paperwork. The captain came in and informed me that the seas were running 3-4 feet. I have very limited experience diving in the ocean so I really don't know what to think. Not wanting to sound like a complete amateur, I smile and tell them that its no big deal and I'm ready to go. (How bad can 3-4 waves really be right?)

We walked down to the boat, loaded up our gear and I met the captain and my dive buddy for the day.
This is Captain Steve.

And this is my dive buddy, Thierry (its pronounced like there is is no "h" in it). Thierry is from Guyana (any ideas of where that is?). He was quite impressed that I knew it was in South America. I guess geography in 6th grade was good for something after all. Also, he is a dive instructor so it was great to be paired with someone who really knew what they were doing. He also had an underwater camera with him so most of these pictures were taken by him. He was a great guy and spoke several different languages. French is the primary language spoken in Guyana and he had a pretty thick accent. I had to try to keep from laughing because all I could think of was a part from the movie "Along Came Polly" where one of the charasters is a French scuba instructor and his famous line is (in a heavy french accent) "You for Scuba?"

The waves were much worse than I anticipated but luckily I keep Dramamine in my car just for times like this. The other two divers on the boat were a mother and son from Ohio. They had just gotten certified and this was their first dive in the ocean. They made their first dive and were so sea sick that they stayed in the boat for the second one.

Once you got under the water, the surge from the waves was not too noticeable. On our first dive we came across several large grouper (pictured above). The secodn grouper we saw was hidden under a ledge and was easily as big as I am. They are harmless but it is still a big fish to be swimming near. We also saw a spotted eagle ray. It passed by too quickly to get a good picture, but here is a link to see one:
They are quite beautiful and graceful underwater.

The second dive we dove a site called "The Winch." As you can see above, they were not too creative when thinking of a name. The winch is leftover from a shipwreck in the late 1800's and there was some other debris around the area. On the second dive, there were baracuda everywhere. Eben though there has never been a case of one attacking a diver, it was still pretty creappy to see a large school of them swimming slowly through the water.

I tried to get close enough to have my picture taken with them, but it didn't turn out as well as I had imagined. Scuba divers are pretty noisy underwater so the fish tend to keep their distance.
We also spotted a moray eel. He stayed hidden in the coral though and after seeing one swim when I was diving in the Caymans, that was okay with me.

We also spotted a few more large grouper as well as dozens of other smaller fish.

Both dives were only down to about 30 feet so we had almost an hour of bottom time. As we were coming back to the surface from the second dive, the bottom of our boat was oscured by fish. There were dozens of them swimming around underneath it. As it turns out, the other two divers were sea sick and had thrown up over the side of the boat, thereby attracting fish. It made me kind of laugh, but I felt bad that they got sick and couldnt enjoy the dive.
Overall, it was a fantastic day, even though the waves were a little rough. I would dive again with this shop in a heartbeat and will hopefully get to go again in April when I am in Miami again.