Archive for February, 2010

Cave 2010

Sunday, February 7th, 2010
Cave 2010

Cave 2010

This year, I finally broke down and decided to try cave diving.   Back in the dark ages, I tried a cavern dive in Mexico.  While I enjoyed the dive, it was too early in my diving to fully understand the nuance of the dives.

This year, Becky invited us on a Manatee dive down in Florida, and figured I’d stay in the area and take a cave class.   After many discussions on cave instructors, I settled on Paul Heinerth.  I wanted an instructor that would challenge me rather than let me coast through the class. My Trimix instructor (Corey Mearns) introduced me to Paul at a social gathering last fall.   Others echoed the recommendations, so I made plans to stick around and take the class.

Diver Bubbles

Little Devil

The cavern portion of the class involved a number of new of skills.  Many were familiar, some were not.  Much of the class pushed me to the limits of my comfort zone.  However, after it was all done, I felt much more comfortable diving in this environment.   I guess that’s the point.   I want to thank Paul, for suffering with me.  I’m sure he’s dealt with worse, but I know I was a handful. After the class, Becky and Dave were kind enough to take their time to dive with a cave newbie.   I’m sure it can be a bit annoying to dive with a novice.   I appreciate them taking the time to dive with me.  Given all the flooding in Florida, we ended up in Ginnie Springs.  Two days of our class was spent at Ginnie, so I knew a little bit about of the layout.  Diving after the class removed much of the “stress” involved, and we had a lot of fun.  Becky took a lot of photos.   I’ve posted a few here, but check out her website for more great shots.

I returned to the scene of the crime for some more shots of the cavern and caves.  The weather up North (NJ/PA) was not good, so my lovely wife (Val) suggest that I stay in Florida.   Did I mention that I love my wife?!   I spent the next two days practicing my skills, and taking pictures.   I’m not sure if I’m a died in the wool cave diver, but I did have a good time diving with some good friends.

Manatee 2010

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Manatee calf looking for attention

Manatee calf looking for attention

Val and I were invited on a trip to Florida, including a Manatee dive in Crystal River. As it worked out, I did have some time off, so we packed our gear and headed down. Val was going to stay a few days, for the Manatee dive, after that, I was planning to stick around for a cavern/cave class.

Packing went smoothly, except for the snowstorm that covered the area the day before the trip. Most of the roads up here were dry with some salt for good measure. On the trip down we stopped over with our friend Grace in Durham. Their roads were not cleared as well, and the drivers were not accustom to snow. It was not a pleasant situation, but with only minor delays we were back on the road the next morning.

We arrived in Crystal River a bit later than expected, but were up and ready for the dive the next morning. Dive gear, camera gear, and all weather gear packed and ready, we headed out.

This was our first time diving with Manatees. The boat rental required us to watch a video concerning the regulations around Manatee interaction. Bottom line, nothing can prepare you for the actual dive! Becky had invited a group of experienced divers. We hit the water expecting to see a few dozen Manatees. I’m not sure if it was the cold weather, or something else, but there were a few hundred Manatees in the area.

We anchored in a small tributary with river water, and spring water running past a Manatee Sanctuary. Within the roped off sanctuary, there were a dozens of resting Manatees. Back in the springs, the sandy bottom was covered with them. We were all snorkeling on the surface looking to see if any were interested in interaction. Many were resting, but others would swim right up to us.

At first, it’s a bit unnerving to have a 1200lb animal swim up to you. These creatures are 5-6 times our size. It makes you think for a second. Then they roll over and want their belly rubbed. Ok, not so intimidating. The juveniles (calf) are more curious than the older adults, but both were curious about us as divers. I’m not sure why, but my camera seemed to draw their interest. Some would swim up and interact. Several would swim up, play for a bit, and then swim away. Many came back again and again.

After I filled up my still cameras memory card, I switched to the video camera. It was both fun and enlightening interacting with these gentile creatures. As usual, they had to drag me from the water, since I was having so much fun.

If you ever get a chance to dive with Manatees, I highly recommend it. Take your time, and let them come to you. They are both fun and engaging.