Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good news

I just heard from the doctor and Angus came through the surgery well. I'll pick him up this afternoon.


On a non-scuba related topic, many of you know that my "son" is a 175 lb. Great Dane named Angus. As I write this my baby is having surgery. He has benign prostatic hyperplasia; which is a benign tumor in his prostate.
If left "untreated" the tumor most likely would turn cancerous.

To treat this, his "manhood" is being removed. Over time the lack of testosterone in his system will dissipate the tumor. This is good news. So, at five and half years of age, my champion bloodline Dane is being fixed.

He also has gingivitis hyperplasia. In layman's terms, his gums are growing over his teeth. If left "untreated" his teeth will rot and generate an entirely new list of problems. So, his gums are being cut away.

The doctor shares that these are relatively common procedures. But as you can imagine, I'm a bit concerned.

I appreciate any and all prayers for Angus and the surgeon. I'll post an update with any news.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Diving withdrawals

I didn't understand it early this summer when Lee told me I'd have a hard time dealing with the "off-season" of diving. Now that I'm in the midst of this suffocating time where we cannot dive the ocean blue, I know exactly what he meant.

I've been going through extreme withdrawal. Every night since my last dive in October, I dream about diving. Don't misunderstand, I dream about other things, too. But I can count on jumping off the back of a boat every night into the deep.

It's almost like my dives are playing on a continual loop reel in my mind. I keep exploring the reefs off the coast of Charleston, the ship wrecks off of North Myrtle and the sites off Jupiter, Florida. I'm even creating dreams about the places I've been reading about in my diving magazines; places I long to go visit and dive.

The dreams are so real, I almost expect to wake up in my wet suit covered in the sticky wetness of saltwater. Until the season starts, I guess I'll just continue jonesing for my next dive...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Volunteer Diving

Yesterday Lee and I visited the South Carolina Aquarium in downtown Charleston. In addition to enjoying all the sites and scenes of the aquarium, we checked out the volunteer program. We learned that the next volunteer training class is Jan. 31. After we complete the initial class and pass some tests, we'll be able to be volunteer divers. Duties include preparing food for dives; helping to feed the animals and maintain exhibit tanks; helping maintain backup areas and equipment; interacting with visitors to educate them about the animals and their ecosystems; and general help as needed.

When I saw the volunteer divers in the tank feeding the fish and answering questions of guests through a full-face dive communication mask, I literally became enraptured by the possibilities. What a great opportunity for me to combine my love of teaching, diving and writing. I'm certain there will be many stories I can write about from my time as a volunteer diver at the aquarium. I can't wait!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Underwater "self-portrait"

I haven't been on a dive for several weeks now and I'm "jonesing" to go down deep, get wet and practice taking photos of fish. So, I thought I'd post a photo I took underwater when we were diving off Jupiter to remind myself of diving. (It's me at about 80 feet underwater.) :-)

Unless you're a diver with a passion for exploring the underwater world, you probably don't understand the drive to dive. Scuba diving is one of the most invigorating and amazing sports I've ever known. I don't know when or where it will be - - but I can't wait until my next dive...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Underwater Photography Woes

The photos in the previous post are great. Lee took them with his new underwater 35mm camera and strobe. While my photos, taken with a digital and no strobe, well... let's just say they are a work in progress. Once I get more practice and a strobe (someday) I'm sure they will have more definition and clarity like his photos. Here take a look...

Drift Diving in Jupiter

This weekend, Lee and I went to Jupiter, Florida to do some drift diving. These dives were amazing and superseded my expectations by far. I must admit that at first I was skeptical about jumping into the ocean without a line to descend and ascend by. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found after I jumped in behind the leader who held the buoy. I looked down into the blue, tranquil water and could see clearly to the 80 foot bottom. The boat followed the leader's buoy as we traveled approximately four miles or more along the Gulf stream. The current gently floated us along the bottom as we were, in essence, sight-seeing in an open water aquarium. The beauty that surrounded us was full of life. There were abundant schools of brightly colored fish swimming in and around brilliant varieties of sea vegetation.

During this dive, Lee saw his first Goliath Grouper which we estimated weighed in around 900 pounds. (I'd seen one before on a previous dive, but not quite this large.) And I saw my first shark; a nine-foot nurse shark which was cruising in and around the reef and ledge. We also encountered a very curious sea turtle that was about two-and-a-half feet big. He swam up and hung with us while we were doing our deco safety stop at about 15-20 feet deep.

The dives were incredible and fun. And I met one of my online scuba buddies, Sandy, who lives in the Jupiter area. While we were drift diving, she and her dive buddy, Michelle, were hunting lobster.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Confrontational fisherman

Last I checked, the Atlantic Ocean was a huge body of water. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it is the second largest ocean covering approximately one-fifth of the earth's surface. So one would think with this amount of space, boats could easily share the Atlantic.

Unfortunately, this past Saturday, this was not the case for one fisherman as he proceeded to tell us off and demand we leave the area he was fishing as he was there first. He ranted and raved and yelled colorful things. But my favorite line was "I don't care if I bring up a fish or a diver; I'm not leaving this spot."

Keep in mind that there was no other boat on this dive site or anywhere within our field of vision. Here we were 30 miles off the coast of Charleston, with a kind, gentile fisherman (sarcasm intended) who didn't want to share the water.

Please note that I was on a dive charter with a captain. The site we were anchoring to was absolutely huge. So there was plenty of room for many boats to share. And funny thing is, the confrontational fisherman wasn't anchored at all, nor was he on the site when we arrived. He showed up once we got there.

It reminded me of the funny trick an old friend, Steve, used to pull years ago when we'd go see a movie. The theater would be empty with the exception of one person. So Steve would go up to that one person and say, "Excuse me, you're in my seat." Of course, he was kidding and it did evoke laughter from all parties.

In this present day example, however, the fisherman did not evoke any good emotions. In fact, he was so close to our bouy he could have reached out and pulled it into his boat. Never mind that South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has a state law that requires boats to remain a minimum of 50 feet from diver-down flags.

But even if there wasn't such a law, I just don't get why anyone would behave so poorly. There is no excuse for it. You'd think I wouldn't be surprised by such cantankerous folks in today's "me-oriented" society. But being the Pollyanna type, I keep hoping for the best in people.

By the way, the guy decided to leave after a while and the rest of our time on the water was awesome.

Three is not for me

As most divers know, we are encouraged to dive with a buddy for safety reasons. Although solo divers are not uncommon among the super advanced. Personally, I like having a dive buddy so I can share the experience. In addition, diving with a buddy ensures there is someone nearby should I need help getting untangled from fishing wire caught on my tank or to help put my weight belt back on that fell off at 70 feet. (Both of these things have happened to me already in my young diving career.)

I'm sure we've all encountered the charter that has an uneven number of divers on it. When that occurs, typically a threesome is sent down to explore the underwater world. Well, this weekend, I learned that diving with a team of three is not for me.

Here is what solidified this for me... I was diving on The Sugarbowl off the the Charleston Coast with two other ladies. All was well, although the distance we were covering was a lot slower due to stops for photos of fish. Two of us got ahead of one and we had to keep circling back to reconnect with the third. And before I know what had happened, they were gone. I swam around looking and looking for them, but it was like they had vanished or had been sucked up into a vortex. When I couldn't find them, or anyone for that matter, I had a choice to make. Did I keep swimming around looking for them? Or did I make a slow assent to the surface?

Well, I chose the latter and slowly ascended to the surface. I must tell you that prior to making that decision, it felt kind of eerie to be down there "alone." I had plenty of air, but I didn't want to risk it. There is simply a comfort in knowing your dive buddy - or buddies in this case - are nearby.

The captain and dive master saw me when I surfaced and called out to me. I gave the universal "okay" signal and slowly started swimming to the boat.

At that point, I decided that never again would I swim with a team of three. It's simply too easy to get separated. So, diving for three is not for me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Things to write about...

It's the morning after a weekend of diving with Charleston Scuba; four dives in total. And my mind is swimming with thoughts of things to write about... I think I'm going to have to do separate little vignettes. The topics include:

  • Three is not for me - How diving in a team of three is difficult
  • Confrontational fisherman - An inconsiderate fisherman encounter
  • The narc "game" - Demonstrating nitrogen narcosis at deep depths

  • Rare & unusual Charleston tours - Seeing sights off the coast of Charleston few get to see
  • My best two dives to date - Diving the Y-73 wreck and The Gardens
  • Much practice required - Underwater photography is a learned skill
  • A natural "aquarium" - The many fish I saw

I'll write more about these things later... As you can see, there is much to share...

One thing I can share immediately is how incredibly awesome Tom Robinson (co-owner of Charleston Scuba) is to dive with. As a dive instructor, I found him to be phenomenal as he gave us boat and underwater direction on our Wreck and Deep dives. He is top-notch. If you're ever fortunate enough to dive with him, or anyone from Charleston Scuba for that matter, you will know what I mean.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sugarbowl & Eric's Double Ledges

Today I dove with Charleston Scuba again. (Yea! I love this dive shop and all the people who work there.) The water was so flat and the weather gorgeous. It was one of the best days I've seen off the Charleston coast. (Course, I've not seen as many as the veteran divers have seen. But they were all amazed, too.)

With Tom as our captain, we took The Trinity out about 27 miles off the coast. Our first stop was at the Sugarbowl. The Sugarbowl Reef is about 90 feet to the bottom. Ledges circle around like an amphitheater with nothing but white sand (like sugar) in the middle. The fish were abundant and the visibility was about 30 feet. We saw many beautiful fish, including the very poisonous Lion Fish in all its splendor. It was a good dive.

From the Sugarbowl Reef we went towards Eric's Double Ledges. Before we got there, we stopped to anchor on a new find that looked like a great dive. But when Gary, our dive master, came up from tying in, he recommended we move onto the other site as there weren't many fish there.

Eric's Double Ledges were about 80 feet with around 25-30 ft. vis. Again we saw many fish, including a Goliath Grouper, some more Lion Fish, the adorabe Jacknife Fish and some spotted eel. Another good dive and a great time was had by all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Four more dives...

Well, this weekend I have four dives planned. It's the only time I'll get to dive for the rest of the month, so I'm packing 'em in now.

I'll write more later...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's official

My new PADI c-card (certification card) arrived yesterday. It's so "official" looking as it is similar to a credit card or a driver's license. And my picture is on the back with all my certification info.

I feel like Steve Martin in "The Jerk" when he said "The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!...I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now."

Monday, September 8, 2008

A new adventure in underwater photography

Thanks to my mom and dad, I am the recipient of a congratulations gift for getting my c-card give that is amazing. My very own underwater camera! It arrived today. And I can't wait to get wet and go deep to use it. A great feature is the underwater housing, which allows you to take the camera to up to 180 feet, comes off and you can use the camera on land. You can't beat that!

We're going diving this weekend and can't wait to begin the task of learning how to take photos underwater. For those of you who don't dive, think about the challenge I have ahead of me. I mean, it's not like you can ask the fish to stop and hold their pose while you take their photo. Couple that with the fact that I'll be floating through the water. LOL It should be entertaining to say the least. Lee tells me that it took him over a year to get decent photos. Stay tuned for results...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Dives

It's the morning after Lee and I have completed four more dives and I can truly say I'm extremely hooked on diving. The underwater experiences we had keep running through my head like a video on continuous loop 24/7. It's like my mind, body and spirit cannot get enough of exploring the underwater world so few get to see in person.

On Saturday morning, we went down two times on Barracuda Alley; appropriately named due to the large volume of huge barracuda that occupy this artificial reef. Just a short hour-long boat ride off the North Myrtle Beach coast lies this sunken barge surrounded by sunken APVs (Armored Patrol Vehicles). At a depth of 63 feet, the visibility was around 20 feet. While Lee spent time digging for treasures buried under the sand, I took a tour of the site with Chris; a diver we'd crossed paths with on previous dives.

My first dive was not that much fun as my weight belt came off while at the bottom. But all divers know there are good dives and bad ones (on occasion). Thanks to Chris and another diver, I was able to put it back on and continue my dive for a bit longer.

The next three dives I completed were amazing and fun. The fish were gorgeous and I was able to explore the structures with ease. Lee and I hooked up with Dave Bush on both Barracuda Alley and the Sherman. Dave and his buddy Ted had cameras, so I'm able to share with you some of the things I saw. Here are Ted's photos; notice the octopus shots. Here are Dave's photos on the Sherman. And here is a photo of me while diving with Dave. Yes, that's me at 53 feet on the Sherman in this photo ------------>>>

Before I end this blog, I must say thank you to another new dive acquaintance, Don Cox. He was one of the dive master candidates on our Sherman trip on Sunday. Not only is he an interesting guy (I love to hear his Irish brogue), but he dove in and rescued my fin when it came off during my jump off the back of the boat during dive four.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fish Identification

I am enthralled with fish and the creatures that can be encountered underwater. Many things I've seen while diving are beautiful and mysterious. Yet, I want to know more about them. For instance, the first fish I saw on dive #2 was actually a pair of spotfin butterflyfish (see the video below). And on dive #4 I saw an amazing creature which I later learned is called a jackknife fish (shown in the photo on the top right). However, the jackknife fish I saw was a juvenile and was predominately yellow with a brownish- black stripe. Thanks to my friend and colleague, Brian Bogie of Schwartz Communication, I now own a 500 page Reef Fish Identification book.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"See" for yourself

It struck me that many people may not get what has drawn me to this. So here are a few videos I found of others diving that will show you what I'm talking about.

Wreck Diving (1:25 in length)

Diving in Cancun (3:32 in length)

Bali Diving (2:00 in length)

Key West (:53 in length)

Upcoming Dives

I'm very excited as we will be doing four dives this weekend; two on Barracuda Alley and the other two on the Sherman (for a second time). With a maximum depth of 63 feet, Barracuda Alley is an artificial reef that consists of a 140 foot barge, adorned with concrete piping and steel A-Frames for divers to swim through, and a dive platform for training, all nestled comfortably close to a platoon of armored personnel carriers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Diving the Sherman

We had two wonderful dives on the S.S. Sherman (formerly known as the Princess Royal) off the coast of North Myrtle Beach. The Sherman is 52 feet to the bottom. The visibility was 40 feet and the water was warm at around 80 degrees.

I dove with Dive Master Cameron Sebastian of Coastal Scuba to complete my O.W. dives 3 and 4. He was an excellent trainer and gave me a tour of the site from bow to stern. During the dive I saw three southern stingrays with massive wingspans. (If you were to raise your arms out from the side of your body, their wings would span from fingertip to fingertip.) I also saw a Queen Angle Fish, a school of fish circling around me like you see in the movies and around 100 barracuda just hanging out like they were waiting for a bus ride. There were other sites like a horseshoe crab, a cucumber looking fish, starfish, hermit crabs. I'm in the process of searching for more information about all the marine life I saw.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dives 3 & 4

Getting ready for a dive is exciting. Today we're traveling to North Myrtle Beach to dive on the S.S. Sherman. We're doing this through Coastal Scuba, an outfit that Lee has used many times over the years. Lee has gone diving on the Sherman before and found some interesting Civil War artifacts.

For me, I'll be completing dives three and four. I have three skills to check-out on: putting my mask on underwater, swimming with my compass, and taking my BCD off and putting it back on at the surface. Once I'm done with those I'll be able to enjoy the dives. At the end I will be official and get my C-card. :-)

Here's some info about the Sherman:

Originally a 200 ft. blockade-runner, this 120 year old post-Civil War wreck lies in 52 feet of water about 6 miles offshore. Always surrounded by multitudes of marine life, the SHERMAN also offers a variety of artifacts for the careful hunter. US belt buckles, buttons, bottles and fossils have been found on this site. Great for new or experienced divers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Shark Break

Click here to get more mini-SharkBreak widgets -

Learning to dive...

I took the condensed training course for PADI Open Water through Charleston Scuba. (Basically this was comprised of a Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.) The classroom training, while good, was intense after working all day.

The pool sessions were exciting yet I did feel a bit awkward maneuvering with the gear. My first time in the pool with the regulator was interesting as I kept forgetting to breathe. But after a while, I got the hang of it and even learned how to buddy breathe.

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Fulfilling a dream...

It’s a fact that seventy-one percent of the earth is covered with water. There is an entire universe underwater that many people never see.

For over 25 years I have dreamed of exploring these deep dimensions. The capability to breathe underwater while investigating sea life is alluring. A month ago, I embarked upon the adventure of fulfilling this dream by learning how to become a certified scuba diver. This blog, yet another new adventure for me, will share my thoughts and experiences as I learn about the underwater world few have seen.