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.