Monday, June 21, 2010

Some Days Everything Is A Lesson

After our trip to Boynton Beach, Lee and I decided to do some black water diving. This type of diving occurs in the Cooper River up by Goose Creek and Cypress Gardens, which is about 45 minutes north of where I live in Mt. Pleasant. And it's called black water diving because there zero visibility for the most part. The water is brackish, meaning a combination of salt and fresh water.

At this point you may ask why on earth we would want to go diving where you can't see anything. And my answer, with a BIG smile, is because it is not about the diving. Diving is simply the means to the end. You see, it is about treasure hunting. With persistence, you can find wonderful things in the river. These finds can range from prehistoric fossils, such as Megalodon teeth, to Civil War artifacts. Once you find your first one, it becomes intoxicating and you're hooked. (If you follow us on Facebook, you've seen the many photos we've posted of our finds.)

Little did we realize as we embarked upon this adventure that we would experience a day full of lessons. It started with me realizing I'd left my goody bag (what you use to collect your finds in when you're diving) at home. This realization occurred to me long after it was too late to drive back and get it. Next we discovered that we'd left our weight bags on the dock, after we were way down the river and couldn't go back. (Are you seeing a pattern here? Just wait, it gets better...)

Our wonderful, boat captain, Johnny Cercopely of Cooper River Dive Charters was more than accommodating. He provided us with weights to slip into the pockets of our BCD. He even called back to the dock to ensure no one took our weight bags, which would have been rather costly to replace. And Johnny loaned me a goody bag.

Upon setting up my tank, BCD and regulators, I heard air leaking. Several tests and tank changes later, we thought we had fixed the problem. My giant stride off the back of the boat proved not to be so giant. My tank hit the edge of the back platform of the boat, followed by my posterior hitting the top of the Christmas tree shaped ladder. This was immediately followed by my fin coming off and floating down the river. (We were having some fun now!)

Other entertaining aspects of this wild ride included: Lee's mask breaking, a strong current that drug an underwater diver (that would be me) all over the bottom of the river causing me to bail out of the dive... I could continue on but I'll close by saying that Lee and I counted 14 things that occurred in error that day.

While this was easily the worst day of diving I have ever experienced, we learned many lessons. And hopefully, knock on wood, this will be the last day of repetitive diving mishaps for the rest of this dive season. Some days everything is a lesson...

Oh, on a happy note, there was a young boy from Chicago who was diving the river for the first time. He was so excited to go diving for fossils and wasn't having much success during his dives. (Go figure... LOL) Lee and I shared the majority of our findings with him. Not to be cliche' but we had to follow the credo that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Besides - we're just nice like that, if i do say so myself. :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Drift Diving off the coast of Boynton Beach, Florida

Lee and I kicked off our dive season with a bang. Early on May 28, we packed the rental car with our dive gear and listened to XM's Laugh USA on and off during the 10-hour drive to Boynton Beach, Florida. (Boynton is just past West Palm Beach off the Atlantic Ocean.)

With four dives ahead of us, stopping in local dive stores like Diver's Direct made our adventure come alive. (If you're not a diver, think about planning for a vacation or something else that gets you excited and you'll know what we mean.)

We dove with Underwater Explorers. Lee found them through recommendations on Scuba Board. (Scuba Board is an online community with divers from around the globe and forums on an array of diving topics.) I quickly learned that their 34-foot Crusader was really designed for back rolls and not giant strides. But after doing it the first time, I was hooked and wondered why I've only done it in my dive training classes.

Basket Sponge
Basket Sponges

All four of our drift dives were amazing. In fact, I found the underwater reefs to be as scenic - if not more - as the ones we've dove in the Keys. The first two dives exposed a veritable forest of basket sponges. (Typically, I've seen only one or two every mile or so, not hundreds.)

We saw a plethora of fish, including:

Moray Eel

Blue Tang (my favorite)

Cow Fish in Basket Sponge

French Angel

Loggerhead Turtle Under a Ledge

Rock Beauty

Hawksbill Turtle

Two French Angels

I hope the rest of our dives this season are as amazing as these four dives!