This weekend, the only time I was indoors was during my sleeping hours. Although the weather was not pristine, intermittent rainfall did not dampen (hah, pun intended) my plans. One of this weekend's main missions (besides having fun and quality time with friends) involved scuba diving and purchasing my first scuba gear. Being that I have been PADI Open Water Certified for about three months, I am not entirely satisfied with the number of dives I've been on. Honestly, the expense of boat diving is steep. Prior to today, the only gear I possessed was a waterlust attitude, which meant renting everything for a dive in addition to paying boat fees (I have not yet been on any beach dives!). What does this include, you ask? All of the following: Mask, fins, snorkel, BCD, regulator, alternate air source, LPI, dive computer/compass, wetsuit, booties, and oxygen tanks. Thats a lot of stuff, huh? Well, in my previous snorkeling trip to the Florida Keys, I purchased a Speedo mask/fin/snorkel kit from Target containing a great mask/snorkel combination, but terrible fins that resulted in blisters, cramping feet, and lack of power with kicks. I decided it was time to purchase some scuba gear. I figure owning the basics is the first step towards more frequent dives and more comfort in diving.
Between the dive shop that certified my friends and I (Gold Coast Scuba - HIGHLY recommended!) and Divers Direct in Fort Lauderdale, I gained a ton of information about various gear specs and features. The mask/fin/snorkel combination is undoubtedly useful to any diver (or snorkeler!) and became my priority purchase. With guidance from many divers/shops and online research, I decided to purchase the following gear:
Trivia Moment: What does the acronym SCUBA stand for? You'll just have to keep reading to find out later...
Overall, the gear was affordable and appeared to fit my needs. Next step was to put it to the test in the water! This Labor Day, I was blessed to join a good friend of mine on his family's boat in a scuba adventure. My dive buddies/partner in crime/future roommate (Suzie) also joined, with this being her first dive after getting certified with me in June. The three of us discovered mutual awesomeness and waterlust at a recent Kickball Mid-Season Party (yes, I am on a kickball league and it certainly does include elementary school style fun). We determined it was necessary to plan a dive together, and waited no longer than a week to do so. The boat's captain (my friend's father) is a retired Dive Master and scuba instructor, so having his guidance on this trip was invaluable. As a new diver, I find all tips and information to be vital. Scuba diving is certainly a technical adventure sport, and I am thoroughly enjoying the learning process.
We took the boat out to Barracuda Reef off the coast of Dania Beach with the following goals in mind:
Despite our dismay with the lack of lobster (and the weather change, which prohibited a second dive), we were entirely satisfied with our triple-buddy dive! Plus, I got a good feel for my new dive accessories. A quick review:
What ALSO ended up happening today is the reconsideration of my fins. Despite being satisfied with the Mares SuperChannel, I will be trying the Atomic Aquatics BladeFin to compare quality/power. Overall, this is a much more expensive option if you are looking to purchase equipment. Next weekend, we will put the price tag and claimed quality to the test! The other difference between the fins is the open foot versus full foot style. The difference in essence:
I discovered two sites this week that have been helpful with gear reviews and general information thus far. Check them out:
SCUBA DIVING (MAGAZINE SITE)
LEISURE PRO: DIVER EMPORIUM
And now what you've been waiting for--the Trivia Moment answer!
I hope you had the day off on this Labor Day, or at least had a fulfilling weekend! Until next time, fellow waterlust adventurers.
As a dweller in the "salt life," I have come to greatly appreciate the biodiversity of the ocean and all it provides for us. When scuba diving or snorkeling--or even just marveling at the glistening blue--I cannot help but think about how complex it truly is, and how little we know about its depths. It freaks me out a little bit to be so aware of the ocean... Maybe you will be too after reading this. Yes, there can be counter arguments to some of these facts, and I challenge YOU to doubt them, look further, and discover with me.
When first planning my scuba certification course, I began reading Shadow Divers compliments of a coworker. In my past, I have been offered historical fiction novels to defer me from my adventures (i.e. when planning to ice climb Cotopaxi in Ecuador, my aunt referred me to Into Thin Air), but this time I was to be inspired by the story. This non-fiction historical novel follows the 1991 wreck dives of John Chatterton and Rich Kohler as they uncover the mystery of a sunken German U-boat 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey in the Atlantic Ocean. At depths greater than 200 feet, the team of divers overcame many of the ocean's obstacles, and unpredictable events led to tragic circumstances. I was then befuddled by the intensity of the ocean--its merciless course. The currents and pressure at various depths alone can provide life-threatening situations. Since beginning this book, becoming PADI Open Water Certified, and going on a few dives, I now appreciate the majestic and mind-boggling nature of the ocean.
I often find myself thinking about the world above and below me. I (think I) know the universe is forever expansive and perhaps infinite. However, there are some facts about the ocean that can be equally (if not more) mind-blowing as the universe's mysterious properties. After just having a discussion about the ocean's mysterious nature last week and marveling at (and avoiding) jellyfish in the ocean this past weekend, I stumbled upon the following article (Click the photo for a link to the full article). As I read these thirteen facts, I thought to myself: How can we possibly think we know more about the ocean or the universe? How can we compare the two?
1. More people have visited the moon than the ocean's deepest point. I mean, I know people haven't been to other PLANETS necessarily (except for Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar, of course), but still. Just as it would take lifetimes to reach outer space, who knows how we could possibly reach the ocean's depths with our limited oxygen supplies and high risks at depths.
2. The deepest point could keep Mount Everest underwater. Challenger Deep is seven miles underwater. Woah. (But wait--the universe is infinite? How do you compare!)
3. Most marine life is still unidentified. We have identified one-third of the possible 700,000 ocean creatures. I know, I know--what about aliens? Yes, I am sure they're out there. But, when you read the next fact you might be a little more fearful of ocean creatures...
4. There are immortal jellyfish down there. Tell me no more, please. I am genuinely scared of jellyfish. Seriously? Jellyfish that can "physically revert to an earlier stage of development" when they are at risk of dying? STOP. Also, what about creatures like this guy in Finding Nemo? Freaky stuff.
5. We know more about the surface of Mars and the moon than the bottom of the ocean. And apparently, there are separate ecosystems within the ocean. There can be running water at the ocean's depth, which carries an entirely separate ecosystem than its surrounding environment. A river within the ocean? What? More on that one day.
6. It's home to beings that are practically aliens. I still want to know more about these immortal jellyfish. And these water bears called Tardigrade. Not so cute when you realize this little guy can survive in the most extreme temperatures and pressures, eh?
7. We've explored less than 5% of it. I wonder how much of the universe we have explored though? Do we even know how much is out there? And, do we even know if Challenger Deep is actually the deepest point of the ocean?
8. About 80% of all life on Earth is found in the oceans. Hah! And you thought humans ruled the Earth. We need to be real here--we don't run the world. Unless you count the mermaids...
9. The ocean itself might actually be alive. Oh gosh. If we all have a metabolism and therefore we are living organisms, then what is the ocean? And thank you, ocean, for recycling!
10. It makes weird sounds we can't really explain. Maybe these are huge organisms, maybe it's icebergs scraping the ocean floor, but we could never really know... yet.
11. The ocean is the world's best museum. The Titanic and other shipwrecks, underwater cities?, and thousands of artifacts.
12. It's also the world's biggest human cemetery. Because it is relentless and merciless.
13. Humans might have been born from the ocean. This is an interesting theory I don't entirely buy into, but enjoy exploring. To a certain extent, bacteria and simple prokaryotic (single-cell) microorganisms may be the origin of today's human genomes (DNA). The bacterial chemical processes (AKA chemosythesis) may have allowed these organisms to survive volcanic eruptions, meteor showers, asteroids, and early Earthly phenomena. I guess we can never truly know if our origins lay in the water, air, or hands of God. You can argue any way you please, but I urge you to look at other theories with curiosity and doubt.
Expand your horizons, just as the ocean and universe expand...
Here's some clips from my GoPro on our adventure in Marathon Key snorkeling, free diving, and lobster hunting! Plus, a bonus section of feeding the tarpon at Robbie's in Islamorada!
Here's the lobster we caught and later ate, chillin' in the live bin of our boat. Ain't he cute?
Have a great week!
I've been lucky to meet wonderful people in the Sunshine State who share my sense for adventure and exploration. This weekend, we quickly and effectively planned a memorable camping and boating trip in the Florida Keys!
Since getting PADI Open Water Scuba Certified, my friends and I have wanted to go lobstering! What is lobstering, you ask? Well, July in Florida marks the beginning of lobster season. The season kicks off with two days of "mini-season," which is always the last consecutive Wednesday/Thursday in July (07.29.15-07.30-15). This year, the regular season began on August 6 and will run until the end of March 2016. In order to participate, you must purchase a Saltwater Fishing License and Lobster Permit ($5). After the mini lobster season, you can hunt for lobsters during the day or at night statewide across Florida! Imagine wandering the depths of the ocean at night looking for delicious creatures to eat? (No, we did not go at night this time around. However, I plan to ASAP as lobsters tend to wander around more at night looking for food and mates!) There are tons of regulations I will not bore you with (Re: number of lobsters per license, locations to hunt, taking females with eggs, etc.), but you should check them out or ask local dive shops if you plan on lobstering.
The plan of action: Camp at Curry Hammock State Park on Marathon Key Friday night, then rent a boat on Saturday for snorkeling, free diving, and lobster hunting! Our campsite was located directly across from beach access, which was perfect for nighttime hangout. As I was in the second carpool crew, I arrived at our campsite after dark, but the initial appearance of our campsite was incredible. We drove past an RV with large screen projector before arriving at our simpler and more appealing tented site, lit by an array of tealights and candles. Smells bacon and beef flooded my senses thanks to Grill Master Alejo who always knows how to season a burger. We feasted on the near-gourmet meal before tapping into some brews and talking about life's adventures. Together, our crew of eight campers has been to more countries than I could ever list. I was thrilled to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. We marveled at the sky where you could actually see the Milky Way galaxy! I have never seen such a sight, except for in photographs (sorry, no photographic tools I had with me were able to accurately capture this beauty). We spoke of travels, relationships, and the expansive phenomenon of space. Hopefully, we did not bother nearby campers with our late-night Aguardiente shenanigans and discussions.
Saturday brought more elated feelings of adventure and excitement. Upon awakening in our tents at 7am, we feasted on eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast compliments to (once again) Grill Master Alejo. I intended to sleep in my ENO DoubleNest Hammock on Friday night, but the surrounding mosquito-infested bushes made this idea a truly terrible one. However, I did transition from tent to hammock upon waking on Saturday morning before eating and packing the camp site. Car #2 left the site to begin the boat rental process with Cathy at All Aboard Boat Rentals, who was more than pleasant to deal with. Our 23' Cobia CC provided for a perfect day of boating and adequate space for our eight passengers. Once all our supplies was loaded (lobster equipment including snare, tickle sticks, nets; fishing rods; snorkels/masks/fins; tow ropes; cooler of lunch food), we were on our way to Sombrero Reef for snorkeling and free diving! Due to rules provided by the rental company, we left the wake board in the car as towing was not allowed (oh well - next time).
In the depths of Sombrero Reef, our intention was not to hunt lobster as it is not permitted in this Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA). The ocean itself was a magnificent blue and green, and seemed never-ending as the horizon met the sky and the clouds reflected pristinely on the subtly rippled surface. Because Sombrero Reef is relatively shallow, we were able to explore its depths by snorkeling and free diving. During free diving, you can engage your inner mermaid by wandering the depths of the ocean without any gear. Unlike mermaids, however, the amount of time spent underwater depends on your breath-holding skills (something I plan to practice!). Oh, and I nearly lost my GoPro in attempt to swim after a sting ray I saw in the corner of my eye, not realizing my GoPole was no longer to my wrist strap as I feverishly began my chase. Fortunately, the GoPole floats and I found it on the surface not too far from where I wandered (thus, I recommend this extension of you plan to use a GoPro in water).
We anchored at a few other spots in search of lobster outside of preservation areas. Using the team approach, we successfully caught SEVEN lobster through a combination of tickling, netting, and picking up lobsters. Perhaps if we used a divide and conquer approach, we would have actually found more lobsters, but our group efforts led to successful catches with each lobster found. Unfortunately, since the "carapace length must EXCEED 3 inches in length," our team of hunters were only able to keep ONE of the lobsters we caught. It was GLORIOUS and EXHILARATING to catch the lobsters! I was only able to hold my breath for an average of five seconds during our active hunts due to adrenaline and excitement. I also swallowed a good amount of salt water (oops).
After hours of boating on the glassy and expansive ocean/bay, our sunburnt crew of eight returned to the boat rental center under Captain Ness/Brian's navigation. The captains allowed me to control the boat's speed and direction for some time, which was my first time behind the wheel of a boat (and not be my last!). Due to our exhaustion, we elected to have Robbie's of Islamorada cook our lobster tail while also being able to feed the monstrous tarpons. The meat to our lobster tail was tougher than we preferred, but delicious - even sans melted butter (who serves lobster without butter?!). Surprisingly, I was more fearful of the tarpons than I imagined I would be because of their aggressive, gigantic nature (have you ever seen one?). One of them literally leaped out of the water with a massively open mouth to eat one of my fish. He was unsuccessful in getting my fish, and luckily I was successful in capturing his attempt on video.
What do I have to say about this trip? For one, I will definitely be boating in the Keys again - hopefully with a crew similar to this one. Secondly, lobstering is badass. Thirdly, I appreciate the beauty of the ocean and its creatures more than words can say. Meeting the lobsters, nurse shark, parrot fish, sea urchin, GIANT starfish (sorry no picture as I drifted from it after having my GoPro thrown to me from a friend on the boat!), and other creatures was thrilling and humbling. I'm so grateful for the crew and the experience. Now for some pictures!
Note: Videos to be added soon. Stay tuned!
My name is Kristen.