It Doesn’t Have To Be Spectacular….

Yellow Head Jawfish out of it’s hole.

Although I didn’t get out diving in July, I did make it on Sunday for an early birthday celebration. It was a bit bouncy going out, but while we were underwater on the reef, a rain shower swept through and calmed the winds down. Watching the rain come down when you’re underwater is an interesting sight. There weren’t many people on the boat, so the crew and I think maybe one person were able to be in the covered part so they were sheltered.

We did two shallow genuine wrecks. By that, I mean they weren’t deliberately deployed to become an artificial reef. The first, City of Washington, was  somewhat famous in its day because it was in the port of Havana when the USS Maine exploded. The City was the primary rescue ship to bring the surviving crew back. It was later converted to a barge though and met with a very ordinary end when it ran aground on the reefs off Key largo. Anyway, as a genuine wreck, it’s all broken apart, but is a thriving artificial reef. On the second site, we went to one which actually has two names. For many years, people referred to it as Mike’s Wreck with the idea it was a rum runner back in the days of Prohibition. Some underwater archeology folks did some cataloging and research though and explained from things like the type of rivets, it couldn’t have been the kind of boat everyone thought. They determined it was the Hanna Belle (might have the spelling wrong), a British vessel. It, too, is quite broken up, but marine life that takes hold doesn’t care if it doesn’t look like a ship any longer. Coral and sponges grow just as well on a jumble of wood as they do if the structure is still intact. Little fish can hide and bigger fish can cruise around looking for a meal.

We didn’t see any of the “big stuff” like eels, turtles, rays, or sharks, but there were plenty of fish and a few of my favorites. I was able to find a juvenile puffer and stay with it for a while. They tend to dart away as quickly as possible, so that was a treat.

 

 

Good To Get Underwater…..

Atlantic Spadefish on the Key Largo Reefs

In my on-going desire to go diving once a month, I have managed to hit June. I got all the critical emails sent prior to 6:00 a.m. the other day and went out for what was a nice day with a good group of people. Hubby was finishing up three brand new divers and the other people on the boat were pleasant to talk to. The water temperature is great now through late September and maybe later, it was pretty flat, very little current and visibility was around 60 feet; maybe a little more.

Although we didn’t see anything “spectacular”, the sites we went to had plenty of marine life and several of my regular favorites. Hubby did find a large green moray eel and a cute little lemon ray. We started seeing Atlantic Spadefish a few years ago and they have been added to my list. I haven’t talked with the fish experts to know why they’ve become more common here. There were a lot of big snappers of various types and again, once they get beyond yellowtail, I tend to mix them up. I can’t recall which ones are mangrove versus lane, etc. There were also some nice size groupers even though the juvenile Goliath was not in the area he’s been hanging around in. We hope he hasn’t gone off to a new place because he really is impressive to see.

The only drawback to the day was not being able to stay around for a leisurely dock-side lunch, but it just wasn’t doable with our schedules. Maybe next time and I will keep my fingers crossed for a dive day in July.

Underwater Favorites……

Juvenile Spotted Drum

I think divers are much like birders when it comes to certain aspects. There are the regular species you encounter depending on your region. You enjoy them and for some people even the “ordinary” bring a pleasure others don’t necessarily understand. Or perhaps it’s a combination of a setting such as forest, park, meadow, a back yard with bushes or feeders. Underwater is similar in that you can have reefs of different variety such as “patch”, “walls,” “finger”, artificial like shipwrecks which may be like the title of my non-fiction book, Islands in the Sand. The geographic location of those types of reefs dictates what species of marine creatures you will find just as the geographic location of bird habitat dictates what species of birds are seen. Yes, you do have migrations, more so among the bird population I think. There are absolutely known marine migrations which is why you get great white sharks cruising through Florida at times.

Anyway, one of the reasons our Key Largo reefs have an abundance of marine life is they have had increased protection for a couple of decades now. We don’t have the spectacular corals found deeper in the Caribbean, but we also aren’t over-fished. Among my favorites are angels, tiny blue chromis, yellow-headed jawfish, puffers, spade fish, spotted drums, trunks, midnight parrots, and file fish. Those fall into the category of regularly seen, but not quite as ordinary as squirrel fish and yellowtail snappers. On the non-fish side, I always look for sea cucumbers, anemones, tiny shrimp,  and do enjoy seeing lobsters. Everyone always wants to see eels, turtles, rays, sharks, Goliath Groupers – the “big stuff” for our region. While we have all those, you simply never know if you’ll see one or not when diving. The more often you’re in the water, the greater your chances obviously.

The point to travel to other dive destinations is in general to see creatures you don’t have here. Fiji was a great example. On the drive from the airport to the resort, the driver was proudly pointing out tropical features like palm trees and hibiscus – hardly anything new for us. Underwater though were amazing masses of soft corals and so many species native to the South Pacific such as “unicorn” fish.

The only disadvantage of our local reefs are they tend to be out where a boat is required instead of places where you can just gear up and go off the shore. But the sheer volume of marine life and good dive conditions throughout much of the year is why people come.

No Scuba Yet……

I had made a promise to manage to get out once a month to dive this year and I was doing okay initially. Hurricane Irma and the aftermath really wasn’t my fault. Then the holidays and catch-up, plus windy weather which pretty much took out January. February is a short month, so technically if I could have gone last week, I think I could have counted it. Sigh!! I am once again allowing all sorts of other commitments to take priority over diving, although there are weather and other factors that do come into play. I have hopes for next week and will make an extra effort. It’s more than simply enjoying diving. Since much of my writing involves diving, renewing the sensation is important.

I was speaking with an individual the other day who loves being on the water, but not in it. I can understand that even in situations where it isn’t a physical limitation. Another conversation had to do with snorkeling, but not scuba and that was because of asthma. As the individual said, “If an asthma attack occurs, I’m not far from the surface if I’m snorkeling.” Depending on the depth of the reef (real or artificial), snorkeling can be more practical because when you’re less than 15-20 feet deep, scuba equipment can actually feel a bit awkward. You also have the wider overhead view when snorkeling and unless there are lot of creatures inside crevices/under ledges, you might see more from the top-down view.The really small things of course like shrimp and yellow-headed jaw fish can’t generally be seen while snorkeling, but anything over a few inches long tends to be visible. Anyway, I am keeping my fingers crossed for next week so I can slip back into the wonderful world beneath the surface. I miss seeing my buds like pretty angel fish.

Queen Angel on Reef in Belize

Lapse In Posting…..

Ah, those disruptions to schedules. It was Christmas of course, but a couple of unexpected tasks popped up as I was trying to also prepare for the kids’ arrival and party we have New Year’s Eve. I was absolutely determined to get one more day of diving in before the end of the year and that pretty well takes most of a day. The conditions were decent with only a little bounce (waves) and visibility underwater of about 40 feet. For those of us who often get 70, that’s “marginal”. For those who dive in places that rarely get even 20 feet, it’s terrific. This is genuinely a relative measure. Hubby was finishing up a class with a guy who is the fiance of a young lady who dives, as does her father. They were along and it’s always nice to see two generations diving together. I did find them a stingray, and did see a nurse shark, although I couldn’t get to the rest of the group in time to show them. I love the spotted trunk fish like in the photo and I got all my angel fish – queen, gray, French, and rock beauty. Other divers saw an eel and turtle, so between the two groups, it was a nice array of the more “fun” stuff. The “biggie” for our group was a juvenile Goliath Grouper. It was no more than about forty pounds, but still impressive. Adults grow to 200-300+ pounds.

The kids’ flight on the 28th was slightly delayed and traffic was still pretty heavy at that hour. School not being in helps, although a lot of people who took off for Christmas are back at work. I had a couple of friends over for dinner that evening who can’t make the New Year’s Eve party so the timing got a little tricky. All went well, however, and Hubby had gotten the child’s seat correctly installed in the car. Those were not required when son was that age, therefore, neither of us have experience with the things. When you have a part “left over”, it tends to be a matter of concern. I had the part and the instructions with me and it turned out the piece in question was if you had a younger child. Ah, good.

Depending on how today unfolds, the kids will go off to see “The Last Jedi”. Hubby has to finish up a course for a couple and Gram and granddaughter will be baking cookies.

A Rousing Success…..

The big dive trade show we are at is set up like most with a mix of exhibits, seminars, and different programs. I had submitted Richie Kohler as a speaker even though he fell into the “other” category compared to the industry/business side. Marketing, inventory management, etc., are all unquestionably vital to business. He crafted his presentation, “Forty Years of Shipwreck Exploration”, to speak to the “heart and passion” of diving which is at the core of the business since other than the industrial/engineering aspect, it is absolutely a discretionary expenditure for people. If you can’t spark and retain the passion for diving, the business dissolves.

We had no input as to when he was to be scheduled though and the show planners put him into the 8:30 a.m. slot this morning. Considering that two of the largest social events were last night, there was a fair question about how many people would show up. He was set up in the large room although I hadn’t checked to see how many seats were available. When I arrived a few minutes after 8:00 to coordinate a couple of last minute details, there were already a few people seated. As the room filled to capacity, more squeezed in. It was a long presentation of a little more than an hour while Richie took everyone from his beginning days of teen-aged diving through his numerous transitions of both advances in technologies and opportunities he had never dreamed of coming his way.  Spontaneous applause broke out twice when he touched on subjects of special poignancy. The only way to describe the morning was indeed as a rousing success. By the way, even though we chronicled many of his adventures in Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, his website of http://www.richiekohler.com has far more than we included.

Busy Day……

I intended to post yesterday and time just sort of slipped by with getting into the hotel, getting checked into the trade show, etc. Today has been spent walking all around the show and having the first autograph session as well as working with Richie Kohler on the new project. We’re still trying to firm several things up and I’ll explain more once we settle those details.

We’ve seen several people we know and met a few new ones already. There are of course exciting new “toys”, officially known as new products. There are some tech items that are well beyond my understanding and other items you wonder why no one had come up with them before. In other cases, like the waterproof bags to hold your cell phone that I’ve seen advertised, and not in person yet. I did pick up a new tee shirt because I erroneously thought I had left another top at home. I did pack it after all. On the other hand, one more tee shirt can’t hurt. We wound up staying at the hotel for dinner last night instead of going out. We’d never eaten at the main restaurant with the buffet option and it was pretty good. Nothing too special because I stayed away from what looked like a lovely dessert station. They had prime rib as one choice and that made Hubby happy. We’re not certain of where we’re going tonight. Apparently there is a group dinner coming together and we’re waiting for the call to know exactly where.

The autograph session tomorrow is a little later and I haven’t checked yet to see if there are any seminars I want to attend. Hubby did three today and hasn’t decided about tomorrow yet.

Back-to-Backs…..

In what is unusual timing, we leave for Orlando Tuesday morning until late Sat afternoon. The paper has been stopped and house sitter is all set. The largest scuba trade show in the wold takes place in Orlando every other year and we always go. Hubby will attend a string of professional seminars and catch up with friends we may not have seen since the last show. What is different about this show is it is not open to the public; only to individuals in the scuba business. Hubby’s qualifications are obvious and mine are because I focus so much of my writing on scuba. The convention center in Orlando is huge and you do get a lot of walking in. Richie Kohler will be presenting on Friday and we’ll have an hour of book signing Wed, Thurs, and Friday. We will also be spending time together to discuss the other book he wants to do. (More about that after we talk.) Richie tends to be really popular though and I suspect he’ll be whisked off to a number of things he isn’t anticipating. I have plenty to keep me busy and unlike the trip to Louisiana, I should have consistent, reliable connectivity.

The area is quite the “foodie” place, too with a large shopping and entertainment complex within comfortable walking distance of the hotel. Comfortable distance for us, but I admit we tend to be more walkers than many people these days. I haven’t checked the weather forecast, so our plans could be disrupted if it’s messy. I don’t know if there will be any new restaurants open, although there are plenty to choose from and we’ve not been disappointed in the ones we’ve tried. We might branch out this time to more ethnic choices – depends on who we’re with and how we’re feeling.

Scuba Related…..

A modular design for an artificial reef created and provided by Walter Marine of AL

Thursday, Sept 14th, I’ll be doing a presentation on Artificial Reefs in Key Largo based on my book, Islands in the Sand: An Introduction to Artificial Reefs in the USA

Since the book came out in 2009, I needed to update a few things for the PowerPoint show. One of which was to check on a guy, David Walter of Walter Marine. I’ll explain. First, artificial reefs for those who might not be as familiar are a variety of items that rest in the water and attract marine life which take up residence and create a reef complete with coral, sponges, fish, etc. The marine creatures don’t mind that it isn’t a natural rock formation – it provides shelter and over time, marine growth increases. The most spectacular artificial reefs tend to be shipwrecks, but there are lots of others. Many are underwater by accident, but the planned ones are the focus of the book. Again, taking a massive ship like the 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, prepping her and sending her to the bottom is a huge effort that takes years of planning/work and lots of money. There are, however, way cool and smaller options.

Every other year, the big scuba trade show is in Orlando and the year I was doing intense research for the book coincided with the DEMA show. I was able to talk with several people involved with artificial reef work, one of whom was David. I have previously posted about Reefball (TM) that is a non-profit organization. They create modules that can be deployed to create a reef based on what size and shape is desired.

David, who as he explained always liked to figure things out for himself, did a few projects with them and then decided to establish his own business. (www.reefmaker.net)  (Note: not sure why, but the website wasn’t loading when I wrote this. It was fine the other day.)

Anyway, back to David. He played around with designs and materials and it was fascinating to talk to him. I popped onto his website the other day to see how he was doing and he quickly responded. His business has expanded and he sent me the photo here. The uses for his products have also expanded and it’s nice to see. (I will acknowledge there are opponents to artificial reef work and they are certainly entitled to their opinion.) I love the entrepreneurial spirit and I love a good artificial reef, so I hope Walter Marine continues to thrive. By the way, the lovey fish along with the jelllyfish in the photo is a type of triggerfish.

Back in the Water….

Yellow Head Jawfish out of it’s hole.

For two consecutive years, I allowed all sorts of things to interfere with my diving. This year, I made a commitment to do better and get out once a month. January was the exception because of weather and other things. I also managed to let July get past me, although again, weather did play a part. The simple fact is, between my writing and other things I am involved with, I work essentially every day. That is not to say I work eight hours a day, but it is usually at least three. Much of it is unstructured in the traditional sense, although anyone who works deadlines and has meetings knows “unstructured” doesn’t equal “laid back”. Anyway, the point to the above is I genuinely have to schedule time to go dive and it can be tricky.

Friday meant sending out some early morning emails and having a wonderful husband who was going to take care of my dive gear after we returned to the dock so I could dash home, grab a quick lunch and get cleaned up for a mid-afternoon meeting. However, it all worked out and while we didn’t see any of the “big” stuff – correction – I missed the two sharks; the fish I like to watch were plentiful. Actually, I don’t mind not seeing sharks as long as Hubby gets to. There was a nice stingray and the reason I missed the shark on the first dive was I did have a special treat only I was able to enjoy. I’ll explain. Visibility was down more than I expected with it about forty feet. Hubby had a delightful young lady as a student and as I was swimming off to the side of them, I saw movement in the sand to my left. I wasn’t certain of what it was and swam closer, which put me to where the others were barely in sight. I realized what I was looking at was a pair of juvenile flounders, each about the size of a silver dollar. The flounder we get here are small and with their camouflage coloration, they’re very difficult to see unless they move. When they do move, they “flit” fairly rapidly across the sand. I glanced over to Hubby and the young lady to get their attention, but there was no way in that vis for them to see my gesture. If I tried to go get them and bring them back, the little flounders would have been long gone. So, I followed the fish for a few seconds, enjoying the sight and no, I don’t carry a camera.

We did also see a nice large green moray and some big snooks came through, plus I got to see my rock beauties among other of my favorites. Now all I have to do is try to squeeze in one more day in August to make up for not going in July. Oh yes, and we did get dolphins as we were returning to the dock.