Saturday, December 29, 2012

Phlying Thru Philly

It’s going to be a long trip back.  I fly through Philadelphia and don’t get into Chicago until about midnight.

So that’s it.  8 days, 27 dives (which brings me to 1408), 4 nudibranchs.  A total of 112 dives in 2012.

A great way to end my 41st year.  On Monday I’ll be 42.  Look out.

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Crew Cocktails

The engines started at 5am and we are going to dive two more dives today – the first one starting at 6:30am.

The first dive site didn’t have a strong mooring so we moved to Cathedral and started the dive a little late.

Cole put together a really nice video that we watched after breakfast.  She did a lot of it using a new little device a lot of the divers had called a “Go Pro”.  It shoots both video and still and it only costs like $300 or so.  I was amazed at how good the quality was.

I was so sad during the last dive.  I realize that I already have my next trip planned but still, being underwater is the best.

Jim, the ER nurse got a blister on his toe that got really infected.  I think it’s staph.  It blew up his foot really bad and was even traveling up his leg.  I called it his Fat Bastard foot.  He was hurting and went to the local doctor who gave him some antibiotics.  He didn’t go to dinner with us but is feeling better.  He has such a great attitude.  His luggage was delayed like half the week, his new Go Pro camera flooded and then this infection.  I’d be pissed, but he was just like “whatever”.  I need some of his serenity.

The cocktail hour was fun, they all dressed in their crew uniforms again.  Phil made baked brie and we all socialized a bit.  Then they had awards.  I won the iron diver award for making all 27 dives this week.  (Sidenote – we used to get in trouble for giving out that award… the office thought that if guests knew that there was such an award that they would put pressure on themselves to make all the dives even if they weren’t feeling well.)  Then they had “awards” for those who made it down to the dive deck and didn’t connect their first stage.  Both Dara and Jeremy won that award (and Tac should have as well but they didn’t see him).  Then Robert finished an underwater photography class and Dara passed her Nitrox. Finally, they recognized me passing my 1400 dive milestone.  That’s a lot of dives, but I have logged every one so I do know exactly how many I have. Pretty cool.

After the Happy Hour, we had dinner off the boat at a cute little restaurant where I had fried conch.  It was so good.  I’m going to try to have it one more time before I leave the island!

At night, James told me that during the week the crew got an email that a pillar of the Aggressor Fleet, Pierce, died in his sleep as they were moving one of the boats.  He was well respected and taught Amanda and James all they knew about boating so I guess it hit them pretty hard but they didn’t really show it.  It just goes to show you that you have to live your life to the fullest every day.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Denizen Zen

We dove The Dome today.  I guess that this structure used to be part of a game show in the late 80s/early 90s.  It was survivor style where they had challenges to win bracelets that could be used later for an advantage.

One of the games was to free dive down to this structure which had a machine that would spit out pearls.  Contestants could give their bracelets to mermaids down below who would provide a breath out of their regulator.  Well, this lead to many lung overexpansion injuries and could have even caused an air embolism.  They say it is the reason that there is a recompression chamber on the island.

Getting to know Jim and Nancy has been a trip.  They are huge fans of the restaurant Spaghetti Factory and have been to every single one (there are about 40)… and they even plan a special trip when a new one opens up.  They didn’t know anyone in the chain but they do now.  Jim jokes that he has the President on speed dial and they have been featured in their newsletter “The Garlic Press”.  How funny.

So I watched the movie “The Big Year” recently and I think that doing all of the Aggressors in one year would be awesome.  We could have a group that does it and plan it out meticulously.  Maybe even get some sponsorship and blog it. 

We also did our night dive at The Dome.  I took my time dropping down and setting up my strobes.  When I turned my light on, the very first thing I saw was a vase sponge with a nudibranch on it.  I had a zen moment where all is right with the world and I am right where I am supposed to be.

I believe that this is an Austraeolis catina.  Also known as the Long-Horn Nudibranch.  This species is not even listed in "The Bible" of Nudibranch IDs:  Indo-Pacific Nudibranchs and Sea Slugs:  A field guide to the Word's most diverse fauna.  I only found it in the Paul Humann Reef Creatures Identification book and it states "Regrettably, at this time of this writing, no taxonomic biologists are working with this order in the tropical western Atlantic."

I stayed down for over 80 minutes and also found a Fingerprint Cyphoma that was very cool. 

Dinner was finally on sundeck and not in the freezing cold salon where we had to suffer through Jeff’s videography.  The meal was very nice but of course I got there late and still had to sit next to the Canadians and also next to the food being scraped off finished plates into the pile going downstairs.  Oh well, such is the price I pay for a very long night dive.  I’ll take it any day.

The Photo slideshow was tonight and was very cool.  Rob took a lot of photos of the guests and put in some of the guest shots.  Of course I submitted a couple of my nudis! 

He also included his pictures with the rare Caribbean Penguin.  He randomly slipped that into a dive briefing and had a little plastic figurine he includes in pictures. So funny.

For Christmas, Rob got a black light and phosphorescent glasses and filter.  He put a couple of pictures in the slide show that turned out pretty neon green and cool.

I stayed up with the crew for a bit and chatted.  They have a good gig going here.  I think Amanda does a very nice job of running this boat and keeping the personalities happy and interacting.  The crew also seems a bit older and more mature which also means less drama.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wetsuit Popsicle

Boy I got really grumpy last night.  I’ll try not to be so grumpy today.

So we have a full diving today and tomorrow but only two dives on Friday.  I’ll have to look up when my flight out on Saturday is.  I’m sure I can do the two regardless.  Woo Hoo!

The wetsuit trick came off without a hitch.  Well, with a bit of a hitch.  We dunked the wetsuit in the rinse tank and put it in a garbage bag before putting it in the deep freezer.  Then I put a hanger in it.  In the morning, I couldn’t get the top off the freezer so I had to enlist some of the crew to help me out.  We finally got it out but then I had to sneak it by Jim and hang it up.  He went in for a cup of coffee but it didn’t take long enough.  So once I got it out, I hid it behind my back and sort of danced around him while he was freaking out looking for his wetsuit.  While he was looking the other way I was able to hang it up.  He thought it was pretty funny and decided to go in just his shorts like his buddy Alan always does.

Well, while we were underwater, I was shooting the anchor and all of the sudden, there was a butt in my face.   I got mooned twice underwater, which is easy to do since they were both diving in shorts.  I didn’t think to take pictures of them, but I wish I had!

I bought a big pink sweatshirt at the “Boat-ique” yesterday.  It is very warm thank God!

The night dive brought me ANOTHER NUDIBRANCH!!!  That’s three now.  Awesome.  That’s three more than I thought I’d find.  I must have take 100 pictures of it.  The rest of the guests were in shock wondering what the hell could be so exciting.  After I was done I showed them what I was so excited about.  It was a few of their first nudibranch.  Pretty cool. 

It seems like this is the Paleo jubatus.  Also known as the White-Speckled Nudibranch.

After dinner, Alan showed me some of his pictures.  He and Jim are both scientists.  Alan teaches at a marine academy in Maine and Jim at a school in Seattle.  Jim takes his top students to Dumaguete every year to study… hold your hats, this is exciting… sea cucumbers!!!  No really.  Sea Cucumbers.  He is fascinated by them.  As crazy as I am for the nudibranch, he is for the sea cucumber.  I’m not sure he photographs them as much as can discuss their scientific properties, but it totally cracks me up.

I asked him one morning what makes them special.  Here is what he said:
  •       breathe through their butt
  •       eat crap
  •    puke when they are attacked
  •       1400 species
  •    nobody cares about them