Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  8-dive weekend. :)
Okay, so i had done 16 dives to date as of Friday.
I managed to do half that number over the course of this 3-day weekend. Impressive, huh?

So here we go:

Dives #1 & 2
Dive with Alex, Alli, and Manny aboard Dixie Divers to the Hillsboro Ledge and Nursery of the Pompano Dropoff. Someone please correct me if I have the place names wrong.

I saw so much on this dive, particularly because I had never been diving with someone that moved so slow. And this is not an insult! It was great. Investigate and you find interesting things! This was the first time I had seen a blenny - wittingly, anyway - and got to get face-to-face with so many of them. They're the cutest things on earth - they're just tiny-tiny, but get close to their little hole and they'll open their mouth at you. Threatening. Nice to see a little guy with so much self confidence.

On top of that, Alex usually has a ID clipboard in hand and getting to know what fish you're seeing is really easy. Make a "What's that?" signal and he'll point to the fish name on his board, or write it if it's not already there.

One thing I learned:

This is the baby version of:

This! (French Angelfish)

Dive #3
Alex, Alli & I went to.. Hibiscus was it? to do a 4:30 dive with a woman from the fish ID class and her husband. Manny came with but was looking to do some exercise so snorkeled above us and free dove to see things with us. This is the dive where I saw my first shark. I got a come-here motion, which I always take for "Goddammit, Stacey, quit straggling" but which always is actually "Come look at something cool". This time it was a nurse shark resting on the bottom. His shark face was hidden so I had to do some maneuvering to get my face down close enough to the hole he was in to see him, but I did it, made eye contact for a few moments, and rejoined the group completely satisfied. No one else really gets excited about a nurse shark, especially people who dive a lot, but I love the sharks, nurse or not! And I still get excited about, you know, toads, so I'll probably continue to be happy to see nurse sharks for a while.

Matt's pic of a nurse shark.

I felt like I was really doing well on this dive - I could twirl down to the ground, headfirst to see things close-up and there was SO MUCH TO SEE that I never knew of when I hovered five feet above everything. This was a great dive.

After we rinsed everything off and took it back to Alex's place, we had a couple of beers while Alex quizzed us on our fish ID with the pics Manny took. The pics which Manny has yet to forward me. Ahem. We had a nice little dinner at Mulligan's and then Alex was so kind as to risk finding blonde hairs in his bed for the next year and let Alli & I use his bed as we had to be back in LBTS at 8 and we didn't stop talking until after 1. Poor Manny had to get up at 5:00 or so for a deep wreck dive in Miami. I'm still curious as to how that went.

Oh yeah, I ran out of air on this one. Not RAN OUT really, but I got under 500 and that DIR long-hose came in really handy as Alex & I swam back to shore, me sharing his air. Alex is part fish, see, so he always has lots left over. I had to shake my head underwater - sharing air on a shore-dive must be some kind of new record. Go me.

And may I say - this group of divers is absolutely the best. All three of them are intelligent, friendly, patient, and hilarious.

SUNDAY, 5/29
Dive #4
This was an 8:00 dive in LBTS with Laura and some others from the fish ID program. They went ahead of us so it was Alli, Alex & me. A standout from this dive was that Alli pointed out a sea turtle to me. I hauled ass over to see it up close and it let me get right next to him. I don't know what kind it was, but it was the biggest I had seen (of the three or so that I have). I got to touch his shell and give him a pat on the head before I realized the turtle was swimming away from my buddies and I had to turn back. Apparently that's illegal. Sorry.
Ooh! And we saw a flounder on this one! A FLOUNDER! It's one of a short list of things I really wanted to see - a shark, an octopus.. Now I guess I'll have to find things to add to the list.
Oh yeah, I had to share air on this one too. I think I got down to 250 on this dive. This time Alex shook his head. I was glad at that moment that he had a regulator in his mouth and was unable to speak. :)

After gear sorting, Alli split for home and Alex & I went for Indian food. We were both up for another dive, so I went home to feed my cats, water my plants, and take a PROPER shower, then went back to LBTS. I called my sister on the way to tell her about the shark, but she's pregnant so I had to make sure she was doing well before I went on about my new critter sighting. "What you doing?" "Eating cake and watching a Law & Order marathon." For a second I was jealous - cake AND Law & Order - but then I remembered I got to pet a turtle and see a little shark eye. I'm so happy I live here!

Dive #5
This time we went to the condo to see what the reef was like behind it. No paying for parking, shopping carts to lug gear, and no kids hogging the showers were definite pluses. We got in the water and swam out and realized we had a storm coming in, so went back in to shore. We waited out the rain on the pool deck and were rewarded just 20 or so minutes later with the sun and lovely water.

Alex & I with our shopping carts full of gear. And the necessary dive flag. :)

At first, I was worried maybe the dive wasn't going to be so interesting. But it was great - again! Fish, eels, arguing groupers - it was great. Our swim back to shore was at sunset and gorgeous. Lucky, lucky. :)

Monday, 5/30
Dives #6 & 7
9:00 (well, 9:30) dive with Parrot Island Scuba Adventures. This one was just Alex & me. We went to the Ancient Mariner, which is one of Alex's favorites. It rests at something like 70', so I was a little worried - I hadn't been that deep before - but it turned out to be fine. I had been struggling with my weight (-3 lbs, +2, etc.) so took the first minute trying to figure out how much I needed in my BC. I was much more anxious about this since we'd be over a wreck and not over the sand, where I could always find a handhold to adjust myself. Alex must've sensed my anxiety because he grabbed my hand and we inspected the site like that. Yes, Alex is cheek-squeeze worthy.

We hovered outside the wreck, where we could see a huge school of glass sweepers and a couple of dumb, floundering divers inside. We also came across a perfectly disguised scorpionfish. Ooh! And a damselfish - if you don't know, these guys are little farmers so protect their territory. Alex saw a little tiny damselfish chase off a big parrotfish, so they're good at it. Anyway, we came across an old toilet right by the wreck. It contained what I presumed to be three beer cans. Hovering over it was a bi-color damselfish. "My trashy home! Go away!"

I laughed and laughed at that. Strangely, I sound just like Dana Carvey doing an impression of George H.W. Bush when I laugh with a reg in my mouth.

Sadly, according to a fellow diver on the boat, we completely missed the four-foot long angelfish and the fish that "looked like a big barracuda, but was green." And wasn't a wahoo.

Our next dive was a drift over a reef, whose name I cannot recall. Alex? It was spectacular in the same way the rest are - you're swimming over parrotfish, angelfish, those adorable little sharpnose puffers, peeking at eels in their holes, grunts are everywhere, locking lips and not.. you can spot groupers, beautiful clown wrasses, porkfish, tiny blennies, balloonfish, nearly invisible gobies.. It's just awesome. I can't believe I waited until I was 26 to start diving.

Dive #8
After another stop at Fill-Express, more Indian food, and a nice long nap, we were up for another night dive. Two people who were thinking of going decided not to - the weather had been iffy and the conditions weren't looking great - so it was Alex & I again.

This time we were going in as the sun was going down. I've done two previous night dive and this was by far the best one I've done. Not even in the same category as the others.

On the way out, we saw a juvenile scorpionfish, who looked pretty much like this:

Yes, it's a.. nothing! With eyes! :)

And then a batfish! A freaking batfish!

Not this type, but you get the idea - it has a funny little mad face and FEET that it WALKS ON. Hello!

We saw a big ol' sea cucumber. It was huge. And a sea slug, big and beautiful. And another nurse shark. Another flounder! And Alex pointed out a squid, which I looked up to see and came crashing onto the ground (whoops). I hung out with a HUGE porcupinefish for a couple of minutes, interrupted some crabs mating, another crab's dinner.. Saw a million perfect little shrimps and crabs and fishies.

We also saw the weirdest crab in existence. It looked like a smiling rock. Alex found it online, the rough box crab:

Then Alex succeeded in his mission: He found me an octopus. It was in a tiny little crevice, so I could just see its eye, but then it would wipe its tentacle past it.. Tiny little perfect tentacles! I was elated! And later, he found an octopus out in the open for me, which darted goofily in its reaching way under a rock. He was compressed but visible under there, and I could not believe my luck.

We did the same time in the water as Sunday's shore dive and I came back in ON MY OWN AIR at 750 or so PSI. Huge improvement - yay!

Oh, and funny - after the dive, everyone we saw wanted to know how the water was and, you know, "Didja catch anything?" Why do people think that's the only reason someone would go in the ocean? Maybe I need to start carrying a picture of a batfish with me so they'd understand.

I didn't get home until 11, and I still had a car full of wet, smelly gear to contend with and an equally smelly litterbox to clean - but I could not stop smiling. I had the best weekend! :) So much cuteness, so many interesting things to see and interact with, a great new buddy who makes diving such a great experience - it was just great.

Plus, it's horrible outside today - but we were blessed with perfect weather - so I even feel luckier!
That sounds awesome! It makes me want to go diving, and I'm petrified of the idea. So glad you had a great weekend. :)
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I'm Stacey. I'm a 31(!)-year-old Wisconsin girl living in sunny South Florida. The highlights in my life are my lovely boyfriend, my aloof cats, my adorable/adoring stepdogs, my two lumbering tortoises, select family members, being outside, being underwater, taking pictures, yadda yadda. Stay tuned for lots of babbling!

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States


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Making a difference

A small boy lived by the ocean. He loved the creatures of the sea, especially the starfish, and he spent much of his time exploring the seashore.

One day the boy learned there would be a minus tide that would leave the starfish stranded on the sand.

When the tide went out, he went down to the beach, began picking up the stranded starfish, and tossing them back into the ocean.

An elderly man who lived next door came down to the beach to see what the boy was doing. Seeing the man's quizzical expression, the boy paused as he approached. "I'm saving the starfish!" the boy proudly declared.

When the neighbor saw all of the stranded starfish he shook his head and said: "I'm sorry to disappoint you, young man, but if you look down the beach, there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. And if you look up the beach the other way, it's the same. One little boy like you isn't going to make much of a difference."

The boy thought about this for a moment. Then he reached his small hand down to the sand, picked up another starfish, tossed it out into the ocean, and said: "Well, I sure made a difference for that one!"

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