Please DO Touch the Reef!

How often do you hear those words, eh?  Well those are our action verbs for the next two days, as Team IVS connects with the Coral Whisperer himself, Ken Nedimyer, and we work together to help restore the Staghorn and Elkhorn coral populations on the Key Largo reef system.

But before we get into that, let me make a confession.  I decided today was the day that I needed to come clean, and be honest and open with our readers.  I am considering entering into a 12-step program!

Now the wheels are turning, aren’t they?  Well imagine me sitting in a little circle of folding chairs, in the back room of a church or some other meeting place, and when the facilitator calls on me, I stand, perhaps a little cough to clear the throat, and announce, to the world….”Hello, my name is Dave, and I am an…….. adrenalin-holic!” There, I feel better already, past that critical first step known as denial.

Now you wonder, how did I end up in this church meeting room, sitting in that circle of folding chairs?   Well it came to me this morning, as I prepared for, and then actually headed to the airport for our trip to Key Largo.  I had an earlier than usual flight, departing at 8:45, and as usual, a ton of stuff on my desk that was all screaming for attention.  So after a weekend of Dutch Springs and multiple reef club speaking engagements, my Monday to-do list sorta resembled a cheap toilet…backing up!  So I spent the day being as efficient as possible, meeting with three different contractors on site, two hour meeting with our website designer, hundred or so phone calls, lots of review with Bev and the staff, crunching through my to-do list and crossing things off, working, working working….then an  instructor development class all evening, and as we break that up, it is 11’ish.  I’ve got an 8:45 flight in the morning so I am thinking that perhaps an all-nighter is in order here, crank through the list, get more caught up, pile up even more things in Bev’s to-do basket!  So I get into it, working through the night, stop for a wee bit of a nap, thinking what’s left on my list to do…..pack scuba gear, pack clothes, among a few other things.  Wake back up at 3:30, more time to get things done, so I crank on.  Yeah, plenty of time left to pack, not to worry.

Hmmm….5:00 now…yeah, still time to clean out more emails, maybe edit an on line photo album or two…..yeah, still ok….ok, maybe I should take a look at my dive gear.  So where is my gear?  Holy smokes, I broke down my setup two weeks ago and converted over to an all-Hollis rig two weeks ago.  Then, when I wasn’t looking, John Glo took apart my system and set it up for Joyce who wanted to go Hollis too.  So, I go to my gear locker and what awaits me?  A few odd d-rings, and a buckle or two.  No backplate, no wing, no harness.  Geeeez! OK, dig a little deeper into the locker, here’s an old backplate & harness, OK, here’s one of those old ‘H’ brand wings, yeah I can manage with this. So let’s put it all together, yep, looking like a diver, and it’s still only 5:50 now.  Looking at the clock, I am doing the math….depart at 8:45, checked baggage cut-off is 8:00, so allow 1/2 hour to drop the car off at remote parking and get shuttled in, ok, add another half hour for safety, allow 45 minutes for the run to the airport…OK, need to leave by 6:15.  Holy smokes!  I should start packing!  Grab a bag, answer another email or two, start tossing some things in, how many t-shirts?  How many changes of underwear?   OK, add a nice shirt or two, some toiletries, all good.  Now, sweep all the unfinished paperwork off the desk into a bag, pack up the laptop, pack up the rental gear and products that I have been assigned to transport to the Keys, load the 5 bags into the truck.  Yikes, it’s 6:28 now……..cutting into our safety margin big time!  You can start to see the russian roulette game playing out here, making a schedule as tight as possible, knowing the last minute adrenalin rush that will ultimately come as I shave the clock down to the last few ticks.

So, one last potty break before I stroll leisurely out to the truck, and start to head down to the airport.  Hmmm..traffic is Harleysville is a little heavy,,,yo, how did I get behind this school bus?  Man oh man, that wasn’t in the plan. OK, ok, breath deep, keep it moving forward……….how many more kids can possibly live between me and the friggin’ turnpike entrance?   Yellow flashing lights, red flashing lights…..ok, start again…..finally, here it is..swing down the ramp, trying to choose the best lane, ok this one looks good..commit….OK …. now the traffic is looking thick ahead…darn construction…hmmm…pick  a lane, flex a little jacked-up Dodge truck muscle…gain a spot or two,..thinking this traffic was also not in the plan!   Cutting way into my safety allowance here….traffic is so slow….don’t they understand????   I’ve got a flight to catch!  Well now I am approaching the ramp to I-95, and I am thinking, since the clock is showing 7:45, that parking the car before checking the bags might be a terrible idea.  So I blast up to the airport, more slow-pokes to deal with…finally whipping in to the Delta skycap station, squeezing in to cut off the hotel shuttle and it’s load of passengers…..I jump out, and look around…man, none of my home-boys are working today, meaning I will actually have to show ID before they punch me into the system.  More time wasted….”Hurry those fingers up, young man” I direct, as he is yacking away with his counterpart “we’ve got to get these bags checked in!”.  “Well what time is your flight” he asks, as the clock ticks to 7:58.  “Please”, I implore, “we are down to the wire here”.  Finally he finds me, and as the boarding passes print out at 7:59, he comments “wow, you just made it”.  Thank you stating the obvious, genius.  And with one minute to spare in my baggage check in, a perverse smile comes to my face, knowing once again, I made it just under the wire.  OK, that celebration is a quick one, cause I still have a car to park, and we’ll be boarding in 15 minutes!  So I pull out, run down the highway, past the most obvious close lots, to the slightly cheaper one that is of course further away…heck, we’ll be boarding in 7 minutes now, I have time….park the car, damn, where’s that bus, OK, jump on, “I’m ready” I say, and he says “we have to pick up one or two more”.  That wasn’t in the plan either!!!  Finally, 5 minutes into the boarding process, I pull up to the airport, jump out and run the security gauntlet.  Thank goodness the ratio of blue shirts to paying passengers is favorable, and I pass quickly, except, once again, that mysterious video camera and housing I am carrying requires a closer inspection.  Well, recognizing the time factor, I opted to just suck up and let them once again swab my camera housing clean, making sure that no explosives had been put inside since they swabbed it last week.  I must admit I have the cleanest camera housing around, thanks to all the swabbing by the TSA.

The flights south were uneventful, and finally I am in Miami.  Now I am not one to rush the guys in baggage, so I head over to the Delta Crown Room for a bit of hydration and to check email.  Now my phone starts to come alive with texts from my cohorts Butch Loggins and Ray Graff, who are anxiously awaiting me in baggage claim.  “Are my bags there yet?” I respond, and they send back “no”.  “OK, text me when they show up!”.  This goes back and forth a few more times, and finally the pressure becomes too much for me to fully enjoy the complimentary cocktails.  OK, OK, here I come.  Good news is by the time I got there, my bags had arrived and the boys had them under control!  Great team work!

So we board the shuttle and head over to the rental car outfit.  Time to negotiate a better deal on a bigger set of wheels!  So, in true Tijuana fashion, they start high, I start low, we banter back and forth, get the manager involved, throw some customer loyalty BS on the pile, and finally seal the deal.  A $700 brand new minivan for the week, for $350, including taxes and fees – sweet!

On the road south now, next stop Key Largo (almost).  As we pass through Homestead, we are plenty ahead of schedule for tonight’s 7:00 lecture on Coral Reef Restoration, taking place at Amoray Dive Resort.  Ken Nedimyer is bringing his staff to get our group ready for the work we have planned for tomorrow.  All systems go, everything on track, plans are set, what could change now?

Well, let’s just say we decide to stop in at Pontunes Tiki Bar, located at the base of Jewfish Creek Bridge, on the way into Key Largo.  And as we’re sitting at the bar, enjoying some drinks and munchies, we notice a pretty snazzy pirate ship tied up alongside the bar.  What’s up with the boat, we ask, and the barmaid, Linda Long, starts to tell us about the ship and how the owner uses to run evening sunset cruises and eco-tours.  On top of that she starts to admire my Breast Cancer pin, and turns out she is a cancer survivor herself.  Well hugs all around, and as quick as that, she is wearing my pin.  Cool!

All of a sudden Ray, of all people, says “Why don’t we hold our lecture here tonight?”  “Gee Ray, I don’t know, that’s a lot to pull off in a hour or so that we have before the meeting starts” I say, being the conservative sort that I am.  Where does Ray come up with this stuff, I am thinking.  Butch wisely chooses to remain on the sidelines here, but Ray is adamant “Boy are these guys gonna love this idea!” OK, OK, so I pick up my phone and give Ken a call, and he is OK if the meeting moves.  So now we tell Rick, the owner of Pontunes, to hold the boat, cause we’re coming back with our crew!

Into the car we jump, and fly on down to Amoray.  Walking in the front door, it’s quick hugs and handshakes all around, and then we announce the meeting has been moved to a different place at a different time.  You would have sworn we had three heads the way the Amoray staff was looking at us!  “We can’t do that”, they said, “everyone knows where the meeting is supposed to be”.  Little did they know they would have to try a lot harder to derail this idea train that Ray had hung the IVS flag on.  “Nope, it’s cool”, I said, “let’s just get a hold of everyone and get them down to the pirate ship!”  So, after some grumbling, shaking of heads and other expected reactions, the staff knew that IVS had officially landed, and that life in Key Largo, as they normally know it, was about to be turned upside down.

Eventually the crowd started to gather at the resort, and we sent the first couple of carloads up to hold the boat for us.  We had to wait til the last pokey puppies showed up, and then get them up top speed, into the last car, and off to the boat.  Unfortunately, the boat had to leave to get the cruise started, but not to worry, the bar had a motor launch standing by waiting to shuttle us out to the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ as the pirate ship was known.  So we piled in, and raced out to intercept the mother ship like a bunch of Somalian pirates.  We caught up to it and fired a line onto the vessel, and the crew immediately surrendered to us, allowing the rest of our crew to board without incident.  We sailed off into a glorious sunset, perfect combination of breeze and warm early summer air to make the evening even more memorable.  At first the plan was to gather in the ship’s galley for the presentation, but the night was so nice we just opted to wait til we returned to the dock and do it there.  The cruise was uneventful, well, except for that part where Dave Hartman, working the crowd in his usual manner, reached into his wallet for a business card, and overlooked the fact that he was sitting on a ship’s railing, with his butt over the sea.  Ker-splash went the wallet and the captain immediately launched a man (‘s wallet) overboard drill, bringing our one hundred foot of ship around on our course and all eyes were on the water, trying to see Dave’s billfold.  After two passes the black wallet on the black water under the blackening sky was given up for lost, and we headed back to port!

Once there, we headed to the restaurant, and enjoyed a wonderful presentation over food and drinks, given by Ken and his staffers, Andy & Katie.  Everyone finally headed home to rest up and prepare for the next days activities at the coral nursery.  Well, almost everybody…..cause our boy Ray realized he was missing his carry-on bag, and after a few frantic phone calls, found he had left it at the rental car place.  Sooooooo….at 11:00 p.m., Ray and I jumped in the car and headed north to Miami, moving quick cause the rental office closes at midnight!  (sensing some more adrenalin here?).

So we head up Route 1, cruising through Homestead,  onto the turnpike, motor humming, on track to make the closing time, traffic is good.  Exits are zipping by, we look to be good by at least 10 to maybe 15 minutes before the bewitching hour, keep moving, no time to stop for libations or bodily functions.  Finally we are at the airport exit, and we pull out the directions.  First turn OK, second one, good still.  Third turn….ruh roh….construction cones completely across the highway.  Dang, let’s turn here and do an end around….up the side street…equally closed down….ok, this isn’t funny, I think there’s a back way…we head there, cones across the road but no witnesses, so we get out, and unofficially re-open the road.  To no avail, two blocks up, the road ends in a deep trench (OK, maybe those cones were a good idea!) so we head back, letting ourselves back out through the cones, and for the sake of the next guy, we put them back in place.  Just then we look up and realize we are not alone here, our actions are being observed by the ever-watchful eye of the Miami Police.  The cop rolls up slowly, with a fair degree of suspicion of what these two guys are doing here in the middle of the night, moving construction barriers.  Well turns out he’s a diver, and understands the need to have your regulator not spend the night in the auto rental office, so he escorts us down another closed road, and sneaks us right into the gate!  Honks of the horns and waves, and once again, fate has smiled on us, as it is 5 minutes after midnight but a late-arriving customer kept them from locking up!  

Finally, Ray’s errant regulator bag in hand, we head back to Key Largo, getting our week off to a rousing start with a 2:00 a.m. bed time.  The first of many, I am sure.  Since there are four of us here tonight, including Alex Mathie from New Jersey, we opted to just bunk in room #7, giving us two beds up and two down.  Alex had arrived first, putting his claim on one of the upstairs beds.  Ray, catching Butch not paying attention for a moment, made sure his bag was on the second bed upstairs, sealing Butch’s fate having to share the downstairs room with me and my (rumored but not yet confirmed) snoring.  Now I’m not sure if  they are collaborating on this story, but Butch claims he awoke during the night, aroused by the gentle melody of my ‘night sounds’, and started to yell at me to turn over, knowing, from experience, that, if I did snore (remember, not confirmed) that I was more likely to do so on my back, so turning onto my side usually took care of things.  But, to Butch’s dismay, I was already on my side!  Not too much can be done at this point, so just put another pillow over your head and tough it out!  Meanwhile, over breakfast, Ray comments that he woke up cause someone left the downstairs bathroom exhaust fan on, so he came down to turn it off, but realized what a good job it was doing covering up the (alleged) snoring, that he decided to leave it on and go back to bed!

It was raining cats and dogs when we woke up this morning, and we braced ourselves for a rather yucky day on the water.  But as we began to load our gear onto the boat, the sun started to sneak out, and those were the last clouds we were to see all week long!  Carlie & Leslie Adams joined us for their second coral restoration trip, and we were joined by four other participants and two of the Amoray staffers.  The morning brightened right up, and we spent two hours underwater in the coral nursery, tending to Ken’s little crops.  Cleaning off algae, picking parasites, cutting and mounting new fragments, preparing the corals we would be planting tomorrow, all in a morning’s work. Back in for a quick lunch, and then we headed out to the site selected for tomorrow’s restoration, where we chiseled and cleaned the rocky substrate in preparation of the corals we would mount the next day.  Each location needed to be cleaned down to the limestone base, to ensure a good adhesion for the epoxy we would be using, and also to clear away any invasive algae or other growths that might wish to take advantage of our new additions to the reef.  So it’s a bit of a change in habit, when we preach daily to NOT touch the reef, then we head in with hammers, chisels and wire brushes and give the reef a dose of tough love.   After four good dives, we head back to Amoray where we gather for this evening’s lecture, sans pirate ship, and go over the details of what the group can expect tomorrow.

Thursday it’s another two dives in the nursery to start it off, then we load up the corals selected for transplanting onto the boat, and head in for a quick lunch.  That afternoon we went out to our restoration site, and got right to work planting our babies, carefully setting each in an epoxy base, mixing three genotypes in each cluster, with an orientation that will allow easy documentation in the future as they grow.  After that, we measure each one, getting a total linear length of the live coral, so we can also record the growth rates over time, and ultimately the success of the program. Two great days, lots of education, 8 dives with Ken and his crew, and the reefs are better than when we arrived.  How cool is that?

Thursday afternoon the gang started to arrive, and we were joined by John Alcott, Jody Bryan, Bev Logins, Mike & Lin Gusenko, Luke & Dillon Miller, Hilary Goodman, Matt Ryan, Robert Bruce, Michelle Bruce, and Robert Bruce Sr.   Also joining our group from the land of fruit and nuts (& Csaba) was Sue Douglass and Jeff Bader, while the Sunshine state brought us Dave Hartman, long-time IVS’er Tom Brennan, and the Flying Romano, Camilo, and his lovely bride Tamrah.  Great group!   A bunch of us geared up and started the weekend off right with a night dive out to the Benwood, then our usual post-dive fare of Cheeseburgers in Paradise at the Pub.

Morning came and with it again blue skies, no wind and flat seas.  Most of the gang headed out to the reefs, while Hilary, Matt, Robert & Michelle joined Ray and I at Jules Undersea Lodge for their first two checkout dives.  Great way to start it off, with no waves, no rocking boat, and no rush as we got our dives in and skills knocked out with no issues at all.  Wonderful to work with divers who are so well prepared for their checkouts, and it is a compliment to the instructors who worked so diligently to prepare them for this moment.  Kudo’s to the IVS instructional staff for helping pave the pathway for scuba success for our newest divers. 

After lunch, we all boarded the boat and headed out to the Spiegel Grove for the first of three visits there this weekend.  Conditions were near perfect, you could see the wreck from the boat, and the 82 degree water just iced the cake.  Turtles and dolphins joined us as our boat neared the wreck, adding to the magic.  We followed that with another reef dive, and headed back to the dock enjoying the afternoon breeze.  That evening we headed down to the IVS South headquarters, where host Dave Hartman served up an array of blender-based drink concoctions, appetizers and snacks for the gang.  We also enjoyed some of his fine footage from local dives as well as his trips to the Red Sea. 

That evening was also the monthly Full Moon Party at mile marker 82, but most of us were a tad too tired to drive that far down the pike for more drinks and fireworks.  So only Jeff raised his hand to join Dave at the party, and the rest of the crowd started to drift off, supposedly back to Amoray.  I say supposedly, cause their cars all somehow malfunctioned as the approached Route 1, and suddenly they found themselves in the paradise Pub parking lot. Hmmm…how does that happen?  And what about that being too tired for more drinks thing?

Well what a surprise to find we were there for karaoke night, hosted by Gwen from Mars (that’s Mars, PA) and chock full of some local karaoke ‘talent’ and her groupies.  Karaoke is one of those activities that sounds and feels great when you are properly lubricated, but it sure is tough to take otherwise. So, let’s get some pitchers of beer on the table and work on our karaoke appreciation, by golly, now it’s sounding better.  Yup, “wow, that guy can really wail a tune.”  “Hey, is that the songbook over there?”  Wonder what else they have.”   You can see where this is heading now, can’t you?

Before you know it, Key Largo is rocking to the tunes of Bev and the Regulators!  Led by Ms Loggins herself, the group included Leslie Adams, Lin Gusenko, Sue Douglass, Jodelle Bryant, and Amoray’s group manager C.Lee.  Time after time they took the ‘stage’ and belted out tune after tune to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd.  You could virtually see the lighters being waved and the speedo’s being tossed onstage by the admiring fans.  What a special night it was indeed!  This will be one tough one to beat on a future trip!

Well Saturday morning found the gang a little on the quiet side, at least to start, after the previous evening’s raucous activities.  But everyone soon got back in the groove, and we knocked out five great dives, including a night dive, that day.  Conditions everywhere continued to be absolutely stellar, with fantastic viz, seas close to zero, dolphins jumping around us, more turtles, all great stuff.

Sunday came and the magic continued…..if there was ever heavenly intervention on a dive trip, this was the one, with bright clear blue skies, flat seas, minimal current, and a great group of divers enjoying even more bottom time.  We started at the City of Washington, watching a pretty anemic feed take place (only one grouper, no sharks, no barracuda, no eels…..those guys got jipped!).  From there it was Mike’s Wreck, a quick lunch, then our signature double deep Sunday afternoon dives, visiting the Duane and then the Spiegel.  Current was brisk on the Duane, but not unmanageable, and viz was forever, so we had a really nice dive.  Today the wreck was covered with huge, and I mean huge, schools of predators, with hundreds of Atlantic Spadefish circling the wreck, big schools of Horse Eye Jacks, lots of Barracuda’s and more.  Dave H and I spent some time standing in the crows nest at the end of our 40 minute dive, everyone else safely sent back to the boat, and we just were absolutely surrounded by sushi of all flavors.  Have never experienced anything like this on the Duane or any other wreck for that matter – it was truly a magic day!  From there we headed to the Spiegel, finding not a single boat on the site, and the mooring lines  were completely slack, all the way to the wreck!  Even Lynn Swartley and the Z-brothers could have floated up to the right boat today!  Our new divers were eager to enjoy some mild penetration into the wreck and they were not disappointed, as we played all through this giant sub-sea fun house for nearly a half hour.  At the same time Dave H was leading the more adventurous souls deep inside the wreck on one of his tours, always a hit with the diving crowd.  So finally everyone was sent back up, and I had the entire wreck to myself, tons of gas left, oodles of time thanks to Mr Cochran, and a chance to go see if there was any way to make this day even more better!   Well, “what’s that shadow” I think, as I turn and realize I am not alone, but being investigated by a grouper, that without exaggeration, was easily 8 feet long.  “Well hello there”, I am thinking, realizing that I could possibly actually fit into those massive jaws.  Slowly he turned, slow enough to tease me to follow, and so I did, swimming towards the stern and up alongside one of the cranes.  He slipped behind the crane, swam off a bit, then turned back, but this time, he was not alone, bringing two, yes two friends of equal if not greater size.  All three then came to check me out, and we spent over 10 minutes in a graceful dance, with me sitting on the railing and the three of them making pass after pass at me, swimming so close i could touch all three, probably over 2,000 pounds of fish just interacting me like I have never ever seen before.  And the best part?  I am holding my video camera, and capturing this live, along with still shots, as the three of them just continue to amuse themselves, and me, with their play.  Finally my camera dies, my gauge is indicating it might be an appropriate time to head up, before I need to uncork my stage bottle, and I bid adieu to my friends, swimming alongside them all the way back to the superstructure and to the mooring line.  I am speechless, (well of course I am, I am underwater) over what I just experienced.  Moments like this are rare, and I am still smiling as I sit here and type this missive.  I might rank this as my best dive ever!

Finally I board, and we head back in, as I share my moving experience with the boat.  I feel like I need a cigarette now, it was so good!  We motor back in, clean up, and most of us head over to Captain Jacob’s place for a BBQ on the water, another perfect evening to cap a truly enchanted weekend.

Monday morning comes, and I think I am gonna sneak in a last couple of dives on the boat, still basking in the afterglow of the weekend’s event.  So I start with the Monday morning ritual of departure hugs and kisses, but what’s up with this?  Bev has her bathing suit on, so does Butch. In fact, so does Ray, and Tom, Camilo, Tamrah, Carlie, Leslie and Dave H too!  The living DAN Flying After Diving experiment continues!  Everyone wants to get another couple of dives in, since the conditions may never be this perfect for a long time.  So onto the boat we jump, and along with Amoray staffers C. Lee and Liz, we manage to get our 23rd and 24th dive of the weekend in.  And, to top it off, Carlie bags his first lionfish!  One less very hungry-mouth to feed on the reef tonight!  Way to go Carlie!   And a very un-amused sheep crab nailed me on the finger as I tried to coax / coerce him into a photo with Bev – way to go Dave! 

Now of course not everyone is flying, in fact it’s just me, the Loggins, and Ray.  So we finally pull back into the slip at 1:15, and I am thinking, what exactly were those guys thinking, knowing they had booked a 4:05 flight?  I think I’m an adrenalin junkie, these guys are making me look like Mr. Way Ahead of Schedule!   So we shower, pack, dress, load the truck, check out, settle the bill, more hugs, and start the ride to the airport.  Oooops…did someone not get the memo? It’s Memorial Day, and we’re not the only ones thinking of leaving the Keys this afternoon.  Traffic is completely stopped at the Jewfish Creek Bridge, so we pull off and head down to Card Sound Road, adding a few miles (and minutes) to the trip but avoiding this major 22 mile traffic jam ahead.   

We’re OK, probably need to think about dropping these guys right off at the terminal, but I think we’re still OK….keep moving, cutting through the crowd of cars like America’s favorite slasher, O.J. Simpson.  Pass a few more, pushing, pushing.  “We need to gas up in Homestead”, I announce, and Butch points out “if you had bought the pre-paid gas like I suggested, we wouldn’t have to be stopping now!” Yeah, yeah…easy for me to say, I have a 6:50 flight!    So we whip into the pumps, and Ray, a man of his own schedule, decides to walk into the convenience store while I am pumping gas and get us some drinks for the ride north.  Bev just about comes unglued in the back seat when she realizes what he is doing!  Butch is on the phone with US Air on his Blackberry, and I’m doing OK…cause I have a 6:50 flight!!  Ray finally returns, refreshments in hand, and we get back on the road.  We make it 12 miles up the turnpike when an accident occurs ahead, shutting all four lanes down.  Butch is jamming on his GPS application, and starts to direct…turn here!  OK, so I kinda 4-wheel it down the grass ramp, off the turnpike, to the adjacent roadway.  More turns, more roads, more traffic later, we are finally approaching the airport.  The sad news is that boarding has already started for their flight.  The mood’s a little more somber in the car, as Butch announces that the  next available flight for them is 2:30 tomorrow afternoon!  Man that sucks….I need Bev in the office in the morning!   I know, I know, my sensitive side revealed!

Well I leave them curbside, with their bags, to deal with whatever they need to deal with and hopefully catch a standby seat (or three) home.  Meanwhile I head up to my terminal, check in my pile of bags, and breath a great sigh of relief, glad I didn’t rush my afternoon like those guys!  See….my adrenalin addiction is getting better already!  My 6:50 flight is uneventful, and I arrive home later that night.

Turns out the three of them needed to overnight in Miami, and Ray, frugal guy as we well know, decides the three of them can share a room.  But, just to keep the front desk folks from wondering, he introduces Bev as his younger sister, traveling with her husband.  Bev is just shaking her head at this point….you can almost hear her saying “whatever!”.  And they were able to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight and the magic continues, as Bev was in by 11:00!  The end!

IVS and the New Jersey Reef Club

Another day, and another chance to work with folks who truly care about the state of the world’s reef systems!  Today I attended a meeting of the New Jersey Reef Club, in support of our good friend Ken Nedimeyer, as we worked together to share what the Coral Restoration Foundation is doing for the reefs and how Indian Valley Scuba can get the reef club members involved in the hands on activities there.

Ken’s presentation was spell-binding, and even for this group who were already well-versed in coral facts and figures, it proved to be enlightening and educational.  Lots of great info and even better questions from the audience made for a great afternoon of activities.  And the NJ Reef Club presented Ken with  a $1,500 donation for the Coral Restoration Foundations work in Key Largo and elsewhere.  A hot topic of discussion was the state of the current oil spill in the gulf, and Ken was a wealth of information on the facts and predictions of likely scenarios.  Bottom line – the Keys should be in good shape.

Indian Valley Scuba was also able to share the program we have partnered to develop with the Del Val Reef Club, providing certification training and a Coral Restoration trip to Key Largo the week before MACNA, the annual National Marine Aquarium Conference, being held this year in Orlando.  Divers will get a chance to dive three days in Key Largo, working in the nursery with Ken and his staff, then head up to Orlando for the show, being held Labor Day Weekend. What a great opportunity for a hands-on experience working to help restore what they love so much in their own aquariums.

The event was hosted by IceCap, a manufacturer of aquarium reef lighting systems, and they also donated a portion of the days sales to Ken for the CRF work.  Very nice job, Chris & Laura!

Frag Swapping with the Delaware Valley Reef Club

Today marks the date of the first annual Delaware Valley Reef Club’s  Frag Swap.  This all-day event, targeted to the saltwater aquarium enthusiasts, provides an opportunity for education, exchange of information, social interaction and most importantly, a chance to trade or purchase fragments of live corals for members own aquariums.  Indian Valley Scuba is an official sponsor of the Del Val Reef Club, and we are joined here at the event by approx. 40 vendors offering a tremendous variety of live corals, sponges, aquarium equipment, and more.

This place is absolutely hopping, with hundreds of aquarists eagerly passing through the aisles, checking out the corals and other goods, attending the seminars, picking up information, and heading home with new additions for their saltwater tanks.  And even cooler, learning how they can scuba dive and get right to the source of all these fantastic corals!

As coral reef ambassadors, the club members are constantly seeking ways to further their knowledge of the reef system.  A natural avenue for this was for the club to affiliate with the  Coral Restoration Foundation, headed up by  our good friend and coral reef savior Ken Nidemeyer.  As many of you know IVS is an active sponsor of the Coral Restoration Foundation’s programs, running several trips each year to Key Largo to work in the coral nursery and transplant live Staghorn and Elkhorn corals onto the reef.

Many of the club members are learning to dive with IVS this summer, and we have put together a special trip to Key Largo exclusively for club members, to complete their checkout dives and then to work side by side with Ken and his team, clipping, cleaning and planting corals. What a perfect way to combine the best of both worlds, from the aquarium to the sea.  For more information check out the Delaware Valley Reef Clubs website or, or download the trip flyer from the IVS website.

What a DOG Day it was at Dutch!

Each season the folks at DUI, manufacturers of some of the world’s finest drysuit systems, take a note from the Indian Valley Scuba Demo Tour, and run around the country conducting demo day events.  Known as DOG Days, named for the DUI Owners Group, these events historically bring out as many as 1,000 divers to test dive the latest in drysuit offerings from DUI, get a great lunch, talk face-to-face with the DUI factory folks, and socialize with many other DUI owners and wanna-be’s.  They also learn about new options, upgrades and other promotions that DUI is running.  And the event is staffed by local participating dealers, so once the divers have been convinced that a DUI is in the future for them, they know just where to buy one.  How amazing is that?

This weekend found the DUI folks at Dutch Springs for a three day event.  Friday was devoted to Public Safety Diving, and the tent was full of firemen, police officers, commercial divers and rescue divers from teams all over the region.  Faith Ortins was the MC and lead speaker for the event, educating, informing and getting the crowd involved in hands-on demonstrations of the latest PS Diving suits, swiftwater rescue outfits, decontamination products and equipment, and new government regulations and standards that impact this industry.

Saturday and Sunday is dedicated to the general public for test diving DUI suits, and test dive they did!  Over 150 people showed up for the opening of the event on Saturday morning, and the crowd remained steady all day long.  For anyone who has never attended a DUI DOG Day, it was truly an eye-opener with the efficiency of the process that has evolved over the years.  From registration to fitting to diving, each step is handled at a separate station, in a logical order, so the numbers of divers that can be run through in the course of a day with minimal delay is absolutely amazing.

Hmmmmm..wheels are turning here……maybe my blue shirted friends from the TSA should attend a DOG Day and learn how you can be both thorough and efficient at the same time!  But I digress……

Indian Valley Scuba was well represented at the event this weekend, with Dave on site Friday for the PS Diving seminars, then Joyce Kichman, John Glodowski, Chris Perry, Steve Holak, Felix Gryn, Frank Gabriel, Bill Zyskowski, Mike Parzynski, Tricia Arrington, Pam Schools, Chris Muller, IAHD Diver  Karen Swisher and her son Christopher, and others joining pitching in to help make this event a great success.  We thank each and everyone for helping us this weekend.

The event this weekend was one of the busiest yet, so busy in fact that the DUI folks ending up borrowing gear off the IVS Dueling Drysuits Demo Trailer! How’s that for cross-pollination?  Ooops, I meant cross-promotion!  In any case, it just helps illustrate how different members of the industry can work together to build a better diving community for all.  Remember, a rising tide floats all ships…..yet some shops and dive industry professionals just never get it!

More than 150 divers test dove DUI suits on Saturday, and 75 or so more did it on Sunday.  This was one of DUI’s biggest weekends ever, and boy was the energy and activity non-stop in the demo tents.  The crews worked well together, and in spite of a little rain Saturday afternoon, and a lot of rain on Sunday morning it still was a great weekend for all.

Camp IVS was busy too, with divers joining us all day long on both days.  And of course training was rampant, with Brian Laspino and Amir Stark completing their Rescue Diver certifications, Joyce Kichman, Mike Parzynski and Rich Peterson wrapping up their Intro to Tec cert, and Doug Ellis getting some of his Open Water Instructor Development Course training out of the way.  Multi-tasking – it’s a way of life at IVS!    And our own Steve Holak stepping into the line of fire as grillmaster for the weekend, and his meat-handling skills were top shelf.  Now, we need to get his “fixins bar” setup skills in order!  What a great weekend of laughter, good food, local diving and friends – does life get any better than this?

Key West Wrecking & Tec’ing it again!

And so it begins, another jaunt southward to test the weather gods in Key West, as Roger Patton and I have a weekend of deep diving planned.  Our last visit here in March did not fare so well, so we are hoping that will not be the case this weekend.  Our goals are to dive the USAFS Vandenberg, USS Curb and USS Wilkes Barre wrecks, for a total of 9 dives, and complete Roger’s Advanced Nitrox & Deco Procedures coursework.

So after a frantic morning of packing, I realize I am most likely going to miss my flight.  So I call the airline, and lo and behold, my flight has been delayed, and I can indeed make it!  Woo hoo!  So I race to the Philadelphia airport, dodging traffic and construction all the way.  As I get near, I call Delta again to re-confirm my flight.  Well now it seems that the delay will cause me to miss my connection out of Atlanta, so instead of meeting Roger at the Miami airport, I’ll be 3 hours behind him now.  So much for that careful planning when setting up our original reservations!

Never the less, I soldier on, darting, weaving, cutting through, gonna make this flight, and I know it.  As I get to the end of the Blue Route, traffic is definitely slowing down, and my options are limited at best.  So, I call again, to check the status, and sure enough, fate is on my side, or so it appears, cause my flight has been delayed further!   Of course that will probably impact my connecting flight again, but that is a secondary issue for the moment.  Just need to get this travel started!   Now my phone rings, and it is my friends at Delta.  My flight is being delayed again, and I am getting a growing sense that this particular flight is doomed.  So, lets look at options.  One of the beauties of loyalty to one airline is the benefits they offer, and in my case, the three Pelican cases in the back of my truck, that weigh in at 68 or 69 pounds each, would cost a bundle if they were not part of my baggage allowance when I am upgraded.  But, here’s the glitch – if I am not upgraded, then the baggage allowance reverts to the standard one free bag and 50 pound weight limit, so my pack-rat nature would end up costing me a bundle!  The next flight to Atlanta has no confirmed first class available, neither does the next.  Wait a minute, are we still bailing the airlines out cause they are hurting for business????   Every single seat is sold all afternoon long – and they still need our tax dollars to survive?  Something is wrong here for sure…but that story is for another day!

So, what do we have available that we can confirm first class in and that will get me to Miami today?  Well gosh, here’s the obvious answer……let’s fly to Minneapolis, then head south to Atlanta.  Sure makes sense to me, fly me 1,100 miles west and then 1,200 miles south for a 1,000 mile trip.  I am beginning to see a correlation between passenger routing decisions and earning a profit here!  It’s OK, I feel like Don Quixote sometimes battling the windmills….breath deep, let it go Dave…..

So I curb check my 210 pounds worth of bags, and skip on in to security.  The lines are long (remember, air travel is down, please help the airlines out!) but I work my way through.  During my slow journey to the front of the line I have time to make some observations and it becomes crystal clear to me why the acronym TSA really stands for “Thousands Standing Around”.  The government really should have contacted someone like Disney for advice on how to move people along, cause the current methods really need help!

Finally I am at the front, and since I limited out on my baggage, I am hand carrying my video camera and housing in a smaller Pelican case.  Onto the belt goes my shoes, laptop in a tray, backpack,and the Pelican.  I pass through the magic doorway to the “other side” and walk up to await my packages as they exit the X-ray scanner.  Ruh-roh….it is obvious by the blank expression on the TSA agents face as she stares at the monitor that she is totally lost and has no idea of what she is looking at.  During WWII, every kid and housewife in America had a deck of cards and could identify enemy aircraft by their silhouette alone, yet todays TSA agents, after thousands of tax dollars worth of savings, still can’t recognize a freakin’ video camera.  America is doomed for sure.

As you might imagine, another agent is brought over, and he shares the same mindless stare at the monitor.  “Is this yours”, he asks.  I look around just to make sure I am alone, and suggest that yes, it might be.  “We’ll need to take a look at this” he informs me, so whatever, I grab my other things and walk over to the inspection table.  “Please stand here”, he says, as he points to a spot on the opposite side of the table.  “I’m OK over here”, I respond, wanting to keep my distance to avoid catching the same brain sucking disease that he obviously has.  He commands me to stand in his preferred spot again, so I ask “Is there a law or something that requires me to stand there?”.  “I can’t open your bag if you don’t watch”, he informs me.  “Help me understand here”, I ask, “what makes you different from all the baggage monkeys downstairs that are currently rooting through my other bags?”.  Well, perhaps my wording could have been more diplomatic, as he summons yet another blue shirt over to the inspection table.  “What’s in the case”, blue shirt #2 asks.  “What did it look like when you scanned it?”, I respond.  This is not a fun game at all. I suggest they pop it open and we’ll take a peek inside, and they make sure that I don’t have anything sharp inside.  Jiminy Crickets, this is painful.  They open the case and it’s like the two of them just awoke from a 50 year coma…..”what is that”, they ask.  “It’s a video camera, see the little ‘JVC’ on the side?”.  So I have to give them the whole story , about how water and electronics don’t mix, and that is why there is a plastic box in there, perhaps the words ‘Indian Valley Scuba’ stenciled across the outside of the case wasn’t enough of a hint.  Think they get it?  Not yet!  Blue shirt #3, obviously a supervisor, walks over and inquires about what the problem is, and they gesture towards the camera, and he says “that’s an underwater video”.  Shazam….we finally get it! So, America’s security assured, I am allowed to pass and head towards my plane.  We board, and two flights later, I am on the ground in Miami. It’s 11:40 p.m. now, and the rental car agency closes at midnight, so there’s no time to waste, hump my bags outside, grab the last shuttle, and get my car!  First stop, IVS South headquarters in Key Largo, where I load up my doubles and stage bottles for the weekend.  It’s a painfully long ride to Key West and I pull in at 4:00 a.m..  Time for a quick power nap and then get ready for a day of diving!  Yeah!!

Let’s just ignore those whistling sounds that are keeping me from falling asleep, as the wind howls through the rigging of the ships and sailboats moored outside the condo.  “It’ll die down”, I tell myself, “it’ll be OK.”  So the 6:45 alarm goes off and guess what……..the wind has not died down!  In fact the 7:00 NOAA weather update shows it is blowing in excess of 30 knots directly from the east, which means it has had the entire Atlantic Ocean to pick up steam and waves. Waves are in excess of 10 feet this morning and as you might imagine no boats are sailing.  What a suck way to start a trip off!  Even worse, this is expected to continue through the weekend, maybe slowing down a bit on Sunday.  Roger opts for a nap, and I sit down to share our story.  Thank goodness I brought a briefcase full of work with me.

Well if you need to have a second office, what better place than a waterfront location in Key West?  I break down, and open up the huge satchel of paperwork I have brought with me, and begin the triage process.   Make piles, sort, and toss out stuff that has passed or is duplicated.  A couple of hours later I am about 3 pounds of paper lighter, and I get to work.  Yeah, yeah, exciting dive trip talk… but at least there is something to keep me from balling up in the corner and crying!!  And, like most “clouds” this one has a silver lining – those thirty mile per hour winds are blowing directly in the face of the oil spill in the Gulf, causing it to turn and trap itself in an eddy current and not move eastward to wreak havoc on the Florida Keys and beyond.  So OK, us losing a day of diving for the sake of saving the Keys is OK.   There…that made me feel better about not diving ….NOT!

Roger and I enjoy dinner at the Hogfish Bar & Grille conveniently located next door, and we get to spend a lot of time discussing and solving most of the world’s problems.  The range of topics runs far and wide, and  what is most amazing is the perspective two engineers share.  By golly, that global issue could be fixed, so could that one….this is getting dangerous – we need to dive!  Weather report update shows the winds are expected to die down – ON TUESDAY!  That bit of news does us no good at all, so a little more hydration is in order to ease the pain.

Saturday morning dawns and the same weather is out there.  The most frustrating part is that we are located on the dock in a big commercial harbor, sheltered from the wind  – it’s no small coincidence why they put the harbor right here!  So sitting outside the condo, there is nary a cloud in the sky and barely a breeze, so the frustration on not diving just compounds.  I tell Roger he is free to depart early, but he opts to stay, enjoying the benefits of unlimited downloads of movies and classic TV from his Netflix account.  I wile away my time with some more paperwork, photographing the wild chickens running around, and hydrating.  My friend Mike shows up with some tools and material, so woo hoo, a therapy project!!  We spend the better part of the afternoon building a fish cleaning station for the dock and yacking away.  Man, I need to go diving!!

Our buddy and aspiring film maker Seth Greenspan arrived today to spend a few days in the condo with us as he does some local interviews for his documentary on the decline of hard corals and fish population around the world.  His sidekick Oliver is with him, and we spend  a few hours talking about , and debating, global warming, ocean acidity, causes of coral decline, bleaching, etc.  You can imagine one impassioned film maker and two engineers having it here…good stuff.

One last weather update before bed and it shows the winds may actually start to die before Tuesday, so we cross our fingers, and say our prayers to the weather Gods.  We awake Sunday morning, I dial up the latest NOAA marine forecast update, and guess what?  The winds are down to 15 knots!   Call up the shop ..”Yes we’re heading out”…grab the gear and let’s go diving!!!  I call up my good friend Joe Weatherby and he decides to join us for the day.  Life is suddenly good again!

We check in at Subtropic and set up the gear for our dives this morning – two planned deco dives doing some interior touring of the Vandenberg.  Roger gets a set of double low pressure steel 105’s, and in true Florida tradition, they are overfilled so he has about 280 CF of back gas, enough to satisfy some of our favorite air hogs (no names mentioned to protect the innocent).  Weatherby is sporting 119’s, also overfilled.  I only have steel double 100’s, so I hope I can keep up!  The bad news is my tanks were filled already and have a 32% mix in them, so I’ll be alert for the jitters during the deeper portion of our dives this morning.

We head out and the sea is gorgeous with a beautiful sky overhead – tough to imagine that just 24 hours ago you could not find a boat captain brave enough (or foolish enough) to sail out.  The Vandenberg is about 40 minutes so, and there are moorings available when we arrive so we quickly tie up and brief our plan.  We’re going to check on some work that was supposed to be done when the ship was prepared for sinking, where a cut out in the front anchor locker should allow passage from there into the forward fuel tank and then into the #1 cargo hold.  We splash, and you can see the wreck from the surface, with visibility well in excess of 100 ft.  The ship is absolutely covered with bait fish, and the jacks and groupers are having a field day darting in and out of the schools, grabbing a snack or just terrorizing their targets.  One must wonder, if you put any credence in the Hindu belief of reincarnation, just how bad you need to be in this life to come back as a bait fish.  You don’t even get an official species name…just “bait fish”.  Sorta clears up your mission in life, eh? But I digress…….

OK, back to the dive at hand!  We swim along the deck, enjoy close to zero current and the great viz, and reach the anchor locker hatch.  It is tight, but we manage to slip in, single file, through the deck hatch, around the ladder, through a second hatch, squeeze around some structure, tight, tight… three peas in the proverbial pod, we are mask to fins in this tight passage.  And what is that?  Joe is flashing his light back between his legs..”back up..back up”.  So we extricate ourselves, one by one, from the confines, and once back on the deck it is obvious – the cut out we were looking for did not get installed.  OK, we move to the #1 cargo hatch, and drop into the black abyss.  This is one of the smaller hatches, just wide enough for you to flare out and free fall down the shaftway, sorta like skydiving in an elevator shaft.  Well we’re committed now, and as we hit 140 feet my Cochran is screaming at me – ppO2 is 1.8!  Relax Dave, breath slowly, minimize effort……no convulsing is on the schedule for today!  I swim slowly, Zen-like, alert for any tremors or other signs, and we finally work out way back up a staircase or two and as the depth shallows a bit, my ppO2 drops to 1.7, 1.6, finally, 1.5…whew!  My living DAN medical research gets another page in the book today!

We spend 35 minutes of bottom time, exploring, sneaking in and out of the wreckage, enjoying the millions of fish that have taken up residence on this artificial reef structure.  A nice slow 15 minutes of ascent and deco gets up back on board smiling and laughing about the chain locker faux pas.  There are recreational divers on board this mornings charter so out of consideration for them we cut our surface interval short to just 20 minutes, and splash again.  Oh the beauty of computer diving!  This time we head towards the stern, and drop down under the rudder where a huge black grouper is lurking.  The rudder is, as you might imagine, massive, and we swim alongside it, just taking in the view – this is awesome!  Into the engine room area we head, and we dink around there for a bit, until Roger signals that his computer is showing 17 minutes of deco obligation!  OK buddy, time for you to go!  We exit the hull, and Joe & Roger start up the ascent line.  I am still looking good, gas supplies are ample, deco obligation is minimal, so time to continue the exploration.  I drop back inside, and just immerse myself in the joy of having such a wonderful dive opportunity here in our relative backyard, thanks in no small part to the efforts of my friend Joe Weatherby and so many others.  Finally, after another 35 minute run time, I start up the line, and join the other two as they are off-gassing.  We clear at around the same time, so back to the surface, re-board, and let’s see what kind of trouble we can get ourselves into this afternoon!

It’s great having the local connections so Joe gets his Blackberry out and begins the process of calling around and seeing who is running this afternoon back to the wreck.  We connect with Lost Reef Adventures, and they agree to hold the boat until we get there – great guys!  Back at the dock we disembark, top off the tanks with a more conservative blend of 26% and boogie on over to Lost Reef.  Nick, the owner, gets us squared away in short order and they valet our gear over to the boat.  The crew is less than thrilled with having to hump the three sets of doubles but hey, gotta love us!  Gear on board, introductions made, standard Coast Guard safety briefing, and we set off, back to the Vandenberg!

Our mission for this afternoon’s dives will be to complete some skill work for Roger.  We brief on the way out, and he is OK doing a combined line and lost line drill inside the wreck.  We review tie-offs, line protocols, and how we are going to organize the drill.  Into the drink we head, and we descend to the wreck, picking an entranceway that leads to a twisting and curvy interior hall – perfect for reality-based training.  Roger ties off outside the wreck, communicates with us, and then enters.  Second tie off is right at the bottom of the stairs, within sight of the visible light streaming in from the doorway.  From there it is twist, wiggle, and slowly kick yourself down the hall, past some other cutouts, through a turn or two.  The plan is to have him run the line for five minutes, and he does.  We are maybe 150 feet inside the wreck at this point, and 100 feet below the surface.  Roger finds an area that allows us to re-arrange, and he turns, letting me get in the second spot to observe and assist if necessary, and Joe will bring up the rear, actually reeling up the line after we have made it out.  This was supposed to be a simulated silt out / loss of visibility drill, but I can assure you, with the movement and shuffling inside, there is no need to simulate anything.  Viz is maybe 2 ft max now – thank goodness we ran a line!!!  Roger locates the line, forming an ‘OK’ sign with his fingers around it, checks gas supplies one last time, takes off his mask, and begins to lead us out of the wreck, sightless, in true near-zero viz.  Amazing how five minutes of running line in can become 15 plus minutes of exiting as you follow the line, maintain buoyancy, try to avoid bumping your head into anything, wonder about your gas supply, and maybe even think about the others on your team behind you!  Lots of multi-tasking, major stress levels, but very real, and Rogers passes with flying colors!  We exit the wreck, Joe follows with the reel, and we are good to go.  We spend another 15 minutes sight-seeing, and then, another 35 minutes of bottom time under our belts, we head up for a nice slow ascent a few minutes of deco obligation.

Another long 20 minutes of surface interval to help keep our diving somewhat in line with the rec divers on board, and we head back down.  Skills to be completed on this dive include dropping and picking up two stage bottles, while swimming, with minimal impact on buoyancy and position in the water column.  We’ll also do a 50 ft out of air swim and accept a gas supply offered by another diver.  So we set up on the deck, I mark out the bottle drop locations and position myself 150 ft away to be the air donor. Roger starts, makes the first drop OK, then the second, regulator out, blowing bubbles, he comes to me and I deploy the long hose for him.  He catches his breath, we swim partially back sharing, then he switches back to his own gas.  He picks up the first bottle and struggles a bit trying to locate his hip-mounted D-ring which is hidden behind his pockets…hmmm..thought for a potential re-configuration here!  He finally gets it, never missing a stroke swimming, and repeats it for the second bottle.  High fives all around, and time for a little tour.  We check out a few other areas, and Roget now has a 17 minute deco obligation and growing, so we send him up the line.   Joe and I swim to the smokestack, where the plan was to see how far down the stack we can manage to get.  The stack starts at 50 feet, and is actually divided into two sides, one for each boiler.  Joe drops in the starboard side, and I choose the port.  It is slightly wider than the diver, and no one has been in here since the ship sank, which is evident from the bright orange rust balls lining the interior of the stack.  We drop in feet first, and as we descend the viz quickly goes to zero as the rust explodes off the walls of the stack, completely obliterating any viz we might have had.  There is no turning or moving, this is a like a water slide tube at the amusement park, but we are not sure there is an opening and a big pool to splash into at the end.  As we pass the 80 ft depth we have turned and are now angled forward, wrapped in a solid orange/brown cocoon of rust with zero viz.  Talk about a cardiac stress test!  I can hear Joe sliding alongside me in the other stack, but we are separated by a 3/8″ thick wall of steel and could not offer assistance to each other should any be required.  90 ft, 95 , finally my fins hit something solid at 101 feet…the iron grate at the top of the boiler!  Mission accomplished, well at least the first half – we know where the stacks end up, we know there is no exit, and we know how long they are!  Now, it is time to wiggle back on up, over 100 feet of relatively tight ductwork in absolutely zero visibility, accompanied only by the sounds of your own heavy breathing and your dive buddy clanging and banging in his own narrow shaft alongside you. Finally we emerge, in an explosion of red dust,  with smiles as wide as can be!  What a rush!!  Definitely not recommended for the weak of heart but a very cool bit of exploration!!  Well time is about up, so we head up and join Roger on the line, and 60 minutes after entering the sea, we emerge.  What a fantastic day of diving!

The evening is capped with a visit to Alonzo’s Lobster House for hydration, oysters and snacks with Joe Weatherby and Capt Chris Norwood.  Properly lubricated, we then saunter over to the Conch Farm, where Seth and Oliver join us.  Our bartenders, Ryan and Ogie, bedazzle us with tricks of the trade they have learned from years behind the bar.  And the jokes start, and political correctness is thrown right out the window, as we howl and chuckle passing jokes around and on-upping each other on every imaginable topic.  Great fun, great evening, great ending to a trip that started out looking like a real bust.

Monday morning it’s hugs all around as the group scatters.  We’ll be back soon for sure!  I look forward to my meeting with the Miami TSA later this afternoon…stay posted!

Team IVS Races for the Cure

by Joyce Kichman, Team IVS captain & breast cancer survivor

Mothers Day, May 9th might have seemed like another ordinary Sunday morning for some but for many of our IVS family members it started bright and early, and a bit chilly.  This was the day of the big race – the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. We had been planning for this day for quite some time, raising funds toward research in the search for the cure.

Twenty-nine hardy souls met at the shop at zero dark-thirty – to use an old Navy phrase for pretty darn early – to board the bus for the trip down to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the Race was to begin.

The bus pulled out of the parking lot at 6:45 right on schedule – yes, even our fearless leader Diver David was on time, hard to believe isn’t it.  The trip down to Philly was full of anticipation, smiles, laughs and lots of pictures.  Thanks to Sue, Sandy and Joie we even had breakfast – yummy egg and bacon burritos.

The Komen foundation was very helpful in providing directions for our coach including where he could drop us off and where to park to wait for us.  Unfortunately some of that information did not get passed on to the dedicated police officers of the great city of Philadelphia. As we approached our exit ramp the driver realized it was blocked by one of Philly’s finest.  A bit of schmoozing and cajoling and this fine officer pulled his cruiser to the side and lets us pass.  Up the ramp and a left turn found another of Philly’s finest blocking the way, again, after a pleasant chat she allowed us to go the wrong way down a one way street to get close enough to our drop off point.

Again with time on our side several of us went of to do the last minute registration and pick up Komen Tee shirts and race numbers. We also met up with several of our Team IVS members who elected to meet us there and we now total 38.  The runners of the group – and there was only one of us – John Alcott – left to join the other runners.

There are roughly 100,000 people congregated near the steps of the museum.  We meandered down the street to start the long 5K walk. About two and a-half hours and a few hundred pictures later we have come full circle and once again are at the art museum steps.  The post-race activities in full swing, and Danny Bonaduce, of Partridge Family fame, announcing the various winners for the race, team participants and amount of funds raised for the different categories.  We congregate on the “Rocky Balboa” steps to await our departure time.

We meet up with the bus – minus two – Csaba and Niki – are staying for the big Phillies game that day and have an uneventful drive back to IVS, with more pictures of course.

For a small business we set the bar high as far as our fund raising goals.  We started out with a goal of $5,000.00 and by the morning of race day our overall team total is just shy of $10,000.00 with a promise of a couple of thousand more with Jody’s and Brad’s companies doing some fund matching.  Not bad for a small family thing – WAY TO GO TEAM IVS!

Our IVS Race for the Cure Team consisted of the following:

John Alcott

Joanne Brady

Jody Bryan

Brad Creveling and Irene Kaplan

The Kobol’s – Bernadette, Colleen, Michael, and Rachel

Susan Douglass

Sandy Stelle

Stephanie Skelton

The Divinski’s – Carleigh, Lorna, Erin, and Michael

William Gahres

Ray Graff

Mike and Lynn Gusenko

Butch, Beverly, and Stephanie Loggins

Csaba and Niki Lorinczy

Gail, Guy, and Lauren Ostrowski

Jeff, Jan, and Brianna Sheldon

David Valaika

David West

Jamie Winchester

Joyce and Charles Kichman

Belle and Heather Branan

More cold water antics at Dutch Springs

It is still waaaaay too early in the season for me, but by golly our divers want to go diving locally!  So, what to do, except take ’em diving!  This weekend found instructors Csaba Lorinczy and IVS-North Jim Cormier on site, conducting Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Drysuit specialty classes.  Our successful candidates included Andrew Feick (Dry Suit), Michael Kelly (Dry Suit, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Adventure Diver & Advanced Open Water Diver), Paul Wiecek (Dry Suit), Daniel Cabrera (Open Water Diver & Dry Suit), Anthony Smith (Dry Suit), Ongart Poonbunroj (Dry Suit).

In addition Dave Valaika was on site and graduated two Full Face Mask students, Nick Geyer and Paul Skehan. Way to go men!

And of course the Dive NY crowd was there in force, with Pam Schools, Chris Muller, Sam Auyueng, Donna Raleigh, Steve Holak, Rich Zeller and others all joining in the fun and merriment.

The good news is the pond is warming up….the bad news is it is still freakin’ cold!  Come on July!!!