On Thursday, I woke with the excitement of SCUBA! I prepped all my gear and checked the location of Neal Watson’s SCUBA Center. Balancing all of the gear while riding a bike proved to be a bit challenging but eventually I got the hang of it. I headed off to the dive shop, passing by kids on their way to school and local law enforcement doing a morning patrol. After riding for a couple minutes longer than I anticipated I had the sneaking suspicion I had gone too far. I checked again the location of the shop compared to where I was and promptly turned the bike around.
Arriving at the Big Game Club, I asked where the dive shop was located and was directed to the back docks. Feeling a little rushed because I lost a couple minutes “sightseeing” I was frantically looking for anything that looked like SCUBA. As soon as I was within sight of the center I was greeted by a long haired bearded man and his dog playing fetch with a coconut. He asked if I needed any help and I informed him I was looking for Neal as I am looking to dive. He then let me know I was in the right place and that he was Neal. He informed the crew that they had another diver and left me in their able hands.
After completing the proper paperwork I grabbed a water bottle and claimed it with my name using a large sharpie. I was informed water and towels were on the boat and since I already had all my gear I was good to go. The crew helped me aboard and gave me a refresher on how to strap my BCD to the tank and asked me what weights I needed. Several minutes later we were off to our first dive site as I was finishing prepping my gear. Between the engine noise, music playing and my general excitement to get back in the water I must have missed the name for the site. I was given the information I needed for the first dive and that this dive would be the deeper of the two. I am questioned about if I have a wet suit and I inform the dive master that I usually run a little hot and have not needed one yet as I have always dived in warm waters. I asked about the temperature at the bottom and it seems within my normal range.
On the way to the first dive site a turtle is spotted on the surface but quickly dives back into the water as we approach. We arrive at the first site and I gear up leaving my camera aboard as it cannot be taken to the depths we will go. I am reminded to take a giant step as I enter the water. A splash and I am back in the crystal clear water of Bimini. I do a weight check and down we go, descending into the great unknown. Well unknown at least for me as this is my first time diving in Bimini and I did not catch the site name. We descend and it looks like I have a little water in my mask. I purge it out with some air and I am all set. The dive master, a buddy, and I are set up to drift and explore. The current is strong but manageable. We see a turtle swimming against the current, stick with it for a minute and fall back into the drift. Although the coral is still amazing to look at, it is clear that bleaching is not unknown to Bimini. We come across many lobsters hiding, an eel and many different kinds of fish. I check my gauge and computer to monitor my air consumption and depth as we approach 60 ft. I am consuming my air a little faster than I like so I try to slow my breathing down more. We navigate over and around coral as we fight the drift every so often to inspect for life. We find some invasive lion fish that are caught using a zookeeper by the dive master. As we continue to explore the drift the line we are using to be tracked by the boat to get tangled in the dive masters gear. My buddy helps her the first time to get untangled and I help the second. Shortly after we do an air check and I am just above the reserve so we start our ascent with a safety stop as a deterrent for decompression sickness before boarding the boat.
After surfacing and securing our gear we head off to the second site, The Strip. We are informed it is a comparatively shallow dive at roughly 30ft and bull sharks are quite common at this site. I am excited as my camera is advertised to work at those depths. I change over my BCD and regulator to a new tank and prep for the second dive. We arrive at the site and wait to get some air time to help prevent DCS. After our little break everyone gears up and we head into the water with two additional divers this time. I start recording with my camera as we descend. Around 18ft it starts acting up not letting me press any buttons then the viewfinder goes black. I sigh thinking that it just bit the dust and I so much for waterproof to 30ft. I see this small blinking red light and I turn it around to see the second display still says it is recording. I figure well hopefully the back display just stopped working for now. We continue our decent to 30ft and start moving along The Strip to check for sea life. We found lobsters, barracuda, and many other fish that were easy to spot. What were a little harder was an eel that was hiding in a hole and a scorpion fish that was hiding in plain sight (pictured). Throughout the dive I was constantly checking my depth and camera for any additional signs of malfunction. As I hovered around 30ft the cameras state did not change aside from constantly increasing the recoding time. Buttons were non responsive which worried me but I choose to focus on the dive hoping the camera would come back to life latter on. Throughout the dive we saw countless fish including a particularly friendly puffer fish. In my previous experience I have found them to be timid but this guy seemed okay and curious of me. We approached the end of the dive and explored the area a little more. Since we were hovering around 30ft the whole time my air consumption was actually quite good. I found an angel fish and followed it around until we started our ascent. I followed the safety stop with my computers guidance and noticed my cameras viewfinder to come back to life and buttons reacted again. I was informed a file was being repaired which seemed to complete successfully. After completing the safety stop it I head back aboard.
After we are all aboard we start to head back as gear is rinsed and reorganized. A short trip later with the great view of the island and we are back within view of the dive shop. We finish gear disassembly and rinse and pack as needed. I say my goodbyes to the crew and head back to give my gear a final prep before it must wait until our next adventure.
The day is half way over but my work is far from done. I check in with Nicole and gain some clarity on the nature of my work. After having a bite I get to work analyzing data from this year’s logs and finishing my blog for the prior day. Several reports later and some reworking after some clarification on some IDs I look to eat and rest from the long day. Before going to bed I checked on the footage from my camera to happily find that it did in fact save the recording from the second dive.
I look forward to what tomorrow brings as diving into the unknown, strip and some logs has made this a jam packed day.