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Category Archives: Diving

After a dive vacation I like to write about my experiences. Here goes my story…….

My long awaited, very expensive, luxury scuba vacation was one adventure after another. As my scuba buddy in St. Augestine
always says, “Adventure is rarely fun while it’s happening.”
Nonetheless, it makes for great stories later.

The trip started with an Airbus ride to SFO followed by a nearly 15 hour scheduled economy flight aboard Philippine Airlines. I hate to spend the money for Business Class, but as I get older I find that I hate being uncomfortable even more. At the last minute I opted to bid for an upgrade. I’m so glad I did. Many Business class lounges are really nice around the world. The Philippine Air business class lounge at SFO was really run down with old looking, unhealthy food choices though. They have overly bright, no wait, “painfully” bright illumination throughout the lounge. It was not a relaxing atmosphere at all.
A long-time friend and dive buddy of mine from Scottsdale won’t fly Philippine Air since the Business class seats only recline to a 78 degree angle. I was pretty comfy at only 78 degrees and the service was exceptional. Even the airline food was good and relatively healthy.
Of note, my Scottsdale friend bugged me repeatedly at our 40th high school reunion last summer to go on this trip until I finally caved and said ok. “It will be REALLY fun & safe”, he said. I have traveled with him before on scuba trips and just to be fair, you could not ask for a better, more competent dive buddy or travel companion.
About 11 hours into the flight I was awakened by flight attendants pulling medical gear out of the compartments above me and scurrying to the cabin behind mine. The flight crew knew I was an RN since we had been chatting previously, and of course, I keep my CPR & ACLS certifications current and active.
I always offer to help if needed, but luckily the well trained flight crew performed high quality CPR and utilized the AED successfully to bring the man back from cardiac arrest. I was happy that the flight had not been diverted and I could get some rest and continue with my trip. This was day #1 of vacation.
Day #2 & 3 were spent on my own in Manila. I caught up on sleep, ate great food, and did a spa treatment to recoup after a long flight. I booked a river paddle trip to see the waterfalls at Pasanjan for a fun day trip. The lush scenery was beautiful outside the big city. Stopping for Buko pie and seeing all the colorfully painted Jeepnees driving around was delightful.
On trip day #4 My buddy Ron caught up with me at the gym and then later in the morning I joined Ron & his lady at the Belmont breakfast buffet. After that it was off to the airport to fly to Palawan and to jump onboard the Atlantis Azores dive yacht. I liked that Atlantis had representatives to greet us at the airport and expedite our travel at each leg of the trip.
I was delighted to discover that I actually had a cabin to myself once onboard ship. There was one bed for me, and one bed for my underwater camera & computer!
I was equally delighted to discover that I got the cabin adjacent to the engine room. I think most folks prefer to be far away from the engines, but the whirring hum of ship engines actually helps me to sleep soundly.
The overnight passage on the ship to our final destination was about 90 miles off the coast of the island of Palawan in the middle of the Sulu Sea. We had crew introductions, diving, ship, & safety info explained, and waaaaaay too many info videos to watch, ugh. My brain was tired & full of ship info.
March 18th was the first day of scuba diving for us. I usually groan when having to do a check-out dive, but in this case I was glad to reorient myself to my scuba gear underwater as I had not been on a dive since July 2016. To my dismay, my newly serviced regulator, or breathing apparatus for the lay person reading this story, would make a loud wheezing, or whistling sound upon each breath I drew. The upside was that my dive buddies always knew I was ok since they could hear every breath. If I held my breath to get close to a fish for a photo op, the divers would look around in concern since they could no longer hear the regulator noise. Once my psi was below a pressure of 2000, the whistle stopped. Aquarius Dive Shop owes me a free regulator service!
I enjoyed the diving, but I have to admit that I was expecting larger, more abundant pelagic encounters. I found that my wide angle lens was not going to work on the reef life in Tubbataha. The fish were extremely skittish, and made themselves scarce when anyone got within about 15 feet away. I figured that a protected area like this would have more sea life that did not fear divers like the Borneo and Papua New Guinea trips that I have done in the past. I also found that my macro lens was not going to bring me the results I wanted since most of the dive sites were in a drift current. Almost every dive was a quick shot from the camera as you fly by the reef like a feather in the wind.
On occasion the dive master would point out something in the distant, murky, deep blue water. The visibility waxed and waned between 30-50 feet in the nutrient rich waters of the coral triangle making it difficult for me to make out what the faint, shadowy figure was supposed to be. Sometimes it was a huge tuna or a reef shark.
On dive day #2 I woke up late and missed my morning coffee. I did not miss the dive though. The dive master pointed out a really BIG shadow in the inky distance. I could see by the tell-tale shadow that it was a whale shark. I could not see any markings, but I could at least say that I had seen the shadow of a whale shark now. The current was swift and unpredictable on this day. I decided to leave the camera on board on my second dive so I could just dive without hauling heavy cameras in the whip currents. Im glad Ron was shooting with his GoPro video when a whale shark came close enough for us to catch a good glimpse. I would have been too far for a photo, but I got to watch this magnificent creature swim by. My 1st Whale Shark!
We had 2 dive groups consisting of about 14-16 divers all hunkered on the reef during one of the dives I took. We were blown one way, then suddenly we were blown to the other direction. It was wicked strong and ever changing. My dive buddy Steve crossed his arms to indicate to me that it was time to stop fighting the current, abort the dive, and head for the surface. The surface waves made it hard to see the zodiac, but our boatmen found us and got us back to the ship. I was tired after that and I opted to sit out on the afternoon dive since I wanted to have enough energy for the night dive and attempt some macro shooting.
This was the day of “The Dive into the Abyss of the Washing Machine”. I am so glad I missed this dive. The divers in the group had a terrifying tale to tell. The current was so swift that one diver almost had her mask blown off of her face underwater. It was explained to me that the divers tried to come up out of the dive as a group while holding onto a broken mooring rope that only reached up to about 21 feet below the surface. They held on to the rope as the current whipped them around like rag dolls. They were literally at the end of their rope. When it was time to surface, they let go of the rope as a group to try to stay somewhat together and meet on the surface. Once off the rope, the divers were caught in a down current that sucked them down far enough for them to say that their ears felt like they were bursting. Then, boom! They were blown back up suddenly to the surface. I may not have the details exact, but oxygen was delivered urgently to those involved. One diver had some uncomfortable rapid ascent symptoms that lasted until the next day. His computer dive profile told the story. It’s unsure if it was sinus squeeze, dehydration, or DCS, but I encouraged him to drink 2 liters of water (no IV fluids on board). He had already been given oxygen previously. This is just the beginning of our adventure.
The night dive I had been looking forward to had to be cancelled due to unsafe conditions. I think it was a good call.
Dive day #3. I set my alarm for 5 am so that I could have a relaxing hot latte and not have to rush around before our first dive of the day. I was just finishing brushing my teeth when I heard a loud scraping sound from below. The cabin floor was rumbling.
I was standing at the sink of the lower aft port-side cabin. The ship stopped moving abruptly and lurched to the starboard side. All countertop items flew by me and onto the floor as I clutched the sink rim for balance. A very clear, loud voice in my head said, “This cannot be good.” “Get the hell topside STAT.”
I bolted out from my cabin to run up the stairwell as water flowed onto my head from I don’t know where. I just know that water flowing inside a boat listing to the side=very wrong.
The minute my feet landed on the dive deck, the crewman rang the alarm bell to call all passengers to the muster station. This was NOT a drill. We were 100 miles from any substantial land mass in the middle of the Sulu Sea just after 5 am, in the dark on a listing ship jammed onto a shallow reef. I saw Ron grabbing life jackets as I put mine on.
I heard him say, “Where is Chris?” “She is not in the room!” I called to one of the crew members to go find Chris since we could not see her yet on the deck. She came around the corner a few moments later and I breathed a sigh of relief. Ron had to go through 3 life vests to find one that was useable. Other passengers had life vests missing the whistle and/or the water activated vest light.
We waited while the crew worked hard to ready the zodiacs. The engine on the port side zodiac was not starting. I watched the crewman pull the engine cord repeatedly before the engine finally turned over. It felt like a living nightmare at this point, but I knew we could survive in the water for a while if we absolutely had to jump ship since A, we all could swim, and B, the water was warm. Luckily it did not come to that. I heard them call for the women to board the lifeboats first. I could not believe this was really happening at this point. Our lifeboat motored away from the ship into the surging sea and into the darkness. I watched the lights of the crippled Azores from the distance wondering if the ship would stay afloat. I imagined the absolute horror of what the Titanic survivors must have witnessed on that night in April 1912. Our zodiac boat was tossed up & down with the surge as the waves splashed over us, soaking our pajamas. We watched the lights of the ship while we bobbed in the water. I somehow had had the wherewithal to grab my Sobe dive light that was on the camera table at the muster station prior to abandoning ship. I had only a bottle of water, a light, and for some reason a speedo with me. All of our dive gear, camera equipment, computers, phones, plane tickets, money, documents, and spare underwear were left behind in our cabins.
A nearby dive boat offered to take us all on board their ship while our crew assessed the damage to the Azores. Dry towels, hot coffee, fruit & toast was offered. We were grateful for their hospitality with all of the unexpected guests they had accommodated.
The crew got the Azores out of the shallows and divers assessed that no hull breach had occurred and that it was safe to continue the charter and start diving by 10 am. This meant that we would miss only one dive on this day.
The captain apologized wholeheartedly for the rude wake up call we received. I can’t imagine how bad he must have felt. We all had questions and voiced our concerns individually. For me, I had lost my confidence in the operation to just go dive right away. The adrenaline had worn off and I was a bit ticked off at this juncture actually. Having to abandon ship in the dark, in a wet, bouncing dinghy BEFORE my coffee, and having to wait on a rescue boat for 4 hours, then motor over to re-board the recently shipwrecked vessel to continue on as if all was okie dokie was not working for me.
A Philippine Navy crew was on the way to assess the ship, so I felt it safer to wait until we got a second opinion on seaworthiness before I jumped back into the water.
Dive day #4. I was determined to catch up on dives since we had to cancel a night dive, and I missed 2 dives due to our shipwreck misadventure. I did dives #1 and #2 and got a few half-way decent shots even though I had to use the cheapo kit lens on my Olympus EM-5 for mid-range shots on the fly in the drift. I tried a bit of underwater video for kicks, but it did not come out even marginally viewable in my opinion.
While preparing my gear for the next dive I saw another diver walk past me to go change in the deck restroom. Fran is in her 70’s, still diving, still traveling the world. She was a hard-core diver in her youth braving the chill of the Great Lakes and even breaking through the ice to go diving. She is a tougher diver than I for sure.
The next thing I see is Fran down on the dive deck. Two crewmen were trying to help her up, but she was not getting up all too quickly. The main dive master, Marian who was otherwise known as Divemaster McDreamy to all the ladies, asked for my assistance to assess Fran. She had slipped and landed squarely on her left knee. The crew got Fran to her back so we could better see what was going on. She was very pale and thought that she might throw up. Her left patella was in a concave presentation and I suspected that it was shattered. Meanwhile the crew had brought the backboard, a splint, and some Ace wraps. After the crew placed Fran carefully on the backboard I assisted Marian with stabilizing the fracture, but in actuality, this crew really needed no assistance, they knew exactly what to do.
Fran was carried inside the main cabin lounge where we could keep her warm & get her out of the wet swim clothing. We carefully elevated and placed support under her leg. Her left foot CSMs (color, circulation, sensation, and movement) were WNL. (within normal limits). I marked the pulse sites for quick reference for the next medical person that took over. I also charted all of the pertinent info & Frannie health stats on paper for the next person. I hoped they could read my writing. We needed to cut Fran out of the bathing suit since we did not want to have to manipulate her leg positioning. Her long time dive buddy Kit was by her side and was able to get a “go bag” ready for her to take to the hospital. The crew had put up a curtain to create some privacy. It was like being in PACU again, only everyone was in swimsuits. Fellow passengers offered anti-nausea meds and pain meds to help. Since Fran was worried about nausea with pain meds she only took the anti-nausea med. Help was on the way so we waited for Navy medics to come on board to help. The Diver Alert Network had already been contacted to assist with arranging transportation to the nearest hospital. The Navy medics got our tough little Frannie onto their vessel and sped away to Palawan to the hospital there.
Dive day #5. I got to go on all the dives that I desired. I did not want to sit out on a dive since life is so uncertain and you never know what may happen if you sit things out. If you sit out, you could miss out. Life & circumstances can turn on a dime, or as in our case, turn on a “dive”. The night dive was fun with my Sola video light. I could see half of the Sulu Sea with that mega torch!
I want a second one so I can do more video clips for more fish behavior footage. Honestly though, I absolutely hate video editing. I may have to hire someone with more patience for that tedious chore.
Dive Day #6 was a 2 dive day since Ron, Chris, and I had to fly out from Palawan on the 24th and we like to have a 24 hour decompression window for flying. I got to finish the dive trip underwater with Ron, Chris, and my dive buddy was Divemaster McDreamy for the last 2 dives, yay.
The long passage back to Palawan was rough and the ship tossed and swayed about while our top-notch Chef continued to prepare our exquisite meals in spite of the impossibility to stand or walk. I collapsed into the giant bean bag on the floor of the lounge so I could stay in place while editing photos. I became enveloped into the bean bag like an Anemone fish in the Carpet Coral as the waves tossed the ship about. This swaying, tossing, and the sound of breaking dishes in the kitchen went on for at least 4 hours or more. I started timing the crashing sounds in the kitchen. They were about 20 minutes apart like the beginning of contractions. I never heard one complaint out of that kitchen. I guarantee that if I was the one trying to cook on that rocking horse cruise, the passengers would have heard, “Screw this, y’all are getting peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, so deal with it.”
A note about the chef. This was by far the best cuisine I have had on a dive trip. I’m talking 5 star, from scratch baked goods, perfectly prepared entrees, and abundance of healthy choices and variety, and knock-your-socks-off desserts that I challenge anyone to beat. All meals were exquisitely and professionally presented to each passenger.
I felt sorry for the seasick folks. For whatever reason I was only chummy to the tummy at the onset of the trip. I did not apply my Scopolamine patch since I hate dry mouth and the reduced alertness I feel on that med.
I have to stop here and mention how professional, polite and accommodating the entire crew of the Atlantis Azores was during this entire trip. We had various diving incidences, wicked currents, barotrauma, ship emergencies, medical emergencies, gear problems, along with other minor injuries and illnesses that could have been much worse if not for everyone’s cooperation, and willingness to work as a team to help one another.
I am grateful that I managed to have some fun and snap a few decent photos in spite of all the challenges we had on board the Azores. I am completely exhausted after this trip and need to rest when I return home. My next dive destination may need to be land based.

 

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Before boarding The Aggressor live-aboard, the ship’s travel office got me 3 tours around Belize. I paid 3-4 times the normal price to go on these tours since I was not with a designated group. There are no chain stores in Belize, so don’t expect seeing a Starbuck’s anywhere. Belizeans cannot brew a good cup of coffee to save their hides! The only shopping was along a narrow city street with immigrant merchants hawking at all the passerbys to come in. The stores offered only cheaply made trinkets that had nothing to do with fine Belize crafts. The one nice marketplace was guarded and walled off from everyone except the large cruise ship passengers, which I found very odd.

As for the Lamani tour: The ruins were interesting, though the Mask Temple has a plastered-facade which looked cheezy. The Howler monkeys were bellowing away which gave everyone the sense of being in a truly wild outpost. The sideways rain was brutal on this tour. Especially the 2 hour boat ride in crocodile infested waters. The term Bucket Seats takes on a new meaning when on a river tour in a torrential downpour. I sat for two hours in no less than 3 inches of rain that accumulated in my seat. I kept swiping the water out, but it kept re-accumulating. The guide offered Hefty bags which most everyone donned. I should have worn my wetsuit on the tour. It rained so hard for so long that I was worried we would sink! I used my life preserver to protect my face from the force of the wind and rain. The force of the pelting rain was like needles on my skin. FYI-no raingear has been invented yet to protect from this type of deluge. As for bugs…..I never saw one. I developed welts later in the day that grew once I was back at the hotel. I was bitten on 2 unsprayed parts of my outer palms which hurt like hell for a week. I also noticed a few welts on my legs and a painful neck bite. I’m waiting to see what hatches out in 2 weeks time. I was appalled that the Radisson wanted to charge $12 American dollars for a can of “OFF”bug spray. That’s not reasonable, it is clearly trying to rip-“OFF” the customer.

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Mask Temple at Lamanai (Submerged Crocodile)

The Xunantunich ruins would have been nicer if the rain had not been pouring down in buckets. I had my camera in the underwater housing in hopes of getting some photos, but the rain was so heavy that it skewed the visibility of the pyramids even when standing as close as 10 feet away. The visibility was better underwater on this trip. I booked this trip at the supposed end of the rain season. I can’t imagine what the rainy season is like.The cave tours and zip line tours were cancelled due to rain and flooding. The car ferry across the river was interesting. The Belizean ferry was working well with the steel cables and pulley system. We were greeted on the other side by 4 very young military guards all armed with automatic weapons. Apparently, they do not like their photos taken, so I did not make myself obvious. As in every country I travel to, I smile at the nice men with the guns!

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Rainforest Downpour at Xunantunich Ruins

The Belize zoo was actually pretty nice. You can get up close and personal with many of the Belize jungle animals. This owl was trying to offer me his prey.

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Spectacled owl, Pulsatrix perspicillata, with prey.

Crooked Tree Wildlife River tour is great if you have a 400mm zoom lens or greater. The highlight of this tour was seeing my first wild crocodile swimming in front of our boat. They are very shy and getting a photo is near impossible. I would advise forgoing this tour unless it is sunny. Rain keeps the birds in hiding, and overcast skies keep the crocs from getting out onto the banks where they might be spotted on a sunny day.

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Morelet’s crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii)

 

Now on to the Aggressor dive yacht. The Aggressor dive fleet boasts itself as being “The Ultimate in Liveaboards”. I am disappointed to report that The Belize Aggressor was not the ultimate in live-aboard yachts as advertised. The ship is old and tired and should really be retired.

Boat

Aggressor from my hotel window

It has a very small inside lounge that really does not accommodate 18 divers. The dining area is split into separate areas, with a tiny kitchen area separating the two seating rooms. Some of he crew seemed a bit standoff-ish and even a bit grumpy at times. When diving, all food tastes great since you are so darned hungry from multiple dives throughout the day. Strangely, the food was just OK. It was all made from scratch though, I’ll give them that accolade. I noticed all the passengers with Scopolamine behind their ears. Maybe that made the food taste good to them? The seas were not all that rough this week for me to use that drug.

No Swimming

No Diving here

As you climb the ladder down to the old bunkbed staterooms, a strong smell of latrine hits your olfactory senses like a crashing dung wave. They scent is unsuccessfully covered up by a strong stench of some scented chemical that will make your eyes bleed. (Well, actually your eyes will sting & get watery) The dive platform was a good size and had two ladders so divers did not have to wait a long time to get out of the water. The dive platform had 2 warm water showers, which were a nice benefit on this boat. Even with 16 divers we all got in and out of the water without much waiting. The hot tub was out of order which was a major disappointment. The visibility was good all week underwater. The weather was rainy, but not too rough.

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Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate), munches coral.

The underwater life was a bit sparse, and extremely skittish. An over-abundance of Lionfish were seen. The coral reefs were not as robust as I would have hoped and the lack of Pelagic fish was noticeable. During the week a stray reef shark or Barracuda was seen on occasion, about 3 hawk-billed turtles, a distant eagle ray, a few Parrotfish, small yellow-tailed Jacks and some smaller reef fish were found. We did find one sea-horse. A few large Tarpon and some Horse-eyed Jacks hovered under the boat on a couple of our night moorings. I feel like this area is way overfished at this point.

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Yellow-tail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus)

By 2015, 45 percent of the fished waters in Belize were to be under the Managed Access system and No-Take zones put into place to protect the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site. It may take a few decades before we see repopulation of this area though.

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Orange long nose seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

I did manage to snap a few decent shots with my new Oly E-M5, however the Caribbean seems like a desert compared to other seas I have dived.

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Grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), and ?Pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) cruise along the reef.

Finally, the last nightmare of the trip was cramming two boatloads of tired, wet, moldy divers and their belongings onto a large bus. The Dancer had 20 people, the Aggressor had 16. It was a cluster-mess. Some people almost missed their flight. We swarmed the luggage compartment under the bus upon arrival at the airport so we could get to our gates. The Belize airport was absolutely packed like sardines.

In summation of my trip: It was way overpriced, heavily and erroneously advertised as “luxurious”, mediocre to poor cuisine, and a below average diving destination. I hope we do better next time!

Karen Diving Belize

A swim through in Belize

 

 

Visibility in Crystal River was about 12 inches due to rain run-off, so I did not get good Manatee photos. I got one clear photo of the baby Manatee as he surfaced.
The mom was a 1,000 lb behemoth, but I could not see her even though she almost ran me over!
Three Sister’s Spring was super clear and I did a few split shots of the vegetation above water with the root systems below the waterline.  Crystal River, Florida OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                 Ancient, sacred, natural springs are phenomenal to swim in & photograph!

Fossil Shark Tooth Diving in Venice, Florida was challenging with 1-2 feet of visibility.  We had 4+ foot swells, windy white caps, lightning & thunder showers which made for rough day for some divers.
I found 7 small fossilized shark tooth specimens. The Megalodon fossil I sought eluded me this time around.  Next time I will find one.
I did two 90 minute dives in the surge and low vis.Karen OK

Fossil diving at Venice Beach, Florida

Fossil diving at Venice Beach, Florida

Fossil diving at Venice Beach, Florida

Fossil diving at Venice Beach, Florida

Fossil diving at Venice Beach, Florida

Fossil diving at Venice Beach, Florida

July 7th:

I took a red-eye out of LAX for Florida. All the lights were out for passengers to sleep. About 2 hours into the flight, all the TV screens illuminated with the message, “Physician needed in the forward most area of aircraft”.
Then, the announcement for physician needed came over the intercom. To my dismay, I saw no one go up to help. I sighed an”Awe crap” under my breath & went to see if a mere RN would be sufficient for the emergency. They seemed eager for my assistance as I entered the scene and introduced myself to crew & patient.
The bad news: An elderly woman from 1st class had collapsed just outside the cockpit.
The good news: It was NOT the pilot. 😉
The flight attendants were supporting her with cool compresses & attempting to place oxygen on her via mask.  She was refusing 02, refusing assistance, & repeating, “I’m alright, I’m alright.
I introduced myself, and sat on the floor with her. After my initial scene observation & ABC’s (CAB),
I began my triage questions & observations.
Getting her to cooperate & offer up the necessary info I needed to rule out stroke, heart attack, diabetes, seizure disorder, dysrhythmia, hypertension, & other things was difficult at 1st.
She kept brushing everyone off saying “I’m fine”. The family of 8, all in 1st class were being overbearing. I politely asked everyone to take their seat & to not hover as the patient was extremely embarrassed & becoming agitated with everyone closing in on her.
She had given me permission to assess & help, but each question about history, medication, & current symptoms were met with a dismissive, authoritative, “I’m fine!”
Finally I told her to open her eyes & to look into mine. I said kindly, but directly, “You need to be here with me now, cooperate with me and answer my questions so I can clear you to finish this flight.”
If “I” am not satisfied that you are fine, then the pilot will need to land this plane right now, because at this moment, I am not convinced that you are alright.
At that point she let us place oxygen, take a blood pressure, and she answered all my questions appropriately, so that I could rule out any urgent need to land.
My final analysis? Nothing life threatening. Most likely a
vasovagal syncope event.
Basically, an elderly woman with gastric reflux disease, who took blood pressure med prior to flight, became nauseated, hot, & claustrophobic. She was tired, & dehydrated, but thought a shot of liqueur in 1st class would be a good idea. Then when she felt sick to her stomach, she got up too fast, & passed out even faster.
I helped her up and advised her to avoid alcohol & caffeine the rest of the trip to avoid a recurrence of reflux & nausea.
The family & crew was very pleased that I did not tell the pilot to abort the flight plan. So pleased that they all wanted to buy me cocktails for the duration of the long flight to the east coast.
I had to smile and politely decline as I just celebrated 22 years of clean & sober time. 😉
That was day 1 of my Florida vacation.

ImageImage

Padre Trails Camera Club awarded me with this Recognition of Outstanding Achievement!  I won 2nd place for 
“IMAGE OF THE YEAR for 2012-2013”
The winning image was from my 2013 January scuba trip to St. Kitts & Saba aboard the CEX II. It is a macro shot of a tiny Arrow-crab atop a Spiny Sea Urchin which I spotted on one of the wrecks off the island of Saba. 

http://www.diverindeep.com/Photography/Monterey/Monterey-Bay-Area-California/17801486_DkvvG4#!i=2501080766&k=6MBm3GN

On May 4th, 2013 I dove with 4 other underwater enthusiasts off “The Sanctuary” dive boat.

Split shot of "The Sanctuary"

Split shot of “The Sanctuary”

sanctuarycharters.com

The sea was flat enough to waterski on, so I tried some over/under photography.  The air was chilly, and the water temp was 48 degrees! I wore a 7 mm wetsuit with a hooded 5 mm vest, and a heated vest under all the neoprene.  If not for a heated cabin, a cup of noodles & a hot water hose to flush the cold from my suit, I would have missed a second dive.

My dive buddy did not get his PADI dive certification replacement card in time, so he could not come aboard this time.  I had to hang with another couple for safety. We were at a 90′ depth at The Pinnacles dive site which is why I got so chilled on the 1st dive.  Some surge was noticed, but not like the usual washing machine spin-cycle effect that I have become accustomed to diving in Monterey.

The water was a dark green with about 50′ visibility.   The rocky pinnacles were covered in life & color.  There were many starfish in all shapes, colors, & variety. Crabs, Nudibranchs, Turban & Jeweled Top Snails, & various Rockfish were abundant.

The second dive was at “Fire Rock”.  Again, flat & good Viz.  I worked on more split shots of the kelp under the surface & the boat above. There was a light current which carried me past the boat at one point so I dove down to 40′ depth to photograph the hearty, young kelp towers while the sunlight at the surface came shining through.  I got a few shots of a Giant Kelpfish as well.

I did not feel as cold on the second dive, but I was finning around quite a bit more to find good shots & to position myself for optimal lighting.  I had 2 fun dives, and had a smooth ride all the way out of the Monterey Bay past Pescadero Point.  No one chummed the water with their breakfast this time which is unusual (in my experience) on a Monterey dive boat.

I snapped off a few decent shots in spite of my testy Sea & Sea DX D200 UW housing which won’t allow me to change shutter speeds underwater. I have had the thing adjusted numerous times in the past without a permanent fix to the problem.  Perhaps a larger hammer?  🙂

I used the Nikon D200, Sea & Sea housing, Tokina 10-17 mm WA lens, Dual Inon D2000 strobes on 12′ arms, and a Sola 600 focus lamp.

Transparent ShrimpNew photos posted in Monterey gallery today. We did a dive at Wharf 2 in Monterey.  The visibility was about 8 feet, the water temperature was around 52 degrees.  This was a macro photography day.

http://www.diverindeep.com/Photography/Monterey/Monterey-Bay-Area-California/17801486_DkvvG4#!i=2483006661&k=HLfWZ5z

CEX II engineer dives in to help frame a few shots & do a quick hull inspection.

CEX II engineer dives in to help frame a few shots & do a quick hull inspection.

St. Kitts & Saba Islands Diving

I just left the Explorer II this afternoon to fly back to SFO. I needed a last minute dive trip STAT, and landed onto the Explorer II quite by chance. We had some serious underwater photographers on board, and some seriously funny divers! A very interesting mix indeed.
There was never a dull moment above or below the surface.
The crew worked tirelessly to insure our dive safety, and skillfully handled our gear & cameras.
Captain Ian runs a tight ship, and keeps things on schedule. It’s fun to try to get him to crack a smile.
The DM’s were knowledgable of the area & helped us find some critters. Not a Batfish in sight, though Claire went out of her way to seek them out. When I would ask Stephen what he could help me find on a dive, he responded, “The boat!” Always a good answer! Kate was also an excellent DM to dive with.
All the crew members were great to us. One crew member in particular went out of his way to help the divers. Any issues with scuba gear, cabin maintenance problems, or camera gear challenges were skillfully handled with a smile by Robert Wolfe. He was courteous, professional, and went above & beyond to meet the needs of everyone on board.
Robert was always on the dive deck to give guidance on which camera to take on a particular dive depending on the site. He kindly accompanied me on a few dives so I could get the shot I was looking for. He even got the guests together at various points on the trip for photo opportunities that we would have otherwise overlooked.
Many thanks to the Explorer II crew. A special thank you goes out to Mr. Wolfe who exceeded all expectations & made St Kitts & Saba a trip to remember.

Moss Landing Photo Shoot

The morning sunlight shines through the clouds onto a ship in the harbor.