Archive for the 'Nature' Category

Scuba Diving Class 2 – Two Open Water Dives

This is Part 2 in a Series. Read Part 1 HERE.

Did I mention how terrified I am to scuba dive? No? Well, rest assured that I told my instructor. And Zach. And Kate, the other student diving with us. Here I am, yesterday morning, having problem after problem with pool gear. Mask too tight, respirator too difficult to breathe through, can’t get properly weighted. Bleh. Still. Not giving up yet.

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Then we spent time calculating nitrogen concentration in one’s body, safe dive times, etc. I liked this because it was math-y, and also showed that dive sickness is avoidable, and not just a matter of chance circumstance. We got onto the boat for a 40 minute ride out to Sand Key, part of the coral barrier reef 7 miles from Key West. I cannot imagine a prettier day on the water. Calm and glassy and teal.

The crew had the tanks all lined up.

1-tanks

We squeezed into wetsuits and hoods. This is Zach making his “THIS IS AWESOME” face.

1-pre dive zach wetsuit

This was the view off the side of the boat. Those greeny patches? They’re corals 20 feet below.

1-pre dive water view

My nerves kicked in while strapping up. I actually had to put on a ton of gear and then just JUMP off the side of the boat. It took a full 2 minutes of hyperventilation on the “gangplank”, and ultimately I asked Rick, the first mate, to push me off. Once in, I had a bit of a panic, until Zach saw a loggerhead sea turtle 20 feet away on the surface, and I realized that I needed to get under that water. Here’s a bit of bubbly surface panic, but check out those fish! They kept coming close, giving me curious side-eyed looks:

2 surface panic 2

I clutched the rope, all the way down to 5 feet, adjusting and readjusting my mask, my respirator, and finding all my gauges. I hovered there with Duane, the instructor, while Zach sort of paddled around nearby, getting his bearings. I realized I needed to cry, and then prompltly discovered that there is no crying in scuba diving. I surfaced, jittery, breathed a bit (but didn’t cry!), then went back down. Slowly, slowly descending to 16 ft, whimpering and grasping at my teacher’s jacket, bug-eyed with terror.

2-dive bug eyed terror

Duane had a tablet for communicating, so he wrote encouraging things like “slow down, you’re doing fine” and “no drills yet, this is the fun part”:

3 dive notes

It took me ages to relax and let go of that rope, and then I was only willing to swim in circles around it. Finally, I calmed down and we set off to see all sorts of fishies and corals.

3 blue fish

Zach gave me the camera, which was soothing, and took my mind off basic breathing. Time was almost up, so we went to the back of the boat and rested with our knees on the sandy bottom. Zach did his drills, taking out his respirator, getting it back in, and clearing the water from his mask:

2 respirator

We surfaced and I said something I never thought I’d say “I didn’t want to come back up.” We climbed aboard the Sea Eagle and the crew switched up our gear for fresh tanks.

kate 7

Then we cruised to our next spot. I noticed that my hands were really itchy and tingly. Duane said this was from hydra stings and fire corals that grow on the ropes. A good lesson…I won’t be clutching the rope next time. The second plunge was much easier, though I still asked Rick for a tiny push; it’s psychologically pretty difficult to jump in with that much gear on. It just seems impossible that you’re going to float.

On this dive I got comfortable faster, and did my own drills of taking out my respirator, tossing it behind me, relocating it, and putting it back it. Then we just cruised and swam and took pictures of pretty things. Our coral reef is gorgeous.

2 reef

I didn’t think I could do it, truly. Zach says he knew I was capable, despite all my worries, because he’s seen me work through all kinds of fears.

3 feeling groovy

A brave new adventure! Two more dives next week, then I’ll be a card-carrying, PADI-certified open water diver. This time, I can’t wait to go back under. Zach was glad to send his 20s off with a bang. Happy 30th birthday today, mister!

4 after diving

Kayaking the Mangrove Tunnels

paddle family

Part of Zach’s job with his adventure travel company is tour development and research. So Saturday Zach and I took the Boogedy up to mile marker 77 to Robbie’s to experience a true Keys Adventure: kayaking through the mangrove tunnels.

mangrove toes

Even though I’ve lived in the Keys for 2 years, this is the first time I have gone! Mostly I just let Zach paddle while I relaxed and tried not to think about the crabs crawling on the branches overhead.

The tide was really low and we saw purple squishy sea sponges growing amongst the roots.

mangrove sea sponge

I snapped a bunch of pictures, only to find that most contained two whole boys and half of my own face.

mangrove family

I caused a bunch of anxiety for this beautiful bird by standing up in my kayak to take his photo, but he never flew away.

mangrove bird

Oh look, just half of Zach’s face!

mangrove portrait

We caught sight of a small (4.5 ft) endangered American crocodile. We followed him through the mangroves, while he gave us the side-eye. Then, he bumped into a root and spooked himself and submerged with a splash.

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I hadn’t been on the water since we capsized a hobie cat way back in September, and it was NICE. Truly relaxing, sunny, warm. All the things people come to the Keys to experience at this time of year.

relaxing in the kayak

We bought several buckets of fish to feed to the Tarpon, massive (5-8 ft long) game fish that live near the marina. You have to be careful because they jump out of the water and open their huge mouths and they will bite your hands. They don’t have teeth, but Zach can testify that they still scrape.

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After kayaking, we headed back toward Key West and stopped to check out a hotel that Zach may have guests stay at during their Keys Adventure. We laid in their hammock for quite a while, while the Boogedy played on the playground. I love the palm trees reflected in our sunglasses.

hammock portrait 1

We stopped for a round of night-golf at Boondocks. I love the landscaping here. Mini-golf has become a staple for family activities and we usually hit a course whenever we travel.

mini golf kid

On Sunday, our neighbors had organized a community barbeque in our shared garden. J&B grilled ribs and a whole chicken, as well as some herbed veggies. I brought a huge salad with red onions, pears, and blue cheese, and made a balsamic vinaigrette with shallot and mustard. There were lots of other potluck items, and I think everyone was a little surprised at how much of the cherry pie I ate! That fakey ruby red cherry pie filling is some kind of a weakness for me, and I just can’t resist.

It was such a lovely weekend!

Owl Hat

My sister-in-law Julianne asked me to make a hat for Baby D, who is 7 months old. It took me a while to design, make, and send it, but here is a picture of him wearing it!

Before I sent it off, I modeled it on two adorable sisters here in town. Baby O was not terribly impressed with it.

Her sister Miss C really liked it.

I like that, when it is laying about by itself, it has that nervous, hyper-aware look that owls always wear.

For knitters: the body and eyes are Nature Spun sport, the ear tufts are Koigu.  The beak and pupils are scraps from the same ball of Zauberball. I made this pattern up, but will write it out, if you’re interested.

Flood Day

School was closed for the Boogedy this morning due to weather conditions throughout the islands. The temperature was about 81 degrees and only lightly raining after days of downpour and nights of lightning shows. So we hopped on our bikes and went across town to check out the flood.  Here are Zach and the Chibberty at the intersection of Frances and Eaton streets:

(Oh yeah, that is the swimsuit Zach was wearing when he got kicked out of the water park in Utah this summer).

Here we are in the middle of Simonton and Front streets:

The Chibberty enjoys a floating take-out meal.

Dog and boy agreed that this is the Best. Day. Ever.

 

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

A few weeks ago I met a nice gentleman, George Fernandez of the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, at a business guild mixer. He invited our family to come visit the Conservatory as his guests. Yesterday looked like the perfect day to do that, so we hopped on the bikes and headed over. I can’t believe we’ve lived here 9 months and not yet visited. It was WONDERFUL!

The gift shop had all things butterfly and floral, and I thought of my Aunt Susie the whole time, and of how much money she would have to part with if she ever stepped foot inside!

The blurriness of this next photo bothered me, until I looked at each photo I took inside the conservatory and saw all the butterflies blurring past my lens.

Zach and the Boogedy waited patiently, but the Boogedy ended up being very upset that we couldn’t force one to land on him.

I received a lecture on how, contrary to what dad says, butterflies do not bite you with their fangs and drink your blood. Umm. yeah. Then I found this article.

A photo montage:

1. Zach in the Gazebo 2. Resident Finches were all different colors

3. The gardener who told us that the garden is in a constant state of upgrade, or else the caterpillars would destroy EveryThing.

4. Pond with fish. 5. Resident Quail 6. Butterfly Bridge under glass.

And just as we were leaving, we spotted the Atlas Moth, asleep on a plant.  We had seen an atlas caterpillar in the front room of the conservatory, a smallish, nondescript whitish thing. But the moth itself was stunning, big as my spread hand.

I got up close to see the orange antenna and noticed that the “white” spots were actually translucent, like a frosted shower curtain.

I keep hoping that all these amazing sights will prompt my friends to come visit!

Orchids and Naturism

I have vowed to become an orchid person, now that I live in their proper climate. But on my budget, this involves picking up a clearance ($5 ) orchid, which is in the last throes of a bloom, and hoping that I can muddle my way through the next 6 months and get another bloom stalk.

I bought the first orchid last week and went back to MARC plant store today for another couple. One has a very long flower stalk that dropped its final yellow speckled blossom when I picked it up for inspection.

Come January, Gary at the MARC plant store offers a FREE orchid class, for 6 weeks!! I will be taking this class.

The rack was an urban street find. Someone had put it out near their garbage cans for free. This is quite possibly the best free furniture I’ve ever brought home. On the second shelf is a little orchid from my sister-in-law and an air plant.

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On Monday we went for a 10 mile drive to a clothing optional beach. We had to walk 15 minutes along a very scraggly, rocky, mangrovey beach (with most of our clothes still on) just to get to this sign:

At one point we waded through waist high water (chilly right now), but here was the view while we sunned ourselves.

This was worth the trek, but next time we take water shoes and the dog. And BUG REPELLENT…the mosquitoes, fire ants, and jumping sand fleas (we dubbed them) descended on us as soon as we stopped hiking. They didn’t have to contend with fabric, so they made a big impact before we hightailed it out of there…picnic abandoned.

Ibis spotted on the way back to the van:

Questionable Color Scheme

This is the linoleum in my dining room:

This is why Floridians think these colors go together:


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