Monday, June 16, 2008

S'more Tarpon

Just another lazy day on the boat that ends up producing another 30 minute tarpon fight. Caught on the way home in the Key West Ship Harbor. A lot of work that never gets old. Enjoy the photos, JP.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Once Upon A Time...

About 4 summers ago I was free diving at the Marquesus Islands west of Key West. Me and four other guys went down for a weekend of spear fishing which ended with about 50 speared fish. Half way through the first day I saw a large mutton snapper at the bottom in about 22 feet of water. Hardly did I ever think I could get hurt at this depth. I shot to the bottom after the fish swimming as fast as I could never thinking about equalizing, and at about 17 ft. I heard what sounded like me head exploding. My mouth and sinuses immediately filled with water and i spiraled the surface in complete dis-array. I had blown my eardrum completely. When I went to the doctor the next week i was told that the ear would heal, in time, on its own. I pain I felt that day was like any other. And from that day forward I was afraid to dive anything more than a pool.
Fast forward to last summer and I was at the Dry Tortugas on a short fishing trip with, my then new, boss. We decided to jump since we weren't having much luck with the lines. As soon as I jumped in grouper scattered in every direction. It had been three years since I blew my eardrum. I went down to test my ear and on the way back up from my first descent I shot a 10 lb. hogfish. Once the fish was in the boat I then spotted a large black grouper shoot under a rock, 26 ft. down. I went down to the bottom, this time clearing, and sat at the bottom looking under the rock waiting for the fish to peek its head. Within seconds I felt bubbles coming from my ear and then warm water rush into my sinuses. It had happened again.
I then thought I would never be able to dive again. I thought i would be limited to around the 15 ft. range which would limit me forever.
Last year before It happened I had bought a scuba certification class on radio auction. I tried for a whole year to get rid of it, even taking a loss, knowing I would not be able to complete the course. May 1st, 2008 came before I could sell the class and I had two choices, take the loss or try to dive.
I decided to try it, it couldn't hurt anymore than the first time.
This last Saturday was my first dive in the pool. I passed all my skills with no problem from my ears. At around 1:30pm we went on the Sea Eagle to eastern dry rocks for my first open water dive. We dropped in and because of visibility we stopped at a spot just under 20 ft. The instructor and I descended. I cleared my ears as often as I could, almost every 3 feet or so. When I hit bottom I was relieved knowing I could at least shallow reefs. I did two dives and passed all my skills test.
After my dives Saturday the only boat that wasn't full on Sunday was the Pelican going a wreck just off the reef called Joe's Tug. My instructor, more confident than I, asked if I would like to try the dive. Its not that I don't think I can dive, I just had no clue what the pressure would do to my ear.
The second days visibility was around 50 ft. much better than the 10 ft. the day before. We jumped in and started the descent. The instructor just told me if I had any problems we would stop the dive and ascent to the surface. We slowly went down the mooring line. The first time I looked at my computer I was at 33 ft. I was astonished that I felt no pressure at all on my ears. In less than 30 seconds I was standing at the bottom giving my instructor a big "O.K." to let her know everything is fine.
This probably is not a big deal to most people who dive but for someone who blew their ear drum twice, I was probably the happiest person on earth.
As we swan from the mooring to explore the wreck my dive instructor looked back and laughed hysterically as she watched me take a picture of my depth gauge at 66 ft. The bottom we probably hit just over 70 ft.
Once upon a time I thought I would be the only person from Key West to never be able to scuba dive. That was a painful thought.
I would like to give a plug to Karen at Subtropic Dive Center who was my instructor. Amazingly good at making scuba a lot less overwhelming than it may seem for those learning it. She was wonderful from beginning to end. A big thank you for that. Enjoy the photos, JP.
P.S. the photo of my depth gauge was out of focus, shucks.