Archive for: ‘May 2006’

Grand Cayman – Part 6

May 31, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

Sean and I drove to the beach at Coconut Harbour for his second shore dive as part of his course with Tortuga Divers. The beach was a slip of white sand in between a cove of rock with coconut trees. Very picturesque.

Julia was already there with her Aussie boyfriend, Brett, who was also a dive instructor. They were joking around about how some female tourist divers wore pink bikinis and were all flirtatious, and couldn’t be taken seriously as they unloaded all of the gear. I was thinking that I was glad I hadn’t worn mine. Brett’s accent was hot as were his rugged good looks. Julia was just a bit pudgy for my tastes, but cute none the less. Their plan was to swim out to a buoy in 30 feet of water, so I decided that I would try to keep them in sight. Everyone suited up, and the divers entered the water backwards to minimize fin wash.

I entered my usual way, walked in to thigh high water, put my fins on and swam off. The divers were already lost to sight. Where could they get to so fast? So, I paddled off in the direction of the buoy. Again, I saw the shoals of coral and sand as I had at Sunset House. In addition to many fish I had already seen, I saw a stop-light parrot fish in the red phase!

When I got out to the buoy, it was surrounded by interesting corals I had not seen. I free dove down the length of the chain it was moored with to get a closer look at the tube coral, like the ones Sean saw yesterday. I just about made it to the bottom.

Back up on top, I noticed the bubbles from a diver. So, there they were! But this diver was not wearing any gear I recognized. Then he was joined by three of his friends. There were too many divers to be my group. So I swam on ahead.

Then I saw something that scared the shit out of me. It was a huge barracuda. You know, folks tell you that they are harmless and that they won’t bite, but this thing was enormous! But it was on the bottom, guarding its territory; so I felt relatively safe. So I hung out watching it.

Then along came the four divers. The barracuda was on one side of this giant brain coral mound and the divers were unknowingly swimming up towards it on the other side. The barracuda began to flare its gills and gape its mouth open threateningly. The divers just could not see the barracuda from where they were. If they swam over the coral they would be right on top of the barracuda. They would have to swim up a bit to see it over the coral.

I began flailing to get the attention of any of the divers in the group. Finally the lead diver looked up at me and I gestured with my arms and hands a big length and pointed down repeatedly. He got the message and swam directly up and saw the barracuda. He quickly got the attention of the others and gave the thumbs up, let’s surface, signal. They didn’t understand why until they got up high enough to see the barracuda too. They shot lots of pictures of it and we all came out of the water together.

They were honeymooners and this was the story of their trip to Grand Cayman. They had never seen a barracuda and to see such a big one the first time! I had saved them and they all wanted their pictures with me. I also got to take their pictures. Meanwhile, Julia, Brett and Sean had come in. They had seen the barracuda too. Brett said that he did not think the barracuda would attack but he did say that it was bigger than me.

We decided to go for a beer and we all hopped into our Jeep with Sean at the wheel. Sean seemed giddy and backed right into a coconut tree. Julia determined that he had nitrogen narcosis from surfacing too quickly but would be okay after a short time. We all decided that someone else should drive, even though Sean said that he felt fine. The damage wasn’t that bad to the Jeep. Remember that kiddies: Friends don’t let friends drive with nitrogen narcosis.

Grand Cayman – Part 5

May 29, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

During the next few days Sean took his SCUBA classes and pool lessons at Tortuga Divers on the East End of Grand Cayman and I read all three books I brought with me plus a few in the bungalow we stayed in at Cayman Kai. Finally the storm had passed enough that it was okay to go out in the water on the leeward side of the island. We had stayed on the windward side. So, off we drove to Sunset House for Sean’s first open water dive with his instructor, Julie. Sunset House was just 2 miles south of Georgetown, the capital of Grand Cayman on the southwest side of the island.

There was still a stiff breeze driving the waves into white caps on the windward side of the island, but the leeward side was visibly much calmer. This was to be a shore dive. The pier at Sunset House is rock and concrete with a ladder that leads into 80 feet (24.4 meters) of water. Julia helped Sean into his equipment at the pier while she explained the dive. Their plan was to swim down and out to the red buoy and then come back. She explained to me that the red buoy was the cruise boat channel and therefore not safe for snorkeling.

You can actually see the buoys in this photo, but they are really far away.

I snapped pictures of Sean and Julia stepping off the pier and into the water. They swam out a bit and dove out of sight. I was ready to go. I put my fins on, held onto my mask, and followed them in by taking that big step off the pier. Off I went. Right away a school of sergeant major fish swam up to me checking me out. I think they wanted a handout. But alas, I hadn’t brought them anything. Many divers will bring squirting cheese in a can, but I didn’t. They figured that out pretty quickly and swam away.

I searched in vain for sight of Sean or Julia by swimming in the general direction of the buoys. I could see straight down to the bottom. Suddenly, I got this weird fear of falling feeling. Here I was miraculously suspended in this invisible substance, some 80 feet in the air. How was that possible? I regained my bearings quickly and moved on. I noticed that on the bottom, there were bands of white sandy shoals broken by bands of coral. I could see huge fish on the bottom, but they were to far away to identify. I could also look outwards and see that the water was filled with fish in all directions. It really was a living sea.

I lifted my head out of the water and noticed that I had drifted into the cruise ship channel. Shit! There really was quite a current here. So I started swimming like hell to get out of the channel. I saw a dive boat coming and flipped a hot pink fin out of the water so that they would see me as I swam away. I looked back at the pier and Sean and Julia were already out. When I got to the ladder, I took my fins off and handed them up to Sean while he regaled me with stories of what they had seen. They had seen tube coral

A gray angel fish

A sea turtle

A Nassau grouper

The mermaid.

We had a beer with Julie by the dock. Our next shore dive was tomorrow morning from Coconut Harbour’s beach. Stay tuned…

Meeting the Love of My Life – Part 1

May 28, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

I met the love of my life, Sean, at our former workplace, where I was a chemist/safety officer and he was an architect. Of course, as in the story books, I knew the moment I saw him walking by in a three piece suit that he was the “one” for me, but don’t ask me how. It was kismet. I was terrified. I had a couple of boyfriends at the time, and all I could think was, “Wow, I guess my single life is over.” We were formally introduced and my job was to give him a tour of the new wing we had just completed, so that he could do the signage. I had assisted in assuring that we met the fire codes in terms of fire extinguisher placement and lab safety. When we got to the industrial hygiene lab, there was a mannequin with a sampling tube taped to her nose in front of a chemical hood for hood testing. She was naked under her white lab coat, had a red wig, and we called her Elvira. He took one look and said “Do they rent her out on weekends?” And I thought, “I gotta get this guy.”

I sent one of my male spies to find out if he was available, which he was. He had one girlfriend, and we could deal with that, no problem.

We didn’t date for six months. My dad came to visit and I introduced him to almost every one at our smallish company. Afterwards I asked my Dad if he remembered Sean, and Dad said that he didn’t. So I reminded him and said that he was going to see a lot of Sean in the future since I would marry him. Dad asked if we were dating and I replied that we were not. Dad gave me a dubious look.

Pretty much all of the younger people at the company used to go to Johnny Appleseeds (a local restaurant chain) for happy hour on Fridays. Everyone was checking with me leading up to that afternoon to make sure I was going. When I showed up at the restaurant after five, no one was there except for the Sean. We waited for others, who never showed, and then decided to have dinner. That was our first date. Sean swore that he did not know about the set up. You should have seen everyone’s faces when I came into work on Monday asking how my happy hour was and then winking. I guess they just got fed up with us not getting together. When all of this happened, I had given up on finding the “one” and had stopped looking. It took 3 years for me to convince him that it was kismet and we should get married. Some people are just really slow.

Anyhow, it is great when we go to parties, because I can stand in the background and let him do the talking and only pipe up when I have something funny or clever to say. Being a loner at heart, I have learned to socialize at business functions through work, but then I was paid for that. I like talking to people one-on-one. That I can handle.

Yes, I have told him and others that I knew the instant I laid eyes on him. Many folks have asked me how I knew, and I don’t know how I knew. But I knew with a glance; in an instant. We have been married for over 20 years.

Did I mention that Sean repairs my car?

Grand Cayman – Part 4

May 24, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

After dinner that night we heard on the news service that a southeasterly storm was expected to hit the Cayman Island group over the next couple of days. You could drop a pin in the resort and hear it drop. Some peoples’ shorter vacations were ruined. Sean and I just looked at each other. I was kind of excited. I had never seen a real tropical storm. Anyway, Sean had his SCUBA class lessons and pool lessons over the next few days, so only I would miss out my snorkeling. (Sniff.) Our vacation was long enough to weather the storm, so to speak.

We went to bed as usual with the glass window louvers open, only to be awakened later by wind swept water being blown against them. The wave tops were actually being blown against the windows and into our room. That is how close to the water we were. We could hear the water hit our building and the seawall. We closed the window louvers and huddled together in bed. We could hear the wind howling outside.

When we awoke, it was cold, grey and extremely windy still, but not raining. I put on my long hiking pants, long sleeved shirt, socks, sandals, Nike warm up jacket and out we went to breakfast. I felt like I would blow away and leaned into the wind. The wave action was so violent and spectacular in the lagoon that Sean wanted to get a picture so he asked me to pose on a piece of flattened coral by the water’s edge. So I did. As I stood there, a big wave came shot up the side of the coral, whoooosh, and soaked me head to toe. Sean got a picture of that. Whoopie. I had to go back to the room and dry my clothes.

It turned out that Sean was the only student at Tortuga Divers out on the East end of Grand Cayman. Julia, his teacher was from England. So, while he was studying, I wandered around the grounds of the hotel/time share complex and beach. Many interesting things had washed up on the beach. I saw a man o’ war jelly fish. I sure hated to think that I was swimming in the same water as that.

The pier at Tortuga Divers on a calm day

I was really hoping to find a conch shell as I had always wanted one. They sold them all over the island, but they were all faded; I wanted one that was bright pink. Low and behold, I found one. It was huge and faced downwards in the sand so that it would not be bleached by the sun. Also, it had the hole in the top that showed that it had been fished and the animal was gone from inside of it. When I turned it over the color was intensely pink. It was so heavy I put my hand inside of it to carry it back. Sean said it was gorgeous. I keep it in my bathroom today.

One of the other stormy days, we went shopping in Georgetown. Everything was pricey. I spotted a pair of tiny 14 carat gold enameled yellow tang earrings that were US$450. They would not budge on the price. What a rip off. I walked out.

By the way, the Cayman Island money was very pretty. Again, a foreign currency that kills US currency in appearance. I brought home a dollar and a ten dollar bill for my photo album.

Stay tuned for Part 5 – After the storm

Grand Cayman – Part 3

May 22, 2006 Posted by fairviewsue

The next morning was bright and beautiful; another day in paradise! Sean and I had fantastic banana pancakes with hot coffee at the resort restaurant overlooking the white sand and blue water of the Caribbean and the swaying palms. We planned our day. I couldn’t wait to get back into the lagoon and snorkel and Sean wanted to head out in the Jeep and explore the island. So, we decided to divide and conquer, as we sometimes do.

So, he took off in the Jeep and I ran back to the room and got into my hot pink Speedo workout bikini (slathered on the sunscreen with high SPF) and matching fins and snorkel mask and headed back for the lagoon. In I went. Basically, I was again lost in the wonderful underwater tropical world again. I saw everything I had seen yesterday, except the ray, plus I saw a squirrel fish furtively peeking out from under a rock. I lost track of the time.

By the time I got out, Sean was back from his drive and I had a burn in a line across my back under the strap that holds the top of my suit on my chest. Either I did not manage to get the lotion on back there, or it rubbed off while I was swimming. It was a pretty bad burn and looked like it would blister sometime soon. My one piece would not cover there, so I had to wear more in the water from now on. But what? I had brought some Coolmax running tanks and shorts that would dry fast, so they would have to do. They would cover more and I would have to use far less sunscreen.

Sean was all excited that he had gotten us both dive/snorkel boat tickets to sting ray city that afternoon! He also made a deal with Tortuga Divers on the east end of the island for PADI dive instruction for him. The water visibility here on Grand Cayman was so good that I could see everything the divers could anyhow. But, Sean really had the bug to learn. So, I supported him fully. I knew he would love it. My biggest concern was that he find a really good partner and be safe. In any event he was stoked. They had agreed to take me along on the dive boat for no extra charge and let me snorkel.

I had already had a dive course in college, but never earned my card, since the open water dive (a required element) was in Skaneateles Lake in winter and they were planning to cut a hole in the ice.

Skaneateles Lake, Upstate New York

Not. I had decided then that diving was generally unsafe and not worth it. I hate being timed. I prefer being able to do something until I say I am done, not my air tank. My partner in college, while cute (I later dated him briefly) was a dullard and almost inadvertently killed me. One of the exercises in learning to SCUBA is the dolphin don, where you remove all of your gear in 10 feet of water, surface, and then dive down again. You put it all on, find your regulator and breathe before surfacing. Your buddy is there the whole time just in case. So, I dove down, took off all of my equipment, surfaced, and dove back down, put it all back on and when I reached for my regulator, it was not there. I kept hunting for it, but it was nowhere to be found. So I gave the signal to my buddy that I had no air at which point he should have offered me his regulator to buddy breathe or found mine. But he shrugged. He shrugged. Again I signaled that I had no air. Again he shrugged. Frustrated, I surfaced, exhaling slowly as I did, so as not to kill myself as the air in my lungs expanded. Good thing I wasn’t in deeper water or I would have been toast. It seems that I had put my equipment on backwards, and my regulator was on my left side, not my right, where it should have been. So he saw me signaling that I had no air, but did not understand why when he could see my regulator. I couldn’t see it because of my mask. Why he didn’t just point to it or grab it and hand it to me, I’ll never know. See what I mean; too easy to die.

So, after lunch I excitedly got ready to go to stingray city. The departure dock was not that far away; we could have walked. We boarded the open dive boat which held about 20 people and started north out to the sandbar where the stingrays congregate. They say that long ago, fishermen used to go to this shallow sandbar to clean their fish. Over time, the normally shy stingrays noticed and learned to associate the boat motors with an easy meal. In the early 1980’s divers began using boats and squid to attract stingrays.

As we slowly approached the site, and the captain looked for our mooring, the stingrays began to approach. They looked black and ominous and they quietly flew through the water towards our boat. There were so many of them, coming from all directions. Some were huge, with a wing span of about 6 feet. I could not wait to get into the water. The lead diver gave a safety talk about not harassing the rays and not wearing dive tanks or fins so as not to stir up the sand.

I was the first one into the water. I was completely mystified by these cartilaginous creatures. Their huge wings just flew through the water; I’ve never seen anything like it. They were completely quiet. I examined their eyes, mouths (they have no teeth), tails, everything. The lead diver had some squid and I took some to feed a large stingray. I held it in my fist, palm up as I was shown and twirled around so that the ray twirled around me and felt like a big wet blanket. When I finally let him get the food, he just sucked it out right of my fist. Sean and I swam around a bit with the rays. I will never forget stingray city.

Then it was back on the boat for our next stop which I think was called the coral gardens. Again, I was first off the boat. Divers were allowed on this spot. We all followed the lead diver to see the green moray get fed. I was a bit scared. Morays bite hard.

Then I went off on my own. I found a pack of blue tangs and began to play with them. I would chase them down to the bottom in 15 – 20 feet of water, turn, and they would chase me back up.They were always just out of my reach. I could see their scales so clearly! I would turn and there they would be waiting for me to chase them down again, so I did. This went on for I don’t know how long.
Then I thought I heard a life guard whistle. So, I surfaced and looked towards the boat. Everyone had gotten back on board and was waiting for me. The lead diver had blown a whistle to get my attention and was standing there arms akimbo looking impatient. Oops. Sorry guys got distracted. Stay tuned for the next part…