February 9th, 2003
The Greeks & Romans believed there were three goddesses, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who controlled human destiny. They believed, like many of us, that there are higher beings that predestine what will occur to us in the present and in the future. Not being a person to believe in many superstitions, this past weekend seemed to have been a test of those believes.
This week's diving adventure was to start early. With a planned, three day trip to the Bahamas with the Abernethys set to leave Thursday night, I was eager for that day to come. Of course, Monday seemed to have lasted an eternity. Tuesday I awoke with a bad premonition -- not some holy sign from above but a feeling in my throat that what would await me was not good. Quickly I headed to Walgreens and purchased half the store's cold medicine and was determined to not let this upcoming cold take hold. Half drunk on cold medicine throughout the day at work and at home, I went to bed early (a rarity for me) in hopes that tomorrow this evil doer would be gone. Wednesday morning I awoke and sure enough, that cold fought harder than a Roman Army. It was apparent by then that the fate of my upcoming trip would come to a unfortunate end. Luckily, the great folks at the Abernethys were kind enough to reschedule me for another trip in a couple of months.
After speaking to my dive buddy, Fritz, and telling him about my unfortunate fate he consoled me as only a true dive buddy could and gave me some good advice as to how I could get rid of the cold (always listen to your pharmacist/dive buddy!). He mentioned that if I felt good enough, that we could plan a dive with Quiescence down in Key Largo on Sunday. The rest of the week dragged by and I fought that cold harder than Mike Tyson fought George Foreman. After what seemed like hundreds of gallons of cold medicine and Sudafed, Sunday morning I awoke feeling 99% well. Woohooo! Looks like my fate had just turned for the better.
The day began like most diving days--awake by 6:00am and all packed and ready to head out to Fritz's house by 6:30am. I arrived at Fritz's house by 7:10am and after a friendly, divers buddy hello we watch Karen shortly thereafter pull into the drive way--turning her truck off half way and coasting in the rest of the way--as she always does (women drivers! j/k). The drive down to Key Largo seemed too short, but that's always the case when I'm busy chit-chatting with my dive buddies about the thing I love best---DIVING!
Over at Quiescence we stopped to say hello to the friendly folks, paid for our trip and, back at the dock, I decided to return to the store to purchase a bottle of water. As I was paying for it, an octopus pin hung from in front of the register and something persuaded me to purchase it.
Well, it wasn't long before we were all aboard Capt. John's QIII boat--with her bottom just recently painted and a brand-spanking new prop to go with it. On the six pack boat were only four divers--Fritz, Karen, myself and Victoria--a very nice lady visiting from Houston, Texas.
Through the channels lined by mangroves, blue skies and calm seas--we went. Along the way, we busied ourselves with friendly chat with each other, Victoria and Capt. John. It wasn't long before we arrived at our first dive spot. We suited up and were all ready and excited to go.
Splash! Into the semi-cold water I go and back up so that Capt. John could hand me my underwater camera. The first apparent thing was the fact that I couldn't see Fritz who had just dived ahead of me. Why? Because the vis wasn't very good. As I descended about 30ft I found him--Karen and Victoria found us and we were on our way.
Swimming along the reef, my first encounter was with a yellow stingray who looked like he was trying to keep his body off the cold sand.
This little fella let me get in quite close without being too concerned with my presence. A quick snapshot or two and I was on my way, leaving the poor little fella to his business at hand.
We swam around for a while and I cruised closely to some of the algae-covered areas in hopes of finding a nudibranch. Unfortunately, fate wouldn't be this nice to me today. Luckily, we were at a dive site we had dived before numerous times and there was one particular spot on the reef that seems to be the center of attraction. Large schools of grunts, jacks and about a hundred different fish were busy doing their day-to-day. Down below was the Grand Central Station of all cleaning stations. A beautiful design of nature--the walls were covered in sponges and where the cleaning fellas lived there was a large hole in the coral above that would allow shafts of light to penetrate. This place is popular and busier than the malls during Christmas.
Hovering above was a yellow butterflyfish--where I had last left him (believe it or not).
Down below was one of the fellas that last time caused me to hyperventilate from overwhelming me with photographic opportunities (click here for that story).
What I most enjoy of this little spot is the fact that the fish seem unafraid of me. Even the elusive rock beauty comes in for a daringly close look.
I spent the rest of my dive in this one spot, completely in awe over all the action going on around me when all of a sudden I see the big honcho man come in on my right (the station has a right door entrance too).
When this fella comes in, the grunts make way and the neon gobies are quick to begin their cleaning service. Watching the number of fish these little neon gobies clean of parasites an hour, it's amazing how they haven't grown to the size of school buses. Those skinny, little guys sure have a big appetite!
I had just finished photographing the grouper when I catch the shadow of something hovering above me over the reef. I look up and the little yellow stingray I had photographed earlier was hightailing it out of there. All of a sudden I feel something huge land on top of my outstretched legs. My heart quickens, my eyes bulge. I'm expecting to find some huge tiger shark laying right on top of me. Oh God! What could fate have in store for me now?!?! I muster the courage to look back and I find Karen apologizing to me for landing on me. It turns out in her quest to coerce the yellow stingray towards the location I was at she didn't realize that I was right below her. So went what I hope would be the first and last heart-stopper of the day.
I stayed around a little longer at that spot and got in close for a couple more photographs...
When all of a sudden I knew I had extended my visit and crossed the line between being considered a friendly diver or fish food...
Yup! Looks like the boyfriend wasn't too fond of me getting too close to his girl. So, after a heart-felt apology, I quickly headed to safety while keeping a watchful eye along the way. Who knows what else fate had in store for me at this place.