This was probably my first childhood dream of the Caribbean. I always loved the water and imagined the crystal clear waters of the the West Indies as a boy. I guess we all have dreams and that one seemed as far off as any that I could imagine. I mean, who actually get’s to live that one? I don’t know exactly when my dream of living on an island developed but it was strong and never faded away as I got older. In fact, the dream became more vivd and detailed. No Caribbean adventure could be complete without the ability to scuba dive in the sea!
I became certified to scuba dive when I was a kid but I lost all of that knowledge and I have only completed a couple dives in twenty years. I knew I needed to get re-certified and have a strong base to build a truly remarkable ability and skill. I enrolled in the PADI Open Water Scuba Diver course and completed it today. The class and instruction has changed a lot and I am proud to say that I gained enough knowledge to probably get myself in trouble. Isn’t that the way certification courses go, anyway? The first course is just enough to allow you to get to the next level. Most people don’t move forward.
I love information and new concepts, always have. Based on my life experiences, the search for knowledge has been a truly beneficial experience for me. I have learned a lot of great skills along the way and had some very memorable experiences. I feel at home in the water and I hope to spend most days diving as we make our way to parts unknown. I evaluated what I wanted to accomplish and the skills I felt I needed to stay safe. As usual, I have embarked on my new studies feet first.
I enjoyed the week long work in class and in the pool. I selected gear that would last me a very long time, with good care and maintenance. Scuba is like all other things, there is an entrance fee. The course was reasonable and cost about $350. All gear, excluding my fins and mask cost about $3000. The most expensive items were the buoyancy control device (BCD), regulator and dive computer. I bought a good wet suit and it set me back $450, which was a good purchase. I had a very talented instructor in Jack Ryan, whom I highly recommend to anyone seeking training in Austin. I was lucky to land in a small class of three.
The final four dives were fun and I was able to apply what I learned in a controlled environment. Since I took all of my training away from the ocean, I was concerned that I had good visibility. We conducted the open water dives at a place south of Austin aptly named Aquarena Springs. At the headwaters of the San Marcos River, more than 200 artesian springs bubble up to form Spring Lake. Here human history stretches back more than 12,000 years to the last ice age and natural history even further. The visibility was at least 30 feet and it was 72 degrees in the water. It rained yesterday and it was sunny today.
I grew up fishing in any water hole I could find and let me tell you that I wish I had been able to dive in fresh water to see how my prey behaved. I came eye to eye with as many large mouth bass as I ever wanted to observe. It was cool to dive in a spring and I imagine I will get the chance again soon. It is illegal in Texas to spearfish for bass but it would be easier than baiting a line. I swam through schools of perch. Salt-water fish aren’t much different from their fresh-water cousins, from what I’ve seen.
My next stop is the Advanced Open Water Diver class February 14 and then the Rescue Diver certification on March 7. My plan is to add some courses that make sense while I am here in Austin. I plan to take the following: Night Diver, Enriched Air Diver, Deep Diver, Oxygen Provider and Underwater Photographer. These are specialties according to my new best friend, PADI. I plan to take the wreck diver specialty in Florida, where wrecks are more abundant. If I know me, I will have fifty dives logged within a couple months. Aside from the above classes, I plan to volunteer at the place I dived today. This way I can help clean up the springs/lake and avoid the hefty $40 entrance fee. I also plan to buddy up with someone that I can take out on my boat for low visibility dives in Lake Travis, although it seems strange to jump into cold 3-5 foot visibility water!
I want to be a safe and proficient scuba diver and I know the best way to attain this goal is to get education and experience. After all, the waters of the Caribbean await me and my new equipment. I’ve read a bunch of books that speak of amazing wrecks, reefs and those tasty lobster that may be deeper than a skin diver can always reach. Of course, the other part of that childhood dream that I just can’t let go of is a gold laden wreck, but that is another story!