Thursday, July 12, 2012

First day of diving in Cozumel

Up at 6 a.m. And I´m on vacation! Fortunately, it´s 7 a.m. for my body clock, but still.
Anyway, this morning was my first Caribbean diving in three years. It is great to be back. This morning was overcast and not too hot as I took my 20 minute walk along the seaboard to get to the diving pier where Dive With Martin will pick me up. This is my fourth trip to Cozumel and my fourth time with Dive With Martin. They are a very professional group and the prices are reasonable. They are always among the first dive boats on the water. We dove with Miguel, a dive master I´ve dove with before. He is a nice gentle man and an excellent dive leader. We also dove with Pasquel, a DM I´d never met. Our large group of nine would have two DMs.
On board, I met a father and son pair who hail from Kalamazoo, Michigan. So right off the bat I´m hanging with fellow Michiganders! Then I find out they are staying at the same hotel, Casa Mexicana, and are only five doors down! Small world. Looks like I´ve got some guys to hang out with.
Our first dive is on Palancar Horseshoe. It is one of several reef areas with Palancar as its first name. According to my dive log, I first dove this part of the reef in 2007, and I saw an 8-10 foot black tip shark. I still see that image in my minds eye ... turning the corner around a coral head and seeing the black tip in the distance about 30 feet out. The dive master instantly pointed with enthusiasm as the black tip slowly swam around the coral head, not a care in the world. That was awesome.
Today, no such luck. But the water was beautiful as always with about 100 feet of visibility. It is great to see how much the reefs have recovered since my last trip.There is plenty of new delicate fans and tubes and pot (is that the right name?) coral. Much of the sand from the major hurricane in 2006  or 2007 seems to be washed away.
Unfortunately, I didn´t see many large animals. We did see on hawksbill turtle, which seemed to be chasing after Tim, one of the guys from K-Zoo. There were also a couple of lobster and groupers. In recent years, Cozumel has been invaded by lionfish. But I didn´t see any on this dive. That is a good sign. But I´m bummed because I didn´t see any nurse sharks. The turtles are my favorite, but the nurse sharks are a close second.
We went to a depth of 90 feet with about 50 minutes of bottom time. I was a little nervous for my first salt water dive in three years, but when I saw that a couple of my fellow divers were more inexperienced than me I felt much better. I was one of the more experienced divers and very comfortable in my favorite dive destination again.
Our second dive was on La Francesa with a max depth of 60 feet and one hour of bottom time. I also dove this reef in 2007, but with a recorded depth of 100 feet, so perhaps it was a different section. For this dive, the current was really ripping. I felt like I was on a freeway. Cozumel is exclusively drift diving, meaning the current carries you across the reef. On the positive side, that means very little finning is required and you don´t have to work very hard to move. That means you use less energy, use less air and can have more bottom time. The down side is you move very rapidly across the reef and really have to keep a sharp eye out for critters. And if you see something and you want to swim back to get a closer look, that ´upstream´ movement takes a lot of energy and burns a lot of air. I saw two more turtles traveling together and it was funny to watch them battle the current. When the natives are struggling to maintain their direction, you know it´s ripping. I saw a couple more lobsters and three large black groupers.
Pasquel chased after a small fish that is very popular with photographers, but I was too far away from him to cut across the current and follow him. I asked him the name of the fish, but I forgot what he said it was. The first part of its name was an animal ... monkey? I can´t remember. If I see him again, I will ask him. As he, another couple and I were bobbing in the water, the last ones to be picked up, we all marveled at the current and how it would slow down and then speed up again. Sometimes, it even starts going the opposite direction! But not today.
No afternoon dive today, but the K-zoo boys and I are trying to scurry up some people for a night dive.
BTW, hopefully I will be posting some photos and video along the way. I might be able to post some pics, but the video will have to wait until I get home.
Check in next time for the result of my night dive or tomorrow´s diving. If you have any questions or comments, don´t hesitate to ask or comment.

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