Ever since I can remember, I was fascinated by the ocean and the creatures that lay within it. As a child, I would sit at the end of the dock down at my Aunt Honey’s shore house, waving my net in the water, catching whatever critters I could. I would then keep them in buckets for a few days as I observed them, and eventually they would be released back into the bay. I would walk the beach every morning, looking for strange things that washed up, and would routinely check out the jetties, and look for starfish and urchins on the rocks. Yes, my fascination with the ocean started very early.
It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I was able to take my PADI Open Water Diver course. Mainly because diving was expensive, and we didn’t have that kind of money back then. Anyway, I managed to finagle my way into a class because it was a college elective (and I needed to do A LOT of elective classes that semester), in my last semester of my senior year, and my parents finally caved in. Friday nights, 7pm-11pm. Looking back now, I laugh at how we managed to take what is essentially a 3-4 day course, and stretched it out over the length of a semester, essentially 4 months / 16-17 classes (and that didn’t even include our 4 open water dives at Dutch Springs which were done a month after school ended).
Then I didn’t dive… For almost 20 years. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but rather life gets in the way, you get engaged and married, buy a house, and the money isn’t always there. But I did supplement my desire to be near saltwater by getting heavily into reef aquariums. At one time I had both a 210g fish only and a 300g soft coral reef tanks. I had many smaller tanks, and bred clownfish, bangaii cardinals, neon gobies and fragged thousands of corals, from zoanthids and soft corals to long polyp stony and small polyp stony corals. I was even heavily involved in the worlds largest reef aquarium forum, www.reefcentral.com, working as a staff member for a number of years, and helped out in the early days of ReefKeeping Magazine – www.reefkeeping.com as a webmaster. Acting as a staff member there gave me access to many of the authors on my bookshelf, and my knowledge of underwater identifications grew tenfold. I even worked part time in a local fish store to supplement my hobby at one time.
Then I got divorced… And in the process broke down essentially all my tanks, and never set them back up. And I missed my saltwater connection. Finally, after many years of encouragement from a good friend who is an instructor who had spent 3 years on Utila (and who kept trying to get me to go there when he was there as we had been friends since our days of staffing ReefCentral), I was finally convinced to visit him in Cozumel, and I ended up doing my Advanced Open Water certification with him. I was hooked again.
In the following year I would head to Utila for the month of January to complete my Rescue Diver certification at Alton’s Dive Center, then head to Cozumel for 10 days in June to do some fun diving, back to Utila for 10 days in October for more fun diving, and then back to Utila for 3 months the following January to do my Dive Master and my PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor courses at Underwater Vision Dive Center.
Currently planning a return trip to do my MSDT at Underwater Vision…