Thursday, January 8, 2009

Revolutions for a New Year

I use the word Revolutions advisedly. Resolutions require change of old habits, setting new directions and firm resolve, otherwise known as effort. Sometimes resolutions are not enough; they're too easily forgotten, diminished in importance and, like water, we flow down the easiest path.

Revolutions, on the other hand, are more alarming, require spontaneous combustion, strong determination and sacrifice, breaking out of old molds. All things we may resist. But to make the changes that will enable us to realize our potential, to reach beyond what we have achieved to this point, requires some serious awakening. Einstein defined insanity as, "Doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results." Thats generally human nature, to keep doing what we have been doing, to stay in our comfort zone and not break any eggs.

I am getting up in years. My ruts are pretty comfortable most days. But my life isn't over. I don't want to do the same thing today I did yesterday. I still want to try new things, see new places, make new friends, and have new experiences. During a 2001 summer mood of introspection, I wondered if I wanted to keep doing what I was doing for the rest of my life. I had a real estate company with associates I enjoyed, a nice home and wonderful family and friends. I told my wife, let's sell everything we have, buy a sailboat and sail from San Diego along the coast of Baja California, into the Sea of Cortez, down past Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and then through the Panama Canal into the Carribean. We could cross the north coast of Venezuela, to the southern tip of the islands at Tobago and then north along the island chain to Miami, Florida, then sell the boat and write a book. A wild hair. I read books about others who had done similar trips, talked with sailors and planned it all out.

That year my oldest daughter was in a plane crash. She and her husband were badly burned. We did sell everything, but it was to relocate to the Phoenix area where she and her husband would need treatment and physical therapy for years to come. Grandchildren needed to be cared for and we were the most able to be there. Family comes first. Our daughter and son-in-law survived, but the trip preparations were put on hold.

God has looked out for me all my life. I am still blessed every day and grateful for every sunrise. Every new day is an adventure, a series of joys of home, family, breathing fresh air, enjoying vision of blue skies, clouds, trees, green grass and, yes, working. I later learned about the potential folly of such a trip, especially for a novice. Sailing all night dodging freighters in shipping lanes, real pirates, diving with your spouse and coming up to find your boat is gone, scrubbing off barnacles, polishing metal fittings to prevent destruction by salt water and electrolysis, with little time to sunbath and read all the books you packed. A great dream, maybe done better in the mind than in reality.

So look at your life, make the most of every day, enjoy your family and associations, your work and look at it all from an eternal perspective. "Am I being all I can be as a child of God and what more can I do to use what I have been given?" Have a great New Year, serve your fellow man and go plan a dive.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Passion for Porsches

Being a diver, in some ways, is indicative of one's nature, one's outlook on life, maybe even how we make our living. My son is a chip off the old block, so to speak, and when I look at him, I see characteristics of myself. One of those characteristics, good or bad, is that we both appear to be "risk takers". This shows up not only in the fact that we are willing to enter an environment made for creatures with gills, needing specially designed equipment allowing us to imitate them and keep breathing, but also in other aspects of our lives.

I used to be the Director of a large, Arizona County Planning Department, a government agency responsible for planning and guiding the growth and development of one of the fastest growing counties in the fastest growing state in America. I lasted 5 years and took an offer to be Project Manager of a Master Planned Community; private industry vs. government service. I have been working without a security net ever since.

Part of that risk taking personality causes us to look beyond the generic, commuter car, the van or econo car for transportation. My eyes jerk sideways every time a hot looking set of wheels slips into my periferal vision. The Porsche Boxster causes the most violent reaction for me. I have always liked the Porsche and until 1997, the 911 was first choice. However, when Porsche revealed the "survival" inspired commemoration of the famous 550 racing Porsche Spyder of the 1950's and named it the Boxster, my passion flared. What a beautiful, inspiring "topless" ride with balance, power, sophistication and style. And plenty of room front and back to carry the gear. Made for the heart of a diver. Take a look at another brother's blog; Maybe it'll be a test of your personality; are you a "risk taker"?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This is not just about me.

This site is supposed to be about diving as a passion, a curiosity for the unknown, a desire to see another scene unfold below the reflection of the sun off the water. There are ship and plane wrecks, odd but beautifully colored marine creatures, strange coral reef formations with other-worldly looking plants like fans, human brains and elk horns. These blogs have talked a lot about me and what dives "I" have made, but my desire was to hear from you; to share your experiences and love of diving. I (?can't seem to get rid of that pronoun) have enjoyed chatting with divers from many different parts of the world and backgrounds. You all have stories and experiences and they are worthy of being shared.

On a dive off California (my wife was back in Arizona) I hooked up with another lone diver. He was a nice guy with a big bushy mustache that he struggled to tuck into his mask, and a little portly. However, he was well experienced and we jumped in for a swim. He took off in the lead like he was on a scooter and I have never had to fin so hard to keep up with anyone else in my life. He must have been doing 2 knots at least and I could barely keep up through a kelp forest we entered. I nearly lost him a few times and when I caught him once, I signaled to him to calm down, slow down and enjoy the trip. I like to take my time, look around, follow the terrain, explore, use all my time and air, and see what's down there. In twenty minutes, he was out of air and we surfaced quite a ways from the boat and paddled back on the surface having seen little of interest.

When we got back to the boat, he said, "Sorry. I'm just an air sucking dog." I told him, "If you'd slow down and not act like you're trying to outrun a shark, you might even enjoy it." The next dives were taken more leisurely; we watched for marine life, looked for coral and rock formations, explored the geology off the back side of Catalina Island and had a great time. I've never dived with him since, but hope he takes a little more time to see what's going on around him and appreciates the beauty of the world he enters by just jumping off a boat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Following diving rules

Diving was a new experience for Louie and I in our fifties. Our son, Patrick, invited us to take instruction because he wanted to learn to dive, and thought we could spend some time together traveling and diving. We literally jumped into the pool and got certified before he did. I was concerned about Louie on our certification dives in the cold Pacific Ocean off the coast of Long Beach, CA. We had spent a lot of time at Lake Powell riding waverunners with several couples as friends. We tried to splash each other and sometimes carving a fast, sharp turn to spray another couple, ended up with Louie and I in the drink. She used to warn me, "Don't turn us over"! Lake Powell is muddy brown run-off water, and I thought maybe she was a little frightened by the unseen lurking beneath. When we were told to jump off the boat into the bottomless, briny deep, on our first open water dive, there was no hesitation. Louie went in like it was the backyard pool. No big deal.

Later, I voiced my puzzlement to her that I thought she might be apprehensive jumping off a dive boat in the deep, bottomless ocean with no visible shoreline because of her previous concern at Lake Powell. She said, "Nope. I just didn't want to get my hair wet." So much for female trepidation.

There are a lot of crazy people that just like getting wet. I've met a number of them and they're often on crowded dive boats. Diving is somewhat like flying; there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. There are old divers that go by the book, and bold divers that fly by the seat of their pants, and sometimes suffer the consequences. More than a few famous, experienced divers break a rule and end up in the chamber, or worse. Me, I love the buddy system and I want to come up every time to share the experience and go back and do it again and again. Following the rules in the sea-down-under increases the chance to become an old diver.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting Started

Just posted some notes of gratitude about me as I continue this blogging experience (just for introduction and to let you all know how truly blessed I am). I have to talk about my family from time to time as they are the greatest part of my life; the source of my joy. Some of my most enjoyable times, and favorite memories, have been dive trips; vacations with a twist of lime. My wife being a flight attendant has given us the opportunity to travel to places we have enjoyed together so much and would not otherwise have happened.

Our last dive trip was to the Bahamas where we dove "Shark Alley", with vicious, man-eating, gray Caribbean reef sharks. Well maybe not, but raises the heart rate and anticipation level a bit anyway. The regular dive boat was "down-for-repairs" so we had to pile 7 divers, a guide and boat Captain in a small, Moby Dick-like, 17 foot open fishing boat. At least it was motorized.
When we got to the site, trying to get dressed in a huddle is not my idea of fun, so I rolled out of the boat and asked the guide to lower my tanks to me and I put the gear on in the water. When I turned over to cinch my waist belt, I was looking down about 60 feet to a welcoming group of circling sharks. Makes one pucker and think about the stories you hear on the dive boats at night.

I had my expensive new, handy-dandy dive camera with me and tried to load the film as we raced to the site from shore through some fairly rough seas. Bouncing along, I didn't get the end of the film caught into the camera advancing rachet, and when I got to the bottom, realized the film was not advancing. However, being the clever, Clive Cussler diver I am, I continued to act like I was snapping National Geographic Award Winning photos so my dive companions wouldn't know what a novice dunce they were diving with. The sight of Porsche-928-shaped sharks swimming right at you, turning away inches from your nose, is etched into my memory forever, but alas, no photographic evidence to prove my manhood. Another interesting learning dive. Still trying to get it right.

My hope is to have others share their experiences, tersely, to enjoy conversation of that which we love.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

life and death experience

My first dive after being certifiable (?) was almost my last. Cozumel, Mexico, has to be one of the most beautiful dive sites in the Caribbean. I walked out on the dock to meet the dive boat. dropped my gear on the deck and asked the Mexican guide, "Who cleaned the pool?" The water was so sparkley clear it shimmered in the sun, like the clean bottom of an aqua painted pool.

Diving in Mexico wasn't like in the U.S.; no dive site orientation and no dawdling to gear up. Palancar Reef, in all its pristine beauty, is a drift dive with a strong current approaching 4 knots at times. They want everyone off the boat at the same time so divers aren't strung out for miles and impossible to pick up at the end. I jumped in not realizing my blood sugar was low and dropping. I have diabetes and it is a "contraindication" to safe diving.

Twenty minutes into the dive I was losing orientation and conciousness. We were at eighty feet and my wife's weights dropped out of her BC. Our dive master, Gregorio, took her hand and led her onward to help her stay down, not knowing I was losing it. Five minutes later, he realized I wasn't with them and came back to find me.

I remember being fascinated by a grand horned coral, almost purple, about two feet high and perfectly formed. The last thing I remember was looking away from the reef and seeing darker, deep blue water. When the dive guide found me, I had gone off the reef, swam down to 109 feet and was sitting on the sand like a sunbather with my head hanging down and my fins pointing up. He grabbed me and pulled me to the surface without stopping. I came to when the bright sunlight hit our eyes just below the surface. I had 250 psi of air left in my tank.

Gregorio thought I had the bends. The boat Captain raced us back to the dock and an ambulance met us, accompanied by a young Mexican Federale armed with an AR15 automatic rifle and full bandolero. Incidents of this type often occur when drugs are present. My wife was feeding me a Tootsie Roll and after some scrutiny, they realized no drugs were involved. They took me to the local Clinica Emergencia and a wonderful young Mexican doctor told me he was taking away my dive privileges for the remainder of that trip.

I learned a lot from that dive early in my experiences. I'm much more careful, better prepared, and aware of the dangers of being over 100 ft. under water and all the things that can go wrong. For some reason, God spared my life, if only to teach me how really foolish I can be at times. I'm grateful for His patience and have continued to dive successfully for several years. Oddly enough, a camera-man, filmed me as I was coming through the reef starting to go into spasms but didn't realize what was happening. Not the kind of video, or first dive experience I was hoping for.

Safe diving!