Monday, December 10, 2012

Paradise Springs

I was able to get in a fair amount of exploration this year. I did not carry a camera every time so I do not have a post for every weekend. But I should still have some interesting stuff.

I took the camera with me to Paradise Springs back in May 2012. I had a group of people from the dive shop who wanted to learn how to dive sidemount for OW purposes. So with their shiny new gear, a lecture and a few dives under their belt we took a trip to Paradise Springs to get some more dive time.

Sidemount is a fast growing subset in the SCUBA industry. It moves your tanks off your back and onto your sides. This gives the diver lower vertical profile, improves stability and increases flexibility. There are a number of reasons to move to double tanks; redundancy and increased dive time are the biggest.

Paradise Springs is a sink hole located near Belleview, FL. It is privately owned and operated. The water is a constant 74 degrees and crystal clear. It is a great dive site to tour, practice your skills, and to see if caverns are the thing for you.

The cave does go below 100’ so non cave trained divers need to know their limits.

For more information about Paradise Springs check out Florida Dive Connection

Jug Hole January 2012

Getting behind seems to be a trend with this blog.
I have been very busy this year, and I will try to have a number of updates in the next few days.

So lets start with Febuary 2012....

Every year since I was thirteen we have made an annual trip to Jug Hole. Jug Hole is just  one of the springs that feeds the Ichetucknee river. This blue ribbon transects harwood hammock and eventually intersects with the Santa Fe River. This is a Mecca for photographers, kayakers and tubers. In the wintertime the park closes to tubers and opens to cave divers.

Here is the Website for the park: State Park

The cave is relatively short, but it is full of challenge and beauty. The dive begins a half mile away at the parking lot. Several hundred pounds of scuba equipment must be portaged 2500’ down a trail to the springhead.

This year Andy was not able to make it so we brought our good friend Sean. This was his first trip to the cave. Sean is a CCR diver and has been carrying his bailout in a sidemount configuration for years. I believe this was his first true sidemount dive.

The cavern is picturesque, in the early afternoon the sun pours through the round entrance and a beautiful column of blue light paints the white sand floor.

Just a hundred feet in we reach the first restriction, the bedding plane. This is a low wide section of cave is formed when a softer layer of a sedimentary rock dissolves leaving behind the harder floor and ceiling. This bedding plane averages 16” high and acts a “nerd gate” for the now rare back mount diver.

The cave continues through two tall dome rooms and then pinches down at the Diamond Sands Restriction. Here the course orange sand shifts in the current and glistens in our lights. It really is a beautiful sight. The restriction is not that tight, but it is an odd shape. It is somewhat of a puzzle to get through here if one has not done it before.

From here the cave changes there is a jump to the right where most of the flow originates. It is a very tight bedding plane restriction 9-10” high. But the cave continues straight to the loft some 50’ shallower. The cave abruptly ends and a thin layer of grey silt covers everything. There is typically a collection of “glory markers” here where people like to brag about their incredible feat of cave diving… Do not leave line markers unless they are needed.

The dive was  load of fun we got some awesome cave footage and great pictures.
To see the video of this dive, follow this link: Jug Hole Video

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Manatee Springs Again

Just a few weeks after my last dive at Manatee I had the itch to return. The water was a beautiful blue and the flow was as low as I have seen it. Bob Beckner and I did a repeat dive of the previous weekend, except this time we brought one more stage bottle. So this was a double stage, sidemount scooter diver. We went on the dive to investigate a potential lead. We reached the destination restriction, and Bob waited for me. The restriction was a tight fracture, the walls were rough as I believe I was only the second one through here. Visibility went to zero, due to an orange clay underneath shifting breakdown. Shortly I emerged into a beautiful little room. There was a fracture in the ceiling that would rain clay when bubbles rushed into it. The passage continued and made a hard left here ended in a 2" high sand restriction and I turned the dive. The first 1800' of our exit had very poor visibility due to the small nature of the passage and the result of my shenanigans.
We reached the mainline grabbed our scooters and enjoyed a fast joyride out of the system. Deco was short and chiggers were no too bad.

Bob packed up and headed home. Sara and I stayed and enjoyed a second dive in Catfish Hotel, one of the other entrances to the Cave system. Catfish Hotel is an offset sink with an upstream and downstream cave passage. This was a fun dive and it allowed Sara to get in the water and play with her new sidemount gear!
She is enjoying the transition to sidemount diving, she particularly likes the increased stability, and the ability to look up without hitting her head.

Here is a short video of the dive:

It was a great day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I have always loved North Florida, the Suwannee River is a magical place. Sara planned a trip for our friends Jen and Ryan so we could share this unique part of Florida with them.

We drove up after work on Saturday and checked in at a cabin at Suwannee River Rendezvous. This is a great mom and pop camp ground, with a nice little restaurant, cabins, karaoke, trivia, and a cave!

We started the night with trivia, singing, board games and a campfire. I was a nice night. The next morning we rose early to temperatures in the low 30’s. As crazy as everyone thinks I am I convinced the girls to go for a dive at Troy springs.

Troy springs is a large sink located on the banks of the Suwannee river. The sink is cylindrical and drops to depths of ~70 feet. The water here is an emerald green and is always a beautiful cavern dive. We spent 45 minutes playing in the water until open water classes overran the spring basin. It was great to get Sara back in the water again.

Later that afternoon we spent several hours floating down the Suwannee in canoes. We passed a handful of springs and the retired rotating railroad bridge.

The next moring we hiked at Peacock Springs State Park along the new interpretive trail.

It was a great weekend in north Florida!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Manatee Springs 1-8-12

It has been a while since I ran the scooter and I was in the mood for a nice long dive.
Bob Beckner and I planned a trip to Manatee Springs.

This is a "cavers" cave. The flow is high the walls are dark and the visability is never perfect. This is one of my favorite caves!
I had heard about the "Blue Water" tunnel but had never been there. I received directions and we made it happen.

This side tunnel is small and advanced, it is definitively a sidemount tunnel. The floor transitions from white clay to a coarse, sparkling, orange sand. The passage meanders side to side/ up and down. It was a beautiful little dive.

Back in the main passage we cranked the scooters up and had a blast riding them out! Visability was as nice as I have ever seen at Mantatee. It makes me want to come back

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Honeymoon Cruise

A few weeks after our wedding, I finally finished my degree from USF. To celebrate that and our marriage, Sara and I took a honeymoon cruise. After researching resorts and other honeymoon options we decided that a cruise was by far the best bang for the buck.
We booked an 8 night cruise with Carnival from Ft. Lauderdale and traveling the through the Eastern Caribbean.

 The worse part of the trip was the two of us and out 3500 closest friends waiting in line to board the Carnival Freedom for 8 days of fun.

We went to our room and found it decorated for our Honey moon. We explored the ship, trying to figure out how to navigate it. We almost figured it out by the last day…almost.

After our safety briefing we slipped into our swimsuits and hit the pool deck, this is where we spent the majority of the first two days at sea. It was nice; we lounged in the pools, hit the water slide, met some nice people, Sara judged the mixology competition, and we enjoyed the Hairy Chest Competition.

 I got a little sun burnt, so we moved inside. We decided to go watch the “Game of Love” this is essentially the Newly Wed Game. Brad, our cruise director asked all of the newly-weds to stand up. In a crowd of 1500, Sara and I were the only two… So we played. We competed against a couple that had been married for 30 yrs and a couple that had been married for 60. The questions were hard and embarrassing, but the young newly weds won!

 Our first Port of Call was St. Thomas. We wanted to do some diving on this trip, but the excursions were out of our watermelon budget. So we got off the ship and wandered.  We met a man named Ali who ran a tour bus, it was cheap and we were bored with the shops, so we joined him. Ali was well spoken and extremely knowledgeable about the Island and its history. It was an informative tour that showed us the highlights and best overlooks. St Thomas is a beautiful island, and we had a great time.

Back on the ship we gorged ourselves with food, enjoyed standup at the comedy club, and lounged around.

The next day we docked in Antigua. Here we booked a shore excursion; Kayaking, Hiking , and Snorkeling. We boarded a bus and traveled across the island to the NE corner where there was a skiff waiting to transport us to Bird Island. Bird Island was a small rocky island surrounded by coral reef. We hiked to the top and enjoyed an outstanding view. The snorkeling was nice, I always enjoy being in the water.

We kayaked around the mangroves for 45 minutes, enjoyed some homemade banana bread and rum punch before heading back on the bus.

 Day 5 we arrived in Tortola. Since we had such good luck with Ali in St Thomas we decided to take another island tour. This guy was not as good…  He was very repetitive and uninformed. We were annoyed at first, but after the first hour it was actually entertaining. The island was beautiful and we had a nice time.

Day 6 was spent at sea, eating, swimming, sleeping, and eating.

Day 7, we are almost home, but had one more stop in Nassau.
Here we booked an excursion to avoid the hoards of people shopping.  We decided to try paddle boarding. I always thought is looked like an overpriced sport that was inefficient and boring, I was right. It was fun to try, but it was not mobile like a kayak, and it was not as fast as a surf board. After 30 minutes of paddle boarding and getting to see Sara fall once we decided to snorkel instead. Lion fish are taking over down there. In the 30 minutes we were in the water we saw 3.
It was a great day in the Bahamas

Day 8 we were back in Ft Lauderdale. It was sad to get be home and weird to stand on firm ground. The weather was beautiful on our cruise, unfortunately it was windy. We averaged 16’ seas the first few days, and had as high as 30 one night.

We had a great time and plan to do more cruisin’ in the future.