28 December 2009

Bird Sightings

I sighted two more birds around Seattle and added all the birds I could remember growing up. Here's the new list -

From our deck

1. American Robin 1.18.08
2. Anna's Hummingbird - female & male 1.18.08
3. Bald Eagle 4.16.09
4. Barn Swallow 5.27.08
5. Bewick’s Wren 2.25.08
6. Black-Capped Chickadee 5.05.08
7. Bushtit 2.21.08
8. California Gull 1.18.08
9. Canada Goose 5.28.08
10. Chipping Sparrow 5.05.08
11. Common Tern 6.14.08
12. Crow 1.18.08
13. Dark-eyed Junco - Oregon form 1.28.08
14. European Starling 1.26.08
15. Golden-Crowned Kinglet 5.03.08
16. House Sparrow 1.18.08
17. Northern Flicker 2.20.08
18. Osprey 4.20.09
19. Pine Siskin 5.30.08
20. Purple Finch 5.09.09
21. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet 2.03.08
22. Rock Pigeon 1.28.08
23. Steller's Jay 2.28.08
24. Violet-Green Swallow 5.19.08
25. Western Tanager 5.08.08
26. Wilson’s Warbler 5.09.08

Sub Total - 26

General Sightings

1. American Coot 4.07.08
2. American Wigeon 12.22.09
3. Barrow’s Goldeneye – male & female 2.04.08
4. Black Turnstone 2.04.08
5. Bonaparte’s Gull 3.28.08
6. Brant 3.28.08
7. Brewer’s Blackbird 4.27.08
8. Brown Pelican 1987. Mexico
9. Bufflehead – female & male 2.04.08
10. Cactus Wren Growing up. Arizona
11. Caspian’s Tern 5.01.09
12. Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1.30.08
13. Chihuahuan Raven Growing up. Arizona
14. Common Goldeneye - male & female 1.31.08
15. Common Raven Growing up. Arizona
16. Curve-billed Thrasher Growing up. Arizona
17. Gadswell 4.07.08
18. Gambel’s Quail Growing up. Arizona
19. Gila Woodpecker Growing up. Arizona
20. Great Blue Heron 2.04.8
21. Greater Roadrunner Growing up. Arizona
22. Great-Horned Owl. Growing up. Arizona
23. Great-Tailed Grackle Growing up. Arizona
24. Green-winged Teal 12.17.09
25. Hairy Woodpecker 5.28.08
26. Hooded Merganser 2.05.08
27. Horned Grebe 2.03.08
28. Inca Dove Growing up. Arizona
29. Mallard 4.07.08
30. Merlin 1.29.08
31. Mourning Dove Growing up. Arizona
32. Northern Cardinal Growing up. Arizona
33. Northern Mockingbird Growing up. Arizona
34. Peregrine Falcon 5.18.08
35. Red-breasted Merganser – male & female 2.04.08
36. Red-tailed Hawk Growing up. Arizona
37. Red-winged Blackbird 4.27.08
38. Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1.30.08
39. Sanderling 3.28.08
40. Spotted Towhee 1.30.08
41. Surf Scoter 1.31.08
42. Turkey Vulture Growing up. Arizona
43. Varied Thrush 1.30.08
44. Western Grebe 2.04.08
45. Western Meadowlark 6.27.09 Colorado
46. Western Scrub-Jay 6.14.08 SanFrancisco,CA
47. White Crowned Sparrow 4.01.08
48. White-winged Dove Growing up. Arizona
49. White-winged Scoter 1.31.08
50. Yellow-Rumped Warbler 5.23.09

Sub Total - 50
Total – 76

28 September 2009

XS Scuba Mesh Bag

I gotta say I love this bag. It holds everything I need for a warm water dive aside from the tank. Everything. It can be carried as a duffel or worn (how I prefer it) as a backpack. Perfect for walking from the hotel room to the dive boat. I wish I had it on my last trip to Cozumel. XS Scuba's Best-Selling Bag

New features for 2005
- Large DRY pocket for camera, towel, clothes, etc.
- Mesh pocket with XS Scuba Sport Bottle
- Interior pocket for BG690 Dry Logbook Cover

  • Heavy-duty, PVC-coated nylon mesh
  • Adjustable shoulder straps, padded for comfort
  • Exterior pocket with convenient key hook
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Tough, PVC-reinforced bottom
  • Easy-access, side opening, #10 YKK zipper
  • Convenient molded rubber side handle
  • Drawstring access with heavy-duty nylon cord
  • Marine brass grommets
  • Interior pocket for BG690 DRY Logbook Cover
  • Attachment point for BG540 Mask Bag
  • Includes XS Scuba luggage tag
  • Dimensions: 29" x 16.5"

21 September 2009

Aeris Atmos 2 Uplink Cable

I purchased my Aeris Atmos 2 diving computer back in November 2006. It took me a while, however, to cough up the money for a PC uplink cable. I finally purchased one about 2 days ago for 100 bucks. It's a shame that Aeris feels the need to charge so much money for what is little more then a usb cable. In fact, for the money I spent on the dive computer, I feel that they should have included it. Fortunately the software for it is free to download from their website. Establishing a connection between the dive computer and the PC proved to be a bit challenging, however once I got the feel for it and downloaded the dives I loved the additional information. For instance the dive computer will tell me what the coldest temperature was on a dive but the software will show what the temperature was throughout the dive, at different depths. That's just one example. While not a necessity, if you are a techie freak you'll love it. The software and cable also works for the Atmos Elite and the Atmos AI.

14 September 2009

Lake Pleasant Dive 9/9/09

Last week we flew down to AZ to visit our friends and families. Since one of my dive buddies (Clifford) lives in Phoenix I asked him if he wanted to jump in the lake (Lake Pleasant). Neither of us had been diving since Cozumel in January and we both wanted to get wet so I packed up my gear and brought it with me.

On Wednesday of our stay I drove up from Tucson to Phoenix and picked up Clifford. We then drove to one of the Sport Chalet's on the north side of Phoenix, rented some gear and finished driving the additional 15 miles or so to the Lake. We dove out of Vista Point, near the marina. The water in the lake is low right now and we had about a 200 foot hike down a rocky slope, in the 100 degree heat, to the water before gearing up. Fortunately this is a warm fresh water dive and not a cold salt water dive so I only had to carry 6 pounds of weights down that hill instead of 30+ pounds. Unfortunately we were just about ready to go when Clifford realized he forgot to rent regulators!! We stood there in the heat. We thought about the 30 mile round trip drive to the rental shop. We stared at the rocky slope. We thought about the 6 pack of Longboard Lager sitting in the trunk that were still cold but would not be after our dive (as we had no cooler). Then we decided we had to make the trip. Sport Chalet was not going to refund the money for the gear we already rented and I brought all my equipment from Seattle, on the plane, and made the 2 hour drive from Tucson. So we hauled everything back up the hill.

An hour later we were back in the same spot on the shore gearing up, again, to dive in a low vis lake with nothing really to see in it but a few fish and beer cans but we had big smiles on our faces and cell phone cameras taking pictures. We did our buddy checks, waded into the water, put on our fins and checked our buoyancy.

Of the 3 times I've dove in Lake Pleasant this was the most, ah, pleasant. For starters, it was 2 days after Labor Day weekend, on a Wednesday, at 3 in the afternoon in the 100 degree heat so we had the whole lake to ourselves. Second we weren't diving with any guides, instructors and were free to take our time and enjoy it. We started right in the middle of a little u shaped cove between Vista Point and the boat ramp. Looking out we faced due West so our plan was to swim out along the bottom following that bearing until a) we reached the bottom, or a maximum depth we were comfortable with, b) we used up 1/3 of our air, or c) it got to cold. Which ever came first. Then we would turn due South, up the slope towards Vista Point until we reached about 35 feet of depth and then turn right and follow the shore back to are starting point, maintaining that depth.

Upon entering the water we encountered what felt almost like a grove of dead trees. Mesquite and Palo Verde I assume. The visibility was between 4 and 15 feet making the water appear a yellowish green. As we swam these trees seemed to materialize out of no where. Their dark forms reminding me of Halloween and Sleepy Hollow.

The last time I dove in Lake Pleasant was in the month of June and the water below 25 feet was cold. This was September and the temperature was about 80 or above until we reached 45-50 feet. Here there was a thermocline but still the temperature wasn't unbearable in my 3mm wet suit. A weird misty looking layer hung at this thermocline. At about 70 feet we came to a small rocky gully where I imagined water once flowed only when it rained. There was a pool of cold water, almost like another thermocline, with in. My computer read 73 degrees. The bottom was a strange, silty, almost spongy sediment. I plunged my hand into it, feeling a bit like a robot probing Mars, and it easily sunk up to the wrist with no solid surface below. Quickly I pulled it out feeling disgusted and fascinated at the same time and also imagining that something just might be under there, ready to pull me in. I turned to Clifford and he was making gestures of being cold and pointing up and to the left.

We turned 90 degrees, South now, towards Vista Point ascending into warmer water. We came across a landscape full of 6 inch craters. I assume these are made by fish, blowing water into the sediment, searching for food. Clifford picked up a beer can and tried filling it with air and sending it to the surface to no avail. It was full of sediment. I took it and shook it a little. Then I squeezed it and clouds shot out like black ink. Then I reshaped it, scraped off all the zebra mussels (which have invaded this lake everywhere), shot some air into it and let it go. It ascended slowly for a few feet then shot up like a rocket into a blue gray abyss.

We then reached 35 feet, turned left again, according to our plan and followed the shoreline back to our starting point. We both reached 7-750 psi at about the same time, turned right (East) and ascended along the bottom to our 3 minute safety stop. We were both pretty sure that we overshot our starting position but upon surfacing we found ourselves about 75 feet short. Still, not bad.

A little note. Lake Pleasant is at an elevation of about 1650 to 1700 feet, depending how much water is in the lake and therefore is considered a high altitude dive. My Aeris Atmos 2 dive computer automatically adjusts for this but needs to be turned on at the dive site elevation to do so. I was glad I re-read the manual a few days before the trip.

Vista Point, Lake Pleasant, AZ
My maximum depth - 81 feet
Visibility - 3 to 15 feet
Coldest water temperature - 73F
Bottom time - 50 minutes

27 August 2009


A friend and co-worker introduced me to sailing yesterday. A few months before we were looking out of the ballroom window, on the top of the hotel we work at, at Elliot bay and started talking about boats, sailing terms, etc. He mentioned he had purchased a boat and even had planned to live on it to save some money. Over the weeks he invited me to go sailing with him a few times and I finally took him up on the offer.

I forget what make of boat he has but it's a keel boat meaning it can't be capsized (or very unlikely), has a small cabin, outboard motor (which we barley used) and is about 22 - 24 feet. I forget but I believe it is 22. It is a Bermuda rigged craft as are most modern sailboats meaning it sports a single mast with a mainsail and, in this case, a Genoa sail. This boat could also fly a jib or a spinnaker instead of the Genoa.

I took the ferry over to Bainbridge and met David at his berth. The first thing he had me do was step into the cabin and find all the rescue stuff. Life jackets, flare gun, whistle, etc. Then I helped some setting up the mainsail and the Genoa. After that we slowly motored away out into Eagle bay, raised the main, cut the motor, waited for the ferry to leave and sailed out into the sound.

It was a pretty calm day, perfect for a first day of sailing and shortly David had me raise the Genoa. Just after this was our first sighting . . . of . . . something. It was either a Dall's Porpoise, Harbor Porpoise or a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin. For a while I was convinced it was a Minke but that was before I learned that these other types of dolphin and porpoise lived in such cold waters. We saw these on one other occasion during our return trip. The last picture shows these.

We spent about 4-5 hours on the water sailing to Magnolia and back. Winds were from the North-Northwest from about 3 to 10 miles per hour. The biggest swells we encountered were from the wake of the container ship Midnight Sun as she rolled through to Tacoma. About that same time a coast guard procession came in to Elliott Bay with cutters from Japan and Russia and a Canadian hovercraft for the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.

I learned a lot about sailing including the realization that someday I'll end up owning my own boat. You can view more photos here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/neutralbuoyancy/sets/72157622178182996/

22 June 2009

Peppermint Mead Update

I bottled the peppermint mead today. It is what it is. It's nice, pleasant but it just doesn't have that "punch". I'm also have mixed feelings about the lavender mead that I bottled on Feburary 24th. I think I'm going to steer my mead making away from metheglins for a while and focus more on what really worked for me. I might try some more fruit meads. For sure this summer, if I have the time to pick them, I'll do another blackberry. The 2 blackberry melomels I've produced were probably my greatest meads. Other's I might venture into; strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, pineapple and maybe a cyser.

17 April 2009

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is the official bird of Seattle. I occasionally see them along Alki. It stands 42 to 50 inches.

16 April 2009


A couple Baldy's flew over yesterday. This is what reminded me I wanted to do some posts about birds/birdwatching. There was an adolescent and an adult. Here is a poor picture of the adult. They were probably 300 - 400 feet above me. Anyone who has been a faithful reader of my blog will probably remember the Baldy that came to visit in 2007.

15 April 2009

This post is for the birds man!

I don't know if it has something to do with growing old but last year I started bird watching. Growing up in the desert few birds interested me. The Roadrunner, Quail, humming birds outside of my parents house. The Red Tail Hawks and owls but not too much else. Moving to Seattle birds became a little more interesting. There are tons of waterfowl which I had never seen before. Bald Eagles and Osprey, although I didn't know they were osprey until later.

We put out humming bird feeders and started watching them from our deck and through the windows. Then some tiny birds (almost as small as the hummers) would come by in pairs and little flocks, depending on the season. I wanted to know what these were and start feeding/attracting them so I purchased a few bird watching books and looking around on the web. That's when my passion really started to grow. This is also the point where I learned the Osprey were called Osprey. The little birds are called Bushtits and I started providing them with suet. I had always thought that when birds migrate that they travel only a few hundred miles. Now I learned that many of our summer birds here in Seattle travel all the way to South America. This, by the way, is why you should buy shade grown coffee. Shade grown coffee plantations in Mexico, central and South America leave existing native trees and grow coffee underneath. They only clear out the underbrush to plant coffee. Our summer birds that migrate south still have trees to nest in on shade grown coffee plantations.

I then found a "yard bird" race on the web. The race is a year long and to win you identify as many birds as you can from your "yard". While I didn't enter I had my own personal little race.
Here are the results -

1 American Robin 1.18
2 Anna's Hummingbird 1.18
3 Barn Swallow 5.27
4 Bewick’s Wren 2.25
5 Black-Capped Chickadee 5.05
6 Bushtit 2.21
7 California Gull 1.18
8 Canada Goose 5.28
9 Chipping Sparrow 5.05
10 Common Tern 6.14
11 Crow 1.18
12 Dark-eyed Junco - Oregon form 1.28
13 European Starling 1.26
14 Golden-Crowned Kinglet 5.03
15 House Sparrow 1.18
16 Northern Flicker 2.20
17 Pine Siskin 5.30
18 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet 2.03
19 Rock Pigeon 1.28
20 Steller's Jay 2.28
21 Violet-Green Swallow 5.19
22 Western Tanager 5.08

Sub Total - 22
All of which were viewed from my 4th floor balcony. We also are fortunate to have trees growing up between out building and the building next to ours so many birds will land there.

In addition I also identified these birds around the city -

1 American Coot 4.07
2 Bald Eagle 1.21
3 Barrow’s Goldeneye – male & female 2.04
4 Black Turnstone 2.04
5 Bonaparte’s Gull 3.28
6 Brant 3.28
7 Brewer’s Blackbird 4.27
8 Bufflehead – female & male 2.04
9 Common Goldeneye - male & female 1.31
10 Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1.30
11 Gadswell 4.07
12 Great Blue Heron 2.04
13 Hairy Woodpecker 5.28
14 Hooded Merganser 2.05
15 Horned Grebe 2.03
16 Mallard 4.07
17 Merlin 1.29
18 Osprey 9.02
19 Peregrine Falcon 5.18
20 Red-breasted Merganser – male & female 2.04
21 Red-winged Blackbird 4.27
22 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1.30
23 Sanderling 3.28
24 Spotted Towhee 1.30
25 Surf Scoter 1.31
26 Varied Thrush 1.30
27 Western Grebe 2.04
28 White Crowned Sparrow 4.01
29 White-winged Scoter 1.31

Sub Total - 30
Total – 51

Bird watching blends well with 2 of my other favorite hobbies; cycling and photography.

24 February 2009

Lavender Mead

I bottled the lavender mead today. It has a sweet lavender flavor on the tongue with a slightly dry after taste, for a mead. A beautiful bouquet. Overall I'm quite happy with it. My original recipe is here - http://neutralbuoyancy.blogspot.com/2008/07/lavender-mead-29.html

28 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 - Part X - Last Day.

This was our last free day. Tomorrow would be another travel day back home. We rented a car and drove around the island. We headed south from San Miguel in a counter clockwise loop. Sometimes the low lying jungle was on both sides, sometimes the sea was to the right.

In the south east corner of the island there was a nice Reggae bar. We got a few drinks and walked out into the beach. This was the one of the closest things I saw to a sandy beach. It turned rocky as you got closer to the sea. We sat there for about a half hour and just chilled. I imagined Cuba just 170 miles away across the sea. In reality I was staring more in the direction of the Caymen Islands about 370 miles away. We got back in the car. The road turned north and we were on the east side of the island. To our right was the open sea, to the left the jungle now mixed with swamp land.

About 20 minutes up the road we repeated the routine at another bar, this time sitting down on some stone stairs that went down to a rocky beach. Our conversation took us to the beneficial effects of negative ions. Negative ions released by such things as thunderstorms, waterfalls, or the waves crashing on the rocks in front of us. Then we just zoned out again staring at the sea. There was some crappy rap song playing in the bar but it was so drowned out by the waves that all I heard was a low beat. I imagined it as some tribal drum. My mind drifted between natives, canoes and the memories of all the diving we did over the week. The stony shore made that crackly sound that all stony shores do as every wave pulled away. I thought about the huge cycles of the Earth, the currents that flow past the island, seasons, the barn swallows I saw nesting in the Cenote. They could very well have been the same swallows who were nesting on our building last summer, now at the other end of their migratory journey.

About 5 to 10 minutes further up the road we ate our last dinner in Cozumel at Coconuts. This is a nice bar and grill above the sea. Apparently it can be quite a party place. Take a look at their photo albums on the bar. There is no power to this place and if you listen close, behind the music you can hear a generator. They closed at about 6 and that was just fine because all the mosquitos that live in the swamp land we just drove past came to dinner at sunset.

A few more minutes north and the road again turns, this time west, across the island back to San Miguel. Back to our hotel. Back to airports, big cities and the daily routine.

26 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 - Part IX - Last Day Diving

We had booked for a night dive and our dive operator kept pushing it back due to the weather conditions. It was to be a single tank dive. Finally we just agreed to just add another two tank morning dive day. We paid a little extra for the second dive. Today was windy and we once again had to meet at the dive shop. We didn't get the cool boat this time however it wasn't raining.

Dive site 1 -
  • Palancar Caves
  • Site depth - 20 to 100+ feet
  • My max depth - 82 feet
  • Vis - 80+ feet
  • Coldest water temp - 73F
  • Bottom time - 44 minutes
  • As stated in my Cozumel souvinear dive map, " . . . has uncountable caves, cracks, coral canyons, with towering pinnacles, sheet coral . . . " "The caves have little current, but some current flows beyond the outer wall of the reef." It's true this is the first time, in Cozumel, I had to actually swim to keep up with our guide. Not as many fish as some other dives.

Our last dive was -

  • Paso del Cedral
  • Site depth - 33 to 100+ feet depending on if you are at Paso Reef or Paso Wall.
  • My max depth - 54 feet
  • Vis - 80+ feet
  • Coldest water temp - 79F (Our second warmest of the trip.)
  • Bottom time - 48 min.
  • Nice reef, fish. I chilled out a little, this being our last dive. Tried sneaking up on some grouper, barracuda

23 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 - Part VIII - Dive Day 4

Our dive operator (Dive with Martin) does not offer Cenote diving so a few days earlier we started inquiring with some of the other local dive shops, in the afternoons. One of the shops recommended German Yanez and his company of Yucatech Expeditions. I had inquired with Dive with Martin, via email, about Cenote diving before our trip and they also recommended Yucatech so we gave German (pronounced Herman) a call. He quoted a price of $150.oo US dollars for a 2 tank Cenote dive. This price included tanks, weights, ferry tickets to and from the mainland, shuttle transportation and lunch. The ferry tickets themselves are $11.00 US dollars each way so it sounded like a pretty good deal to us. German scheduled a meeting with us at our hotel lobby that night to discuss the details. During that meeting he proposed the option of doing a 1 tank Cenote dive and a visit to the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the same trip. This is something which we were sort of planning to do anyway and thus save us an extra ferry trip to the main land and car rental so we agreed. Our new plan was still the same price and included the admission tickets to Tulum.

For those of you who don't know there are no above ground rivers on the Yucatan. All water seeps through the limestone to subterranean river systems and then flows to the sea. There are places in the jungle where the roof of these cave systems has collapsed. These are what the Mayan's referred to as Dzonot (ZO-note). The Spanish called them Cenote (say-NOH-tay). During the last ice age the water receded and dripping rain water into the caverns formed beautiful formations. After the ice age the caves again flooded. These are now popular for cavern and cave diving.

In 2007 I did a cavern dive in Dos Ojos. Today German took us to Grand Cenote.
  • Dive site - Grand Cenote

  • Site depth - 35 feet?

  • My max depth - 31 feet

  • Visibility - 100+

  • Coldest water temperature - 72F

  • Bottom time - 47 minutes

  • To access Grand Cenote there is a stair case that splits to the left and the right. Our cavern dive followed a loop from one side to the other and then the reverse back. While still a beautiful cavern dive which I would recommend to anyone who never has done it, I preferred Dos Ojos Cenote.

German Yanez is a very knowledgeable and experienced technical/cave diving instructor and was an all around nice guy. Easy to talk to. I would recommend him to anyone.

22 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 - Part VII - Dive Day 3

Today we expected the same routine. We got up, went down and enjoyed our free breakfast again but when we got back to our room the phone rang. It was Dive With Martin. They said due to the weather we would have to go down to the marina if we wanted to dive today. They couldn't pick us up at our hotel dock. Well it had been raining all night and it was quite windy. So we hopped in a cab and rode down. The water was a little bit choppy and the marina is sheltered so it all made sense. On the plus side we got a bigger boat that had cover from the rain and we still only took 8 - 9 people. Two of which did get picked up on the way but it was tricky. I noticed a lot of people don't wait for the crew to tell them to get on. They'd just go for it and slip, fall, or come close to smashing their face into the concrete pier when the boat suddenly drops 4 feet on a wave. If a boat crew picks you up, let them do their job. Wait until they tell you to board and hand down your equipment first. As it turned out the closer we got to the dive site the smoother the water became. We must have been more leeward.
Anyway dive site 1 was -
  • French Lady (La Francesa)
  • Site depth - 40 to 66 feet
  • My maximum depth - 65 feet
  • Visibility - 80 to 100 feet
  • Coldest water temperature - 72 F
  • Bottom time - 47 minutes
  • This was a nice healthy reef.

Dive site 2 -

  • Punta Dalila
  • Site depth - 25 to 80 feet
  • My max depth - 61 (Our plan was to dive 50 feet for 50 minutes. One we used for many of our second dives.)
  • Visibility - 60 to 100 feet
  • Coldest water temp - 74 F
  • Bottom time - 53 minutes
  • Some of what I saw included beautiful coral, good size grouper, cozumel toadfish, coral crab, a 4 foot green moray swimming freely about the reef, an octopus, sitting out in the open, on the reef (probably due to the overcast sky) and a 5 foot nurse shark and a nice school of horse-eye jacks. There had been some talk about the small jelly fish we had been seeing in the water. Some people were stung and had some small welts the next day. I felt pretty save wearing my 3mm full wet suit but about 2 minutes into this dive one of them got me right between my reg and my mask, on my upper lip and across my left cheek. I felt a tingling, reached up and, sure enough, pulled of a tentacle. I wasn't sure how bad it would get so I quickly wrote a note to my buddy just to let him know followed by and OK. It just became a mild burning and tingling lasting for a few hours. No welts.

21 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 - Part VI - Dive Day 2

The plan today was the same as the first. We got up at about 6:15, took our Dramamine, went down for breakfast, grabbed our gear and headed for the dock. This was one of the best parts of diving here. We would just walk a few hundred feet from our room to the dock and get picked up. We had a different guide today, Raymundo. Raymundo was just as good of a dive master as David but maybe a little more reserved. He was our dive master for the rest of the week. Very helpful, friendly.

Dive site 1 was -
  • Santa Rosa Wall

  • Site depth 33 to 100+ feet. Our plan was a multi level dive, drifting at about 70 along the wall then 50 on top of the reef. The actual wall drops off several thousand feet but everything good to see is in this range.

  • My maximum depth - 88 feet

  • Visibility - 80 to 100 feet

  • Coldest water temperature - 75

  • Bottom time - 39 minutes

  • I've done this site before on my last trip here and I would do it again. Fairly strong current picks us if you drift away from the wall, not so strong near the reef. Has some caves and swim-throughs. Saw yellow stingray in the beginning, barracuda, grouper and many others.

Dive site 2 was -

  • Tormentos

  • Site depth - 30 to 66 feet

  • My max depth - 70 feet

  • Visibility - 80 to 100 feet

  • Coldest water temp - 76 F

  • Bottom time - 49 minutes

  • Tormentos has lots of reef and fish life including spiny lobster, splendid toadfish, huge black grouper and barracuda, to name a few. The fish seemed to grow larger the longer we drifted on.

20 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 - Part V - First Day Diving

Sometime in the wee morning hours we got a phone call, in our room, from Dive With Martin saying that they would pick us up at our hotel boat dock at 7:30. I think it was like 6:30. We scrambled out of bed, ran down and ate breakfast, ran back, got out gear and made it out there at like 7:35 or so. Our dive master was David and he really broke everything down for us such as the reef were going to dive on was Palancar but it is borken up into 4 parts - Palancar Gardens, Palancar Horseshoe, Palancar Caves and Palancar Deep. He was very helpful, great at finding/pointing stuff out and noticed/corrected quickly when divers were having problems and had a pretty good sence of humor.

Dive Site 1 was -
  • Palancar Gardens

  • Site Depth - 16 to 69 feet

  • My maximun depth - 79 feet (Hm figure that out)

  • Visibility - 80 to 100 feet

  • Coldest water temperature - 76F

  • Bottom time - 34 minutes

  • Great first dive of the day. Great dive. Many coral caves and recesses.

Dive Site 2 was -

  • Paradise Reef

  • Site depth - 22 to 40 feet

  • My maximum depth - 41 feet

  • Visibility - 80 to 100 feet

  • Coldest water temp - 80F (warmest of the week)

  • Bottom time - 52 minutes

  • I've been to this site before. It's an ok second dive. Notible fish included barracuda, spotted moray, spiny lobster, puffer, queen conch, yellow stingray, ocean triggerfish, horse - eye jacks, blue chromis, parrotfish, yellowtail damselfish (a personal favorite), angels french grunts, bearded fireworm, sea horse and many more.

Dive with Martin mostly used small fast boats with little shade. This wasn't a problem as it rained most of the week we were there. Getting in the boat at 7:30 was a blessing and a curse. We had to get up early but we were at the sites before everyone else. Clifford needed to rent his gear and they included it in the price. He never had anything bad to report except for the wet suit. He was always a little cold as his rental wet suit was a 2mm shorty. Water temperatures were colder then I had expected for the week, around 73F at depth. I was just slightly on the cold side with my full 3mm. I noticed some people wearing 5/3's and hoods. Our guide/divemaster wore a ratty old shorty but he quickly removed it and dried off between dives.

This was the only day the hot tub was sort of hot at our hotel.

19 January 2009

Cozumel 2009 Part IV - Travel Day

It started early. Sunday. I got to the airport somewhere around 5am, Seattle time, checked in, did the security dance, sat at the gate, boarded the plane and finally took off somewhere around 7:30. About 4 hours later I made it to Houston. It was something like 13:00, Texas time, and I met my buddy, Clifford at the Fox sports above our gate for some beers and lunch. We boarded around 14:00 for a fairly short flight to Cancun by 16:30, made our way through customs and found our shuttle driver rep outside. I'm glad we booked with the shuttle in advance. It worked out smooth and sped things along. The shared shuttle dropped us off in Playa del Carmen about a block from our ferry to Cozumel.

It had just become dark and we had about 40 minutes to spare so we dragged all our luggage into Senior Frogs for another beer and a huge platter of chicken nachos. We waved off the annoying, whistle blowing shot girl. I don't know who thought this was a cool thing. You know the girl. She comes over, tooting that sports whistle, pours a shot of tequila in the same glass she uses for everyone else, then shakes your head around while you try to drink it. Yeah . . . not for us.

The line to board the ferry was getting pretty big so we decided it was time to jump in. I don't know why, really. At this ferry all the tourists line up and when boarding begins the locals just go straight to the front in a big mob. Doesn't matter. We always got a seat. These ferries hold something like 300 people. If you have some full size luggage they will check it in the front or the back. You may or may not get a claim ticket. Kind of freaked us out but the 4 times we used this ferry we always got our luggage back, no problems. It drops you off in the heart of San Miguel the only real town on the island.

Cozumel has several hundred taxis on the island, dealing in pesos or American dollars. Although, for some reason they won't take coin, only paper. They never have change so have small bills or expect to be leaving them a tip. I've been told to agree with the driver on a rate up front, before getting in, but they seem to be pretty fixed depending on where to where you are traveling. Although it would have cost us only about 4 bucks, for some reason we choose to walk the 3/4 of a mile to our hotel, in the dark. As we walked farther away from the tourist zone towards our hotel we sort of freaked ourselves out. We had to laugh at this a few days later after making the walk a couple times. The town is actually quite safe.

We were the last of the day to check in. Hotel Cozumel turned out to be quite decent. For the rate it was great. Clean, swimming pools, dive shop, restaurant, activities (however lame). I'm not sure I would say it's 4 star. In fact I think the 4 stars are just part of the name and not a rating. Our room did not have the refrigerator as stated on the web site. The front desk staff told us that this was only for people who had medications that needed to be kept cold, etc. Our shower drained veeeeery slowly. What I did like was the wooden hooks on the balcony where we could hang our dive equipment to dry. The hot tubs were not hot. After diving you just wanted to plunge into one and that sort of sucked.

After several attempts at trying to make a local call from their phone and failing (impatience and misunderstanding on my part) I broke down and used my mobile to leave a message with our dive operator. T-Mobile worked great all over the island although their web site shows no coverage.

We did a little walk around and went to bed.

07 January 2009

BCD Maintenance

As we know there are many different types of BC's on the market. My BC, the Zeagle Stiletto had integrated weights (I don't wear a weight belt) and uses a ripcord system for ditching the weight in an emergency. They ripcord system is a little different then most BC's. Most with integrated weight systems have the weight in little pockets the pull out and are ditched with the lead, possibly never to be recovered. With the ripcord the weight does goe into little sleeves and placed into side pockets but the bottom of the pockets are laced with the plastic ripcord holding it all together. Upon pulling the ripcord, the bottom of the pockets open up and the weight falls out. The lacing of the pockets is a little complex. Nothing to hard to tackle but I decided I would like to get familiar with it should I ever have to re-lace it on a dive trip. I hung my BC on a hanger and gave the ripcord a pull. A little to my surprise, once the Velcro gave way the ripcord pulled smoothly and easily. The pockets opened up and had there been any weight in there I'm sure it would have fallen straight to the floor. Re-lacing took about 10 minutes. I recommend looking closely at how everything is laced together first before pulling the cord. It's all stated in the directions but helpful to look first anyway. Even so, after finishing I noticed I missed a few loops and had to go back. All in all no big deal but it will take a few minutes.

Afterwards I put on the BC and inflated it through the mouth piece. I heard a little leak. Oh no! This scared me since our new kitten was just walking around on it. Could his little claws have poked a hole in it? I'm going to Cozumel next week! I took off the BC and re-inflated. The leak was coming from one of the bottom dump, pull valves. I pulled on the valve and inflated again. Still leaking. Upon taking a closer look at the valve I realized they unscrew and did so. And there, plain as day, was the problem. Salt crystals. Some 1/8th of an inch in size. There must have been some salt water inside the BC. Not uncommon, but I'm pretty good at rinsing my gear, inside and out. I unscrewed the other two valves, also having salt, rinsed them and the inside of the BC. This will be my regular routine now after a dive trip. I re-inflated the BC, as much as I could, orally and it's now holding tight. I'm glad it wasn't the cat.