This morning I went scuba diving with Martin. Being a professional introvert, I don’t even like to dive with a group, so I hired the dive master (Martin), a boat, and captain. I presented my PADI certified diver card and assured Martin I had made 9 prior dives, at which point I tripped over the step leading to the equipment. He shot me a look.
An hour later we’re descending into the Gulf of Mexico, 45 minutes on the bottom at 54-feet maximum depth, and my first-ever cave dive. I preceded Martin, since it’s easier for him to keep an eye on me, and we enter caves so narrow that the tanks glance off the ceilings and we keep our arms tight against our sides, simply kicking, and emerge in a different place. Outside of the second cave I slink into a narrow canyon, perhaps six feet wide, filled with a riot of fish, thousands of every hue and tint. They are packed in here, fin-to-fin, and as long as we proceed slowly they do not flee. I am amidst an armada of fish, perhaps two thousand, until we ascend from the gorge. (The currents on the reef run 2-5 knots, which can create a lot of movement from a little exertion.)
A patrol of barracuda greets us there, severe under-bites revealing razor-blade teeth. They maintain a permanent evil grin, stretched on aluminum sides. Meanwhile Martin signals me over to a tiny cave making the diving sign I love, fingers poking from the forehead, and there is a spiny lobster, antenna the entire length of its body protruding from the entrance. We spot a school of grouper and Martin rubs his stomach making the professional gourmet sign, if not a known diving sign, for tasty fish.
When we surface, the fun begins. There is no boat. We are in 12-foot waves, staying close to the red, vertical inflatable which held our ascent line. I feel as though I am being washed down a drain. Finally, I hit a crest at the same time the boat does, about 400 yards away, and alert Martin. He blows his whistle, and every fourth wave or so I catch sight of the boat ever-so-slowly edging closer. I have to continue to breathe through my regulator because the seas are so bad I can’t otherwise gulp air.
Clambering back on board is like trying to put my clothes on from the inside of a washing machine’s spin cycle. We are all moving in different directions, furiously tossed in three dimensions. I am finally manhandled aboard and we all congratulate each other, I assume for still being alive.
Back at the resort, I trip falling out of the van and Martin shoots me still another look.
Tonight we are at Lorenzilla’s, famous for lobster (we’ve dined with them in Cabo, as well). The place claims to be from 1639 and is named after the pirate of that name who was out to sea for months with only salted fish. Longing for the legendary culinary treats of Vera Cruz, the pirate crew was disappointed with the cooking and razed the town. Now there’s a food critic.
Maria and I fed the fish circling below the deck, who bobbed, weaved, and jumped. A favorite for them was shrimp tails. Well, the shells. We ate the tails.
© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.