The First of December is upon us. Winter is coming. But not for us! Well, maybe. It was in the 40s today so we drove to the Daytona Museum of Modern Art. Lots of great artwork here in the area. I think rich people retired down here and when they passed on, they decided to donate it to local nonprofits.
In addition to the artwork there was also a large exhibit on Coca-Cola Bottling/Merchandise and other various subjects
Drove inland to Patalka to another bike trail I found online
It was nothing special, nor was the surrounding Patalka area. Took Max out for a walk and saw this sign which always made Amy laugh each time we walked by. “Yes, we would not want to ruin that fabulous landscaping.”
By the Preserve that evening I noticed this sign which I also found humorous
I just imagine someone rushing to scoop up a land tortoise, pushing people out of the way in a frantic struggle to save the animal’s life. Reaching the end of the pier, as the camera captures the flinging of the animal in slow-motion discus-style toss into the water. All is silent as the woman wipes her brow in satisfaction for saving a life when a 10 year old boy chirps up from his fishing perch a few feet away, “You know tortoises don’t swim right?”
Christmas has arrived at Flagler Beach. Always seems strange to see holiday decorations in a warm weather climate, but props to them for making the effort.
The day had finally arrived. All my late-night study sessions in the art of SCUBA training would now be put to the test. I drove down to the Discover Diving shop in Port Orange.
I was pretty paranoid about how this was all going to work with COVID, but I was able to wear the mask as today was only trying on equipment and some classroom recap on what was already learned in the self-guided course.
My instructor, Carl, was a nice retired Navy man who also picked up diving later in life. They had a written test. I failed it miserably but it was meant as a learning tool rather than a pass/fail evaluation. All went smooth and I was to meet them the next morning at a local outdoor pool for Navy Seal training.
When I returned we spent the day on the beach/preserve
Early day in the local pool. It was in the low 50s and the water was cold. First we had to pass the swim test. Swim 8 lengths in any style you choose and then float on your back for 10 minutes. There were 2 other people in the class. A girl and guy both in their 20s. Carl also picked up an assistant. A Puerto Rican with no filter.
We all passed the swim test and proceeded to put on our wetsuits and gear.
This pile of stuff is weights. I am not going to get into all the intricacies of SCUBA diving in this blog but when you have an oxygen tank strapped onto your back you float. So you must carry weights that allow you to dive/sink. Then when you are on the bottom and you want to come up you use the oxygen in your breathing tank to inflate a bladder that overrides the extra weight you carried to sink yourself.
So, to determine how many weights you need to stuff in your pockets they have to know your weight. The more you weigh, the more weight you need to sink you to override the oxygen tank and your body fat keeping you on the surface. It sounds counterintuitive I know but just go with it.
So I needed about 17lbs of weight. For a female it can be uncomfortable when a room full of guys are asking you what your weight is and you have to be honest. So the female, a slightly husky one, announced she was 120lbs the instructor gave her the added weight and we all got in the pool. We all knew she was not 120 but its not like you are gunna question her. I mean you just asked a woman how much she weighs, and now your gunna follow that up with, “Are you sure?”
I think you know where this is going. We all got in the pool and with fully deflated bladders were all able to sink to the bottom…except 1. She just bobbed up and down on the surface like a cork. So he handed her more weight and she tried again……nope. More weight…..nope. She was a trooper. She laughed and said how embarrassing this all was. Finally she got enough weight to sink. The whole damn time I was going crazy as I wanted to reference the seen in Jaws where they attach those 3 yellow barrels to the shark in an effort to bring her up to the surface. Chief Brody yells out that she is diving again, to which Quint exclaims,”Not with 3 Barrels she can’t! Not with 3!” I desperately wanted to yell this last line, but I finally decided it would be uncool at this juncture.
The day was spent doing various tasks underwater. Taking off mask and replacing. Removing oxygen tank and replacing. Sharing breathing respirator with buddy who is out of oxygen. Swimming without a mask (not fun in a chlorine pool).
The water was cold and after a few hours of being in the pool everyone’s teeth were chattering. I also must admit that I pissed in the wetsuit 3 times while in the pool. I saw no alternative. I could not get all that gear off and back on. I am ashamed but vow to work harder to become the person I wish to be. Everyone passed through all these stages with various difficulties but enough to allow us to move onto open water training next weekend at a local hot spring.
I had 5 days before taking it up a notch with open water SCUBA so Amy and I fell back into our normal routine of exploring. We headed to Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve just outside of St Augustine. There were all these minorities huddled around a building fishing
I don’t know if it was some power station that was heating the water and attracting more fish, but they were pulling them out with their poles at a record pace. They baited, caught, and took the fish off the line in under 10 seconds, meaning each was pulling in about 6 fish each minute. The fish were small so I guess you had to work fast to make the effort worthwhile. We walked a little further down the shore and a guy quickly moved past us, concealing something under his arm. He got to the shore and unfurled a huge net. He tossed it out and pulled it back in just as fast and it was full of at least 20 fish
You could tell that this method, though much more efficient, was most likely illegal as evident by the way he scampered hurriedly back to his truck with his bounty.
We walked a few miles through the estuary
We tried to find a place for dinner by the park, but it was a little early in the afternoon and most of the seafood places in the intercoastal were opening up at 4pm. We ended up driving into St Augustine and walking around the fort and settling into a Creole Restaurant: Harrys
After dinner we strolled the town, waiting for the annual Lights Show to kick off. Flagler College campus has some beautiful buildings, at least from the outside
We walked past this outdoor restaurant hidden in one the back alleys of the historic district. OC Whites. Looked like a nice place to sit outside with friends for a meal. Reminded me of some of the streets in the Bahamas I putzed around when looking for a more cultural experience on Nassau.
It was chilly in Flagler beach. Everything seems to shut down in a beach town when the weather is poor. Makes sense. Cold weather meant the Manatees would be heading up the rivers, huddling around the hot spring like a hobo to a burning pile of trash. We drove over to Blue Springs State Park. Outside of a chance to see the Manatees, they had some nice exhibits on the history of this waterway as the chief means of travel in the area before the railroads were established. Reminded me of Huckleberry Finn. Bouncing from stop to stop along the river. Hearing music playing around the next bend and stopping in for a drink and some fellowship.
The manatee is not an evolutionarily impressive creature. They appear like bloated seals that just bob up and down. But what they lack in excitement, they make up for in their calm and peaceful nature.
Unfortunate to see all the scars from propellers. I can only imagine how much it must hurt acquiring such marks.
Amy was infatuated with the creatures and looked for excuses to return to watch them float, but I could not be persuaded in another 2Hr round-trip excursion.
Another evening at the preserve followed by another shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral watched from Flagler.