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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Florida Day One: Blue Grotto

For Memorial Day weekend, Todd and I flew down to Florida to stay with his parents at their house near Ocala.  While we were there, we thought we'd do some diving.  I'd been looking for quite some time at diving in the freshwater springs that are down there.  So, we picked out a few that were in a reasonable distance to my in-laws.

We left Friday right after work, but our plane was delayed a bit and we got to Florida late.  So, we didn't quite get up as early as planned on Saturday morning.  Once we had the camera ready and our equipment loaded and planned out, we headed out.  Kudos to my wonderful mother-in-law, by the way.  She packed us a cooler with sandwiches, sodas and snacks, and my father-in-law, who went and rented us tanks and weight on Friday for the weekend.

We spent Saturday at Blue Grotto, which is a freshwater spring in Williston.  We got there at about 12:30, so there were already quite a few people there.  When you check in, you first watch a video that serves as your dive briefing, and then you pretty much gear up and get in when you want, as many times as you want.

What's different about Florida compared to other dives we've done is that it is cavern diving, which means there is an overhead environment, although you can still see sunlight at all times.  Here's a map of what Blue Grotto looks like in helpful cross-section format:

The "One million candle-powered lighting system at 30 feet" was not working, but we had lights, so it was fine.  As you can see by the photo, you're in an overhead environment for most of the dive, but the air bell helps.

Looking out from inside the Grotto.

On our first dive, we swam down to a max of about 50 feet.  Advanced divers only were permitted to go below 50 feet.  We are indeed advanced certified, but we chose to sit it out on the first dive.  The water was 72 degrees, which was great, but I was still wearing a 7mm wetsuit (a 5mm would have been fine, but I don't own one).  No hood or gloves were necessary though, and I was toasty-warm.

Me, inside the Blue Grotto. Oh, I forgot my Bondi Band, which I would normally have been using to keep that troll hair under control.

On our first dive, we took photos, investigated the inside of the cave, and took some time to breathe the air in the diving bell.  It's always exciting to breathe in a diving bell!

Playing in the air pockets in the ceiling of the cavern:

At the end of the dive, we ascended to the dive platforms in about 15-20 feet of water for our safety stop.  Todd was photographing the surface and then suddenly I was startled  by something touching my fingers.

It was a turtle!!

He's a Florida Freshwater Turtle, and he seemed to be looking for something.  So, during our surface interval, I went up to the dive shop to inquire as to what he wanted.  The dive shop told me Cheetos, so I had Cheetos with me for dive number two.

On the second dive, we went ahead and descended down to the bottom of the grotto.  We didn't go all the way to 100 feet, but stopped about about 90.  There was nothing at 100 feet besides silt anyway.  You can see the eerie glow of the surface from where we were, but it was pretty far away.

The Second Dive, Todd hands me the camera.

Again, Bondi Band forgotten.

We circled back up, spent some more time taking photos, and then headed up to the turtle.

He at the whole bag of Cheetos, and even munched on my finger -- OUCH!

A large catfish and some other fish were hanging out, too, checking to see what we had for them.  By the time I was out of Cheetos, lots of little fish had come up to investigate.  The only real difficult part of all of this was that Cheetos are very buoyant, so I was constantly having to catch them before they went too far up towards the surface.

After the second dive, some dangerous storms were moving in and it was getting late, so we decided to head on back down to my in-laws house.  We'd seen all we needed to see of Blue Grotto anyway.  We just made it out before the storms rolled in.

It was a great day, and we were both pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was diving in Florida springs.

Stay tuned, there are two more days of diving to come...

Blue Grotto 2010

1 comment:

marathonmaiden said...

awesome pictures! looks like so much fun

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