Cozumel Scuba Diving


with Alison

Saturday, Jan. 1st 2005

I took Jeannie, Ted, Howard, Greg and Emily for a tour of Yucab. We saw a couple of splendid toadfish and a couple of lobsters. Next, on to Tormentos, where we saw yet more lobsters and two eels that were special ordered for Howard. There was a big green ell hiding in a hole. You could see its tail sticking out on one side and it's gaping mouth out of the other side. A small goldentail was living in a pile of conch shells.

Sunday, Jan. 2nd

For our first dive Carlos dropped Jeannie, Ted, Chucho, Dawn, John and myself on Palancar Horseshoe. Wow! What a dive!

A pair of spotted eagle rays played and swam in a circle around and around below while we were diving. Later, another individual swam beneath us. We found a group of large lobsters in a couple of holes, facing each other. Chucho, Dawn and John saw turtles too, but Ted, Jeannie and I missed seeing them.

The next stop was on Colombia Shallows. There were schools of snappers and grunts. Ted and Jeannie practiced navigation, while we saw another lobster or two. Monday, Jan. 3rd I dived on Palancar Caves with Dave, Ann, Ted, Jeannie, John and Dawn. We saw a very large southern stingray when we first went down. We passed a large yellow starfish around for picture taking. The towering formations and archways are always so impressive at this site.

We next dived at Dalila where we found a splendid toadfish in a hole. We had mild current and a big snapper showed us his pointy teeth.

Tuesday, Jan. 4th

My first tank was on Palancar Horseshoe with Ted, Jeannie, Troy, Dawn, John, Tara and Jessica. We swam through tons of canyons and tunnels. Troy and I swam out into the deep blue where no matter where we looked; it was blue, blue, and blue.

My second tank was on French Reef with a southern stingray and a big barracuda. When Dawn couldn't see the little turtle, I coaxed it around back to the group so that she wouldn't miss it.

I did my third tank that night with Troy, Jeannie and Ted on Chankanaab. Lobsters were everywhere! I didn't even know that there were so many lobsters in the sea! There were loads of big crabs too. One was really weird. It was hanging off of the reef upside down by its rear four legs. The huge pinchers were hanging downward in mid-water. I could not for the life of me, figure out what it was happening. Troy found a snake eel in the sandy area. This was the third night dive in a month or two that I couldn't find an octopus. I am getting a bit frustrated...

Wednesday, Jan. 5th

Jim, Rhonda, Damon, Perry, Justin and Bob came with me to Yucab. I showed Rhonda the endemic splendid toadfish in a hole. Some of us saw a small hawksbill turtle swimming around on top of the reef. On Paradise a huge four-foot amberjack was feeding on a school of jacks. As a matter of fact, there were schools of fish everywhere. Justin took great pleasure in swimming through them like a predator.

Saturday, Jan. 8th

Back to good old Palancar Gardens with Troy, Alan and Kristi. There were lots of lobsters wiggling their antennas at us.

We found a small turtle up on top of the reef. Alan got a good shot of the turtle and Troy together. After Alan and Kristi went up, we saw another turtle having a breakfast of orange sponge and loads of pretty angelfish surrounded him. Dalila is always a winner. Today, we saw a 6-foot nurse shark that swam away from us. I think Troy "stingray boy" must have pointed out at least 5 or 6 southern stingrays. The prize was at the end of the dive, when Troy showed me the 8-foot wide eagle ray. Its tail was bent and the giant just slowly glided away from us.

Sunday, Jan. 9th

I went to Canterell with Chucho and Troy. All the eagle rays were gone! That is the first time that I went there and didn't even see on eagle ray. Troy and I managed to entertain ourselves. I found about 20 teensy, weensy juvenile jack knife fish all buzzing around together is a dark niche. Troy found a spotted moray. I took a couple of pictures of Troy but he didn't like them. I guess they weren't too flattering. Oh well.

Monday, Jan. 10th

Yesemina and Jorge came on a cruise and joined Kristi, Alan, Dan and Cindy for a dive on Palancar Horseshoe. A hawksbill turtle let Alan take its picture and then swam over to Cindy to say, "look at me!” Then we went over to French Reef. It was late afternoon so all of the crabs and lobsters were out and about strolling around.

Jorge found a big stingray and we saw another small turtle.

Tuesday, Jan. 11th

Dive one was on Palancar Caves with Bobby, Don, Cindy and Dan. We swam through all those famous caves, tunnels and archways. There was one small turtle and Don took a video of it. At Dalila Cindy posed for a video with a starfish. Don or Bobby found the first nurse shark swimming nearby. I spotted the second one. It was really cool when it turned around and swam right at me and passed directly below me. It was all I could do to resist reaching down to pet it. I got a good, close up look at its pebbly skin.

Wednesday, Jan. 12th

My first stop was on Colombia Deep with Don, Cindy, Kristi, Alan, Bobby and Don. Don and Cindy identified vertebrates, invertebrates and plants for the Underwater Naturalist Specialty. One vertebrate (a hawksbill turtle) ascended to the surface to breath and then came back again nearby. One dive that I love is Cedral Wall and I hadn't been there in a while. Don woke up a sleepy turtle. I found that big octopus that Dave and Ann had seen with Jorge the week before.

Friday, Jan. 14th

Our first dive of the morning was on Palancar Horseshoe with Kristi, Alan, Don, Bobby, Don and Cindy. We found a flamingo tongue preying on a sea whip. I picked up a bouquet of flower coral that had broken off of the reef and was resting upside down in the sand. I think some one must have kicked it off of the reef so I "re-planted" it on a hard substrate. I showed everyone a bristle star that was living on the surface of a purple vase sponge in symbiosis. Bobby's favorite was the spiny-headed blennies. I think of them as Stevie Wonder fish, because they sway their little heads back and forth.

We completed Bobby's week of diving on Dalila. She had requested a green moray eel, since she had seen everything else during the week. (Thanks to Alan for pointing it out to us.) He also spotted the nurse shark swimming by. I found Amanda's turtle, the one with the white splotches on its shell. I have a picture of her as wallpaper on my computer. The port was closed for four days in the morning for small boats only, so we were unable to go diving.

Wed. Jan. 19th

It was nice to get back in the water at Colombia Deep with Derek, Debbie, Scott, Jim, Chris, Bryan and Paul. The visibility wasn't so great. We had a significant current, which was surprising. We saw loads of turtles. The first one was really small and the second one was kind of medium- sized. The last couple of turtles we saw were really large. Nearby were a southern stingray and a small lobster.

At French Reef another turtle posed for Scott's new digital camera. Paul went after another stingray. I found a crab with huge claws clinging to the underside of the reef. A barracuda made a good picture for Scott.

Thursday, Jan. 20th

Back to good old Palancar Horseshoe with Jim, Gina, Woody, Rolf, Eric, Debbie and Scott. A turtle was swimming over our heads on the top of the reef. It sat there for a while before it got irritated and took off. There was a big lobster in his normal spot over by the block. Southern stingrays seem to be in season. I have been seeing a ton of them lately.

For something shallow we went to Paso del Cedral. There was a dog snapper with snarly-looking teeth and schools of barracuda that were both big and small. Overall it was a very "toothy" dive.

Friday, Jan. 21st

We had a good group with Chris, Bryan, Jim, Susan, Paul, Scott and Derek on Palancar Caves. I hadn't been there in a while. We encountered quite a bit of current. There were times when we actually had to exercise and swim hard. The visibility wasn't so hot. It wasn't a bad dive, just not an easy one. The formations there are so spectacular that one cannot have a bad dive here.

One of us wanted to see a shark…so Dalila it was. We saw lots of juvenile spotted drums. Susan showed me a baby turtle. The nurse sharks eluded us today. Unfortunately, none were found. We were, however, rewarded with Scott's eagle ray. Everyone was happy. (Now I know where Dive Palancar has been hiding those eagle rays!)

Saturday, Jan. 22nd

Paul requested Yucab and that was good because Joe and Eric didn't want to go to the wall on the first dive of this vacation. On Yucab we had a stronger than usual current. We actually finished all of Yucab reef, plus all of Tormentos as well. The boys don't breath a lot and their tanks last a long time. Joe was pleased to see both turtles. One was taking bites of a leathery sponge. The second cruised just up ahead of us for about 5 minutes. We also saw two big splendid toadfish.

On Tormentos, Paul showed us a spotted eagle ray.

We planned San Francisco Wall for the second tank, but Carlos said that the current looked really strong. We changed plans and went to Santa Rosa Shallow instead. I felt badly taking Joe and Eric right in front of the resort. They had requested to do dives that they hadn't already been to before. But it turned out to be an excellent decision. We passed around a huge sea pearl and saw a scorpion fish, a juvenile spotted drum and a furry sea cucumber. Just when I was ready to surrender to small critter finding, a huge eagle ray swam by. It was the one with no tail. On the underside of his "wings" he has the spotted pattern of his back.(Usually they are all white underneath.)

We drifted up to a nurse shark that had its head in a hole sucking out breakfast. It was a really a fun dive.

I did a beach dive at Paradise with Deb and Jerry. They hadn't been in the water since their certification dives last year in Playa Del Carmen. So they came over here for a refresher. We saw tons of spotted morays and one goldentail eel. All of the lobsters were gone. We swam right over a large scorpion fish. That's two in one day!

Sunday, Jan. 23rd

I slid down the Devil's Throat with Bruce, Paul, Eric and Joe. We had the most amazing swimming pool conditions. The surface was flat as glass. The water was gin clear. After the dive, and from the boat, we could clearly view sea starfish in 60 feet of water. At the main section of caves on Punta Sur, I decided to go back in, because everyone still had air and time. Just as the three of us got into a hole, another group started to come out, just where we were heading. We had to turn around and back out. Everyone behind me looked bewildered until another dive master appeared from inside the cave and waved to say thank you. We did a good job of stirring up that sand :-)

At the very end of the dive a small turtle floated around below us. Bruce's "kids" joined us for the second tank on Colombia Shallows. We saw lots of good stuff. First of all, Joe saw the big spotted eagle ray. It left and came back a few minutes later. I found a tiny ( One and 1/2 foot long ) baby nurse shark asleep under the reef. And, I also discovered an ugly large eye toadfish deep in a borough. Later a lazy turtle napped peacefully, while we all came over to bug it. She was snuggled up under her favorite coral head.

In the afternoon, Chucho and I packed up scuba tanks and rental gear and headed over to Villa Coronado for some resort course divers. We did the class at the house, then walked across the street to dive from shore. Our resort course divers were Shannon, Rhonda, Trudy, Jim and Dick. Paul and Debbie are certified divers, but they came along just for fun and moral support.

We had quite a bit of current and some of our divers got tired and went in early. We had to swim pretty hard during the time we were there. We were, however, rewarded with two fat spotted morays that were clearly visible along with lots of small lobsters. Trudy almost landed on a small yellow stingray. I chased it off. There were plenty of stingray around. I almost put my hand on a scorpion fish. This must be scorpion fish week?

Tuesday, Jan. 25th

I dived on Palancar Horseshoe with Joe, Eric, Bruce, Nate, Jason, Angie and Chad. That big, fat lobster was back in his old spot over by the block…where the statue used to be. I did a bit of digging around the block to clear a little more sand away. One day we will have it uncovered again. Because I always see good stuff on Dalila, we headed there for the next dive. We saw a big eagle ray with a long tail and a 6-foot nurse shark sitting on the white sand…at least until we came along. We frightened him and he took off.

Wednesday, Jan. 26th

The first stop was on Santa Rosa wall with Debbie, Sue, Jason, Jared, Jon and Paul. We had beautiful, calm water. There were a couple of lobsters nearby. We swam through a million caves and floated along the wall.

The second stop was on Tormentos. There were lots of toadfish everywhere. I managed to coax one out of its little hiding hole. We saw a small turtle. It disappeared up to the surface and later came back down and re-joined us. Debbie really liked that little turtle.

Thursday, Jan. 27th

I took Joe, Bruce, Lana and Jeff to Colombia Deep. We saw turtle, after turtle after turtle! Some were down deep below us and another swam right in front of my face, moving slowly. Others were just cruising around. I think we spotted at least five of them. I saw an eagle ray first in the shallow sandy area and I saw him again later on the wall. It then disappeared into the deep blue abyss.

We did a night dive on Colombia Shallows. Once again we saw lots and lots of turtles. I felt sorry for them because it looked like our lights were blinding. The really great thing was that a lot of them were green turtles. Green turtles are much less common for Cozumel. A spotted moray was out hunting in the open. We saw enough lobsters to open a restaurant. Joe found a gold spotted eel that looks just like a snake. When I tried to pick it up, I spied a tiny little octopus peering up at me. He quickly disappeared. The toadfish were croaking constantly and loudly throughout the dive.

Saturday, Jan. 29th

My first tank of the day was on Palancar Gardens with Jeff, Lana, Michelle and Bob. I found a big crab hanging upside down under the reef, pinching off pieces of hanging vine algae and then dining on it. Lana found the first little shark resting in a hole. Jeff found the second one. They were both about 3 to 4 feet long and neither of them wanted to come out and play. Pete joined us on Santa Rosa Shallow. We had an action packed dive. Aside from a couple more crabs and a few small lobsters, we saw some open water hunting going down. First, I spotted a pair of big black groupers, which were like a big sign that says, “Here comes the shark!” It was a good-sized nurse shark and Jeff burned up a few hundred PSI filming it.

While Jeff was off filming the shark, a huge green moray eel slithered out from under the reef, did a few pirouettes and completely disappeared again. Pete discovered the large southern stingray sucking up some lunch in the sand. Another 5- foot nurse shark was sitting on the sand. He swam away as soon as we got close to him.

Sunday, Jan. 30th

Jeff, Lana, Pete, Vitek and Paula came with me to Palancar Horseshoe. We had perfect conditions for Paula’s first big tropical ocean dive. My boyfriend Nick Fittipaldi swam over and gave me a big underwater smooch. That was the best marine life that I saw on that dive. The second lobster we saw was the size of a dinosaur. Everyone got up close and personal with it as it strolled across the sand. Then we went to Dalila because you can’t go wrong there. We descended on a small spotted eagle ray in the sand scavenging for invertebrates. Jeff also filmed a bunch of little yellow stingrays. After the second eagle ray passed by, a shark and a grouper buzzed us. The third eagle ray was a monster. It must have been at least 8-feet across!

Monday, Jan. 31st

Palancar Gardens was the first choice of the day with Vitek, Paula, Leigh, Donnie, Warren, Carmen and Jeff. Vitek dragged Leigh over to the sandy area to see the turtle. Later, another small turtle was closer and anyone could take it’s picture. After everyone else had gone up, Jeff, Carmen and I saw a small (6-foot) eagle ray cruise by. On Paradise reef, Warren found an eensy weensy juvenile spotted drum fluttering around in front of a splendid toadfish. I could hear him clearly through his regulator when he asked, “What is that?” So I went and found another toadfish and kind of nudged him out of his hole. (Shame on me!) Vitek was extremely pleased, as he had been hoping to see one of these animals up close. We also saw a spotted moray, an octopus in its den and a lobster.

As we were going up to the surface, Jeff pointed out a goldspotted eel.

Tuesday, Feb. 1st

Our first dip was on Bolones de Chankanaab with Tony, Rachelle, Jeff and Carmen. There were lots of big lobsters out walking around. On our safety stop, the submarine floated by in the distance. Our second dip was on Santa Rosa Wall. Vitek, Paula and Pete joined us for that dive. We saw two turtles. The first turtle was overhead and surrounded by jacks. A grouper kept nipping at it. That was really weird. The second one was a little hawksbill that ducked into a crevice and escaped our cameras.

Then we all did a night dive on Dalila. Enormous lobsters were everywhere. Big crabs displayed their pinchers for us. Vitek found the first octopus. It was a Caribbean reef octopus. It is the second one Pete found. This second octopus was a common one. I fondled a goldspotted eel, which always gets everyone interested.

Wednesday, Feb. 2nd

We went back to Santa Rosa again because Vitek likes it so much. Pete, Vitek, Paula, Leigh, Steve, Stan and Sandy were my divers. The turtles were gone but a big lobster was hanging out and a barracuda made a slow pass by us.

Yucab was dive number two. At Yucab there are blankets of finger coral on top of the reef and colorful fish everywhere. The occasional grouper appeared and disappeared. Pete shot some photos of a yellow stingray.

Thursday, Feb. 3rd

I went to Palancar Horseshoe with Hillary, Kyle, Keith, Carmen, Jeff and Pete. While Hillary and Kyle were making a safety stop, I looked down to find Pete pointing madly at one of the biggest turtles that I have ever seen. He said that he got so close to it that he couldn’t take a picture! He had to wait for the turtle to swim away to have the camera in focus.

Then we were off to one of my favorites, Cedral Wall. Pete found us a juvenile spotted drum. I showed Carmen ten queen triggerfish. I need to buy a rubber shark and put it in my pocket for the days when people ask to see a shark and I can’t seem to find one

Friday, Feb. 4th

I dived at Tormentos with Carmen, Jeff, Vitek, Paula, Leigh, Barbara and Jeanne. Vitek found the splendid toadfish. I found evidence of poaching. There were lobster shells without the tails and crab shells scattered all over the bottom. Fortunately Chankanaab was still packed with lobsters. Vitek found a precious little octopus that was a master of disguise. I saw some yellow-headed jaw fish and another splendid toadfish.

Sunday, Feb. 6th

The first tank was on Colombia Deep with Carmen, Jeff, Mike, Molly and Dan. The current was going the wrong direction and since it was mild, I decided to swim against it instead of going with it to the deeper area. Big mistake! Not only did we all use more air than normal, but we ran into group after group of divers. There were great moments on the dive, however. One of those groups chased a big turtle over to us so Jeff and Carmen could take its picture !

The second tank was on French Reef. Several crabs were peering out at us but one of them had huge claws. There were lots of lobsters too. One big lobster was out strutting his stuff.

Tuesday, Feb. 8th

I started my day on Palancar Horseshoe with Tut, Gregg, Jerry, Kym, Chris, Whitney, Dan and Molly. Once again the current was reversed but it was mild. Dan described the dive as nice and relaxing. The only curious critter we saw (besides Tut of course) was a crab. Then we went to Tormentos to check on the lobsters and crabs. We saw a couple of splendid toadfish and Tut got some good shots. One was the biggest that he had ever seen.

To my relief, lobsters were everywhere. Good to see them back. I saw a couple of empty conch shells. It didn’t take me long to find the culprit. A big, fat octopus glared out at us from his den. I spent the dive looking for moray eels for Dan. I only found one little spotted moray and a tiny goldentail eel. There used to be big, fat spotted moray eels all over the place at Tormentos, but now you really have to look for them.

Wednesday, Feb. 9th

Dive number one was on Santa Rosa Wall with Tut, Gregg, Blair and Vitek. Tut finally got his best shot of the toadfish. At one point during the dive I felt like I was just surrounded by fish. Everywhere I looked there were schools of silver fish, yellow fish and it was interspersed with the occasional queen trigger and pairs of angels.

Dive number two was at Las Palmas. We found all of Dan’s eels there. Too bad he missed it! I must have seen four spotted morays. Vitek took pleasure in pointing out all of the fire worms. I found a big octopus in a hole. There were small caves here and there along the wall. A big lobster was hiding in one. When I stuck my hand into the hole to wave all the tiny little fish away I could feel that the water temperature was significantly warmer in the cave. Those little caves are where underground channels of fresh water let out into the sea.

Thursday, Feb. 10th

Today we found all of Tut’s turtles. Sadly, he wasn’t with us. The turtles were on Palancar Caves with Dan, Molly, Vitek and Mike. They went through all of the caves with me. We saw Tut’s turtle up on top of the reef. Vitek swam around behind it and brought it back over so that Molly could see it. Mike got a picture of it too.

On Cedral Wall I showed Vitek a spotted cleaner shrimp. They are beautiful transparent little creatures with white and purple spots. They live between the tentacles of an anemone. They wave their antennas at passing fish to attract food. Vitek liked seeing the little shrimp better than both of the turtles we saw. The first turtle was a tiny little baby and was chomping on algae. The second turtle was a young adult that was sharing a sponge meal with lots of angelfish. Then it had to go to the surface for air.

It was a Kodak moment when Molly back paddled away from the turtle because it came right at her on the way up to the surface.

Saturday, Feb. 12th I took Chucho with me to Palancar Gardens diving with Tut, Vitek, Andy, Jim, Jennifer and Marion. I stayed in 20 feet of water with Jennifer and Andy. Chucho took the rest of my divers down to 60 or 80 feet.

Before we descended a big turtle was swimming around beneath us. Andy saw the second baby turtle and showed it to all of us. We also saw a big barracuda and a couple of lobsters. The deep divers saw a nurse shark, but we missed it.

We did our second dive on Paradise and I completed lots of skills with Jennifer in the shallow water. Chucho took the boys over to the reef.

Sunday, Feb. 13th

I dived Colombia Deep with Vitek, Gregg, Andy, Marion, Jim, Jennifer, Leo and Kathy. We all saw a hawksbill turtle. Everyone got to feel the furry sea cucumber and we saw the eagle ray with no tail. Vitek wore a crown of antennas from a poached lobster.

At Yucab we saw a big green sea turtle with a clean shell and a crab.

Monday, Feb. 14th

My motley crew of Al, Tut, Gregg, Vitek, Andy and Jim accompanied me on Palancar Caves. Coming out of the caves I realized that Al was missing. I sent the boys over to play with a big turtle while I went to find Al. That turtle was great for keeping the group together in my absence. To my great relief Al was sitting on the boat and Carlos wouldn’t let him get back in.

Paso Del Cedral was LOADED with sharks! Vitek chased the first one around, until Tut arrived on the scene. Then Tut burned up 500 PSI getting a shot of it. The second shark was less chased but the third one’s tail was slapping. Vitek swam after it. I was really worried that he would reach out and pull its tail. Vitek is a brave one…

Tuesday, Feb. 15th

I took Tut back to Santa Rosa Wall with Gregg and Al. Tut was too far away to get a shot of the big turtle. But he got really close to the small spotted eagle ray. We floated through a cloud of sardines. There were lots of other dive groups, as usual. They were in front of us, behind us and there was no escape!

Tut had been begging me to show him a seahorse, a black tip and a dolphin. Carlos gave me a little plastic seahorse and I stuck it in some Y-branched algae. Tut’s mask filled up with water when he smiled. He immediately knew it was plastic. Al wasn’t so sure what the heck it was and Gregg thought it was a fishing lure.

Next year I will have a black tip but I don’t know where I am gonna get it yet! On Cedral Wall we saw another big turtle off to a side. Another little guy was sitting on the bottom dining with the angelfish. Tut found a sleeping nurse shark and went back down from his safety stop to get a picture.

Thursday, Feb. 17th

My hangover from Fat Tuesday was gone and we woke up rolling into the water at Palancar Horseshoe. My divers were Tut, Gregg, Marion, Andy and Dave. We saw yet another huge hawksbill turtle down about 80-feet deep. Tut and Dave went down to take its picture. On Dalila I showed Dave a splendid toadfish. I found an octopus in a hole surrounded by his discarded conch shells. I called Gregg over for a looksy…but really all we could see was a tentacle. I also found a pretty little spotted drum.

Gregg pointed out a baby turtle while we were making our safety stop. Marion’s new computer went nuts and it said that he reached his PO2 of 1.4 ATM after only 55 minutes on 32%. Our first dive was on 32% as well and less than an hour bottom time so the computer was crazy! Sometimes the human brain is more accurate than a computer……

Friday, Feb. 18th

For a change, I took Tut, Gregg, Andy, Marion, Fred, Alan and Kathy to Punta Tunich. I usually try to avoid that reef because of the extremely strong current. But the currents had been mild lately so it wound up being a fantastic dive. Tut was floating around in the deep water over the wall when he spotted the eagle ray. I raced over to see it just as it glided away.

Then our watchful Tut saw a hawksbill turtle. I was feeling kind of useless until I pointed out the green turtle, octopus and lobsters. I was, therefore, able to keep my “dive master pride.” Tut was getting sick of the splendid toadfish because when I pointed them out on Yucab he didn’t bother coming over to visit. He already had tons of photos of toadfish.

Our honorary dive master Tut found us another turtle.

That afternoon I did Santa Rosa Wall with Alan, Kathy, Brad and Brennan. Various small lobsters and loads of big black groupers made an appearance. The last tank was at Paradise with Brad and Brennan. There were several spotted morays and a goldspotted eel. Brad got several close shots of the turtle. We saw one juvenile spotted drum and a pair of really tiny ones.

Saturday, Feb. 19th

Once again I had Chucho come with me to help out since I was teaching. I was doing the Deep Diver Specialty for Brad and Brennan and this was to be our 130-foot dive. Chucho took Larry, Claire, Robby, Marion, Andy and Fred on a normal dive at Palancar Bricks. On the deep stop, a good-sized turtle was snuggled into a hole with her head sticking out. When we got close, she swam slowly past us.

Next, there were two smaller turtles.. Brad was wishing that he had brought his camera. The next stop was French Reef. Brennan was the one who showed me the huge eagle ray. It was the one that Tut was talking about the week before. It was close enough to reach out and pet!

Later, even more turtles, both big and small, visited us. We also saw some huge lobsters on that dive.

Sunday, Feb. 20th

Chucho and I went to Colombia Deep with John, Kevin, Rob, Heidi, Tina, Brad, Brennan and Fred. Brad, Brennan and I went to 100 feet and Chucho hung shallow with Rob’s crew. After 10 minutes Brad, Brennan and I came up and joined the gang. We saw lots of turtles. There was one that was swimming off to the wall. Chucho signaled to me to go around the coral and chase it back to the group. When I came around the formation I discovered another turtle perched on its flippers on the bottom. We got 2 for 1 on that deal.

A big green moray eel was sticking its head out of a hole and smiled at us. On Dalila a helmut shell was devouring a sand dollar when I pulled it out of the sand to show it to Fred. We were treated to a pretty green turtle and lots of lobsters.

When I was bringing the girls up to the surface, an enormous eagle ray passed by the group on the west side of them. Only Fred and I saw it. It was followed by another smaller, faster swimming eagle ray that kind of turned and banked a few times before it swam away.

A third dive was on the end of Cedral/ Santa Rosa Shallow. Rob wanted to go through a cave. We saw schools of barracuda. Another small turtle greeted us and a 6-foot green moray eel was trying to hide from us under the reef. It was surrounded by tons of lobsters. I tried to get her to show her face. It worked the first time I that wiggled her tail. But the second time, she just buried herself deeper and hid from my pestering self.

Monday, Feb. 21st

Everyone loves the towering formations at Palancar Horseshoe…so that is where Rob, John, Kevin, Heidi, Tina, Dee Dee, Dave and Fred dived. Coming out of one of the caves a huge hawksbill swam right up to Tina and begged her to take its picture.

Then we went to French Reef where we saw a small turtle. Rob discovered a sleeping nurse shark. Everyone had to swim back against the current to get a look so I helped out and convinced it to come out and say ”hi.” There were a couple of lobsters and a southern stingray.

Tuesday, Feb. 22nd

They wanted walls…so we went to Santa Rosa Wall with Fred, Ron, Rob, John, Kevin, Heidi and Tina. On the descent we saw a huge nurse shark cruising the wall followed by a black grouper. I showed Tina a huge crab with claws that looked like salad tongs. There were loads of big barracudas and a cute pair of balloon fish. Our next wall was San Francisco. Rob pointed out a jumbo-sized lobster out strolling around. We saw more big barracudas and a big black grouper that was just hovering over the sand.

Wednesday, Feb. 23rd

Per special request, we went to the C-53 Shipwreck with Rob, John, Kevin, Heidi, Tina, Ron and Fred. There must have been 10 lobsters all waving their antennas at us from under the wreck. Right next to them were about 5 big crabs. We swam down along a hallway and when we reached the end the exit was overhead. There was a level below us as well and a dive master from the level below blocked our exit overhead in an attempt to try and get me to try and turn around and let him into the hallway! I signaled that there were seven divers behind me and that I couldn’t turn around. He made all sorts of angry gestures, but I couldn’t budge. So I thought about it for a second. I crossed my arms and sat. I had two choices sit or swim over him. He had two choices. Go up and out the hole on top or sit.

So after a Mexican standoff I took the initiative and swam up and over him out the exit. Hope his divers behind him had lots of air! I wasn’t going to sit there like an ass and let my divers suffer waiting to get out of the passageway. When we got back on board the Enigma II John joked, “So it’s OK that I kicked that guy in the head?” That made me smile. Hope he was just kidding……

Tormentos is right next door and the logical place to go. It was our lucky day. A giant green moray eel was out swimming around undulating across the sand. Rob snuggled up to an 80-pound grouper. Fred got a good shot of the big toadfish.

Thursday, Feb. 24th

The first dive was on Palancar Gardens because some one asked for more caves. We went swimming in jellyfish soup with Rob, John, Kevin, Heidi, Tina and Ron. The jellyfish were everywhere and the water was so thick with them that you could cut it with a knife. A feeding frenzy was going on. A turtle was pigging out on the jellyfish. It was fascinating to watch. Schools of creole wrasse and other long, skinny silver fish were eating them as well.

We found a second turtle feeding on a sponge and a third turtle swimming around. Ron shined his light on a crab. There were also a couple of lobsters. The current was kind of clipping along and we had to work at buoyancy control. Cedral Wall was where we got to see two more sharks swimming nearby. There was also another little turtle.

Friday, Feb. 25th

I dived on Yucab with Bill, Terry and Terry. We saw a splendid toadfish and Terry got a picture of it. Bill found an octopus, but Terry and I were too lazy to go back against the current and have a peek. I am really liking Tormentos this month…The lobsters are back and a big snapper with a mouthful of teeth was under the overhang where Rob was flirting with the grouper a few days before. We saw another grouper but not nearly as big as Rob’s girlfriend.

Monday, March 7th

This was my first day back to work after a one-week vacation in California. I took Matt, EJ, Jim, Maureen and Michael to Horseshoe. The Southeast wind caused the surface to be a bit choppy. Thankfully, there wasn’t much current. My lobster “friend” was hanging out near the cement block, as always. EJ illuminated it with her flashlight. Jim says that French Reef is his favorite dive because it is like swimming in an aquarium. There were many schools of blue Creole wrasse. A turtle paddled over and smiled for Jim’s new housing on his digital camera.

While EJ was shining her light on a crab in a hole, Jim and I swam over and had a look at a Southern stingray.

Tuesday, March 8th

I dove next on Santa Rosa Wall with Maureen, Michael, EJ, Jim, Matt, Jim and Matt. As soon as we got down over the wall a 5-foot green moray eel slithered by under EJ. It was hard to tell if she was thrilled or terrified! We had a very good time swimming through the tunnels and swim-through. Then I then dived at Dalila, where we ran into a big Southern stingray hidden in the sand. We had fun with a starfish.

Going up toward the surface, I found a shark swimming beneath us. Maureen had especially ordered it.

Wednesday, March 9th

I did a resort course from shore on Paradise for Craig, Mike, Shannon and Craig. We had some small waves, that made entry and exit a little tough, but underwater it was worth it! Craig received the best show because he was closer to the bottom. He saw all the spotted eels and crabs as I pointed them out. There was a beautiful little spotted drum fluttering around under a coral head.

Thursday, March 10th

I wanted to “wow” Matt, EJ, Jim, Michael and Maureen so I told Carlos to take us to Colombia Deep. EJ was looking in all of the dark crevices with the flashlight when she found a medium-sized nurse shark. We tried to get it to come out of his hiding place, but it wanted no part of us. Then we dived the platform at Cedral. The current was so light that the distance I usually cover in 10 to 12 minutes took up the whole dive. As soon as we got to the bottom, we encountered a 5-foot nurse shark lying in the sand. It sat really still while Jim took a bunch of pictures. I found some sunglasses and put them on. Four lobsters fended Jim off while Michael & Maureen checked out a pair of yellow stingrays for a few minutes on the bottom.

Friday, March 11th

My first stop was on Palancar Caves with Michael, Maureen, Don, Jim, Suzette and Daniel. The current surprised me. At first we had to work hard to get to the reef. It was pushing us toward shore. It was going the opposite direction from its normal pathway. All that swimming was rewarded with a big turtle sitting on the bottom having a snack. She was quite calm and didn’t swim away when we were all around her gawking.

My second stop of the day was on Paso Del Cedral. We had very calm current and lots of pretty fish. There were no big critters hanging out to see us on that particular day.

Sunday, March 13th

Tank number one was on Yucab with Ross, Meg, Tom, Suzette and Daniel. We saw the famous splendid toadfish, lobsters and yellow stingrays. Tank number two was on San Francisco Wall. Suzette pointed found and pointed to a toadfish. Later, I found a yellow-headed jawfish and a yet another splendid toadfish. Since Ross didn’t get to see the first one... fortunately, we were able to find a second one for him.

At the end of the dive, a big, gray Southern stingray was sucking up munchies in the sand. That was interesting to watch!

Monday, March 14th

Tom, Meg, Jill, Rik, Nik, Tom and Terry came with me to Santa Rosa Wall. We saw the world’s biggest lobster crawling around on top of the reef. A tiny spotted drum was swimming in circles and we lingered a bit in the cave. It was logical to go to Santa Rosa Shallow for the second dive. The highlights of this dive were the nurse shark that young Tom found in its hiding hole, along with a turtle turd.

Tom was checking every hiding place on the reef, when he made the signal for big. At first, he didn’t even know what he had discovered. It was the nurse shark’s tail! It was really cool to shine our lights in the hole to observe a big nurse shark taking a nap. In the afternoon I did two dives on Paradise from shore with Mary, Ryan, Hart, Keith, Bob and Sarah. Well…we didn’t walk in the water with our tanks on…I used the boat. It was the same dive site as if we had walked in from shore. I am getting lazy as I am getting older…..

During the first dive we worked hard on completing some skills, so we didn’t get in much touring time. We saw several spotted morays, a beautiful little chain eel, a big crab and some little lobsters. After everyone was up, Bob, Sarah and I swam over to Paradise Reef to find a huge black grouper leaving the reef after having “scarfed” up some grunts.

Later, I did a night dive with Tom and Meg on Paradise Reef. Some of the crabs we saw had immense pinchers. We saw loads of little lobsters and a few free swimming spotted morays eels. A snake eel slithered across the bottom and I found two octopi. Meg found the third octopus. We played like little kids in the bioluminescence.

Tuesday, March 15th

I started my diving day on Palancar Gardens with Jill, Tom, Nik, Rik and Daniel. Due to the strong Southeasterly winds and big waves, the visibility was only 30 or 40 feet. But that’s okay…we still saw two turtles and swam through many tunnels. On Dalila we found the same helmut shell ( I think ) feasting on a sand dollar. To my delight, I also found Jorge dangling a small red fishing lure in front of a splendid toadfish. It snapped up that lure and then spit it out. That toadfish really liked the fishing lure. Jorge gave it to me as a gift.

Then, I saw him pointing out a scorpion fish, but no one seemed to care. They were fascinated by the Southern stingray buried in the sand. A big lobster came out and showed off for us.

That afternoon I did a dive on Tormentos with Sarah, Mary, Hart, Ryan, and Keith. The big black groupers and snappers seemed to be playing with each other. They bumped into one another and rubbed up against each other. They put on quite a show. On Yucab I got to try out my new lure. Sure enough, the splendid toadfish snapped it right up!

There were lots of little lobsters and crabs around since it was late in the day.

Wednesday, March 16th

Since we had such a nice dive on Tormentos, I went back there with Jill, Rik, Nik, Tom, Meg, Tom, Scott and Terry. We put my new toy to work again on a toadfish. I was like a little kid with that toy. Meg discovered a huge snapper under a ledge and I forgot to tell her what it was when we got back to the boat.

Jill and I loved the little eagle ray that passed beneath us while we did our safety stop. Close to home we dived Paradise and I passed my new toy to Meg when she found her very own toadfish. She liked that toy as much as I did. I also discovered that several tangs, surgeonfish and red band parrotfish all liked the fishing lure too! Good thing it didn’t have a hook on it! All those little fish were following me around.

Thursday, March 17th

Both of my dives were on Paradise with Mary, Ryan, Julie, Marilyn, Dan, Andy, Austin and Michael. The first training dive was close to shore. Then we moved over to the big reef for the second dive.

On the first dive we saw several fat spotted morays and Dan found a pair of squid swimming in tandem. At the reef we played with a Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber and we saw the biggest barracuda that I have seen in a long time. The barracuda was quite shy and swam away as we approached.

The kids liked the huge snapper that was almost as big as Andrew. At the end of the dive they chased after a big permit to get a better look.

Friday, March 18th

Palancar Bricks/Caves ( thanks Carlos! ) with Susan, Kevin, Lindsay, Jill, Rik, Nik, Tom and Terry. We got dropped off 40 minutes South of the caves but we did scoot into a couple of caves at the end of the dive. We had a great dive anyway. There were 2 small turtles and I found a big nurse shark lounging in a dark cave. The furry sea cucumber was soft and squishy to touch.

Then we were off to my favorite second dive, Dalila. There were no big critters this day but we did see a lobster and a crab with super big pinchers. We saw plenty of pretty fish and the current was nice and slow.

Saturday, March 19th

Corey and Jason started their Nitrox certification on Palancar Caves. A big spotted eagle ray cruised by in the blue water over the drop off. It barely flicked its wing tips to glide by. Then a small turtle dipped down to the deep water off in the distance. We swam through a couple of caves. The next reef was La Francesa. The first turtle we saw was really big and far away. The second turtle was smaller and closer. Corey got up close and personal with it.

Since it was late in the afternoon, we saw lots of crabs out on top of the reef along with a couple of lobsters.

Sunday, March 20th

Patrick, Colleen, Sue, Jason & Corey came with me to Palancar Horseshoe. About one-half way into the dive, a large turtle went to the surface to breathe and we stared at its silhouette. We saw the resident lobster at his usual post near the cement block. Patrick discovered a Southern stingray.

We had a grand slam on Dalila! (Colleen described it as action-packed.) We saw one of everything! First, an eagle ray cruised slowly past us. Colleen wanted to follow it to the end of the earth. Then Amanda’s little turtle with the white blotch on its back paddled by us.

I hauled butt after a free swimming green moray eel, but stopped when Corey pointed madly at the 6-foot nurse shark parked on the bottom…right under us. When I got close, it swam away from us.

From the shore I dived Paradise with Tammie, Scott, Joel and Zane. I think everyone was surprised at how much there was to see on the beach dive. There were plenty of fat spotted moray eels, a goldentail eel and a soft little goldspot eel. We saw three different big crabs. A splendid toadfish came completely out of its den and I think that was everyone’s favorite sighting of the dive. Tammie saw more spotted drums than I did. Good eyes, Tammie !

Monday, March 21st

My first dip of the day was on Santa Rosa wall with Kimberly, Gordon, Karl, Sue, Jason and Corey. All of the sponges looked like they were smoking as we dove nearby. The sperm and gametes clouded up the water and cut down the visibility. There was a sponge orgy going on! We saw a female hawksbill turtle. We swam through the cave and at the end of the dive, we came upon a school of silversides or sardines. I played like a child swimming into the school and disappearing behind the shiny silver cloud. Everywhere I looked there were tiny flashes of silver and blue. There was no up nor down, front or back. There was no sense of direction.-Everywhere there was a blanket of shiny little fish. It can be very disconcerting if one is not expecting it.

On Paso Del Cedral Rob joined us for another action-packed dive. I think it was Kimberly who pointed out the baby turtle that couldn’t have been more than 8-inches in diameter. Rob showed me a cobia swimming off in the distance. A cobia looks a lot like a shark and tarpon combined. It has a “nurse shark” looking head, the body of a shark and the tail of a tarpon. As I darted off after it, I ran smack dab into one of the biggest eagle rays that I have ever seen. It paid no mind to us as it munched on bottom dwelling creatures. After we came out of the cave a 6-foot nurse shark swam by.

There was also no shortage of barracuda.

Tuesday, March 22nd

I dived at San Francisco Wall with Yvette, Todd, Liz, Sue, Jason and Rob. It was a pretty uneventful dive. ( I guess that is a good thing! ) Rob found a family of seven lobsters in a crevice. The biggest critters appeared on Cedral Wall after almost everyone was on the boat. First of all, we saw a big crab up on top of the reef, followed by a couple of little turtles.

Wednesday, March 23rd

I went back to Santa Rosa Wall with Karl, Denise, Lester, Steve and Dean. We saw some lobsters and crabs. The school of sardines was still there and I couldn’t resist swimming into them again. Denise asked to go to Paradise reef, because she thought I had a turtle there. But she was confused…the turtle was on Colombia Shallow.

However, instead of a turtle we saw lots of lobsters and eels. Steve found a baby nurse shark hiding in a hole. While Denise and I made a safety stop, a huge spotted eagle ray cavorted in front of us. It had four or five remoras and one of them was very large. It looked like the remora was bothering the eagle ray and the giant was trying to shake it off. I noticed that the eagle ray had a crescent shaped bite out of the left rear part of its body. It was a small bite, maybe 6-inches across…but it would be easy to ID that same ray again.

I took the afternoon trip out to Santa Rosa because they wanted to see the wall and we still had strong South Easterly wind. It was a logical place to go that day to avoid seasick divers. Upon the descent Shelly spotted a male loggerhead turtle. It was swimming away quickly, so we didn’t get much more than a glimpse.

There was also a huge black grouper that sat still for Kevin while he took its picture. Tammy, Shelly and Paige floated around waiting while Kevin got a good shot. Shelly asked to see eels and lobsters and I knew I could produce on Paradise!

The little nurse shark was gone in the afternoon, but the big, fat spotted moray was still in the same place which made my job easy! The gorgeous eagle had disappeared as well.

Thursday, March 24th

I went to Palancar Gardens with Kimberly, Gordon, Karl and Rob. Karl spotted the first turtle. It was right behind me. I never would have seen it if Karl hadn’t pointed it out. It passed right behind me slowly and closely. The second turtle was way off in the distance. While Rob was showing off a big crab he found, Kimberly was showing Gordon a spotted drum.

At Dalila I found a queen triggerfish for Kimberly. We saw lots of lobsters again. I wonder if they are in season?

Friday, March 25th

We had a spectacular dive at Palancar Caves. Kimberly, Gordon, Nora, Keith, Rob, Bob and Austin oohed and ahhed during the whole surface interval. We saw five different turtles. Some were big and some were medium-sized. The really big ones were male. Some of them were silhouetted at the surface while they breathed and then they dived down to re-join us on the reef.

Coming out of one cave Rob spotted a turtle pigging out on a sponge. Another divemaster showed me a white nosed pipefish. Now that was really cool!

On French Reef we saw another turtle and a couple of lobsters. I did two afternoon training dives on Paradise with Ramona, Chuck, Rick and Dan. We saw several spotted morays and some lobsters on the first dive. That same splendid toadfish came all the way out of its hole for us again and showed off its pretty yellow fins. On the second dive it was just Ramona, Chuck and I. While we were working on the navigation skill a spotted eagle ray swam right up to us. So I made them drop everything and we followed the ray as it foraged for supper. After the ray left, we finished up the skills and started the tour. On the tour we saw a big lobster, three different kinds of eels: a goldentail, a goldspot and spotted morays.

Saturday, March 26th

Even though it was choppy we went to Palancar Gardens with Ramona, Chuck, Nora, Keith, Bob and Austin. A big lobster scooted backwards away from some unseen danger and landed right in front of us in the sand. Bob said that he could see a row sack on the underside of the lobster.

Then we saw a couple more lobsters huddled together in a niche. Another large lobster was out walking about. On Dalila a pair of dinner-sized lobsters pranced around on the coral. How weird to see so many big lobsters out in the open during the day. Something must be going on.

When I saw the 6-foot nurse shark swimming by us, I grabbed Moni’s hand and dragged her over for a look. After the shark was gone, Amanda’s little turtle with the white spot on its back paid us a short visit.

Tuesday, March 29th

I dived the wreck C-53 with Bill, Michael, Gordon, Leah, Carol, Kimberly and Deanna. Chucho came along to give me a hand and an extra pair of eyes. We saw a couple of lobsters and crabs hiding at the bottom under the shipwreck. The propeller is now covered with colorful sponges and hydroids. It makes a beautiful photo. I went into the wheelhouse and waved out the window to everyone.

For our next dive we went to the last part of Paso Del Cedral and the beginning of Santa Rosa Shallow. We dropped down just in time to go through the cave and practice Peak Performance Buoyancy Control. On that site we saw a big barracuda and a turtle. We also practiced the fin pivot and hovering.

I did first afternoon dive on the very tippy part of Palancar Horseshoe, where the water is 10 to 15 feet deep, with Rick, Dan, Lauri, Tom, Rob, Ryan and Sarah. The first turtle that we saw was a medium-sized green turtle. Then we saw two more turtles swimming together…a little hawksbill and a medium-sized hawksbill. Since Dan and Rob were floating a lot and had buoyancy control problems, we never went deeper than 15 feet, but had a nice dive.

On the second afternoon dive, we went back to Horseshoe and this time they all got down OK. We went over the wall for just a little bit. A huge hawksbill turtle swam right in front of Ryan.

I did a night dive with Carol, Kim, Deanna, Doreen, Phil, Doc and Wayne. We saw tons of big crabs, some small lobsters and a snake eel. One of the girls found a big, fat spotted moray eel and Phil found the octopus for us.

Wednesday, March 30th

The first dip of the day was on San Francisco Wall with the Ford family. Carol, Kim and Deanna came along to work on their Advanced Certification. Ryan was a bit panicky at the surface. Underwater he was pulling hard on his mask strap to tighten it. I was afraid that he would break it so I put him back on the boat. Thank goodness I had paid Chucho to come along and help me out.

We took them to Dalila for the second dive. As Carol, Kim and Deanna were doing navigational skills, a big eagle ray glided by so we dropped the compasses and enjoyed the show. Then a turtle swooped down and I didn’t know which to look at…the turtle or the eagle ray! We rejoined the Ford family for the rest of the dive. Ryan shot up to the surface and Rob just floated up. Chucho put them on the boat. Lauri still had 1200 psi and didn’t want to go up so I stayed down with her, Tom and Sarah. When Tom was low on air we kind of made a safety stop. Sarah looked down and saw a nurse shark swimming in the distance.

Thursday, March 31st

My first dive of the day was on Palancar Gardens with Phil, Doreen, Bob, Doc, Wayne, Gordon, Michael and Leah. Due to the strong South wind there were big waves and really poor visibility. However we did have a nice dive. There were two very big turtles and huge lobster out walking around.

Our second dive was on Las Palmas because we wanted to go north and get out of the wind and waves. A very friendly hawksbill turtle swam right through our little group. We saw lots of good critters on this dive. There were two spotted morays, a goldentail moray, a couple of splendid toadfish, some spotted drums, a yellow stingray and a coronet fish. Those coronet fish are very uncommon. They look like big, long trumpet fish but with iridescent blue spots and a long whip like tail.

Our night dive was on Chankanaab. There was an abundance of big crabs, assorted lobsters and one lone octopus. I saw a school of 30 to 40 baby squid. I don’t think anyone else saw them, however. Friday, April 1st Deanna, Kim, Carol, Leah, Michael and Gordon accompanied me to Santa Rosa wall. We ran into Doreen, Phil, Wayne, Bob and Doc down below. We did the deep dive for the Advanced Certification and no one felt narcosis. At Paradise there were splendid toadfish that are endemic to Cozumel, lots of lobsters, a peacock flounder and a huge snapper.

Sunday, April 3rd.

Back to Santa Rosa Wall with Sue, Bob and Dallas. Every one practiced Peak Performance Buoyancy Control. We practiced swimming through archways and tunnels without touching the bottom or the walls. At the end of the dive I looked down over the wall to find a large spotted eagle ray gliding by below us. Dallas saw a lobster but I missed it.

Santa Rosa Shallow was our second stop. We were busy naming vertebrates, invertebrates and plants when I turned my head and a 6-foot nurse shark was right next to us! I tapped Sue on her leg to get her attention but she kept writing on her slate. So I pounded her leg. That got her attention! She turned around in time to see the shark too.

That afternoon I did a beach dive with Karl, Brittany and Jim. The conditions were kinda “iffy” with the big waves that the North wind had brought. My trained splendid toadfish came right out and performed its show for us. Every one was quite impressed. I don’t have any idea just how many spotted morays we saw but I am sure that it was more than five. We also saw a viper moray, a yellow stingray and a lobster. Everyone liked the lizardfish, peacock flounder and spotted drum. Brittany wasn’t afraid of anything!

Monday, April 4th

I dived Palancar Gardens with Karl, Brittany, Bob, Sue, Shawna, Dave and Dallas. We swam through lots of pretty archways and tunnels. We saw some big black groupers playing all around us by the first cave. I showed Sue another big anemone that went back into its hole.

Then I dived Yucab where Bob & Sue completed their navigational skills for Advanced Open Water. The current was light and at least it was going the right direction this day.

I started the Open Water Referral for the Bollman family while Grace and Richard came along and completed a Discover Scuba Diving class. We stay pretty shallow and got some skills completed.

Then Grace and Richard went home and I did one more dive with the kids. The did great and we saw lots of fish and eels and a lobster.

Tuesday, April 5th

For the deep dive we went to Palancar Horseshoe with Bob, Sue, Karl, Brittany, Jim, Mari, Mike and Grace. Chucho came along so that we could split the group between deep divers and shallow beginners. The shallow divers saw a turtle on the way to the reef. Bob, Sue and I missed it. Karl spotted another turtle swimming by. A third turtle was sleeping on the bottom. We also saw a big lobster and a 4-foot barracuda swam over Bob’s head and snapped !

At Paso Del Cedral we saw more barracudas. There was a shy splendid toadfish and a huge spotted eagle ray.

In the afternoon I took Katie, Chelsea, Martha, Aaron, Karen, John and John to Chankanaab. We saw tons of lobsters and everyone wanted to know if they tasted good!

Then we were off to Yucab where there were more lobster and that got everyone thinking about garlic butter………John said that it was like swimming in an aquarium.

Wednesday, April 6th

I dedicated this day to Mike and Amy’s shore dives. Amy brought me an Open Water Referral and we did both of the training dives from shore at Paradise. On the first dive we saw lots of spotted moray eels and a chain eel. The chain eels are my favorite. My trained toadfish wasn’t there that day. We also saw a big crab. All three of us had to work hard because the current was pretty strong for the first half of the dive.

Fortunately for the second dive the current had slowed down to its normal gentle push. There were even more eels and a small lobster. I found a second chain eel in the coral head right next to the first so I think that they are “mates”. A juvenile spotted drum fluttered its ribbon like fins at us. A scorpion fish glared at us as we studied him. There was a yellow stingray too.

Thursday, April 7th

To finish Amy’s dives Mike & Amy were accompanied by Bob & Sue on Colombia. The first turtle was silhouetted against the blue surface as it paddled up for a gulp of air. The second turtle was a small hawksbill a lot closer for us to see swimming over the coral reef. I was surprised that we only saw two turtles.

There were two more turtles on Dalila. The first one was sleeping under the reef and looked groggy and surprised to see us there - staring at it. The second turtle was a tiny little baby. Sue yanked on Bob’s fin to get his attention and point it out. We saw a pair of spotted drums together and later there was a trio of the little beauties. There were several schools of smooth trunkfish and I remembered how Muffin likes those. I will take her there on the 24th to see them.

Friday, April 8th

We were off to Palancar Gardens with Bob, Sue, Katie, Chelsea, Karen, John & John for the first real dive after certification. Before we entered the water, Katie told her dad that he had to pay her $1. USD if she showed him a turtle. I found the first and second turtles so I was thinking down there that John owed me $2. USD! But John found the third one that was an uncommon green turtle. I found the fourth turtle and some big cubera snappers. We had two different southern stingrays and a yellow stingray too.

There was a lot of happy chatter on the boat afterwards. Katy still tried to collect from her dad even though I was the one who spotted those turtles!

Then we were off to Paradise reef. There were lots of moray eels there. We saw some pretty seashells and some lobsters.

Saturday, April 10th

My first dive trip was to Palancar Caves with Bob, Sue, Tony, Mike, Amy, Tim and Kathy. We had a good turtle day. There was a turtle sitting still eating a sponge. The other two were pretty close. I was really frustrated when I saw a big eagle ray out in the blue water and I turned around to show Tony but he was still in the cave. By the time Tony came out of the cave the ray was gone.

We got dropped off on French Reef but we dived Palancar Gardens because the current was going the opposite direction of normal. Carlos warned me but I didn’t listen to him so it was my fault. I still don’t know why I didn’t pay attention to him. I usually do… It was a great dive anyway. There were enough lobsters to feed a family of eight. One of the lobsters was as big as the boat! (well, maybe not that big….. ) We also saw a southern stingray.

Monday, April 11th

I went to Yucab with Tony, Mike, Amy, Warren the birthday boy, Tony, Jim and Shirley. There were loads of splendid toadfish and I even coaxed one completely out of its hiding hole. We saw the usual lobsters and on Shirley’s safety stop I saw a big nurse shark swimming off to the East. Warren took off after it but I don’t think he saw it.

Then we went to Tormentos where Amy found a little spotted drum. We searched the grassy area for a seahorse to no avail. We only found a yellow stingray. On the reef we saw a pair of big groupers.

Wednesday, April 13th

The first tank was on Colombia Deep with Tony, Jim, Shirley, Tim, Holly, Kent, Tim and Kathy. Coming around a towering coral formation two hawksbill turtles were sitting together on the bottom. Tim got a few great shots of the darling little guys. After everyone else was up, Tony and I encountered one more, lazy little turtle resting on the coral. It didn’t want to have any part of us and promptly hid under a coral ledge.

The second tank was on French Reef. I could hear Holly’s voice through her regulator when I took her by the hand and brought her face to face with the big crab hiding in a dark recess on the reef. The current really picked up for the second part of the dive and we flew by a few big groupers.

Thursday, April 14th

Jeeze! What a day! We had just enough North wind to screw up my beach dives but not enough to close the port.

First I did a shore dive with Trish, Tom, Alex & Jake. Getting in was rough, at best, due to the waves. There were thimble jellyfish everywhere and the boys hated them. Once we got down 30 feet, there were no more jellyfish and the boys liked the diving a whole lot better. The enjoyed seeing the little spotted morays, colorful fish and lobsters.

We got back in the water for a second dive but decided to get right back out. We were working too hard in those conditions and decided to go to lunch instead.

We went back in the afternoon. Steve and Joanne joined us. There were still breakers on the beach, still thimble jellyfish and lots of current. So we got in, did skills and got the heck out.

My fourth time in we did more tour because Joanne hadn’t seen the lobsters and eels yet, so I took her over for a peek. All in all it was a tough day but everyone still had fun. What a bunch of troupers! Steve and I were surprised at the end of the day when Joanne exclaimed, “That was fun!”

Friday, April 15th,

We picked Palancar Caves with Joanne, Steve, Tony, Jim and Shirley. The current was pushing us around and all over the place but fortunately it wasn’t strong. We swam through many caves and we ran into lots of other groups of divers trying to get out of the current.

Joanne got off of the boat and we continued on at Paso Del Cedral and Santa Rosa Shallow. The dive was like a Disneyland ride and I was glad that Joanne had opted out! The current had us flying! We finished Paso Del Cedral in 18 minutes flat and continued floating over Santa Rosa Shallow. It was an action packed dive. We flew past a small nurse shark with a grouper swimming over it. Two of the three turtles that we saw were swimming. One was just sitting on the bottom.

As I brought Jim and Shirley up for the safety stop we flew over a huge nurse shark feeding on something on the reef. It wiggled around in the sand. That afternoon I took Trish, Tom, Alex, Jake, Joanne and Steve to Colombia Shallows. I wasn’t taking any chances on this one. I thanked god for the normal conditions there. On the descent we discovered a turtle. The boys really liked that.

We did a second dive on Colombia Shallows. Now everyone was certified! I entertained the boys with various sea cucumbers. Jake found out what happens when you laugh underwater. He is really good at mask clearing. We saw a southern stingray and Trish found a stonefish. I have no idea which part of Palancar reef that Chucho dropped us. Tony, Mac, Carol, Peter, Bill, Miki and Travis were my divers. There was only about 20 to 30 feet of visibility due to a mass spawning of barrel sponges. Some sponges looked like they were smoking and others were spewing this mushy stuff that looked like wet bread. The water was very cloudy and I could hardly see the last diver in the back of the group. We did manage to spot several turtles in the murk and we all enjoyed the dive.

The current was very light at Paso Del Cedral so we only dived the “platform” part of the reef. We got really lucky on that dive. A 5-foot nurse shark with a remora on its head laid very still in the sand while we all came over and checked her out. We saw a tiny little juvenile spotted drum no bigger than a teensy wisp and a lobster. About 45 minutes into the dive we saw a small spotted eagle ray with maybe a 5-foot wingspan that passed by slowly looking for something to eat on the bottom.

In the afternoon on Colombia Deep with Ken, Anita, Darlene, Kevin, Cole, Ed and Cindi a medium-sized nurse shark greeted us coming out of the first cave. It swam by and then disappeared again in the deep water. Kevin spotted the baby turtle in the shallow water. A southern stingray was being followed around by a pesky bar jack.

On Colombia Shallows there were a couple of different little turtles and some interesting hermit crabs. The light was a bit low for pictures in the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 19th

I took Carol, Peter, Mac, Tony, Bill, Miki, Travis and Darby to French Reef. A small southern stingray was over the sand with its trademark bar jack following it around. I saw the bar jack swoop down and eat something in the sand. That is the first time I had seen a bar jack do that. There was a big turtle off in the distance. We swam out a bit but didn’t get a good look at it.

Then we went to Dalila where we saw loads of pretty fish. Overall it was a very relaxing dive.

I did an afternoon dive on Dalila again because Ed, Cindi, Darlene and Kevin wanted to see a lot of marine life. We saw three different turtles. First Darlene discovered Amanda’s turtle, the one with the white spot on its back. Then I spotted a big one at the same time as Kevin. Darlene also found the last turtle, so she got the turtle spotter award for the dive.

Since we got the requested turtles on Dalila, we went to Paso Del Cedral in search of a shark. I have had good luck there lately finding sharks. Ed showed us a big green moray eel hiding deep in a crevice. Three groupers alerted me to the presence of a 6-foot nurse shark swimming by so I filled that order too!

Wednesday, April 20th

Ken, Anita, Tony, Ed, Cindi, Carol, Peter and Mac came with me to Colombia Deep. The visibility was poor again. I suspect that a fierce current that had ripped through there just prior to our arrival stirred all the sand. We saw a hawksbill turtle eating contentedly on the reef and posing for Anita’s camera. I hope all that stirred-up sand didn’t cause any backscatter.

Per special request we returned to Paso Del Cedral to find the shark and eel again. No luck, they were both gone. The current was reversed and it was fun for me to dive it “backwards”. We finished the dive with the cave. Anita found a pair of juvenile spotted drums and I showed her a goldentail moray in some lettuce coral so that was a good dive for macro.

Inside the cave I saw a pair of good-sized lobsters in a dark recess but didn’t have my flashlight with me.

Thursday, April 21st

This time we got dropped off at the first point after the Horseshoe with Bill, Miki, Travis, Darby, Darlene, Kevin and Tony. The current was a bit strange, but manageable. That is one of Tony’s favorite dives. He loves the towering coral heads, gorgonians and the effect of the light on the reef.

Once again I went back to Paso Del Cedral. Boy, that is popular right now! Probably because of all the good critters we spot there. It seems to be the hot spot for nurse sharks. We found one just sitting very still in the sand. Everyone huddled around it and it wasn’t a bit disturbed. We also saw three lobsters that seemed either friendly or aggressive. It’s hard to tell the difference when they come crawling out at you wiggling those antennas.

Friday, April 22nd

Everyone asked to go to Tormentos. ( Everyone, being Darlene, Bill, Miki and Travis ) Tony likes to go anywhere. I saw tons of juvenile peacock flounders in the sand and various pairs of them chasing one another. I showed Bill a splendid toadfish and Miki a tiny spotted drum. In the manatee grass we searched again for a seahorse, but all we found were two or three goldspot eels, a stonefish and a yellow stingray. Everyone loved crawling around in the grass and it was hard to get everyone to come back to the reef for the safety stops! There were plenty of big groupers over on the reef as usual.

Our second dive was on Yucab where we saw lots of little lobsters and plenty of colorful fish. The top of Yucab is covered in fields of finger coral, which makes a great home for little critters.

Sunday, April 24th

Darold, Derrick, Muffin, David, Lisa, Kaweah and Natasha dived Palancar Horseshoe with me. We got lucky and there was very little, almost no current for the first 30 minutes. Derek made fun of me for scooping up sand out from around the cement block. That is a tradition for me. Some day we will dig it out. It may take 10 years but we will get it free….

The current was ripping on Dalila. We saw 2 turtles. One was swimming and the other was hiding from the current behind a sponge. I saw a nurse shark off in the distance and Tasha saw it too. It was hard to keep the group together in that swift current but Derek gave me a hand. Everyone learned the tricks of how to stop in current. Sometimes we hid behind the reef to rest. Once I grabbed David’s hand and showed him where to hang on. I felt like a flag on a flagpole in a monsoon!

Monday, April 25th

Things calmed WAY down for the Goldbergs and Murphys at Palancar Gardens. Some family members snorkeled and some of us dived. Us divers swam through coral canyons and along the drop off. We saw a lobster and a crab on that dive.

Colombia Shallow is always a good choice for a mixed group of snorkelers and divers. We saw two turtles but the snorkelers saw three. Peter also saw a huge lobster which he showed to Kyle. Jenna, Chip and I were too lazy to swim back against the current to have a look so we missed the southern stingray that went by too. I found an octopus hiding behind a mound of empty conch shells. The octopus sucks the snail out of the shell and leaves the empties there to build his fortress.

Tuesday, April 26th

My first dive of the day was on Santa Rosa Wall with Derek, Tasha, Kaweah, Bettie, Larry, Paul & Jeanine. The current was nice and slow thankfully. We saw a big grouper and a little goldentail moray.

My second dive was on Paso Del Cedral. There were big waves and the visibility was only about 50 feet. We actually had surge from the waves passing overhead. As usual the marine life was abundant there. Tasha’s computer told her to go up so I went to get Kaweah and brought the girls up. The current separated us from the group who were sitting still being entertained by a big lobster. I didn’t worry though. Derek rounded everyone u

Wednesday, April 27th

I dived Tormentos with Marty, Mike, Joe, Chip, Jenna, Peter and Kyle. We saw so many lobsters that everyone decided on a lobster dinner that night. We also saw a big, fat spotted moray. I coaxed a splendid toadfish out of its hiding hole for the group to see its beautiful yellow fins. I saw something on that dive that I have never seen before. The splendid toadfish had a little tiny baby toadfish that stuck to it like a remora. The baby couldn’t have been more than a centimeter long. I didn’t know that the baby toadfish stay with their parent throughout infancy. Such a small thing really amazed me. The only grouper that we saw was kind of small.

During the surface interval we almost sank the boat! I am not kidding. I was mortified to say the least. We wanted to drop Marty, Joe and Mike off at Playa Mia but only boats with special permission can dock there so we just pulled up in the sand like we always do at Playa Palancar. Well, when one of the boys was half way down the ladder a huge wave came and washed over the stern of our little boat. The stern filled with water and I knew at that moment that we were in serious trouble. The poor kid was almost sucked under the boat but did pop right back up to the surface safe and sound. Before we could make a move, a second wave came over the stern and then both the batteries were underwater and the water level in the boat was dangerously high. Carlos shouted for me to get everyone in the water when the third wave hit. The Enigma II was now completely beached and full of water! Carlos told us all to push. I just kept shouting for everyone to push! PUSH! I pushed with all my heart and soul and strength. By the grace of god we got the bow pointed out to sea and one motor started. That was all Carlos needed. That one motor was enough. I kept pushing until the propellers were off of the rocky bottom and Carlos took off! Once out to sea and away from the dangerous waves he bailed like mad with our bucket. He drove really fast to lift the bow and lots of the water washed out of the back. When the boat was out of danger he came to get us on that pier we were not supposed to dock on. By then I really didn’t care. That was truly scary……

We did our second dive on Yucab. We found a small nurse shark feeding on an ocean triggerfish while a black grouper hovered nearby hoping for table scraps. At one point I turned my head and a huge 5 foot barracuda was inches from my face between Peter and I. Funny that big predators are relaxing for me and a beached, sinking boat invokes a panic attack for me………. Anyway, when we got back on board after the second dive Carlos had the boat ship shape, clean as a whistle and spick and span. I was grateful to say the least. Carlos is my favorite captain that I have ever worked with and I have worked with so many different captains that I couldn’t even count them all.

Thursday, April 28th

The first tank was on French Reef with Paul, Jeanine, Tasha and Kaweah. The current was dead still when we rolled in but during the dive it picked up to a fast clip. We saw tons of lobsters in little groups of 3 or 4. A pair of turtles stuck together as we all flew past them. A solitary turtle appeared at the end of the dive right before we went up. The second tank was on Dalila where the current was so fast it stirred up the sand. The girls saw a shark and even got a picture of it but I missed it all together. We also saw a southern stingray when we first jumped in.

Friday, April 29th

This day I turned the big 40…….I took Kaweah, Natasha, Bettie and Larry to Santa Rosa Wall. Carolina joined us to take a video. Thankfully the current was manageable. Carolina found a spotted drum and we saw a turtle.

On Yucab there were loads of yellow headed jawfish everywhere. Lots of them were juveniles and we found another spotted drum.

Monday, May 2nd

I did both tanks on Paradise with Ken and Judy. Since it was just the 3 of us I brought my camera for fun. We piddled around on Paradise taking pictures of fish. There were TONS of huge crabs, tons of little lobsters and an assortment of moray eels. Ken found us a huge eagle ray. He got a shot of it, but I didn’t.

That afternoon I did a shore dive with Sara and Sam. We stayed very shallow and saw parrotfish, French angels, a spotted drum, sergeant majors and blue tangs.

Tuesday, May 3rd

I dived Yucab with Paul, Ron, Kathy, Ken & Judy. I was so pissed off when the nurse shark practically swam right under Paul and my wide angle lens was shoved down the front of my wetsuit! I missed the turtle too. Everyone was pointed it out to me as it swam away. Paul laughed at me and said he has never seen me act like a tourist before.

Then we went to one of Paul’s favorites, Chankanaab. I practiced close up shots. Ken found a bunch of feather dusters and I took a few shots. I found a pair of spotted drums in a dark recess. Unbelievably lots of yellow headed jawfish posed for my camera.

Wednesday, May 4th

Once again it was just Ken, Judy and I for some fun dives. We went back to Chankanaab and I took a bunch more pictures of the yellow headed jawfish but they didn’t come out as good as my first one. I got the rock beauties and I spent quite a bit of time on those same little spotted drums. A pudding wife was quite hungry and when I disturbed the sand with my hand it came over to see if I stirred up something to eat allowing me to get very close to its face for a close up shot. The only close up I got had a big line through it in the developing. That was a huge disappointment for me.

Then we went back to Paradise where I got a good shot of a spotted moray and a goldentail eel.

Thursday, May 5th

We saw tons of turtles on Palancar Caves. My divers were Chris, Al, Ken, Judy, Ron & Kathy. There were 2 small turtles and one really, really big boy turtle. Ron must have burned up 500 psi going after the big one. Judy spotted the pretty one taking a nap under a coral ledge. That one woke up and was all groggy. It followed us around for a while.

I think that our second dive was on Dalila or Paso Del Cedral but I forgot to write down the details! Uh oh.

Friday, May 6th

I did an afternoon dive on Santa Rosa Wall with Janet, Chuck, Pam, Steve, Terry and Jake. Mother Nature was kind and gave us a nice, calm current. We swam through the tunnels and found sea cucumbers and beautiful sand dollars.

Paso Del Cedral is always such a great dive in the late afternoon. I saw the flick of a tail and I didn’t know if it was a green moray eel or a nurse shark that slipped behind the coral head. I charged after it but it disappeared. I never saw anymore of it, but everyone else did! It was a big green moray and it swam at the group behind me. Pam even got a picture of it. The next big tail I spotted belonged to a nurse shark napping on the bottom. We woke it up and it swam away. At the very end of the dive we also saw a hawksbill turtle and Janet got it on video. Throughout the dive we saw crabs and lobsters because it was late afternoon.

Saturday, May 7th

I took Ken, Judy, Matt, Liz and Chris to French Reef. Wow! The first 15 minutes of the dive we were accosted by turtles J It is still undecided as to exactly how many turtles we did see. One followed us, or we followed it for about 5 minutes. Chris found a little nurse shark hiding in a hole that absolutely refused to come out and be seen.

Then we went to Paso Del Cedral. Chris said that was the best dive yet! There were lobsters, a huge spotted drum, a stingray and a big nurse shark swam by at the end. Everyone loves that dive site and the nurse sharks that live there.

Sunday, May 8th

Stacy and Jody needed a refresher and wanted to check out the new scuba gear that they had bought so we did a shore dive at Paradise. We saw spotted morays, goldentail morays, a goldspotted eel, and my very favorite, a chain eel. We saw both juvenile and adult spotted drums, crabs, lobsters and a trumpet fish. The girls were impressed at how close you could get to all of the fish.

Monday, May 9th

My first dive of the day was at Palancar Horseshoe with Ron, Stacy, Jody, Mike, Stan, John and Marisa. We swam between towering coral formations. A damsel fish bravely defended its territory. Stan pointed out a small green moray eel. It slithered into a hole with a lobster and we took pictures of it.

My photographers wanted to see a toadfish so we went back to Paso Del Cedral. I know where they live there. I found 3 in all but they were shy and wouldn’t come out to be photographed properly. We also saw a humungous lobster, a fat barracuda and a big grouper.

Tuesday, May 10th

On Palancar Caves Gary, Janet, Marisa, John, Matt, Liz, Stan and Mike saw 3 different turtles. One was at the surface snacking on the millions of thimble jellyfish. Gary pointed out a swimming southern stingray.

On Dalila I swam back against the current to have a peek at a big green moray eel hiding in a hole. All I could see was its tail. Then this crazy barracuda came by. It swam right up to each of us and snapped. It actually snapped right at Matt’s face and then banged him in the side of the head just over his left ear with its snout. It honestly scared the !#$%^&+_)(* out of me. ( not to mention Liz and Marisa too ) Gary reached out to grab its tail and it swam away. I have never seen a barracuda do that before. I hope I never do again either! Mike and Stan found a small nurse shark.

Thursday, May 11th

Kathy loves Palancar Caves so that is where I dived again with Ron, Kathy, John, John & Matt. Kathy has good taste. I saw 7 different turtles. Ron and Kathy saw another pair of turtles together that I didn’t see. Those thimble jellyfish are really bringing in the turtles this year. It is also mating season.

On French Reef we saw 6 or 7 more turtles! Cozumel is having a turtle party this week. At the end of the dive when Ron was out of film a tame eagle ray was feeding on something in the sand. It was accompanied by a pair of scavenging permits. Ron and Kathy hung out with her for a while.

Friday, May 13th

Gary & Janet requested Las Palmas. Jody and Stacy were not disappointed. We saw quite a few splendid toadfish. Gary and Janet found a couple of turtles. There were both spotted and goldentail eels on that dive. Gary forgot to put the spotted drum in his logbook too.

Janet loves Paradise so that is where we did our second dive. There were a couple more toadfish and a goldentail moray out swimming around. Janet really loves the transparent little gobies on the bottom and I can’t find them in the Paul Humann books. So I don’t know what they are called.

 

Monday, May 16th

Gary, Janet, John, Tracy, Misty & Anthony came with me to Palancar Bricks. We went in search of five turtles for Gary. We found four of them!. The 2nd & 3rd turtles were beautiful little green turtles that are very uncommon here in Cozumel. It is my opinion, that they have the prettier shell.

We were hoping to find the 5th turtle on French Reef, but we were out of luck. Janet found a bunch of lobsters and showed them to Gary. I don't know if he got a picture of them or not.

Wednesday, May 18th

Exploring more of Palancar, we went to the Gardens with Gary, Janet, Zach, Charisse, Andy and John. We saw several lobsters while John and Andy's girlfriends snorkeled above us.

Colombia Shallow is always good for combining divers and snorkelers, so that was our second dive site. There we found Gary and Janet's 25th turtle of the trip. That is a lot of turtles! We also hung out with some rainbow parrotfish and Janet's new favorite, the lizardfish.

Thursday, May 19th

I took my very first scuba instructor Dennis and his wife Lisa diving on Palancar Caves. It was sooooo strange leading a dive for my Open Water Instructor but it was also very nice to be back in the water with him. They were impressed that we saw four turtles. Palancar Caves is a good place for seeing turtles. The last one was really well hidden in a dark recess taking a nap. I brought the camera along but my pictures came out kind of blue because I think I was on the wrong F-stop. Oh well.

We saw another turtle on Dalila and a spotted drum too. A docile nurse shark rested in a protected area from the current that was a bit on the strong side that day.

Friday, May 20th

Santa Rosa Wall is a "don't miss" sort of dive so that is where I took Dennis and Lisa. For the first 20 minutes we had the wall all to ourselves. Dennis swam around looking at all the tasty seafood. We sat in the cave and shined the flashlight on the brightly colored sponges growing on the roof and walls of the cave.

When we crossed over to Santa Rosa Shallow we saw a spotted eagle ray. Lisa and I saw a scorpion fish swimming away from a damsel fish. Another scorpion fish just blended in with the reef. Two big barracuda hovered over a cleaning station getting their teeth cleaned.

Dennis and Lisa like the wall so I took them over to San Francisco Wall. We saw a splendid toadfish and more seafood supper. Dennis seems to think about garlic butter as he swims around.

Saturday, May 21st

Some one said that they wanted to see a turtle. I can't remember if it was Sandy, Curtis, Nicola or Tony, but Palancar Caves was the logical place. Everyone comes up from that dive saying, "WOW!" We found two turtles which is not a lot, but it certainly made the divers happy. Jorge came over and gave me a big smooch underwater.

Seven lobsters huddled together and waved hello at us with their antennas on French Reef. A mated pair of yellow-headed jaw fish bobbed up and down from their holes. The male had a clutch full of eggs in his mouth that he was caring for. A big black grouper swam right past Sandy. Sandy pointed out sea cucumbers.

Tuesday, May 24th

My first tank of the day was on Yucab with Debra, Robert, Max and Margie. We saw a splendid toadfish and a spotted drum. There was an enormous lobster out strutting his stuff in the open.

There were schools of snappers, more lobsters and a barracuda on San Francisco Wall.

Wednesday, May 25th

I dived on Palancar Horseshoe with Debra, Robert, Margie and Max. We swam through the towering reef formations. A small turtle swam by overhead. I dug out my traditional handfuls of sand from around the cement block. Maybe in a hundred years or so we will have that thing uncovered again.

We found two more turtles for Debra on Dalila. Another barracuda made an appearance for us.

Friday, May 27th

This day I got to grant everyone's wish. Margie and Max requested some more "cavy things". Chauna and Wendell wanted a turtle, so guess where we went…to…Palancar Caves! We got both, of course. One turtle came right up and almost bumped into Max's mask. I chased another little one around the top of the reef for a while.

There was way too much marine life on Santa Rosa Shallows later that day. Wendell found a splendid toadfish. I found five different juvenile spotted drums. There were enough lobsters to feed Carlos' family and he has ten brothers and sisters. A big turtle surfaced for a gulp of air. A six-foot nurse shark swam across a sandy bottom. During the safety stop, the grand daddy of all southern stingrays was being followed around by four more normal sized rays. I think that might have been the largest southern stingray that I have ever seen. He looked as large as a spotted eagle ray.

Saturday, May 28th

Margie, Max, Nicole, Brad, Amy, Chaun and Wendell came with me to French Reef. We saw one little turtle while a larger turtle went to the surface to breath. We also saw a small lobster.

At Paso del Cedral we practiced hovering and swimming through the wider part of the cave without touching anything or kicking up sand. That is really tough to do. I showed Amy two splendid toadfish with my flashlight.

Sunday, May 29th

I spent the first 20 minutes on Cedral Wall with Chaun, Wendell, Amy and Brad. Then we all swam over to the cave at Cedral again. Right before we reached the cave, a turtle posed on top of the coral for Wendell's camera. This time we went through the whole cave, not just the more wide easy part. As I came out of the cave, I was greeted by three large black groupers that were shadow hunting with a hungry nurse shark. At first, only Amy and Brad saw it as they were the first divers out of the cave. But within seconds she appeared again, swam away and reappeared! When she came back she was not alone. She had another shark on the hunt with her! The pair split up and a third shark appeared out of the blue. It was really quite thrilling. Amy described the dive as totally extreme!

We picked up Ted, Elizabeth and Will for the second dive on Colombia Shallow. I finally found Wendell's eel there. But it was just a tiny little goldentail. We also saw lobsters, a yellow stingray, a lizardfish that made me think of Janet and schools of grunts. The best part of the dive was a graceful eagle ray eating conches in the sand.

Tuesday, May 31st

My first dive of the day was on Palancar Gardens with Ted, Elizabeth, Will, Margie, Max, Louis and Nichole. We swam through Margie's "cavy things" and saw two different turtles. As I was shining my little flashlight on a pair of lobsters under a ledge, I discovered a big crab.

There were tons and tons of lobsters on Santa Rosa Shallow. There was some evidence of poaching. Broken antennas lay strewn about. Some interesting critters that we saw were a trumpet fish and a scorpion fish. On the safety stop we saw another big eagle ray that was determined to suck its lunch out of the sand.

Wednesday, June 1st

I was off to Santa Rosa Wall with Ted, Elizabeth, Will, Margie, Max, Louis and Nichole. We swam through lots of caves and Elizabeth spotted a turtle that I missed.

At San Francisco Wall one big shark was hiding behind a coral mound to get out of the current. One little shark was sleeping in a similar hole. The current was pretty fast but all divers managed it well. A school of 10 barracuda swam against the current. The sandy area at the end of the dive was littered with starfish and sand dollars.

Sunday, June 5th

Jamie, John, Jeff, Dave, Todd, Zach, Dan and Matt came with me to San Francisco Wall. That same big shark was sitting in the exact same spot four days later! There were a couple of barracudas hanging around too.

We saw four turtles on Cedral Wall. One of which was a tiny little baby. Dave got some good shots of the tortugas. Then we swam over to Paso Del Cedral but everyone was low on air so we never made it to the cave. Oh well……

Monday, June 6th

I dived with the same gang again. The kids love caves, so I took them to Palancar Caves. They said that was the best dive they ever did in their lives. They are 14 years old, so how many dives can they have? But they sure were happy! We swam through plenty of caves and saw three different turtles. Jeff found a lobster for us.

At Dalila we had a nice current so we didn't have to swim much. Todd grabbed my tank from behind and shook it to get my attention. He pointed out a little nurse shark hiding behind a sponge. There were lots of splendid toadfish out that day because it was rainy and overcast.

Tuesday, June 7th

My first dive of the day was on Palancar Horseshoe with Alvin, Jeff, Todd, Dave, Jamie, John and Zach. As I was going through a really big archway I looked up to find a turtle in under the roof with us. I think we kind of freaked it out a bit and she quickly swam away.

The pet lobster was in its usual spot, just past the cement block. I was sure to scoop out just a few more handfuls of sand. I tortured a poor damsel fish as it tried desperately to make me get away from its algae patch.

Our second dive was on Tormentos. Upon decent Jeff pointed wildly to the bottom where a spotted eagle ray feasted on what Dave says was most likely a clam. That ray was quite determined and dug a deep hole with its head in the sand. It stayed just east of us for the first 15 minutes of the dive. Dark skies made for lots of splendid toadfish and Dave and Todd got some good shots of them. We found gold spot eels in the sea grass beds. Todd and I could not find that little red seahorse from last year.

Wednesday, June 8th

My divers were Todd, Jeff, Dan, Dave and Jamie on Santa Rosa Wall per special request by Jamie. Dave filmed cero mackerel. We saw lots of small black groupers. On the safety stop a small nurse shark swam below us and Todd filmed it. There were also some big barracuda. They were probably the same ones from the other day.

On Paso del Cedral we swam through that long cave. Two lobsters were hiding in the dark. I wouldn't have been able to see them if I didn't have my flashlight. We saw loads of other lobsters and a huge snapper. When we came up, Dan asked me what that big fish was and I told him, "dinner!"

Monday, June 13th

After taking an intro to dry suit diving class at Monterey Bay Dive Center in California, Bob, Sylvie and I tried out the new suits at the Breakwater. Getting in and out of the suit was a lot of work and I could hardly bend over to put on my fins! It was awkward and I felt like a "newbie" diver. I struggled a bit with buoyancy control in the big suit. My lips hurt from the cold water. My hands and feet went completely numb. We had a beautiful dive despite all the discomfort. We saw millions of red, orange and purple bat stars. There were anemones of all colors and we found a couple of jumbo-sized nudibranch. Two were completely white and one was lemon yellow. They were huge as far as nudibranchs go…about the size of my thumb or bigger.

Our second freezing cold dive was "on the pipe" just a few hundred yards over from the breakwater. Entry, exit and navigation were all trickier in that particular area. Sylvie pointed out the biggest maroon colored sea hare that I have seen in my life. The light beaming down through the kelp forest was surreal. On our return trip to the beach Bob saw the sea lion that buzzed Sylvie. When we returned to shore, the tide had come in and we had a hard time finding the landmark cement block that we were supposed to use as a guide between the rocks. Getting out was hard with the waves and hidden rocks. I was EXTREMELY cold and uncomfortable and did not want to dive again the next day. I couldn't return the rental gear fast enough that afternoon.

However, at dinner that night over "appletinis" I decided that I do love diving Monterey Bay just as much as Cozumel and I want to give it another try. (I think that next time I will try it in my very own wetsuit with a 5mm hooded vest underneath.) If I am going to freeze I might as well do it in my own suit and be able to bend over. Hopefully I won't need 30 something pounds of weight either!

Sunday, June 19th

My first day back to work was with Craig, Lisa, Richard, Karin and John. We went to Palancar Horseshoe and during the first 15 minutes all I could think of was how easy it is to dive in Cozumel! I felt like I was just walking down the street. Of course it helped that I had 5 advanced divers and I didn't really have to work. I just had to swim around and find stuff. We encountered 2 turtles and after 56 minutes we were on Palancar Gardens and I showed John the big brain coral that he had asked about on the boat.

During our surface interval a pod of 15 to 20 dolphins came by. Everyone donned mask, snorkel and fins. Lisa and Karin were armed with cameras! There were 2 or 3 babies swimming beside their mothers. Our second tank was on French Reef where a small eagle ray hung out with us for a while. Karin found another turtle.

Monday, June 20th

I took Lauren, Craig, Lisa and Richard to Santa Rosa Shallow for Lauren's first open water dive. There were a couple of southern stingrays buried in the sand. As we approached them, they took off swimming. Craig grabbed Lauren's hand and brought her over for a look at a puffer fish. I think she likes the squirrelfish the best. Rae Ann and Megan got on for the second dive on Colombia Shallow. There were loads of little lobsters everywhere. Since it was rainy and overcast the night creatures thought it was dusk, so they were more visible.

Tuesday, June 21st

It was rush hour on Palancar Caves with Lisa, Craig, Karin, John, Richard, Steve and Kyle. Sometimes I didn't know if I should go right, left, through the tunnel, up, down or where ever, because we were surrounded by tons of other divers. My group did a fantastic job of staying together and following me.

Lisa got a shot of her requested turtle. Little did we know that we were going to see tons more turtles over the next 10 days. The orange sponges were reproducing which made for less than normal visibility. The barrel sponges had this cream colored goopy stuff dripping off of them. I have no idea what it was, but it looked kind of like chewing gum. I am sure of only one thing. It has something to do with reproduction.

Carey got on for the second dive and we went to Cedral Wall. We found one more turtle for Lisa. John saw one turtle early on, but I missed it completely.

Wednesday, June 22nd

I went back to Palancar Caves with Gary, Nic, Ben, Jim, Adam, Kyle and Mike. We saw the first turtle as we were going down. The second was inside of a cave eating a sponge. They always get so nervous when a diver is in the cave with them, poor things. I can't blame them.

Then we were off to French Reef. Steve was honorary divemaster on this dive. He found everything! First he showed us a green moray eel hiding under a small coral head. Then he found us 4 more turtles! The last turtle was Amanda's turtle…, which is a little hawksbill with a white spot on her back.

Thursday, June 23rd

I asked Karin to show me where she saw the seahorses on Tormentos. I told her if she could find one her dive was free! So Lisa, Craig, Richard, Karin, John, Lauren and Carey swam around looking for seahorses. Karin & John searched for a pair of big ones to no avail. I swear it is like finding a needle in a haystack. While Lauren and I were at the surface doing skills I looked down and a small nurse shark swam by underneath us.

Carey got off so that Megan and Rae Ann could get on and we went to Dalila. We had an amazing birthday dive. The first nurse shark was huge and had its own remora. The second shark was smaller and swimming faster. I found a green moray eel hiding in a dark crevice. Lisa was the first to spot the big eagle ray. Then when we re-grouped, we floated into a trio of rainbow parrotfish. It was one of those action packed dives. Just one critter after another!

Friday, June 24th

My first tank of the day was on Palancar Caves with Peggy, Ken, Eric, Craig, Karin and John. We saw 4 different turtles. The first 20 minutes of the dive we had the reef all to ourselves and it was just the turtles and our group of divers. Then the flotilla arrived and we were once again surrounded on all sides by other groups of divers. It is best to go early before other divers show up. Lisa joined us for a dive on San Francisco Wall. I promised Camel Boy a case of beer if he could produce a seahorse and he came through for me. Now I have to pay up.

It was a big, blackish brown one. Peggy asked for a toadfish and I found one on the wall. A small turtle with barnacles all over its back was eating sponge from the bottom of a chunk of broken finger coral. It was surrounded by at least 10 colorful angelfish. It surfaced for air and Karin said that it came right back down again and resumed munching the same tasty tidbit.

Saturday, June 25th

I dived Santa Rosa Wall with Ken, Eric and Peggy. A hawksbill turtle glided 10 feet below us looking for breakfast. We saw several small lobsters. Since we arrived early this time, we avoided the crowds. A bit of current picked up for the first time this week. We saw a goldentail moray poking its head out of the reef at us.

Our second dive was on Tormentos. There were tons and tons of black groupers. There were also lots more little lobsters and more current. We practiced hiding from the current behind the coral heads.

Sunday, June 26th

Karin, John, Lisa, Craig and Richard came with me to Santa Rosa Wall. Yellow-headed jaw fish popped up from their holes in the sand to catch plankton floating in the water. A lizardfish that was buried in the sand was startled as I approached it. We saw a big southern stingray at the very end of the dive when we were ascending. Carey and Lauren got on for a dive at the end of French Reef and most of Dalila. I coaxed a splendid toadfish out of its hiding hole. Karin didn't know that they are such beautiful fish since she had never seen one completely out before. They have stunning yellow fins.

We saw a big turtle ascend to the surface to breath and come on back down again. Lauren was certified on this dive!

Monday, June 27th

Tim, Deborah, Mark and Greg requested the famous Palancar. Roman came along and took a DVD of the dive. First he filmed a yellow stingray. Then we petted a furry sea cucumber. The sea cucumbers are all soft and squishy. While we were on the top of the reef, a southern stingray swam by. Schools of big snappers were everywhere on Yucab. I don't think that I have ever seen so many be snappers on just one dive before. Since it was overcast and rainy again, the lobsters were easy to find. There were lots of them too. I think Roman might have got a good shot of the stonefish.

Tuesday, June 28th

I did a resort course for Emma and Alison. Joan and Harley came along for moral support. We did the resort course near shore at Paradise where we saw lots of big spotted moray eels. Joan liked the brittle stars that cling to the purple vase sponges. Then we moved over to the reef where we saw a splendid toadfish. Harley pretended to do battle with a donkey dung sea cucumber. I wish I had a picture of that.

A small eagle ray swam by in the distance and we all got to see it.

Wednesday, June 29th

Per special request I went to Jorge's reef with Craig, Lisa, Richard and Carey. We saw a couple of turtles and a big graceful eagle ray off in the distance. A huge black grouper captured everyone's attention on the corner of the wall all covered with sea fans. There were loads of barracuda and a big black one made a slow pass at Ricardo but he never saw it.

Craig spotted the giant lobster out prowling the top of the reef. Karin would have been drooling. It looked like dinner a few nights before. Lisa said that it might be chewy though.

Megan, Rae Ann and Lauren joined us for the second tank on top of Palancar Caves. Our goal was to find a turtle for the ladies. We found 4 of them. Poor Megan struggled with equalization the whole time. She was quite frustrated, not to mention uncomfortable. Her right ear just would not clear.

Thursday, June 30th

Richard, Craig, Lisa and Carey wanted to do a couple of dives close to the hotel so we went to Santa Rosa Wall. Ricardo loves that place. I thought of Lauren when we found another furry sea cucumber because she really likes them. A big puffer fish was hanging out right by the sea cucumber. At the end of the dive a big barracuda chased Craig around a little bit.

Megan, Rae Ann and Lauren got on for the second dive and we went over to Santa Rosa Shallow. We saw lots of lobsters and more puffer fish. I swam Lauren over to the wall to see the furry sea cucumber and by then everyone was ready to go up.

Friday, July 1st

I did a shallow dive on Palancar Gardens with Jeremy, Jared, Jerry, Gordon and Courtney. Jerry saw a big barracuda down at 70 feet and decided that he should get a better look. I went down to scoop him up and bring him back to where he was supposed to be. He swears he only went 50 feet. OK. I could hear Gary's voice in my head. Diving with Alison is like diving with your mother! Guess he is right…

On Paradise Jerry got all the barracudas that he could handle. They also got pictures. A big southern stingray was pigging out on something buried in the sand. A pudding wife hung around and snapped up little invertebrates that the stingray disturbed during the feeding process. It was quite a show.

Thursday, July 23rd

I finally returned to the water after 6 days on land due to the hurricane. The first dive was at Paso del Cedral with Eric, René, Eric, Mike, Laura, Tammie and Scott. I was pleased to find decent visibility and minimal damage to the reef. There are big piles of broken sponges off to a side. It looks like some one raked them all up and put them there. They will grow back quickly.

We swam through the cave and I was worried that it might be all plugged up with stuff, but it was clear as usual. When we came out of the cave a big nurse shark swam by followed by a large black grouper. René found her turtle on Yucab. There were several overhangs with big families of lobsters hiding out. There were plenty of individual lobsters too. We saw a pair of large splendid toadfish. One was shy and the other was not so bashful.

Tuesday, July 26th

I took Mike, Laura, Eric, Tammie and Scott to Palancar Caves. We spent the first 31 minutes swimming in and out of tunnels. The next 20 minutes were spent on top of the reef at the 1st point after the Horseshoe. Then we drifted in shallow water until we reached the cement block at Horseshoe. When I saw it, I was amazed. It was cathartic to see that after the hurricane. Not only was it completely unburied, but so was the entire coral ledge that it sits upon as well. I have never seen it in that state before. After years of swimming by and scooping up little handfuls of sand trying to uncover it, but knowing all the while that it was futile, the base was finally free. Not that I am so emotionally attached to a big chunk of cement, it is what it represents to me. Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away! That block is a landmark and represents to me all of the changes for good and for bad that Cozumel has incurred in the last 13 years that I have been here.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the four turtles that we saw……… Dalila took a hard hit from hurricane Emily. However, the damage there is nothing that won't recover in a year or so. Dalila was always so strikingly colorful, but the sponges are what add color to the reef and they are the most damaged. So for today, Dalila looks a little naked. Fortunately, the fish and all of the big sharks are still there. We saw two huge nurse sharks and I saw a big loggerhead turtle. Dalila still has plenty of beautiful animals everywhere.

Wednesday, July 27th

I dived at Santa Rosa Wall with Tammie, Scott, Mike, Laura, Eric and Roger. As we were arriving on the bottom, I turned my head to see Laura pointing out a turtle making its way to the surface. I bet we woke it up with our splashing. As soon as we were on top of the reef, another turtle appeared. Mike got a shot of it with his camera.

A huge lobster greeted us as we came out of the cave. In the shallows a 7-foot nurse shark rested in the sand. Roger accused me of "planting" it there. On Cedral Wall a full-grown hawksbill sat on the bottom as if it were waiting for us. Then it lifted off, went to the surface to breath and came right back down again. A free- swimming green moray eel passed right under Tammie and Scott. Scott was wondering if it would bite!

Thursday, July 28th

All the turtles were in the shallow part at Colombia Pinnacles. Tammie, Scott, Mike, Eric, and Laura saw plenty of them towards the end of the dive. I think there were at least four of them, but it is hard to remember… There were loads of lobsters on French Reef. We also encountered several southern stingrays. One was buried in the sand until we got close and spooked it.

We also saw another turtle.

That afternoon I went to Dalila with Troy, Roger, Robin and Al. We saw a Cozumel splendid toadfish, more lobsters and another turtle. The fourth dive of the day for me was on Paso del Cedral. I felt bad when a beautiful eagle ray glided by right in front of Roger. Mike had been asking to see one and this eagle ray appeared two dives too late for Mike. We swam with another turtle and Troy found the big nurse shark lying around on the bottom. Roger went right over and snapped a picture.

Friday, July 29th

I wanted something easy with no current, so Roger, Troy, Kathy, Jim, Nick, Graham (my favorite diver), Molly and Mary came with me to Chankanaab. A pair of humungous barracudas were getting their teeth cleaned at a cleaning station. We spotted a couple of lobsters and a turtle appeared at the end of the dive.

Our second easy dive was on Paradise. We saw a scorpion fish and a splendid toadfish. There is relatively little damage to Paradise.

I did a third dive on Santa Rosa Wall with Roger, Troy, Robin, Al and Brent. We saw the little hawksbill with barnacles growing on its back. I was glad to see she made it through the hurricane. We also saw a big lobster and a southern stingray.

Last but not least, we went to San Francisco Wall. My little black sea horse that I paid a case of beer for was nowhere to be seen. I guess the hurricane must have swept the little bugger over the wall. My little nurse shark was still hanging around and I was very pleased to see it. But the shark was not nearly as flirtatious as before. I think I am going to name it "Notchka" after a character in Paul's books. The little shark has a small notch in its dorsal fin.

We saw a giant lobster win a territorial battle with another big lobster and an eagle ray glided by just as Al and Brent were heading up.

Saturday, July 30th

I wanted to go back and see the block on Palancar Horseshoe with Roger, Troy, Kathy, Jim, Nick, Graham, Molly and Mary. We saw a medium sized turtle that first appeared in the deep water and later went into a cave in front of us. Next, we saw a little baby turtle. It swam right under Nick and Graham. There were just too many lobsters at Yucab. It was impossible to count them all. I think it would have taken everyone three days to eat them all if they had been on a plate.

Sunday, July 31st

The boys wanted to go to the shipwreck. Roger, Graham and Nick talked Mary, Kathy and Jim into going there. Everyone thought that it was really cool. The usual lobsters and crabs were hanging around under the ship and a few groupers were skulking in dark corners. The schools of silversides and glassy sweepers were smaller than usual but still present. I guess those groupers ate them all.

Jim loved Las Palmas. He said that it was his favorite dive yet. He described it astwo dive sites in one. Kathy felt like we were on a treasure hunt. We saw tons of splendid toadfish and a goldentail moray. Graham won the shark prize for the week. He shined Roger's flashlight under a small coral head and discovered a baby nurse shark taking a nap. There were also huge king crabs and arrow crabs nearby.

Monday, August 1st

Per special request I dived Dalila with Kathy, Jim, Nick, Graham, Molly and Mary. Molly floated around about 10 feet above us all giving her the best vantage point. She spotted first one eagle ray feeding in the sand, and then discovered that the big ray was not alone.

There was a second eagle ray just behind it. Both of them were dining on something buried in the sand. I ducked into a cave. My favorite diver, Graham, followed me into the cave and we saw a giant lobster strutting his stuff.

The boys got bored on San Francisco Wall. The current was pretty swift and Graham took off his fins and went for a weightless space walk in the sand.

Tuesday, August 2nd

With Jim, Kathy, Nick, Graham, Mary and Molly on Paso del Cedral I checked a little cave where the green moray eel used to live many years ago. There is always something good hiding in there now that the eel is gone. This time we discovered a big crab hanging upside down from the roof of the cave. Later, we found a dead crab in a hole. I tried to imagine what had happened to it and I figured that it probably died in the hurricane.

We searched for a big shark for Kathy but we had no luck. Then we went on another treasure hunt at Las Palmas. We found a couple more splendid toadfish, several spotted moray eels, tons of lobsters, some big crabs and a starfish.

Wednesday, August 3rd

Carlos got to pick the reef we dove that morning. He chose French reef. My divers were Kevin, Jeff, James, Scott, Troy, John, Robin and Al. We saw tons of lobsters. Kevin showed us a splendid toadfish. He also spotted a turtle… but I was making a safety stop with someone at the time and couldn't go have a peek.

Troy discovered the spotted eagle ray in the sand. It was feeding and a permit followed it around to see what it could get. The second dive was on Paso del Cedral. This time we found a baby nurse shark in the little cave. I saw a small (100 pound) goliath grouper off to one side of the reef. There were more lobsters than we could count.

Thursday, August 4th

Scott loves Colombia Deep so I took him, Robin, Sean and Krista there. I can't believe we didn't see even one turtle! We did see a group of lobsters though. But really, there were no big critters on this dive. Descending on Tormentos, we saw a turtle gliding over the top of the reef. Scott stumbled upon a huge barracuda and another barracuda that was not quite as big made a slow pass. We saw loads more antenna-wiggling lobsters and a big black grouper hovered under a ledge.

Saturday, August 5th

Our first stop was on Palancar Gardens with Lawrence, Debi, Becky, Bill, Scott, James and Sean. Scott and James found a green moray eel in the shallow area just after they got down. We saw large barracuda and a huge grouper who hung out in a canyon cut out of the coral. It sat really still while we observed it.

Toward the end of the dive, we collided with another group of divers who scared a little turtle over our way. This same little shark was in the same hole on Paso del Cedral. We had a strong current and everyone hung in there really well. I tried to imagine how they felt diving in current like that for the first time. It must have been quite an experience for them.

Monday, Aug. 8th

I took Mike, Julia, Sean, Patrick, Sean, Krista, Becky and Will to Santa Rosa Wall. We had really calm conditions for which I was very much grateful. The only big animal that we saw on this dive was a large turtle Mike pointed out that was off in the blue swimming up for a gulp of air.

On Las Palmas we saw several splendid toadfish, lots of lobsters and a couple of spotted drums. There were two different kinds of moray eels, goldentail and spotted.

After lunch I took Cilla, Bruce and Terrell to Palancar Horseshoe. We were so lucky! We saw a good sized turtle under a rock. It woke up and swam slowly away. Then a big spotted eagle ray glided by. A jumbo jet sized lobster pranced around first through a cave and later clung to the wall.

We did another dive on Horseshoe but on an area a bit south of our first dive. There was one more little turtle and we spent lots of time on the cement block.

Tuesday, Aug. 9th

I tried to go to Palancar Caves with Mike, Sean, Patrick, Julia, Becky & Will. As we were suiting up, Carlos pointed out that two of the boats that flew past us going further south turned around and were coming back. He called the current to my attention. The sand was all churned up and the ocean looked angry. There was no visibility so we turned around.

After thinking for a few minutes and driving around a bit, I decided to dive French Reef because it has a hard bottom at 60 to 65 feet. We flew along in murky water but overall it was a fun experience. Julia even saw a turtle, but no one could stop to look.

After talking to other divemasters that afternoon and the next day I was quite happy that I had made that choice.

Our second dive was at Yucab. We had little current there and good visibility. A huge green moray eel swam right up to Julia. Everyone had a great time and the difficulty of the first dive was soon forgotten. In the afternoon I dived Tormentos with Becky, Will, Cilla, Bruce, Terrell, Sean & Krista.

The current was going the wrong way. It was impossible to stop and look for the little orange seahorse. We did see some barracudas and a grouper. Will was happy to take pictures of the gorgonians.

We had such a great dive on Yucab in the morning that I took every one back there in the afternoon. Two splendid toadfish showed us their bright yellow dorsal fins. Terrell found us a turtle.

At the very end of the dive a small nurse shark put up with us staring at it for about 5 minutes.

Then we headed up. From mid-water I looked down to discover a second nurse shark size XXXL swimming towards the wall. We had some very happy divers on the boat that day!

Wednesday, Aug. 10th

My first dip of the day was on Palancar Caves with Mike, Julia, Patrick, Becky and Will. The current was pretty damn strong and that caused the sand and silt to be all stirred up. We went through some caves but we didn’t see any turtles. I don’t know if that is because the visibility was so bad or if they were just hiding in the storm.

Becky liked Tormentos so much she requested a return trip. She was also highly interested in seeing a seahorse. You can see Will’s pictures on http://www.scubastruck.com/pictures/cozumel/

I was worried that since I haven’t seen its mate since the hurricane that it had become a widower. I hope his mate has not been swept away………

I turned my head to find Becky pointing madly at a pair of nurse sharks swimming by. I wonder if they aren’t the same pair that were on Yucab the day before.

Thursday, Aug. 11th

Per special request we dived Colombia Deep with Mike, Julia, Sean, Patrick, Becky and Will. Upon reaching the bottom a big turtle was sitting still in front of the cave. When we came out of the cave on the wall the current was really swift . After 10 minutes, I cut over to the shallow area where there was more protection from the current.

Becky got my attention when she found a baby turtle. It had barnacles on its back already and it couldn’t have been more than a year old.

Frank and Joseph got on for a dive at Paradise and we saw one of the biggest barracudas that I have ever seen.

We also peeked at a few spotted moray eels. There were tons of baby lobsters and Will got a picture of a big crab. Cilla, Bruce and Terrell got on for a dive at Chankanaab. Mike, Julia, Sean and Patrick got off.

We saw more huge barracudas. The lobsters were large, abundant and extra friendly that day. They seemed to be walking around and coming out to say hello. I went back to Paradise with just Cilla, Bruce and Terrell. The same big barracuda was in the exact same spot. We saw enough lobsters to open a restaurant.

Friday, Aug. 12th

Tim brought a group of 15 divers plus himself from Grapevine Scuba in Texas. Our divers were: Luis the divemaster, Jason, Jennifer, Tammy, Roslyn, Eric, Jim, Shirley, John, Mike, Ed, Jesse, Kent, Matt and Josh. We started the trip off with a shallow, easy dive on Chankanaab. That is where I felt that we would experience the least amount of current.

An enormous barracuda followed us around for 30 minutes. It was really spooky and at times kinda scary. It seemed to like Roslyn the most and was stuck to her like glue most of the time. I was waiting for her to freak at any moment but she seemed to be handling it better than me!

The huge lobsters smiled at us as we floated by. They seemed to be in pairs that day, either mating or sparring.

To keep it easy, we did Yucab as our second tank. There were more crazy lobsters there. Only a few other divers besides myself saw the huge nurse shark slowly pass us off in the distance.

That big green moray eel swam by us and gave us quite the show. The group dwindled down to 10 divers for the afternoon dive on Tormentos. We saw a tremendous grouper. Shirley spotted a splendid toadfish. On Paradise we all got a good look at the toadfish. There were tons of sea cucumbers every where. Tim saw two sea cucumbers entwined and he didn’t have any idea just exactly what it was that they were doing………

Saturday, Aug. 13th

Amanda and Luis came with me to help with the group on Palancar Gardens. Apparently I missed two turtles because I was in the lead and in the shallow area. The deeper divers saw them off in the blue.

The current was fine for the first 30 minutes but then it kicked in and we flew for the rest of the dive. We planned to go to Cedral but it looked like the current was ripping there. So to be safe and have fun, we went back to Yucab which had been such a good dive all week.

Thankfully, the current was not too strong but it did keep blowing us off of the reef at the end of the dive. That was a bit irritating, but definitely manageable.

Wednesday, Aug. 17th

I went snorkeling with whale sharks and manta rays on the island of Holbox two hours north of Cancun. Amanda, Susan and Jennifer came with me. We were absolutely amazed at how many whale sharks there were. They ranged in size from 15 feet to 30 feet. We saw a mama with a baby. We snorkeled right up alongside of them.

After snorkeling with the big mamas we drove around and jumped in with schools of giant manta rays. They hung in groups of 2 to 7 and one of them whapped me with its “wing” which is technically a pectoral fin. That scared the heck out of me but didn’t hurt. There were squadrons of babies that swam in groups of about 12 and in a “v” formation. Every where you looked you could see them jumping out of the water and flipping over on their backs and landing in the water with a big splash.

Thursday, Aug. 18th

I went back for some more snorkeling with Amanda, Jennifer and Julie. This time there weren’t many mantas to swim with. We did see a few but didn’t snorkel with them. We did however see about 20 whale sharks and there were some that were even bigger this day. At least half were whale sharks where the same as those we had seen the day before. The local guides were pointing out distinguishing marks on their fins and tails. The females had some minor injuries on their backs from aggressive mating males.

Tuesday, Aug. 23rd

Amanda, Frank, Brian, Jon, Dan and Wendy came with me to Palancar Horseshoe. There were still tons of big lobsters there and Amanda found a fish that she had never seen before, an indigo hamlet. Three big permit visited with us on the safety stop.

Everyone got to see the splendid toadfish’s bright yellow fins on Tormentos. We also saw the little orange sea horse. It let go of the sea whip that he was clinging to and kind of slowly scooted across the sand. One diver was worried that he was sick because of the way he moved. I assured him that it was not the first time that I had seen the seahorse do that. They don’t swim like you see them doing in the cartoons. They kind of slide and scoot sluggishly along the bottom so they have to rely on camouflage for protection.

Wednesday, Aug. 24th

As Wendy, Dan, Steve and I were on our way out to Palancar Caves we discovered Amanda and Jorge snorkeling over some baby Caribbean reef sharks so we got in with snorkel gear to have a looksie.

At Palancar Caves we found a group of turtles for Steve and we went a little deeper than planned, oops!

Wendy and Dan really wanted to see the shipwreck which is not usually a second dive but we took a long surface interval and everyone had computers, so we went for it. We saw schools of sardines, a big snapper and a snarling barracuda. There were tons of big, juicy lobsters on the bottom under the wreck.

Thursday, Aug. 25th

The first tank was at Palancar Gardens with Jon, Brian, Wendy, Dan, Paul and Frank. We saw the little baby sharks at the end of the dive. They are about 2 to 3 feet long and slender in size. There were 11 of them all together at one point.

A huge lobster was on the prowl and some brave, weird creature came out of its hole and bit the lobster on the head. I shined my light in the hole to see what creature it was but the hole looked empty. It all happened so fast that it is easy to wonder if I imagined the whole thing! I think it was Wendy who said that she saw that happen too, so I know that I am not crazy.

The second tank was on Yucab. I saw a beautiful little turtle napping under a ledge. She didn’t seem to even wake up with all the flashes going off. When all other divers had gone up, Paul, Frank and I still had air. I swam the group over to Tormentos to see the seahorse.

I was so happy to discover BOTH orange seahorses. I am so glad our little friend was not suck away in the hurricane!!!!!!!!!!

Paul got to try out his new close up lens for his camera on the little guys.

Monday, Aug. 29th

I went to Santa Rosa wall with Paul, Kerry, Tara and Steven. The usual assorted lobster mix were hanging around. During the last 5 minutes of the dive Paul and I saw a southern stingray and a 6-foot nurse shark. John and Joe got onboard to do the second dive at Paradise. There were more lobsters, of course. John pointed out a spotted moray eel that was completely out in the open. I found one of the huge green moray eels hiding in a dark recess. I showed everyone a couple of big arrow crabs.

Tuesday, Aug. 30th Paul, Joe, John, Tara & Kerry dived on Palancar Horseshoe with me. I played "catch me if you can" with a very aggressive little damsel fish. I always stop and put my finger on its post and try to pull it away before the little guy bites me. Today the damsel fish won. We also saw a small turtle and some lobsters.

This was my first time back to Colombia Shallows since the hurricane. The gorgonians that withstood Roxanne were torn out with Emily. The reef was lacking all of its gorgonians, sponges and big schools of grunts and snappers. It looked sad to me. At least I know that all of those are fast growing animals and will be back in a matter of years. Kerry found a little, tiny, baby turtle that couldn't have been more than a year old.

Thursday, Sept. 1st

The first tank of the day was on Palancar Horseshoe with Donna, Harry, Jim, Mike and Nancy. The current was a bit strange. It started off pushing us out to sea and later went north, then south and ended up going north again at a fast clip. Our new divers did great on their first dives after certification. Nancy discovered a big crab and a lobster in a recess.

The second tank was at French Reef. I grabbed Mike by the hand and pulled him under the overhang so that he was face to face with a nurse shark. He had to get close to get a good picture. Then I dragged Harry over. I hope the pictures come out well.

We saw a 4-foot puffer fish and I heard Donna scream through her regulator. I knew then that she was having fun. I think it was Jim who pointed to the hawksbill turtle. It cruised right over to Nancy for a visit.

Friday, Sept. 2nd

On Santa Rosa Wall with Cathy, Chris, Harry and Donna we had light current but it was heading south for the first 20 minutes. Then it changed direction and brought us back to where we started.

We saw a southern stingray being followed by a bar jack. We also swam through some canyons in the reef.

Donna said the magic word, "seahorse" and Cathy agreed so we went to Tormentos. Both of the little orange buggers were waiting for us. We also saw two splendid toadfish. Donna loved the yellow headed jawfish popping up out of their sandy dens and disappearing again as we approached.

Saturday, Sept. 3rd

I dived Palancar Bricks with Kathy, Amy, Brad, Harry and Donna. Once again the current was strange.

Despite the current we saw lots of turtles. I hardly ever go to Bricks and I am not sure why. It is a really nice dive.

Next we dived Dalila and were able to practice our drift diving techniques in the swift current. We saw lots of big critters. First Kathy pointed out Amanda's turtle, the one with the white spot on its back. A big grouper was hiding from the current in the reef behind the turtle. Then we flew past a big puffer.

There is a part of Dalila that is so very colorful and has big schools of blue striped grunts. That is where Brad found the big nurse shark resting in a calm cave. Poor thing, we bugged it and it swam away. Then as I was taking Donna and Harry up I looked down and saw a big hawksbill turtle. That dive presented one big critter after another.

Sunday, Sept. 4th I went back to Palancar Horseshoe with Angie, Jennifer, Brad, Amy, Tony, Scott and Bruce. Angie pointed out the first turtle. I saw two more after that. I asked Tony to please take photos of the block for me. The resident lobster was in his normal spot, just to the North of the block.

On Cedral Wall we had another fast current. I showed Jennifer another turtle. There were tons of lobsters everywhere.

Monday, Sept. 5th

I wanted to show Tony the baby Caribbean reef sharks on Palancar Gardens with Bruce, Scott, Dave, Becky and Randy. The little guys were gone.

Becky and Randy saw a free-wimming green moray eel and two turtles. One was really large. I only saw one little turtle.

A huge crab was splayed out like a spider on the side of French Reef. Right next to it a goliath grouper hid under a ledge. Tony got to take another picture of an eagle ray. We also saw a couple of southern stingrays.

My afternoon divers were: Jennifer, Ron and Cathy. We went to Santa Rosa Wall. The current was a bit tricky and we had to work a bit to stay on the reef. But it was worth it to be able to reach down and pet a big green moray eel right before she slithered into a hole. Next, we saw a big nurse shark cruise the top of the reef.

Laura and Mike joined us and we went to Chankanaab where a pair of spotted eagle rays glided by side-by-side. Mike spotted tons of lobsters. He also made friends with the friendly 5-foot barracuda. It snapped at him and that is when he decided that he should be a bit nervous. I am sure it was the same one that buddied up with Rosalyn back in mid-August.

Jennifer was a trouper and stayed on for the night dive along with Mike, Laura and Bruce. We saw tons of stuff on Chankanaab and it was cool to see the splendid toadfish completely out of their holes. I saw three of them. Aside from the usual crabs and lobsters, we saw a slipper lobster (also known as a cucaracha) a snake eel, a spotted moray and a pair of squid feeding on silversides. There were two octopuses, one small and one large.

Tuesday, Sept. 6th

The next morning I took Angie, Jennifer, Bruce, Mike, Laura, Tony and Scott to Punta Sur. Chucho came along to help and we split the group. Chucho took three divers through the Devil's Throat and I headed south with four divers and dived the top of the reef. First we saw a turtle. Then we saw the other school of baby Caribbean reef sharks. I counted 12 of them and Tony counted 13! It makes little difference, because everyone was really thrilled to see them.

We stayed with them for a while and saw them again after coming out of a cave. While I was doing the safety stop, I looked down and saw another goliath grouper. I am very happy to be seeing goliath groupers again. But all are very small, maybe 70-80 pounds. No big guys, just babies.

Dalila was an easy, relaxing dive. No big critters this time, just pretty fish. In the afternoon I went back to Tony's favorite, Palancar Horseshoe. Ron, Cathy, Mike, Laura, Andy and Jen came with me. Every lobster was out of its hole. The current was going south on Tormentos. I got so frustrated when I couldn't find those seahorses. I guess everything just looks completely different when I am coming from the opposite direction than normal and I get disoriented.

Wednesday, Sept. 7th

Palancar Caves is Randy's favorite spot. I brought Becky, Randy, Jim, Scott, Tony, Mike and Laura. We encountered four different turtles in assorted sizes. I found a small nurse shark napping on the bottom. I stayed way back and motioned for the photographers to come over first before we scared it off or stirred up the sand. The current was pushing us off of the reef and out to sea the whole dive. We certainly did a lot of exercise and deserved desert that evening at dinner.

Mike and Laura finished up the Advanced Certification with navigational skills. Jim joined in on the fun. There were big schools of fish everywhere because we didn't dive on the reef where we normally dive. We were on the flats south of the reef. Becky and Randy saw a big barracuda. Laura and I watched a normal sized barracuda trying to catch a southern sonnet in the big school.

Thursday, Sept. 8th

Chucho took Mike, Laura, Tony, Scott and Jim to the wall at Palancar Gardens. I stayed in 25 feet of water with Gretchen and Stacey. They were completing their first dive of Open Water certification. So we stayed in the shallow part. At the surface I saw a fin break the surface of the water several hundred yards north of us. I shouted, "Put your regulators in, go down and follow me!!!!!" DOPHINS!!!!!!!!!! We got down just in time to see three large dolphins go by. One curious dolphin swam towards me with what looked like a smile on its face. Later we saw a southern stingray.

Our second tank was on Tormentos in a tsunami. I got in and check the current. It was slow and going north. I declared, "The current is perfect!" and everyone rolled in. Mike is never going to let me hear the end of that one! Slowly it gathered strength and speed so Gretchen, Stacey and Jim got behind a coral ledge and we practiced fin pivots in the sand. Well, after a couple of minutes the current went berserk. I could feel the pressure and weight of the water pushing me down to the sand all of a sudden. It was so strong and so sudden that I thought, "This must be what the people diving in the tsunami felt like." Sand swirled around us like a storm in the desert. We just stayed put waiting for it to pass. When it finally calmed down to what I would describe as very strong we came out from hiding behind the reef and flew to catch up with the rest of the group. The current was way too fast to look for the seahorses. I was just grateful to have everyone back on the boat and OK after that carnival ride. It was a hell of an experience. I am left without words in thinking that it was Gretchen and Stacey's 2nd Open Water dive! I tried to explain to them that diving is not always like that.

Friday, Sept. 9th

I was determined to do two things: show Tony the seahorse and show Gretchen and Stacey that it isn't always stormy underwater. I took them back to Tormentos with Sharon and Jim. I did find one of the seahorses, but not its mate. Tony swam around chasing a 6-foot nurse shark to get a good picture. A turtle swam down and joined the shark on the bottom, posing for Tony's camera. There were tons of lobsters big and small on Chankanaab. A golden tail eel slipped into a hole right in front of me.

Saturday, Sept. 10th

Sharon and Tammy love Palancar Caves. Jim and Tony agreed to go there and off we went. I lost count of all the turtles that we saw. The turtle that stands out most in my mind is the one that Tammy pointed out. It was a pretty little green turtle that is much less common here in Cozumel. That little green turtle was right in front of me and I didn't even see it until Tammy pointed it out for the third time.

Jim was working on his Advanced and needed some good current to practice drift diving so we went to Cedral Wall. After Sharon went up a big nurse shark swam by. Later, we saw another big one off in the distance

Tammy, Sharon, Jim, Sonja and Brad did a night dive with me on Paradise. Sonja found the first octopus, the biggest one we saw that night. The last one was missing an arm. There were tons of crabs everywhere and a few small lobsters. A snake eel was out in the sand and I saw two spotted morays. We also saw lots of yellow stingrays.

Sunday, Sept. 11th

I dived Yucab with Tony, Jim, Sonja and Brad. We saw one splendid toadfish and lots of little lobsters. Brad took pictures of the yellow-headed jaw fish.

On Paradise a large barracuda paid us a visit, swam off and came right back again. Since the current changed direction during the dive we saw him three times. I tried to get a toadfish out of its house so Brad and Sonja could take a picture, but the little striped fish wanted no part of me. We saw a golden tail eel with an entourage of little groupers.

Monday, Sept. 12th

Jim bought a brand new wetsuit just to go to the shipwreck and Tony came with us. The light current made nice, clear conditions for us. There were more lobsters than I have ever seen in any one place all huddled together under the wreck. The school of silversides inside the ship was so dense that it created zero visibility. Boy was I glad that I knew where I was and where I was going! It would be so easy to get lost in that school of fish. Jim was impressed by the groupers getting fat on the feast.

We went back to Chankanaab on this rainy day so all of the lobsters were out showing off. Back in May of this year, I took pictures of a pair of juvenile spotted drums. I found only one was left and it was in the intermediate stage.

Tuesday, Sept. 13th

Tony waited patiently on Palancar Horseshoe while I started Chuck's Open Water training. We stayed shallow and did lots of skills. We saw a very small turtle.

We cruised the top of Palancar Gardens hoping to see those sharks but I am now convinced that they are gone. We did find a couple of southern stingrays and after Chuck went up we saw a pair of turtles.

Wednesday, Sept. 14th

Chuck wanted to see the wall so we went to San Francisco with Tony, Kim and Scott. The current was completely still when I rolled in to check. After about 20 minutes I felt like I was swimming against the current but kept going for about another 10 minutes. When we turned around I realized that the current was really blowing us out to sea, off of the reef. It wasn't strong…it was just screwy. Tony found a little eel that smiled and snapped for his camera.

Upon descent on Paso Del Cedral I spied a big turtle lying still on the bottom in what was rather strong current. When we came out of the cave a small turtle was waiting for us. There were loads of lobsters and I saw a school of four barracuda patrolling the area. I don't think anyone else saw them.

I am soooooooo sick of this weird current that we are having. It does this maybe four times per year. It never lasts more than three weeks to a month, so I believe I am due for a break soon!

Friday, Sept. 16th

I got up early today after only 4 hours of sleep. The fireworks show the night before celebrated Mexican Independence Day and was spectacular. September 16th is Mexican Independence Day and is celebrated with fireworks and a "shout" of Long Live Mexico! just before midnight on the 15th.

We celebrated on Palancar Horseshoe with Tony, Dave, Nikki, Lissette & Orlando. The current was on the strong side, but everyone managed. We saw a decent-sized turtle swim down to the deep water below us and also a little baby turtle passed over our heads.

We proceeded to see a couple more turtles on French Reef and some lobsters. The current was swift.

Saturday, Sept. 17th

It was just Nikki, Dave and I on the C53 wreck that morning. There were still tons of lobsters under the wreck and the large school of silversides were still filling three rooms inside of the ship. We sat in the middle of the fish and watched the groupers swim through. It is an amazing experience. Our second dive was on Paradise where the divers worked on navigational skills for their advanced certification. The current changed direction and threw off Nikki's square. It tricked us a bit….. We saw a small goldentail eel sticking its head out of a hole.

Sunday, Sept. 18th

I took Tina, John, Dan, Andy, Barbara, Dave and Nikki to Palancar Caves. We had a fairly strong current that morning and had to work hard to stay on the reef. We saw one big turtle over our heads. After most of the divers had ascended, we saw a pair of small turtles together on top of the reef. As a bonus, Tina and I saw yet another turtle. The current was ripping at Dalila. Tina found Amanda's turtle hiding from the current behind the reef. Amanda's turtle has a white spot on its shell. I guess she lives at Dalila because that is where I always see her. A huge lobster came out and taunted Dave's camera. There were a handful of smaller lobsters right next to it. I think Tina filmed the goldentail moray swimming around.

Monday, Sept. 19th

Nikki and Dave successfully completed their deep dive for advanced certification on Palancar. Andy joined us at 100 feet. The current was mild, thank goodness, and it was a pleasant dive. There were two big lobsters hiding in a niche. Nikki took their picture. On French reef we had so much current that there were tornadoes of sand everywhere. We were flying along and I flew right over a turtle sitting on the bottom munching on a sponge. The turtle was surrounded by colorful angelfish. Later, as I was bringing Dave up for a safety stop, I looked down to discover yet another turtle just hovering over the bottom. Tuesday, Sept. 20th I went back to the wreck C53 with Tina, Dave, Nikki, Alex, Andy, Barbara, John and Dan. All of the lobsters were still there under the boat, as were the big schools of silversides and groupers. The resident barracuda has been gone for a while. I wonder if he will ever come back.

We tried to dive Tormentos, but the current took us the opposite direction so we ended up diving on Yucab. Everyone got a picture of a spotted scorpionfish posing in the sand. We saw a few lobsters and lots of colorful fish.

Thursday, Sept. 21st

What a day! Hurricane Rita was due north of us causing South-South-West wind. At 7:15 a.m. the port captain announced that the port was open for all dive boats. At 8:45 the port closed for boats less than 30 feet. (that's us) Since I had all very good, hearty divers, I rented a bigger boat to take us out. We left a bit late and the waves were REALLY big.

I insisted on diving right in front of the marina at Paradise. I didn't regret that decision for a moment. Thank goodness I brought Carlos with us as our first mate. When we came up from our dive, the rented boat had broken down! Carlos helped the young captain to get the boat back to the marina. Carlos had to put the boat in forward manually by moving a lever on the motor because a cable came loose (or something.) We had no reverse...so docking was a disaster. It took our crew almost two hours to fix the problem properly. Bruce, Jesse, Alex, Tina, Dave and Nikki were all very patient and good- natured about the delay.

We did our second tank on Chankanaab, and it was much more calm by that time. A weird thing happened 30 minutes into the dive. First of all, the current switched direction. After 50 minutes, the water turned white with silt and debris. It freaked me out. My nerves were already shot from the waves, broken boat and delays. So I called the dive, hoping to avoid any further problems.

Thankfully, both dives were easy and uneventful underwater. It did all work out for the best and the divers were happy that they got to dive. But it wasn't easy………

Friday, Sept. 23rd

Tina, Alex, Dave, Nikki, Bruce and Jesse all wanted to go to Palancar Horseshoe. There were big waves but they had proven themselves the day before. Bruce was awestruck at the large block being unburied. He immediately noticed it and signaled his surprise by raising both arms up in the air. It was so nice not to be the only one who was moved by the recent change.. Alex requested that we find a nurse shark so we went to Paso Del Cedral.

Alex found his very own shark and it was a big one! There was a black grouper and a big jack following it around. A very large green moray eel smiled at us from its den. Another smaller green moray, maybe only 4 feet long, swam around and around. We kicked hard against the current to stay with her.

Saturday, Sept. 24th

My first tank of the day was on Colombia Deep with Dave, Nikki, Tina, Alex, Bruce, Jesse, Andy and Barbara. We had beautiful diving conditions, light current and good visibility. We saw 4 or 5 different hawksbill turtles and quite a few lobsters. Some were very big, others smaller and huddled together for protection in protective holes.

We let Carlos pick our second dive site, which happened to be French Reef. He picked a winner! We spent quite a bit of time with a small eagle ray feeding in the sand. Throughout the dive, we kept seeing more turtles.

It was a very successful night dive on French Reef with Alex, Andy, Nikki, Dave, Bruce and Jesse. I didn't bother trying to count all of the lobsters. There were a handful of crabs, 2 spotted morays and we woke up a sleepy turtle. Everyone else saw 4 octopi. I only saw 3 of them.

Sunday, Oct. 1st

Mom, Nikki, Dave, Mary, David, Scott and Doug did a very rainy dive on Paradise with me. Scott and Doug were really impressed with the big barracuda off in the distance. Their only other dive experience was in Cancun and they said that Cozumel has more variety of fish. They also said that there aren't any lobsters in Cancun.

My mom joined us today. She asked if there was a turtle at any of the dive sites close by. I was a tad snappy with her and told her that she had to wait until tomorrow. Well Nikki made a liar of me. She found a placid hawksbill turtle having lunch on the reef. It sat very still and binged on sponge. Mom was riveted. We also found one of the little orange seahorses. But it looked very dark orange in the darkened stormy water.

Monday, Oct. 3rd

I took Mom back to Paradise with Janet, Gary and Suzanne. Since it was still gray and rainy from tropical storm Stan we saw tons of baby lobsters everywhere. The resident big barracuda hovered off in the distance and colorful fish were everywhere. I found a lizardfish for Janet.

Gary & Janet's favorite reef is Las Palmas. I lost count of all the splendid toadfish that we saw on that dive. Mom was really impressed by the bright yellow ribbon like fins of the splendid toadfish when it comes out of the hole. We also saw a spotted drum in the intermediate phase, quite a few hogfish, a couple of big crabs and more lobsters.

Tuesday, Oct. 4th

I dived at Palancar Bricks with Mom, Suzanne, Gary & Janet. There was some pretty strong current. We got our exercise and a bit of a workout. I found a peacock flounder in the sand. Mom showed Gary a lizardfish perched on top of the reef. A southern stingray was off in the distance. We saw two different turtles. That's when I decided that Gary likes those turtles just as much as Mom.

We had a "knock your socks off dive" on Tormentos. We found a splendid toadfish and the biggest green moray eel Janet had ever seen. Suzanne & I took off after a huge spotted eagle ray. Mom adored the mated pair of orange seahorses. There were plenty of lobsters as usual. Everyone on the boat agreed that it was the best dive yet.

Saturday, Oct. 8th

After a few days off due to the rain and taking Mom to the airport in Cancun, I went diving with Gary, Janet, Adrin and Mike on Chankanaab Shallow. We were looking for a shallow, easy dive that day. Janet wasn't feeling well so we aborted the dive.

Sunday, Oct. 9th

My first tank was on Palancar Horseshoe with Allison, Shep, Fred, Mike and Adrin. We had light current. We swam through some beautiful archways and canyons. I saw a green turtle under a school of horse-eye jacks.

There was strong current on Dalila. We saw Amanda's turtle again plus one other turtle. But pretty much we just flew along and we did not have much opportunity to stop and look at much of anything.

Monday, Oct. 10th

I went to Palancar Horseshoe with Mark, Gary, Sharon and Fred. The ladies snorkeled over us. Gary showed us the first turtle just as I was entering the first swim-through. It was large. We also saw that tiny baby turtle that lives nearby in the shallow water. It was swimming fast overhead. There was another small turtle, and it was slowly cruising by against the current out on the drop-off. A medium-sized turtle was at the bottom beneath us...on the point where all the sea fans are at the "Gardens."

Wow! Paradise produced a perfect dive! First, the resident big, fierce looking barracuda snapped a bit and gave Sharon the creeps. So I told Gary to go over and smack it so that it would go away. Gary just ignored me as I chuckled through the regulator.

Mark found a crab with huge claws hiding in a recess in the coral. A small reef shark swam away quickly. We then proceeded over to the big cement block to look for Chucho's seahorses. That is where I found a well camouflaged spotted scorpionfish.

Gary banged on his tank to point out one of the biggest spotted eagle rays that I have ever seen, complete with three remoras clinging to its underside. It was feasting on big conch shells. While Gary was shining his light on a spotted moray, I resumed my search for the seahorses. I cannot believe that I actually found them! The red one is not as big as the orange ones on Tormentos, but it is good sized. The yellow one is very small.

I was overjoyed and felt triumphant! Everyone was extremely excited when we got back on board the boat. It was another perfect dive.

Tuesday, Oct. 11th

I did a resort course for Patricia and Steve at Paradise. On the first dive we saw some little lobsters, a sea cucumber and a huge octopus clinging to an empty conch shell.

On the second dive our local barracuda made Patricia a bit nervous. We also found the seahorses at the end of the dive. The big reddish one is really impressive.

Wednesday, Oct. 12th

Allison and I were set up for macro so we went to Tormentos. Fred and Shep were extremely patient with us. Our first subject was a goldentail moray ell that "hammed it up" for my framer. Then we found a couple of splendid toadfish. We only found one of the little orange seahorses but it was very cooperative for our cameras.

On Paradise I found a sailfin blenny, showing off but he wouldn't come out and let me take his picture. I found another goldentail but every time I tried to take its picture a damsel fish would shoot out in between my camera and the eel. I spent 20 minutes on 2 big reddish brown seahorses. One was very intimidated and kept lying on its side and playing dead. What a strange defense strategy.

Thursday, Oct. 13th

My first dive was on Palancar Caves with Fred, Allison, Lois, Phil and Nathaniel. We saw 5 different turtles. Only the last one was not too far away for Allison's camera. A spiny headed blenny poked its head out of a hole and Allison took its picture. French Reef produced 3 more turtles and a spotted cleaner shrimp living in a giant anemone.

Friday, Oct. 14th

I dived Santa Rosa Wall with Amy, Dave, Allison, Fred, Phil and Lois. We had strong current so it was a very interesting "welcome to Cozumel" dive for Amy and Dave. We had to paddle hard against the current to watch the turtle that swam down from the surface and joined us. We got to practice the 3 ways to stop in a current on Paso Del Cedral. We swam through the cave and Dave showed us some lobsters.

Saturday, Oct. 15th

We chose Palancar Gardens by special request for Phil, Lois, Amy, Dave, Larry, Kristen and Brian. I saw several small turtles throughout the dive and one big one swimming over the sand at the end of the dive. On Dalila thankfully the current was light. It was there but one could swim against it. We had a gorgeous dive. First we saw a 6-foot nurse shark out cruising for a meal. Then Dave showed me a little turtle just sitting there on the bottom.

Then a big, green moray eel swam by being followed around by a hungry grouper.

Right before we went up we saw the same nurse shark. She swam around and around trying to get the grunts and tangs to school up for a meal.

Monday, Oct. 17th

I dived Palancar Horseshoe with Bill, Regina, Lois, Phil and Larry. We saw only one turtle this day. But we had absolutely perfect dive conditions, great vis and no current. Could it be the calm before the storm……?

On Colombia Shallows a stonefish smiled up at us and there were loads of turtles everywhere. A pair of goldentail moray eels was sticking their little heads out of only one hole. Boy, they were cute.

Tuesday, Oct. 18th

It was my last day of diving before Wilma hit. No one dreamed that Wilma would actually hit no less that it would sit here for 3 days, destroying everything. We chose Colombia Shallows with Jerry, Jerry Jr., Cathy, Jeff, Bill and Regina. We had a spectacular dive.

Both of the "Jerrys" spotted most of the turtles. I think I saw five of them.. Jerry found a baby nurse shark napping under a small coral head. Then Jeff found another one later. I spotted two different octopi. Both were well hidden behind piles of empty conch shells blocking the entrance to their den. We also visited a spotted moray eel and a big crab. Palancar Gardens offered up another big crab with huge claws, a couple of lobsters and a moray eel. The port closed that afternoon and we couldn't go out again until after Wilma passed.

Wednesday, Oct, 19th

I hired a carpenter on Wednesday mid-day to come over and put the boards on the windows, all 15 of them. I told him that I had a problem with the doors when Hurricane Emily hit. He had the invention that saved the day and kept the rain out and allowed us to leave the side door open for the entire three days of the storm. The wood on the windows had been cut to size for Emily and held up well. Here in Mexico, they call the wood "Cimbra-ply". I am not sure if that is what it is called in English. It is 3-ply that has been specially treated against water and moisture.

All of my 15 windows have protector bars over them. The bars stand out from the wall. Some windows measure about one inch away and others are up to 4 inches from the big windows. The plywood slides in between the protector bars and the cement wall. The carpenter cut hundreds of 4 to 5 inch wedges measuring from 1-inch thick at the widest part to 3 inches thick on the bigger ones.

The carpenter brought a helper with him to put all of the boards in place. It took them one hour. They hammered those triangle shaped wedges in between the protector bars and the Cimbra-ply to form a barrier using pressure. The carpenters then went back to the shop and cut two pieces of ¼ inch thick plywood to fit over the two metal protector bar doors that open out away from the wooden front door and the side kitchen door.

The normal wooden doors open inward to the house. So in effect, I had double doors on the house. During Emily both the front and the side doors vibrated violently for about an hour and I was absolutely terrified that one or the other or both would blow in. In this instance, presumably, the thin and flimsy sheet of plywood that the carpenter put over the protector bars was supposed to break some of the force of the wind and keep the doors from blowing in.

WILMA HITS:

Thursday, Oct. 20th 6:30 pm

Chucho was a major help to me during this storm. As the storm approached, Chucho and I sat in plastic chairs in the front yard eating pasta with tomato sauce from a can. We didn't want to go inside. We were trying to enjoy the last hour of daylight, electricity and safety. It was already very windy. All that you could hear for hours was the sound of hammering, as our neighbors boarded up their windows. The atmosphere was devoid of conversation and very somber. We had an idea of what was to come and we were not looking forward to it. We ate and drank in silence, each lost in our own imagination of what was to come.

Thursday, Oct. 20th 7:30 pm

I answered what I thought would be the last of my emails for a week and went to bed.

Friday, Oct. 21st 12:30 am, in the middle of the first night

The roar of the wind woke me and I got up to the pleasant surprise of still having electricity! The TV was tuned to our local TV station giving comfort and advice to our community. Chucho was asleep on the floor in front of the TV. I turned on the computer and answered more emails. I was feeling grateful for the electricity and not frightened at all. I checked the latest satellite images and went back to bed.

Susan called me at about 1:30 am and it was such a pleasure to talk to someone outside of the house. Chucho asked me who had called. I told him that Susan said to say hello and we decided that we were both a bit hungry. I heated up the left over pasta from dinner and as soon as it started to get hot, surprise! The power went out with my pasta on the electric stove…. We dined on lukewarm pasta by candlelight at 2:00 am.

Chucho turned on the radio, but there was nothing. Apparently the power had gone out there, as well. Most probably this was true all over the island. Hell had just begun. We sat around awhile, then I went to my room to read by candlelight and finally went back to sleep.

Friday, Oct. 21st 7:30 am

I woke up in a pitch-black house with no circulation to find Chucho sleeping on the floor in front of the open side door. By "open" I mean that the wooden door was wide open, but the metal protector bar door with its thin sheet of plywood was closed against the rain and the wind. The metal door stands about an inch away from the wall and the door. Leaving it open is important, so that the pressure doesn't build up inside the house and blow the roof off. There was a small hole cut in the 3-ply that measured about 6 inches by 4 inches to allow the deadbolt to slide back and forth. This became our only window on the world for several days. That door needed to stay open as long as it was safe, or at least as long as the rain didn't just pour in and that the pressure didn't build up.

The wind was really howling. It was as strong as it was during Emily at that point. Chucho was sitting in front of that door in case it became necessary to slam the wooden door shut and seal off the house. This would be done only as a last resort. Lying in front of the open door provided a cool, fresh breeze that was very much so welcomed in the stuffy, black house. I tiptoed around as not to awaken him. With the flashlight I checked all windows and doors. The wind was coming at our northwestern exposure, where the front door is located and the office area. We had left all of the glass windows completely open to allow the pressure to escape. Water was pouring in through one window in the office and through one of the windows in the spare bedroom (where Chucho was sleeping).

I accidentally awakened Chucho and he asked where the hammock was located. I hung it up in a spare bedroom and he went and he went to sleep in the hammock. That's when I went to work mopping up the pools of water on the floor in the office and the living room. The water was coming in under and through the front door. However, that front door was not vibrating so I was thanking those carpenters with all my heart. After I mopped up all of the water I went to lie down again.

Friday, Oct. 21st 8:30 am

I got out of bed to check and mop any new water coming inside. I tried the telephone to call my mom but it was dead. That upset me. I had been waiting all night to call because I didn't want to wake her up. I got out the flashlight and walked around the house checking the windows and doors. The office was flooded again and the front door was vibrating a bit. So I put the deadbolt on the wooden front door and started to worry.

I somehow woke Chucho, but not on purpose. He asked what was going on and I showed him the water on the floor in the office and brought him over to show him the front door. He walked away while I was still shining the flashlight on the front door so he didn't see the door bow inward as if it were about to burst. I swear I was so scared that all I could do was wimper, "Chucho!" He came back, another strong gust slammed us...and the door bowed inward again. This time he saw it. I started to feel panicky. He calmly moved me away from the scary door and away from danger. I asked him which furniture we could take could take apart to use the wood to nail the front door shut. He didn't speak. He just walked around the house looking for something. When he found the biggest, heaviest piece of furniture in the house he simply said, "Help me push this." He chose the fin rack. It measures about 5 feet high and 4 feet wide. It is made of ¾ inch thick pine slats forming shelves and cubbyholes to hold the fins. With the fins still in place for weight we started to push since it was too heavy for us to lift. We pushed it in front of the door. I told Chucho that the fin rack couldn't hold the door against 180 mile per hour winds so we pushed the love seat over next to the fin rack. With the loveseat turned sideways between the fin rack and the wall, we still had another 1-foot gap between the love seat and the wall. I grabbed the O2 unit that was sitting right nearby and stuffed it between the love seat and the wall. There were still several inches left. Chucho wedged some planks in between the area to fill in the crack.

After all that was over, I felt so much safer. I figured that even if the small square panels on the door blew in we still wouldn't be hurt. I was satisfied that the door wouldn't blow in but I was still feeling extremely panicky. Chucho mopped up all of the water in the office and all of the water that came in through the front door while I just held the flashlight for him. I was scared by then. We brought two plastic chairs and placed them in front of the side door wondering when we would have to barricade the other door. If it became necessary to close the door we ran the risk of losing the roof. We sat in silence staring at the door and the peephole contemplating...just how bad this would get! I told Chucho that the phone didn't work and my mom must be worried sick. Chucho told me to try the cell phone. DUH! Why didn't that occur to me? I spoke with her only briefly and told her that we were still okay and that I would call again at 6:00 pm. I picked 6:00 pm because that was what time the eye was supposed to pass over us. Chucho brought his blankets and pillows back. We sat in those plastic chairs staring out the peephole as I fought off a full-blown panic attack. I suppose he knew how bad off I was because he just started to talk at me. He went on and on about politics, global warming, destruction of the environment, clear cutting and how his beautiful island that he grew up on used to be covered with big hardwood trees. He talked for an hour and it was soothing. I some times had a hard time concentrating on what he was saying but it helped me calm down.

We kept watching the metal door vibrate waiting for the moment that we would have to slam the last door shut. We watched it rain sideways through the peephole that was our only window to the daylight, air and the fury raging outside. After awhile, I got out a huge bag of peanuts, put them in a bowl, and that was brunch. After brunch, Chucho got some sleep...right in front of that vibrating door. Friday, Oct. 21st 3:00 pm The wind almost stopped completely. There was only an occasional gust.

I called Mom and asked where the eye was. She said that it looked like it was right over us. Thank god! I needed that break. Even though I knew that the second part of the hurricane was much bigger, would take longer to pass and carried more rain, I didn't care. I just needed it to stop for a while. We opened the side door and fresh air and daylight streamed in. It was heavenly. We had been in the dark closed up in the cave with only candles and flashlights for the entire night and most of the day. There is only one word that can describe it: Claustrophobic!! We went out to have a look around. Chucho counted power poles down in our street. He pounded in more wedges on the windows that leaked. Then we went back in the cave as it started to get windy again. We left that metal door completely open until dark when the wind was hammering us again.

Our dinner consisted of a can of tuna with mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and onions globed on saltines. We washed it down with Gatorade and diet Squirt. Yum yum. Early Friday evening The wind was not as strong as it was before the eye passed so I retired to bed. I woke up several hours later, put my right foot on the floor in to discover a puddle of water next to the bed. The wind had changed direction while I slept and was now coming from the southeast. It brought lots of rain and it was battering the back side of the house now, the smaller windows and not the doors. I mopped. I read by candlelight. I checked the doors and windows. I mopped some more and waited impatiently for daybreak.

Around midnight, I called my father and told him that we were still okay and would call back in the morning. Morning took way too long to come. I slept from 2:30 am to 5:30 am. I awoke frightened and startled because I thought that I had heard Chucho crying out, "Where are you?" I leapt out of bed, into the puddle on the slippery tile floor, flipped on the flashlight and looked for Chucho. I found him sound asleep in the spare bedroom. It must have been a nightmare that woke me.

Well, this whole ordeal was a nightmare to say the least...awake or asleep. I mopped, I checked doors and windows. I poured buckets of water down the smelly toilets. I cleaned the cat box for the 10th time. Samantha, my Siamese cat, was sick and making a smelly mess throughout the house. I finally slept.

7:30 am Saturday, Oct. 22nd

I woke up and there was glorious daylight! The hurricane was still howling , but the light was coming in through the peephole. I waited for Chucho to wake up before opening the door. I thought it best to make that decision together.

8:30 am Saturday, Oct. 22nd

I tried to call my mom again but the cell phone signal was gone. I guess the last tower must have fallen. 9:30 am I tried to call Mom again. Still no signal. 10:30 am I started to write. What else is there to do at that point? We had spent the last two days sitting in plastic chairs in front of the side door waiting to slam everything shut, if necessary. Brunch that day consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

12:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 22nd

I discovered a whole new meaning to "kick the bucket". I decided that I couldn't stand myself another minute, so I went through the bedroom to get to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. I had three candles in one hand and the flashlight in the other. I almost slipped, fell and broke my neck moving around in the dark. The floor was once again full of water. I swore a bit, got my balance and put the candles on the dresser. I could see the cat on the bed staring at me. I began to mop again. There was water everywhere and I kept squeezing out the rag into a bucket. When the bucket was full I moved the candles into the stinky bathroom so that I could use the water from the floor to flush the toilet. (Jerry and Sandra know exactly what I am talking about ) Then I went back for the bucket.

It was pitch black in the bedroom and I ended up kicking the bucket and spilling all of the water that I just mopped up! I swore some more, got on my knees and began mopping it up again. Then I took it into the bathroom and poured it down the toilet. I gagged. That was it! No more water conservation! I decided to start cleaning everything. I couldn't stand all of it for another moment. Then I decided that it was time to do the dishes. I went to wash my hands and no water came out of the sink. Apparently at sometime, over the last couple of days, the wind had broken the pipes or the cistern on the roof. Now we had NO RUNNING WATER. Fine! I am washing the dishes anyway! I got two big buckets of water from the garbage cans that we filled up before the storm and started in on two days worth of dirty dishes. I rearranged the whole kitchen and took all of the electrical appliances out of the kitchen and stowed them in a closet. I figured that I wouldn't need them for a long time. I needed the counter space even more. I opened the freezer and found small handful of ice cubes remaining. So I made cocktails with the last of the ice before it melted! What else? I surrendered to yet another day and another night of being boarded up in the dark house with its own distinctive odor.

Saturday, Oct. 22nd 2:00 pm

I tried to call mom again. Still no signal. 2:30 pm Chucho said that the wind was calming. I don't think so. It still sounds loud to me and things are still banging the walls. The neighbor just turned on his generator. I wish that I had listened to Chucho and gone out and bought a generator the prior month. Right?

3:00 pm Finally news. I live two blocks from the Naval base. A soldier in a raincoat ran by. I stopped him and asked if he knew anything. He said that the hurricane was stationary over Cancun's airport and that we would have two more days of wind and rain. That was bad news but news is news…….. There is no hope for phone service soon at this point. I guess I better just stop trying.

Saturday pm Oct. 22nd

Finally the wind let up enough for Chucho to go up on the roof. He unplugged the five drainage pipes and hundreds of gallons of water came pouring down from the roof. The holding tank on the roof that had contained all of our running water was empty. He found the lid to the holding tank in the neighbor's yard. It had blown off in the storm and it seems that either the wind sucked out all of our water or the broken pipes at the base drained it. Either way, we had no water on the roof and could not refill the tank because the pipes were damaged. So even if we did have electricity to run the pump from the cistern under the carport, the holding tank leaked.

I resigned to those big garbage cans in each bathroom. I knew we wouldn't have running water for a very long time. I made more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we sat in front of the open side door enjoying the last of the daylight and fresh air. (Still no telephones and no radio).

At 7:30 pm l went to sleep. I was lucky, I was able to check out and sleep for more than just 2 or 3 hours for the first time in days

4:30 am Sunday Oct. 23rd

I woke up irritable. Go figure! I used the dishwater from Saturday's dishes to take a sponge bath. I brushed my teeth with bottled purified water. I cleaned my face with astringent. The only thing I didn't waste water on was my hair. I put on clean clothes and felt much better. I went into the kitchen and made a stove in the sink. With a broken piece of cement block I balanced a metal grill from the toaster oven on the edge of the sink and the block. I put two sterno cans underneath the grill and lit them. I boiled water and made coffee. Chucho and I sat in front of the open side door waiting for the daylight.

7:30 am Sunday, Oct. 23rd

Pancho, our next door neighbor, told us that the Vamanos (a 50 foot luxury yacht in the marina) was resting smack dad on top of Benny's house! I cannot imagine what has happened to the rest of the boats. Chucho and I moved all of the furniture back to its place. He swept the whole house and we opened the front door for the first time since Thursday evening. Fresh air and daylight streamed into the house. We watched neighbors walk around in yellow raincoats. I gave Chucho my yellow raincoat and my new baseball hat that Larry gave me and set out on foot to check his house downtown and his storage shed across town where the boat was up on the trailer and the dogs were. He had to walk because ALL of the power poles were in the streets. Bicycles and motorcycles could get around them, but cars couldn't.

A neighbor got radio reception from a station in Chetumal. He said that the hurricane was over Cabo Catoche now. That is exactly where Amanda, Julie, Susan, Jennifer and I went to go swim with the whale sharks. Holbox was probably underwater at that point.

Mid-day Sunday, Oct. 23rd

Chucho returned from his trek. First he went to his house downtown which is four blocks from the main waterfront street. Both water tanks on his roof blew off and are in a neighbor's lot. Guess it will be a while before I get to wash my hair…. He said that the entire waterfront street is destroyed. There were people sifting through seaweed 3 feet deep looking for jewelry and watches that blew out of the stores. Then he walked 3 or 4 miles to his storage lot. The dogs were hungry but safe. The Enigma II was in good condition but the dune buggy was underwater. Everything was pretty much fine. He said that there was a pay phone one block away that was working. I immediately shut up the house and went there to call my mom.

What a relief! The hurricane was finally gone and Mom knew that we were OK. Chucho and began to walk. We walked and walked trying to buy things. We succeeded in buying another broom, another mop, six more candles and matches. Then we found some groceries. I bought milk, Gatorade, crackers, peanuts, and mayonnaise. We lugged all that back home. When we got home the neighbors were starting to move the power poles out of the street and off to one side. Chucho got the big wrench, work gloves and rope. He helped to move the power poles and broken transformers.

People started talking to me. The news was more than I could stand. Almost all of the boats in both marinas either sank or came completely out of the water and were up on dry land. They told me that two cruise ship piers were completely gone and the original pier was badly damaged. The initial gossip was a bit over exaggerated...however, rather close to reality. Monday, Oct. 24th 7:30 am Carlos and Soruyo helped Chucho take all of the moldy 3-ply boards off of the windows. Then they spent over an hour trying to jump-start my truck. The battery was completely dead. I started to put my house in order. I cleaned up the mess that the cats had made. I put all of the furniture and gear back in its place. I just cleaned and cleaned until I could br comfortable with the house once again.

In the late morning, Chucho asked me what I wanted to do. 1. I wanted to go exchange dollars for pesos before the island ran out. Who knows when banks would reopen. 2. I wanted to buy a battery for the truck. 3. Find a veterinarian for both sick cats. 4. Check the Convention Center for Jerry, Sandra, Regina and Bill. We succeeded in all except the vet. All veterinary offices were closed and most were under 5-feet of water. These few errands took all day. The roads were still full of downed power poles. The veterinarian's offices were in the flooded areas of the city and shut down. We finally found one vet, ironically just a few blocks from the house. He injected Chiqui with antibiotics, pain killer, tick repellent. The government helicopters were dropping off bags of people food (rice, beans, cans of tuna, crackers, etc.) every 10 minutes in the soccer fields!

After el gato, Chiqui ,(also known as "Horrible") got her shots, we dropped her off at home and headed out to the Occidental Grand to check on my friends. I had been worried sick about them out there on the beach. They were isolated from town and right on the water. Chucho conned the security guards into letting me in by telling them that Jerry was a family member and I wanted to see how he was. Somehow we smooth talked our way into the Occidental Grand. I found Jerry and family quickly. They took me to Bill and Regina. Bill and Regina wrote down the phone numbers of whom I should call to let them know that they were okay. They were very happy to see me. I couldn't stay long. It was getting dark and driving around all of those fallen power poles, wires and transformers in the dark would be dangerous to say the least.

When we got home I went to the pay phone on the corner and called Bill and Regina's kids and my mom. When we went home Chucho strung those precious "Christmas Tree Lights". He ran a wire from the carport to the back bedroom and then spliced the wires at intervals to add in light sockets. He connected the wires and bulbs to the battery posts on my truck with alligator clips. The living room, kitchen and back bedroom lit up! That is the light that I am using right now to write this with now. It is nice to have light, not candles and flashlights after living in the dark for four days, both night and day.

Tuesday, Oct. 25th 5:30 am

I got up and lit sterno cans to heat water for my coffee. I think I will have a very busy day ahead of me. I discovered two things. One, those sterno cans don't work so well when they start getting low; two, we don't have much toilet paper left. Hmmmm. That could be a big problem…… Gotta find toilet paper today. When there are no emails to answer, no dive trips to take out, no banking to be done, it leaves a lot of time for contemplation. I think a lot in the brief conversation that I had with Holly the day before when she and Armando stopped by the house. She said that she had credit card bills to pay. I imagine that she may have car payments too. She said that she and Armando are going to have to decide which one of them will go back to the US and work to pay the bills for the next few months. I have been thinking seriously about getting in touch with all of our divers who own businesses and asking them if there is anyone who would like to give Chucho a job in the US.

Thank god I don't owe anyone any money. The other thing that Holly commented is that she doesn't "camp" well. I got a visual of my sterno cans in the kitchen sink. Well, I was a long time girl scout and I have always loved camping. Good thing! There are so many things to contemplate right now. Yesterday as we drove around trying to get a new battery for my truck, exchange money and find the Payne family. I was too shocked at all the damage to even take out the camera. Chucho has been through many hurricanes. He says that this one is the worst one he has ever seen. He says that the damage is far worse than it was with Gilberto. Remembering that Gilberto was a category 5, it is mind boggling what a hurricane can do when it sits over you for almost three days. The other amazing thing, is how Cozumel neighbors cooperate and work together to clean the streets and help each other. All morning and afternoon

Tuesday, Oct. 25th

First we set out to find Florencia, the cleaning lady. I didn't really want her coming over here to clean yet, but I figured that she could use the extra money. I asked her not to use more than a bucket or two of water. After she finished, I was glad that she had come. We went to the money exchange again and I exchanged $1,100 USD to pesos. We are worried that without electricity there won't be any banks open and soon pesos would run out. Then how would I buy things? No one will have change for a $100. USD bill. Then I went to pay my rent. Boy was my landlady happy to see me! My landlord had forgotten to go to the bank before the hurricane and now there were no banks open and they were out of cash….. We chatted for a long time. She had a generator running and I asked if I could charge my cell phone there. She told me all about how the hurricane was for her and then I told her about how it was for me. I told her about the lid to the water tank on the roof and the pipes that broke so we had no water. I also told her about the huge cracks in the wall in the master bedroom right behind my headboard. I keep getting a visual of the wall crumbling behind my head while I was sleeping……… She told me that the first car ferry was to arrive on Friday. It would bring personnel from the electric company, posts and transformers only. She said that Punta Langosta pier should be ready for ships in 15 days. She said that the cruise ships would return as soon as the waterfront shops were repaired and open. That is hopeful! We bought parts at the hardware store to try to connect the boat's bilge pump to the marine battery and pump water up to the roof. The first priority was to clean out the tank...,and then to refill it. (That would allow us to actually shower and flush the toilet! )

During this same time period, we went to the marina When I saw boats piled up one on top of the other and Benny's house destroyed...that is when I started to cry. For years I went into his kitchen to buy breakfast or ice everyday. Lately I have been to his bedroom every day just to say "hello." He was bedridden with knee surgery. He had left the island a week before the hurricane hit because the incision and metal rods in his knee had become infected. I knew that his home was destroyed. I hope to see him again someday when his knee is healed. There were three large luxury yachts in the harbor. One was right in front of Benny's house, but not on top of it as I had originally heard. Another sat at the bottom of the harbor. One was unscathed. I don't know how many boats were damaged or destroyed but it appears to be about one-half. For those of you who know "Troy" (from Canada) His boat the "Hindsigh" became an airplane and landed on top of some mangrove trees. His second, other boat, became a submarine and rested on the bottom. I tried to imagine our little marina with a 15-foot storm surge and 18-foot waves on top of that. That is about 30 feet above normal. The boats got tossed around little children's toys.

Everyone who was in Cozumel for Gilberto comments on how Wilma was far worse. Gilberto is always the horrible hurricane to which every one compares current hurricanes. Now the comparison will be Wilma. Cozumel has a "dry law" that began with the hurricane Wilma and continues until the November 12th. Chucho told me not to worry, that his brothe-in-law owns a liquor store. Forget it. Brother in Law/Schmother in Law.... NO booze Wednesday, Oct. 26th 7:00 am 11:00 am Soon after Chucho showed up we went over to the cleaning lady's house. Her husband is our handyman, plumber, electrician, mason and what ever. We went to see if he could come over and weld our pipes that fill the holding tank on the roof. There was a also broken faucet in the back yard leaking a lot of water. They were having lunch when we arrived. Florencia offered us some rice and beans. I eagerly accepted! Chucho scolded me and told me not to be taking their food. I immediately felt bad and declined. Too late, she scooted in the house and dished up some hot rice and beans and some steaming home made tortillas. We took it home and sat at the kitchen table and savored every bite. It felt like a feast. We were very grateful for a meal.

After a late lunch I asked Chucho to take me over to Holly's house for a while. On the way, we passed a small mom and pop type store that was selling eggs. I told Chucho to stop and let me buy some eggs. There was a sign on the counter that said you could only have 10 eggs per person. I got in line, asked for my eggs and when the guy was giving me my change the lady behind me asked how much they cost. He told her that they were 1 and ½ pesos each. That is about 12 cents US. She asked for 5 eggs. I was incredulous. The woman didn't even have enough money for the full 10 egg ration! Of course, I asked the man to give her 10 and I paid the difference. Then I climbed into the van, told Chucho to go get some eggs for Florencia and Rudolfo and I sat there and cried. I cried because my neighbor didn't even have enough money for 10 eggs. What the hell was happening here? That lady was ashamed to accept the eggs. I wanted to give her all of the money that was in my purse but I also didn't want to embarrass both of us. What is worse? Taking away some one's pride or not helping? I was soon to realize that I was just like that lady and the eggs. I was about to not only accept help, but to solicit it from others.

Chucho dropped me off at Holly's house and I spent the rest of the afternoon there. It was so nice to just sit around chit-chatting and not be in my house. I went to bed at 8:00 and slept straight through the night for once. This whole thing feels like living a bad movie. Parts of the island looks like a bomb has gone off. Helicopters are flying overhead every 10 or 15 minutes to drop off tens of thousands of bags of food for the poor. They land in the soccer field near my house where Carlos used to play soccer in the afternoons and evenings. Volunteers distribute these bags of food door to door in Cozumel. We give the bag of food that they bring to our house to Florencia and Rudolfo. Rudolfo was a waiter at Sol Cabañas Del Caribe for something like 30 years. Like Carlos, Rudolfo's salary is very small. He worked for tips. There won't be any tips for a very long time. Florencia expressed a concern that I wouldn't be needing her services anymore. They need the money now more than ever. I will keep her and Rudolfo busy!

Thursday, Oct. 27th morning YEAH!

Our local radio station came back on! Plus we had a newspaper from the day before. I made coffee and read the newspaper. Doing dishes, taking a bath and flushing the toilet is a major endeavor around here with no electricity nor running water. When all of that was done (and it takes 2 hours) I wrote a letter to our friends asking them to please send a donation to Carlos and Chucho's families. I put it in an envelope along with the email addresses of our friends and drove it out to Occidental Grand in search of Jerry and Sandra. I wanted to have them bring it back to the US and mail it to my mom who could then email our friends with the letter. The security guard at Occidental Grand said that they had gone so Chucho and I drove straight out to the airport where we had to do some more sweet-talking to get in and find them. I found Sandra standing outdoors in the sun as part of a long line. I gave her the envelope and asked her to Fed Ex it to my mom when she got home. I gave her a hug and a kiss

We sped off to try and get to Pancho in time to take him to the ferry pier. We didn't get back in time. He was already gone. Chucho and I ran errands and found some greasy empanadas to eat. We checked on the boat and the dune buggy. The mechanic was taking the motor all apart to get the water out. Chucho dropped me off and brought the mechanic some greasy empanadas and warm cokes. I set out looking for a working pay phone. I found one two blocks down and as I was standing in line the lady in front of me said that the phone went dead. As the girl in front of me tried to make the phone work. Larry (a local) pulled up in a truck and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was trying to call my mother. He said that the phone in his house worked and I was welcome to it. I asked him how that was possible that he had a working phone and he told me that his next door neighbor has a friend that lives about 10 blocks away and that he works for the telephone company. Larry gave the telephone guy a $50. USD tip and he came over and fixed him right up. I said, "Tell me where that guy lives!" After using Larry's phone to call my mom, I walked around, over and under fallen electrical posts, wires and transformers to get to the telephone man's house. I asked all of the neighbors where the telephone guy lives. When I finally found the house he wasn't home but I chatted with his wife for a while. She said that he would be home at 4:00 to eat and that she would send him by my house.

She also emphasized that they were out of money and that since the banks were all closed they didn't know when they would be able to get more money……I became hopeful that he phone man would make a rapid appearance. Thursday, Oct 27th pm I went back to check on the telephone guy. The wife said that he had come by but couldn't figure out which house was mine. She told me to come back the next morning at 9:00 am. Oh well. Chucho spent the afternoon cleaning up the dead plants in the yard with a machete. We took our cell phones to his sister's house to charge. She has a generator.

Friday, Oct. 28th 6:30 am

I woke up and felt hurried because I knew that I had better get to the telephone guy's house by 9:00 and it takes hours just to get the Christmas Tree Lights all plugged in, coffee made, dishes washed and me bathed. My hair is getting pretty nasty again. Tomorrow I will have to splurge and wash it again. In the bath the first scoop of cold water pouring over my body is torture. After that I get used to it. It's flushing the toilet that is such an issue. When I pour that bath water into the toilet the smell makes everything in my stomach come up. I asked Chucho why it smelled so bad and he told me that the sewer was probably backed up. I asked if the raw sewage could come back up through the pipes and into the house and he said that it could be possible. That struck terror directly to my heart. Between the coffee and the hurry I started to get bitchy. Fancy that, me bitchy?

I went to the phone man's house and he said that he would come by after he had some breakfast. Apparently it takes them hours in the morning to do normal things too. He and his partner showed up at 10:00 am with a work truck, ladders, cables and all of the special tools. It took them a while to re-string all of the cable and climb the pole and the roof. He connected up the new cable and I asked him how much I owed him. He told me that Larry had given him $50. USD so I gave him $60. USD since there were two guys and I was so grateful. I spent over an hour on the phone with my mom. What a luxury! I also called Nick and Sharon. Chucho came back from paying the cell phone bills so that my phone wouldn't be cut off.

He brought back a bag of hot empanadas and we sat down to share them with Florencia. The cat needed another shot but I couldn't find her. I am tempted to spend the rest of the day on the phone. Why not? That afternoon we went to the General Hospital to get our free Hepatitis A and Tetanus vaccination. Chucho had been wading through those flood waters and god knows what was in them. Everything here is rusting. (Especially the protector bars on my windows.) They have actually rusted holes through them. The hospital was a disaster with broken windows and doors

Saturday, Oct. 29th

We are pretty much starting to set into a routine. After coffee and a cold sponge bath we went to Especias to visit Adrian and eat his greasy empanadas. Anything that doesn't come out of a can or a jar tastes like heaven at this point. About 4:30 pm Chucho's nephew showed up with a generator in the back of a pick up truck. It took an hour to pump water up to the roof. YIPPEE! Now we have running water! The stuff that came out at first was brown. Chucho put a gallon of Clorox in the water. When I washed my hair it felt like straw. Staying healthy is becoming a concern over the next week or two.

I visited Holly again. She does a great job of looking at the bright side of things and keeping a positive attitude. It is interesting to reflect on the highlights of my day: I washed my hair, I visited with Holly and I finally got water running out of my tap that I am afraid to bathe in or wash dishes with. Hmmmmm….

Paul, Rita and Sharon called me. Rita and Sharon are the best therapists in the entire world. Sharon acknowledged that I had been through an extreme trauma and that I should do things to take care of myself. I swear that taking care of myself had not really occurred to me yet. I spend a lot of time worrying about how Carlos and Chucho's families are going to eat. But I hadn't thought much about me until Sharon brought it up. She suggested that I get on a plane and get off of the island for a while. The idea sounds so very tempting……

Sunday, Oct. 30st

I went to the ATM! It was running on a generator. It seems strange to use an ATM with a gasoline powered generator running on the floor right next to it. I was surprised that it actually worked. We also drove around a bit and had a look at the damages. I spent most of the afternoon in bed, reading. I made more tuna salad for dinner and drank a bottle of precious wine. Monday, Oct. 31st 6:00 am The electric company workers have arrived again. It is only 6:00 am and they are in front of my house! That's amazing.

Today I have to go to the bank to see if can do my month end closing for accounting. Boy, it is simple. Only 3 small deposits and only 2 deductions. I usually have to start on the 25th of each month going around collecting receipts and paying bills in order to finish the closing in time. Now no one can print out a receipt so I have no deductions. Good thing there wasn't much income this month either. First I went to pay my tank bill with a check at 8:00 am. Then I went to the bank. A miracle occurred at the bank All 5 teller windows were open and I only had to wait 45 minutes in line. I also stopped by Hernan's dive shop and paid him the $80 bucks that I owed him. People are always surprised around here when you voluntarily pay them what you owe.

That afternoon Chucho and I drove to the other side of the island. We found Mescalitos cleaned up and in tact. The waiters told us they were ready to go! I said that's fine, but until "dry law" is lifted you have to wait. They said that they heard "dry law" would be lifted Monday. I told them that they haven't changed anything yet, but if they would be serving up margaritas tomorrow, I'm there! We asked how safe the road was and the cautioned us not to go past Coconuts. We proceeded with caution. There were huge patches of asphalt broken off on the seaside of the road. All of the rocks and sand that held it up had been swept away by the sea That road is going to be rebuilt, hopefully further back away from the sea. The electrical guys finished up and left at sunset. Some neighbors had electricity at the end of the day. We were not one of the fortunate ones.

The main line that runs from the other side of the street where the main line is to our house had snapped and the remaining wires were not long enough to re-connect. The workers told us that in order to be re-connected we had to take a copy of our last bill down to the office and they would send someone out to hook us up. I could not believe it! I guess they were only there for four days to repair the main line and transformers, not individual homes. Oh well. When it got dark at 6:30 pm we looked out across the street with envy at the neighbors who were sitting around their kitchen table in the house all lit up and I could see that they were opening and closing the refrigerator door. I went to the back bedroom to lie down and read a book. I fell asleep. At 7:30 I heard a very loud bang that woke me out of a sound sleep. I grabbed the flashlight and ran to the front of the house to see if Chucho was OK. He was sitting at the table listening to the radio and eating. He told me that one of the new transformers across the street had blew, a "knife" flew out of it and almost hit the van. I looked across the street and my neighbors were in the dark again, just like us. I began to feel that possibly we would not have electricity for another week.

My mom had called. She received the stack of email addresses and my letter asking our friends for help. I have never asked anyone for anything in my life. I guess there is a first time for everything. I asked our friends to please send a little something if they could to help us get through the hard times ahead. Finally that email would be going out. We also received our first two cancellations this day. Chucho looked so sad and said that it was just the beginning.

Tuesday, Nov 1st

Well, those electric guys were out in front again. They spent the better part of the morning and the afternoon connecting us. There was some semblance of normality. Chucho and I discovered that La Choza was open so we had breakfast there. We ate so much that I thought I would burst! Chucho sent $200. USD to his wife and kids who are living in the North of Mexico. He deposits money every week for them.

Then we decided to go over to Playa del Carmen just to get off of the island for a couple of hours. I had an ulterior motive too. There is no "dry law" in Playa and I brought a very large purse with me to carry back a couple of bottles of hooch. As we boarded the ferry they searched my bag to make sure I wasn't smuggling any jewels that were looted from the jewelry stores. Then a female police officer actually patted me down! After we were both aboard the ferry, the little hostess brought around barf bags for the ride. Chucho teased me and tried to get the girl to give me one. We also brought the cell phone chargers and plugged them in on the ferry. I was worried that some one would step on them in the aisle or try to steal them. About two-thirds of the way across to Playa, the seas got very rough and I became frightened of capsizing. We could see the captain in the wheelhouse from where we were seated. He tossed from his seat and the sailors were running from one side to the other. They almost fell down too. I had two thoughts going through my head at this point. One is that I must have been crazy or stupid to leave the safety of our little island and two that I could drive this damn ferry boat better than that stupid captain and where was Carlos when I really needed him?

Even I knew that in seas like that one has to "tac" the boat crossing the waves at a 30 degree angle or more so as to not let them come full on broad siding the boat. I was so happy to get off of that damned boat when it docked. We walked around the tourist area and we saw very few tourists but everything looked clean and normal and open. Playa was obviously much better off than Cozumel. Then I bought a bottle of Beefeaters and a bottle of Cuervo gold and three bottles of margarita mix to go with it. The bag was heavy so Chucho took charge of it. When we arrived on the pier in Cozumel we were greeted by more police officers to search us. That had never occurred to me. They took my hooch! Wha! :-{ All I could do was laugh and be grateful for the security of the island and the curfew. Ask anyone in New Orleans if all that police and military and iron hand of the law is a good thing. Oh well.

When I got home we still did not have electricity so we connected those good old Christmas Tree Lights to the battery posts on my truck and settled in for the night.

Wednesday, Nov. 2nd

I had two projects to complete for the day. First I cleaned my moldy, smelly refrigerator. Then after another delicious breakfast at La Choza, I went walking around downtown trying to locate hotels that were actually open and functioning. Thursday, Nov. 3rd We got electricity! Whoo hoo! I am not plugging in the refrigerator nor the computer for one more day when we know whether or not the neighbor's major appliances have burned to a crisp.

5:00 pm We went to a meeting given by the National Marine Park. We volunteered the Enigma II for clean up duty. I will finally be getting back in the water again on Monday. I am getting really fat and need to dive.

Friday, Nov. 4th

Five kids came over to clean our cistern under the carport. Chucho asked them how much they wanted for their services. They told us 20. pesos. That is the US equivalent of about $1. 80. We promptly agreed and they went to work at 4:15 pm. They had no idea of what they were getting into. There was an inch of reddish brown goo at the bottom of the cistern. When the water level was about mid-calf the three smallest ones got into the dark cistern with one of my dive lights. Chucho told them to swish the water all around and stir up the sediment. Then, using the pump, a garden hose and a bucket, they took out all of the sludgy, gross water. I was so amazed that the cistern had such muck in it that I took pictures of the foul water. After all of the brown water was out of the cistern, those kids scrubbed the walls of the cistern with detergent. Chucho told them to come back the next day to finish the job. He teased them a lot and really liked having them around. I asked then how much I had to pay and they replied, "20 pesos!" That was the deal after all. So I counted heads out loud and said, "OK, 5 times 20 is 100. pesos" I gave them 100. pesos and they all squealed with delight. I have never seen such happy kids. They were eager to come back the next day.

Saturday, Nov. 5th

I turned on the computer at 5:30 am and worked on the 250 emails in my inbox straight through until 4:30 pm. The kids came back at 11:00 am and finished the job for another 100. pesos. At 7:00 pm I came home from dinner to find that the power had gone out again during the rain. Good thing we had not taken down those Christmas Tree Lights yet! I hope that there is electricity in the am for making coffee. I don't want to crack open a couple new sterno cans. Also, I still have 130 emails to answer. Sunday, Nov. 6th 6:00 am No such luck. I had to break out the old sterno cans. After coffee and a shower with smelly running water we went out to breakfast again. I am not buying food at the grocery store until the electricity stays on more than a day or two. When I got home from breakfast the electricity was back on so I worked on the emails. By the end of the day there were only 35 left to go!

Monday, Nov. 7th 9:30 am

We left to go to the marina and do our clean up duty. When we got there, we learned that one young lady from the national park was coming with us. She and a Dive Palancar instructor that I don't know were to take data on a fish survey. Chucho, Juan and I would pick up garbage. I shoved some garden gloves in my pocket and we were off to Palancar Bricks. The water was a little cloudy, but not bad. Gabby wanted to swim against the current for the survey so we pretty much spent the whole dive swimming against the current that gave me a headache. Between Juan, Chucho and me, we spotted three turtles. I wondered what those beautiful surviving turtles were going to eat since I couldn't see a single sponge in sight.

There was a good 6-feet of sand gone from the bottom of the reef creating new swim throughs for us. Overall it was a good dive and the reef was in fair condition. It was a bit beat up, but in comparison to other reefs in other parts of the world, it still was a superior dive. Three turtles is a normal thing to see in a dive here anyway. So the fish and turtles were still there. We were just missing the sponges and the soft corals. They come back very fast. There wasn't any garbage to clean up. We went to French Reef for our second tank. It looked even better than Palancar. There were still some colorful sponges, more fish, of course, and we saw two big animals. First Juan pointed out a spotted eagle ray. Then Chucho saw a free-swimming green moray eel.

I found evidence of poachers in the form of a lead fishing weight and some broken off lobster antenna that I swam over and gave to Gabby, the marina park employee. Some of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about and know how strongly I feel about this subject. I am sure that you are smiling as you read this and nodding your head. Anyway, French Reef is definitely ready for tourists.

Tuesday, Nov. 8th

Chucho, Gabby, Maria Inez and I were onboard and I asked Gabby what our assignment was today. She said that since I had found so much garbage on my training site that we should go over there and dive the shore at Paradise. My god! We collected so much garbage that we filled the entire back of the Enigma II twice! We brought up PVC pipes, posts from fallen palapas, cement posts that supported handrails and other miscellaneous garbage. The lettuce coral, sea fans and sponges were all gone. There were a few fish left and one or two big heads of coral. At first I despaired. Then I remembered when I worked at Allegro and did my first two initial training dives from shore there and we had nothing but sand and a few balls of coral to look at. The student divers loved it, even though it was barren to seasoned divers. It occurred to me that even though my beautiful, colorful garden had been swept clean, it was still better than a cold, murky lake with 10 feet of visibility on a good day and could still serve as a worthy training site. I know that new divers are so easy to please and I compared what it looked like now with "El Garafon" in Isla Mujeres which is a popular snorkel spot and realized that student divers would still be pleased with this dive. But I would have to take more time to look for interesting critters and point them out.

I stopped to watch an 8-foot spotted eagle ray feed on conch shells in the sand. A big, gray southern stingray swam by followed by a bar jack. When I found a tiny little golden tail moray I almost cried because I remember how there were tons of them there before the hurricane and I wondered if they were all dead. Then I thought, "Good! There's one! If we just have one more of the opposite sex they will re-populate." So all was not lost, but almost. It was a hard emotional hit to see my beautiful garden gone. The lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. That is the law of nature here.

Wednesday, Nov. 9th

I spent the whole day answering emails.

Thursday, Nov. 10th

Chucho, Cabrilla, Eduardo, Diane and I were on garbage duty again. Gabby sent us to Dzul Ha. Both Chucho and Cabrilla jumped in and couldn't find any garbage and worse yet, marine life so we moved on to Las Palmas. I had heard a rumor that Las Palmas was bad. Well, we got in and did a dive. After 15 minutes all we found was a poncho and a couple of sticks. Las Palmas was clean and in very good shape. We saw a turtle, two huge groupers and a splendid toadfish sticking its head out of its hole. This reef was in such good condition that we decided to go up and return to Paradise where the garbage clean up was really needed.

On Paradise we cleaned up a big mountain again of posts, PVC and electrical wires. I saw the southern stingray again and another little golden tail moray eel. While Cabrilla and I were bringing up our pile of garbage I discovered a small spotted moray eel under the debris and warned her to be careful where she put her hands. While cleaning up garbage, I discovered many animals that sting camouflaged under the garbage. There was a stonefish under a board, a stingray under a broken fan, a balloon fish under a stick and that little spotted moray under our big pile. I realized that I had better be very careful.

On our second dive we went back to pick up the garbage that we couldn't get on the first dive because we didn't have enough space on the boat. When we collected the piles of garbage from the previous dive, we moved over to where Cabrilla does her tours next to the Puerta Maya pier and saw that it was worse. It looked like some one had already cleaned up there but left all of the really big, heavy and buried stuff behind that they couldn't lift. Now I know why the Gypsy was asking for buoys and lift bags two days ago. It will take a crane to get some of that stuff up. We did pick up computers, pumps and more pipes. We called it a day and went home.

Well, I am tired out from my garbage pick-up and I will update the dive log again once I actually have something to add.

Sunday, Nov. 13th

I did two tanks at Paradise near the shore with Don and Elisa. It doesn't look so bad to me now. There is one part where a mooring buoy for the boat is located and there is some coral, a school of grunts and a goldentail moray eel that kept swimming from one coral head to another. I did two dives there to complete their Open Water Referral and on both dives I saw the little bugger slithering around. Don saw a scorpion fish but I missed it. We all saw a mated pair of coronet fish which was a special treat. I can't help but wonder if they hadn't been blown over from Las Palmas because that is where I normally see them. Both Don and Elisa agreed that Paradise doesn't look like it did before the hurricane, but there is still plenty to see. We enjoyed our dives very much.

Monday, Nov. 14th

On Palancar Horseshoe with Don and Elisa I was surprised to see huge chunks of coral reef as big as my carport that had toppled over from the side of the reef and were lying sideways on the bottom. That really made an impression on me. Some of the roofs on my "swim throughs" have fallen down so now they are "swim overs". For some reason it did not look sad, just different. I have to quote Tim again. "It is Mother Nature's recycling program and urban renewal." There was really nothing missing, just moved around. Overall the reef did not look that bad. We saw a small turtle that had found some lunch. The block at Horseshoe was neither buried nor the same as it was after Emily. It just looked "normal" to me. It looked like it did 5 or 6 years ago before some other hurricane (I think it might have been Isidore) buried it under the sand. So now it was just sitting there as it had been before. The sand level is now right up to the base of the block. It really gives me a perspective on nature. Hurricanes come and go. They dump sand and they take it away. Hurricanes move things around, take them away, drop things off that weren't there before, but in the end it all comes back to a balance and remains beautiful. It's kind of like new landscaping.

We completed Don and Elisa's certification dives on Dalila and it looked great to me! The damage looked minimal. I think that all of the sponges and soft corals could be back in a year or so. On the shallow side of the reef near shore a lot of the sand has been swept away. It revealed ancient coral reef formations that were previously buried. So to someone who doesn't dive there everyday it gives the impression that Wilma killed that part of the reef. But actually, we have regained a lot of rocky substrate that new organisms can attach to so that the reef can grow and expand again.

It was not a loss at all, and it is a possible addition. We saw a big green moray eel out swimming around. Elisa was extremely impressed. There were several big groupers too. The fish were extremely abundant and not shy. I was so happy to be there that I didn't want to come up! It is still one of the most beautiful places in the world for me.

Thursday, Nov. 17th

I dived Colombia Deep with Curtis, Karen, Don and Elisa. There were new tunnels in the shallow areas. I saw piles of bricks and what looked like a mooring for a marine park buoy that had been dragged or tossed over from the shallow area. I was disappointed not to see any turtles. But I must say I was pleased to see gorgonians and sponges. That is what has been eliminated from many other reefs. So Colombia Deep does not have much damage, just some stuff that was uncovered or blown in from elsewhere.

French Reef looked good too. We saw a turtle and it seemed that there was something for it to eat there. There were loads of colorful fish everywhere. That reef is definitely in good shape.

Saturday, Nov. 19th

Don and Elisa had the boat all to themselves again on Santa Rosa Wall. There was quite a lot of damage and sand removed on the top of the reef in the shallow area. As long as we stay over the wall in 70 to 80 feet of water where the deeper area is things look almost normal. I think that the most impressive thing is the inside of the cave. All of the sand was sucked out! I swam through the cave remembering that I always used to sit on the sand in the cave with my divers and shine flashlights around on the roof to see the colorful sponges. Now you can't sit there anymore. The bottom is all craggy with rocks.

There was plenty of marine life that day. We saw a small nurse shark resting on top of the reef. During the dive we saw two different turtles. At the end when we were heading up another pair of turtles were hanging out in the shallows together. It was really nice to see all of those turtles.

With tropical storm Gamma in the neighborhood we decided to do our second tank near the marina at Las Palmas. There were tons of small eels in the shallows. As Elisa and I were kneeling in the sand looking at a spotted moray coiled up around the coral, a frisky goldentail eel swam right between us and slipped into the reef. I counted five different splendid toad fish. I know that Gary and Janet will be so happy to know that their favorite reef in Cozumel is just fine. We really enjoyed that dive.

Tuesday, Nov. 22nd

This day was a hard day to say the least. With seven divers scheduled to come on the Norwegian Sun, I was bummed out at 7:00 am to see that the wind was North West at 36 kilometers per hour. So when the harbormaster got on the marine band radio that morning and declared the port closed for all aquatic activity I was not surprised at all. But I was disappointed.

This was supposed to be my first big "for profit" day since Oct. 19th. I went to check on the Norwegian Sun at 7:45 am and saw a tender on its port side, so I high tailed it to the Caleta marina to wait for the divers to give them the bad news, personally. I waited for them to arrive until 8:45 am and then found Carlos and I asked him to stay and wait for them the rest of the morning. He was to let them know that the port was closed and that we couldn't dive that day. Well, at 9:45 Chucho called me on the cell phone to let me know that my divers were waiting for me in the marina and that the port was open! So I raced to get all of the equipment and gear together at the last moment and get to the marina.

It was really, really choppy out there and I asked the divers if they got seasick. Most divers said yes, so I passed around a box of Bonine. ( Shame on me.) But who wants to watch them all get sick? As we went south the seas were a bit calmer so we dived Palancar Caves. My divers were Charles, Jason, Kate, Spencer, Greg, John and Renee. It was still choppy and rough on the surface, but definitely dive-able. Underwater it was calm and beautiful and we had a great dive. We saw a couple of turtles and a big lobster. We swam through all of my favorite caves but no new ones. I didn't want to experiment that day.

Our second dive was on Dalila, because I knew that it is a good one. We saw more lobsters, turtles and a small nurse shark. Renee showed me a huge spotted eagle ray off in the distance. A big barracuda came over and made a couple of us nervous, but it found something else to do and swam over to a school of horse-eyed jacks.

Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24th

I kind of blew it on Santa Rosa Wall with Trish, Tom, Sue and Randy. Only Tom noticed though. He is the quiet, but definitely the observant type. Trish wanted to go to Santa Rosa Wall, so when we were on the site I told Carlos to go further south please. OOPS! I should have listened to Carlos because the current was flowing slightly southbound. It was very slight but I decided to swim against it to get to Santa Rosa. Otherwise we would have ended up on Cedral Wall. We advanced so slowly that we never made it to the cave. But we saw a small nurse shark and a turtle go up to the surface for a gulp of air. I wonder if that was the same small nurse shark that we had seen before. It had a small scratch on the top of its head so I will be on the lookout for that one again.

Tom chose Paso Del Cedral for the second dive. Since the current was going the wrong way on the first dive I checked the current before the next dive, with a little reminder from Trish. We dived Cedral backwards. The end of Paso Del Cedral is where the coral structures are and it looked fine. There were plenty of fish everywhere. The cave looks really beat up. Huge chunks of coral reef have fallen down from the roof and I was actually questioning whether it would be safe to swim through the cave. But I figured that things had a month to settle and the likely hood of something falling down now was pretty slim. It was sad to go through the cave and see where the roof had fallen down and some openings were bigger than before. I think that from now on I will take the divers over the cave and not through it because there are big schools of lovely fish to see on top.

The good news is that not only did the school of pork fish survive, and they are still in the same spot. There were lots of yellow fin groupers and intermediate sized black groupers and big snappers. There were also plenty of lobsters. The highlight of the dive was a precious green moray eel resting in a hole with 2 grouper hanging out with her. She smiled for the camera and we hung out with her for a while.

Then we swam over to Cedral Wall. That looked devastated. I am going to cross Cedral Wall off of my list of sites to take paying customers too. That was really sad. I think it will take at least five years for the sponges and other marine life to come back there. At least it is the only one so far that looked really bad. One out of 10 is not so bad…….. I have been to about that many sites, so far.

Friday, Nov. 25th

Trish, Tom and Bob were my divers on Colombia Deep. We took our time and puttered around a lot. I showed them the strange upside down U-shaped object attached to a long cement pole that looks like a mooring. Then we saw an old anchor encrusted in white stuff lying next to what looked like an old coal burning stove. We decided that those objects must have been buried in the sand from a shipwreck and Wilma probably uncovered them. The only other explanation that we could come up with would be that they just blew over from somewhere else. Then we tried to figure out where all of the bricks came from.

The next reef over to the north is called Palancar Bricks because long ago a ship carrying a load of bricks sank there, leaving all of the bricks on the reef. Did the bricks on Colombia just blow over from Palancar or did that old shipwreck leave the bricks on both Palancar and Colombia but were buried under the sand all of these years and we didn't know that they were there? There are some new mysteries that Wilma has brought to us.

I wanted a guaranteed good dive for them so we went to Dalila. There were tons of fish as usual. Trish and I were delighted to find a small group of sea whips and an opalescent orange vase sponge. Trish couldn't tear her eyes off of the huge spotted eagle ray that passed us in the deeper area.

Saturday, Nov. 26th

I asked Alan, Kathy and Bob where then wanted to go and Alan chose Santa Rosa Wall. I pointed out the first turtle but I missed the second turtle that Alan spotted. The first one was swimming right up to us from below. The lobsters were abundant that day and we swam through the cave.

San Francisco Wall still has tons of fish too. It isn't missing too much color over the wall in the 40 to 60 foot range. We saw a big crab eating something with it's pinchers that it plucked off of the reef. Once again, we saw lots of lobsters. I was pleased to see the same school of schoolmaster fish and grunts in the exact same place that they had been at for years.

I went on a treasure hunt at Las Palmas with just Alan and Kathy. First we found a hawksbill turtle napping under a small coral head. Unfortunately we woke her up and she swam around disoriented before heading up to the surface for some fresh air. Then we saw lots of goldentail morays and spotted eels. An octopus was clinging to an empty conch shell in a hole. Alan discovered an electric ray. A splendid toadfish stuck its head out and showed us his little tiny teeth. They look like baby teeth. On our way up we found all of the beach palapas that had been on the beach at Hotel Presidente. They were standing upright in 45 feet of water in the sand. The thatched roofs were gone and a big barracuda was hanging out next to one. I brought up some more PVC pipe for Carlos. These must have blown in from Puerta Maya.

I don't have any more work until December 5th so the dive log won't be updated until either mid December or early January. I have to wait and see if there are enough days of diving to post.

Friday, Dec. 23rd,

I took my mom, my dad, Andrea and Matthew to Palancar Horseshoe. Just as soon as we reached the bottom we were greeted by a 7 foot spotted eagle ray. It swam slowly and let us take a good look. A big (2 foot) remora followed it around. We also saw Carlos' little baby turtle. Matthew was tempted by every cave he saw and I found a big lobster. Dad found another smaller eagle ray but only he and I saw it.

On Dalila we had lots of current. Andrea discovered a 6 foot sleeping nurse shark that didn't budge no matter how close we got. I also found a family of happy lobsters huddled together under the reef.

Monday, Dec. 26th

I did a resort course on Paradise for Barth, Caitlan and Morgan. We found a scorpion fish, a yellow stingray and a spotted drum. We also saw a big crab, a goldentail moray and a fat spotted moray. The best was the eagle ray that visited us. Then I did dives 1 & 2 for the open water referrals that Dennis, Cheryl, Jesse and Joel brought me. There was another eagle ray, a big octopus and 3 more spotted drums. The crustaceans were a little lobster and a dinner sized crab.

Tuesday, Dec. 27th

I dived Palancar Gardens with Dennis, Cheryl, Joel, Jesse, Barth, Caitlan and Morgan. I can't remember who it was that spotted the big lobster. A southern stingray swam below us as we descended. The boys couldn't resist all the caves that we passed and they kept poking their heads in for a quick check. I went to Chankanaab for the first time since the hurricane. Cheryl, Dennis and I all felt that it looked sad to see all of the broken gorgonians lying on the bottom. The kids had never seen it before and thought that it was fantastic! A big snapper grinned at Joel and I from inside a dark recess bearing some fearsome looking teeth. Joel and Jesse found tons of big lobsters too.

Wednesday, Dec. 28th

My first tank was on Palancar Horseshoe with Joel, Jesse, Dennis, Cheryl, Leanne and Chris. Laura snorkeled over us while we dived. We swam through the beautiful canyons and a tunnel or two. Another big snapper with big teeth grinned at Joel Big snappers were Joel's destiny and we saw yet another one on Dalila. A little turtle swam around in the middle of our gang. There were a lot more fish and every one was quite happy with our dives.

Thursday, Dec. 29th

I don't know if it is Colombia Deep or Palancar Bricks anymore but I will have to decide. Anyway, that is where Dennis, Cheryl, Joel, Jesse, Morgan and Barth dived with us. We saw a pair of big lobsters hiding in the reef. We swam through a couple of tunnels and on our ascent a big southern stingray swam below. One of the boys wanted to go back down after it…… We also examined a peacock flounder and a hermit crab. A small nurse shark napped in a cave on French Reef and we saw a ton of fish too.

Friday, Dec. 30th

I had a good time on Palancar Horseshoe again with Barth, Morgan, James, Shirley and Warren. I just kept swimming around pointing out all of the changes since Wilma. We encountered a big lobster that Warren got a photo of and also a jewfish hiding out under the coral ledge.

What a great dive we had on Dalila! (except for Warren who flooded his camera) First I pointed out a baby loggerhead turtle. Then Warren showed us a hawksbill turtle swimming around. Then Warren pointed to a good sized nurse shark swimming by. There were tons of fish every where and we had a great time.

That afternoon on Palancar with Trish, Jake, Al, Annie and Mike we checked out the end of Horseshoe and the beginning of Gardens. I found Carlos' little turtle again and every one swam after it. I went back to check on the jewfish and it was still in the same hole.

We finished our day on Colombia Shallows. The first 3 turtles that we saw were hawksbills, but the 4th turtle was a loggerhead. It is unusual to see anything other than a hawksbill around here. I saw a tremendously huge eagle ray but the bugger disappeared before anyone else got to see it.

Saturday, Dec. 31st

I went to French Reef with Shirley, James, Trish, Alex, Jake, Annie and Michael. Today was a good day for seeing turtles. The first turtle that we saw was very cute and the boys were fascinated. We saw another turtle later in the dive.

There were a pair of lobsters sharing a hiding place and they waved hello with their antennas. The best part of the dive was when I saw Ken's huge eagle ray followed by its friend the cobia. The cobia looks just like a shark and fools lots of divers. We followed it as much as we could but they were swimming against the current and we couldn't keep up with them for long.

Shirley was a bit saddened to see the sponges and soft corals gone on Yucab. I hope it made her feel better when I told her that the sponges and soft corals are fast growers and should be back soon. I showed Trish some small sponges starting to grow back too. We saw another turtle and Trish found a golden tail moray.

That afternoon James stayed on to dive Santa Rosa wall with Cheryl, Dennis, Joel and Jesse. A very brave turtle sat on the reef right in front of the entrance to the cave and feasted on a sponge. Another turtle got right up in my face on his way back down after having surfaced for a breath of fresh air.

James saw a shark swimming below us but I missed it. The last dive of the year was on Las Palmas. There were tons and tons of splendid toadfish and several small eels. Dennis discovered a big octopus sitting on top of a pile of empty conch shells that he had devoured. A sleepy turtle napped next to a coral head. Another big turtle swam below the boys and I as we did our safety stop.

Alison

 

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Undersea Cozumel :: After Hurricane Wilma