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A Passion for Diving

My passion for diving started when I was fifteen, in my home town of Keene, New Hampshire.  I took a diving certification course at our local YMCA and, during my high school years, dove in the lakes of Southeastern New Hampshire.Picture of a Green Sea Turtle  In that region of the country, lakes freeze over in the winter and generally have water temperature of 45 to 65 degrees during the rest of the year.  Needless to say, it was a challenge, but one that excited me.  There was and still is something very peaceful and tranquil being underwater.  It is like leaving today's world of hype and stress and entering a parallel world, the antithesis of stress.  For me, the closest I have gotten to spiritual experiences have occurred underwater.

In 2000, after discussions with my wife, I decided to 'retire' from the corporate world.  We had visited Maui for several vacations and loved the island and the diving.  We bought land and had a home built in 1999 and moved to Maui in September of 2000.  The first thing I did was take the PADI certification courses to earn my OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor) Certification.  After working for a dive shop for about six months I realized that, for a guy like me, scuba instructor was a high risk (financial liability), low pay occupation.  I spent the next seven years perfecting my diving skills to the point where I felt comforable diving by myself, having practiced techniques for self rescue during and after the PADI courses.Picture of the back wall of Molokini

I frequently got to go on the local dive charter boats, assisting them as a dive guide or instructor in exchange for free dive trips whenever there was space.  Several friends had boats and after teaching them diving, we would go out to boat dive at dive sites not frequented by the commercial dive charters or go to Molokini, Maui's world famous crater, two miles of the West facing South Maui shore.  Molokini's wall diving is what makes it world famous.  It is a shear vertical wall that goes down to the ocean floor about 350 feet and is nearly always a drift dive, with consistant currents that will carry a diver all along the back wall (the picture to the right is on the back wall, at about 70 feet, shot straight up).  Whether diving on the wall or inside the crater, Molokini is an amazing dive site with crystal clear waters offering veasibility between 200' and 300' (usually) and marine life large and small.  In afternoons, when the commercial dive and snorkel boats were gone, we would dive inside the crater and typically see manta rays, white tip and grey sand sharks, octopus, moray eels, and a large assortment of tropical fish, many indigenous to Hawaii.

Picture of diver with scooterDuring the last three years on Maui, I became a huge fan of using scooters (my dive buddy on the left is demonstrating how we used the scooters between our legs and kept or hands free to take pictures, check depth guages, etc.) and rebreathers on our dives.  With the extended time a rebreather allows and the air saving reduced effort the scooter provides, we were able to extend our dive time from an average of 1.25 hours to 5 to 6 hours.  Literally, getting chilled was a bigger problem than running out of air.  The dives we did from the shore typically did not require decompression, even after six hours, because the oxygen/nitrogen gas mixture supplied by the rebreather had typically twice the oxygen percentage than standard compressed air tanks.  However, since the scooters gave us three to four times the range, we would occasionally go beyond no decompression dive limits, requiring that we decompress on the way back to shore.

We also did cave dives into lava tubes that ran for hundreds of yards.  The openings were at about 70 feet and the tubes ran diagonally down.  We stopped at around 130 feet in depth.  Perhaps the most legendary dive site I had the thrill of diving was "The Bomber".  This was a B24 bomber that went down in 1943 while flying a training run.Picture of B24 Bomber on Ocean Floor There is a long story that goes with "The Bomber" that would take too long here, but, the divers that first found the plane researched it with the Air Force and were able to identify the plane and it's crew, who, by the way, all survived the bomber's crash into the water.  They all got out before the plane sank, doing a 180 on the way down so that it landed on the ocean floor, at 200 feet depth, on it's back which is why the wheels are visible in this photo.  The reason the photo is so blue is that, at 200 feet, all colors have been filtered except for certain shades of blue. Needless to say, the bottom time limit on this dive was maticulously followed.  A minute or two more than the 10 minute limit we set would require us to make longer decompression stops than the air we had would last.  In all my dives on Maui, or anywhere for that matter, this is the only dive I ever felt the effects of nitrogen narcosis.  It certainly does create a euphoric feeling.  I had to keep reminding myself to look at my watch to see how much time I had left.

Well, to say the least, our years on Maui left us with some very memorable times.  Diving, entertaining relatives and friends who would come out for visits, the occasional trips to the top of Haleakala...but the best memories I'll always have will be the diving, the buddies I dove with and the abundant marine life that surrounded us when we were down there.  I know there will be future trips to Maui to dive those waters again and that will rekindle the memories of being able to throw the tanks, BC, regulator, scooter and other gear in the van and take the 10 minute drive to some of the best diving I've ever experienced.