GUE Conference 2009

30 11 2009

Friday, November 13th, 2009 ~

It was finally time for the conference, and being ejected from our hotel room, due to a BMX event going on this weekend, Steve and I had made arrangements to stay with some friends. We had all of our gear and luggage stowed in the SUV, and headed over to Gainesville.

We had to get there early, as I had been elected to be in the “Poster Sessions” for DIR Ontario. It was a last minute thing, so Kady had helped me put together a poster to use. Thanks Kady!

I also had the GUE calendar up, showing my ice diving shot in January, a laptop showing the “We Go Down” videos, my netbook, showing a slideshow of pictures, and some DIR Ontario caps and shirts. I spoke to a few people, then the conference was to begin. Jarrod gave us an intro and “Welcome to the conference” hello, followed by Todd Kincaid, talking about Project Baseline.

We then heard talks on Conservation Efforts, the Smithsonian Scientific Diving program, then a meet and greet with WKPP members, and a closing with Jarrod.

From there, we headed downtown Gainesville, for Blues Night in the park, then dinner in a nearby restaurant. We actually all fit in the same room! We ended up sitting with some really fun people, and had a great night!

Dancing in the park…

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 ~

Being a bit late the previous night, Steve and I actually missed part of the conference on Saturday morning. We wanted to be there, but also needed a little bit of sleep, so we arrived for the very delicious buffet lunch.

We then watched Brett do a presentation on the KISS RB, then Phil Short, on the Sentinel. I have to say that I was absolutely mesmerized by Phil’s knowledge and experience. I really enjoyed listening to him, and wanted to know more more more… lol…

Then there was the Jutland project which was equally fascinating. Some incredible footage, and some great wrecks.

After a break, we listened to Practical Data Collection, and one of the most amazing things was 3-D Imagery in Scientific Inquiry. All anyone could say was, “Wow!” Amazing technology.

After Jarrod’s closing, we headed over to the Rhea’s house for Mardi Gras! There was fun, food, and Tina fed me S’mores!! There was even a pinata, filled with goodies for everyone. We had an amazing time.

Free for all!

Thanks to the Rheas and Sonya!!

Sunday, November 15th, 2009 ~

We arrived bright and early for the prearranged breakfast, down the road from EE/GUE. Then, Phil Short had the conch again, and was discussing CCR Safety Procedures, which I found even more fascinating than the previous day’s RB information sessions.

We then heard about some of the GUE curriculum changes, followed by a Q & A. While we listened, we were approached by some fellow, telling us that we had to go diving. We didn’t argue… When Dan MacKay tells you you’re doing something, you usually do it! 🙂

Steve, myself, Guy, and Dan headed over to Madison for a couple of dives! Dan and Guy went in first, and Steve and I followed. It was nice to do this system again, and have a nice, relaxing day of diving goodness.

When we surfaced, we were smiling and laughing, as usual, and there were a couple of people making their way down the stairs, who were really happy to meet other happy people. They said that they didn’t always see people laughing around there, and that it was great to meet us. Very nice couple!

Steve, Dan, and Guy…

Me, pointing at the new, superstar cave diver…

Guy, myself, and Steve…

This would, sadly, be our last day of diving in North Florida paradise. We tore our gear down, and brought it back to the hotel to dry. We were attending the last conference function, which was a really nice dinner, to close off the festivities. Awards were given out, speeches were made, and of course, jokes all around.

This was the first conference that we had attended, and I felt that it was an absolutely amazing experience, and loved the family atmosphere here. Steve and I didn’t want to leave!

Monday, November 16th, 2009 ~

We headed over to EE to return tanks and pay up whatever bills we had left, then to GUE, to bid our farewells and wish we were stayings. We had decided to drive to Orlando, and spend the night there, then fly out in the morning. We figured we’d take advantage of being there, and went to Universal Studios. Well.. we tried… we didn’t arrive there until 3pm, and it didn’t really make much sense to spend that kind of money for three hours of park time. So.. we did get dinner and a movie there. We had a meal at the Hard Rock, then went to the Universal Studios theater to see Paranormal on the IMAX screen.

We found a really nice little hotel for the night, and spent our last night in Florida. We had such an excellent time, and I know we’ll be back soon!

Thanks so much to all of our friends, that helped to make this trip such an awesome one!!

Day Four ~ Madison

27 11 2009

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 ~

Our first stop was EE, for fills, and Steve was interviewed for the GUE Conference video.

We milled about for a little while longer, and we got a couple of pics of JP and Anne Marie, before heading off!

Today, was the long journey to Madison. Steve, Jeff, and I left a little bit later than the previous days, and made our way there in the afternoon. Guy, Duarte, and Zeev were taking a class there today too, so we figured we would run into them.

When we arrived, we put our fees in the drop box, and left our cert cards on the dashboard.

Our Cave 1 class friends were doing line drills on the lawn, so we didn’t bother them. We had a look at the map, and got ready to dive!

We geared up and headed to the water.


Jeff ran the line for us, as we had not been here before. We followed Jeff’s lead into the main line. What a cool looking cave. There were nooks and crannies just about everywhere, and there was so much to look at. There wasn’t much flow here, so we had a nice, relaxing swim in and out. We went back in for a second dive, and it was just as enjoyable.

When we got out, we were able to chat with Mark, Guy, Zeev, and Duarte, then headed out for some food!

We ended up going to a restaurant called, El Toreo, which means “Colt” in Spanish. There were horses everywhere, and some amazing Mexican food!!

Thanks for another day of Cave diving goodness, Jeff!

Third Day Of Florida Cavezz ~ Little River!

23 11 2009

Wednesday, November11th, 2009 ~

Today, our adventures would take us to Little River. On the way, we stopped at EE for fills, then to Cave Excursions, where we checked out the Cave Diving Museum. There was some pretty amazing stuff to see.

I thought this old drysuit was wild. It was made in the 1950s, had a big hole in the back, for entry, and was tied together with a rope!

An old Aqua Zepp scooter. I think it was about as tall as I am…

A bunch of items that belonged to Sheck Exley too…

When we arrived at Little River, Amanda and Chet were there waiting for us. I finally got to meet the White Angel!

While we were gearing up, we happened to run into another friend. Who would have thought we would see Caver Dave??

Amanda needed to get some shots of Flat Stanley, in the caves, so we were going to take him in with us!

Apparently, the water levels were way down, and I think someone referenced us to “diving in a puddle.”

Here are a couple of shots of Steve and I, posing with Flat Stanley. Pics taken with Amanda’s camera, by Jeff!

Pics of Jeff, Steve, and I, discussing our dive plan. Taken by Amanda Cotton…

Our version of Puddle Diving, taken by Amanda Cotton!

We did two dives in this system, and it was a blast! There was flow here, but not as much as Ginnie. We were told that the flow wasn’t as strong as usual. Once you enter, and turn to the left, you raise to the ceiling, and go through a maze of zig zags. I refer to it as a jungle gym. Coming out was a blast, similar to a roller coaster ride!

Some more shots by Amanda…

Here’s a shot of our tough street pose…

Then we got bitten by the Captain…

The washrooms were being guarded by a 7-legged Banana Spider. I can’t believe I actually took this picture…

There was also a giant ant hill, filled with Fire Ants…

That, and I have no idea why on earth there would be roosters there…

What an excellent day of adventure and fun! We hung out with friends, met some folks from some of the diving boards, that we had not met before, saw some of the local wild life, took pictures with Flat Stanley, met Tom, who had just finished a book on Florida diving, and got to play in the caves!

Pic taken by Amanda Cotton…

We kidnapped Jeff again, and were going to head back for some Pizza Hut.

Bye Bye, Amanda and Chet!! See you soon!!

Day Two Of Cavezz ~ Peacock Springs

23 11 2009

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 ~

Today, we travelled to Peacock Springs, where we were going to meet up with Jeff and Amanda! George had his vehicle, JP and Anne Marie also had a vehicle, and Steve and I followed in ours. The three fellas who had just done their RB80 training were also coming.

The entrance to Peacock Springs…

George, Steve, and I went for a walk around, and George showed us the Pothole…

We prepped our gear, and in came Jeff and Amanda! The internet meeting saga was finally over! I was able to see real, human faces!

George was going to show us around, then continue on his dive with the RB80 fellas. He was also toting his video camera. Amanda also had her camera with her!

We opted to do Orange Grove first, and do a second dive at Peacock 1. Orange Grove has alot of duckweed at the surface, and we all looked like green monsters in the water.

Jeff and Amanda went in first. We gave them a few minutes, then George, Steve, and I descended. We got past the tree branches, made our way into the cavern zone, then reached the “Stop” sign. George fired up his lights… one… Two.. um.. two… Uhh ohhh… I see bubbles… and a big thumb. The three of us turned around, and headed back to the surface. By that time, the RB80 fellas were making their way to the water, so Steve and I were going to recalculate our gas, and go ahead, so that George could go out with them, and do a Cave 2 dive.

Steve and I went back in, passed the cave sign, and met up with Jeff and Amanda! I thought it was cool to see Amanda’s shadow behind me, click clicking away, with her camera.

What a relaxing dive. The flow was near to non-existent here, and it was really nice to have a look at the cave, and see the differences between the Florida and the Mexico caves. I really enjoyed this one.

Steve and I reached our turn pressures, and on our return, met up with George, Kirill, Liam, and their 4th buddy.. who I cannot remember his name. George had the video camera running, and I could not help but give the “Rock On” signal as Steve and I passed by.

Click below for video!

I think my reaction, when we surfaced, was, “That rocked!” We got out, left our suits on, and drove up to P1 for our second dive. Amanda had to get going, so we took some pictures, had a few giggles, got soaked from the leftover rain from “Ida,” and said our goodbyes to Amanda, for the day.

Amanda’s cool sock…

Amanda and I, with my face still pocked with duckweed…

Taken by Amanda’s robot camera.. 🙂

Steve, Jeff, and I geared up again, and took the route through the Peanut Tunnel. What an awesome dive! I loved this one! I think I could do this cave 100 times in a row, and wouldn’t get tired of it.

Entrance at P1…

After our dives, we went for a walk along the boardwalk, where we saw Sheck Exley’s Memorial…

We headed back to our hotel, bringing Jeff with us, and we went out for a bite to eat. The restaurant happened to have big bowls of peanuts on each table, so we were able to recreate our dive…. in the Peanut Tunnel…. 😀

Into The Cavez!

11 11 2009

Monday, November 9th, 2009 ~

Meeting time was 9am at EE, and Steve, myself, and George drove over to Ginnie Springs. This would be our first time in the Florida caves, and we were looking forward it. Our Cave 1 course had been in Mexico, and conditions in each place are very different.

Entrance to the water…

Hawk, guarding the entrance…

George debriefed us on the parts of the cave that we would encounter, tips on how to avoid being directly in the flow, and he would run the reel… Thank goodness for that, as I learned very quickly, that descending into the Ear at Ginnie, should not be done in trim… I have to admit, the flow kicked my butt! I had to really work, to get myself down there, and I know that I huffed and puffed a “bit.” Once we were down, George tied into the main line, and we ascended to the ceiling. We made our way along to the lips, and through the keyhole, and made it a bit further, when I turned the dive on gas. On the way out, George pointed out a few of the side tunnels to us, which was pretty amazing!

Now… to get out. Ay carumba… I guess I was in a funny position, and I felt the flow pushing my butt end straight up. I swear, I was going to flip over…lol. George gave me a little shove to make sure I didn’t… Thank you, George! Once I got past that little spot, I was able to brace myself a little bit better. When we surfaced, I couldn’t help but feel that I got my butt kicked… but… I still enjoyed doing the dive, and learing more. I wondered if I wanted to go back in or not, and decided that the only way to get better at it, was to get back in.

Entrance to the Ear, where the orange marker is…

We recalculated our gas, and went back in. This time, I went head down, and had a much easier and faster entrance into the cave. We had left the reel in, so we were a go. I found it so much easier this time around, as I knew what to expect in different areas, and was able to look at even more of the cave this time. We actually went farther this time, having less penetration gas. Coming out was a bit easier this time around as well, When we surfaced, I was happy that I had done the second dive, and I look forward to going back!

Two other divers were in the water, and when I heard my name, we saw Anne Marie and JP! We had hoped to run into them at some point, and did so right away!

What a fantastic day of cave diving goodness!