A Little Video From Mexico ~ 2010

8 01 2011

Just like the title says…

Mexico 2010 ~ Part 2 of 3 ~ GUE Conference

30 12 2010

Friday, December 3rd, 2010 ~

Today was Day 1 of the GUE Conference. Steve was up early, as he had an Instructor Meeting to attend, and wanted to try to fit a dive in beforehand. Jen and I were also going to squeeze one in, before heading to the Opening.

When Jen and I arrived at the shop, I noticed a mysterious e-mail from a fellow whose name rhymes with “Tug,” telling us that there would be a lost soul, looking for a dive buddy this morning, and that he would meet us at the shop. Dan B. was the soul, and we were more than happy to have him along. Apparently, he had been waiting a while too… Sorry, Dan!

We made our way to Chicken Ha/Xtabay, as Jen and I were going to retrieve the CINDAQ sensors, that we sponsor. One, for DIR Ontario, and Jen sponsors the other. The “DIR Ontario” sensor was in the fresh water, and Jen’s was in the salt water. We were just hoping that we could find them! Fred gave us a little map, that we hoped would lead the way for us, as to where to go off the line to find them.

Chris and Piotr were also out for a morning jaunt, as were Jacob, Blake, and Steve C., with their “turbos.”

Blake, heading out…

On our way into the cave, Jen ran the line, alongside of Chris’, and we tied into the main line, a little further than we meant to. This just meant we would have to back track a little, in order to follow the trusty little map that we had. So.. we made our way back, found the marker, and I headed to the location first. Voila! There it is! I replaced the sensor with a special cookie, that Jen had made up, and moved out of the way for Jen, who retrieved hers, and replaced hers with her special cookie. Dan was ever so patient, waiting for us. We decided to bring the reel in a bit, and reattach it to the beginning of the main line, leaving it in for our next dive.

As we neared the basin, Jacob came up alongside of me, with a friendly “high five!” Back atcha, buddy!

Jen, Dan, and I surfaced, recalculated our gas, then went back in for some surveying. I had the clipboard, with a map of the system, and we were going to verify directions, compass headings, try to give the map some scale, and note any large landmarks. I really enjoyed doing this, and I gained a new respect for people that do this, as there really is so much information to note, and it takes quite a bit of time. I really hope that I get more chances to do this. Jen and Dan were awesome buddies, and were very helpful!

We went through the Wizard’s Den, which is one of my favourite rooms. I never get tired of going through here. So many stalactites and stalagmites, and what appear to be large chunks of ceiling, fallen to the floor. It turns out that they are actually chunks of floor that have caved in, from a higher level. I think I could spend a lot of time in this room alone. We went through the next section of bedding plane, and I turned the dive on gas. What an excellent couple of dives!

Jen and I, with the CINDAQ sensors…

We chatted with Piotr and Chris, then raced back to the shop, dropped our tanks, then Conference bound!

Dive 1
Bottom Time ~ 38 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 44′ (Avg. 34′)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 43 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 46′ (Avg. 32′)

Of course, there was time for a triple self portrait…

We arrived at the Conference hotel, and lucked out on a great parking spot, then ran in. Just in time! *Phew!*

We arrived as Jarrod was taking the mic, and was about to address the family.

Todays talks were:

Cenotes in Maya Ideology & Potential for Underwater Discoveries ~ Dominique Rissolo
Hoyo Negro Discovery and Protection ~ Beto Nava
Endangered Sea Turtles ~ Holly Wilson
Partial Pressures & Solubility Coefficients ~ Heather  Hamza
MCEP: Ox Bel Ha Exploration Updates ~ Fred Devos

After the Speaking Goodness had finished for the day, Jen and I zipped back to our condo to get changed, then back for a couple of cocktails and dinner, at La Salva. Steve, Hassan, and Jesper decided to go out for a dive, seeing as they didn’t get their conspiracy dive in, before the meeting.

Once we finally got a table, the meal was delicious. Fred had brought his laptop with him, so that we could download our CINDAQ sensors, and see the information.

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 ~

Today’s line up:

Researching Shipwrecks: Locating & Surveying, Using Sidescan Mosaics & ROVs ~ Richard Lundgren
Lampedusa ~ Mario Arena *brilliant!*
Guadalcanal ~ Liam Allen
Remote Sensing & GIS ~ Sam Meacham
Cave Sediments ~ Ed Reinhardt
Triathlon, the Second Sport for Divers? ~ Errol Kalayci
Biodiversity in Yucatan Caves: What do you see when you dive? ~ Olmo Torres-Talamante
Why Side Mount? ~ Steve Bogaerts
Closing ~ Jarrod Jablonski

Another day of awesome talks. They were all very interesting, but Mario’s did stand out, as he outdid himself with his presentation. There was alot of great information, and definitely some great humour.

There were a lot of laughs, and it was really great to see people that we hadn’t seen in a while. Jarrod and David threw some prizes out into the crowd, and I even got a couple. W00t!

We closed off the evening with a rather large gathering at The Pub. I think they were getting to know us there… lol. We had an absolute blast with everyone, and it was a great way to finish off a fun week! Tomorrow’s festivities were to take place at Chicken Ha/Xtabay.

On our walk back to the condo, Steve and I met up with a medium-sized white dog. He was very cute, and had black ears, and a little black spot on his nose. He trotted along in front of us, seeming to lead our way. He led us directly up the few stairs to our condo gate, and waited for us to open it. How on earth did he know we were going this way?? We couldn’t get past him, so we decided to keep walking for a bit. So.. down the steps he came, and went along ahead of us again. When he was quite a distance ahead, we looked at each other and bolted back for the gate. Yeah.. that didn’t work.. He came bolting back, and waited for us at the gate again. We were laughing pretty hard at this point. Oh well.. I guess he’s getting through the gate. Then, for the Alfred Hitchcock moment… He ran up the stairs to our building, and waited for us at our front door. That was slightly freaky. Jen came up later, and he was still waiting outside the door.

Our little friend, hoping we would open the screen door for him…

Sunday, December 5th, 2010 ~

Today was reserved for a couple of workshops, as well as a BBQ and Diving Goodness at Xtabay. Our first order of the day was to pack up from our fancy condo, and move our stuff over to Jacob’s place. So, once that was done, and our cases ditched at Jacob and Gid’s house, we headed to the shop for some breakfast snacks and more chatting.

Jarrod, wearing Jesper’s fancy “Jackie O” glasses…

We grabbed a couple of sets of doubles, and headed to Xtabay. There were only a few people there by this time, and Steve and I jumped in for a couple of dives. Our first task was to return the DIR Ontario and Jen’s CINDAQ sensors. When we got to the location, it appeared that Jen’s fancy cookie had fallen, so I hope I put it back in the right place!

Our second dive, we just relaxed and had some fun. We played around in the halocline, and when in the Wizard’s Room, we stuck around to look at everything. I know I’ve said it before, but I really like this room. 🙂

We left our reel in, as we were going to do another dive after lunch. LUNCH!

What a great spread! There was a family from the US that had catered everything. Some amazing chicken, tomales, sausage, salad, drinks, and some incredibly yummy home made chocolate brownies.

After chatting and having some laughs with some of our GUE friends, we realized it was getting a bit late, and the cenote was going to close at a certain time, so we had to get our butts in the water!

We jumped back into our gear and headed back into the cave. We went past the “T,”  to the other cenote, then turned it. We took our time coming out, as we were still way below our  turn pressures. We did some more playing in the halocline, and my mask was even leaking a bit, from my giant permagrin.

Dive 1 ~ Putting sensors back in
Bottom Time ~ 53 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 44′ (32′ Avg.)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 33 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 42′ (Avg. 26′)

Dive 3
Bottom Time ~ 61 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 44′ (Avg. 26′)

Fred’s Scooter…

After our dives, we went back to Jacob’s to shower for dinner… Well, we tried…

We made our way to the front gates, where Julia, Kirill, and Philip were waiting for us. We jumped in and headed to Mayakoba. Elena was having a wonderful dinner for a bunch of us. Steve and I waited in the lobby, as everyone got ready.. what a beautiful place.

Christmas Tree, from the lounge…

Once everyone was accounted for, we headed downstairs, to the restaurant. We sat out on the balcony, where the air was perfect. There were oysters a-plenty, making the rounds on the table. Since I can’t eat things that swim, I let Steve have my share. I know how much he enjoyed them. 🙂

We had a couple of drinks, then the main courses came out. All I can say is, “Wow…” Everything was cooked to perfection, and was absolutely delicious. It was a lot of fun chatting with everyone, and to be a part of this evening. Steve and I really enjoyed it . Elena is so vibrant and fun to be around. Thank you, Elena! 🙂

Once we got back to Jacob and Gid’s place, we crept in, so we wouldn’t wake anyone.. Ohh… There is someone on the couch.. shhhh…

Monday, December 6th, 2010 ~

Despite getting home pretty late, the night before, I was up early… 6am. Steve was still sawing logs, but there was quite a group of us, having a pajama party. Roberto was there, Jacob, Sam knocked on the door, then Dominique.. then Gideon… All we were missing were Mimosas and pastries… lol. Once everyone had decided what they were doing for the day, I went back for a nap.

Once Steve and I got up (for real, this time), we headed out to find this crepe place that Gina had told us about. We located it and found our crepes of choice.

Steve’s Banana Nutella Crepe…

Mine was a Sunrise crepe, and the smoothies were incredible!

Once we were done, we were still dragging our behinds a bit, so we just relaxed for a while, then headed over to the shop. We were moving condos again today, so we figured we would just do that.

In the evening, we walked over to Subway (yes, there is a Subway, just outside of PA!) to grab a couple of subs, before heading over to ZG. Renato (Karst Odyssy) was giving a presentation on the Bosnia caves.

It was very interesting to hear their adventures and exploration through these systems. Even with the fluctuations of water levels that they had to deal with.

After the presentation, there was word of a Cave 2 course starting the next morning. J was going to sit in on it, as two people had to drop out, leaving just one student. Steve and I looked at each other… “Hmmm….” Yeah.. right… The course would run through Saturday, which was the day we were supposed to leave. Could we change our flight this late in the game? Bahh.. doubt it…

So.. we headed back to the condo, where we were fortunate enough to have a loan of Marina’s phone. Between Chris, Marina, myself, Steve, and Tom, we were finally able to find the right number to call (thanks, Tom). I got a really nice West Jet person on the phone, who was able to switch our flights for us, and even got us a direct flight back, with minimal fees. How cool is that??? So.. uh… I guess Cave 2 was starting in the morning… Thanks, Allison (at West Jet).

I guess our vacation was mostly over… 😉

Next… Part 3 ~ Cave 2!

2009 In A Nutshell…

11 01 2010

The year was another fun-filled and adventure packed one, as far as diving goodness goes.

We started off the year with our annual New Year’s Dive, then with many friends visiting for ice diving. Our ice diving party in January was a cold one. Picking Richard up at the airport, and hearing his story about him pleading for them to let him into the country, was absolutely hilarious. It didn’t help that on the coldest night of the year, and a full house, the power went out. Some of the gang slept through it all, but we know they were grateful for the propane heater we stuck in the basement for them. The rest of us gathered by the fire, through the wee hours of the morning. Then, of course.. we went diving.

The river started to break up in March, and we made our way down for a dive. The water was still 35, and we did have failures, but at least we managed them. It was good to get back in the rivaaa!

The free divers came back to the quarry, and it was fascinating to watch them and photograph them. Some of my shots ended up in their magazine as well.

Beneath The Sea was so much fun again this year. It was great to meet up with people that I don’t get to see very often, as well as friends that I hadn’t seen in about 20 years. It was really fantastic to catch up, Dave!! We also got to hang out with some of the pioneers of our sport, which was something I could never have even imagined. What an amazing experience. Becky and David, it was great to finally meet up with you!

We spent alot of time this year, looking for a few things… New entry points along the river, and that elusive truck. I can’t even count the hours we spent looking for that darn thing. No.. we still haven’t found it. Another journey for 2010!

Greg Mossfeldt came to hang out with us too, which was alot of fun!

Here is a link to Greg’s account of one of our dives, and his slideshow of pictures…


Mooring day in Kingston was an adventure. Jen and I were buddied up on Mooring Day 2, and although the seas were rockin’, I kept my cookies in check. On one of the wrecks, we had thrown in a shot line, and the two of us were going in, to see if we could find the line. There had been a report from another charter operator, that the line was missing. The shot line was right beside the wreck, and we found the mooring, which seemed in good condition. Vinnie James and Sean were right behind us, and had the lift bag to throw it up. Away we went, circling the wreck, for some fun. Jen and I went in one direction, and the other two went the opposite way. After doing a turn of the wreck, we made our way to the shot line, to pull it a little farther from the wreck. Once we did that, we turned around, and the mooring line had disappeared. We wondered if we were in the same place or not, looked around, and decided that we were. When Vinnie and Sean came back around, they were also in disbelief that there was no line. We looked for a minute, then out came the thumbs. We ascended alongside the shot line, and upon surfacing, were also boatless. It’s amazing how quickly a boat attached to a mooring line that isn’t, can float away. Anne quickly realized that the numbers she was on were different than the coordinates she was supposed to be on, so she made her way back to us. What an adventure! I think I was better off floating in the water, than in the rockin’ boat though…lol. Although I was green, I kept it together. Still, a great day, and a great adventure.

We had many trips out to the Jodrey, with friends from all over North America joining us. It was a really great opportunity to meet some more amazing people, and build new friendships.

We also were able to build on friendships we already had.

Through Steve’s journey to become a GUE Instructor, we met even more fabulous people along the way. One friendship that has become important to both of us, is with Guy Shockey. I don’t want to go on too much about him, as he might get a swelled head, but he is definitely one heckofafellow, and we are both glad to call him our friend.

Then came the Canadian Invasions. What started out as a half joke about people coming to dive with us, and camping out in our back yard, has turned into a two weekend diving extravaganza, with even more awesome people. Our first weekend in Brockville, and the second weekend in Kingston, with both Recreational and Technical charters, and scooter dives. This was the first time that we had added Ktown to the bill, and we are looking forward to it again in 2010!

After the Invasions, Harvey came to visit us, and a few of us had signed up to do the Naui Tech 2 course with him. It was great fun having Harvey along, and we had alot of fun during the course.

In November, Steve and I headed down to High Springs, for the GUE Conference, and the IE. We met more amazing people, and finally got to check out the Florida caves. The Conference was well worth going to, and the caves.. well, one word… WICKED!

All of the events planned were alot of fun, and it was just fantastic to meet up with other GUE folk from around the globe. It was even fun to have a little spot for “DIR Ontario” on opening day, at the Conference.

It was especially cool to meet JP and Anne Marie near the Ear at Ginnie!

Special thanks to Sheila and Steve, for putting up with me on my virgin kayak trip… 10 MILES!! Another special thanks to both George and Jeff, for showing us around the wet rocks! We loved it!! It was really wonderful to finally meet some of our friends face to face, instead of our internet meetings! Two words.. Amanda rocks.. 🙂

I still think our version of the Peanut Tunnel is amusing…

This is one of my favourite pictures from the trip, taken by Amanda Cotton…

We also got to take Flat Stanley cave diving in Little River. Picture taken by Jeff Schrieber…

On the last day of the conference, Steve, myself, Guy, and Dan decided to go up to Madison, for a couple of dives. Yet another amazing day.

I am not sure how many “incredible” words I can come up with, to describe how great this trip was. Um… can we move?

Upon returning home, we were greeted with snow and much colder temperatures. While the quarry was still open, it didn’t take long before it was frozen over.

We definitely had an extra spectacular year, and we are definitely looking forward to the adventures that 2010 will bring!

Double kudos to Steve and Guy, for becoming GUE Instructors!! w000000000t!! 😮

I have also done a Three Part picture video set, of some of the year’s photos!

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!!