Saturday, December 09, 2006

Barbecued Iguana 2

Sistema Dos Ojos

We spent 3 days diving the Dos Ojos system. First from the Dos Ojos cenote, then from Hidden worlds, and a special trip to The Pit.

The first day, it's Gary, Isaac, Mike and I on our own. I regret not joining the other group to look where the movie was filmed. And I'm really sorry I missed the Barbie in the Gator. I know we went on a more challenging dive and its silly, but I really wanted to see the Barbie doll!!

We had been sent on a wild goose chase. We followed a left cavern line & surfaced at another cavern opening according to plan. A few minutes later, an air bell with bats. Then we expected to take the first jump. We found an arrow to jump from, but no line. We searched for a bit, finding no reasonable place to jump to. Our group split up at this point, and I spent too much time sniffing out a spot that COULD be our jump. This brought me to a place no backmounter should ever try to enter. I gave up and headed back.

Mike was waiting for me on the line, we found the rest of our team up the line a bit at Motmot Cenote. We discussed the lost jump and came up with a new plan. We continued on through the maze and then Gary took

another jump. This cave was super, super silty and viz was horrible for photos. Everything was orange and dark. Its amazing that Isaac got a few cool shots even through the halocline at 30'. Isaac led us through a really tight restriction and I saw another line below us. I dropped to peek at it and it was very porcelain looking, much like the Taj Mahal "broken china" room.

Gary turned us around and we headed out. On the way out, I saw an air bell with hundreds of hanging bats.

Later that day, we did a traverse from Orquideas to Hilario's Well. Meaning orchids, the cenotes were at Hidden Worlds, and we got to meet Buddy Quattlebaum. The walk down wasn't too bad and we had to do a giant stride in pretty shallow water. Paul led us upstream to show where they filed the scooter crash scene in "The Cave."

We turned back after 15 min and drifted down to Hilario's Well. This is another dark cave with giant columns. Often the main line split in two and Mike took the "second story" while I stayed on the "first floor." This dive had a hysterical moment when Paul made an interesting gesture for our amusement. I almost choked, I was laughing so hard!

The following day, we headed out for the most special dive - The Pit!

The climb down was intimidating. A long, long hike over rocks and a steep
climb in which we had to hold onto tree braches. You'd have to seek out a
foothold, then as you'd shift your body weight to that foot, the ground would
give way. Thank God for Ruben and his team of sherpas!!

Mike and I drop down quickly (Yeah ears!), we reach 200 by 7 min, we onl
stayed at that depth for 3 min. Its funny because no one wanted to go deep, but when we got back up to about 180', it seemed like everyone was there!!

The nice part was doing a nice cave penetration during deco, instead of just hanging on a line or hugging a tree…Mexico spoils us!!

We returned to the Dos Ojos system two days later, and Paul took Mike and I to see the Barbie doll! I was terribly excited about this, and when we were done manipulating the position of her legs, Barbie was excited too.

This was followed by the "Mile Run" which is a 6000' traverse from Dos Ojos to Monolito. This place is like a medieval castle because the walls are so dark.

Paul carried the slave and got some good shots with Isaac as the

We passed a few other cenotes to get here. The sequence is:

Doss Ojos--> Dos Palmas -->High Voltage --> Tapir's End --> Monolito.

Recalculated thirds at each opening.

In one of the cenotes (maybe High Voltage) along the way, where were a
bunch of plastic hibiscus on the ground. Mike picked one up and handed it to me.

The exit was steep and treacherous. It was a mudhole - like Buford
coming out.

After the dive, we all went tot he Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Barbecued Iguana
Current mood: cheerful

A trip to Mexico for a week of cave diving tantalizes the imagination. Prior to the trip, I worried that I'd lose interest in diving places like Little River or Madison Blue after seeing the wondrous decorated tunnels in the Riviera Maya caves. We packed our bags with trepidation and struggled to meet the 50lb airline restriction. Hey, cave gear is HEAVY!

Once we landed in Cancun, I felt like the most dangerous part of the trip was behind me! Now, for the easy stuff - diving! Going through customs in Mexico is somewhat a madhouse. You have to grab your bags and THEN go through customs. As miserable as waiting is normally, waiting with 5 suitcases sucks even worse. Merging from 20 lines of brain-dead travellers to 2 lines while hauling your 5 suitcases is even more fun.

Our hotel, Aquatech Villas DeRosa, was fabulously more than we expected. The rooms were big, there was air-conditioning (which we never had to use) and the sounds of the ocean gently rolling into the shore lulled us into a deeply relaxed state.

In Mexico, the "standard" set of doubles is 2 AL80s and we used a cute device called a v-weight to wedge between the tanks. It worked out very well, and the resort provided these huge oversized milk crates in which to store our gear. This thoughtful item kept our gear from mildewing throughout the week and the storage area saved us from hauling up heavy wet stuff up three flights of stairs each night!

Sistema Carwash

Our first dive of the trip was in Carwash, named so because cab drivers used to pull their cabs there to rinse the dusty Mexican road off their vehicles. The entry was the easiest of the week and with nice tables to set your gear on, we got a little spoiled. The surface water was black and I kidded Paul about all the clear water he promised us. Fortunately, the water was crystal clear below about 10 feet. Our group was divided in two, and the 4 divers who were all full-cave certified formed my group. My husband and I were joined by 2 photographers: Gary and Isaac. We went off in search of the Room of Tears

Gary led, Mike was second, then me and Isaac was at the end. Since Gary, Mike & Isaac are all loaded down with camera gear, I ran the primary reel. Gary led me around trying to find the main line. I though we'd never find it! I barely had any line left on the spool! After tying in, we got in the right order. I was blown away how awesome it looked. We passed under another sinkhole called Luke's Hope. We got to a line arrow that marked the jump and Gary looked to the left and made a right into what we later called "the rat hole" that pinched off a little while later.

Since we couldn't find the jump so we continued on the main line all the way to Adrianna's Room. Saw all kinds of onion-skin looking paper, but it was rock!! Very thin rock. The room wasn't the Room of Tears, but it was gorgeous with stalagmites and stalactites all over.

On the way out, I scoped out the jump and I thought I spotted the right place to jump to. Mike pointed out a stalagmite that looked like a golf ball and took a fake swing at it.
For our second dive, we wanted to try again for the Room of Tears and the spot I noted turned out to the right one! This tunnel is just beautiful! Mike points out some broken stalagmites that look like ivory. I really wanted to take one, but I left it behind for others to enjoy. We made it back to the room of tears and went on a bit further. Gary turned the dive just as it dropped down. On the way out, we run into Paul and he gives me the "Wow" sign. Wow is right!!

Sistema Naranjal

Nothing in Mexico has only one name! The common convention is to refer to a place by its system name which may include several different cenotes. Sistema Naranjal is no exception, and we dove this system from both the Mayan Blue (also known as Esconditio) and the Cristal (aka Naharon) cenotes.

Escondito is a cool place to do a huge giant stride off the 8' cliffs. We were all a bunch of kids jumping off prior to gearing up, then again with gear!

Gary leads us to the hole (B Tunnel) and I run the line. At first, Naranjal reminds me of Peacock 3 because its dark and iced with silt, but its a pretty thick silt. The rock has a lot of jagged edges. I'm surprised by the extent of the halocline and its very hard to see. Its making me a bit dizzy and I have to hold onto a rock to get oriented. We came along a beautiful group of spires that resemble Cinderella's Castle.

Its pretty, like a tunnel filled with wedding cakes, but not nearly as nice as the Room of Tears. We switch order a bunch of times and at the turn, I take some photos of Isaac. Isaac called the dive, and its great that we all have about the same air consumption. I'm surprised when we have a deco obligation at the end.

Naharon was the next dive on the list. It's a very intimidating entry with very treacherous algae-covered slippery rocks. One member of the group declined to dive there, as she has twisted her ankle here and ruined a previous trip.

There are lots of snorkelers and swimmers here and there's a rope tied to a tree to help lower you in. I manage to get in without killing myself. There's a huge basin to swim to before you get to the cave and the ground has really cool plants with little fish hiding within. Since no one wanted to run the line, I volunteered and we shared a reel with Paul's group. Paul runs the first jump to the left a few feet later sends us off on another left jump. He knows this place well, having been part of the original exploration team. This dark tunnel has lots of halocline, but it is stunning! It was funny on the 2nd jump, I ran out of line and Isaac had to clipped his spool to my jump reel to finish jump. My measly little Florida reel is meant to bridge gaps, not do the exploration jumps they seem to expect in Mexico.

The Southern Sacbe tunnel has spots that look like a candle shop with wax dripping over the sides. It was very pretty. Mike turned the dive and is having trouble staying down. He's not carrying the slave strobe and can't seem to get un-positive. He added more lead for the rest of our dives.

Sistema Taj Mahal

This place is interesting with stark white and bright orange intermingled. The stalactites here have grown so large that many have fallen from their own weight. They are all over the floor pointing in odd directions. The water in this place is called "sweet water" which is a mixture of salt and fresh water.

I'm so disappointed that I can't find a map for Sistema Taj Mahal. We took right (downstream) line, Mike and Gary popped up at Cenote Buena Vista (we think this is the one) and we continued downstream. We all surfaced at Cenote Sacrada that had an alter. Mayans used to have some type of religious service here that somehow led to a lot of broken pots.

We popped at another hole and played with tree roots growing out of the ceiling, there's calcite flakes floating on the surface of the water.

We then went on to an enormous room in the Jumna River where were all doing cartwheels & flips.

="" lang="EN-GB">Sistema Sac Actun

Entered in Grand Cenote and swam to the Cuzan Mah. This cathedral like section towers over divers and was the most gorgeous ever! We saw lots of formations like cityscapes and a huge beehive rock. In one spot, we had to swim through a tight formation that was way cool. We made another jump somewhere along the way.

Gary turned the dive and we backtracked to where Sac Actun cenote is and ran a line to the opening. It was pretty and jungle-like. This was my favorite dive so far!!

The next dive was up the Paso de Logarto line where every rock seemed to resemble some type of animal. On the way out, we saw a little cage with lifesaver looking thing and a note that said: Scientific Experiment: Don't touch.

Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich

This dive was amazing!! We passed through "Heaven's Gate" and followed the main line for a while. Gary led us through 2 jumps all at an average of 15 feet. I thought I'd be tremendously bored at 15 feet, but this place is amazing.

Mike was working the slave. I ran the lines and stayed back. Around one corner, we saw a large formation that looked like an eagle statue...a bit later was a LITTLE HOUSE! The boys called it "jail house." One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen!

Gary turned the dive and we stopped at a cenote on the way back

(Luna something. Paul thought it used to be called "The Castle") and the angle of light created by the small hole in the roof was stunning! Met up with Paul's group and we all headed back together.

Our second dive was very different from the first. This time, I led in and made the jump at the first place we came to. This passage could be called "porcelain forest." It was highly decorated and resembles a forest with huge 4' diameter columns (like trees) with endless soda straw stalagmites that look like leaves on the ceiling. I had to keep flipping upside down to look at the ceiling. We noted a jump to the right, actually it was a T and Mike dropped an arrow. We stayed on the straight path, not realizing it looped around back to where we started from.

When we saw daylight, I'd hoped we were someplace new, and was disappointed that we were at our point of origin. This dive yielded the best
photo of the trip. Awesome dive!!! I didn't expect to do a circuit in Mexico!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Silt Castle

I admit being brainwashed. As a young girl, my mental picture of a castle never included real castles, made of stone and for protection. Instead, I pictured the mansion-style that Disney moved Cinderealla into. By definition, a castle is a strongly fortified, permanently garrisoned stronghold with high walls and towers. I certainly didn't expect to find an animated Cinderdalla hovering in backplate and wings in Hendly's Castle, but I did expect to be disappointed. So many cave names hold such promise, but don't live up to the mystique of the name. (let me site the Godzilla Room as a prime example).

For our full cave "graduation dive," our instructor gave us a few options on where to go. Many folks choose to do the Grand Traverse (a mile swim from Orange Grove to Peacock 1), but we have been most of that route already, and knew we'd not really see much new passage. What really turns us on is going deep. I don't know why its such a thrill, but it is. Frankly, we should be over getting excited by triple-digits on our depth gauges, but we are captivated by challenge. Like a junkie who has found his next fix, there's some magic in having to lean up your mix. I just hope the deep dives hold the same level of excitement when helium cuts back the nitrogen buzz.

The dive started a little rough. We tried to be so careful and not stir up the basin as we entered, but it very tough attaching stage & deco bottles while standing very, very still. We tried, but did end up bringing along some baggage with us. This was my first time cave diving in P3, and it stuck me as way more exciting than the Peacock system for many reasons. First, like a snowbird who returning home to their sheet-covered furniture, everying is draped in silt. Each room not the same hollow tube that varies little for thousands of feet. There are big changes from room to room. Some passages narrow, and then turn to the left into huge rooms with high ceilings. There's a spot where there's a crack that seems to go all the way to the surface! One part is very tall, but narrow and made me feel like Princess Lea in the trash compactor! There's a notable restriction along the way called sandslide. We dropped our stage bottles just prior to this restriction.

The actual jump to the Hendley's line is just inches from the main line, so instead of using a jump reel, we just connected the two lines with an arrow. The real fun began as we squeezed our way down to 130' and then through a narrow lengh of pancacke like passage until we got to the bottom. It was pretty cool running into the end of the line! It was suprising though as the map showed another tunnel. We were a bit suprised, but Paul showed us where the line continues down a bit north of the main line. The next tunnel doesn't look big enough for even sidemount, so we didn't dare go any further. It was very sad when air was up and it was time to go. How odd to ascend 150' and not surface! We still had a long swim out! Just as I was getting pretty miserable of the cold, we found ourselves in the cavern was nice to burn off some deco while swimming. By the time we hit the cavern, we only had 20 minutes of deco left....Brrr.

I can't wait to go back!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Diamonds & Locusts

Buford. A dive site this dazzling should have a more exciting name. Diamond Spring is what I would have called it. Or perhaps, "the Reward", in honor of the prize that awaits an arduous path. We were lucky that the sunlight was just in the right spot and as we descended, the rays of sunlight were bouncing off the bottom and reflecting back at slightly different angles. As we changed even the slightest in position, it seemed the sunlight was glittering back up at us, like a perfectly cut diamond. As we got deeper and looked back up at the cavern opening, you could see the impressive sun beams bore down to the 80' bottom creating a display Paul Heinerth compares to "a religious experience."

The cavern below holds scalloped walls, a pretty ceiling, and a rubber chicken at the end of the line! We found a little spot in the east wall that could probably be penetrated, but we saw it late in the dive and didn't have the gas to investigate further. This is absolutely a dive that everyone needs to do at least once.

We had heard about the tribulations that one encounters on the way to Buford, but hearing about and experiencing are such different things. All the books say you need to go with someone who has been there before, if you ever plan on finding it. That's very true. Even the detailed directions we were given wouldnt have gotten us close. You have to *know* where it is. Much of the way there is what divers consider "normal." You have to park your car a ways back and there's a long walk that you can take a cart to. But the normalness ends about 200' from the swamp. The quicksand-like mud was ankle deep in most spots. And I won't get into the joy of hiking thru mud in 101 degrees wearing a 5mm wetsuit. Next time, I'll go with a 3mm and freeze. Of course, the horseflies can easily gnaw through your flesh in a 3mm, so there IS a trade-off.

The following trip account describes the "wildlife" quite well:

We saw no gators snakes or snakes but the horse flies were of biblical plague proportions. If you can still find an old barrel of DDT someplace, bring it with you and it may keep the younger flies off of you. You're on your own for the bigger older flies. We spotted them flying in tight formation making every attempt to break through our 5mil deet soaked defenses. On the way home pick up some hydrocortisone to spackle on any remaining exposed flesh you may have had.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm a 7 atmosphere girl now.

A little bit about my latest dive. I am a trained amateur, don't try this at home.

The day was magical and the butterflies were frolicking and my hubbie and I were eagerly driving though the wilderness known as Eagle's Nest. Bump, bump, bump through the 19 miles of packed limestone.

The only thing that stood in our way now was some soft sugar-sand. Though the road has been improved, there's 2 spots of deep sugar sand that make me feel like a young girl headed to a bar with a Fake hope you get in, but you are never really sure until you are past the bouncer.

We are the only folks there and get ready quickly. We each take our AL80 stage bottles (filled with 30% nitrox good to about 140') and our AL40 deco bottles (these are in the stories of all diving accidents where the unlucky diver always has "oxygen" tanks) filled with oxygen (can't take this deeper than 20'). We then gear up with our doubles, our HID lights, our 2 back-up lights, safety reels, and so much exposure protection I feel like the Pillsbury Doughboy. We are also sporting our new Nitek computers that will aid greatly in managing these multiple gasses. Did I mention that one should not try this at home? Seriously, only a suicidal fool would even think of doing this kind of dive on a single tank.

After a not-so-quick bubble check and the other customary checks & drills, we start our descent. The surface basin reeks of algae and mung. I am amazed that the fish can survive in such scum and I think back to when I had an aquarium and realize that it was CLEAN! Mike leads us to the "the chimney" and we drop our deco bottles close by. Well, we don't actually "drop" them...there are eye bolts drilled into a fallen log and we clip them to these. If you've never seen the chimney before, you've seen it before...unless you were born breech. Yes, that's exactly what it looks like, and its about 70 feet deep until we reach the ballroom. Its pretty neat going down the chimney, because you work on not hitting the sides with your fins or hands while trying to clear at the same time. Once past the chimney, it goes from the tight hole to a huge room....its probably as large as the Ice Palace and the water is so clear its invisible. You really do feel like you are flying through there. We don't have time to play now though and we rush down to the top of the mound to drop (uh, I mean carefully place) our stage bottles there. For the non-divers who might happen to still be reading this, we don't take that tank deeper because the oxygen content would be toxic at a deep depth. That bottle just waits there for us to return.

Mike leads us along the upstream line and its exhilarating to watch the depth gauge read deeper and deeper. At the same time, my brain is easing into extreme euphoria and I'm a little distracted by all the pretty rocks around us. If you've ever marveled at how tall the Sears Tower is while standing below it, its the same kind of awe. The scale in Eagle's Nest is quite grand. I never understood the allure of cave diving until I realized its often like visiting the Grand Canyon. Perhaps folks from Arizona or Utah aren't as impressed, but for Floridians who are accustomed to flat, flat, flat....its tremendously breath-taking.

We make it down to our planned 200'...well, I made it just a little past that 209. We know we can't go any deeper using plain old air. At this moment, we are still a few classes away from being able to use a mixture of helium that contains less that 21% which would allow us to go deeper. We hang there until our turn time of 15 minutes and start heading back. We spend some time exploring the downstream as well until we hit our thirds (cave divers always dive using the rule of thirds: one third going in, one third to go out, one third for emergencies), then head back to the mound to pick up our stage bottles and switch to that gas.

After some time spent going up very, very slowly, we are ready to start our 50' deco stop. We have to do these one at a time, since we both can't be at the same depth in the chimney. I go first and keep an eye on Mike below me as well as our other buddy above us. After 3 minutes, we all move up another 10 feet; we keep repeating the 3 minute stops each 10 feet until we get to where we dropped our oxygen bottles. Now, the big switch to that and we settle down in the muck for about 20 minutes. Not a long deco at all....helped quite a bit by the nitrox we breathed on the way up.

All in all, it was the most exciting dive I've ever done. So much cooler than seeing the same pretty fish over and over again. I'm afraid that I am really becoming a deep-water junkie.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Intro to Cave

What a blast!!

Mike and I drove up to Luraville and checked in to the place my friend refers to as "The Scuba Hostel." We ran into a friend who had just arrived to Florida and would be joining us on our dives. Though we knew we'd be spending several days together, we couldn't resist catching up and stayed up until the wee hours.

After a quick breakfast in the luxurious Luraville Country Store (how nice to see the farmers leave after 8 and we got to sit at the big table!), we headed to Peacock I for our first official cave dive.

Paul was easy on us for the first dive and we were allowed to dive to 3rds in the direction of Olsen Sink. Since it was our first time in the system, we spent too much time looking around and reached thirds about 300' prior to Olsen. After turning the dive, Paul signaled for us to do the return trip on our weakest back-up lights. I had thought that it would suck on such a little light, but with unlimited visibility, the tiniest light gives you ample power to follow the line. Whew!

Our second dive of the day, Mike redefined the term goal-oriented and was going to reach Olsen or die trying. He set an Olympic pace, wearing us all out...and hit 3rds at the cavern entrance. He got a tiny scolding, but who's going to bicker about 30 PSI? The 300' we missed the day before were the most beautiful. I *loved* the keyhole that we had to swim through, and how cool to see the line disappear into the wall. I can't begin to describe how awesome it was to fit through that tiny opening. It seems silly to think that crawling through a hole was incredibly fun, but if youve ever watched children amuse themselves with a refrigerator box, it was like that, except that we are grown-ups.

The way back was interesting. Our first lights-out air share drill. Those who have done it can remember how spooky. I learned something during my first real experience with absolute total darkness. I never realized that I could in fact see the backs of my eyelids. It was pretty cool seeing the little red spots every time I blinked. On the other hand, I felt so sorry for the cave. We banged and bumped and generally sucked. Our gear was covered in little pebbles and rocks that had been ripped out of the cave due to our poor technique. The following day, Mike led during this drill and we made Olympic time again.

Our third day was the beginning of apprentice class and we head to Ginne Springs to do some drills in a high-flow system. I had read so much on the internet about how beautiful and pristine Ginne Springs was, but frankly our visit there in December didnt impress me at all. Clear water, so what? I have that in my swimming pool too. The little cavern in Ginnie Spring, called the ballroom was neat, but not cool enough to justify the expense. I really had not planned on ever returning. What changed my mind was reading an internet post about cave diving there, and I decided to give it another chance.

We lucked out that there was another instructor there who wanted to borrow Paul's oxygen analyzer and mentioned that he had a reel in place. Yeah! We didn't have to run one now! Our first dive was into Devils Eye.though a tiny bit of flow. My first impression of the cave was that everything was black. The rocks are covered with a mineral called goethite which makes the place look like theres been a fire there recently.
For some reason, this makes it particularly appealing to me. Yes, Im a pyro. We made it 750 back (just shy of Maple Leaf) and didnt have to do any drills (yeah!) We exited the water with shit-eating grins, all smiles and in love with the cave system here. After getting an almost perfect score on our exams, we came back for a second dive, and our first jump! We made the jump from Cornflakes to the Bone Tunnel, but didnt make it all the way to the Bone Room. All that heavy breathing.

All in all, it was a spectacular weekend and we are terribly eager to do the next step. I cant wait to take another cave-diving trip!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Great visibility in the Caymans:

Awesome stingray in Belize:

Saturday, May 06, 2006

St. Anthony's Swim 2006
Current mood: accomplished

The swim was totally brutal. Four minutes into the race, I turned around to quit. The only thing that kept me in was seeing how far I'd already made it from shore. Every time I pulled my head up to breathe, I got a face full of seawater up my nose. I joked to one of the kayakers that some folks pay a fortune for saline nasal spray, and here we are getting as much as we want for FREE. The newspaper said 60 people were rescued out of the water and that the waves were so bad that the support crew's kayaks were getting overturned. Two women had to be resuscitated by CPR. Having made it through a mile of this, I can say with absolute certainty that I will never drown.

Don't take my word for it. Read some comments from some of the triathlon forums regarding the swim.

james reeves: The waves were big, I was all alone, and it appeared as though I would never make it to the first turn. Did some breast stroke to try to calm down. It didn't work. This feeling lasted until half way through the cross leg.

NYTriGal: Very choppy so it was hard to sight on the buoys. On the way out to first turn every time I looked up I caught face full of water.

Ron: THE SEAS WERE ANGRY THAT DAY MY FRIENDS Wow. All I'm used to is the frigid Ohio lakes that remain relatively calm. This was warm...but....tumultuous. The first 1/4 mile I did mostly breast-stroke and side-stroke. Catching my breath wasn't the issue, it was trying to find some rythm in this water between swells. I hung on the rail and almost fell down getting out. Being in an angry ocean for 45minutes then on solid land is a little disorientating.

Sue7013: This swim was totally brutal. The waves were 4-5 foot I am told. I could not see the bouys for most of the swim. First leg you could only breathe right, second leg left. There is a lot of Tampa bay missing and in triathletes tummies!!

JlDiCarlo:Wow. IMHO the current and chop were pretty nasty. I never got in a good rhythm. I'd get a few strokes in (sts) and then I'd be flying through the air crashing down with a wave. LOTS of people breast stroking. I imagine it was in an attempt to see the buoys which were VERY hard to see over the swells. I ignored the buoys for awhile using people and the pier to sight, but finally I had to start looking for the first turn buoy to give myself a warm fuzzy and it took about 5-10 sightings to finally catch a glimpse of it. Stupid waves.

Rmaldon240: The waves are pretty big at this point. I walk until I can't walk anymore then I start to swim, sort of. I go about 4 strokes then I breath / swallow a good mouthful of sea water. ( seawater tastes really bad.) I force myself to attempt to swim again, I go another 4 strokes then I look up and I notice a lot of my fellow green caps are on their backs or doing the side stroke or in one guys case doggy paddling. I try to catch my breath but I am getting tossed around by the waves. Have I mentioned my healthy RESPECT of the water? I don't want to call it Fear. I was more CONCERNED for my survival than actually being ASKEERED. I think to myself that while this seemed like a great idea back in January right now in April while getting hit by 4 ft waves it's not such a great idea so much. lol

It takes me about 10 minutes to get to the first Buoy and I realize that the whole freestyle thing is not working out for me so well so I flip on my back, get slammed by a wave and swallow even more sea water than my first nice, big gulp. At this point the ladies in the white caps that started in the wave behind me start to catch up. I consider giving up. I have never quit anything in my life.

At that point I just try to make it from one buoy to the other. I float on my back, I freestyle, I side stroke, I breast stroke and before I know it the red caps that were 2 waves behind me and the silver caps in the final wave have all passed me by.

There were two other green caps that were struggling as much as I was and every time they pulled ahead of me I forced myself to catch up. By the time we get to the second yellow buoy, the turn towrds the shore. It's just me and one other green cap. The doggy paddler. He starts throwing up. He vomits straight ocean water and a whole lot of it. A nearby kayak tries to get over to him but the waves are too much. I ask the guy if he is OK and in between vomiting he says "I'll make it". I swim over to the guy in the kayak and he tells me the waves must be 5 feet high. I needed to hear that like I needed a hole in my head.

Anyway, I figure this is my opportunity to beat one person in my wave.LOL I finally get close to the stairs but I have to keep stopping. I have nothing left. I have great video of me 100 feet from the stairs stopping twice and disappearing behind the waves. It feels like the waves are bouncing off the sea wall and make it even worse. I finally get to the stairs and a 90 pd, 15 year old sticks out her hand to help me out of the water. I was dizzy, and I was tired and I felt that I might pull her in but I took her hand just the same.

Going up that staircase was one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life.