Caribbean – Scuba Diving St. John, USVI

So Brian has been a serious scuba diver for years.  He dives wrecks and he goes deep.  The first time we had lunch together it was to talk about diving when I was thinking about enrolling my kids in a course.  He’s wanted to get me in scuba gear since we met.

While we were waiting for our Jeep to be ready for us, we wandered around Cruz Bay and found this local dive shop.

The story of the Jeep? It’s a long story, and one I’ll save for another day.

I had already seen their website and knew they would be a good choice for a discovery dive.  If you aren’t familiar, a discovery dive is like a “Try It” course to see if you want to take a certification course.  Also to see if your body will actually let you take a breath while your face is underwater before you fork over hundreds of dollars for the course.  I did one years ago in a swimming pool and one girl in the class tried for an hour, but her lungs just shut down every time she tried to take a breath once she stuck her face in the pool, even though she was standing in 3 feet of clear water and wasn’t even afraid.

Suit up!

So we signed me up.  Two days later (the day after the wedding) we came back and I watched a 30 minute video all about the gear.  There was lots of info on what to do and what not to do (don’t ever hold your breath! Ever!) and all the hand signals and such, then they took us downstairs to get our wetsuits on and load us on the boat.

Our ride

That boat may have only been 20 feet off the beach, but there is quite a drop-off and we got to wade out there up to our chest in water with our dry stuff held high over our heads to get out there.  I am one of those really annoying people who does not, at all, like to just get right in the water.  I like to take my time and ease into it.  This drives Brian crazy.  He is a jump-right-in kind of guy, and the bigger the splash the better.  He’s the guy who comes to your pool party and cannon-balls right in the middle of everyone for maximum wetness.  He had a great time laughing at me when I had to just jump right in, teeth chattering and all.

But our crew was great, and pulled me right up the ladder and gave me a jacket right away.

And, I’m sorry, but is it just me or are these crew guys like twelve years old?

Middle school? Freshmen?

So there’s me on the boat, wet and shivering, and my dear new husband laughing at me because I am a water wuss.  Tell me again why I’m doing this?

He was just trying to stay cheerful though.  He loves diving, but wasn’t allowed to dive with me because he doesn’t have his medical clearance yet after the previous year’s heart attack.  For this dive he was official photographer, and snorkeled above me while I was in the water.  He did a great job of keeping an eye on me, and played his roll of  “mother bear” very well.  He triple checked all my equipment and gave the dive crew the third degree.  Once satisfied that they knew what they were doing, he settled in to pace the boat and deal with his frustration with not being able to strap on a tank and jump in.

Jonesing for a tank on his back

The day before we had a big wind pick up and got big waves to match, (splashing waves and high wind do wonders for wedding hair, let me tell you) and the waves were still going strong for our dive, so they found a good protected spot called Lameshur Bay and parked us not far off shore.

Diver down!

We were going to go under and circle some rocks poking up out of the water, just to the right of the photo above.  The water was about 40 feet deep here.  You see me hanging on to that metal bar below?  I was holding myself UP.  That tank weighs a friggin TON, and I also had something like twenty pounds of lead weights strapped to my dive belt.  Seriously, even without the flippers* I could only have managed a slow shuffle to the end of the boat.  With the flippers?  Well, it took me a minute or two to get there from my spot on the bench a whole six feet away.

Weight of a Freight Train on my Back

I was excited, but also a little scared.  When you’re carrying something the weight of a truck on your back, the last thing you feel like doing is jumping into 40 feet of water.  I was really scared that I was going to sink like a rock.  No worries though, my dive vest was full of air and when I took my great big step off the edge I bobbed like a cork.  I’m sure it helped that my ass is also rather buoyant, which is why I needed the lead weights.  Shut up.

Classmates bobbing like corks

My seventh grader dive instructor checked on all of us to make sure we weren’t panicking, and went over all the basics again (breathe in, breathe out), reviewed the hand signals and then gave us the “go” to let the air out of our vests and start sinking.

That sign I’m making?  That means, “I am OK and not drowning or freaking out”, unless you are a Brazilian.  Then I just called you an asshole.

OK - or Asshole. Take your pick.

So out came the bubbles from my vest vent and down we went.  Diver down!

I did have a hard time with my ears, but I expected it and let the dive guides know in advance so my instructor stayed by my side while it took me about 3 times longer to get all the way to the bottom than it did everyone else.  My ears don’t adjust to pressure very easily.

Now, mind you this is a class for people who have never even been within ten feet of a scuba tank.  We had some mandatory beginner gear checks to do once we were in the water, like taking the regulator out of your mouth and putting it back in (but don’t hold your breath!), clearing the water out of it, clearing water out of your mask without drowning, etc.  In my opinion, the very first time to do this should not have been 40 feet below the surface while kneeling on the sand in the creepy darkness and carrying the weight of a truck.  However, we all managed it without any problems except maybe breathing too fast and were soon swimming along and exploring the coral and the fish.

I was concentrating really hard on my breathing and my ears, so I didn’t even see Brian hovering above me and diving down to get close enough to take photos of me.  For all I know, Jaws himself could have swum within inches of me and I would have been all, “Look!  A pretty puffer fish in front of me! What’s that shadow?”.

I'm doing it!

We were close to the shore, and near gigantic rocks, so it was very canyon-like down there.  We swam between walls of rock covered with coral and saw quite a few fish.  There was a trumpet fish that was maybe two feet long, a big puffer fish, lots of whatever those big silver fish are with the yellow tails, Dory fish, clown fish, purple and yellow fish, etc.  I was really, really hoping to see a sea turtle, but no luck today.  Maybe next time.

It's getting dark down here

We stayed down for, er… twenty minutes?  Thirty minutes?  I have no idea.  About the time we were making our way back I started having trouble keeping the suction on my mask so I was busy breathing and holding my mask with my hands for a while and not paying any attention to time.  When I broke the surface, B was there and asking if I was OK (I was, so I called him an asshole) and he noticed my nose was bleeding a little bit.  Seems my sinuses and my ears are not thrilled about high pressure.

Everybody got back on the boat for a rest and a tank change, then we went down again maybe sixty or so yards from where we were the first time.  I seriously thought about opting out of the second dive, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  The scenery was completely different, lots of sand and humps of coral beds but no canyons.  We saw many of the same fish as on the first dive and even saw a Lion Fish.  Seeing that was very cool because he was huge and very pretty, but also disturbing because they are a predatory alien species here and are doing tons of damage.  Still, I’m glad I got to see one.

This second dive was easier too because I was less scared, knew better what to expect and how to handle my ears.

When we finally got out of the water I was already thinking about the next time I get to dive, and OMG I want an underwater camera housing now!

Tired, bloody nose, and so thrilled!

Also, we were tired and hungry.


Strategically placed right outside the dive shop?  The Beach Bar!  With the best chicken burritos you will find anywhere.  We inhaled those so fast I didn’t even have time to stop for a photo.

After we ate he sent me inside the dive shop to go buy my souvenir dive T-shirt to commemorate. I said, “Look at that! We’re married less than twenty four hours and already you have me in Scuba gear, and I have your wallet!”

*Brian has informed me the are fins. I am never allowed to utter the word flippers again.

On the map: Click here to see the location on our Google Map.

This was not a sponsored post.

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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