2018 Escape The Winter Trip – Day 7

Day two of open water diving and our dives were scheduled for the afternoon.  I spent the morning with some pretty severe anxiety (and less than pleasant physical effects) about the second day’s dives after what was a less than fun experience the previous day.  I really struggled to get out of my head and get excited about scuba diving in the open ocean.  Josh was feeling better, thankfully, and tried his best to reassure me but I was stressing, BAD!  There was no part of me that wanted to experience what I had experienced on my first two dives.  But, I reminded myself that we paid a substantial amount of money to go to Key Largo to get certified and I really wanted to be successful while we were there.  So, we packed up our dive gear and headed to Rainbow Reef to check in for our two afternoon dives.

What a difference a day makes!  This time, we boarded the boat and got to work, knowing what was going to happen and how we needed to do it.  Our kits were assembled in no time and we were able enjoy the 35 minute boat ride to the first dive location.  That’s right, we enjoyed the boat ride this time!  There was very little wind and the seas were very calm.  Day two was starting out pretty good!  I did some mindfulness exercises on the way out to the first dive spot and was even able to take some pictures while we were on the boat this time around.

The first dive spot for day two was Christmas Tree Cave on the French Reef, an open water site with a maximum depth of 45 feet.  We had some catch-up skills to complete from the previous day, plus all of the skills that we needed to complete today so the to-do list for the dive was pretty long.  I was actually pretty happy about that, as it helped to get me out of my head and gave me something to focus on.  We hopped into the water and were blessed with little to no waves and no surge.  We completed our skills quickly and without issue and then enjoyed a swim around, checking out the critters.  During the dive we saw Rainbow Parrotfish, Squirrelfish, Stoplight Parrotfish and a ton of other sealife.  We’re pretty sure that we now understand what people love about diving, because it was a pretty fantastic dive!  With dives 2 and 3 successfully completed, all we had left was Open Water Dive 4 and then we’d be certified open water divers!

The second dive spot for the day was Benwood, an open water wreck site with a maximum depth of 45 feet.  Benwood was our favorite dive spot of the trip.  We didn’t expect that we’d be getting to dive at a wreck site during our certification and we were really happy to have our fourth and final certification dive at Benwood.  The Benwood was a ship that was built as a merchant marine freighter and was 360 feet long.  In April 1942, the Benwood sank after running into the USS Tuttle during World War II.  Getting to explore such an awesome location that was absolutely abuzz with sealife was spectacular and another experience we won’t forget anytime soon.  I got to see an eel and we couldn’t even begin to guess how many beautiful fish we saw.  The end of open water dive 4 marked a pretty huge achievement for us – we were now PADI certified open water scuba divers!

We’re PADI Certified Open Water Divers! Woohoo!

We headed back to the hotel, giddy with excitement that we had checked all the boxes, satisfied all the requirements and earned our certifications in beautiful Key Largo.  We took a quick trip to Rainbow Reef’s retail shop to spin the “Wheel of Fortune” with our dive wristbands and got super lucky, winning a free dive trip!  To celebrate the great day, we had a huge feast at the Pilot House while the others in our group headed out for a night dive.  Exhausted and extremely satisfied, sleep came easy Saturday night, as it had the majority of our trip.

Dinnertime view from the Pilot House

P.S. Unfortunately, since we were still in training for our certifications, we weren’t permitted to bring cameras to document the incredible stuff we saw.  But, going forward, we plan to equip ourselves with a camera on every dive, because there’s just no way to describe what’s down there.  The colors, the shapes, the sheer number of living creatures hidden below the ocean’s surface is fascinating and we can’t wait to start to capture and share some of that experience.

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