Plan twice, shoot once.

Cluster Dive Tours

By Piper Bayard

About ten days ago, my son and I went diving at Blue Hole.

You may know of the Great Blue Hole. That crystal clear, underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. A diving Mecca teeming with ocean life from hammerhead sharks to sea turtles, worth the ticket at twice the price.

Picture a pristine day, feeling the ocean spray as the dive boat fairly skims the waves to the sapphire of the Caribbean. All equipment is clean and primed. All divers appear healthy and competent to face the rigors of the day, and no one is doing anything stupid like drinking alcohol or taking an antihistamine that’s going to wear off half way through the dive and have them blowing out their eardrums on ascent. Everyone finds Nemo and discovers sea creatures that would make Jacques Cousteau marvel, then returns safely to the boat for fresh fruit and lots of water, ready to share pictures of sharks and eels.

Yeah. . . . That wasn’t our dive trip. . . . This was our dive trip. . . .

Me: “Son, where’s your wet suit?”

Son: “It’s in the car.”

Me: “Son, the car is empty.”

Son: “Oh, man! I could swear I put it in there.”

No way was I driving all day just to scratch the dive. I stuffed all 6’ 6” of my Little Guy into the “Farmer John” half of my own wet suit. It’s called a Farmer John because it’s like wet suit overalls that go underneath a jacket that looks like a one piece middle school gym uniform with long sleeves. He looked like a neoprene version of a 19th century Chinese girl’s foot. But Blue Hole is 61 degrees so he needed something, and I drove there to dive, dammit.

Wait. . . . Drive to Belize? Sixty-one degrees? . . . Didn’t I mention? We didn’t go to that Blue Hole. We went to this Blue Hole.

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM

You know. . . . Blue Hole. New Mexico’s excuse for a Yucatan cenote. It’s got a few fish and crawdads, and lots of little rubber toys that people have put on the rock shelves over the years. Some day, we want to take a toy ship to the bottom so we can do a wreck dive. What can I say? When you’re landlocked in the Rockies, you just have to make the best of it.

And that beautiful building in the background? That’s the dive center Santa Rosa has been constructing for four years. It’s still not open. But we have that ancient, brown concrete bathroom shack behind the tree on the right. I think was an official Rest Area for the Anasazi.

We suited up right after sunrise, happy to be ahead of the surging crowd that was sure to show up later in the day as dive shops arrived with their basic open water students. It was glorious to have the place to ourselves, and everything went as smoothly for us as it always does. . . .

Me: “Hey, Son. I’m going to get in the water, and you take my picture for the blog, ok? Please bring over my tank and BCD.” (Buoyancy Control Device–For recreation, it’s usually a ballooning vest strapped to the tank. You control how full the “balloon” is, and that helps you control your location in the water).

Son: “Mom, did you plan to dive with an air tank this time? Because you didn’t fasten your BCD to the tank.”

Me: “Good job, Son. That was a test. You passed.”

Me in Blue Hole–Everyone looks like Mr. Puffy in a wet suit

My son put away the camera, hauled the extra weights and gear bags to the car, joined me in the water, and got his gear on.

Me: “Son, where’s your octopus?” (That’s the spare regulator [thingie you breathe through] that you keep handy for anyone who might need it.)

Son: “Oh, it’s back here behind me. This BCD doesn’t have a strap to attach it.”

Me: “You’re in luck. You can take off all of your gear and go find a strap in the dive bag. And no. We aren’t diving without it.”

With a little more effort, we had everything sorted out. We discussed our dive plan and checked our gear. Then we verified our plan and checked each others’ gear. . . . Air flowing? BCD functioning? Properly weighted? Weight releases? Dive knife? Resuscitation mask? Dive watch? Air gauge? Depth meter? Huge red signal tube to keep boaters from running us down? . . . Ok. We don’t need a signal tube in Blue Hole, but you get the idea.

Our diving gear for Blue Hole sans wet suits.

So why all this trouble to dip in a big bathtub? Seems like a dive straight down and straight up with no currents and nothing that sees us and thinks, “Dinner!” wouldn’t need so much caution. . . . . Because diving is like social media. Every dive (blog, tweet, status update) counts. Every dive (blog, tweet, status update) can kill us if we get stupid or hasty.

I’m happy to report that, once we get ourselves organized, my son and I are actually quite proficient in the water for divers of our limited variety of experience. Our buoyancy is spot on, we communicate well, and we always stick to our plan, never going deeper or staying longer than we agreed to up top.

Funny, though. My spy novel writing partner, Holmes, has never jumped at the chance to dive with us. . . . Why is that, Holmes?

What do you do that matters every single time? How do you keep from messing up?

All the best to all of you for a week of safe diving in the waters of life.

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31 thoughts on “ Cluster Dive Tours

  1. Cool! My friend is an avid diver. I’ve heard stories for years but never gone. That will change one day.

    • If you’re as sensible and solid as you seem in social media, you’ll be a great diver. And I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. on ,
    Dave said:

    If I squint just so…it looks a lot like Belize without all the beautiful scenery and beaches. But Santa Rosa has green chile, which Belize does not. It’s a fair trade.

    • Unfortunately, I’ve only found one restaurant in Santa Rosa that makes decent green chili, the Lake City Diner, and all their food rocks! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  3. What a cool mom you are! My time with the boys is pretty mundane by comparison, although we’ll be going whitewater rafting (our 2nd time) this summer! I’d love to go to Belize. Wish they’d put together a writer’s conference there. Maybe we should talk to Bob and Kristen about that. 🙂

    Thanks for a fun post, Piper!

    • And see? Rafting sounds exciting to me. I’ve never gone. Maybe we should have a reality tv show. . . . Vacation swap. . . . You know, now that I think about it, I’ll bet that would be a funny show. Anyway, if we can get Bob Mayer to put together a writers conference in Belize, I’m definitely there. Although Whidby Island is just as beautiful in its own way. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. on ,
    Annie said:

    I was smiling through this entire post. The vacation reality versus the vacation dream. We are going to try to fly for the first time with all the kids to Florida in November and I am biting my nails. So much can go wrong and so many things left unpacked, especially when taking children ages 3 through 13. But the time spent together is worth all the effort to make it happen.

    Love how you related diving to tweeting. And Holmes looks hot in a wet suit, if you don’t mind me saying so.

    • Good luck with that trip to Florida. I’ve always found that traveling with kids is certainly a trip, but rarely a vacation. I’m sure you guys will be fine, though. And this picture would support the notion that Holmes does, indeed, look hot in a wet suit. It hides the fact that he’s probably blushing if he’s reading this. In fact, those covert ops types are probably the ONLY people on the planet who don’t look like Mr. Puffy in a wet suit. thanks for stopping by.

  5. Pingback: Monday Catch-Up - Manon Eileen - a Writer's Blog

  6. on ,
    Texanne said:

    Wow, you are a cool mom, Piper. And you have a son–how wise of you!

    I have actually camped in Santa Rosa a couple of times and found the people there both charming and admirable. (Camping = RV + campground, in this case.) Somehow I missed the Blue Hole!

    Now that you’ve pointed out how well related blogging is to diving, I believe that if I get some peppermint-flavored air and spit into my mask, maybe I could stay under the blog surface long enough to do more than kibitz.

    • Lol. Yes. I thought through that son thing. Figured he’d be better at hauling the gear than the daughter, but I have one of those, too. 🙂

      If you’ve camped in Santa Rosa, then you were probably at the little “lake,” which is a stone’s throw from Blue Hole. It’s up the road and to the left a ways, after you turn at the Dollar Store. And I agree that the people are quite nice. I grew up near there so it’s kind of homey to me.

      Good luck with the blog diving. I’m sure you’ll be a blog divemaster in no time with peppermint-flavored air to keep you going. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. You are such a fun mom! Unfortunately, I’m terrified of the water….thanks, Jaws! I will probably never scuba dive because I know I’ll have a panic attack. My guy is a licensed scuba diver and he loves it. He was able to convince me to go snorkeling at a reef in the Grand Cayman after swimming with the stingrays, and let me just tell you: I was so nervous the entire time that when we got back to the boat I had a HUGE crick in my neck. It was beautiful though… We’re headed to the FL Keys this month and I wonder if I’ll be brave enough again to get into the ocean? Or, maybe I’ll just stick to the pools at the resort. 🙂

    • Hi Tiffany. I feel your pain. Actually, I started diving because my son had always wanted to go, and I sure wasn’t letting him go without me. Me, though? If the water was over my knees, I thought I was drowning. But it’s very different with fins and an air tank, once you get used to it. I still won’t swim in the ocean, or anywhere else, for that matter, without them. I get laughed at in the swimming pool.

      We went diving in Belize a few years ago just after we’d completed our Basic Open Water certifications. I’d never been in the ocean. It was me and my Little Guy just outside the reef with the divemaster (DM). The DM told me, “On the count of three, just roll backward into the water.” I was really nervous. Good thing that, on the count of three, he pushed me in without waiting to see what I would do. Once in the water, the waves came up and hid everything. Then, when they went back down, the boat seemed really far away. I started swimming, expecting to smack fish with every stroke and imagining schools of hungry sharks beneath me, just like on the Jacques Cousteau shows I’d watched as a kid. I had no idea that the ocean was like a forest, and that animals are really spread out. I thought it was like on TV, which makes sense. They aren’t going to show pictures of all the empty water. Anyway, my son was fine with it, and once I got under and stayed there (took two tries) I was ok, too. It was beautiful. Well worth swallowing my fears.

      I hope you find that snorkeling is easier this time. I practiced snorkeling in a swimming pool for a long time before I ever started diving or snorkeled in the ocean. It was scary for me at first, too. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by. Have a great trip.

  8. on ,
    ellieswords said:

    He looked like a neoprene version of a 19th century Chinese girl’s foot.
    Ha! You so funny. 🙂 I loved hearing about your diving trip. It sounds so fun!

  9. Absolutely beautiful! I’m so jealous but this will work as great motivation press forward so I can take stellar vacations like this. Thanks for sharing your adventure Piper 🙂

  10. on ,
    angela said:

    Awesome–glad you and your son had fun. 🙂 And I agree, here in the mountains & away from oceans, we make our own fun! 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    • That’s right. After all, hiking is just SCUBA without fins. Or a tank or a BCD or a regulator, but you get my drift. Thanks for stopping by. Your site is invaluable to me, btw.

  11. Gosh Piper the take-aways from this post are too numerous to comment on GF! 🙂 You’re son in the Farmer John slays me! And talk about being determined to dive in such an awesome spot. I must say though, LOVED the metaphor: “…Because diving is like social media. Every dive (blog, tweet, status update) counts. Every dive (blog, tweet, status update) can kill us if we get stupid or hasty.” That is a seriously awesome teaching metaphor IMHO 🙂

    • Hi Reba. So glad you enjoyed it. Yep. If nothing else, my Little Guy will remember his wet suit next time. Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for stopping by.

  12. So fun! Wish i could do that. I need to learn to swim first. One of those things I said I wanna do but never got around learning.

    • It’s ok, Marilag. You have time. I mean if I got around to writing a book, you can get around to swimming. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Great post on so many levels! I’d rather dive with bath toys in a “tank” than get dry rot! I wonder why your son wouldn’t let you get a picture of him in the Farmer John? It probably looked like a onesie.

    • Lol. In fact, it does look like a full length onesie, and he’s a bit camera shy to begin with. Thanks for stopping by.

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