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After our terrible 1st dive in Key Largo, it’s a miracle we came back

November 10, 2020

By First Mate Jill

It was November 2011.

We were still living in Singapore but took an extended trip in the US: Glenn had a business trip to Charlotte and Jill’s family was gathering in Virginia for Thanksgiving. And there was a week in between.

Neither of us had been diving in the US (or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere for that matter!) but we’d heard that Key Largo was the place to go. Glenn knew somebody who knew somebody at a dive shop* who was able to book a 2-tank trip for us and set us up with gear.

The boat was full and a little different style than what we were used to in Asia, but we felt at ease among divers from near and far. The day was sunny and breezy and we were excited to see what this part of the underwater world had to offer.

Unfortunately that’s where the excitement ended.

The skies darkened and the water became choppy when we got underway. Our ‘spot’ was inside the covered part of the boat out of the wind but boat fumes blew in anyway.

When the boat stopped at the dive site – the name of which has been blocked from both of our memories – it rocked even more. Up and down. Side to side. Long story short, I got super-seasick.**

I hoped to feel better once I got under water but the rolling seas created surge and very poor visibility at the shallow dive site. All I remember is hazy-looking water waving the sea fans back and forth. A few fish. Probably a lobster or two, and a moray eel.

Key Largo Coral Reef
This picture looks better than it was.

The short dive time of 45 minutes felt like it lasted twice that long. We surfaced to the same conditions, went somewhere else (I think) and got back in the water for another uncomfortable and unpleasant dive.

I started to feel a little better as the boat trundled back to dock but all the exertion really dampened my energy and spirits for the next two days of our vacation. And we didn’t dive again on that trip.

Now listen, I’m not one of those divers who always expects everything to be perfect. I was told during my very first Open Water diver class that there would be some dives that I simply would not enjoy.

But the combination of the crowded boat, unfamiliar gear and marginal sea conditions on that first dive here in Key Largo almost put me off diving in the Florida Keys ever again. And that would have been a shame. Because I’ve had some of my favorite dives here in the years since.

Scuba divers in clear water
Now, these are the kind of conditions we get excited about!

That day was firmly in our minds the other week when we talked with those super-nice folks from Tennessee who postponed their trip to Key Largo from Labor Day because the weather was terrible.

Unfortunately when their rescheduled dates rolled around in October we had another sad conversation with them about conditions: a lingering weather system brought winds over 20 miles per hour, waves over 5 feet, and visibility of only 30 ft.***

Our boat is as stable as they come for its size. Glenn is an experienced US Coast Guard-licensed captain with bunches of hours at sea. We can take it when the wind blows and the waves roll.

But we’re always going to be super-honest about conditions. The way we wish someone had been with us before our first dive in Key Largo. You always have the chance to opt out if it doesn’t sound like fun. Or double-up on seasickness remedies if it does.

We want you to remember Key Largo for all the best reasons: exploring our amazing coral reefs and wrecks, seeing the coolest sea creatures, enjoying a comfy boat and making happy memories that last a long time.

*Names of dive shops have been omitted on purpose!

** Extensive descriptions of my seasickness have been omitted for brevity. And because it was gross. But PM Jill for the details if you really want them.

***And those were captain-to-captain reported wave heights and visibility estimates from boats that did go out that weekend. Captains and crew in the business have been known to exaggerate depending on who they’re talking to: downplaying the waves and rounding up visibility for customers, but Capt. Glenn thinks they were being pretty straight with him!

Jill K.
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