It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. It has been a busy Summer and I am back home for a while which feels good.
At the beginning of Summer I bought my first boat – a kayak that I have named Serenity.
I grew up here in Florida on boats that belonged to the family or my friends but I never truly had a boat that was mine. As a kid we would spend hours (seemed like days) in our boats exploring the waterways of the natural and man-made islands in the Indian River lagoon. As I got older I learned to waterski and spent many a morning before school skiing after my paper route.
So far I have been out a couple of times in my old home town of Cocoa Beach – in the places I used to spend days when I was a kid – in the ocean right up the road from me where I am now living, and a number of times in Panama City when visiting my family.
AA 80th Annual International Convention
Over the July 4th weekend I traveled back to Atlanta to attend the 80th International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I went and stayed with my friend Mike. The convention was attended by over 57,000 people from all over the world. I met many of my friends from Atlanta, here in Florida and others I have met along the way in my own journey of recovery. I also made many new friends from all over the world. Happy, joyous and free indeed!
I rekindled an early love of SCUBA diving and underwater photography this Summer. I learned to dive growing up here while attending Brevard Community College (now called Eastern Florida State College) in 1974. I have done a lot of diving and have done it consistently since then although I tapered back over the past 15 years being distracted elsewhere.
Underwater Camera Upgrade
I bought (and still own) my first underwater camera while going to college in California. It is a Nikonos II which was one of the very early amphibious cameras made by Nikon. While living in Europe I upgraded to a Nikonos V which was with out a doubt the most popular underwater camera ever made. I sunk thousands into these rigs only to have them made obsolete with the coming of digital cameras.
In my humble opinion there is still no amphibious digital camera that lives up to the quality and versatility of the Nikonos series cameras and (most importantly) lenses. However, there are a lot of great housing that work with very good digital cameras. I am also glad I waited until the advent of the mirrorless digital camera systems which are substantially smaller and very high quality as compared to the very popular DSLR.
I had been looking at the Olympus OM-D series mirrorless cameras for a while now and when they upgraded the E-5 to the E-5 Mark II there were some great deals on the E-5 with the Olympus housing. At the same time I had to upgrade my underwater strobe to take advantage of the fiber optic based triggering so I purchased a Sea & Sea YS-D1 to replace my old Ikelight Ai-n strobe. It’s a fraction of the size of my old strobe, very easy to setup and works really well. I have made 6 dives with the rig so far and slowly getting the hang of shooting with it.
West Palm Beach – June
My first local dive trip after moving back to Florida. I went out with the dive charter ‘Narcosis’ out of Riviera Beach. It was also my first mixed air dive after getting certified in late May. Finally, it was also the first dive on my new camera rig. I didn’t quite have my camera settings right but I did manage to get some good shots. We dove in the morning on two spots – Breakers and Bath & Tennis. Both names are from landmarks on West Palm Beach where the dives are located. I missed the first reef since I was not paying attention messing around with the camera. I did come across a turtle on the first dive. the second dive was my best so far this Summer where there were ton’s of fish and pretty nice reefs.
Panama City Beach – August
I dove in Panama City while visiting my Mom for my birthday. I went out with Panama City Diving dive charter on the ‘Steel Slinger.’ I had dove Panama City in the 1990s and remembered it as a pretty bad couple of dive with almost no visibility. This experience was much better. We dove on two wrecks about 12 miles offshore – the Chippewa and a wreck on what’s knows as Mac’s Reef. Both were in about 100 feet of water. The visibility on the second dive was a bit better than the first – maybe 40 feet. There were huge schools of fish on both wrecks. On the second wreck I saw my first Goliath Grouper.
West Palm Beach – August
My last dive was back at West Palm Beach – this time with Paul Walker’s dive charter on the boat ‘The Wetter The Better.’ Unfortunately, there was an upwelling of cold water the day I dove which plummeted the water temperatures into the low 70s and reduced the visibility to between 10 to 20 feet. We dove on Shark Canyon for the first dive and the wreck Danny on the second. I missed the first reef (again) but managed to find a couple of good spots where there were fish and some other marine life. The second dive was a bust visibility wish but the wreck had maybe a half dozen Goliath Grouper living on it. I got some decent – and rather eerie – video of the grouper on the wreck.
I started back into my woodworking in the Spring and have completed a number of new projects. The first was a restart of a project I started some 3 or 4 years ago while still living in Atlanta. I was coming off a major project and had a lot of milled hardwoods of various types on hand. I glued up a bunch of them with the idea of building a large jewelry box as a gift. One thing led to another and the project got put on hold for a while. One of the glued up boards was even used as a cutting board for a period of time!
I restarted the project to make a nice big box for myself with lots of room for small personal items I have collected over the years in addition to the couple of pieces of jewelry I still own. I wanted to use dovetail joints on the construction so to get started I out making a simple oak box using my dovetail jig for practice. I quickly realized that it was not going to work on the jewelry box so I starting constructing i t using standard reinforced mitred corners.
At the same time I was given a fabric painting of an African drummer by my nephew Carl who has been living in Ghana working with the peace Corps the past two years (he is coming home next month). I started making a frame for it and wanted to try my hand at some simply inlay work. I extended that to the oak box I was building to add an interesting detail to it’s design.
Finally, my old friend Rik Thwaties had long ago given me a slate carving with the word Valhalla on it. I used it when I build my house in Colorado in the 90s but kept it when I moved twenty years ago. I finally made a simple wooden mount for it. So all in all I was working on four projects are the same time. Here are some pictures:
I made a couple of trips – one in July and one in August – to stay with Mom in Panama City. My brother Dave and his wife Lisa have been taking care of her for the past year and needed a break while they did some Summer traveling.
My brother Dave lives on a bayou that leads to St Andrew Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. He has always been a boater and now owns a small motor boat. I took it out several times on both trips and explored the bay and even went into the Gulf once. It was especially nice taking it out early in the morning when the wind was still calm and getting up on a plane in the calm waters.
For the trip in august I took Serenity and launched it from Dave’s dock to explore the bayou. I managed to get out 10 times in the two weeks I was there! The highlight was getting close to a very large container ship that was leaving the dock from the cardboard plant across the bayou from Dave’s house.
My 60th Birthday
Finally, I turned 60 in early August while visiting my Mom. I am happy to report that I survived the episode intact and am now no longer a middle-aged idiot but instead a supremely serene senior (well – on a good day). Thanks to all that wished me a happy birthday on Facebook or with your cards. Especially a couple of wonderful friends that posted these shots.