Divemaster Internship St. Maarten 3/16-4/26/14

As the ski season was coming to a close, I decided that I wanted to keep pushing my dive skills.  I called Luciana at Ocean Explorers to see about getting my dive master certification and she suggested an internship.

In exchange for my PADI certification, I would work at the shop.

In exchange for my PADI certification, I would work at the shop.

I stayed in a studio efficiency within walking distance of the dive shop.  I picked up some decorating tips during my stay.

I stayed in a studio efficiency within walking distance of the dive shop. I picked up some decorating tips during my stay.

Because I wanted to save time and money (and eat healthy), I would cook enough food on my day off to last the whole week.

Because I wanted to save time and money (and eat healthy), I would cook enough food on my day off to last the whole week.

As the week progressed, the combinations would become more interesting; i.e. combine whatever's left in the fridge and put a fried egg on it.

As the week progressed, the combinations would become more interesting; i.e. combine whatever’s left in the fridge and put a fried egg on it.

I am not a morning person, but for my time in St. Maarten, I pretended to be one.  Six days a week I was at the shop by 6:45 am.  It was busy season for them and most days we had multiple boats going out twice a day.  Similar to running a restaurant, more often than not, the work in a dive shop is not glamorous.  Sure, I was in the water most days, but I was also cleaning the toilet and lugging tanks around.  For my certification, I had to assist with various PADI classes, such as Discover Scuba Diving, map a dive site, compose an Emergency Action Plan, complete several swimming exercises, demonstrate multiple surface and underwater diving skills, and pass a written exam.

When I wasn't at the shop, I would be brushing up on my fish id skills or preparing for my PADI exam.

When I wasn’t at the shop, I would be brushing up on my fish id skills or preparing for my PADI exam.

One Saturday night, we had a party.  A shot of most of the crew.  Brazil, Portugal, Ireland, Canada, England and the US are represented.

One Saturday night, we had a party. A shot of most of the crew. Brazil, Portugal, Ireland, Canada, England and the US are represented.

The last week I was there, I was joined by Noah and my folks.  Here we are on a sunset sail.

The last week I was there, I was joined by Noah and my folks. Here we are on a sunset sail.

A big thank you to Lu and Jef and the OEX crew.  See you soon!

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Hittin’ the Slopes Feb. 5-24, 2014

A week later I was back on the road for the best ski season of my entire life.  I skied 17 days straight, with full cooperation from Mother Nature (one exception noted below).

My first stop was to see Casey in Golden.  I got in Wednesday night and decided to ski by myself on Thursday at Loveland.  It was close to her house, I had never been before, and it had an impressive vertical drop.  It was also freaking freezing.  I’ve never called it quits early out on the slopes, but that day the temps with the wind chill dipped down into the -20s.

Casey took Friday off from work and we headed to Carroll's in Breckenridge.  Getting Casey out on the slopes is no small feat.

Casey took Friday off from work and we headed to Carroll’s in Breckenridge. Getting Casey out on the slopes is no small feat.

I'm standing out on Carroll's porch.  The snow had been coming down and it did not stop.

I’m standing out on Carroll’s porch. The snow had been coming down and it did not stop.

Saturday morning we did some yoga and then Carroll gave me a ride to meet up with some family who had rented a place in Avon for the following week.

There were fields of pow to be had.

There were fields of pow to be had.

We split our week between Vail and Beaver Creek.

We split our week between Vail and Beaver Creek.

This video is a little nauseating.  The wrist mount for the go pro is not the way to go for skiing.  The guy in yellow is my cousin, Pete.

We worked hard for these apres ski beers.

We worked hard for these apres ski beers.

When the week for the family ended, I headed back east to Breck.

I took advantage of the free bus to the slopes and was amused by the graffiti.

I took advantage of the free bus to the slopes and was amused by the graffiti.

Shortly after arriving back in Breck, I was joined by Mike and Noah.

Shortly after arriving back in Breck, I was joined by Mike and Noah.

We got in a couple good days at Breck and then headed to our favorite spot: Snowbird.

We got in a couple good days at Breck and then headed to our favorite spot: Snowbird.

Noah enjoying the view and the pow at the Bird.

Noah enjoying the view and the pow at the Bird.

I could get used to this much skiing.

 

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Back on Board; Nautilus Jan. 20-28, 2014

While raving about my November experience to the Nautilus office staff in early January, I learned that they had had a cancellation for  a trip later in the month.  I scooped it up.  We would be visiting some of the same sites, but the beauty of the ocean is that you never know what you’re going to get.

The view from my room.  Roca Partida at sunrise.

The view from my room. Roca Partida at sunrise.

It was another fun-loving group.  This time, most folks were from California or Washington.  Our nightly sardine game.

It was another fun-loving group. This time, most folks were from California or Washington. Our nightly sardine game.

I haven't mentioned anything about the food on these trips.  It is damn good.  Here's the sweet, full-sized grill off the back.

I haven’t mentioned anything about the food on these trips. It is damn good. Here’s the sweet, full-sized grill off the back.

There are 3 big dining room tables.  We did a pretty good job of musical chairs, so we could all chat with one another.

There are 3 big dining room tables. We did a pretty good job of musical chairs, so we could all chat with one another.

Diving is great no matter how you get in the water, but I think zodiacs are pretty cool (pangas for all you Canadians out there).

Diving is great no matter how you get in the water, but I think zodiacs are pretty cool (pangas for all you Canadians out there).

It looks like a very official mission on a very small boat.

It looks like a very official mission on a very small boat.

One of my fellow divers took this picture of folks getting picked up.  We had fun yanking each other into the boat.

One of my fellow divers took this picture of folks getting picked up. We had fun yanking each other into the boat.

We did 20 dives over 6 days; the Canyon and the Boiler at San Benedicto and Roca Partida.  I was hoping to see Humpback whales, as they head through these parts in the early spring, and just past sunrise one morning while sipping tea on the stern, I saw an adult breach 4 times in a row.  I was completely mesmerized.  All of us of course wanted to be in water with them, and the crew was gracious about taking us out in the zodiacs to try to make this happen.

As you can see, more often than not, it turned into a wild goose chase.  Able to hold their breath for several minutes, the whales could easily slip away.  We did hear them calling to one another on several dives, which was pretty special.

The hammerheads were less shy this trip.

The hammerheads were less shy this trip.

Another new addition this trip was yellowfin tuna.  They were around for almost every dive at Roca.  We were all down there rubbing our bellies.

We saw many more giant mantas this time, too.  At one point, 5 or 6 of them were swimming around us.  They honestly seem to like people, as evidenced in this video:

Sometimes, it felt like they were doing a special dance just for you.  I adore making eye contact with these impressive creatures.

There was some pretty great “regular” stuff to see on these dives, too.  I’m such a brat.

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Nitro Circus January 2014

When I was invited to the Nitro Circus, I had no idea what it was; I just liked the name.  It was the right choice to attend.

Indoor fireworks at one of NYC's most recognizable venues.  Yes, please!

Indoor fireworks at one of NYC’s most recognizable venues. Yes, please!

Here are some videos for the uninitiated:

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Other December Highlights and Heading Out West

Michael opened his climbing gym in late December, and we got a sneak preview.

Cesari showing us how it's done.

Cesari showing us how it’s done.

We met our friend Jim's baby boy.

We met our friend Jim’s baby boy.

We had our first xmas tree in our new apartment.  We got it from the bodega across the street.

We had our first xmas tree in our new apartment. We got it from the bodega across the street.

We snuck in a quick weekend to South Beach.

We snuck in a quick weekend to South Beach.

On December 21st, we headed out to New Mexico

On December 21st, we headed out to New Mexico.

We checked out some petroglyphs outside Albuquerque.  They were carved into volcanic rock by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400-700 years ago.

We checked out some petroglyphs outside Albuquerque. They were carved into volcanic rock by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400-700 years ago. We referred to this one as “lizard with lollipop”.

We had an awesome tour at Gruet.  It was really special to see the place that had produced a wine I had served so much of over the years.  I can’t find any pictures.  Must be the sparkling was too good.

I got lots of quality animal time.  I might be allergic to cats.

I got lots of quality animal time. I might be allergic to cats.

I took the dog walking job whenever possible.  The sun was shining every day we were there.  I could get used to that.

I took the dog walking job whenever possible. The sun was shining every day we were there. I could get used to that.

We liked Ojo Caliente so much, we went twice.  It was especially nice after a day of skiing.

Noah showing how the mud baths are done.  Pretty neat to be covered in mud in the middle of winter.

Noah showing how the mud baths are done. Pretty neat to be covered in mud in the middle of winter.

We skied at both Santa Fe Basin and Taos.

Santa Fe Basin was pretty impressive.  Only 16 miles from downtown Santa Fe, its base was at over 10,000 ft.  Since the air is so dry, any snow they get stays powdery for a long time.

Santa Fe Basin was pretty impressive. Only 16 miles from downtown Santa Fe, its base was at over 10,000 ft. Since the air is so dry, any snow they get stays powdery for a long time. I’ve always wanted to ski on Christmas Eve day!

 

This sign cracked me up.  There was a surprisingly large number of very bad skiers.  I thought it was because of the holidays.  Someone on the lift told us it was because of the proximity to Texas.  Oh, dip.

This sign cracked me up. There was a surprisingly large number of very bad skiers. I thought it was because of the holidays. Someone on the lift told us it was because of the proximity to Texas. Oh, dip.

Selena joined us snowboarding at Taos.  She scraped her outfit together with what she found at her parents' house.  It looked like we were there with our pre-teen son.

Selena joined us snowboarding at Taos. She scraped her outfit together with what she found at her parents’ house. It looked like we were there with our pre-teen son.

John took us shooting one day on some public land.  We brought some cans to shoot, not knowing there would be other fun targets already there.

John took us shooting one day on some public land. We brought some cans to shoot, not knowing there would be other fun targets already there.

Here’s a video with me and a .380.

NYE with Kaye and Nick in downtown Santa Fe.  At one point, almost all of Noah's family was out west.

NYE with Kaye and Nick in downtown Santa Fe. At one point, almost all of Noah’s family was out west.

We played quite a bit of Mexican or Train Dominoes while we were there.  No one could explain the name to me.  In case it wasn't offensive enough, we added a sombrero to the mix.

We played quite a bit of Mexican or Train Dominoes while we were there. No one could explain the name to me. In case it wasn’t offensive enough, we added a sombrero to the mix.

I got to pretend to be a cowgirl for a day, too.

I got to pretend to be a cowgirl for a day, too.

I came to think of New Mexico as the land of giant breakfast.  Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, breakfast burritos; oh, my!

I came to think of New Mexico as the land of giant breakfast. Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, breakfast burritos; oh, my!

It was also the land of beautiful sunsets.  I'm looking forward to returning.

It was also the land of beautiful sunsets. I’m looking forward to returning.

 

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Rescue Diver Training 12/2-12/7/13

2 days after Florida I was back on the road again, to one of my favorite places.

We were first introduced to St. Maarten a few years ago by some friends.  Reliable weather, warm water, beautiful dive sites and an easy, direct flight from NYC make it a great place to go.

We were first introduced to St. Maarten a few years ago by some friends. Reliable weather, warm water, beautiful dive sites and an easy, direct flight from NYC make it a great place to go.

The hotel was quiet, so I got upgraded to a fancy room.  This was the view from my balcony.

The hotel was quiet, so I got upgraded to a fancy room. This was the view from my balcony.

Go Pro selfie.  In order to do the Rescue Course, you need to have your Advanced Open Water and be current with CPR and first aid.  I had just finished my EMT course a few months prior, so it worked out well.

Go Pro selfie. In order to do the Rescue Course, you need to have your Advanced Open Water and be current with CPR and first aid. I had just finished my EMT course a few months prior, so it worked out well.

Many people will say that the Rescue course is their favorite and I can see why.  It was challenging, but fun, and the information you learn can help you save other people, in addition to saving yourself.  When I wasn’t getting my air turned off by my instructor or lugging my 170 lb. classmate unto the shore, I got some fun dives in.

Green turtles and juvenile Caribbean reef sharks are very common sights while diving in SXM.  The guy in the video with the big camera is Jef, one of the owners of the shop.

Southern Stingrays are also a very common sight on these dives.

Southern Stingrays are also a very common sight on these dives.

I got 10 dives in for the week, including my first night dive, which was a very cool experience.  Many of the critters are more active once the sun goes down.  It’s pretty hilarious to see lobsters scooting across the bottom of the ocean floor.  We started the dive at dusk, so it got dark while we were already underwater.  My favorite part was the phytoplankton.  If we all turned our flashlights off and moved our arms and legs around, we could create a pixie dust type situation by irritating the phytoplankton.  Having time off makes me feel like Peter Pan and this dive made me feel like Tinkerbell.

 

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Next 2 stops in November 2013

11/19-11/21 I went to Rochester, NY for some girl time with my friend Erica.

Here are her girls being squirrely on the kitchen counter.

Here are her girls being squirrely on the kitchen counter.

The sea lion videos were a hit with the junior set.

11/24-11/30 we went to Florida for my mom’s birthday and Thanksgiving.

We took a day trip to Blue Springs State Park to look for manatees.

It's the largest spring along the St. John river.  The manatees are there during the winter months.

It’s the largest spring along the St. John river. The manatees are there during the winter months.

We did some fishing along the Intracoastal.  This is the red fish I caught.  We fried it and it was pretty tasty.

We did some fishing along the Intracoastal. This is the red fish I caught. We fried it and it was pretty tasty.

I saw my first swimming raccoon.  Growing up, these things only came out at night, unless they were rabid.

I saw my first swimming raccoon. Growing up, these things only came out at night, unless they were rabid.

Here he is again, annoyed that I interrupted his shellfish eating session.

Here he is again, annoyed that I interrupted his shellfish eating session.

We also did some fishing off the pier at my folks' place.  Here is a skate my Uncle caught.

We also did some fishing off the pier at my folks’ place. Here is a skate my Uncle caught.

We also managed to bring in the world's smallest flounder.

We also managed to bring in the world’s smallest flounder.

Any Thanksgiving where fish is consumed instead of turkey is good with me.

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