Jul 19

More underwater stuff on the site

Have you seen the home page of my site today? I updated it. Just go to W-W-W dot KennySmith dot Org to see some pretty new imagery on the front page. And then come back here, of course. We’ll wait.

(This’ll take about 30 seconds, but go at your own pace. I’m good.)


Welcome back, then. And since you’re already here, you’ve likely already seen the good stuff from our dive trip, and if not, kindly click on that “Roatan” link above the post’s title. In addition to all of that wonderment, I had a lot of fun making these little social media promotional bits from the extra dive footage we shot.

This little number comes from an ill-timed photo burst. Sometimes it is challenging to figure out what the GoPro is doing underwater. We plugged the card into a computer later and saw a huge sequence of photographs of nothing in particular and this little thing was born:

When I say footage we shot it, I mean what my lovely wife shot. She was happy snapping away with the camera, and I was happy inhaling a tank of air much too quickly while watching the world go by. Probably 97 percent of the photos and videos we brought back are things she shot. Oh, I’d point out things not in her line of sight from time to time, and I edited all the things you’ve seen go on my site the last few weeks, but she captured almost all of it. She’s excellent at being talented.

Of course I had to get a few of her here and there. And I can’t take just one photograph. While she’s mugging for the camera, I’m firing off multiples, and that led to this fun little gif:

At least 20 people clicked through from those tweets, so it was worth it.

Also, my Photoshop and video editing software are presently loaded up with other spare and recycled clips that I’ll use for … something or another.

Jul 19

About the place we stayed

Our trip — this is the last one, I promise — was to an island off the east coast of Honduras. Roatan is the location. The place we stayed was a lovely facility called Anthony’s Key Resort. We landed on a small airport at Roatan, resort staff picked us up at the airport, fetched our luggage and pointed us to their shuttle and we stayed there the full week. We never saw the mainland. Indeed, with the exception of our dives and the zip lines we never left the resort.

This is entirely possible if you’ve packed halfway decently. And even if you need an extra snack, or some souvenirs or the occasional odd-and-end you may have left at home, the resort itself might be able to sell you what you need.

You can go into the nearby town, but there’s not really any reason. Here’s why.

This was our view, breakfast lunch and dinner:

Anthony’s Key has a restaurant on site, is apparently building another and prepared meals are included in your trip.

If you aren’t diving, or enjoying the pool, kayaking or paddleboarding, or sitting in a hammock, you’re looking out at that view over your choice of two or three entrees. (The food was quite good, too.) Indeed, most people visiting there are divers — it is a dive resort — but they have built out some nice amenities for the non-diver in the family, if you have that sort of vacation-planning challenge. There’s fishing, excursions off the resort, the pool, the bar and an incredibly pleasant atmosphere. Also there’s a museum and a full-on dive school on-site. (But maybe have the non-divers learn at home.)

I mentioned that the most of the rooms were on a cay. Ours was. We were close to the pool, but we never heard the kids at play from inside the room. I took this picture standing on the big island, but what you see is where most of the rooms are.

The resort operates an on-demand ferry 24 hours a day. (There’s also a medical clinic on the island, with regular hours and an on-call doc, just in case.) The ferry is a small outboard motor boat and will accommodate about 10 or 12 people at a time. It takes maybe 20 seconds to get across.

My mother visited this resort years ago and she really enjoyed it. From hearing her talk, to seeing it today, I have a sense that the place has really matured. It is a full-service resort, and we had a great time. Here we are getting off the ferry to go up to dinner one night, and you can see the edge of the cay on the right:

We enjoyed a nice off-season deal. There are plenty of positive online reviews about Anthony’s Key and Roatan has, for a long time, had a positive reputation for the quality of its diving. This is what really sold us: We talked to the dive shop owner in Bloomington and told him where we were thinking of going. Part of his job is to run a store, sure, and part of his job is to teach people how to dive, absolutely. But another standard dive shop service is operating dive trip junkets. The guy here has been going to Anthony’s Key for almost 30 years. Raved about it. Told us, by name, who we’d meet first, where they’d point us to second and who we would meet second. He spelled the whole thing out. We weren’t on this trip through his shop, but he couldn’t stop singing the place’s praises. You figure anyone who keeps going back every year for decades must have found something he likes. As his excitement grew, so did ours. Having spent a week there, it’s easy to see why everyone always comes back with such high opinions of the place. The living is comfortable, the diving is nice and easy.

Most importantly: While you are there it is easy to get on, and enjoy, island time.

Or, shorthand: If we’ve gone there it is probably great. The Yankee plans terrific vacations.

Jul 19

Our final dives in Roatan

We had our last two dives of the trip last Friday. While every other day had been three or four dives, the last day is on a bit of a clock. Again, because of the chemistry going on in your bloodstream, you’re not supposed to dive within 18 or 24 hours of your flight. So we had two dives on Friday afternoon and other activities until it was time to leave.

So our last two Our last two dives featured El Aguila, or The Eagle, is regarded as one of the best diving sites around the island. El Aguila is a 230-foot long freighter. It was hauling concrete and bound for Haiti when it wrecked. It stayed where it stopped for a long while and had quite the adventure as a former freighter before being purchased, cleaned and put at this final spot, sunk at 110 feet in 1997. It sat upright for about a year, and then Hurricane Mitch blew through in late 1998 and snapped the weakened ship into three pieces.

We also saw plenty of fish and groupers, plenty of garden eels and a very curious green moray eel. You can see some of that in this video:

Here we are, diving off down the bow of The Eagle:

Doesn’t it look spooky and cool?

Here’s The Eagle amidships:

Count your coral while you can:

I certainly was:

It’s just so pretty:

Thanks for following along this week with last week’s diving adventures. Next week we’ll show off a few other things from this trip and, eventually, get back to normal.

I guess. If we must.

Jul 19

More dives from the depths of Roatan

Last Thursday was our last four-dive day of that trip. The Fourth, when you watched fireworks, I watched fish. While you looked up into the night sky, I looked up into the ocean on a rapid ascent trying to avoid jellyfish. While you ooohed and aaahed big percussive explosive, I enjoyed the quiet of a starry Caribbean night. There is nothing wrong with the July Fourth celebration, but there’s nothing wrong with trying something different, either.

There is an accumulative effect, even at a recreational dive depths, of the pressure on the oxygen in your blood stream. By day five, which is what last Thursday was, most people are really starting to feel it. Nitrogen buildup makes you feel rather tired, they say. Plus it is a tiny bit more physical than you’d realize. But mostly it is the chemistry.

I didn’t feel that, but by Thursday my ears and sinuses — delicate little features, to be sure — were wearing down. I have to clear my sinuses at least twice every atmosphere, like clockwork. If I can keep count I don’t have to even look at my depth gauge, I just usually know. And somewhere between dives 14 and 18 last Thursday they were beginning to voice their displeasure.

But the diving continued to be great. The weather was pleasant. That big storm system brewing in the Gulf of Mexico kept the temperatures nice and mild for us. We had the roughest seas of our trip last Thursday on our morning dive and the water was barely moving. The whole week was like that, perfectly designed, pleasantly enjoyed.

We did our last night dive of the trip, but there’s no footage of that. We do, however, have more terrific footage taken from the first three dives of the day, and plenty of neat pictures below. (If this whole professorial thing doesn’t work out The Yankee might consider a career in the media.)

(See that joke is funny because … hang on. ‘What’s that, hon? Yeah, you’re probably right. They probably know.‘ Sorry. Anyway, yeah, that joke is funny.)

To the video! And yes, there are more turtles to be seen here and below …

It never stops feeling like an other-worldly adventure, if you ask me.

Do you see what I mean?

In these next four I’m being an explorer, bravely exploring things which ought to be explored:

Here’s one of our delightful little turtle friends now:

They are always a big hit:

No, the reefs never stop being fascinating:

We’re trying to come up with the right human shot. It’s an ongoing experiment. I think we’re getting sort of close. What do you think?

Nailed it!

At the end of each dive you have to do a safety stop. Again, this is about the pressure and chemistry. On some of the dives here we’ve been situated in such a way that we can play around with overhead photos and video, like this one:

Of course there are still plenty of things to see, even at these somewhat more shallow depths:

This is the best photo of the trip and having brought a GoPro was worth every little bit of effort for it. The thing shoots better video than photos, we have come to realize. And you’re just sort of guessing on the older models. It is a wide angle lens, but there’s definitely a point and hope methodology to this camera. This one was supposed to be another overhead, full-body shot, but it didn’t work out that way and, in fact, it works out better this way, I think. Oh, the laughs we had when we were reviewing these at the end of the night.

A version of that, and several other dive photographs, will become banners on the site before too long.

I took this one at a safety stop, whereas The Yankee shot pretty much everything that she isn’t in. There was just something about this little outcropping I enjoyed. Shape and light, and size and wonder, I suppose. It is a tiny little reef mound in the scheme of things, and doing quite well considering the number of humans that stop by it.

Even for this shot, I had to wait for people to get out of the way. That’s always worth it, though.

Tomorrow’s update will feature our last dives of the trip, but I’ve got enough material left over after that to stretch this vacation out until next week. That’s what you should do, anyway, right? Even when you’ve come back home, after you’ve dragged luggage, enjoyed the pleasant Customs experience, sat in the car on the way to the house late at night thinking “The coral looked better than the silhouettes of these trees,” and then found your way to your pillow, you should stay on vacation, right?

That’s what we’re working with over here.

Jul 19

Wednesday was another four-dive day

I’m still writing about last week as if it was today, because I’m still on island time.

Anyway, we added a shore dive to our regularly scheduled boat dives last Wednesday. When we came back to the surface we’d marked dives 10 through 14 for the week. Below is a video of the boat diving we did that day:

The resort offers unlimited shore diving, but unlimited in this context has some limitations. There’s only so much time in the day, after all, and there is some chemistry to consider. You can only dive so many times because of the nitrogen build up (Note to self: Get a nitrox certification so this isn’t a problem.) and there are a few other events going on at the resort as well. Just give me a tank and let me sit on the bottom.

But the shore dive is a little more involved than that. You pick up a tank, wade out over stone and sand and who knows what all has moved into the neighborhood. Then you snorkel out through really shallow water, over sea grass until you find and follow this famous rope down through the shore-breaking reefs. Before too long it dumps out to about 40 feet and there’s just the ocean in front of you and you can choose going down the reefs to the left or the right. Six of us — four people from our dive boat and two other new friends — went to the left. I would have just flattened out on the bottom there at the rope if anyone asked, but they didn’t ask me.

That was fine, too. It was a pleasant little dive in the early evening’s dusk. It would be easy to be poetic about such things. The sun was at an angle low enough in the sky that the bottom where we swam was turning gray. When we returned to the surface over that famous rope, it was still the light of day.

Here are some photographs from the day’s diving. There are plenty of fish to see in this wonderful wildlife preserve:

And you get some time with turtles, too:

As ever, the coral is always a fascinatingly complex backdrop:

And, look! I found a mermaid!

We’re swimming over entire ecosystems, tourists in a landscape that is a gift, ever reminded of the vital and fragile link this represents for us all:

Never mind that guy, though:

And on our shore dive, we saw two lion fish hanging out together. They’re an invasive species, and becoming a favored island cuisine, if for nothing else than an attempt to try to culture a fish that shouldn’t be there:

We should be here. We should be diving all the time. Observing, caring for, enjoying and remembering long forgotten tales about the power and the majesty of places like this. Let’s do it again tomorrow.