Today we dove again! After not being on SCUBA for a few days, it was nice to get back into the swing of things with two dives, one at The Chimneys, the other at Coral Gardens. The two dives happened at 8:30 a.m., when the dive boat rafted up to our sailboat and we boarded with all our dive gear. The two dives were the first for Advanced Open Water. The first dive was Underwater Naturalist, where we had to identify different kinds of animals. The second dive was for Underwater Navigation, where students had to learn how to use an underwater compass and then navigate to an object and back again underwater. Michael, our only non-diver on this trip due to an ear problem, went on an epic kayak adventure with Mieles, beach hopping along the coves, exploring the coastline by paddle and foot alike. When everyone returned, it was time to get-up and go! We had been instructed that the staff where going to help minimally today. All of the students had done all of the maneuvers we were to perform today at least once before. That being said, Michael was on the helm, but since he has never been on the helm under sail so he enlisted Ezra, a third year returner with a keen head on his shoulders, to help him through the day. Together, they raised the anchor from its overnight resting place, and moved the boat out into open water. Raising the main sail, unfurling the jib and falling onto course were done exquisitely with the collective efforts of the crew! As we sailed south-southwest, we talked more extensively about points of sail and wind directions effects on the boat.
We made it to the ball at Marina Cay about an hour later, just 20 minutes after we had planned. Upon arrival, we all took a hydration break, hung out for a few minuets to gain our focus, then sat down for a lesson. Today our lesson was the predecessor to an epic snorkel. As we wound down the lesson and prepared to hop in the water, we remembered all the things we learned. Mangroves are a vital habitat to many species in tropical and semi-tropical species. Devastated by the shrimping industry and encroachment of commercial construction, this habitat, a keystone to the life cycle of many plants and animals, is threatened and bellow 1% of believed previous coverage.
About thirty minutes after the lesson was complete, Mike Liese arrived in one of the RIBs from base and started to ferry us around the corner to the Beef Island Cut. We snorkeled and observed the forest in the sea. Mangroves are characterized by cage-like roots, sacrificial leaves, prop roots, and a huge diversity of organisms swimming among the maze of plants. When we headed back to the boat, it was time to prepare dinner, fish tacos with Mahi Mahi. After dinner we had a boat meeting, worked on the topics that we had chosen to explore in more depth, and then went to bed. A long, productive day to say the least!