Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cozumel Trip Report, May 25th-June7th

      “…and I dream I’m on vacation, ‘cause I like the way that sounds,
         it’s the perfect occupation…for me...”

Day 1 – Friday - May 25th:

  With a tip of the hat to Joe Walsh and Eagles, the day was finally here! No more dreaming, we’re off to our annual vacation home.

 American Airlines flight 367, the daily commute to Cozumel, took off and arrived on-time to partly cloudy skies and much cooler temps than we expected.

Playa del Carmen

  For the second time in as many years, we got the red light at the stop light bag scanner station coming through customs.

  I kind of think it has something to do with my “Film Safe” bag that I keep my memory cards in. The x-ray machine can’t see through it. They always ask me what’s in it, but I’ve never had anyone open it and double check. Seems silly to me. No big deal, just a minor hiccup in the proceedings.

  After the “all clear”, we made our way to the taxi counter and purchased 2 one-way passes to Blue Angel Resort…Casa Sharky for the next 2 weeks. A quick look at my ticket stub reveals, 96.00 Pecos per ticket, about $16 U.S. dollars.

  Riding down the Av. Milgar, the ocean front boulevard and “main strip” of the island, I start my annual census of the cruise ships during our stay and notice one Carnival cruise ship at the downtown pier. I would take note later that day of another cruise ship at the International Pier.

  We checked into the hotel to many “welcome homes”. The first night we spent in room 205, but were moved to room 302 the next day, so I could accommodate my 6’-4” frame with a king sized bed.

Room 205 floor icon

  2 welcome strawberry margaritas were delivered to the room and we sipped on them as we shifted further into island time and watched the boat traffic pass by.

  After stopping by the dive shop and checking in with Pony and Martin, as our custom is, we walked the full mile to downtown and picked up a Tracker from Less-Pay car rental. John gave us the rate of $36/day including insurance, the same price we have paid for years.

  Less-Pay’s vehicles are, let’s say, not the prettiest girls at the prom. But I must say, this year we had probably the best one we have ever had. Well, at least all the gauges worked, the tires were not bald, the doors & safety belts latched & the head and dash lights worked. It also had an IN TACT roof and the windows worked, with a little elbow grease.

   Never the less, the thing ran good and with all our running around we only used a little over a tank of gas in 14 days of driving. We got the truck nearly out of gas and it took $50 to fill it up. I added another $20 gas sometime later in the trip and we turned it in with well over a quarter of a tank.

  For our traditional first meal of the trip, we headed down to Ernesto’s Fajita Factory for a sunset dinner.

  We decided on the same thing, 2 traditional garlic fish dinners with rice and vegetables.

  Now some folks, including me, had reported that Ernesto’s had “slipped” a little in food quality, but this dinner showed no sign of that.

  The grouper was cooked perfectly. Just through, very flaky, moist and seasoned to perfection. The simple white rice was buttery and laced with carrot and peas. The veggies, grilled, I believe, were very tasty as well and we both cleaned our plates as the first of many incredible sunsets was framed by the open aired back wall of the little restaurant.

Sunset from Ernesto's Fajita Factory
   After dinner we drove around a little before going to Mega and stocking up on supplies. Yogurt and granola for breakfast, along with plastic bowls and utensils, some Gatorade, limes for cerveza, (my buddy Gordon Gunn had left us nearly a case and a half of Negro Leon left over from their trip, seems they slightly over estimated the “fishing beer”. So we didn’t have to buy any beer), and a foam cooler to keep the beer on ice, making the in-room fridge available for soft drinks and any food items we might want to keep cool.

 Day 2 – Saturday – May 26:

  3 cruise ships at the International Pier and Maya Pier complex.

  We slept in a little before heading downtown to one of our favorite places to eat for breakfast on a non-dive day.

  I think the Museum is overlooked by many people. We are often the only “tourists” up on the canopy covered, second story terrace.

  The food and service are always top notch. Today we split what we consider to be two of their top breakfast dishes. The egg, ham and cheese croissant is exceptional. A fresh croissant pastry, filled with farm fresh eggs, thinly sliced ham and topped with some very yummy white cheese.

  The second dish doesn’t sound like much, but for me, it’s quite possibly the ultimate breakfast...ok, next to biscuits and gravy.

  It’s called the Energetic, and consists of, hand mixed granola (I saw the lady in the kitchen mixing some up while we were there), plain yogurt and a plate of fresh fruit; apple, cantaloupe, strawberries, mango & maybe pineapple…pretty much the kitchen sink fruit wise. Refreshing, filling…energizing!

  Back at Blue Angel it was getting near the time for the reason why we are here. Time to get wet!

  First dive of the trip is always a “check out” dive at Villablanca Shallows, (Max 23’, 42min.) out in front and just to the south of Blue Angel.

  After gearing up we waded into the shallow entry between the break wall and the infamous Sting Ray enclosure.

Trumpet fish with Stingray enclosure in background

  My left knee had been bothering me so after helping her get her BC on and getting her into the water, I floated my gear out into chest deep water and donned my gear in the water.

   After a couple days of diving, my knee worked its way back into place and felt better than it had in weeks…I love diving.

  I also love Villablanca Shallows, not much deeper than 25’, unless you start heading out to sea that is, it is a hidden treasure for the diving treasure hunter.

  The Stingray enclosure alone is a harbor for many animals and one doesn’t need venture much further to have a very fine dive indeed.

Lizzard fish at Villablanca Shallows

 We found a Yellow stingray, a Sharptail eel, a small spotted eel, several anemones, a trumpet fish, arrow crabs, coral banded shrimp, a blenny, pincushion urchin, spiny urchins, sea cucumbers and a flounder, all before clearing the fence…and that was the first 15 to 20 minutes of nearly an hour long adventure poking around the many small coral heads and buoy anchors scattered around the area.

  We saw a couple more Sharptail eels, both feeding in the sand, very cool. A small puffer, a couple more trumpet fish, Flamingo tongues on the slowly returning gorgonian sea fans and a few small spotted eels along with the usual variety of juvenile versions of the adults we see on the big reef.

Sharptail eel at Villablanca Shallows

 And they say Cozumel shore diving isn’t very good.

Anemone at Villablanca Shallows

  Ok, everything appears to be working from mask to fins. My trusty 31 year old USD Conshelf XIV has a slight leak in the second stage on the surface, but under water is working fine…love my reg.! Note to self, make a trip to ScubaToys & get some maintenance done.

  My Sea & Sea DX-2G camera and YS-25 strobe are firing in sync and with a few minor setting adjustments, we are ready for the deep end of the pool.

 Day 3 – Sunday – June 27:

  No ships on Sunday. Don’t mess with it!

  First boat dive of the trip would be aboard my favorite BA dive boat the Chiquimax.

 She has the most room of the hotel’s 2 dive equipped Panga fishing boats; they type of boat that most of the dive ops use on the island.

Dive boats prepare to depart at Blue Angel pier

  Blue Angel II is a little narrower and the seating is a little tight with a full load, but I think the BAII is a little faster than Chiquimax.

  There was a third “fast boat”, but apparently Jabara finally had to be retired, someone said it was literally falling apart on his last trip to the island. The hotel appeared to be hiring one or two, extra boats on several mornings.

  They also have 2 larger cabin cruiser style boats they us for the 10:00am dives that cater to cruise shippers and folks coming over from the Yucatan.

  With the always smiling Servando as our guide and our buddy Captain Alberto, at the helm, we point the boat south to the marine park and Palancar Bricks,(80’ Max., 50min.), one of four individual, but equally impressive Palancar titled dive sites.

Palancar Bricks reef

  Bricks, named for the masonry bricks that were dumped in the area by a ship that went down in the storm, many years ago. Although I’ve been told that most of the actual bricks are located closer to Columbia Shallows.

  Bricks is a beautiful wall dive, with several large swim-thus. Large grouper paralleled us out over the abyss as we made our way down the reef in the extremely mild current.

Large French Angel

  We spotted a couple King crabs tucked into their little cave homes and Servando found a seahorse at the edge of the reef near the end of the dive.

Sponges at Palancar Bricks

  After the mandatory surface interval and provided snack of melon and muffins, we headed for the first of three visits to Cedral Pass or Paso de Cedral, (71’Max, 50min.).

  The dive site is located directly off shore from the 100 year old town of Cedral, located a couple miles inland off the main highway.

Hawksbill Sea turtle at Cedral Pass

  Cedral Pass is a mid-shelf series of reef ridges running from south to north parallel to the shoreline. Maxing out around 65’, but staying closer to 45-50’ for most of the dive we followed one ridgeline and occasionally moved over to a parallel one along the way.

My lovely bride...perfect trim!

  Every year we hit one site that seems to be more popular with the Hawksbills than the other sites. We call them “Turtle Town” sites, taking the name from a dive site on Maui, Hawaii. This year Cedral fit the bill.

  We saw no less than 7 of Cozumel’s most populous sea turtles, a couple very good sized and one that was simply huge.

Hawksbill feeds at Cedral Pass

  Large angels of all three varieties, Queen, Gray and French were scattered all about. Some of the Grays in particular were very large and almost always in pairs.

  Scrolled file fish also seem to be in abundance, on most of the mid-level reefs or even the top side of the wall dives we dove on this trip. Hanging upside down as they search the reef for whatever it is they eat.

  Is there really an upside down when you live in a suspended state?

Divers approach tube sponges

  Back at the casa, we take advantage of the built-in lunch with our hotel/dive package and eat at the Blue Angel Restaurant.

  Located above the dive shop and covered by a large palapa, the little restaurant attached to the hotel, has become popular with not only the folks staying at the hotel, but also with other visitors to the island, as well as locals.

  Eva’s Kitchen Sink Salad for my dive buddy. A large salad with just about everything yummy one could put on a fresh salad meal.

  I opted for the Chicken Chimichanga. A flour tortilla, stuffed with chicken and lots of cheese, deep fried and smothered with spicy verde sauce. It’s been a while since I’ve had a chimichanga, this one was very good.

  After lunch, we jumped in the truck and pointed her south to circumnavigate the island.

  I must say, that the efforts of the Little Trashy Group, (find them on Facebook), and others are nothing short of astonishing!

  For a while there, the trash washing up on shore on the “wild side” was getting quite unsightly.

  Not anymore. The trash is almost non-existant, even in places where it made a long, continuous strip with the sea grass washed up on the windward side beaches.

  Even on the “tourist” side of the island, the litter has been picked up and looks like the clean-up is being kept up as well.

  Kudos to that all have had a hand in that…litter is a huge pet peeve of mine. There is no reason for it.

  The rest of the trip was just site seeing, Playa Bonita, Chin Rio, Coconuts, Punta Morana, Mescelitos and then a hard left back into the interior of the island back to San Miguel.

  “Sure you don’t want to go to the nude beach?”

  …just a look.

  We headed up to the North Hotel Zone and were thinking about making our way up to Punta Norte, but the mesquitos quickly changed our minds.

 Once we got just a short way onto the unpaved road that leads up to the natural harbor, cove with a ringside view of Isla Pasion, the “skeeters” stated filling the open-aired vehicle and I quickly made a U-turn and tried to get some speed up to blow them out.

 Anyway, we got the heck out of there and headed back to the hotel to freshen up a little before going to a Cozumel classic for dinner.

  Casa Denis is Cozumel’s oldest and still one of the best, traditional Mexican food restaurants. Most long time visitors to the island consider it mandatory.

Casa Denis

  One thing they do very well is Mango margaritas…two of those please.

  Cream Spinach soup and Mixed Seafood cocktail (cerviche) for the boss and Mixed Mexican plate special for me.

  Lore’s cerviche was stuffed with shrimp, calamari, fish and maybe some octopus all in a slightly spicy red cocktail sauce, filled in with chunks of avocado.

  I can’t even remember what all was on the Mexican plate, taco, enchilada, skirt steak, fried plantains, small quesadilla, rice, black bean frijois…maybe more. I know it was more than I could do in one sitting, and very good to boot.
Steet performing fire jugglers at Casa Denis

  Back to the hotel to get the SCUBA equipment ready for the next morning, off to bed and….

Day 4 – Monday – May 28 :

 One ship at the International Pier, the Carnival Conquest. It’s the beginning of slow season for the cruise ships, when a lot of them are being sent to Alaska and Europe, so we didn’t have as many in town as we are accustomed to when we are here in late April.

  Morning dive with our old buddy Jorge, on the Chiquimax.

  Jorge took a vote of where to go and somehow we ended up with Cedral Pass, (83’Max, 1hr. 4 min.).

  We had just done it the day before, but as both of us are under the philosophy that you can dive the same site multiple times and will never have the same dive twice, we just went with the flow.

  Again, turtle city. I ‘m pretty sure we actually saw a couple of the same turtles we saw the day before, just by the size of them. There were easily a total of 7 seen again on this day.

  Large angels and scrawled filefish along with a couple huge Nassau groupers cruised by.

Scrawled filefish with divers

   On almost every dive, False-eye snapper, that’s what I call them anyway, mostly a silver fish with a black spot high on the side, near the tail, would follow us for most of the dive.

  My suspicion is that they are looking for Lion fish handouts.

Queen Angel at Cedral Pass

  We took our surface interval at the little pier located out in the middle of nowhere, near Cedral Pass and Jorge suggested doing “the rest” of Cedral, saying we only did half of it on the first dive.

  Sounded good to us, so a short 5 minute boat ride and we were getting wet again.

  It always amazes me how the boat captains can find the dive sites by just triangulating between the boat, landmarks on the shore and reef position below the boat, but Alberto dropped us off at nearly the exact same place that we surfaced from the first dive.

  The second half of Cedral Pass, (71’ Max., 1hr 8min.),  is pretty much the same as the first, the finger-like ridges continue parallel to the shore with flat sandy stretches in between.
King Crab at Cedral Pass

  We saw many of the usual subjects, lots of angels, Blue Chromas everywhere, a small spotted eel, arrow crabs and a Splendid Toadfish, along with more large grouper and turtles.
Silver Grouper at Cedral Pass

 2 very fun, casual dives with lots to see.

  For dinner, we went up to the Blue Angel restaurant and split Caesar’s Salad and Fettuccini Alfredo with grilled chicken. Both very rich and tasty, maybe a little too rich for me, but flavor right on spot.

 Day 5 – Tuesday – May 29:

2 Carnival ships at the International Pier.

  We headed out for a morning dive with Jorge, this time on the somewhat smaller Blue Angel II fast boat.

 Cathedral was the first choice of the day.

  Cathedral, (96’ Max,m 47min.),  is part of the Punta Sur dive sites, where Devil’s Throat is found and is a spectacular wall dive with soaring pinnacles and large crevices to move in and out of and explore the immense variety of life that makes up the coral reef. Maybe Cozumel’s most impressive wall dive, although Cozumel Deep is impressive as well.

  A barracuda was waiting for his close-up as we hit the top of the reef and slipped over the edge.
Deep Sea fans

Arrow crab

Lion fish


  As on most wall dives, ghostly shadows of large grouper hung over the abyss to our left.

  We saw 2 medium sized Southern stingrays cruising near the top of the reef, a couple more Hawksbills and I found a Nurse shark lying in a small valley. She moved off as I approached for a pic.

  Second stop, the beautiful Francesa, (65’ Max., 1hr 9min.), another mid-level garden reef covered with sponges, soft and hard corals.
French Grunt in overhang

  Orange spotted filefish and tons of angels crisscrossed the reef, along with, again, more Scrawled filefish, they seemed to be everywhere!

  I found a good sized Fire worm and made a couple shots. A Hawksbill paid us no mind as she continued to feast on sea grass and algae.

Fire worm

  Jorge found a Scorpion fish, one of maybe one two we found on the entire trip. He also spotted two Splendid Toadfish with his new “super eyes”, as someone described them.
Scorpion fish

  It’s true, Jorge had Lasik or some sort of eye correction surgery, and the guy was spotting toadfish backed up into their holes from 20’ feet away!! My 51 year old peepers could had a hard time picking them out when I was right on them!

  After getting back to the hotel, rinsing equipment and looking at the daily photos on the TV. (I plug my camera into the A/V outlets on the room TV and we can look at how good, or bad, I did during that day’s dive).

 The Alfredo sauce from the night before, although very good, had indeed been a little rich for me and my stomach had been rolling around all morning, so back at the hotel I took a nap and ended up sleeping a good part of the afternoon.

  For dinner I drove up to Rock-n-Java and ordered up some dinner to go.

  I kind of think Rock-n-Java is overlooked by many people because they think it is a coffee shop or internet bar and not a full restaurant.

  It is not only a full restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; it is one of the best places on the island to satisfy that sweet tooth.

  The owner, Lisa, is an incredible baker and always has a nice variety of wonderful pies and cakes in the cooler as you walk in the door.

  I ordered Potato skins for appetizers, Grilled chicken breast with veggies and rice for the main course and piece of New York cheesecake with cherry topping for dessert.

  While waiting for the food to come, a scuba diving legend walked in to get some change.

  Renee “Apple” Applegate has quite a story. It’s too much for me to get into here, but look her up on the internet sometime. I snapped what turned out to be a very cool ghostly image of her as she walked by outside on her way back next door to Dive Paradise.
Ghostly image of a Diving legend...

  The rain that had been building up throughout the afternoon over on the Yucatan made for a spectacular sunset as we enjoyed our meal.

Day 6 – Wednesday – May 30:

 2 ships in town, 1 Carnival at the I.P. and one Disney at the downtown pier.

  Wednesday was a dedicated day off from diving. We slept in a little, had some yogurt and granola in the room for breakfast.

  We packed the soft sided cooler we brought with us and jumped in the jeep, eventually ending up at Coconut’s on the “wild side” of the island.

  Coconut’s sits on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and for many years has been my Margaritaville.

 It is a large open-air palapa with over flow seating of umbrella topped tables in the sandy area beside the bar. Sirus supplied old school Classic Rock always playing over the speakers and menagerie of domesticated and wild animals scattered about.

  Not to mention the “family albums”, a large collection of photo albums full of pics of women who taken off their tops for a photo and a t-shirt…usually alcoholic induced, Brad Paisley would be proud.

  We found a table under the palapa and ordered up two the nearly famous, and deadly, margaritas and looked over the menu as classic rock filled the air.

  I opted out of my usual fish burger, a very good grilled fish sandwich with cheese, and went for chicken fajitas. Fajitas just sounded good. While Lore had shrimp tacos…what else. The girl could live off of shrimp and guacamole. Nothing wrong with that!

  While we were waiting for the food to come, I made the rounds to the menagerie, taking some photos of the Blue Macaw, who I can’t remember its name, Lorenzo the Green Parrot, who’s photos never seem to work out and my old buddy Chimichanga the gorgeous white Cockatoo.


 She was acting a little wild, running all over her perch contraption, so I didn’t try and hold her. She usually puts out a foot for me to pick her up when she sees me, but I think she was too wrapped up in her sudden burst of energy to deal with me at the moment.

  The weather was amazing; warm, but not hot, humidity seemed low and the breeze knocked down most of what was there anyway.

  Luna, the little mixed terrier, was holding court over the other two dogs. Although she’s the smallest of the three, she’s the oldest and obviously the head of the pack…pretty funny..


  We sat back and enjoyed the afternoon; people came and went, one of the employees climbed into the rafters to hang the latest addition to the t-shirt collection in the rafters.

my business card on one of the columns

  A couple at the bar had been changing drinks very time they ordered and needless to say, by the end of the afternoon, she was raising her top to be the latest member of the “family albums”.

  Later, back at the hotel, we decided to go up to Blue Angel’s restaurant for dinner and ran into Wayne and Anna from the dive boat.

  They had made an afternoon dive with Jorge and had done some Lionfish hunting.

  The chef at the Blue Angel had prepared their bounty in several different ways; simply fried and arranged in a salad, with a verde cream sauce and with an almond sauce.

  This was the first time either of us had tried the “nemesis of the Caribbean” and we were totally impressed!

  A light, flakey white meat with an almost a sweet flavor. Quite possibly the best fish I have ever had, even better the famed ‘Ono’ fish from Hawaii, who’s name literally means delicious.

  The almond fish was the best for my pallet, but it was all excellent. I’m looking forward to trying it cooked other ways.

Day 7 – Thursday – May 31:

3 ships at the I.P./Mayan piers; 2 Carnival and 1 Royal Caribbean

  The previous night ended up being a late one, so we opted out of the morning dive and slept in a little.

  I walked around the grounds and shot some photos. The Atlantis submarine was dry docked, well actually it was just sitting on the ground near the pier next to Blue Angel where they launch a lot of small craft from. So I wondered over there and took a couple photos of the sub out of water.

Atlantis submarine in drydock.
 Trans Caribe ferry coming into dock in background

Hybiscus at Blue Angel

  We did the Atlantis in Maui one year before my lovely wife became a diver. It was pretty cool, but I kept wishing the entire time I was on the outside looking in, rather than the other way around.  I did take one of my favorite vacation photos of the inside of the sub as we were exiting the craft.

  We relaxed around the room, her reading a book and me downloading photos to my laptop and getting caught up on Facebook and ScubaBoard updates, before we headed up to the restaurant for lunch.

Blue Angel lobby

  I had made arrangements to meet Annie from Cozumel Radio Online to meet her and make a couple on-air promotional spots for the station. www.cozumelradioonline.com

   She showed just as we were headed to lunch, so we invited her to join us along with folks we had met on the dive boat, Sylvia, Wayne, Anna & Jim.

  Lore and I each had BLT’s for lunch. Others had the diver’s lunch with fish which includes, a small salad, a ½ of a small baked potato & rice; Chili Rellenos & ceviche…all to favorable reviews.

  After lunch, Annie and I made our way down to the lobby and I made a spots for the radio station and made arrangements to meet Annie again later in the trip to possibly make a couple more. Tune in and listen for the “Sharky” spots!!

Day 8 – Friday – June 1:

 1 ship at the International Pier.

  After a two day hiatus, we were more than ready to get back to diving.

  Back aboard Chiquimax with Jorge and Alberto, we made the request for Yucab Wall, (92’ Max., 36min.), one of our favorite dive sites.

  Lore’s computer didn’t start automatically, as it was supposed to when she hit the water. She didn’t notice it until we were at depth and it was too late to turn it on, so we dove together, at a very conservative depth and cut the dive a little short, but still were able to see a few of those huge Rainbow parrot fish, a large Green Morey free swimming, a couple of Splendid toadfish and the usual parade of Queen, French & Gray angelfish.
Don't touch!! A type of fire coral

Pez Leon, (Lion fish)

Green Morey eel

Yellow spotted stingray

  Second dive was another top favorite, aren’t they all?

  Villablaca Wall, (65’Max., 1hr 3min.), is where the sand flats drop off into the deep water of the channel and sits just off shore from basically the International Pier, north, to…well I guess you could go at least to downtown.

  For some unexplainable reason, we have only been diving this site for 3 years…don’t know what we or our dive masters were thinking!
small spottted eel

  This is an amazing sloped shelf dive. I used to call it a true wall dive, because it doesn’t have any in’s and out’s just a sheer shelf covered with tons of sponges, especially Barrel sponges and mostly soft corals. Very few “coral heads”.

  We usually drop down somewhere close to Ernesto’s/Casa del Mar area and depending on the currents can come up anywhere from just north of Blue Angel to nearly Scuba Club.

  We usually don’t see a whole lot large sea life on this dive. It’s a little more of a treasure hunt. You have to poke around in the little crevices and overhangs along the way.

Lobster in overhang at Villablanca Wall

  Taking this approach, I found many Arrow crabs and brittle sea stars, in and around the tube sponges. We found this tee-niny lobster backed down inside a purple tube sponge…you could see the “aw” on several of the diver’s faces as we pointed it out to them.
Baby lobster in tube sponge

 Several Yellow Spotted sting ray glided down the slope throughout the dive, some even stopped to pose for a photo.

  We found a lobster under a decent sized overhang, I looked to the back of the small cavern, always look around when you find something, you never know what else could be there. There was a large King crab backed and giving me the eye…I gave him the strobe, twice.

Arrow crab

Anemone with Arrow crab


  I found a couple Fire worms and several Coral Banded shrimp, a subject I spent many shutter clicks trying to get “the shot” of throughout the trip.

  I don’t know why I got so obsessed with them on this trip, but I did.

  Back at the hotel we sat around the dive shop talking about the day’s dives and telling diver’s stories for a while and then got cleaned up and headed to what my lovely wife has dubbed as her “new favorite” restaurant on Cozumel.

  We “discovered” Le Chef just walking around one day a couple years ago after hearing about it for many years, and decided to try it…what was the hold up?

  I can’t remember right off hand what we had the first time, I’d have to check last year’s trip report to confirm it, but I know it was excellent.

  We settled down in the small bistro chair and tables on the sidewalk under the shade of the blue awning and surveyed the menu.

  The waiter brought out complementary Bruschetta bread; toasted slices of French baguette with a tomato/basic chutney on top. Very refreshing.

  An appetizer caught our attention; fried brie, with fruit and bread.

  Ok, it sounds simple, but man! Was it good! The brie had been fried, I assume pan seared, where it had a nice crispy crust on the outside, but the cheese was still intact, firm and not melting everywhere.

   It came on a wooden cutting board with a vertical piece on it that had a magnet in it and 3 specialty cheese tools for getting the right slice. (I know, a great place for a “cutting the cheese” joke, but I shall restrain).

  Grapes, slice of apple, nectarines & strawberries, maybe more fruit also along with more toasted baguette to finish off the plate…it was practically a meal in its self.

  A couple glasses of wine and this dish would be a great way to pass any afternoon or early evening.

  For the main course, Lore had the shrimp pizza which she said was excellent. I don’t care too much for shrimp, so I took her word for it.

  I had pizza as well, opting for the vegetable pizza.

  The pies are thin crust and small enough, 8” tops, for one hungry person to handle. With a salad and or appetizer, two people could easily split one. We were starving and nearly finished all of ours…you just couldn’t stop!

 The crust was firm and crunchy without being tough and had plenty of support for the multitude of veggies that were stacked high on top of it.

  Most of the vegetables appeared to be pre-cooked, and tasted as if they had been oven roasted…awesome! Red onions, broccoli, spinach, tomato, zucchini, mushrooms, and the rest of the garden!!

  While we were waiting for our food, one of the “boat people” from the trip came walking around the corner with a friend, so we invited them to join us.

  Jim is from Minnesota, but owns a house here on Cozumel near Playa San Francisco; we would pick him up at the San Francisco day beach pier in the mornings before hitting the reef.

  Jim’s friends name was Steve who is from Juno, Alaska where he operates a fishing lodge called the Red Fish Lodge.

  He had some great stories of grizzly bears taking over the camp, and of course some good fish stories as well.

 We sat round with them until it was time for me to make my way to Dr. Scott Kircher for a “tune up”.

  I met Dr. Scott last year after several people told me about him. They thought he could maybe do something to help my sea sickness issues.

  He’s an unusual type of chiropractor. He doesn’t do a lot of adjustments like the cracking of the neck type. It’s more of a pressure point type process.

  His office had been closed by the city for some reason, so I met him at his house.

  As many years as I have been to Coz, I had no idea they had a large, professional type baseball field/sports complex located clear to the back of town. I guess I have just missed it by a couple blocks before.

 Dr. Scott’s house was in a little neighborhood just behind the impressive complex. A very nice multi-level white stucco house with a large second story patio that just happens to be for sale...wheels start turning. “I could live back here.”

 He asked a few questions, had me lay down, pushed here, pulled there, adjusted my hips, had me stand up, more pushing and pulling, lay down, a neck adjustment and a little more pressure point work and I was ready to go.

 I’m still not sure exactly what he’s doing, but I do know I feel a lot better for a long time after seeing him.

  For dinner, we tried something new. Since we didn’t finish lunch until very late in the afternoon, we didn’t start feeling hungry again until it was nearly 10:00pm.

  Pretty late to try and get something to eat, but Lore had noticed somewhere that the little bar/restaurant called La Hatch, located across the street from the Papa Hogs area, was open until Midnight, Wed. through Sat., so we decided to give it a try.

 I drove down and ordered a cheeseburger and fries to go. It wasn’t bad, I would definitely go back and eat there again, but I wish I had looked the menu over a little better. They had Tapa sandwiches on the back page. I would have maybe gone for one of those instead.

  It’s nice to know that something close is open late though. We have a habit of eating late lunches and then not being hungry until a lot of places are closed or getting ready to.
Blue Angel sunset

 Day 9 – Saturday – June 2:

  One ship at the International Pier

 Morning dive aboard Chiquimax with Jorge and Alberto we headed to Palancar Gardens, (78’Max., 53min.), for our first visit to the truly apply named dive site.

 “Gardens” is an absolutely beautiful dive site that actually does resemble a garden of corals and sponges.

 Large swim-thrus and crevices along the Deep Sea fan covered wall give you places to explore and find small arrow crabs, large King crabs and the occasional small spotted eel finding refuge in a hole.

 More very large grouper, a free swimming Green Morey and two more Splendid Toadfish accompanied the spectacular scenery.

Free swimming Green Morey

Bearded Slendid Toadfish with babies

 I’ve said it before; I’m just as drawn to the reef its self as I am to the fish & critters.

 It seems there are some people that overlook the forest for the trees, so to speak. They make a dive where there aren’t a lot of large fish, turtles, rays or large schools of fish and they say they come up saying they didn’t see anything…You didn’t see anything!?!? That was one of the most spectacular reefs in the world…and you didn’t see anything?!

  But I digress…

  …Thomas, “Firefyter” on the ScubaBoard, a super nice guy, blew out his ear somehow at the beginning of the first dive. Poor guy only got to get in the water one day of a week trip, but had the best attitude about it you could imagine. “No big deal, I’ll heal up and be back in the water in no time!” He said with a big smile on his face…not sure my attitude would have been so positive. It was very refreshing.

 So, Jorge had Albert take Thomas back to the hotel and dropped him off at the pier, so he wouldn’t have to sit on the boat for another hour plus while the rest of us made our second dive.

Bandid Coral Shrimp at Villblanca Wall

 This meant Villablanca Wall, (58’ Max., 1hr min.), for the second day in a row…this was starting to be a theme.

 I really don’t mind diving sites multiple times, but because of that happening and the wind kicking up later in the trip, we didn’t do Columbia Deep or Shallows on this trip…almost sacrilegious!

 Never mind that, we’ll get there next trip and appreciate it even more.

  V.B. Wall was just as spectacular as it was the day before, although the current was slightly stronger, but still quite mild and easy to turn your head into it and gently kick so you could hover over a subject.
Juvenile Trunk fish

Rock Beauty peaks out of hole at Villablanca Wall

 We found a small light green/yellow spotted eel and the lobster under the shelf from the day before, but the crab was nowhere in site.

 I found another Fire worm and three Carpet anemones all grouped together.

Carpet anemone

 I was floating along, looking for my next subject when a familiar shape caught my attention…could it be!

 It was!! A Seahorse! I’m pretty sure this is the first one I’ve found on my own. I signaled to Lore and took a couple shots. Turns out, when the strobe hit him, he was bright orange and his portrait came out rather well.

 After the daily rinse, we headed up to the restaurant for 2 Diver’s Lunches with fish before going to do one of the things I look forward to most when visiting Cozumel.

  I ALWAYS go to see my pal Sally Hurwitch, better known as “Barfoot Sally”. www.barefootincozumel.com  for a massage.

  Sally is an expert, and I mean expert in Ashiatu, Reiki & Swedish messages. I always go for the full hour of Ahiatu, the thing she is known for.

  Just like Dr. Scott, there are times I don’t know what she’s doing back there, or even HOW she’s doing it, but Zowie Batman, it is the best massage I have ever had. This coming from one who has a lot of neck and shoulder tightness and gets massages on a regular basis.

  I have been trying to talk my beautiful bride of 23 years into coming with me and get a message for several years and this year she finally took me up on it…she agrees, Sally is the best!

  I went first and while Lore got her message, I walked around downtown and took pictures, wishing I had my DSLR with me and a little more versatility with my lens.

  Nevertheless I was able to get a couple nice “artistic” shots, I found Woody’s & Bob, home of the Big ‘O’ Beer, two places I’d heard about, but  didn’t know exactly where they were at.

The 100 year old clock tower in the Plaza

Vendor in the Plaza with children

colorful shopping!

  I also met the owner of the new restaurant that has opened in the old Prima’s location, just off the square. His name is Ed and from what I hear, La Terraza has a good thing going with both food and service.

  We didn’t make it, although we wanted to.  A couple places we wanted to go to became victims of late lunches and us being intercepted by others, changing our plans at the last moment.

  I made it back to Sally’s just in time for Lore to be finished and after driving around a bit, we headed back to the hotel to relax for a little while.

  “That. Was amazing!” she said when we got back to the jeep.

  “Told-ja.” I said with a smile.

  Dinner time came around and neither of us wanted anything “heavy”, so we decided to go to Rock-n-Java for something “light”.

  The road to heaven is paved with good intentions.

  Ok, we didn’t really blow it, but didn’t really go light either.

  I had a craving for some quac, so we ordered quacamole and chips for openers. Lore got the spinach and mushroom quesadillas and I got the chicken and turkey club with pasta salad. This was the club of all clubs!!!

 Very fresh and refreshing, but huge!! It was way more than I could handle, although I gave it the old college try…I was stuffed!

 Over dinner Lore said she was considering staying a couple more days if we could get seat changes on the plane.

  More time on Coz? Nooo, I wouldn’t want that would I?!

 Back at the hotel we checked flight availability and contemplated the subject some more. Although I figured it was pretty much a done deal.

Day 10 – Sunday – June 3:

   Still, no ships on Sunday.

 It was raining when I woke up. It had been raining on and off most of the night and continued into the mid-morning.

 Jorge & Alberto actually had a day off and we were paired with our old pal Jose on the Chiquimax with Rafael at the helm.

 I love diving with Jose as much as I do Jorge. They have different styles, but are both excellent DM’s. Plus Jose is a priest, always good company on a Sunday dive as far as I’m concerned.

 It was raining so hard on the way out that Jose put on his mask so he could stand at the helm with the captain and see where we were going.

 First stop Francesa, (60’Max., 1hr 1min.). I think we did a different part of the reef than we did with Jorge on the second dive a couple days earlier.

 A large barracuda was waiting for us as we made our way over the edge of the reef.

  A couple more massive Nassau grouper were mixed in with the other Nassau and Silver grouper. The grouper are finally coming back from the over fishing done before the marine park was established, we saw some massive ones.

Massive Nassau grouper at Francessa

 I found 2 more large Fire worms, one stretched out making its way across the reef. The other one was wrapped around a small branch coral.

  I started finding more Flamingo tongues as the trip progressed, finding two on this dive attached to branch corals, rather than their usual host of Gorgonian sea fans.

 The group stayed in fairly close proximity to each other and everyone all about the same time saw the huge, and I mean huge, Loggerhead sea turtle. It was pretty much right in the middle of all of us and just lazily made its way past us headed south as the current took us north.
Nurse shark

 Towards the end of the dive, I noticed Anna flapping her arms and pointing. I could tell she was excited about seeing a ray of some sort, so I moved a little shallower and low and behold there was a very large Eagle ray.

 It was too far way for me to try and swim to it before it would pass me by so I just sat back and watched it “fly” by.

 Man, the diving has been good this trip!
Francessa reef shot

Blue Angel II picks up divers from safety stop

 After the safety stop at the little pier that sits in the middle of nowhere, we headed nearly straight out to Tormentos/Yucab, (59'Max., 1hr 5 min). One of Jose’s hybrid dives, mixing the end of one site with the beginning of another.

 Both of these reefs are just nothing short of spectacular. I know I keep saying it, but it’s true, the reefs have not looked this good since hurricane Wilma, just stunning.

 Schools of grunts and snapper were hanging out all over the reef. I like to swim through the large schools and have them just part enough to let me pass.

 I found a small lizard fish poised on a sponge and took it’s photo.

 Large Gray angel pairs hung together under outcrops. I found a very large Silver grouper peeking out from behind the reef and took his portrait.

 Jose made a great find, spotting two Slender filefish hanging onto a coral branch. That’s what he’s good at, finding little critters.

Slender file fish

  These tiny fish grow only to about 2” long and spend their entire lives attached to a coral branch with their very strong jaws for their size waiting for a food source to float or swim by.

  I found a juvenile Lionfish hanging out near a small ledge. I took one shot of it, just before it moved under the ledge. I repositioned myself to take another shot and stuck out a finger into the sand about a foot in front of the little fish.

 The territorial instinct in these animals comes young. It immediately pointed all its dorsal fins forward in a defensive pose, before backing up further into the crevice.

 Taking the hint, I moved on.
Juvenile Lion fish

 I was floating along looking down into every little crevice and hole I could find when something caught my attention.

 It was a very small eel in a hole. Maybe 6” long at the most, yellow and black, or brown stripped. I’ve never seen an eel that small before. Probably a juvenile spotted eel, those stripes will form into spots as the animal grows older, I suspect.

(Update: with a little help from my friend Kari at Blue Angel Scuba School, this critter was ID'd as a Harlequin Pipe fish.)
Harlequin Pipe fish in hole

 Tormentos always pays off. Lore found a Scorpion fish who made the big mistake of leaving its tail outstretched over the sand, while the rest of it was completely camouflaged by the reef it was laying on.

 We found several Flamingo tongues, again, most of them on coral branches rather than on Gorgonians.

 Lore found a nice group of Tube fans, posing nicely for a photo op, as did a large hermit crab sitting on a shelf.

 More large angels and grouper, joined the parade of schools of grunts and snapper hanging over the reef like giant squadrons of dirigibles.
Silver grouper comes out for a look
Large Fire worm stretches accross the reef.

Flamingo Tongue

Tube fans

Hermit crab on shelf

 Just an awesome dive overall and pretty much sealed up the deal…we were staying an extra three days to make the trip a full two weeks.

 After lunch at Blue Angle of Chicken chimichanga for me and Shrimp chili rellano for her, (very positive reviews on the stuffed chili), we checked with Eva at the front desk to make sure she had room for us for an extra three nights.

 She assured us she did, and we headed to the room to try and make the plane ticket exchange.

 I got online and found out it could not be done that way, so she picked up the phone and tried calling American Airlines.

  For some reason, the call wasn’t going through. We noticed the time and figured if we got to the airport right away, we may get there before the gates close for the day.

 We jumped in the jeep and b-lined it to the airport, just to find the gates had been closed for the day.

 Once again we tried calling AA, this time right there in the airport. Lore was able to get through and we made the change to the Thursday afternoon flight back to Dallas/Ft. Worth…whoo whoo! More dive time!!

 We went back to the hotel and informed the front desk and Martin at the dive shop of the good news…put us on a boat tomorrow morning!

 The rain kicked back up that evening, but was gone by the next morning.

Day 11 – Monday – June 4

 1 ship at the International Pier.

 Normally, this is where I write, “They make us go home.”

  But not today! Today we are headed south on Chiquimax, with Jorge and Alberto, headed for the fabulous Palancar Horseshoe, 94’Max, :49min.

 Horseshoe is a spectacular wall dive of cliffs, canyons and pinnacles, covered with all the splendor Cozumel has to offer. It has everything to offer in a wall dive.

 And today, a special treat.

 We all dropped over the edge of the reef and made our way to dive depth. I hit 94 feet and worked my way back up to 80 about the time I heard Jorge’s rattle from his shaker.

  I looked in his direction and he’s giving the shark signal…EVERYONE is giving the shark signal!!

  I looked in the direction of all the pointing. At this time, I am above almost everyone in the group. Below me about 20’ I spot the familiar outline of a shark…but wait just a moment…this isn’t the outline of a Nurse shark, it had a much more rounded and pointed shaped nose than a nurse. And was silvery/gray in color, not dark skinned like a nurse.

  My first “real” shark on Coz!! After over a dozen years of diving down here, I finally saw my first “real” shark!

  It was too far away for a clear ID, but it was about five feet long and definitely a reef shark of some sort.

  Speculatively, maybe what they call a black tip down there or possibly a young Bull, but I couldn’t say for sure.

  Jorge found no less than three Splendid Toadfish within several feet of each other on a slope, full of small crevices the indigenous fish of Cozumel like to hang out in.

  More large grouper and angels accompanied us along the underwater mountain range. I took several photos of the reef and a large King crab, tucked into a hole near the top of a pinnacle shooting up from the sand, some 60’ below.

Sea cucumber in "spikey" mode

Gorgonian sea fan

 After a quick trip to the little pier in the middle of nowhere to gas off, we headed to the mid-shelf garden reef called Punta Dalila, 69’Max., 1hr 4min.

 Ok, I know I sound like a broken record, but man, have the reefs improved.

 I’d have to check my records, but I don’t think we dive Dalila a lot. I don’t know what we are thinking! We need to speak up on the boat more!

Fire coral!

 Once again the reef is just covered with growth, with the hydroids being much less of the majority, and tube and barrel sponges taking the dominate place on the reef.

 The dive is one of those somewhat shallow, reef formations spread out in a low ridge running parallel to the shoreline.

 Scrawled filefish, Gray and French angel pairs along with solo Queen Angels dot the landscape. We find at least three Hawksbills and several of those huge parrot fish, that I can’t seem to get a decent photo of cruised past.

Scrawled filefish

 We found another Splendid Toad fish and a juvenile Lion fish, a few Orange filefish and many of the usual suspects of various butterfly fish, Blue Chromis, Damsels & wrasse.

Orange filefish

Honeycomb cowfish

 At the risk of being redundant…awesome.

  …and now for something completely different…

 Wayne, one of the dive boat crowd for the week had hired a sailboat for a sunset cruise that afternoon and asked us and several other people to come along.

  It turned out to be a nice, small group of us, Wayne, his dive partner, Anna and Blue Angel’s resident underwater videographer, Tony and his lovely bride Lisa.

  Now getting to a dive site quick is beneficial for both the diver and the dive operator. So having a boat with a motor is essential for the operation, but there is no better way to enjoy time on the water than on a sailboat. Period.

  I had a BLT at the BA restaurant for lunch, Lore bowed out knowing that there would be snacks on the sailboat.

  3:00pm rolled around and right on time, Dario Melendez pulled up to the Blue Angel dock on his beautiful 48 foot sailboat. www.cozumelboattrips.com

  She’s very pretty indeed, nice long lines, the teal wood all stained and sealed. She has a deceptively large cabin below with full galley and lots of room to move around.

  Dario had is young grandson Eduardo as first mate, bartender and waiter for the trip.

  We all found seats about the main cabin/helm area or on the cushioned lounges, just in front of the cabin and we shoved off for a leisurely, three hour plus cruise along the Cozumel coast.

  After introductions all around, Dario asked “Which direction first?”

Daario at the helm

  The general consensus was South, so South it was.

  Ahh, the amazing calm of being on an open sailboat, for a pleasure cruise, none of that racing stuff…belive me, that’s a lot of work!

  After clearing the cruise ship piers, Dario found his heading and tuned the wheel over to a shocked Anna, pointed to Punta Sur and said “just keep her pointed there.” And went below deck to prepare our dinner, the humor didn’t escape me as she sat stiff armed with near terror on her face for the first few minutes until he came back up on deck and assured her she was doing just fine.

  He had stocked beer, soft drinks and water all cooled off and ready to go. Eduardo set each person up with what they needed drink wise and headed back down stairs to bring up the first course.

  Eduardo started us off with fresh fruit, guacamole and chips for appetizers, Dario popped his head up a couple times to make sure we were still on the right heading and soon came up through the hatch with  all the fixings for grilled chicken tacos including a zesty homemade hot sauce that was a big hit with.

  Being photographers, Tony and I had a lot to talk about and being photographer’s wives, Lore and Lisa had a lot to talk about.

  We all talked, laughed and listened to stories from Dario while Radio Margaritaville played softly in the background, we enjoyed the beautiful afternoon as he took us all the way just south of Punta Sur, came about and took us North to just shy of the Northern Hotel zone before returning us back to the dock at Blue Angel, with just enough time for him to get back to his mooring, which is just off the boat launch right next door to Blue Angel.

 If you are on the island, you can see his boat, moored where I just described any time he is not out to sea.

 Interesting story about the boat, she has been completely rebuilt 3 times by Dario himself, the last time after hurricane Wilma.

 He has sailed her from Mexico to the European continent & the Mediterranean Sea, down to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, to South America and back home to Mexico…I think today’s cruise was much easier.

 We all got together at the Blue Angel restaurant for appetizers and drinks and talked late into the evening before we all agreed getting some sleep before work and diving would be a good idea.

Day 12 – Tuesday – June 5-

  3 ships; 1 downtown and 2 at the I.P.

 Lore opted out of the morning dive, so it was me buddying up with Jorge for another trip to the beautiful Palancar Gardens, 93’Max., 51min.

  Jorge once again found three Splendid Toadfish on a slope pitted with many tiny little pockets, just perfect for the odd looking blue stripped, bearded fish to back up into.

Same toadfish with babies from earlier

Large yellow tube sponge

King Crab

Soft coral branches on reef.

  Turns out, one of the photos I took of the toadfish has several juvenile toadfish around the adult. I was editing the pics and noticed an tiny face near the bottom of the enclosure the fish was in. I zoomed in and low and behold it’s a tiny Splendid Toadfish...actually a bunch of them!

 Further investigation revealed more of them around the edges of the small cave. It is one of those amazing “accidents” that happen doing underwater photography.

 I stuck close to Jorge, shot reef pics, finding another King crab and more of the usual suspects.

 After the surface interval, we headed to another site I don’t do a lot for some reason, Punta Tunich, 76’Max., 56min.
Upside down Queen Angel fish

 I suppose Tunich could be done as either a first of second dive, as it is along the drop off.

  The wind had changed directions and it was the choppiest it had been all trip and the current was the strongest it had been on any dive so far, but still nothing that couldn’t be dealt with.

 We saw at least three more Hawksbills, large grouper and huge Rainbow parrot fish.

Rainbow Parrot fish

Hawksbill sea turtle with divers

Hawksbill poses for pic

 Back at the hotel, I ran up to the room to gather Lore and head up to the restaurant for a quick lunch before heading back out with Jorge and Alberto, along with Jose and several other of the “boat people” to do an afternoon dive to hunt Lionfish.

School of fish under ledge

Coral Bandid shrimp

 She went more the brunch route and had the Diver’s omelet while I had a very tasty BLT & fries.

 Chiquimax headed south to what Jorge called Franco Wall, 102’Max., 35min., basically, I think it is in the same area as Francesa, but I’m not exactly sure.

 We dropped down to max depth, but Lore and I quickly moved up to a higher level as the rest of the group stayed pretty deep. By the end of the dive I was at the top of the reef and just a click from decompression.

 Soon the hunters were busy with their Hawaiian slings shooting away.

 I had my fill of Hawaiian sling hunting while in the Navy working with researchers from the University of Hawaii on Midway Island.

 The guys would build an enclosure around a small coral head out of chicken wire and we would go inside the enclosure and spear off any predators we could find, mostly lizard fish, and the students would do research to see how it would affect the food chain on that reef.

  It all had something to do with building fish farms in Hawaii. I found a paper online related to the project a couple years ago. It even had a mention of U.S. Navy personnel helping with the project…that was me!!!

 Anywho, the dive was successful; they managed to fill their catch bags with Lion fish.

 I had some reverse ear blockage and was dealing with some nasty vertigo that was making me feel sea sick for the first time on this trip. Although I relate it more to the inner ear imbalance then to boat motion, never the less, I was done for the day.

 Jorge had Alberto take Lore and I back to the hotel and the rest of the dive group made a dive on Villablanca Wall.

 I laid down for a while and felt much better after a couple hours. My friend and photo mentor Armando Alentado, the owner and operator of Island Photo and Video, http://photocozumel.net/ stopped by to say hi. I always miss my friends on the island and it was good to see him. He was headed out the next day to Miami to see family, so I was glad we were able to meet up.

 Lore and I headed downtown to get something to eat, with no particular plans.

  We ended up at Woody’s, just off the square, where I had chicken enchiladas, very tasty with a spicy red sauce. Lore wasn’t very hungry and her stomach had been bothering her on and off all day so she just opted for a grilled cheese, which she said was cooked perfectly and was exactly what she wanted.

Day 13 – Wednesday – June 6

  1 ship came in about noonish to the I.P.

 Morning dive with Jorge and Alberto on Chiquimax.

 The last day of diving before they really do make us go home.

 First stop, the amazing San Francisco Wall, 94’Max., 53 min. Ok, why didn’t we do THIS dive 2 or 3 times?!

 Jorge found not one, not two, but three Juvenile Drums hanging together under an overhang.

 More large angels, a couple barracuda cruised by, another Hawksbill, a couple Yellow Spotted stingrays, and more Scrawled filefish.

 I swam over a small break in the reef and noticed the tail end of a large Green Morey eel. I dropped down and searched until I found the business end and took a shot just as it stuck its head out of its enclosure.

 I found a juvenile Trumpet and chased it for several minutes before finally getting a shot of it in some soft coral branches.

Trumpet fish in soft coral

Queen Angel fish

 Lore and I ascended for our safety stop and hung there for a few minutes before hitting the surface.

 I had made it through almost two weeks of diving without getting seasick, almost unheard of for me, but the last two days my ears did not want to cooperate.

  I headed for the surface from 10’ and the last 3-4 feet my right ear became totally blocked. Of course I was too close to the surface to stop and go back down to let it clear naturally, so I hit the surface to sharp pain and the whole world spinning…I was in full vertigo.

 After just a few seconds my ear cleared to a loud squeaking, like an inner tube being punctured.

 Everything stopped spinning, but the damage was done, by the time I got aboard the dive boat, I was pretty much in full sea sick mode and not feeling well at all.

 We made our surface interval at the little pier in the middle of nowhere. I lay on the dock and tried to recover so I could make the final dive of the trip.

 By the time the S.I. was over, I was feeling good enough to try and make the second dive.

 Alberto took us to Tormentos, where I suited up and Jorge got me in the water as soon as possible.

 Usually if I get sea sick and am able to suit up and get into the water, it will go away.

 No dice today, I guess the vertigo was too strong. I made 20 minutes of the hour long dive.

 I had dropped to 50’, but pretty much couldn’t hold my head up. I even tried to make myself throw up, thinking that would help, but only had dry heaves…lot of them.

 After 20 minutes of skimming the bottom and not being able to do much else, I decided that I was not going to “come out of it” and aborted the dive. I motioned to Lore I was going up to a safety stop and headed up.

 Jorge saw me and gave me the “ok?” sign, I signaled “ok” and grabbed both sides of my head to let him know I was having issues. He had been here before with me and understood and gave me the safety stop “T” and “ok”.

 I made the safety stop, being careful to listen and look for dive boats, as I knew I was coming up where no one was looking for a diver. I cleared the surface and Alberto found me immediately and headed my way to pick me up.

 On board I just laid in the bottom of the boat until I heard the voices of divers in the water and found a place to half sit, half lay until everyone was on board.

 Of course it was a great dive, they saw lots of cool stuff, but I had no complaints. Like I said, I had made it this far without having to deal with any of that, so I was a happy camper anyway.

 Still not feeling very well I laid down for a nap, which usually brings me out of these things.

 I had promised Annie from the radio station I would come by Woody’s and make a couple more spots for her, so after my nap and still not feeling 100 percent; I jumped in the jeep and headed downtown.

 I found one of the public parking lots, the charge a $1.00 per hour to park in just off the square, and made my way to Woody’s.

 When I got there, I ran into one of those funny translation issues that happen every now and then when you are in a foreign country.

 I asked if “Annie” from the radio station was around. I only got a blank stare as if he had never heard of her.

 Now I know that she “hangs out” there because she is friends with the owner, so I knew that the employees of the place knew her.

 Finally, the bartender snapped, “Oh! Anita!”

 Spanish you dork! “Anita”, not “Annie”, I laughed to myself.

 I laughed, “Si! Anita!”

 Annie was sitting at the rear of the bar talking with someone and hadn’t noticed me come in.

 We talked for a while and I made a couple more spots which you can hear on the online, English speaking radio station and get your island fix. Including my little invention, Marley Mondays where she spins an hour of reggae music to help you get through your first day of the week.re

 While talking with Annie, Thomas, (Firefyter), came by and said he was meeting Greg, Laurie, Jeff and his non-diving wife Kris at Wet Wendy’s and invited us to come by.

  So I headed back to the hotel, gathered her and we headed back downtown to what has become a major hang out for ScubaBoard members.

 Wet Wendy’s is located just off the square, to the north, on the pedestrian part of 5th Ave., N.

 We found the guys sitting at the bar, the girls were doing some last minute shopping.

 I ordered the chicken parmesan sandwich and Lore had chicken quesadillas. The food wasn’t the best meal we had on the island, but it wasn’t bad.

 Jeff brought up that Matt “Mateo” Moran, dive instructor extraordinaire, and general great guy, who had been visiting family back home, had just got back to town and was down at the restaurant his wife and he run, O’Hana CafĂ© & Bar…if I had known that, we would have eaten there instead of at Wet Wendy’s.

 I was able to say hi to Matt the day we arrived, but he left the next day for Chicago, so I was happy to hear he was back in town.

 We had made several attempts to eat at O’Hana during the trip, but kept getting intercepted by people. Too bad, because Angela, Matt’s wife, has some wonderful food on the menu and I had been looking forward to getting some of it.

 O’Hana is located just up the street on 5th Ave. N., so we all decided to at least head up there for a nightcap and say howdy to Matt.

 Matt and Angela welcomed us with open arms even though it was pretty much closing time.

 We sat at the bar and talked and had some exceptional Reposado tequila, aged to an amazing smoothness.

 About 20 minutes to midnight I realized that the parking lot I had parked in closed at 12, so I quickly ran over to 3rd Ave. S., and picked up the jeep, just in time.

 We park at this same place almost every time we are downtown, especially at night, because this parking lot is open until midnight, where the majority of the ones I’ve found are only open until 8:00 or 9:00pm.

 The young man who is the attendant had already put up the sign and appeared to be just waiting for me, or midnight, whichever came first…luckily it was me!

 The bill was only $2, but I tossed him a fiver for his time, which he seemed very pleased about. “Gracias Amigo, see you next year!”

 I got back to O’Hana just in time for the final round of Reposado.

 Everyone except Thomas and us had already left, so we all three jumped in the jeep and headed back to Blue Angel for our final night on the island.

 Day 14 – Thursday – June 7

  2 ships at the I.P., I think…

 They really do make us go home.

 I woke fairly early and ran down to the restaurant and got Lore and I a Diver’s omelet plate to split, with the intent the we would get something to eat after we checked our bags at the airport.

  We settled up with the hotel, tipped the guys at the dive shop and headed to the airport for our usual early check-in.

  After checking the baggage, we had a little over an hour and a half until we had to be back for the flight.

 Neither of us were hungry, so we just drove up the North Hotel Zone and all the way down to Punta Sur before b-line it back to the hotel to pick up our carry-ons, turn in the jeep at Less-Pay and catch a cab to the airport.

  We timed it perfectly. After going through security, we only had about a 10 minute wait until boarding.

 The flight home was uneventful. We arrived back at D/FW on time and made it through customs and baggage claim and customs again in no time.

  Several people from the dive boat were on our flight, Thomas and  Greg & Laurie, the later 2 headed on to California, while the rest of us were back home on Texas turf.

Thank You's...

  As always, thank you so much to Eva and her wonderful staff at Blue Angel.

 From the front desk, maids; Trini, Fransico & the new girl I didn’t her name, our buddy Otillio, (the ninja) who shows up just when you need his help for something, Pony & Martin at dive shop, thanks so much for all you do.

 A very special thanks to Jorge, Jose & Servando along with Captains Alberto and Rafael, for keeping us safe and happy under and on the water.

 Thanks to Kari at the Scuba School for purchasing not one, but two of my "Cozumel, Below" underwater photography books.

 You can view a preview of the book here on this blog and get yours at Blurb.com http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/772160

 Thanks to my pal "Barefoot" Sally Hurwitch, from both of us for the amazing work you do…I’m tellin’ ya, go see Sally!!! www.barefootincozumel.com

  Thanks to Dr. Scott Kircher for straightening me out.

 Thanks to Annie at Cozumel Radio Online for the opportunity to make the spots, let me know if there is anything else I may do for you. www.cozumelradioonline.com

 And last but not least, THANK YOU to the people of Cozumel for sharing your amazing home with us.

 Weather Report:

 What can I say…perfect. Mostly in the mid 80’s during the day with mild humidity and mild winds.

 Evenings cooling off to the mid to high 70’s, with a few showers overnight.

 It rained a couple days, but no dive delays or cancelation of any plans. Mostly spotty, on and off showers when they did happen, during the day.

Reef Report:

 Although we did several dive sites more than once which cut down on the number of overall dive sites we hit, my impression of the reefs is that they are definitely back from the damage caused by hurricane Wilma.

 Santa Rosa would have been the real test, it has still had a lot of sand deposits on it as late as last year, but we didn’t make it on this trip…that reef should really be left alone for a year or two.

 The Hydroid and Black coral populations that were so prevalent have thinned out and given away to more sponges and soft corals have begun to be the prominent features on the reefs. Especially the mid-level reefs.

 Visibility was good, but not great. Possibly 80-100’ Max. as there was a lot of plankton in the water.

 Water temperatures were at 80-81 degrees on all dives, with one dive registering at 82.

 Angels, Scrawled filefish and grouper are abundant, again, with some grouper reaching sizes I have not seen on the island…ever.

  All in all a very favorable report card on the reefs.