Saturday, December 20, 2014

More about Living in the Moment, and our adventures at John Pennekamp SP

In my last post I wrote about the feeling of "living in the moment". It does not happen all of the time, but making an attempt to be there happens to me occasionally now, when it almost never did before.
Joanne commented she was concerned she would be too much of a planner and always thinking about where they would be each day.  My thoughts are, if you spend some time planning and making reservations ahead, you can stop worrying about the future and live in the now. I only worry when I don't have a plan.  Although some do like the feeling of being able to choose their overnights as they go. Different strokes for different folks.

(From Craig) Just wanted to alert anyone out there that eats food, of a terrific new snack that I found.  Wheat Thins new Sweet Onion flavor, combined with your favorite spread like low-fat cream cheese, makes the best and most satisfying snack that I've tasted in years.  If your food store doesn't stock them yet, just ask the manager to do so.  If he doesn't, you'll know you haven't been as nice as you should have, in 2014. :-)

We have had some interesting experiences this week.

On Wednesday we went on a glass-bottom boat trip from here at John Pennekamp SP, and got to get a look at the coral reef from above. The viewing windows were smaller than I expected, but we did get to see lots of coral, sponges and fish. We even saw one sea turtle swim by.

Corals come in hard and soft varieties, but some that we thought were "hard" waved in the currents, just like trees in the breeze.

I was told the Florida coral reef fish are not as colorful as those in Hawaii, and having seen some of them in the visitor center's aquarium, I was not disappointed by their somewhat drab colorations. It was just wonderful to see them in a wild ocean setting.  No keepers were feeding these!

Note: The pictures we got of the coral were better than those of the fish, but at least there were fish!

On Friday we went on a four hour snorkel trip. I have to start by saying I have never been a "boat" or a "water" person. In fact up until the last few years I was reluctant to go on boats, and downright scared of swimming in lakes.  Heated swimming pools are more to my liking. But as I have gotten older I have wanted to try some of these things, and snorkeling seemed like fun.

Craig was a little nervous, but I was all gung-ho as we got suited up in wet suits and boarded the boat at 9 AM with about 30 others. The reef is several miles from shore, and during the half hour it took us to get there, our captain and his first mate Stephanie told us about the reef and helped us adjust our equipment. She talked to each of us individually or as couples, and learned who had never snorkeled before. We felt like we were in good hands.

When we arrived at our first stop, the more experienced people jumped off the back of the boat, or went part way down the ladder and did a sort of belly flop into the sea. Then it was my turn. I was not at all afraid and flopped in.  

OH MY! Although the sea was as quite calm, it felt like the waves were huge. I had never had flippers on before, and they felt like weights on my feet. I started flailing around, the snorkel mouthpiece felt wrong, and I forgot to breathe. I was close to having a real panic attack.

Stephanie was watching me carefully, and when she saw I was in trouble she talked me back to the ladder. It was only a few feet away. When I got to it I held on, but couldn't get my flippers off to come back aboard, so one of the other snorkelers helped me.

I was very disappointed in myself, but felt I just couldn't do it. 

Craig's first time in lasted a little longer, but he too had some troubles. The flippers didn't work for him, perhaps because he uses a frog kick rather than a flutter kick. Also he had a hard time breathing. He too came back aboard quite quickly. But he went back for a second time without the flippers and although he didn't make it out to where the others were, he did swim about a bit.

If this had been the short trip, I would have been done, but we were to make three stops, with most of an hour water time at each. Here I was, 45 seconds in the water and back on the boat!

Stephanie suggested I try just going down the ladder,  getting into the water, and just hanging there for a while to get the feel of things. Knowing I was being cared for, I gave that a try and found I wasn't afraid as long as I could hang onto the ladder. I didn't have my flippers on, so I was able to get back up the ladder without help. I think this made me more comfortable too. Knowing I wouldn't be stranded in the water.

At our second stop, I was able to go down the ladder, hold on to it and get my mask into the water.
Picture from the web

I saw fishes! Lots of fishes. 

I kept a firm grip on the ladder at all times, however. After a short time I came back aboard. 

At our third stop, the Captain suggested I try hanging onto a rope that was tied to the boat and a float ball. That worked for me.  I was able to get about eight feet from the boat, float face down, breathe, and still feel safe enough. 

Barracuda from the web
I never got out to see the reef which was at least 30 yards from the boat, but I did see a barracuda just cruising along and several moon jellies. 

I can see fish in an aquarium any time. But I was actually snorkeling and that was enough for this trip and
I am satisfied, and even a bit proud of myself for not giving up. 

We may try this again sometime.

Craig also did better each time he went in. and although he too did not go all the way out to the reef, he was able to see more than I did. We have bought each other goggles as Christmas presents, and will be wading out at the beach next week to practice in some shallower waters. 

Have you tried anything new lately? 
How did you do?


  1. I'm glad you didn't give up Merikay, and lived in the moment instead. ;)

  2. Sounds like you're having a lot of fun. Seeing fish under the water must be very interesting. Craig, thanks for that great food tip. I'll have to buy some of those so I can get my mouth all worked up and ready for that tasty raspberry key lime pie. (Although you might want to think positive, and have Merikay bake some biscuits, since you could very well get some great toppings.) Oregon's best corner is out with ACL injury.

  3. Merikay, I have been reading your blog for a long time now but have never commented. However this time I just had to so I could let you know how proud I am of you and Craig! You go girl, you managed to conquer your fears and go for it! Have a lot of fun in the shallow water as you learn more about snorkeling!


  4. Good for you Merikay! I am scuba certified but after many years not doing scuba I had a bit of a panic attack in a pool when getting back into it. When we were in Key Largo the weather didn't allow for snorkeling so I am so glad you shared this. If you like Key Lime pie, do go to Mrs. Macs...just for the pie (the food is not all that). Looking forward to your next post

  5. Congrats, Merikay. I found that first few times snorkeling it is much easier from a Sandy beach where you can still practice. It definitely takes a bit to feel comfortable. We want on that same boat but didn't snorkel that reef. We saw huge groupers and sharks. Nurse sharks but I was still glad I had those windows between me and the fish.

  6. We tried snorkeling in the Bahamas and I wasn't afraid of the water but I never did learn how to use the goggles and breath correctly so I always felt like I was drowning. And we had waves so I didn't see too much below the water. Good for you to hang in there and keep trying. We only had that one chance. I hope you go again.

  7. Snorkling is difficult, but can be amazing. I'm glad you got a little bit of it. I'm curious if you heard anything. Last time I went snorkling here in Myanmar, one of the neatest parts of the experience was the constant snap-crackle-pop of the fish nibbling on the coral. Did you hear that in Florida?

    Funny you should talk about planning. I remember during your first 'test trips' RVing, you were so organized and had everything meticulously planned out. I'm about to head out on the road...err...train... and my 9 day journey is about 70% planned... that's about as low as I can go and be comfortable.

    1. We've heard that crackling sound quite often here in Florida waters too. Its fish chatter. Sometimes you hear it, but mostly you don't, so maybe it's a certain species of fish. I'll bet you've had some amazing snorkeling adventures there. I've been meaning to read your blog. Guess I should!

  8. Nothing better than the successes that were learned from failure... we love snorkeling, wished the water wasn't so cold here in Cali so we could do some... going back to Florida next year...

  9. I'm proud of you both for giving snorkeling a try and continuing even when you didn't feel comfortable. When we first learned to scuba dive, we were in a pool and we had to learn how to breath underwater. It's not a natural thing so everyone in the class popped up almost immediately after submerging their heads. Snorkeling is really not that much different and what you felt was normal. Plus on those snorkel boats, you don't have the best equipment. A well fitting mask, a good snorkel with a water purge and some well fitting fins make all the difference in the world. I'm kind of surprised they didn't start you in a pool or off the beach. You did great for the first time in the ocean! Florida fish are actually very colorful, but remember when you're looking at them through water, you're not seeing all the color. The reds are the first color you lose and then oranges and yellows. There is a nice aquarium at Pennekamp so you can see the pretty colorful fish. There are truly some wonders out there in the ocean and you never know what you'll see! Maybe for your next adventure you will try kayaking!

    Thanks for the tip on the snacks. Al already has them on his list.

  10. good for you for persevering! just think what a pro you both will be with some practise!

  11. Not giving up is indeed brave and you were rewarded in more than one way by your perseverance! Well done.

  12. Great job, always important to try and next time you will be much more comfortable I'm sure.


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