Trip Report – Ambergris Caye, Belize Feb. 2020

A group of 12 divers and one non-diver from Scuba Shack flew to San Pedro Belize on February 22 for a week of diving on Ambergris Caye. We stayed at Sun Breeze which was conveniently located near the airport in San Pedro and on the beach. The village of San Pedro, full of restaurants and shops was just steps away. The hotel staff and service were excellent. We sampled several local restaurants. The onsite Blue Water Grill was one of the better eateries on the island. 

The on-site dive shop, Ambergris Divers took great care of us all week aboard the Baby Catherine. All of the dive sites are located on the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef stretching from The Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras.  The dive sites we visited included San Pedro Canyons, Tres Cocos, Mermaids Lair, Sandy Point, Esme Garden, Mayan Princess, Tackle Box, Cypress Garden, Bottom Time, Esmeralda and a Monday night dive at the Hol Chan.  Rather than provide a description of each site, I will let the accompanying video tell the story.

We had a fun group including a few folks new to diving with Scuba Shack. We also had a number of milestones on the trip. George Keech completed his Open Water and Nitrox certifications on Monday morning. A few hours later he was on his first night dive at Hol Chan, a nature preserve in a natural cut in the barrier reef.  What a great first night dive!  We saw lobster, eels, basket Stars, octopus, stingrays and Spotted Eagle Rays!  The next morning was our deep dive. I managed to get a picture of George and most of the rest of the folks in the group coming thru a swim through at 100 feet on Esme Garden. On Wednesday, Joe White went on a real adventure.  He took a 3 hour bout ride each way to Lighthouse Reef and the Great Blue Hole. That’s definitely a “bucket list” dive. The squeezed in a couple more dives on the reef after the Blue Hole where they say more reef sharks.

We managed to see lots of animals big and small. I don’t recall every seeing so many nurse sharks.  We also saw a couple of reef sharks.  There was a mother dolphin with a calf on the first day.  

Unfortunately, I was too far from them to get a decent shot with the camera.  The weather cooperated for the most part.  There were a couple of choppy days but not enough to interfere with our diving.

Ambergris Caye, Sun Breeze Hotel and Ambergris Divers were wonderful hosts for the week.  I would not hesitate to visit them again in the future. 

Trip Video

Little Cayman trip report with photos

More than twenty Scuba Shack divers met up very early on a Sunday morning and headed to JFK for their flight to Little Cayman for an incredible week of diving!

With the addition of a few more divers we picked up along the way, we numbered 25.

After a great Little Cayman Beach Resort breakfast the next morning, we were all ready to experience some fantastic diving. Divided between two boats, we set off on different adventures but our diving had many things in common – there were lots of little creatures to be seen! Once our Divemaster whipped out his magnifying glass and showed us what to look for, we found many deceptively colorful and mysterious creatures including a 1 1/2 inch long juvenile pipefish, and a half inch flamingo tongue nudibranch! Little critters were everywhere.

The water was warmer than expected – a very welcome 84-85 degrees!

With lots of dives on Bloody Bay Wall, we had amazing swim throughs & sheer walls and saw barrel sponges as big as a car.

Up top we had beautiful sunny weather with one windy afternoon – perfect for a hammock dive! And very dark skies are our last day of diving – heavy rain and flashes of lightning visible from down below created a “night dive” environment at 10 in the morning.

And the adventure didn’t stop there! Due to mechanical and weather-related delays, our trip home started with a boat trip to Cayman Brac, with most of our group arriving in Grand Cayman just in time for our flight home. An (unlucky?) few were treated to an extra night spent at Margaritaville on Seven Mile Beach, courtesy of Cayman Air.

The combination of incredible diving, great food (and even greater desserts!) and with THANKS to a very fun group, everyone had a truly spectacular week.

Photo Gallery

Nassau, Bahamas scuba group trip report – May 2019

Memorial Day Weekend 2018, the intrepid Scuba Shack dive group was greeted in Nassau by tropical storm Antonio with grey days, strong winds, and rain. Fortunately, 2019 saw none of that!

This year’s group from Scuba Shack, led by instructor Peter Katz, saw blue skies, modest winds, and warm temperatures. Upon our arrival at Orange Hill Beach Inn, our regulars noticed a marked improvement in the grounds as well as the buildings and most importantly, staff service. I’m happy to report that under the leadership of Danielle and her husband Chris, Orange Hill is shaping up nicely. They still have a way to go, but at least they are moving in the right direction.

We again dove with the world renown Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas and again they provided excellent service. We were able to use a 46 foot Newton dive boat captained by Wendell, who, once again, did a superb job in getting us safely to and from our favorite dive sites. This year we had a new crew with our “dive god” Nacho and “dive goddess” CC. Seriously, they worked their tails off for us, moving gear, getting nitrox tanks, let alone anchoring the boat and leading the dives. They were extremely safety conscious, yet maintained a warm and friendly disposition in spite of me!

And bottom times!  They were most generous with bottom times, so much so, that we were often the last boat back at the dock. Stuart was generous to offer us Friday afternoon with the seadoos and seabobs (dive propulsion vehicles). They were a major hit!  And this a follow up to the morning lionfish hunt where team Rosenlieb was again the most successful.

Saturday was our off island dive safari to the Lost Blue Hole and Rose Island. It was a little too rough to get the gas grill to the island, so Zac, our photographer stepped up and served as chef on the stern of the boat. He did an excellent job with the fish, burgers and hot dogs.

We did a shark dive on Sunday morning that was quite intimate. Nacho did an entertaining feed for the eight of us who participated. CC led the other four divers down the wall for an enjoyable dive.

Our evenings out at Café Matisse, Cappricio’s, and Luciano’s were wonderful. Excellent food, great camaraderie, spectacular weather for dinning al fresco. Orange Hill once again provided us with a wonderful barbecue on Sunday evening before departure on Monday.

Although a number of our “regulars” couldn’t make it on this trip, I feel we have enticed some new people to become additions to our “regulars.” I certainly hope so. Looking forward to next year’s trip.

Photo Gallery – David Tucker & Bond Wrecks

Photos copyright Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas and used by permission.

Photo Gallery – Blue Hole Adventure

Photo Gallery – Shark Dive

Photos copyright Neil G. and used by permission.

Turks & Caicos scuba trip report

Scuba Shack had a group of 11 head out to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos on Oct. 20 to dive with Dive Provo. And what a week! The weather was spectacular. Sunny and in the low 80s every day. We did some diving in West Caicos – Amphitheater and the Crack, two days of diving at French Cay, and also spent a day in beautiful Grace Bay.

We had swim throughs and beautiful walls, with Caribbean Reef sharks cruisin’ by on every dive. Lots of lobsters, and a couple of large turtles, one of whom sat and posed perfectly for us. Another day we had a small nurse shark who followed our group from beginning to end. And then showed up at the next dive site!

On our boat trips returning from French Cay we were treated to some stunning turquoise tinted clouds, reflecting the beautiful turquoise water below. And some curious dolphins. Magnificent!

Afternoons were spent with friends, new and old, lounging on the beach, taking a nap by the pool, a little sightseeing, and maybe an adult beverage or two. It was a very relaxing week.

We had dinner in some interesting locations. Danny Buoys, which was all decked out for Halloween, Mango Reef located in the marina and Somewhere Cafe, a breezy little place located right on the beach. Coco Van, an Airstream Trailer converted into a gourmet food truck, located in a grove of coconut trees and the Fish Fry, where there were lots of interesting Halloween costumes.

Thanks to our Dive Provo crew – Morro, Caroline, Selma, Pablo and Alan and everyone in the shop. Diving with all of you was such a pleasure.

Check out Scuba Shack’s upcoming travel in the Travel section. Next up – Cozumel, February 2019.

Diving India, Training and another scuba-related podcast

Scuba Shack Weekly – Volume 1, Number 5

I am writing this week from India. Business has taken me half-way-around the world and scuba diving is alive and well here. Dive India is actually pretty close to where I am working.

Even though I am out of town technology allows me to stay very connected to all that is going on at Scuba Shack. Facetime, email, text, and Facebook keep me up to date and connected. October is proving to be a very busy month for us. Matt and Marla just completed an Advance and Navigation course at Dutch Springs. Our Open Water class is half way through and now it is on to Rescue class. Monty and Chris are in full swing with the Public Safety Division with ongoing training for three dive teams in Connecticut and Massachusetts. We are also finalizing some plans for a November Open Water course that will be a little different. Keep checking us out or give a call.

Last week Monty and I attended the Boston Sea Rovers monthly meeting. Scuba Shack will be doing a lot at the 65th Annual Show in March 2019. Get the dive season off right and plan on attending or helping us out.

In my quest to find scuba diving podcasts, I came across another one that proves to be quite entertaining (at least I find it that way). It is called The Great Dive Podcast – TGDP as they like to call themselves. The podcast is hosted by James Mott, a Unified Team Diving International instructor, and Brandon Schwartz whose background includes being a DAN instructor as well as a former GUE instructor. They are passionate and as I said entertaining – maybe even a little irreverent. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Our 2019 travel schedule is rounding out. Cozumel in February, Nassau in May, and Little Cayman in October. Cozumel is on the website and we are finalizing all the details for Nassau and Little Cayman and should have those available soon.

As a former mayor of NYC used to say “How my doing?” Let me know.

Thanks for tuning in,

Jeff

The Great Dive Podcast

Contact Jeff

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Spectrum full face mask, scuba training, and the “gear replacement” discussion

Scuba Shack Weekly – Volume 1, Number 4

My travel schedule is going to be picking up quite a bit from now until the end of the year but my goal is to continue to provide a weekly update (wish me luck). I am off to India again this weekend – not for diving however.

Our first pool session last week was fantastic and everyone is excited about breathing underwater. We have an incredibly dedicated staff who make training fun, safe, and meaningful. Just to recap, we had nine open water students in the pool being trained by one PADI Course Director, one PADI Master Instructor, two PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainers, one PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, and two PADI Divemasters. Seven professionals for nine students. That allowed me to go have some fun in the cold pool.

Matt and Marla are off this weekend to Dutch Springs for another Advanced Open Water and a Navigation course.

I was able to take my new OTS Spectrum full face mask to the pool for a check out. I have never used a full face mask before and was pleasantly surprised. It fit very well, was comfortable and provided good vision. The Spectrum is designed to use your own regulator which keeps the cost down. It is made of silicone with a double seal which is important if you plan to use a communication unit. You can also get an ambient breathing valve for the mask. We have a fully configured Spectrum on display at the shop. Come by and check it out.

Our new Scuba Shack Dive Team T-shirts are now on sale. Check them out – we tried to keep this one affordable at $15.95. We went for simplicity.

As we all know, investing in quality scuba gear can be expensive and we want to use it as long as we can. That being said, equipment does wear out, gets old, or may no longer be safe. It is difficult to have the dialog about the need to replace older gear. In the latest addition of Divers Alert from DAN there is a short article on replacing dive computers and BCDs. Some good information to consider.

As always, please let me know what you think.

Thanks for tuning in,

Jeff

Contact Jeff

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Oktoberfest, public safety diving, and Loksak

Scuba Shack Weekly – Volume 1, Number 3

Welcome to Fall in New England. Although summer is behind us (and it was a hot one), we still have plenty of dive season ahead as the water will be warm and visibility should improve. Don’t stop diving just because football has started. After diving, and stopping by the shop, celebrate the fresh Autumn weather by visiting our good neighbors over at Still Hill Brewery for an Oktoberfest brew. 

We are back in the pool this week with our latest open water class. The first night on scuba is always an exciting time for both the students and the staff. We love this stuff. Last week we got a welcomed surprise visit from a southern New Hampshire fire department. As it turns out they have been searching New England for a full-service dive shop with the right Public Safety credentials. After five hours of gear check out, questions, and consultation they left with the knowledge that we fit their bill. Scuba Shack is very excited about working with another Public Safety client.

Scuba Shack is also now a retail dealer – only one in Connecticut – for Loksak water tight plastic pouches. They are depth rated to 200 feet, and during testing stayed nice and dry at 90 feet at Dutch Springs. Great for cell phones and tablets. They offer full use of the touch screen. You can keep your stuff dry when camping, diving, swimming, out in the snow or many other places. Check out our variety 4 pack at the shop. 

I had a chance to watch Mission Blue on Netflix while we were traveling to Ireland. It is essentially a documentary following the life of Dr. Silvia Earle. I did not realize just how much she has done in her lifetime and all the things she is doing to protect our oceans. A fascinating life with so many accomplishments. Her passion and commitment are something else. If you have the chance, it’s well worth watching! 

Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – you never know what we’ll come up with.

Finally, we want to make it easy to provide feedback. Just click on the form and let me know what you think.

Thanks for tuning in!

Contact Jeff

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Hebron Harvest Fair, A Plastic Ocean and DiverSync

Scuba Shack Weekly – Volume 1, Number 2

We had an incredible four days at the Hebron Harvest Fair. Who can forget the pig races, Dock Dogs, Axe Women of Maine and most importantly the FOOD (Lions Club fresh donuts – UMMM). It was fantastic to speak with so many people about scuba diving. We hope that a little bit of our enthusiasm rubbed off and we see some of our new friends underwater soon. Also, I want to thank our volunteers for manning the booth and for creating the buzz.

Our latest PADI Open Water class starts on Sept. 13. Matt and Marla will be teaming up to teach this class. The final exams for this class will be in Jamestown on Oct. 20 and 21 and promises some great late season diving in New England. We also just got back a number of used tanks from hydrostatic testing and are getting them ready for sale – give us a call to and get a good deal on a used tank.

Scuba Shack has made its first donation to 100% Aware. We issued 21 certifications in August from Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Divemaster and Instructor – a check we are proud to write. Finally, around the shop, Scuba Shack is now certified as a Connecticut Small Business Enterprise with the designation as a Veteran-owned Micro Business. Go Navy, Monty.

If you stream Netflix you might want to check out A Plastic Ocean. If you aren’t concerned about the amount of plastic we dump into the ocean maybe you should be. The footage is incredible and depressing. I’ve been trying to think about what I can do to help but it seems too overwhelming. It seems like everything I touch is plastic. We are pretty diligent in how we recycle but I can’t help but think it’s too little too late. I wonder how I can make a difference. If you have any thoughts please share!

Have you been searching for a good scuba diving podcast? I have. So, I was talking to Ray at the fair on Thursday night and he told me about a DiverSync.com. I checked it out and liked it. The discussion from the August 31 podcast was about gas management. The podcast is done by Rich Synowiec who owns Divers Inc. out of Michigan. Give it a try.

As always, I appreciate your taking time to read and welcome you feedback.

DiverSync Podcast

A recent episode discussed health for scuba divers as well as doing a better job of gas planning.

A Plastic Ocean

This Week’s Photos

Introducing Scuba Shack Weekly

Volume 1, Number 1

There is no doubt that we live very busy lives and we use information we get online to help us sort things out. Sometimes we are looking for specific data, or a recommendation, or just perhaps a little bit of an escape from the realities of our busy life. As scuba divers we aren’t any different (well we are a little different) and very often look online for specific information, reviews, or just to fantasize about our next dive adventure. So, by introducing Scuba Shack Weekly I hope that I can fill a part of that thirst for information about diving, the places we go and the environment we dive in. 

First up is what is going on at the shop. This week we will be at the Hebron Harvest Fair. We will be out talking to people about the incredible experiences of scuba diving and offering special opportunities to try our Discover Scuba Diving this fall. If you are going to the fair be sure to stop by and say hello. We love talking diving. Nitrox class with Marla is happening on Saturday, Sept. 8, and our next Open Water class with Matt and Marla starts Sept. 13.

The latest edition of Alert Diver from Divers Alert Network arrived this week. This magazine is outstanding and is packed with so much great information. The publication alone is worth the price of your membership. Want to learn about Kona, Hawaii, basking sharks, commercial mixed-gas diving and so much more – check out Alert Diver – The Magazine for Divers Alert Network. A cover-to-cover must read. 

There is an interesting article in the July/August Dive Training on lionfish. I was always under the impression that the lionfish hunts had very little effect on controlling the devastation caused by this invasive species in the Caribbean and Atlantic but it turns out there may be some benefit. While I’ve never actually been on a lionfish hunt, it might be something to consider given it may be helping. Roatan is having its first Roatan International Lionfish Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 13 if you happen to be down that way.

Finally, feedback is a gift. I would love to hear from you. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or want to know a little more about Scuba Shack please contact us by email.

Another great Dutch Springs weekend

Scuba Shack was back at Dutch Springs this past weekend (Aug 17, 18 and 19) with three jammed pack days of diving. The water was a little higher than normal given all the rain happening in the Northeast this summer. While the algae kept visibility down a bit, the hot summer has warmed Dutch to a balmy 70+ all the way to the platforms. The pit of misery however is still in the upper 40s – perfect for the deep dive.

First up was setting up base camp on Friday, followed by a check out dive with Marla prior to the Instructor Exam. Matt and Marla successfully completed the PADI Instructor Exam on Saturday and Sunday. They are now proud Open Water Scuba Instructors for Scuba Shack. Congratulations Matt and Marla!

Keith and Mike successfully completed their Advanced Open Water certification with Jeff. We did the buoyancy, navigation, and wreck dive on Saturday, followed by the deep dive along with the search and recovery dive on Sunday. Congratulations Keith and Mike!

Jill and Chris from Scuba Shack staff ran a fantastic drive and dive taking DJ, Marion, and Mike on five different dives exploring various attractions at Dutch Springs.

We had a really nice dinner at Copperhead Grill on Saturday night with some great dive stories and other fish tales.

The plan is for at least one more trip to Dutch Springs the weekend of Sept. 28 – 30. The visibility will be really great that time of year and temperatures will still be comfortable.

See you there.

Photos from the weekend