SaintJoe H2O

Friday, April 2nd 2010

Cheese & rice it’s early. 3:15 to be exact. Today’s the big day, the day I’ve been waiting for since getting accepted into this program. I’ve only had a countdown for the past 3 months, not bad eh? I only got about 3 hours of sleep last night. Nerves? Excitement? A combination? I think so.

You know, it’s really sad that Starbucks isn’t open on a day like this. I could really use a Carmel Macchiato right about now. Well, off to East Hill’s we go to meet the gang & then headin’ to KCI.

That may have been the longest drive I’ve ever experienced to Kansas City. Ahh…the anticipation is killing me. Oh crap! I forgot my ticket in the car! But hey, at least it was in the car & not back in St. Joe. That would have been bad. So after calming myself down, we checked our bags in, said goodbye to our parentals and boarded the plane. Ft, Lauderdale, here..we..come.

Flight 1496 why must you be so packed? Hello to sitting by strangers. Oh well, NOTHING is going to put me in a bad mood, nothin’. I'm actually sitting by a really nice couple who is on their way to Ft. Lauderdale to visit their son. I guess this gives me time to study some fish. See you in 3 hours FL!

Hello beautiful. I’m finally here & quite sweaty I might add. The temperature of the plane was at least 80 degrees. We wrangle our bags up & wait for our bus to arrive. Thankfully the bus is nicely equipped for the much needed leg stretching I need to do while driving down the Overseas Highway. Driving through the Keys is…amazing. The views are breathtaking. Sleeping is pretty much impossible at this point, especially since we just ate at Golden Corral. (Aka a feeding trough)

After making jokes about mobile homes that have gates in front of them and driving for what seemed like a decade, we finally started getting close. We arrive at the marina in Marathon and the bus driver starts backing down an extremely narrow road. I wouldn’t reverse my car down it, let alone a bus. But the good news, we survived. Wahoo.

We step foot off the bus & you instantly feel the Florida sun beating down on you, which feels so good after being couped up on a plane and buses all day. We wander around this building that is brightly colored with palm trees everywhere while getting our bearings straight. Ah...I think I'm going to enjoy it here.

Vivid, HURRY. Our boat, Vivid, is late. The other two, Conchy & Lady Neil, are already here, but our boat had some engine troubles on the sail here and won’t make it until later tonight. We waited, and waited, and waited at Burdines for what seemed like an eternity but were really only a few hours. Finally, our boat gets here.

Hello pirate ship. Mr. Nash explained to us that our boat is unique but our boat is more than unique, it looks like a real-life pirate ship. We begin getting settled in before we eat dinner so we load our bags onboard. I stayed on top while Mrs. Nash & Kody went below to put the bags in the cabin. After lugging the bags on, I go down below to check out what we’d be staying on for the next week. Low & behold, there was a cat sitting in the Vberth. Not a normal cat, something from Gremlins. Cats & I usually don’t get along for many reasons. One, because they shed & two they just sit there & stare at you. This should be interesting.

Since it was so late, we decide to grab some dinner at Burdines, a restaurant here at the Marina. A word of advice, if you ever go here: make sure you order fries with your meal, because they do not come with it. We learned that the hard way. But besides the fry-less dinner, my chicken sandwich is good.

We aren’t staying at the Marina tonight, so we un-hooked from the dock & head out for our first night on the water.

See you tomorrow, Florida!

Saturday. April 3rd 2010

Waking up on a sail boat was, surreal to say the least. I still can’t believe we are in the Florida Keys. After seeing billions of pictures & hearing about Mr. Nash’s trip down here last May, it still isn’t sinking in. But we are going on our first snorkel today so I better be ready! That snorkel is Sombrero Reef to be exact.

Holy waves! Hello Dramamine! Sailing from Marathon to Sombrero wasn’t as long as I had expected, but seeing the lighthouse gives you a perspective to how close we were really getting. On the other hand, the waves were absolutely insane. But despite them, we are going to brave it. Jumping into the ocean for the first time was a shock. Salty, chilly & salty. Of course, me being inexperienced with the ocean, I take a giant gulp of water as soon as I jump in. Yuck. Not having dinghys as opposed to Andros means we have to make the swim to the reef.

After making it out to the reef & aquatinting myself with the ocean I begin to explore the reef. Jeff, our captain explained to us that the visibility on the reef today wouldn’t be the best & he wasn’t joking. The waves were so intense; it was bringing sediment up from the bottom & causing less than perfect snorkeling conditions. But on the other hand, there is plenty of Yellowtail Snapper & Sergeant Major’s to see. After what seemed like only 15 minutes of being in the water, I’m ready to get out. Tabitha, Korby & I decide to make our way back to the boat while Mrs. Nash & Kody stay to explore the reef. I was out of breathe from trying to stay above the water & frankly, after drinking this much salt water, I think it’s time for me to get out & nap. A two hour nap to be exact. Thanks Dramamine!

The rest of the day consisted of puking. Not for me though, thank God! But for Tabby, Morgan, Taylor & Trish it did. I feel really bad for Tabby, she’s been laying on the side of the boat for what seems like hours now, not moving. I wonder if one of us should make sure she’s still alive? Oh…I’m sure she is. Morgan on the other hand has been curled up into a ball hovering over a 5 gallon bucket pretty much the whole afternoon. And poor Taylor has been trying to puke so he can go to our afternoon snorkel at Munson Rocks.

On our sail, that is much calmer I might add, we make lunch on the deck of the boat. Lunch consisted of deli sandwiches & chips. But our captains are vegetarians so they have this stuff called Tofurky that is vegetarian turkey. They offered us some to try, so I thought “Why the heck not?” It’s not as bad as I expected, but I’d rather stick to the real stuff.

We arrived at Muson Rocks & the waves were a lot calmer than earlier today which means hopefully the water will be clearer. Which it was. Again, there were tons of Yellowtail Snapper & Sergeant Major’s. But this time around I saw some Rainbow Parrotfish, a couple Doctor Fish & some extremely, extremely small Neon Gobys. These darn Yellowtail Snapper's seem to be everywhere & trust me, they don't mind getting close to you.

Yellowtail Snappers

After all three boats hooked up for some dinner, Mrs. Nash, Kody, Tabitha, Korby & myself decided to play a game of Spoons. We are all pretty competitive people, so it was an all-out-brawl every round. One game, there was one spoon left & Mrs. Nash & I didn’t have one so we both dash to get it, resulting in us both grabbing it. I wasn’t about to give up & neither was she. The end result? She won. But I let her.

It’s already midnight here, which is really only 11 our time, but after two snorkels, I’m pooped! Goodnight world, see you tomorrow!

P.S. I need a Joy Bath ASAP. My hair is starting to feel nasty already.

Sunday, April 4th 2010

Happy Easter! It sure is weird waking up on Easter & being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! On today’s agenda: Looe Key & Bahia Honda.

The swim to Looe Key was a really long one. Trish decided to go on this snorkel with us, so we strapped on our fins & zipped up our wetsuits & jumped in. You know, jumping into the ocean is always a surprise because it’s a little cold at first, but after awhile it’s not too bad. But I sure am glad I went ahead and bought a Shorty. On the process of getting to the reef I started to get out of breath & swallowed a lot of salt water (AGAIN!). Grrr. But Trish was there to help me get my breath back & we finished the swim to the reef.

The fish are incredible here. We saw some massive Midnight Parrotfish, Yellowtail Damselfish (Juvenile & adult stages) & of course the normal Yellowtail Snappers. Floating over the reef is amazing. It sounds cheesy, but if you really stop & think about it, there is a whole other world below you. Watching the fish swim is so much different than I expected. Especially the Parrotfish, they’re such large fish & yet their fins aren’t as big as you’d expect. It might sound weird, but that stuff fascinates me.

We swim back to the boat & unload all of our gear, which is an adventure in itself. Trying to take off a wetsuit while a boat is rocking = harder than you think. But we manage to not lose any crew members overboard. We have lunch & do the usual, which is lying on the deck of the boat during the sails, working on our tans.

There seems to be a bit of confusion on where we would be traveling this afternoon. Our captain wants to stay at Bahia Honda but the winds are suppose to pick up tomorrow so I think we are heading to the Bay Side of the Keys where the winds will be better.

We cruise up to the beach, the only natural sand beach in the Keys to be exact, on our extremely cool pirate ship, jump off & swim to the beach. We roll up on this beach with our fins, snorkels, masks & wetsuits & people began to stare. I mean, they were in bathing suits & here we are washing up ashore in wetsuits. We were bound to get stared at. The only bad thing is we can only stay here for an hour, so we begin exploring. I collected some shells & of course took them. How many other people can say they have shells from the Florida Keys in St. Joe, MO? Not too many, well probably 21 of us. But it’ll be cool to tell my kids one day “Hey, I got those in the Florida Keys when I was 17.”

Captain Jeff says the waters we are traveling through aren’t too bad. Shoot, I’d hate to know his definition of “bad winds” if he doesn’t think these are!

Monday, April 5th 2010

Last night we sailed back to Marathon (the place we started out at) and spent the night. We are hanging out on the boat while we make breakfast before we go back to Burdines to get some ice & water.

Stepping back on land was so . . . strange, but a good strange. Good thing this place has a store. We all curbed chocolate fix but eating some ice cream & chocolate. We are staying on the island for awhile while Captain Jeff runs (literally) to get a part for our boat because it’s been having some starting. Besides the joy of eating some chocolate, I got to wash my hair. Well sorta, I improvised & used Tabby’s leave-in-conditioner & the sink at Burdines. It sure does feel a lot better though! Captain Jeff fixed the boat & we headed back onboard. We sailed towards Shell Key, which consisted of a five hour sail. Hello Low-Drowsy Dramamine. Since it was such a long sail, we decided to pass the time by playing a game of good ol’ Spoons.

After the sail, it was getting pretty late, so we made dinner, played some cards & headed to bed. I felt bad for Korby because he had slept on top of the boat the whole time thus far. Something I hadn’t necessarily been wanting to experience after hearing Terra’s horror story from last year were she almost froze to death. Okay, that was probably exaggerating, okay a lot of exaggerating. It was time for me to man-up & do it. So Mrs. Nash & I decided to sleep up top. I decided to bring my sleeping bad just in case it got chilly. Goodnight Florida.

Tuesday, April 6th 2010

Last night wasn’t so bad, though, Terra was right. It’s cold. But nothin’ a sleeping bag couldn’t solve. What we couldn’t solve was Korby’s snoring issues. The dude snored all night! Despite the distractions, falling asleep under the stars was awesome! I’d definitely sleep up there again.

Today, we are going to Lignumvitae Key & Shell Key. Since we’ll be exploring Shell Key, that means we will get to swim in the Mangroves. Something I learned that they didn’t get to experience in Andros. So it’s nice we are experiencing new life that past Marine Biology kids haven’t seen.

Our boat was the first to reach Lignumvitae so we hop off & swim to the dock. Getting up on a dock that doesn’t have a ladder is interesting. Lugging yourself up from the water, fins & all, was quite an experience. We got the girls up because they were the lightest & easiest & then there was Korby & I. I got up fine with the aide of Korby’s leg for support. Korby, on the other hand, was a little harder. So we all pulled on his arms & safely got him ashore. Walking on the dock up to the building, we cross a sign that reads “Closed” but we just walked passed it, quickly learning why that sign was there. I snapped a few pictures of the building and cannons & then it was time to get back to the boats & head to Shell Key. Hopefully our time at Shell Key will be more successful.

Well hello Shell Key. I’ve heard a lot about you. Let’s see if you live up to your expectations. We once again put all of our gear on, zip up our wetsuits (which I was getting pretty good at by now) and jumped in the water. The swim was a short one, so we quickly started exploring.

I know why the call it Shell Key now. Captain Jeff went with us on this snorkel & using his experience as a teacher in Key West, found a Sea Urchin, covered with Shells. After all, we ARE at Shell Key. He explained to us it is doing this for protection. Much like the sunscreen we apply for protection from the sun, it uses it for protection as well. Maybe Taylor could use shells to shield himself from the sun ‘cause his feet are purple they are so sun burned. I feel bad because I’m sure that has to hurt when his fins are rubbing it.

Tabby & I go off on our own to see what else Shell Key has to offer & we being noticing a lot of these sack thingies everywhere. (Sorry for my language, we didn’t know what they were at first, so we referred to them as sock-thingies) We later discovered they are egg cases of some sort. Shell Key does live up to its name though, but doesn’t offer a lot of fish sightings. Although, we may be too loud & the water is really shallow so we’re often touching the bottom to keep afloat & stirring up sediment. But hey, that gives me a chance to collect shells, which I did by shoving them inside my wetsuit which wasn’t the most comfortable but the best solution at the time.

Exploring the Mangroves will be something I’ll never forget. They have this eerie feeling that gave you fear for what was in there but also the adrenaline for exploring what exactly live in them.

After regrouping, we all are talking about what we saw & all of the sudden Korby sees an Octopus, a tiny one of course. I didn’t actually witness it because it seemed like as soon as we saw it, it swam into a hole. We tried luring it out with a stick but were unsuccessful.

We do the normal, eat dinner, play card games, & make jokes about Captain Ron. But tonight all of our boats hooked up again & we socialized. In the midst of socializing, we get out the huge conch shell that is on our boat to see who the best conch blower really is. We are all pretty successful at doing it, some better than others. We also made up an imaginary band which consisted of Tabitha- vocals, Taylor- drums, Kody- guitar, Korby- synth, Mrs. Nash- backup conch, & me- lead conch. Oh the memories we made on that boat....

Something is weird with our water pressure & the water isn’t working, which means no teeth brushing tonight. Ugh. I’m obsessed with brushing my teeth so tonight should be interesting. just hit me tonight that we only have a few more days left. I most definitely do not want to go back to Joe Town. G’night.

P.S. I hear it’s freezing in St. Joe. Sucks for you guys! It was in the 80’s here today!


Wednesday, April 7th 2010

Well I survived last night without brushing my teeth. But I did have this really weird dream that Mrs. Nash showed up to school in her bathing suit. Uhhh..yeah, weird, yes I know. Besides having that weird dream, I’m pretty pumped for today. We are snorkeling at Alligator Reef & Hens & Chicks which Kody called Cats & Sharks. Maybe we are spending too much time around Captain Ron? Possibly. And he seems to like my bunk the best, so where do you think he sleeps? Mhm, right next to me. Ehhh, cat hair.

After eating some delicious breakfast prepared by Captain Trish, we headed for Hens & Chicks. As the week has been progressing, the reefs just keep getting better & better, hopefully that trend keeps on trending.

Can you say Giant Barracuda & Nurse Shark? Alligator Reef sure can. Though, don’t get confused, it didn’t have Alligators. (My mom just freaked out when she read that I’m sure) There I was, snorkeling along the reef, that was quite deep & all the sudden there was a freaking Nurse Shark below us! And not just one, TWO! Holy cow! I can’t believe we just saw a shark. And of course, it went into a hole before I could snap a picture of it. We explained to Mr. Nash (or maybe he heard us from all of the commotion) that there was a shark down there & off he goes to seek it out. Of course, he gets all the way down there & swims down there for what seems like five minutes snapping picture after picture. Too close for comfort for me. I’ll just view them from a comfortable distance. After our adrenaline from seeing the Nurse Shark was gone, we went in search for more reef creatures.

Did I mention how clear the water was? Well if I didn’t, it’s super clear, perfect for snorkeling. Finally.

We swam upon, well technically, snorkeled by some divers who were, well diving the reef. That was something I didn’t expect to see. Hope they know there are some sharks ahead.

Besides seeing the awesome Nurse Sharks, we saw a rather large (Well it looked rather large from the safe distance I stayed) Stingray. I'm only brave enough to go so far down. So I got far enough & got the shot. After the excitement of the Stingray & Nurse Sharks we were pretty dang tired.

So after swimming the reef for awhile, some crew members decided to head back to Vivid but I sure wasn’t ready to get out. This reef is by far the best we have seen. I came here to explore what the reefs have to offer, not to sit on a boat the whole week. So off Mrs. Nash & I went. There we are, swimming along and a GIANT Barracuda swam by. It was huge. We looked at each other in awe & swam after. But after a failed attempt because it is a heck of a lot faster than we will ever be, we lost it. But it sure was cool to see while it was in my view for ten seconds. After that, we snorkeled past some schools of Barracuda and of course Yellowtail Snapper & Sergeant Major. Those things are everywhere. Sheeesh. We also saw some Spanish Hogfish (which nobody else thought was one, but of course, I was right) Which brings me to my next point, knowing the fish. If someone went on this trip & had failed to learn the fish, their trip would suck. Sorry for my French, but it would. You get so much more out of the trip if you know what you are looking at. (Thanks for pushing us Nash)

We grew tired after being in the water for, I’d say at least an hour and a half we decided we should head back to the boat, but not before we saw something awesome. That something awesome came in the form of a Scrawled Filefish. Yeah, like that really awesome looking fish in our ID books. And I got to witness one. That made my day, shoot that made my whole week. Now I just need to see a Queen Triggerfish & I’ll be satisfied.

We arrive back at the boat & do the normal, hand someone our gear & climb aboard. But this time I cut my finger on the ladder. Ugh. It sliced the skin off & started bleeding. Great. Saltwater & open wounds do not mix. Trust me.

To protect my fresh wound, I used some tape (Band-Aids will not cut it in the water) from the Fist Aid kit, thinking it would help but in reality, it made my finger extremely gluey. My finger looked like I stuck it in some Elmer’s Glue & let it dry. But whatever, I’m sure it’ll come off. I hope.

After enjoying our two snorkels, it was time for some dinner. When you’re on a boat, you have to get really creative with what you fix, like for example we had corn, beans & and an iPhone. So we just used a handy app on it & whipped up Bean Salad. Problem solved. Now only if the iPhone could pop out some taco seasoning. We don’t have any on board, so we must get creative & make tacos from scratch. After a battle with scrounging for ingredients, we come up with something that sorta tastes like tacos. Not too bad for being on a boat.

Abby came over to our boat to socialize since we have the most sociable boat & oh boy was she sunburned. A distant cousin of a Crab? Probably not, but she sure did have some red skin. Since we are such problem solvers on here, we loan her some aloe vera to sooth that awful burn.

Those tacos Mrs. Nash & I prepared must have hit Korby, we were informed by him that the toilet wouldn’t pump. Great, so we are without a toilet until we can get it pumped out. I sure don’t want that job! Luckily after an hour or so of it being in the toilet, he safely got rid of the remains. Phew! (Can you tell we are all really open with each other on our boat) The other day I walked in on Tabitha while she was using the restroom. Oops. But that’s what they make a lock for, man.

Tonight’s agenda included Spoons, Poker & a game Korby tried to explain but I was practically asleep the whole time he explained it. Therefore, I don’t remember much of it. Snorkeling takes a toll on you. AND cleaning Captain Ron’s litter box. Man that cat can leave a nasty smell in a room. So Mrs. Nash decides to dump his feces overboard & in the process of coming back under, almost knocks the entire litter box on herself & everyone else. Thankfully, she caught herself.

We got really creative tonight & decided to make up nicknames. So from now on call us by these names: Tabitha- Rosy for Rosy Razorfish. Kody- Cuda for Barracuda. Mrs. Nash- Goby for Goldspot Goby. Korby- Goliath for Goliath Grouper. Taylor- Squirrel for Squirrelfish. Morgan- Princess for Princess Parrotfish. And myself Tang- for Blue Tang.

Vivid, I really need to stop hitting my head on you. I think by now I should have a concussion of some sort. But other than that, the reefs were amazing today. By far the best snorkeling we have experienced thus far. It just keeps getting better & better as the days pass. Speaking of days, holy Mackerel (no pun intended) it’s already Wednesday. Three more days in paradise! Goodnight fishies. Goodnight Captain Ron.

Smooth Trunkfish

Thursday, April 8th 2010

We are having breakfast burritos for well...breakfast this morning. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, actually I don’t like them at all but I find myself eating things I would never dare eat back home. Example: Chicken Salad, Tofurky, Bean Salad, Breakfast Burritos. But I’m hungry so I find myself eating these foreign foods.

Today, we aren’t snorkeling the reef which kind of saddens me because yesterday was so amazing, I want more of it. On the other hand we are taking a tour of Indian Key. (Hopefully they aren’t closed like Lignumvitae was.

Jeff & Trish live here in the Keys so they are really smart about the history of the keys and things of that nature. So, they agreed to give all three boats a tour of the Key today.

Our boat, obviously being the coolest out of the three, thinks we have this swim covered. Which means we aren’t going to wear fins. BAD IDEA. Let me tell you that was the hardest swim I’ve ever experienced in my life. I wasn’t sure if I would make it here alive. We arrive first, & the other two boats come rollin’ up, with their fins on. I knew we should have just worn them. The swim back should be interesting.

Exploring Indian Key

We start the tour by Jeff explaining how Dr. Henry Perrine brought a bunch of plants to the island. Including the one we ate this sour tasting bean thing from. I didn’t even know the name, why did I eat that? At least I didn’t die. So we go strolling down the gravel roads and all of the sudden I was totally being a tourist & taking pics every five seconds and I ran into a metal pole. Uhhh..yeah, a METAL POLE. In the process of that pole smashing I did, I jammed my big toe & got a pretty gnarly bruise on my thigh. I even have the picture to show it. Man I am so mad I just did that. Who does that? Seriously, who runs into a metal post? I do.

Luckily the rest of the tour was informative about this Key that has some pretty deep history that would take way too long to explain in this blog, if you want to know more, Google it. It actually has a interesting past on how the Indians would take goods on ships during the night & lie to their face the next day & say that someone must have came & took it during the night, when in reality it was them. Gotta watch out for those Indians, they’ll get cha.

Thus far today, I’ve managed to jam my toe & give myself a bruise. I think I’m winning in our “boat bite” contest. A “boat bite contest” is a contest so see who can have the most injuries from the boat at the end of the week. Sounds pretty gruesome, but it’s really is just to see who is dumb enough to hurt themselves. Obviously, I’m winning. I continuously hit my head. Ugh. Goodnight Ocean, I’ll only snorkel you one more time before we have to leave. I know, you’re sad too. :’(

Friday, April 9th 2010

Mmmm. . .chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. How nice of it was Mrs. Nash to sacrifice a candy bar to put in our pancakes? Yeah, I know. Besides our yummy breakfast, we have something else to look forward to today, Coffins Patch and Sombrero Reef (again). Hopefully it’ll redeem itself since day one was so crazy.

Since this is our last day actually being in the water, I hope it’s amazing. The reefs have just been getting better and better. I don’t ever want to leave this place. Now only if I could convince my parents to let us move down here? Highly unlikely... Dangit.

I remember seeing Mr. Nash’s pictures of Coffins Patch & it was full of bright colored sponges & other marine creatures. I can’t wait to jump in! Oh yeah, don’t let the name fool you, there actually were coffins at this one point. Jeff was explaining to us that a ship carrying coffins sunk & it formed a reef & bam, you’ve got Coffins Patch. Now what he didn’t tell us was if the coffins were filled or not? Hmm. . . . .

Welp, no dead bodies or coffins here. Though there are remains of the ship. Pretty sweet that we are snorkeling with a sunken ship! And talk about life on the reefs, Coffins Patch is full of things we haven’t seen thus far. For example, a Spotted Flamingo Tongue. Yeah, those really sweet spotted shells. When Mr. Nash showed us his pictures of those way back in May during the informational meeting I’ve been dying to see them. They amaze me. The pattern they have on them is so trippy.

Amongst swimming the reef, we spotted the norms: Yellowtail Snapper (imagine that) Sergeant Major, Rainbow Parrotfish, Blue Tang, Midnight Parrotfish, Doctor Fish, Grunts, Barracuda, Trumpetfish and Scrawled Filefish. Saw what?! A Scrawled Filefish again?! Yes, sir. Not just one, TWO. It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. One is the normal shade you see in the fish ID book & the other is a blue/yellow color. Absolutely amazing. They were acting really strange too. It was almost as they were smelling each other likes dogs do. Weird, I know, but that’s what I saw. (See picture) Not only did I just see an awesome Scrawled Filefish, I just saw a Smooth Trunkfish & a Porcupinefish! The Smooth
Trunkfish is the one with the amazing pattern on its body! The Porucpinefish is the crazy looking spotted thing. (I'm not very good at describing things as you can tell) And I actually got a picture of them, I’m so excited! This can’t get any better!

Holy Man o' War! Caution: there are Portugese Man o' War at Coffins Patch. It's actually quite comical, all three captains are standing on the boats yelling "Man o' War" when one would come drifting by. Scary to think that they have such long tentacles & can really do some harm but seeing everybody squirm when we'd spot one is priceless.

If I could stay here the rest of my life, I would. It is amazing, breathtaking, peaceful, & full of life. Places like THIS make me appreciate the reefs. Some of the places we snorkeled earlier in the week weren’t in the best shape, there was trash in them (not cool). But here, the water is near-perfect clarity.

Making our way back to Sombrero is nothing out of the ordinary, just blue water as far as you could see. But this time, something was different, the water is the most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen. Aquamarine maybe? I’m not entirely sure, but I know I love it. I feel like we are in a movie for Into the Blue with Jessica Alba & Paul Walker.

Dolphins? Yeah, I just said it, DOLPHINS! Everywhere. We are snorkeling through a group of dolphins and holy crap, I can’t even begin explaining to you how awesome it is. They’re everywhere. Doin’ flips & stuff. Okay, I got that from the song “I’m on a Boat,” they aren’t actually doin’ flips, but they are swimming under our boat. This is something I never dreamt of we would be seeing. Could this get any more amazing?

Hello again, Sombrero. You sure are a lot more clear than you were on Saturday! We can look over the side of the boat & see all the activity happening. We load our gear on and zip up our wetsuits, but this time’s different. It’s our last time getting in the water. It’s sad; I don’t want this trip to end, ever. I’m having the time of my life.

Sombrero couldn’t have gotten any better. I could actually see what was going on beneath me this time ‘round. The winds have died way down & the water clarity is puuuurfect.

Midnight Parrotfish are a lot larger than I had expected. And the picture in the book just doesn’t do it justice, it says they have bright blue markings on the face, but the picture doesn’t even display it. These, these have bright blue markings on them. And trust me, they don’t like when you get close to them to try and snip a picture. Little stinkers! I’m not trying to catch you; I just want you to sit still so I can get a picture. Speaking of taking pictures underwater, it’s a heck of a lot harder than you think. I have a lot of pictures with the fish swimming away from me. For some reason, my above water pictures are a lot better than my underwater ones are. I guess I’ll just have to go on another trip so I get better! (Ahem..Mom & Dad)

Climbing up the ladder for the last time was depressing. I tried to soak everything in for the last time. I mean, who knows, maybe I’ll never get to experience something like this ever again, maybe I’ll make a career out of this.

By this time, my hair was so nasty feeling, I really needed to wash it & since it’s our last night, we are going to eat a restaurant in Marathon. So back to Marathon we go!

We arrive outside of Marathon & decide we should probably take Joy baths before we connect with the outside world again. I never thought I’d say this, but taking a bath with dish soap in saltwater has never felt so invigorating. I feel like a whole new man after taking that. Time to get dressed for dinner. A plaid shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and some aviators is how I role.

Land! Long time, no see. After rounding the crew up we decide where we would like to eat. Vivid & Conchy decide to head over to Castaway’s while Lady Neil stays here at Burdines to chow down.

After a short walk, we arrive at Castaway’s, greeted by an older man singing & playing along on his guitar. He actually wasn’t too bad. The atmosphere of this place is awesome. We choose to sit outside, after all, this is our last night here. Why not live a little?

I stick to my Missouri roots so I order chicken for dinner. Yes, boring I know by Abby is getting Clams & since she’s a Vegetarian, we will just eat them. Clams aren’t as bad as I expected them, taste sort of like chicken but with a slime coating on them. I’m glad I ordered chicken. But the trying doesn’t sop there, the Nash’s got some strange looking sea food that I’m going to try. Sashimi to be exact. It was interesting, fishy tasting which is exactly why I don’t like sea food, but I figured why not?

We celebrate our last night here by doing what we do best, playing Spoons & BS. Two games I have become very fond of the past week. After playing for the last time, making jokes about Captain Ron & reminiscing on the past week, we decide it’s time to hit the sack. Goodnight for the final time, Florida. *sigh*

Saturday, April 10th 2010

I hate you Saturday. I’ve been dreading this day all week long. Why does this have to come to an end? I am so not looking forward to getting home. If Jeff & Trish would like to adopt me, I’d be fine with that. But all good things have to come to an end right?

Never pack a wet wetsuit in a duffel bag if you will be shoving it on a plane & bus for six hours, it’ll probably not smell the best when you get home. But hey, that’s just a thought. We gather all of our belongings up & begin setting them on the dock outside. Ugh.

We ask Terra to take a group picture of all of us with the captains, one, because my mom asked me to take one & two because they have been awesome captains.

Oh snap, Mrs. Nash left her bag down in the cabin so I think I’ll go down & get it for her. Bad idea Carsen, bad idea. As I’m walking up the steps (which I have done a million times this week) I go to throw her bag up in the cockpit & CRACK, there goes my head. Yup, I hit my head again. Loud enough for everyone to hear. Ouchhhhhhhh. That’s going to cause a small concussion I think. This boat will just not go down without a fight.

30 minutes later......

I have a headache, imagine that.

After stopping at Subway to eat out last meal before boarding the plane, we must make the trip back up the Overseas Highway but not before a stop at Windley Key. Taking a tour of the park gave you a greater appreciation for the reefs & really put how the reefs have formed into perspective. I mean the place we are standing, use to be ocean. It stuns me. I’m glad that I had the Geology of the Florida Keys as my project. I learned so much about the history of the keys & how they were formed.

Uhhh. . what the heck? Where is Korby & Andrew?! Did we seriously just lose them? They were just here. I guess if they don’t show up, we’ll leave without them. I sure wouldn’t mind getting left here.

Well we didn’t lose them, phew. That would have been a lawsuit. I could just see it now, Mr. Nash having to explain to their parents that we lost them on an island in Florida & have no idea where they went. Oh man!

Well I slept off & on when we got back on the bus. But good thing I woke up, we are already at the airport! I’m surprised I even fell asleep since I had Lil’ Wayne blaring in my ears.

Walking on the sidewalk into the airport was not enjoyable. I am going to miss this place. I’m going to miss the people I’ve spent the last week of my life with. The relationships we created aboard Vivid are something I know I’ll never forget. I seriously couldn’t have asked for better people so spend a week with in paradise.

Later that day aboard flight 1924. . .

So, I attempted to make a windmill out of a dollar bill from this article in a magazine, some people were better than others at it. Did I mention Kody, Tabby & I are sitting together? Yes, finally. Sitting across from us is Abby, Terra & Taylor. Us Benton people tend to stick together.

Arriving back in KC is bitter sweet. I’m glad to be home for some reasons (i.e. a shower!) but the fact that the past week was the best week in my life, I never wanted to leave. But seeing my parents & brother for the first time in eight days sure was nice.

I already miss you Vivid Crew! We must reunite one day..on the seas aboard Vivid!

The past week of my life was the single most best week I have ever had. I discovered something I never would have thought twelve months ago I would be doing. Snorkeling in the Florida Keys? Come on, how many people get to say that.? Not too many. I’m so thankful for this program, it has opened my eyes to something I would have never thought of. This has been by far my most favorite class (Zo is pretty close) I have taken in High School. It’s so unique. When I tell people I’m in a Marine Biology program they automatically think I’m in college. And then I have to explain to them that we are a unique group of students from the three St. Joe public HIGH SCHOOLS who study marine life for a year and get to go on a field study for a week. They think I’m so cool. I don’t mind it.

Studying all the fish over the past months really does pay off in the end. If you’re a student who thinks they are interested in this program, let me tell you, LEARN THE FISH! You really will get more out of this class. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be snorkeling and holler through your snorkel (which is quite amusing) “Hey there’s a Blue Tang down there.” It really does make the trip so much more enjoyable. So I’m glad I listened to Mr. Nash and buckled down & learned all the fish.

The past week was so amazing, Kody, Tabby & I are already planning a trip for the Summer of 2011. We loved it that much. Hopefully we will unite again fishies. Until then, Carsen OUT.

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Tags: #stjoeh2o2010, Biology, CaptainRon, Conchy, Florida, FloridaKeys, Ft.Lauderdale, LadyNeil, Marine, SmoothTrunkfish, More…Vivid, YellowtailSnappers


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