Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Log 30: Diving the Ana Cecilia and Spearman’s Barge & My Next Contribution to American Literature

26 November 2016
2 tank scuba dive to two sunk boats

Justin swimming up to Spearman’s Barge. © J. Manos

So I can’t share the whole story.

After a couple years, I’ve decided to write a collection of American short stories.

I can’t share the whole story of this dive because enough happened that it demands I mine it.

One of my world-traveled literary advisors in Albuquerque gave me permission. She said Hemingway used real life all the time.

My first collection of short stories should be out in about a year.

We dove two wrecks on a late fall day that was warm not hot with a skin of clouds over the sun that made the Saturday afternoon seem quiet.

© J. Manos

It was the first time I had scuba dived in a 5 mil wetsuit. I’m used to diving in a 1.5 mil Sharkskin top.

I almost had a safety incident at the end of the first dive.

I experienced some serious issues with buoyancy. And – maybe I was breathing too hard –  I used up my air quick.

You know I have to constantly fight against my fear of all the technical equipment of scuba diving.

My air went low, and the combination of my nearly empty tank, the thick wet suit, unknown residual trapped air in my BCD that I could not release though I tried, and the expanding remaining molecules of air as I ascended caused me to suddenly be propelled against my will toward the surface faster than I wanted, or what was ideally safe.

Certainly my own lack of experience in scuba diving played a part – I’m much more at home freediving where you don’t need any equipment just your athletic body.

But before all that:

We saw a giant goliath grouper at the stern of the Ana Cecilia, easily near 400 pounds and 7 feet long. Beautiful bad fish like a hippo chilling on the sand. He or she reminded me of Hemingway’s short story After the Storm, which I’d just read, about a dude rowing out to wrecks after a hurricane hit Cuba and seeing the big groupers already taking up residence around a sunken ocean liner with dead people in it.

Giant goliath grouper at the stern of the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

The Ana Cecilia was deliberately sunk, just this past July as part of the artificial reef program, and it’s cool to see the marine life taking up house on and around it.

© J. Manos

The 170′ long freighter rests at 85 feet depth on the sand bottom, and was caught with 400 kilos of blow trying to go up the Miami River. That was it for this boat, which had once sailed the open seas.

Inside the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

We explored the Ana Cecila. My two dive partners even got me to go down into an in-and-out area they had cut out for divers.

Who knows what they meant with their spray paint. © J. Manos

Swimming out of the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

The ship was just beginning to be colonized by sponges, other growth things, and bright bright fluorescent orange spots which I found out later are baby corals! Pretty cool.

Sand diver fish on the deck of the recently sunk Ana Cecilia, with a baby coral being the first to land and set up house. Sand divers look like lizards to me; they just chill on or by a reef or something. And those baby corals are super bright fluorescent orange. Pretty cool to see new babies in a world where corals are in trouble! © J. Manos

Baby Coral on deck! Ana Cecilia freighter off West Palm, sunk in July 2016. © J. Manos

Baby Coral on deck! Ana Cecilia freighter off West Palm, sunk in July 2016. © J. Manos

They sunk the boat perfectly, so unlike a lot of wrecks it’s a complete boat underwater.

You can be on the deck and the crow’s nest sticks straight up – looking outward into the ocean blue under the surface the same it did for miles above.

Only it will never ever travel again. It will stare there until it dissolves.

Crow’s nest on the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

I’m thankful my lungs did not over-expand on coming up. Dodged a bullet.

I am going to practice as much as I can so I can be better at scuba diving.

I am so not a mathematician, so anything dealing with the functioning of technology or equipment is a struggle.

On my nearly out-of-control ascent, as I fought to stay below the surface at 15 feel for a 3-minute safety stop to offgas any excess nitrogen absorbed at depth, a remora found me and circled, checking me out.

You know remoras; they have a suction cup under their mouths so they can attach themselves for free travel onto a shark. I tried to get a pic of him but the GoPro cut his head out of the frame.

The remora came close, and did I tell you I’m a shark?

Remora. © J. Manos

Wait till I get into my next rounds of freediving next year.

The 2nd dive to Spearman’s Barge went cool. Not much down there. Just a barge on the sand bottom. It was not very tall – I realized how low a barge deck is to the water when a barge does its work on the surface.

Swimming up along the port side of the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

In New York I had an excellent dinner conversation with my agent the legendary Marie Brown and we conspired for 2017 and the new political realities.

Legendary literary agent Marie Brown and her author Jarid Manos conspiring for 2017 over dinner in Harlem. © J. Manos