I don’t know about you, but I love to scuba dive. I love everything about it – wearing the oxygen tank and flippers, doing that crazy diver backflip into the ocean, silently gliding underwater and observing fanciful sea creatures, and most of all, not talking. That’s right, NOT talking. I’m a bit of a chatterbox, so my friends are understandably shocked to learn that I love the more meditative aspects of the undersea world and they’re amazed to learn that I am a certified scuba diver.
But recently, I realized with shock and regret, that while the Mommy Years have given me much to be grateful for, they have officially ROBBED me of everything I ever learned about scuba diving. Like, everything. The last time I donned a regulator, wet suit and fins was 15 years ago on my honeymoon in the Caribbean when I still happily wore a bathing suit in public.
Our family is now contemplating a trip to the British Virgin Islands this coming winter and it occurred to me that it would be fantastic if we could all go scuba diving together. I thought it might be kind of a bonding activity. You see, my son is a high school freshman so, frankly, we don’t have that much to talk about these days. I’m not up to speed on the intricacies of BioShock Infinite and he’s not particularly interested in discussing the latest novel I’ve read, (Tell the Wolves I’m Home – it’s great.)
Scuba diving seemed like an extremely healthy alternative to bickering about homework or to what constitutes a reasonable amount of “screen time.” The best part? There can be no heated arguments underwater because well, you’ll drown.
Encouraged by the possibilities, I immediately signed my son up for a Discover Scuba course I found on LivingSocial.com. Captain Sam teaches a variety of Scuba courses in Stamford from beginner Scuba Diver up to Instructor. Classes are available evenings and weekends and they even offer an accelerated course that will have you certified after one very intense weekend.
I accompanied my son and observed the class, which took place at the Yerwood Rec Center, located in downtown Stamford. It’s not a posh place by any stretch, but it’s clean and the pool is perfectly serviceable for learning how to scuba dive.
Even though I was unofficially auditing the class and therefore supposed to be a mum Mom, I immediately piped up (much to my son’s embarrassment) and asked Assistant Dive Instructor Alex Tergis, the one question that was on everybody’s mind, “So Alex,” I ventured, “I’m kind of skeeved out by the idea of diving in the Sound – isn’t it murky and gross? Can you even see anything that isn’t covered in algae?”
Yes. Apparently you can see lots, including blue fish, lobsters, shrimp, crabs and other shellfish. Divers can also expect to glimpse some coral (!), sea sponges, sea anemones, urchins, sea stars, and sea horses. Sea horses … really? Yup. The good Capt’n even has a pet sea horse named “Charlie” he describes as “very personable.”
September is also the best time to scuba dive in the Sound because the water is at its warmest temperature for the year – around 75 – 80 degrees. Visibility isn’t the same as in the Caribbean of course, because the algae makes the waters dark. But that’s also what makes the environment of the Sound thrive and ensures that Long Island is the largest producer of shellfish harvested for consumption in the world. If you do opt to dive in the Sound, there are even a few wrecks to explore, some dating back to the early 1900s.
The unexpected bonus of Scuba diving is that this sport – which in all honesty, feels relatively effortless – can burn up to 600 calories an hour depending on how much you weigh and how deep you dive. This knowledge makes me want to abdicate from working out at the gym and dive every day of the week.
But back to the nitty-gritty. There were only 4 people in the introductory class – my son along with another Mom and her two teen-aged daughters, which allowed for lots of personal attention. During the two-hour class, I was impressed by how much emphasis was put on safety and explaining the process of diving. It wasn’t just theoretical either, students got a fair amount of underwater pool time wearing all the equipment.
Students have two options for fulfilling their deep water dive requirements in order to get fully certified. Captain Sam has an 18-passenger, U.S. Coast Guard Approved Dive Boat, “The Silver Dolphin” so once you complete the preliminary dive course, you can get your certification in the Sound. For those who prefer warmer climes, just take your official paperwork to a more tropical environment and get certified there.
My son loved the experience and wants to go back as soon as possible. I told him that we would all sign up for classes and he looked at me in horror. Apparently parents aren’t cool enough to go scuba diving but, despite his protests, I am going to enroll all three of us in a Scuba Certification course. This way, not only will we enhance our trip to the BVI’s, but I can safely eat those French fries knowing that I’m going to burn it all off while underwater.
Need more info? Web Site: Capt. Saam’s Scuba School | 203.327.2822