who needs anemonies? yeah, not the sharpest nor the truest flying joke in my quiver, but it is somewhat apropos, as will become more obvious as you read along.

this last week my friend tony asked me to help him with a family coming down to dive– the alts– parents, julie and myron, and the boys, brian and wyatt, both of whom we were supposed to certify for diving.

normally, when we are asked to certify young people it brings on an reaction between us, something like your cat coughing up a hairball– and to continue the cat metaphor, taking care of young people is much like trying to herd felines– they have no interest in what you want to do with them, and the attention span of gnats, making for a lot of work and not much satisfaction, not to mention stress on the part of the parents. in other words, we were “somewhat apprehensive” when they were due out to the boat to meet us, and wondering just how bad it could get.

“SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!”– as gomer pyle used to say– they turned out to be excellent students, attentive and really striving to learn what we had to impart to them. they snapped quickly to the theory of what we had to say, and were calm and easy under the water. their skills they did as if they had been doing them all their life, and without fear or trepidation. in almost no time at all they were kneeling down on the deck and tony was pouring buckets of water over them (with a little communal spit to make the whole thing ring true), baptising them in the name of the sea god neptune and securing their certification– congrats, guys, and thanks muchly for your efforts.

that was nice, wasn’t it? BUT– FAST FORWARD NOW, into the future, their last dive. my good friends the sharkbaiters (one of their email names, easy handle to call them by) had left with us three rubber “hats”, if you can call them that– silly things that one needs to haul over the head and look silly with during a tank. julie, brian and wyatt all donned them for this historic last tank, after watching me use one of them on the first dive.

cedral wall, the tops of the reef, and very beautiful that day. we saw plenty of turtles and a couple of sharks, if my memory serves me properly, but the real story begins at the end of this reef, when we were sailing along, headed across to spend the end of the tank on the tippy tops of santa rosa wall. there are a huge bunch of groupers in there, and at times they even school up, you may see as many as perhaps twenty or more of them. but this story concerns the bull goose looney of the bunch– the big guy. now, someone has obviously feeding this behemoth the past year or so– i am not sure who it is, as it is not legal to do so in the park, but the attitude and habits of this fish make it quite certain that it is being fed by someone. anyhow, wyatt sees the grouper and sortuv does an imitation of going for a head butt with it– only the grouper doesn’t back off, no– he gets closer– and Closer– and CLOSER!! coming within maybe a half foot of wyatt’s face– by this time it is the young alt who is suddenly backpedalling– only the grouper keeps after him, and it suddenly becomes apparent that it is the hat that is what it is looking at– very hungrily, i might add!!– and not particularly concerned with what might come off with the hat. tony comes over and tries to shove it away, but it is quite INSISTENT!! but finally it does move a little ways away, and WHOOSH!! tony pulls the hat off, it had looked like an anemone i guess, and the color really made it look snackable. wyatt’s eyes were as big as dinnerplates, but we were all laughing so hard it was difficult to show him any sympathy– “with friends like us, who needs anemonies?”– indeed!!

thanks for such a good time, you alts!!

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