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Back to the Florida Keys April 24, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Emergencies, Fitness and Nutrition.
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It’s almost time to say goodbye to my 1996 Toyota Camry, which has been a delightful car to drive for the last 15 years but is now starting to really show its age. It’s mostly used for either getting around town, going to the occasional visit to my in-laws in London Ontario (about 200 km each way), or dive trips. The trunk (boot, for those of you reading outside of North America), has taken more than its fair share of abuse, having been subjected many times to wet dive gear, including a set of double steel tanks. It now takes some determination to make it latch shut.

So when the I signed up for the trip, I figured I’d drive it, if any one would want to come along with me. The advantage of driving is money saved and the ability to take more gear, especially tanks. Due to a medical condition of one of our group, we didn’t know if there would be 2 or 3 of us, and the Camry would really only fit 2 people plus gear. It turned out to be just 2, so on Tuesday night we packed the Camry with more gear than one could reasonably expect it to hold, ready for the drive the following day.

The trunk held Matt’s twin LP steel 125s (insanely huge) and my twin steel 95s (just huge). To my surprise Matt had another set of 95s in his garage belonging to our local dive shop owner, so we brought them as well. We also squeezed 2 AL80s and some luggage, including one of the other club member’s backplate and wings. Behind the driver seats we stuffed 2 more AL80s, 2 LP steel 50s, and an LP steel 45. On the back seat we had all our dive gear, laptops, and other sundry equipment.

All this meant the rear tires were almost scraping the wheel wells, despite trying to put some of the load forward of the rear axle.

At 5AM I headed over to Matt’s and we set the GPS for the Keys. With the early departure traffic was building but light, so we avoided highway 407 (North America’s most expensive toll road) and had no problems clearing the Greater Toronto Area. Amazingly there was no line-up to customs and they didn’t question our heavily loaded vehicle. Traffic was pretty light the whole way, with the worst being perhaps Charlotte, North Carolina – a bit heavy but no delays.

On the way we discussed driving through the night but figured that we wouldn’t be able to schedule any Thursday diving so we opted to stay the night in Southern Georgia with about 800km left to go. The following day was an uneventful drive down the coast of Florida and we arrived in Key Largo and went straight to Silent World, where we’d arrange a dive charter for the following day.

We needed deco mix for the dive (EAN50) as our shop couldn’t get any Oxygen for our fills prior to leaving. We found them closed, but their sign said open. As we were leaving we asked a guy who was driving in if he knew where the owner was, and he took us to the Garden Cove Marina where they were unloading from an afternoon dive charter. We waited for them to unload in the Shipwreck Bar and got everything sorted out.

Unfortunately there was also a commotion at the end of the dock where paramedics were attended to a 69 year-old doctor from Michigan who had died while snorkeling. The cause of death isn’t known at this time but heart attacks are common during periods of unusually strenuous activity in older people. A sobering thought as I continue my technical diving pursuits as I get older.

We went back to the shop and got everything sorted out for the next day, expecting to dive the Duane. The car now had about 2,600 more kilometres (1,650 miles) on the odometer than it had a couple of days before.

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