British Virgin Islands the Right Way

While channeling your inner Robinson Crusoe to explore the mini caves and tunnels of The Baths might be riotous, there’s more to the BVIs than exploring this dense tuft of boulders. Or drinking ice-cold beer on a beach lounger in Cane Garden Bay, for that matter.

Heads up! This British archipelago of 50-something volcanic islands (aka Nature’s Little Secrets) is a remote Caribbean outpost for aquatic explorers and seekers of go-slow island life. In the spring, top sailors gather in its shores for an annual regatta. Throughout the year, diving enthusiasts explore its wrecks and coral reefs. And when the moon is full, revelers head for the beaches.

To experience the British Virgin Islands the right way, you must do all these and more.

Charter a boat.

Whether or not you know how to sail is hardly a factor. Charter a sailboat (there are many companies in Tortola) and hire a crew if you must. Then trick that boat out with paddleboards, unicorn floats, snorkeling gear, loads of fresh seafood, and a massive cooler of beer. Finally, sail the islands where moorings abound. You can hardly visit the Sailing Capital of the World without actually stepping foot on a sailboat, can you?

Don’t know how to sail? Learn it.

Of course, if you don’t know how to sail, there’s no better place to learn the sport than the BVIs. Set course for the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda. It’s one of the best resorts in the islands, and home to a fantastic sailing school. You can learn basic sailing theories in the classroom and test your skills out in the bay and even past the reef in open waters, if you’re brave enough.

Is it a sin to cast yourself away on an island resort when there’s so much of the destination to explore? At Bitter End, a few days or so is more than forgivable. Here, the vibe is unaffected, the ship cabin-esque, open air-inspired suites are comforting, its food is to die for, and there are a lot of things to occupy your time—kiteboarding a la Branson and Obama, wind surfing, and even paddleboard yoga.

Stay at an eco resort.

Drop anchor at Cooper Island where top diving site, Wreck Alley, lies close to the coast and popular snorkeling site, Cistern Point, is a quick swim away from Cooper Island Beach Club, which has 30 moorings.

If you’re missing solid ground, the non-air conditioned beach house suites at this eco-friendly resort are a breath of fresh air. A stay here means a slumber in a canopy bed, complimentary continental breakfast, and free use of stand-up paddleboards. Dine at the onsite restaurant where the hearty helpings of lunch and dinner fare are elevating. Stop by the café for the resort’s own blend of coffee and a homemade pastry. And cap the night off at the Rum Bar, which boasts one of the biggest collections of rum in the islands.

Go diving.

Sailing may be the way of life in the BVIs, but diving is its favorite pastime. The archipelago is the venue for 77 diving sites, both reefs and wrecks, for novices and advanced divers. The best ones include RMS Rhone, Chikuzen, Coral Gardens, Painted Walls, and The Blinders. Carve out some diving time and enlist the services of Sail Caribbean Divers to take you to some of them.

No SCUBA certification? Go snorkeling instead.

You don’t have to be SCUBA certified to enjoy some underwater exploring, however. Don on a snorkel mask and a pair of flippers; there are many snorkeling spots to marvel at in its teal waters. Cistern Point is just one, though it is one of the best. There is also The Aquarium near the Baths where nurse sharks may be spotted. The water at Oil Nut Bay is teeming with sea turtles and stingrays, if you prefer to see those.

Drive around Tortola.

The serpentine road that snakes around the island of Tortola, BVIs’ largest, is a drive worth ticking off your list. The island is small so it shouldn’t take more than a few hours even with all the stops you must pull over for. Start on Frenchmans Cay where locally-owned D’Best Cup Coffee Shop at Soper’s Hole offers delicious fuel for the day ahead. Then make your way around the island, taking in the colorful villages and the charming little discoveries.

Important stops include Cane Garden Bay; Good Moon Farm to meet Dominica-hailing Drake and chat about their organic farming practices; Carrot Bay; and Jenesis Studios to discover the islands’ beautiful history and even witness how locals traditionally baked cassava bread in an outdoor brick oven.

Stay on the island for a couple of days, but escape the tourist bustle at Frenchmans, a quiet, verdant, nine-villa oasis where the Caribbean Sea sparkles in a near distance everywhere you look.

Go rum tasting.

While ruins of other rum factories pepper the island of Tortola, one has remained standing, still practicing the traditional way of rum making. The historic Callwood Rum Distillery, not far from Cane Garden Bay, is one of the oldest continuous rum distillery in the Caribbean islands and another Tortola must-stop, if only for their $1 rum tastings.

Stay a little bit longer if you can; it’s worth exploring the grounds and learning about how they use a traditional sugar cane press and how they store their rum. Their rum is excellent too, so you might want to bring home a bottle or two.

Eat mangoes.

Driving around Tortola, you might see denizens picking mangoes off the trees and feasting on them on the side of the road. It’s hard not to; the islands are simply teeming with them, and the mangoes are sweet, juicy and gigantic—just the ticket for a fruity respite on a sweltering day. So enjoy one, or two, or how ever many you can get your hands on. Peel off the skin with your own hands, and eat them right off the seed. It’s the best kind of messy.

Hang out with the locals.

While in Tortola, don’t just stop by the North Shore Shell Museum in Carrot Bay, pick out a shell for purchase and leave. Egberth, former chef and owner of this quirky establishment, is a funny, effervescing dude with cool stories to tell and funny songs he’s more than happy to share with his guests. So hang out and be merry. There are conch shells to be enjoyed, graffiti to read and anecdotes to laugh over.

Attend a full moon party.

When the night sets in and that moon is full, there’s no better place to be in the BVIs than at a full moon party, a fiercely vibrant brand of revelry that’s uniquely BVI. This epic party, held in many spots all over the archipelago, involves music, face paint, poi shows, glow sticks, and at times, even hallucinogenic mushroom tea.

The colorful Bomba Shack is, of course, the most popular full moon party joint, but there are others that give it a good run for its money: Paradise Club in Cane Garden Bay and CocoMaya in Virgin Gorda, to name a couple.

Michelle Rae Uy is a freelance travel writer, editor and photographer based in Los Angeles. Follow her on her adventures onAnother Spur.

Tips for easing into solo travel

Since 2012, Kristin Addis has been traveling the world. More often than not, she’s solo.

The former investment banker decided to sell her belongings five years ago and hit the road. She since has lived in silence at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, trekked to see gorillas in Uganda and hiked on glaciers in Patagonia.

For Addis – who blogs about her experiences at, and wrote a book on traveling solo, “Conquering Mountains: How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly” – traveling solo is easier than negotiating with a travel companion.

“You make all the decisions,” she says. “You get to just wake up that day and say ‘I want to go somewhere.’ Or ‘I really like it here, I think I’ll stay five more days.’ And you don’t need to ask anyone if it’s okay with them.”

Plus, she says, traveling alone is a great way to learn about yourself and put your skills to the test.

“You’ll become so much better at problem solving, because you learn very quickly that there is absolutely zero point in sitting around crying about it,” she says. “Because no one is going to come fix it.”

Here are her tips for traveling solo.

Start small: If you’ve never traveled by yourself and are considering a lengthy solo trip, it might help to test the waters – and calm anxious friends and family members – by going on a small trip first. “If you’re going to go on a big solo trip, your friends and family might be trying to talk you out of it. [A smaller trip] is a good way to show them, ‘Hey I can do this just fine,’ ” Addis says.

Choose a social (but not romantic) destination: If you’re concerned about getting lonely, Addis suggests visiting a place that’s popular for solo travelers, such as Southeast Asia, Central America or South Africa. There, you can meet people of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom are also looking to connect with others. Whatever you do, Addis says, avoid places that are known for being particularly romantic. “I would pick a part of the world where it’s not going to be all honeymooners,” she says. “As a first-time solo traveler, that can be kind of tough.”

Talk to the locals: Want to know the must-see/must-eat spots in a town? Ask someone who lives there. If you’re shy about striking up a conversation with a stranger, Addis suggests heading to a local pub or getting involved in an endeavor where you might meet others, such as rock climbing, scuba diving, surfing or hiking.

Connect using technology: Addis says that she knows many people who use the app Tinder when they travel and specify that they’re a tourist and looking for people to hang out with (rather than looking for a date). Accommodation options such as and can also be a good way to meet locals (and save money), and sites such as and offer the chance to break bread in a local’s home. is a site that connects like-minded people in cities around the world for an array of interests – including biking, spirituality, art, yoga, games and drinks.

Get psyched for dinner: Even after five years of traveling the world on her own, dining solo still gets to Addis. “That never gets easier,” she says. Sometimes, she’ll head to the bar at the local hostel and see if there are other travelers interested in going out to eat together. Other times, she’ll feast on street food or grab something on the go. Or there’s always the bar option within a restaurant, where it can be easier to strike up conversations with other diners and the bartender. A number of times, she says, as she was reading a book in a restaurant, other solo travelers spotted her and asked if they could join. “The cool thing is if you’re traveling in a place that attracts a lot of other travelers, there will be other people also by themselves. That’s what really surprised me, how many other solo travelers there are out there,” she says.

Choose places where the dollar is strong: Since you’re not splitting costs with another traveler, solo travel can get expensive. Opt for places where the dollar is strong. It’s a good time to book a trip to Canada, for example, where a U.S. dollar equals about $1.32. The Singapore dollar has fallen in recent years, and your dollar will exchange for about $1.38 in Singapore. Addis adds that by traveling to economically developing areas, such as Costa Rica, Cambodia, Bali and others, you can really stretch your cash. “It’s amazing how your money doubles or triples in value,” she says.

Use common sense when it comes to safety: Addis is asked about safety a lot. Her advice: “The things that you do at home to stay alive make a lot of sense abroad.” Don’t drink too much, don’t walk by yourself at night if it’s not safe, don’t be afraid to splurge on Uber (on which information is recorded and your journey will be tracked, unlike in a cab), and trust your intuition. She says that when traveling solo she sometimes feels safer than when she’s with others. “The great thing about traveling alone is that you’re hyperaware. Nobody is distracting you,” Addis says. “A lot of people think this makes you a target. I find I’m able to say yes more. When locals notice me by myself, they tend to want to take me under their wing or invite me to a meal with their families.”

Give yourself permission to take a trip: Addis says that she encounters a lot of misconceptions about solo travel. She says that people assume solo travelers don’t have friends, or that they can’t travel alone if they have a partner and/or kids. She says that traveling alone is an empowering and enlightening experience, and encourages everyone to do it: “It’s all right to go off and do your own thing even if no one around you understands or agrees with it. You really just get one chance at life. You don’t need to wait for somebody to come with you.”

Silver is a writer based in Chicago. Find her on Twitter at @K8Silver.

47 Meters Down Movie

Just as we’re getting a rash of shark sightings off the coasts of California, “47 Meters Down” is hitting theaters.

It almost didn’t. The thriller about two sisters, Mandy Moore’s Lisa and Claire Holt’s Kate, whose Mexican vacation turns nightmarish when the shark cage they’re diving in slips its cable and hits the ocean floor some 150 feet below, was originally called “In the Deep.” It was just about to go straight to home video when its original distributor, The Weinstein Company’s genre division Dimension Films, sold it to Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios (literally; trucks carrying the DVDs and Blu-rays to Walmarts all over the country had to be recalled).Claire Holt and Mandy Moore on set making "47 Meters Down" (Courtesy photo)Claire Holt and Mandy Moore on set making “47 Meters Down” (Courtesy photo)

Which was a nice surprise for Moore, who currently stars on the beloved new NBC series “This Is Us,” and Holt, the Australian actress best known for portraying the less-than-lovable Rebekah on the CW’s “Originals” and “Vampire Diaries.” Deserved, too; they literally put their lives on the line to make this movie, so the results should be seen on a big screen.

“The thing we were a little apprehensive about but also excited about the challenge of was, we were doing everything you’re not supposed to do,” notes Holt who, like Moore, had never scuba dived before getting a few quick lessons for the “47” production. “Even though we were acting, we were doing really quite dangerous stuff and no one had really done that before. We spent eight weeks hyperventilating, no one really knew what that would do or how that would affect us. It was certainly nerve-wracking, but I think we found our rhythm and managed to survive it.”

“There was a lot to take into consideration in terms of physicality, like how we were overextending ourselves and acting underwater,” adds Moore, the former teen singing sensation who additionally notes that they had to pass a two-hour insurance physical before being permitted to make the movie. “When I read the script I went, Wow, I’ve never seen a movie like this before that takes place primarily underwater. In that sense, we were kind of guinea pigs. No one knew what effects eight weeks every day, under water, would have on our eardrums and lungs.”

Most of that business was conducted at The Underwater Studio in Basildon, England, the director Johannes Roberts’ (“The Other Side of the Door”) native land. He’d stay above the tank the actresses and their rusty cage were submerged 20 feet deep in, giving directions via large underwater speaker. Holt and Moore wore big diving masks with radio connections they could speak their lines through, but that could only be heard topside and by each other. The crew in the tank filming them had to communicate by other means.

“We developed this sort of underwater sign language with the camera crew, It was almost unspoken by the end; we could just read where they were going and kind of what they needed,” Moore explains. “It became easier as we went along. Because so much of it was when we were in close-up and it was just our eyes, it was pretty easy for them to say you’re gonna look over here or over there.”

All the Great Whites seen in the movie were computer generated. However, as any modern movie actor will tell you, they as well as the digital artists need something on the set for eyelines to follow and animated creatures to be properly placed within the frame. There was a bright idea for doing that in the Basildon tank, but like many a bright idea . . .

“We had a shark surrogate for a moment, then quickly realized it was a mistake,” Holt reports. “I guess it was a plastic shark head that a lovely fellow called Brian would swim around attached to. They used it sometimes for the CG, just so they could have a reference, but at other times they thought it would help our performance. It didn’t. We’d just laugh. So most of it was done with our imaginations.

“Sometimes we’d look at a rock,” Holt helpfully adds.

“I think under water, it’s easier,” Moore muses about acting against elements that aren’t physically onset. “When you’re above ground and someone is like, ‘Godzilla right now is outside that window,’ it might be a little more difficult to conjure up than when your underwater with the constant movement and the amplified sound of you’re breathing. It wasn’t hard to imagine yourself under water; you were actually there.”

And boy, were they in it. Cinematographer Mark Silk, who directed the underwater photography for “Captain Phillips,” had the effectively bright idea of filling the tank with ground-up broccoli to approximate the look of a tropical sea. And of course, it was a major effort for actresses and crewmembers to surface, doff and reattach all of their diving gear whenever nature called, so one just did what one does when out in the open ocean.

“Listen, we aren’t ashamed of that!” Holt insists. “When you gotta go, you gotta go. There was chlorine, broccoli, a lot of crewmembers’ pee in there. It’s good for your immune system!”

Still, smelly.

“The weekends, I would take multiple showers and still not be able to rinse the broccoli smell out of my hair,” Moore reveals. “We really committed for this film.”

She’s joking, but they really did.

“I don’t think either of us realized how physically taxing it was going to be,” Moore admits. “Just all that time under water, even just the littlest movements or seemingly simple days . . . we would get out at lunchtime and I’m usually not a napper, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. You just expend so much energy, and there was so much screaming and hyperventilating and fast movements. It was exhausting physically, and emotionally too, in a way that I didn’t expect.”

However, it was also crucial for the actresses to remember they were artists and not just performing sea mammals.

“We were conscious of making sure the film had levels, that it didn’t just live in a space that was heightened and fearful,” Holt points out. “There had to be moments of calm and connection. We wanted to give those heightened performances in the moments that required it, but also give these characters time to just be. It’s natural that humans go through a roller coaster of emotion when faced with a crisis.”

“And her character really pointed out that, in order to survive, we’d have to calm down and have these shallow breaths to not go through our air as quickly as we might,” Moore adds.

Both women say the effort was more than worth it, though neither has put a regulator in her mouth since. And they’re more than pleased that, in the shark tank known as the entertainment industry, their movie is getting a theatrical release.

“You never know,” Moore laments. “It’s such a crapshoot in this business, whether or not movies are going to get released. I had three failed pilots in a row and was reconsidering what I was going to do with my life when ‘This Is Us’ came my way.”

“I just shot a pilot that didn’t get picked up,” Holt chimes in. “That’s the nature of the business.”

As to whether our increased local shark consciousness will help sell tickets, Holt’s philosophical.

“I just think it’s a very real concern of a lot of people,” she says. “Anything that people respond to or connect with or are fearful of, hopefully they’re interested in engaging in. We’d never want shark attacks, but it’s a real thing, it’s frightening, and people respond to that.”

Golf Ball Diving Big Money!


Steve Goodley, a standout amateur golfer, now makes a living diving for lost balls. He’ll try any golf course that’s a day’s drive from York and Dauphin counties. And he finds a lot more than balls in those murky ponds. Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record

There are good days doing the dirty, dangerous, most unexpected job around.

Like when the sun shines and a winter day warms through the 50s.

There was no glass or jagged metal on the bottom of the pond to cut hands. No snapping turtles to latch onto fingers. No ice to close off escape routes on that February morning.

And, best of all, no tangled lines to suffocate.

Steve Goodley dives murky, mysterious water for a living — in all weather, all seasons — in the pursuit of lost golf balls. He scours every course possible within a day’s drive from York and Dauphin counties and is even planning a mission to the Midwest.

He’s dived into some ponds enough to feel at home, like the one next to the 18th green of the Heritage Hills Golf Resort in Springettsbury Township. On that brilliant winter morning, Goodley disappeared beneath the water for 20 minutes at a time, finally dragging a 100-pound laundry bag full of cheery-colored balls from the muck.

Each one represented a few cents of a potential six-figure income — one requiring intense preparation, endurance and significant hazards.

Diving for golf balls is a pretty good living, if you can handle the hell of it.

• • •

There are the bad days in the most unexpected job around.

Start with the water. It’s often a foul-smelling soup of chemical run-off, geese droppings and who-knows-what-else.

“A cut can go septic pretty quickly,” Goodley said.

Plus, the bottom of even a shallow pond can be disorienting. Any movement unleashes a fury of sediment that renders visibility non-existent, all the easier to snag your airline on anything from the tentacles of a sprinkler to fishing tackle tangled in low-hanging trees.​

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“It’s very easy to drown doing this,” Goodley said without hesitating. “There’s all kind of things you can get hung up on.

“And if you panic … that’s the worst thing you can do.”

He knows that well. Take the time he accidentally rammed into an underwater pole while diving a frozen pond. His mask flipped sideways. His regulator popped out of his mouth.


He immediately bolted to the surface and slammed into six inches of ice, which felt like concrete.

Fortunately, he calmed and gathered his thoughts. He grabbed onto his air line, using it as a guide, and gradually pulled himself to the opening in the ice.

On another dive, the engine that pumps his air flipped off its floating inner-tube and cracked him in the face. He lost his mask and wasn’t able to breathe.

Even worse, he plummeted to the bottom, anchored to a thousand golf balls.

He agonizingly worked the knot free on the bag of balls and shot to the surface — just as he started to pass out.

He spit out “a ton of water,” swam to the bank and lay there for what seemed like forever.

“And I thought, ‘Is this really what I should be doing with my life?'”

• • •

Goodley keeps diving for golf balls for the independence of running his own business, and to stay close to the game.

He also believes he can do it better than most.

He’s always been supremely confident. He had to be in order to master the most unforgiving of sports, first at Dallastown Area High School in the early 1990s and then on scholarship at the College of Charleston. He even toured as a pro for a few years.

When that dried up, he turned to sales. But he missed golf. The idea for his latest venture came from his father, Tony, who dove for balls in the warm months to earn vacation money.

Steve Goodley decided to try it full-time a couple of years ago. The challenge of making it work through the fall, winter and spring drove him even harder.

And when he began finding enough golf balls — and reliable buyers to take them — he realized he was conquering an under-worked market made possible by errant swings, unfortunate rolls and lost tempers.

An estimated 200 million golf balls are lost in the U.S. each year, said Jeff Wall, vice president of procurement with PG Professional Golf, which bills itself as the world’s largest recycled golf ball company. Reed said PG buys from only about 30 operations as small as Goodley’s and said he is impressed by his tenacity and perseverance.

Goodley is one of the few in the state, if not beyond, who dives full-time and year-round. Bigger companies use “rollers” that pick balls off the bottom of ponds. While the machines miss potential pockets of balls — hiding places where only hands can reach — they alleviate the need for prolonged time in the water.

And there’s good reason for that.

“It’s always chilly, murky. It’s not like diving in the Caribbean,” said Don Beardsley, the vice president of golf operations at Heritage Hills. “I’ve done some scuba diving in my time, but I’m not going in there.”

Goodley said he once accidentally grabbed a snapping turtle so large it took him for a short ride along the bottom. He’s grabbed onto everything from car keys to bags full of clubs — to a car.

He’s come face-to-face with snakes. In the Deep South, divers must navigate poisonous water moccasins and alligators.

The risks don’t seem to faze those who buy in, like Roy Rossbauer, 45, a Bensalem, Pennsylvania, native who now dives out of Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Unlike Goodley, he uses scuba tanks and calms himself by singing through his regulator for hours at a time. He claims to earn between $250 and $1,000 a day diving in one of the top golf destinations in the world.

Rossbauer describes gators as more of a nuisance than a danger. He isn’t above ramming the aggressive ones in the snout or cracking them in the eyes with a fist full of sand. “You have to let them know who’s boss.”

Really, it’s all about what stands in the way of making a living.

Though Goodley earns only cents on each ball — and splits that with the course —  it still adds up when he often finds a few thousand balls a day. A recent outing in Lancaster County netted him more than 100,000 balls over a dozen dives.

In turn, companies like PG Professional Golf, based in Texas, clean and re-package these recycled balls and sell them for less than half the price of new ones online, in golf course shops and through retailers.

“Working for yourself is priceless,” Goodley said. “I can support my family doing it, and I can be out of the water and home by the middle of the afternoon.”

Which means the rest of the day is for his young daughter or hunting or playing another round.

And for thinking about the next day. Not knowing what you may find each time you get in the water has a way of motivating, too.

Which leads to one more golf ball story.

It started with Goodley dropping to the bottom of a Maryland pond to clean off an intake pipe, a typical service he provides for the course.

That’s when things got weird. This pond was the deepest he was ever in, maybe 40 feet.

“I just kept falling and falling and falling, and I can feel the pressure of my face mask pushing in, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’

“I kept going and suddenly I glanced off something big, which scared the hell out of me.”

He crawled around the massive object for 10 minutes before finally grabbing onto something familiar: a windshield wiper.

He found a car at the bottom of the pond.

And he never did get straight answers as to why it was there.

Then again, why did he once find nine Odyssey putters scattered in the mud?

He doesn’t think much about those things. He focuses on his preparation and safety, which allows him to actually enjoy working in such dark, claustrophobic places.

“You’re in your own world. You just hear the gentle hum of the engine and your breathing in and out. It’s kind of like your own peaceful little world.”

Erie doctors to teach diving medicine

Two physicians will discuss the health issues scuba divers face during a talk Thursday at Saint Vincent Hospital.

Scuba diving is a safe sport with relatively low fatality and injury rates. Fewer than 125 people die worldwide each year from diving-related activities, according to the Divers Alert Network.

But accidents do happen, and mistakes can lead to serious, even life-threatening health problems, said Sidney Lipman, M.D., an Erie physician and diver.

“I call it Mike’s Law in honor of a friend of mine who was a scuba diver and pilot,” said Lipman, an ear, nose and throat specialist. “The critical thing with diving is not the risk but the margin of error. The margin of error for scuba diving is nonexistent. Mistakes can quickly become fatal.”

Lipman and Jack Anon, M.D., a fellow physician and diver, will discuss how divers can practice their sport safely during a talk Thursday at Saint Vincent Hospital. “Diving Medicine for Scuba Divers” is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the hospital’s McGarvey Learning Center.

The event was organized by local diver Brian Gilmore and Matt Dickey, owner of Diver’s World. It is free and open to the public, though reservations should be made by calling 459-3195 or visiting the Blue Dolphin Skin Divers Facebook page.

“I had a diving student who suffered a ruptured eardrum but didn’t have the typical symptoms,” Dickey said. “We suggested he see Dr. Lipman. I later talked with Dr. Lipman, and we thought it would be good to have a talk about these kind of diving-related issues.”

Ruptured ear drums and other ear and sinus problems are often caused by the rapidly changing water pressures divers encounter when going below the surface. More severe issues, like the bends, occur when nitrogen bubbles from dissolved gases enter tissues or the bloodstream because of rapidly decreasing pressure.

“You can develop serious pressure problems at four feet of depth,” Lipman said. “That’s why divers are instructed not to hold their breath when diving, and to pinch their nose, close their lips and breathe out as they go under the surface.”

The talk will follow the group’s regular monthly meeting. Gilmore, a member of the Blue Dolphins, said he believes the physicians will provide information that benefits new and experienced divers.

“New divers have so much to learn, but I think we will all learn something from this,” Gilmore said. “It’s not just for beginners.”

David Bruce can be reached at 870-1736 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at

Fly to a beautiful overwater bungalow for only $279 R/T

Daydreaming about a getaway to an overwater bungalow suspended over cerulean water?

You don’t need to tap your retirement savings for a trip to some far-flung, ultra-luxury property in the Maldives or French Polynesia.

As Coastal Living points out, there are plenty of sublime overwater bungalows closer to home than you might imagine. And it only takes a few hours to get to them from several U.S. cities. Best of all, you can fly to all of these overwater stays for less than $400 round-trip. You’ll still need to pay for the bungalow, but cheap airfare will get you half way to total relaxation.

From white-sand beaches in Mexico to underrated destinations in Central America — and one very glamorous Caribbean retreat — these overwater bungalows leave nothing to be desired.

Fly to Azul Paradise in Panama for $368 round-trip.

According to Scott’s Cheap flights, flights to Panama are seriously on sale right now, with fares starting at $368 round-trip this summer. Travelers can leave a early as late May from Boston, Las Vegas, and Orlando, and stay in one of 10 intimate bungalows at Azul Paradise, in Bocas del Toro. Panama City is just over three hours from Orlando, with short, hour-long regional flights to archipelago’s main village, Bocas Town.

Visit the Rosewood Mayakoba for $279 round-trip.

New York area travelers can fly to Cancun in four hours, and be immediately transported to a white sand paradise.

Courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba

Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suites at the Rosewood Mayakoba — about a 40-minute drive from Cancun in Riviera Maya) — are ultra-modern and suspended over a freshwater lagoon.

Check out Jamaica’s new overwater villas for $379 round-trip.

A collection of new Over-the-Water Villas at the Sandals Royal Caribbean is probably going to change your entire outlook on all-inclusive resort stays. Nightly rates are high, but they’re completely all inclusive (even your cocktails, golf outings, and scuba diving). And this summer, flights to Montego Bay are available for only $379 round-trip from Atlanta.

Fly to Belize for $346 round-trip.

In about seven hours, you can be in the beautiful Central American country of Belize.

Courtesy of Cayo Espanto

Two properties with overwater bungalows really shine here, including the one-bedroom villa with turquoise shutters at Cayo Espanto and the five stilted bungalows at the private island resort, Thatch Caye.

Diving for Coral Conservation

The town of Chichiriviche de la Costa is a small gem on the Venezuelan coastline, set in a tranquil bay where a freshwater river runs through the mountains and empties into the sea. The locals live in the hills just above the beach, consisting of a few hundred people whose income is derived from fishing and local tourism opportunities. Coral reefs live on both sides of the bay, accompanied by a wide diversity of marine life. A variety of medusa and sea sponges frequently attract Hawksbill sea turtles which are commonly found feeding on the beach. Upwellings occur twice a year, providing important phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms which entice various species of sardines and herring. In turn, cetaceans and whale sharks are commonly seen during September through March each year. Unique marine life including frogfish, sea horses, crustaceans, nudibranks, mollusks, sea cucumbers, crinoids, sea stars, anemones, tunicates, clams, oysters, and sea urchins are also common to Chichiriviche’s waters. Not surprisingly, the bay and nearby coastline are excellent for scuba diving and snorkeling, with easy access from the beach.


The unparalleled beauty and vibrant sea life of Chichiriviche continue to draw crowds of beach-goers and marine enthusiasts to its coastline. However, short-term visitors have little awareness of the importance in preserving the beach and ocean environment, resulting in negligence and pollution. Venezuelans traveling from Caracas, a mere two-hour drive from Chichiriviche vacation right on the beach and unknowingly interfere with marine life. For example, the bay is a vital nesting site for turtles but with the increase in beach activity, lights and noise, their presence has greatly diminished. Coral reef species like Acropora palmata are critically endangered due to the impacts of rising sea temperatures and the river discharging contaminants into the ocean.

Interest in diving, in particular, has led to the opening of two scuba diving schools. The scuba divers are passionate about their local marine flora and fauna and work with the local community to become better stewards of their environment. However, inexperienced scuba divers with poor buoyancy control break the few surviving corals.

BIOSub is a group of Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) students blending marine science and conservation with underwater activities (SCUBA diving, freediving, spearfishing), while supporting biological research projects. BIOSub in collaboration with CECOBIO, both extension groups from UCV’s Faculty of Science, are currently designing a conservation project aiming to improve the general value of Chichiriviche’s coral ecosystem. Rubén Niño is currently studying Biology at UCV and fell in love with coral reef freediving. Working at one of Chichiriviche’s local dive centers has given him a unique perspective on coral reef ecosystems underwater and local activities on land. One of his goals is designing sustainable fishing techniques while educating locals, divers and tourists to become more aware of the environment and in turn, care about it. He remarks;

“Many experienced divers say Chichiriviche’s coral population has diminished dramatically in time from a combination of environmental conditions and irresponsible fishing and diving. If we don’t act now, all of those beautiful dive sites will be gone in the near future, but we still have time. Education is the key to conservation.”

Strength in Awareness 

The connectivity of Hope Spots has remarkably established an important link with Choroni, a neighboring community, also a Mission Blue Hope Spot. Marco Caputo, a Marine Biologist from Choroni joined forces with a conservationist from Chichiriviche, Gabriela Chirinos, to educate their residents about the Hope Spot. The two experts led a lively discussion on their collaboration with Mission Blue, Choroni’s successful sea turtle project, and a discourse on coral reefs. Hosting the event at a dive school garnered interest from over 30 people including members of the National Guard. The outcome resulted in future plans for local residents to become more involved in their Hope Spot while strengthening relationships with the diving community.

BIOsub, in particular, is leading efforts in coral and algae research, beach clean-up activities, and training and educating locals about diving. Exciting plans are also underway for a Reef Check representative to train a team of local divers on how to monitor their reefs through data collection and surveys.

Gregg Magrane, one of Chichiriviche’s Hope Spot champions exclaims;

“Conservation is a strategy for sustainability and generational justice, namely a sense of fairness for future generations. In our conservation efforts, we are in the process of increasing the consciousness of the tourists, divers, fishermen and local inhabitants. We feel making everyone aware is the best way to ensure the environment is not destroyed. Our Hope Spot nominations have given us concrete foundations to go forward with this ideal and with preserving healthy marine environments for Choroni and Chuao and Chichiriviche de le Costa.”

Ray Tried To Murder Laudineia

A spotted eagle ray jumped from Florida Keys waters and hit a Fort Myers woman who was operating a personal watercraft April 11.

Laudineia G. Neves, 33, suffered a “deep laceration” to her face that required surgery, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports.

“She’s recovering at home and doing much better now,” Rui Leite, her husband, said Tuesday. “They say it was a one-in-a-million thing.”

FWC Investigator Racquel Daniels reported that Neves was cruising on an 11-foot Bombardier watercraft in Lignumvitae Channel near Lower Matecumbe Key “when a spotted eagle ray jumped from the water and struck the operator in the face” around 1:45 p.m.

Neves received initial treatment at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, then was taken by ambulance to South Miami Hospital for surgery.

Such incidents are rare but in March 2008 a leaping eagle ray struck and killed Judy Kay Zagorski, 57, of Michigan, who was on a moving boat off the Middle Keys. The 75-pound ray knocked Zagorski to the deck, causing a fatal head wound, the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office reported.

“I would call these types of incidents an unfortunate accident,” said Kim Bassos-Hull, senior biologist with Mote Marine Laboratory.

“Spotted eagle rays tend to be very shy,” she said. “They’re not going to come and attack people.”

Eagle rays are well known for their ability to suddenly burst out of the water and soar several feet into the air before crashing back to the surface.

“They jump a lot, for a variety of reasons,” said Bassos-Hull, the lead author on a 2014 peer-reviewed study of eagle rays. “They can be escaping predation attempts by hammerhead sharks, or trying to shake off parasites or remoras.”

“If a swimmer or diver enters the water, an eagle ray tends tends to move away. They’re not curious,” she said. “Most divers have a tough time getting close.”

Spotted eagle rays, which can grow to seven feet across from one tip of its “batoid” wings to the other, are protected from harvest in Florida.

“They are lower in numbers than other more common rays like the southern stingray,” Bassos-Hull said. “They only have one to four pups a year and don’t mature quickly.”

Spotted eagle rays do have a stinger barb at the end of their tail but wield it only in a defensive reaction.

Mote Marine Lab seeks information on eagle ray sightings for an ongoing population study of their movements. File online reports at


Afraid of Shark Attacks?

About 100 years ago, the general consensus was that sharks couldn’t kill people. Really: The historian Al Savolaine says scientists and doctors believed sharks’ jaws and teeth weren’t strong enough to break human bone.

Then came the summer of 1916.

Over the course of 12 days, there were six shark attacks along the New Jersey coast, and they contributed to a fear of sharks that has permeated our culture ever since.

Savolaine is a historian in one of the towns where there were attacks: Matawan, New Jersey. He says when the first attack happened, people thought it might have been perpetrated by a giant sea turtle.

That first attack happened on July 1, 1916, to a swimmer off Beach Haven, New Jersey. Just like in the movie that would build our shark obsession — 1975’s “Jaws” — officials “didn’t want to hurt local tourism, so they didn’t advertise it,” Savolaine said.

The series of attacks ended with another scene reminiscent of “Jaws,” except even more unlikely, because it took place in Matawan, which is 1.5 miles off the ocean. Savolaine says the shark swam up a tidal river and attacked one young boy in a group who were skinny dipping. The other boys ran naked through the town calling for help, and a group went down to the river to investigate.

Watson Stanley Fisher, 24, dove in, found the boy’s body, but then was attacked by the shark as well.

At the end of the 12-day streak, four people had died.

“This started the cultural fascination with shark attacks,” Savolaine said.

But after the attacks, interest in sharks eventually waned.

“Time passes and people get less concerned,” he said. “What really got people interested was the novel “Jaws” and the movie the following year. After that, a lot of people were afraid to go out in the ocean. And that got people thinking about sharks, so then they remembered that brutal shark attack in 1916 along the Jersey Shore. People started looking back and researching and it stimulated interest.”

Universal Pictures/Getty Images

It’s an interest that has held steady ever since. Rationally, however, the fear of sharks makes little sense, says David Ropeik, an expert on risk analysis and Harvard professor. He likes to point out that more people are attacked by cows than sharks.

“We take daily risks all the time, we cross the street, we use a cellphone when we drive, we have unprotected sex,” he said. “Our brain doesn’t even do a risk analysis, you just think, ‘Oh that won’t happen to me.’ You don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘I’ll fall out of bed and hit my head.’”

That’s what Ropeik calls “optimism bias,” where the risk is far off in the distance and “we tell ourselves if we think about it at all, that won’t happen to me.”

But shark attacks don’t usually fall under the “optimism bias” category, he said. Maybe when someone first books a beach vacation, he isn’t thinking a shark attack could happen. But once he’s standing in the sand, ready to set foot in the water, “optimism bias changes to something called loss aversion, where we over weigh the downside of possibilities,” Ropeik said.

“It’s easy to be optimistic when it’s off in the future, but now your butt is on the line, now you could die, and we revert to caution,” he said. “I know I probably won’t get eaten by shark, but it would be really bad if I do, so statistics go out the window.”

Other factors that play into our irrational fear of sharks are that we dread the pain and suffering that would come with dying by a shark attack.

“The more pain and suffering along the way to getting to being dead, the scarier it is,” he said. And there’s the lack of control we feel over when a shark might strike.

“You’re on the surface of the water and it’s dark under there, you can’t see, and not knowing is powerlessness,” Ropeik said. Even if you’re scuba diving or snorkeling in clear water, he said you know a shark can swim faster than you, so you still don’t feel in control.

Ropeik also says media coverage of shark attacks is to thank for our continued obsession. He calls that “availability awareness,” meaning “the more it’s on our radar screen, the more prominence it holds on our risk radar.”

As a former television producer, he understands that rare and violent stories get more attention and media outlets know people will pay more attention to “stories about the possibility of our death.”

But, he said, there’s a downside to the overexposure. When our brains are saturated with fears about unlikely things such as shark attacks, we don’t pay as much attention to safety precautions we actually should follow — like wearing sunscreen, for example.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

“What we are aware of either from personal experience or the media is what fills up our risk radar screen, which has only so much room on it,” Ropeik said. “So when there are lots of stories about sharks, that’s going to grab up room that could have gone to something else.”

There’s another downside to the shark obsession, said James Sulikowski, a professor in the Marine Science Department at the University of New England. That is that historically, people have been less interested in the conservation of sharks because they’ve been portrayed as villains.

“Most people don’t understand sharks are like us, they grow slowly, live long lives and have very few offspring, so they’re very susceptible to fishing pressure,” he said.

However, that’s changing, Sulikowski says. Science has made people aware of how important sharks are to the entire marine ecosystem and has made them care more about protecting them.

Still, he says sharks are fighting a battle other threatened species don’t have to fight: negative publicity.

“We still need to keep getting the importance of sharks out because every time there’s a shark attack, everyone freaks out,” he said.

He hopes people can “take a step back and think about what the statistics really are.”

For example, he said, you’re more likely to be bitten by another person on a New York City subway than be bitten by a shark.

Cooper’s Treasure

NASA astronaut’s space treasure map sparks hunt for Caribbean wrecks


Astronaut Gordon Cooper was a born explorer. He broke countless NASA space flight records, like the longest single-man space flight, a 122-hour mission. But one of his greatest achievements may not have been unveiled if it wasn’t for his willingness to share a secret he had kept for more than 40 years.

During his time in space, Cooper made an incredible discovery — anomalies he believed were shipwrecks. He meticulously noted them and created what some are calling a treasure map from space.

When Cooper fell sick with Parkinson’s, his longtime friend Darrell Miklos says he gave him his maps to fulfill his explorations. Cooper passed away in 2004.


“I think he knew his demise was coming, so he gave me the information prior to his death and said, ‘Anything ever happens to me, you make sure you finish this,’” Miklos told Fox News.

Miklos became close with Cooper after years of sharing an office space in California, when they bonded over a shared passion for exploration.

“From the mid-’90s till his passing, we always talked about treasure, but [it was] not till 2002 that he revealed to me that he had all these files for decades,” Miklos said. “I’m privileged to be the only man with these files.”


Now, Miklos stars in the new Discovery Channel docuseries “Cooper’s Treasure.” The show follows Miklos as he decodes and follows Cooper’s maps in hopes of uncovering hundred-year-old shipwreck material and treasure.

The maps were created while Cooper was navigating the globe on his Mercury 9 Faith 7 flight. At the time, he was possibly on a mission to look for nuclear threats during the Cold War era, Miklos said.

“They were utilizing some kind of long-range detection equipment to look for nuclear threats. With that, his acute vision [and] possible cameras, he started identifying things that looked like shipwreck material,” Miklos said. “Once he had written all the coordinates down, he went back to earth and put together this incredible treasure map from space on a sea chart.”


With a detailed map and archival research files, Miklos and a crew of professionals explored parts of the Caribbean searching for the wrecks. The team used a magnetometer to identify shipwreck areas and then dived down for a closer inspection using a metal detector.

“We cherry-picked five anomaly readings, did a search and identify mission, and we are five for five for positively identified shipwrecked material — and there are hundreds,” Miklos said. “So the first five, he was exactly right on the money. He had it right from the beginning.”

Miklos described the sites as “historical shipwrecks of the colonial period.”


“Cooper’s Treasure” airs on the Discovery Channel on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.



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