State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

spree

by Natalia

The trip on M/V Spree starts with captain's briefing with huge helpings of bodily functions humor. I can't deny it is a serious concern with almost 30 people having to relive themselves, not always voluntarily, in cramped quarters. The proper technique of fluffing trash bags, the acceptable length of the toilet paper, the problem of toilet mice (don't ask), the art of pumping and flushing are discussed at length.

The people on the boat - fellow divers and the crew - are not just friendly, they genuinely want to make friends. Damian takes to it like fish to water. Even I have trouble keeping to myself. Good thing it's only 3 days or my smile muscles might be permanently damaged.

We settle into a routine: food, dive, food, dive, more food, etc. to the tune of 5 dives a day. Food is great, more so when we can see it's all prepared in a tiny galley kitchen on a rocking boat. It takes 2 dedicated people working round the clock to feed 20 divers and 7 crew members and they do an amazing job.

30 minutes till dive time - we await and fear this call. Each time we drop 6 feet into water, fight the current and re-emerge 40 minutes later to come up the ladder with all the gear, holding our fins. At times it may feel like some kind of an endurance test. Not for wimps or faint-hearted. Divers around us are much more hardcore, not to mention more experienced, than we are. Everybody dives nitrox, so do we, but having taken a class only recently I still feel like an impostor.

The trip ends with karaoke at Two Friends Bar in Key West. We attach ourselves to the crew dressed as pirates and partake in the festivities. To satisfy your masochistic urges you can watch the proceedings via live web cam. It instantly kills any desire I ever may have had to do karaoke. Semi-public humiliation in front of similarly indisposed and friendly crowd is one thing. The perspective of having your rendition of a song broadcasted on the web in real time makes you sober rather quickly.

By the way, it should be against the law to sing Girls just wanna have fun while you are female and drunk. Any lawmaker who is willing to propose a constitutional amendment to that effect has my vote.Finally, defeated by the margaritas served in glasses so big, that in their previous life they were probably used to drown annoying babies, I retire to the boat.

According to Damian, who clearly has more stamina than I do, the evening concludes in a clothing optional dance club. Apparently Key West, that during a day might be rather a disappointing experience, at night lives up to its immoral fame. Alas no pictures are allowed and everybody keeps mum when sobered up in the morning. Next time I'm not going to bed early!!!

dry

It feels good to stay away from the ocean for a brief moment. The comfort of walking straight, of taking shower without being periodically thrown into the stall. Even a small comfort of pissing while standing up. But I know already what I am going to miss starting tomorrow. My inept giant strides into the abyss, coolness of immeasurable waters, an OK from Melanie on the deck responding to my fist on the head salute. I'll miss weightlessness, the calm, the multidimensional space around me. I'll miss hiding from the current behind coral heads and looking at graceful, never ending dance of submerged universe. And the excitement of spotting shark gliding nearby. I'll miss the experience of being juggled in my bunk as the boat makes its way home though choppy seas. It's the sensation not much different from skiing in the fresh powder. Except of course the there are no skis. Or snow.

ready?

We are preparing for boarding M/V Spree to go to the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve. We did couple of multiday sailing trips before, but we haven't done liveaboard yet and have only a faint idea what to expect. I hope that three days of Internet withdrawal will be the greatest challenge. But if you don't hear from us by the end of the month, you can start mounting a rescue expedition. The boat takes 22 passengers, sleeping quarters are arranged in bunks of 4 to a cabin. The crew promises to feed us constantly. Alas, gourmet food is not mentioned: this is definitely not a cruise ship. Not that I would know the specifics of one never setting the foot aboard. The idea of a giant floating hotel is so unappealing that even the allure of tropical destinations pales next to it. Being marooned on a ship with hundreds of other people strikes me as oppressing, not exhilarating. And with 68% Americans overweight and 34% obese 'all you can eat' is plain cruel. Not to mention all those touted attractions: rock climbing, ice skating, tennis, volleyball, etc - one can do all that at home at a fraction of a cost and less crowd to compete with. I am happy to accept that I don't know what I am missing and have little desire to be proven wrong. I'd rather take a road trip and wander aimlessly hoping to experience something unexpected.