Karen Peters, a Chic-fil-A franchise owner in the outskirts of Cincinnati, has a dilemma faced by many mothers of teenagers.
“I have a 16-year old, and I’m trying to entertain him,” she exclaims.
Shades are covering her eyes and a straw hat is on her head. Seated next to her on a boat at Conch Harbor Marina next to Dante’s and Turtle Kraals is her son, Graham.
“I could not get him to go to the Truman House, the Little White House,” this mom details.
“We definitely don’t have the same interests all of the time,” Graham admits.
But, the two have found an island activity they are pumped to participate in together – BOBdive!
The B.O.B., which stands for breathing observation bubble, is an innovative, underwater scooter and breathing apparatus all in one package. All the adventurer has to do is position their head into the clear, Lucite bubble, take a seat, and grip the handlebars. An air tank mounted on the front of the bright yellow scooter feeds a continuous stream of oxygen into the bubble, so even as the operator investigates the underwater world the head is completely surrounded by a comfortable cushion of air.
Owner Kenny Proske points out the BOB is ideal for anyone who wants a different way to explore the underwater world.
“The BOB has been around for 15 years and is the result of an inventor with an engineering-type of mind,” said Graham. “I thought this was a good environment to bring it to because there’s a lot of tourism, and people are looking for ways to explore the water.”
With the Key West Weekly stowed away aboard the BOBdive catamaran, the BOBdive crew navigates 10 miles south of Key West towards Cuba. Karen and her son bask in the warm, spring sun and admire the crystalline waters. A young dolphin rolls in and out of the boat’s foamy wake.
“I’m a freshman at Loveland High and I doubt anyone’s done this,” exclaims Graham.
“It’d be cool to see some schools of fish, maybe a shark!”
His mom shares her son’s enthusiasm.
“Snorkeling…We’ve done before, and you don’t go every deep,” she said. “With SCUBA diving you have to be certified, so for people from the Midwest this gives us the ability to have an underwater adventure.”
Bob Dive operator Michelle Dancy has dove nearly every single wreck in the Florida Keys from the Vandenberg to the Spiegal Grove wrecks, and she was quickly sold on the simplicity of navigating the reef from behind the BOB bubble.
“It’s awesome. You’re able to go underwater and breathe without anything in your mouth. It’s a cool experience,” she says as she pulls her Billabong full wetsuit over her bikini.
The explorers just pop their heads into the bubbles, grab the controllers, and sit down.
Even experienced divers will be amazed at the ability to breathe without a foggy mask stuck on their face or a plastic regulator clamped between their teeth. The BOB will only be submerged to depths up to 10 feet, so the exploration isn’t hindered by risk.
Dancy and the other dive master, John Moore, swim up to the bubbles and use hand signals to communicate with their guests.
Graham and his mom cruise through brilliantly colored tropical fish and scoot around the coral reef as if they are the stars in an underwater Jacques-Yves Cousteau adventure.
Propelling through the shimmering Caribbean waters in their own ingenious apparatuses, they check out the baby Yellowtail Snapper and the millions of sea creatures that inhabit America’s largest coral reef system. The BOB’s are propelled on battery power making the exploration safe for the sea life and virtually silent.
“It is really futuristic,” Dancy drove the allure home. “We can hear you talking inside of the BOB. The experience is wild and very cool, and you don’t have to worry about dive gear or heavy weights.”
So far this season, Proske and his crew have submerged visitors from around the globe, including, Canada, Curacao, London and even Italy. He says the experience is definitely a family-fun option, and on the other end, often a springboard for SCUBA.
“Anyone can do this. One of the customers, as soon as she got out, was like, ‘I have to get my SCUBA certification now!’ She was gung ho,” he attested.
The personal “submarines” are fit for anyone 12 years and older, at least four and a half feet tall and in good health. BOBdive Key West can accommodate up to 30 people in one trip.
Back on the surface, Graham affirmed, the trip was “cool” and he felt as though he was in his own personal submarine. He and his mom will return to “Bearcat Country” with memories formed close to Cuba to mark their vacation.
“Absolutely it was fun,” she asserted. “I still can’t believe you can be underwater in a bubble and breathe; a Jacques Cousteau meets the Jetsons experience!”
BOB Dive Key West is located at 601 Front Street Key West. To book your underwater adventure log on to bobdivekeywest.com or call 305-396-7009.
Karen & Graham
Karen Peters and her 16-year-old son, Graham, on board the BOBdive boat. The two were pumped to share in an adventure that will make all of their friends and family envious, once they return home to Ohio… “Yeah, I’ll have bragging rights, definitely,” Graham shared. “I doubt anyone else has done this!” Photo by Josie Koler
Showcasing the signature yellow, the Bob Dive boat beckons visitors onboard. Trips leave the Conch Harbor Marina and take passengers 10 miles offshore to explore the ocean in their personal, battery-powered submarine. Photo Courtesy: BOBdive Key West
Operating the BOBdive machine is simple! The pilot sits on the small seat with their head covered by the acrylic “bubble” above. The BOB only requires a few minutes of training before novices can begin exploring the second largest reef in the world. Photo Courtesy: BOBDive Key West
Tropical Mike in front of the BOB’s onboard the boat. He’ll help you become comfortable in this underwater, exploration device.