Photos by Josie Koler
The new bride of Florida Keys Community College, Lucia Rice, warns us from behind the desk of Southpoint Divers on Front Street.
“The visibility is only 5’. We’re telling everyone to wait ‘til tomorrow unless they’re flying out.”
Too psyched to see, what’s not too see, we climbed onboard the 46’ Phoenix at the Hyatt with our gear and realized just how lucky we are to be accustomed to 100’ of vis.
For a Canadian and his daughter, the scenery is typical, and the experience still memorable.
“I wanted to see what was underwater, and once I did I fell in love with it and want to be a marine biologist.”
Jordan Urwin is headed into junior high at Saint Christopher in Ontario, Canada, and is already to dive into a career-path post graduation. Earning a dive certification is just a “natural progression,” according to her dad, Gareth Urwin, a designer and manufacturer of air pollution control equipment.
“She saw my dive gear. She constantly swims and is a confident individual. She’s been trained in the pool and has the ability to do this,” her dad explains.
Once we reach Marker 32 I dive in to see for myself what Lucia had warned me about.
She wasn’t kidding. Through my mask I see, well… not much beyond my own toes.
After feeding the fish chum made directly from my delicious lunch of blackened Mahi Mahi at Key West Harbour Yacht Club; I decide, I don’t have the stomach to submerge, even to 25’.”
Jordan, however, strides in and the pride in her dad is evident.
“She needs to experience different conditions so she doesn’t panic,” he affirms.
Jordan, with her instructor Joe Marchiano heads down the line.
“We don’t have a choice,” Joe says after jumping in and examining the ocean. “This is the age they need to start them. They have no fear. She’s very comfortable. I like teaching between 12 and 13 because they don’t have hang ups. You still have to be careful. We have some weird currents today, a very strange current.”
Meanwhile, dad is diving with a dame from the mainland. Stephanie Mahone is testing her skills with just over two years of diving under her belt. Mister Urwin, who has logged 350 dives since he plunged into the pastime back in 1992, is the calm voice in the stirred up sea.
“It’s just a matter of getting to the bottom and just relaxing. Make sure you’re buddy is within 3 – 5’ of you, stay in contact, and everything’s cool.”
What’s also cool is the life on the reef, the third largest in the world. Captain Adam Brynes, a former NYC firefighter, extends the invite with this:
“Everybody should come and see this. Dive the reef! We have every type of fish you can find in the Keys, plus shark. Reef shark, Nurse, the occasional Bull, even Hammerhead! As for the fish; Blue Parrot, Midnight Parrot, Rainbow Parrot, Spotlight Parrot, Queen Conchs, Crustaceans, Caribbean Lobster, Goliath Grouper, Nassau Grouper, it’s all out here!”
Unfortunately, today, a tide against the wind and a low-pressure system has pushed in. The swells make for one sensational training session. Jordan surfaces with a story most of her classmates won’t be able to rival once they unleash their most memorable summer experiences in the classroom.
“I personally just kept looking for the bottom, and looking for Joe’s fins! Then, watched my bubbles to see if they were going up or down to make sure I was going down. I’ll be certified tomorrow! Hopefully the water will be clear!”
She went down the line “like a champ” Joe remarks on shore. “I was amazed.”
Jordan’s dad invested in buying her, her own gear. The investment in safety is paramount when you’re a parent. “You know it’s your equipment. 100 other people haven’t used it. So, you’re not worried about any kind of contamination, diseases… anything. I know dive shops maintain their equipment very well, but if you have your own you’re more comfortable with it.”
Captain Adam Brynes heads up the excursions on the Phoenix to Marker 32. “Average depth is about 25’. Home to a tremendous amount of wildlife where Day Marker 32 is and Hawk’s Channel. There are nine fingers of reef you can circumnavigate. The dive is for everyone. Beginners all the way up to advance.”
Gareth readies to dive the reef with Stephanie – a FEMA worker from Orlando. Joe observes, “He’s perfect because he stays away. He wants Jordan to be on her own.”
Dad makes his way down the line on a day where the visibility is only 5’ today!!! The same as the waters in Canada, so he is used to the H20 haze.
Southpoint Divers’ instructor Joe Marchiano.
13-year old Jordan Urwin, headed into 8 grade this fall is ready to rock the reef at Marker 32 for her certification dive. She’s using a CrystalVu Mask and Problue Tiara 2 Snorkel.
Jordan and dad
This is not Jordan and her dad’s first visit to the Keys to dive! They made the trek last year from their home in Burlington, Ontario. “It’s awesome! Absolutely awesome… wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Dad exclaims!
The Phoenix at Marker 32, 3 miles off the coast of Key West.
Titanium Boots Lay these out together
Last year Jordan had full foot fins. This year she picked out these Cressi Rondine Open-Heel Fins and Titanium Booties due to her northern location. “Since we’re from Canada and Canadian water is cold I decided to go with boots so my feet don’t freeze!”
Jordan picked out the Aqualung Green Mikron Regulator, ideal for women and children because of the scaled down size. “I have used my dad’s, and I have used rentals. I like this one because you can see the bubbles. I sometimes believe I am breathing by myself!”
Mask and snorkel
“Yellow is easiest to see with the human eye,” Jordan informs us.
Aqualung’s SeaQuest Libra BCD is specifically designed for women because of its sculpted fit and shape. “Equipment will last you a lifetime,” notes Gareth who’s been diving with his same gear since 1992. “It is still functional and looks brand new. That is why you should buy a top of the line regulator and vest.”