As a young boy growing up in Puerto Rico the late 60’s, watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was an experience that was incredibly influential for me and most definitely started a lifetime passion for the water. My brothers and I spent many carefree days at the beaches exploring the tidal pools, wondering in amazement what lies just beyond.
We moved from San Juan in the spring of 1973 to Jacksonville, FL. Numerous family trips to the Keys and the beautiful freshwater springs of Florida only fueled my desire to become a diver. I’ll never forget the summer that I was a fearless 15-year old and found myself face to face with a barracuda in Key West-- absolutely sealing the deal that diving was the sport I was meant for. After pestering my parents for the next 8-months, they finally relented and allowed me to pursue my diving certification.
In June 1978 I was certified by both the YMCA and PADI. As part of our training we performed check-out dives at Goldhead State Park and open water dives in the Keys. My dive buddy was another 16-year old in my class; however, that partnership was quickly dissolved by the Dive Master when my buddy and I decided to see how far we could swim without taking into consideration that you actually needed to save enough air to make it back to the dive boat. After swimming without a care in the world, we ran out of air. We signaled the Dive Master but he just made us surface swim back and promptly assigned both of us new dive buddies.
Back in Jacksonville, I ran into an old high school buddy, who was also a diver, and we dove every chance and anywhere we could. Our adventures were heavily focused on the springs, mostly because we didn’t have the money to go anywhere else. As you can imagine, two teenagers will find a way to get into trouble and we helped to make this happen at Troy Springs in 1979. The river was running extremely high , causing the spring to become very murky. After descending to the bottom and starting our ascent, we quickly discovered that we had mistakenly placed ourselves under a rock ledge with zero visibility. Surprisingly, I didn’t panic and after pointing out our predicament to my buddy (with my dive light) I took control and held onto his tank while swimming in a circular pattern hoping to find the edge of this ledge. We swam increasingly larger circles for what seemed like an eternity. At the very moment I found our way free of the ledge, my buddy shot for the surface like a Polaris Missile. I managed to surface under far greater composure and learned that he had completely run out of air just as we found our way out. A quick check of my SPG showed that I only had 300 psi remaining in my tank. This was definitely a mistake that could have ended tragically and was a lesson that I’ll never forget.
I went on to College and majored in Biology and minored in Marine Science and Chemistry. My Marine Science courses allowed me to continue my passion for diving and upon graduation I joined the Navy as an Officer. My first duty Station was aboard the USS Puget Sound based out of Norfolk, VA. During my two years aboard the Puget Sound we spent 6-weeks in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and I was fortunate to be able to dive the local reefs just off the beach at Gitmo. To this day, I believe they were probably some of the best dives I’ve ever made. We also made a Mediterranean Cruise and I was able to dive there as well.
After my tour on the Puget Sound I made a career change after deciding that I didn’t really enjoy being “Haze Gray and Underway” and became a Navy Aerospace Physiologist. This allowed me to go to flight school where I learned to fly helicopters. Upon completing flight school I was assigned to the Aviation Survival Training Center in Norfolk where we performed physiology and water survival training for the Navy Aircrew. I was assigned as the Department Head of the Water Survival Unit and in this capacity I was designated the Command Diving Officer over the 8 Navy divers. The divers were assigned to us as Safety divers for the operation of our Helo Dunker egress trainer. As the Command Diving Officer I was able to dive with my Sailors and even had the honor of re-enlisting one of them while diving on surface supplied air while wearing a Kirby-Morgan Superlite helmet. It was during this tour that I was deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Storm with the U.S. Marines. Upon my return to the States, I requested follow-on orders to serve again with the Marines and this brought me to New Orleans, LA. Over the course of four years I was able to dive the Oil Rigs and started spear fishing on a regular basis. Although New Orleans was a dangerous place to live back then, I really enjoyed diving and living in the Big Easy.
Fast forward 7-years and my desire to own and dive a double hose regulator came true. After a short search, I found myself the proud new owner of a Voit Trieste II double hose regulator and I knew I was hooked! I started searching the Internet and even visited Scuba Board to find out everything I could about them. Of course I also started looking for more double hose regulators to purchase. I was fortunate to receive the help and support from several members and that’s where I first had the pleasure of corresponding with Greg Barlow (long before I ran back into him on VDH). Greg was extremely kind enough to provide me with copies of various odds and ends about the Trieste regulator.
In March 2004-- as fate would have it-- my path crossed at Blue Springs with Bryan Pennington, Rob “1969ivan1” Studnika, Tom “Captain” Madere, Chuck Tenge, and Jack Wilhelm. It was great to dive as a group of Vintage Double Hose enthusiasts. It was from this initial get-together that the Annual Sand Dog Dive Event was born. Although Chuck and Jack have moved on to other things, Bryan, Rob, Captain and I have remained close and continue to dive vintage.
I still continue to serve in the Military as a Captain in the Navy Reserve. I’m currently assigned as the Commanding Officer of a Medical Unit that takes care of the Marines and Sailors of a Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron.
Finally, my small collection includes, 2 - Spiro Techniques Royal Mistrals, 1 – USD Royal Aqua Master, 2 – USD DA Aqua Masters, 1 – Voit Trieste II, 1 – Nemrod Snark III Silver, 1 – USD DW Mistral, and last but certainly not least, 1- Phoenix Aqua Master (first run).
In closing, I would like to thank the members of NAVED and VDH for their fellowship and especially the camaraderie we share as Vintage Double Hose divers.