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Cocoa Beach
121 Scrub #1
121 Scrub #2

ASF Expedition 1

My twin brother Al Worden
These photographs document ASF Expedition 2.
Photo Credits: Linn
Lexie, Me, and Mary wait for our first excursion on Scuba-Do
Al Worden at the Scuba-Do dock
Lexie, me, and Mary wait to board Scuba-Do
Al before our first excursion on Scuba-Do
With the love of my life in Key Largo, Florida My twin brother Al Worden
Relaxing with my love
My twin brother Al Worden
Linn, Mary, Dee, and Lexie
Marilyn and John
Linn, Mary, Dee, and Lexie
Marilyn and John
The crew of Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Expedition 2
The jolly crew of Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Expedition 2
Mary decided that she would attempt to get her open water scuba certification once again.  I thought that if anyone could get her through this test that Les Peaker our instructor from April could.

We arranged for Mary to have private instruction from Les.  She would fly down a day earlier than Lexie and me.  Les would have all day to work with her on Wednesday.  After that we planned on all three of us going out for two dives on Thursday afternoon.

I didn't feel comfortable sending Mary off to face the dragon by herself.  Unfortunately we didn't have much of alternative.  We tried to minimize the amount of time that Lexie would miss from school.   If I flew out with Lexie on Thursday morning instead of on Tuesday night with Mary, it would give Lexie and a full extra school day.

Mary met Les on Wednesday morning and paid him big money.    The fee was to cover her private instruction, a couple of warm up dives on Thursday, and videographer services on Friday and Saturday.  At first Linn was going to dive alone with Al on Thursday.  That way they could get their game plan down for diving with the rest of us on Friday and Saturday.  After further consideration they decided that we would just all dive together off of the same boat on Thursday.

I was really anxious to hear back from Mary after her morning session with Les.  I got a call from here at about 12:30 in the afternoon.  Some aspects of her open water test with Les went well, others did not.  Mary was exhausted from the process.  Originally the plan was for her to go back for more testing in the afternoon, but Mary was so tired she had to skip that.

I was pretty disappointed that Les took her back to the lagoon at Jules’s where she had all the issues with claustrophobia.  I knew she would have problems there.  I hoped that if she got out into the clear open water, things would go better for her.  I felt like Les had let me down.

Lexie and I were on a very early flight to Miami.  We had to get up at about 4 AM in order to get to the airport on time.  I spoke with Mary before we got on the airplane.  She was about to meet Les for more open water testing.  Mary seemed optimistic and I hoped that it would be a good morning for her.

After Lexie and I landed in Miami at around 10:30 AM, I turned on my cell phone.  Waiting on the phone was a message from Mary.  The morning had not gone any better.

She got water down her air passages again while attempting to clear her mask.  She also jumped into the lagoon without her buoyancy compensator inflated.  That meant that she sank to the bottom.  The good thing with that was that she did not panic.  She worked through the hoses and finally found the one that inflates the BC.

Les was ready to work with Mary some more, but she had enough.  She thought she would try it again when we went out on the boat for our warm up dives.  Hearing that message was a crushing blow.  I knew that it would not be easy for Mary to make it through this but I thought Les would get her over the top.  I wanted to be able to share the underwater experience with her. I knew how much she was missing out on by not being able to see the underwater life with her own eyes.

Lexie and I were picked up at the Miami Airport by Linn and Dee of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.  They were driving down to Key Largo from Titusville.  Since Miami was on the way it worked out for us to catch a ride with them.  I was really thankful for the lift.  It meant that Mary and I wouldn't have to rent separate rental cars.

The first thing we did when leaving the airport was take a wrong turn.  We wound up on the side streets of Miami and that was not a good thing. Linn tried to get directions from a lady in a car beside us.  The lady claimed that she didn't speak English.  We stopped at a convenience store for directions.  The clerk didn't speak English either!  I think Linn’s response to the clerk was, “For crying out loud, this is America.” 

The lesson of the day was that if you don't speak Spanish; don't ask for help in Miami.  We finally found our way back to the freeway without directions and resumed our journey to Key Largo.  I was really anxious to get there to see how Mary was doing.

We got to the Holiday Inn at Key Largo.  I found Mary seated with Al Worden's wife Jill in the hotel restaurant.  They were about set to have lunch.  Mary seemed to be doing Okay; at least she put on a good front.

We had a quick bite to eat, then went to the hotel room to gather our equipment for the afternoon's dive.  We were supposed to meet at the boat charter dock at 12:30.  People slowly straggled in.  Al was there. Les finally arrived with Mary's BC and regulator.

I asked the Scuba-Do crew if Lexie and I needed wet suits.  They assured us that no wet suit was necessary.  Linn and Dee showed up.

We got out to the first dive site.  I was really nervous.  Al and Linn did the giant stride off the boat to begin their first dive. The plan for the rest of us was for Les to get in the water and then for Mary to follow him.  Lexie and I would then follow Mary.  Les jumped into the water according to plan.

I was standing next to Mary, while she was bent down working on her equipment.  Mary looked up at me and I saw that she was gripped in mortal fear.  She said, “I don't think I can do this.”  She looked like she was about to cry.  I felt really bad seeing her this way.

Throughout this entire process, I tried to be as supportive of her as she was of me.  If she needed someone to boost her confidence, I would be there for her.  At the same time, I did not want to push her into something that she did not want to do.

Seeing Mary's fear, I told her that if she didn't want to dive, that she should stop.  It was no big deal. A wave of relief came over Mary's face. I had no remorse or regrets when Mary decided not to go in the water.  She was safe on the boat on the surface and that was all that I could ask for.

My mind now had to shift gears.  I had to worry about myself and Lexie.  Lexie and I donned our equipment.  It was my turn to do the giant stride off of the boat and into the water.  Doing the giant stride had really not gotten any easier for me since April.  It was a big step to make.  I held my mask and regulator with one hand and my weight belt with the other.

I tried to blank my mind and stepped off into the abyss.  It was a relief to me to actually be in the water once the stride is over.  I grabbed on to the line trailing the boat as Les instructed.  Lexie followed me into the water.

Les told us to start our descent.  We began going down, but I was having trouble getting to the bottom.  Les went back up to the boat and got some extra weight for me.

I was shocked at the diving conditions.  They were much worse than what we had experienced in April.  Visibility was not as good and there was a strong current. Les took us off swimming into that current.   It was really hard work.  I struggled to keep up.  Lexie was a little behind me and a little higher.  With her positioning it was hard for me to see her.

Les pointed out a spotted blue flounder on the bottom.  That was pretty cool to see.  He later told us that it was a fairly rare sighting in those waters.  Even with the more difficult diving conditions, we enjoyed the dive.  It was good to get our fins wet again.  Views of the fish were tremendous.

When the dive was over we came up a fare distance from our boat.  Fortunately Les had planned this so that current would carry us back towards the boat.  Lest told us to lay on our backs and just float back to the boat.

I felt relieved when we got on the boat.  I was happy to have the first dive behind us and to have been able to get reacquainted with the water.

Lexie was pretty tired from the first dive.  She really didn't want to seem to do another one.  We got to the next dive site.  I hoped that the current wouldn't be quite so bad.  We did our giant strides into the water.

All four of us followed Les around on this dive.  He was our tour guide pointing out a variety of sea life.  One of the things I saw was a huge blue parrot fish.  I had never seen one that looked that blue before.

As we followed Les along, I found myself right next to Al on his left side.  I was just slightly behind him.  At one point Al swam his left arm backwards for directional control. His hand popped me right in the face.  Al signaled his apologies underwater.  To me there was no apology necessary.  I thought it was pretty funny.  How many people can say that an Apollo astronaut has popped them in the face?  Well, Okay all except for that wacko that Buzz Aldrin clocked.

Lexie was staying around near the surface.  She was tired and I think was having problems equalizing.  We kept an eye on her and she followed us as we traversed the reef.  The visibility on this reef was better and the current was less.

Mary even gave snorkeling a try with Dee.  It was hard for Mary to let go of the boat's ladder.  She did get her face in the water though which was a big step.  I think some of Mary's fright when we got out to the first dive site was a fear of heights.  She does not do well with heights and seeing the bottom through the relatively clear water was a new experience for her.  It was another sense of height.

We finished our dive and I was thrilled.  I was really glad that we were able to do these two warm up dives under Les's watchful supervision.  Surviving on the boat was also a good experience and good test for Mary.  Besides her aversion to heights, she is also subject to motion sickness.  She was able to prove to herself that she could withstand the motion of the boat off the Florida Keys.  That was a big accomplishment.

That night all of us were going to go out to dinner.   We were going to be joined by United States Marine John Smith and his girlfriend Marilyn.  John would be diving with us the next day.  His flight arrangements didn't allow him to make it in time for our warm up dives.

John had a tremendous amount of diving experience.  I was told that he was the Marine equivalent of the Navy Seals.  I felt somewhat intimidated to be diving with someone of this level the next day.  I hoped that I wouldn't make too big of fool out of myself from my lack of experience.

After we got dressed for dinner, Mary, Lexie and I headed out to the Tiki bar by the pool. We were joined shortly by Linn and Dee.  I was very happy and in a celebratory mood.  I just cannot emphasize enough, how good it felt to have the first two dives under our belt.

In a little bit, Al and his wife Jill came out of their room and walked over to join us in the Tiki bar.  I looked at what Al was wearing and I could not believe my eyes.  He was wearing the exact same Tommy Bahamas Hawaiian shirt that I was.  What were the odds of that happening?  I felt kind of embarrassed.  I was concerned that Al would think I was stalking him.  Al came over and we had a great laugh over our taste in clothes.  I told Al that we had to be careful or guest at the hotel would mistake us for cabana boys.

John Smith and Marilyn joined us.  It was great to meet John.  Getting to know him, my feeling of intimidation went away.   He was a fun guy to be around.  As he sat down at the table, his glasses fell apart. A screw had come out of the frame.  I'm all to familiar with this scenario.  We looked and by some miracle we were able to find the screw on the table.

Lexie wanted to put his glasses back together.  With her young eyes, she could no doubt see it better than the rest of us.  I took Lexie and John's glasses and we went over to the main bar.  The light was better there.  I helped Lexie get the glasses put back together.  I then gave them to her for her to give to John.

John was thrilled.  He promised to buy her whatever gift she wanted in return.  After a few photographs, we headed out to dinner.  Lexie sat near John and Marilyn and had a long conversation with them.  It was great to see her so comfortable with someone that she had just met.

Dinner was good, but I was fading fast.  We had gotten up so early for our airplane flight. We also had expended a lot of energy on our two dives.  I was glad when dinner that night was over.  I was in need of some good sleep back at the hotel.  As we left the restaurant, there was a beautiful view of the Moon.  It was amazing to think that I had just dove with and ate dinner with one of the very few people in this world who has seen the Moon close up.

Our dive adventure continued the next day on Friday.  For the account of this  day follow the ASF EXP 2 B link.

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UPDATED : June 11, 2008
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