DAY TWO OF FOUR — Fresh conch anyone?
Of course you have to dive for it first — 16 feet down off of Grand Turk Island. After a morning learning to scuba dive (Mel) and diving (me) we join up with others staying at the 16-room Bohio Resort (www.bohioresort.com) to go out with Trevor Watkins, a local who has lived on this tiny island (just 3,000 or so people) all his life and free dives every day for conch and lobsters. “ It’s a good living,” the 40 year-old Watkins says, “but it is hard work.” He’s been free diving since he was teen and now his 17 year old has started as well.
The area east of where we staying at Bohio is apparently full of conch—our novice free divers get 10 in 20 minutes. We head to Gibb’s Cay, a tiny island where Trevor will prepare Conch Salad or Conch Ceviche while he hands out shrimp for us to feed the half dozen stingrays who swim around the beach waiting for their treat. We drink beers and rum punch on the deserted beach sampling the conch salad (after we watch the pro hammer open the shell and get the fish out—did I mention we taste the Conch “worm” intestine which tastes like salt water gummies?).
“This is the first family vacation we’ve had in eight years,” said Catherine Brigham, 28, here with her husband Harry, her younger sister Emily Needham and two close friends along with her dad and stepmom.
John Needham, who owns a marina on Long Island, discovered diving and made his daughters an offer they couldn’t refuse: he’d pay for them to learn to dive and take them on a diving vacation. Emily and her roommate Carly Kadzin, 24, got certified with PADI on Long Island while the Brighams wil have a far different—and warmer–experience. Like Mel, they completed their e-learning on line and will complete their dives in the warm Caribbean.
“I said sure why not when my dad suggested it,” said Catherine, a graduate student. “But I was really nervous. “I was terrified I would get here and not be able to do it.”
That wasn’t the case, thankfully. “This is so special,” she said. “I’m grateful this is something that we can share from now on.”
She added that she is glad for a family vacation where they are doing more than “staring at each other.” “We are really doing something and then we get together at meals and talk about what we’ve done.” She said it even helped that her sister and friend had the same learning “burps.” “It’s very reassuring.”
I should mention that Catherine’s stepmom Laura Tuthill and another friend along Cassie Bliss don’t dive and have no interest. Yet they are perfectly happy at a dive oriented resort at Bohio, said Laura Tuthill. “It’s nice just to relax,” said Tuthill, who runs a horse farm. “And there is enough else to do” –like going to Gibb’s Cay.
Emily Needham, 24, is equally enthusiastic. “I don’t know if I’d love it,” she said,” But my did said it was awesome and he likes interesting things.”
The learning, she admitted, was intimidating and she was nervous this morning—her first dive in the Caribbean after she was certified, but she is glad for the opportunity. “Seeing that underwater world makes me feel smaller,” she acknowledged. We’d dived off of the Famous Grand Turk Wall at a spot called Black Forest some 70 feet where there seemed every variety of coral and fish, even though we were just 500 yards off shore (a real plus to diving and learning here).
“It is so special to share this with my dad,” said Emily. “I’m grateful.
Catherine added she was glad to discover that scuba diving is a sport for active people but not necessarily those who are super fit. “I do not go hiking,” she said. “This is for a person who wants to spend their vacation doing things, not just lying around on the beach… This is ideal!”
We think so too. The conch salad was terrific. “Good girl time,” Mel says. Absolutely.
Next: Diving is fun but so is the beach