I hold my breath, as my eyes turn to my quiet tall, brown- haired 14-year-old son, and without a single second of hesitation, he replies,“Ok.” “What is your dive plan?” Patric asks. “We will enter the water, descend together and move in a counterclockwise direc- tion. Passing the wreck of the Kissimmee tugboat, we will continue heading on a diagonal plane to the coral outcrops and onto the fishing dock in hopes of finding some lemon sharks.The DM indi- cated the water will become shallow the closer we get to the pier so watch your gages, we may end up in only 8 feet of water.” Nodding at Jacob, Patric suits up and moves to the back of the boat while I stand there with Jacob’s diving career flashing through my mind.All of the issues he has struggled with, and slowly overcome. I remember his calm demeanor when his air hose blew in a freak moment on a dive a few years earlier. How unflustered he was when he signaled and swam to his instructor for her second stage at Buddy Dive in Bonaire. How he mastered his naviga- tion dives with Sam'sTours in Palau, and how he has spent this past week at Brac Reef Beach Resort Brac Reef Beach Resort Islands, diligently asking his group every 15 minutes their air consump- tion levels. I believe Jacob is capable to lead us, I just hope he can. Adjusting my mask one final time, I take a giant stride and leap of faith into the blue. Jacob enters last, checks we are OK and signals for us to descend as a group.He gives Patric and I the sign for bud- dying, waits for our nod of understanding and turns away
from us. I watch my son glide over coral heads, slowing to investigate areas and point out the nudibranchs hidden like chameleons among the ma- rine life.He moves on, looking every few minutes to ensure we are behind him.He pauses to check our air, and content with our answers, he con- tinues. I smile, because when I heard the DM say he saw lemon sharks off the dock the night before, I knew my son would be locked and loaded on finding one. Closer and closer to the concrete fishing pier, we move, but with each kick, the
doesn’t. Instead, he takes his hand, points to his eyes, rocks his hand back and forth, twirls his finger in a circle and turns us around.Due to the turbid waters, he has abandoned his initial dive plan and hope of finding a shark. I am stunned. Jacob is known for his single focus mentality, and when he decides on something, it’s almost impossible to change his mind. Following Jake, I am momen- tarily thrown off wondering if we are headed in the right di- rection. Leading us to another grouping of coral, he begins to methodically investigate.
and instructs us to complete a three-minute safety stop. He knew all along where we were. I watch him in amazement. This is not the same child whom I remember notori- ously spending most of his dives hunting in the sand looking for shark teeth with instructors Margo and Mimo in Roatan.He can’t be the boy who crashed into everything and everyone, with no spatial awareness; or the kid who lost his mask and countless other pieces of gear. I realize I have underestimated my child, and while I was busy thinking he was a boy, he was becom- ing a phenomenal young man. Ascending the metal ladder, I feel my emotions well up. I quickly move to the back of the boat. I don’t want him to see me cry; I know he will be embarrassed. I sit on the small white fiberglass step to process what he has accom- plished.The importance of this moment is monumental; it is the culmination of four years of hard work, the achievement of a goal a shy little 8-year-old boy who had zero confidence in himself had made a long time ago. My eyes lock with Margo’s, she gets it.Margo has been with Jacob since the beginning. Tears ring my lids as I try to tell her about the dive, but the words barely form in my mouth. I am overwhelmed with pride and gratitude, having just witnessed my son move the needle even farther than I could have ever fath- omed. She asked me to write it down to put this moment into words. As the Kids Sea Camp motto says, “Give them a week they will remem- ber forever” so this was one of mine — now on to the Philippines or Palau in 2019.
visibility worsens.The sedi- ment is stirred up from the current and we can no longer see ahead of us. Jacob comes to a stop. I assume he has spotted a shark in the shallows. I grin, knowing Jacob has an innate knack for finding what no one else can.The shark must be somewhere near, and I wait for him to give the sign, but he
Spying a white pipefish nestled along the base of the coral in the sand he waves me over, excited to show me the fish I’ve unable to locate all week. Pointing to his air gage, I signal 1300 PSI, and he nods. Still unsure of our location, I begin to needlessly worry because as we pass one more brown coral outcrop, he slows, points up, signs boat
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