ScubaLab Test TeamThe ScubaLab Test Team on the deck at Blue Grotto Springs. From left, Patrica Wuest, Floyd Devine, Katy Danca Galli, David Espinosa, and John Conley.
We arrived early at Blue Grotto Springs on a chilly Thursday in May and were lucky to have the entire facility to ourselves. After watching the mandatory safety video in the dive shop, we began gear setups in the new pavilion at the head of the stairs leading to the water. Having a large covered area with plenty of seating and counter space available for the dive team to prepare their equipment made our lives much easier. One of our test team members, John Conley, posted a great write-up of the Grotto on the D2D site. Check it out here.
Once the regulators were set up and ready for testing, we trooped down the stairs to the water’s edge. Entry into the Grotto is easily accomplished with the floating platform and stairway, and the submerged training platforms at 15 and 25 feet are easily seen in the clear spring water. There are natural limestone formations at 60 feet that are the only places to settle on the bottom without “silting out” the cavern and make great staging areas for training, or the occasional ScubaLab testing.
I frequently found myself kneeling on “Peace Rock” to write my observations on a slate for later reference. Beyond the limestone formations are the two rope guidelines that mark the entrances to the deep cavern area. For our team, they provided convenient handholds as we dangled headfirst in the cavern mouth to see how the regulators handled upside-down breathing in deep water.
The second day of diving dawned cold and cloudy as we headed to Blue Grotto, keeping one eye on the sky and fingers crossed that the rain would hold off long enough to complete our testing. Our fingers must not have been crossed tight enough, because it ended up raining. But luckily, rain in Florida frequently passes quickly, and we were all planning on getting wet anyway, so the testing proceeded as scheduled. Just as the first day, we used the pavilion at the head of the stairs leading to the spring and set up for another full day of testing.
Inside the grotto, we continued to put the regulators through a comprehensive series of tests. Everyone succeeded in completing all the requirements — and having some fun exploring the cavern.
Blue Grotto Team Members:
John Conley: "Johnoly," as he’s known, is a year-round diver in Southeast Florida. With more than 1,000 AOW/EAN dives, he regularly drops in on the dive sites off Jupiter, and West Palm Beach, Fla. He is NACD Cave1 certified for the Florida caves, and enjoys freshwater drysuit diving on the pristine wrecks in the Great Lakes.
Evan Culbertson: Culbertson got his initial NAUI certification at Coastal Carolina University in 2006 and did a lot of diving in the Atlantic, from the Carolinas up to the Chesapeake Bay. Most of his Florida diving has been in the aquariums of the three SeaWorld parks in Orlando and the area’s freshwater springs.
Katy Danca Galli: The photo assistant of Scuba Diving magazine, Danca Galli has been diving for eight years, is a NAUI master diver, and has served as a volunteer assistant instructor with a youth-based scuba program in Cape Coral, Fla., for the past five years.
David Espinosa: Espinosa is the Editor of Scuba Diving magazine. He has been diving for 24 years.
Tim Griggs: With two decades of diving experience as a former U.S. Navy diver, Master Diver, and as a manager of dive retail operations in Key West and Orlando, Florida, Griggs dives a variety of Florida locations to satisfy his need for nitrogen.
Patricia Wuest: Wuest is the Managing Editor of Scuba Diving magazine. She has been diving for 18 years.
Our regulator test results will be featured in the July issue of Scuba Diving magazine, which hits newsstands on June 21st.
To read the other blogs in this series, click on the "Related Articles" below.