Can Your “Light the Fire Within” When You’re Underwater?

In the weeks preceding the Winter Olympics arrival in Salt Lake, locals in the valley were told to expect crowds on the freeways, crowds downtown, crowds at the venues and did I mention crowds on the freeways? With this in mind I was only too happy to head south for the first week of the Olympics. Off we flew to the island of Grand Turk. Grand Turk is located in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Draw a line from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico and you’ll go right over Grand Turk.

This is the island Jimmy Buffet must dream about. It’s only 7 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide. There’s only about 1500 people on the island. They are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. We stayed at the Salt Raker Inn, which is located on Duke Street, the most picturesque street in the Caribbean. It was under going some renovations so I can understand the lack of water in the shower. To fully appreciate the Salt Raker read “Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wok. We dove with Blue Water Divers, which introduced us to some interesting characters. First we meet Johnny, the divemaster. Johnny, originally from New Jersey though he hates to admit it, had family on the island dating back to the early 1700’s. He was recently graduated from Colby College in Maine and much to his parents concern, was staying awhile on the island before getting into the real world. It was a delight to have a divemaster as well spoken, witty and widely read as Johnny. His boss was Mitch, the owner of Blue Water and though I never got to dive with him, I did get to catch him at some of the local watering holes playing his guitar and singing. He moonlights as a singer/songwriter and has been doing so for over 20 years. Johnny accompanies on electric violin. (Again, not your average divemaster.)

The diving was very good though not terribly varied. All the sites are within 10 minutes of the hotel so we never had long rides. Grand Turk is famous for it’s 7000 foot wall just a bit off shore. All dives were along the wall for the first half and then back to the boat along the top. We saw many large groupers, turtles, some rays and a few sharks along with the usual Caribbean reef fish. In the middle of the week we took an afternoon trip over to the front side of the island to visit uninhabited Gibb’s Cay. (Remember, when in the Caribbean, Cay is pronounced “key”.) As soon as we pulled up on the sandy beach, we could see 5 – 6 stingrays swimming right up to us in the shallows. Some of the other dive shops have been feeding these guys so they’re not bashful about swimming up to you. Their skin felt like mushrooms.

Even though we were thousands of miles away from Salt Lake, we were able to get the cable channels from Miami and kept up with the Olympics. Every morning on the dive boat the main topic was the previous night’s events. Whether it was the snowboarder’s sweep, Apollo Ohno, Skate-Gate or the berets, we were right up to date on the latest news. So yes, we did light the fire within.

Let’s go diving!
Spring 2002