Annapolis couple's diving takes them far and deep

June 02, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

Snorkeling wasn't enough for 68-year-old Polly Lamartin.

She didn't want to view the ocean underworld from above; she wanted to be among those thousands of little-seen, little-known sea creatures. So she and her 70-year-old husband, Fred, tossed away their snorkels and donned respirators and air tanks.

"There was no way I could get down to see the things I really wanted to see, so after about a year I finally convinced my husband to take a scuba diving course with me," Mrs. Lamartin said.

After eight weeks of intensive classroom and pool training at the Annapolis Scuba Center, the Annapolis couple was ready. The Lamartins made their first open-water dive in Key Largo, Fla., three years ago.

"It was an awesome experience," Mr. Lamartin said. "We were seven miles offshore in a very crowded boat and the waves were 5 feet high. I asked myself, 'What have I gotten myself into?' "

Weighed down with 50 pounds of equipment and inflatable jackets that read "Sea Quest," the Lamartins fell into the rough waters and waited on the bottom for their instructor. A school of barracuda 5 feet long passed as they dodged the arms of a swaying purple fanned coral.

"It was beautiful -- like being in a giant fish bowl," Mrs. Lamartin said.

Key Largo was the first of 50 open-water dives that have taken the couple from Guanaja in Honduras to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Mrs. Lamartin said her favorite dives are at night.

"Everything that hides at day comes out in the night," she said, recalling a night dive at Roatan in Honduras. "That was the first time I saw an octopus. It was like a soft, floaty veil oozing on the sea floor. It was just gorgeous."

Mr. Lamartin likes the "aggressive" diving at Grand Cayman in the Caribbean and at Cozumel in Mexico. "It's not easy diving with walls hundreds of feet high and sponges the size of a human," he said.

"It's a wonderful sport, but if you don't do it right, you can kill yourself," Mr. Lamartin said. Mrs. Lamartin's tank once ran out of air while they were diving, but her husband shared his respirator until they reached the surface.

The Lamartins practice common courtesy under the sea. "You don't touch anything, bump anything, kill anything," Mr. Lamartin said. "You keep your hands to yourself and if you don't scare anything intentionally, they won't bother you."

The couple are now Advanced Open-Water Divers capable of search and retrieval, night diving, deep diving and underwater navigation. In three weeks, Mrs. Lamartin will grab her "Sea Quest" gear and head to Mexico for another underwater adventure.

As for Mr. Lamartin, "I think I'll go boogie boarding at the ocean," he said.

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