Azure Blue Cave...WHAT?
Cave divers have not always had recreational parks with wooden steps and platforms from which to enter the system. Learn how veteran cave diver, Pete Nawrocky, woos his wife into an adventurous dive descent. Fortunately, Pete is still married. by Pete Nawrocky
January, 1985: It all started simple enough. Bob Janowski, my wife, Jackie Nawrocky, and I had just completed a cave dive in Devils Eye cave system in north Florida. We were hanging around the picnic table chatting about the dive and putting our toys away, when up walks Lamar Hires. The usual chit chat ensues and then the conversation slowly changes as Jackie walks over to the changing rooms.
Lamar invites us to dive Azure Blue. We were familiar with most of the names in the area but this system was new to us. “Well that’s because it just got opened and we need Wes Skiles to get us in” states Lamar. The inevitable where is it and how was it found? question pops up. “It’s in a cow pasture and Wes knows the land owner”. Of course there is that wry smile and little chuckle after Lamar makes the comment. Now I’m curious and getting excited but still want to know why he waited for Jackie walked away to invite us. “It’s about a 20 foot near vertical drop into the system with all you gear on” is Lamar’s answer. “Do you think she’ll go?” My answer, “Don’t tell her until we get there!” Lamar invites Jackie with the closing line “I think you’ll be only the twelfth woman to make this dive” Well that’s it for me, I go into a tear about how honored she should be yada, yada, yada.
We meet the next day and follow Wes to the farm and then drive out to the cow pasture. The second half of the question from the previous day is now answered. He found the cave when one cow didn’t come home. Wes walks us to the location and shows a few different sink holes. We can see the crystal clear water at the bottom. Jackie asks “How do we get in?” Lamar turns and says, “We attach a rope to your doubles and with a block and tackle lower you down in your gear, you just take up as much body weight as possible on a knotted rope." Jackie turns to me and has the, this had better be good expression.
Lamar sets up the rigging and we follow procedure. The cave is a giant set of rooms over 1000 feet across and 1500 feet long; ceiling depth is about 70 feet. We make our dive and visit the large air bell and see the skull of an animal Wes had found. Now it’s time to get out.
Lamar gets out of his gear and ascends the line. I’m about to go when Jackie flatly states “There’s no way I’ll be able to pull myself up.” “Don’t worry we’ll get you out after Pete is up top.” hollers Lamar. After I ascend, Bob attaches the line to Jackie’s doubles and we begin hauling her up. Jackie yells up in a rather annoyed tone” I keep slipping” Lamar turns to me and says “Put the line on your shoulder and walk north until I tell you to stop.” So off I start and wonder to myself how long our marriage will last, we’re still newly weds.
Jackie arrives safely topside, we get Bob and the rest of Lamar’s gear out of the cave and head back to a local bar to toast our exciting day.
After a few beers my beloved wife turns too me and says “Never Again!”
We’ll be married 23 years this October.