News from Dolphin Central...
  Winter Solstice 2015
Moving Forward with a new Direction
I am Not done yet!
The business is still
It is with great pleasure that I get to say "FRIENDS" as I address my clients. By the time you get out of the boat we have created a bond that warranted a sincere hug of happiness, which set us on the road to our friendship which is the best ship! As the last 40 years have progressed and so many of you returned to be with Mother Nature, myself and the dolphin, THE IMP II has become our Friend Ship of the grandest sort. This is my time of year to express my deepest gratitude for the continual faith you have shown in me.

Well dear ones I want you all to know that I DO NOT have a buyer for Dancing Dolphin Spirits Charters. My protege is no longer and I look forward to the next candidate. What happened is not important, but what I learned certainly is. I am now in an exercise program with my dear husband and adventurer, Art, to keep me in physical shape to handle a few more years adventuring with all of you. The business is still FOR SALE and the UNIVERSE knows just the right person for me to pass on my legacy to. 

The Good News is that Art is going to accompany me on our charters until I start training a new protege. My intention is still to sell the business so I can spend more time traveling with Art. For now we will make memories together on the water with you folks, it's all fun! 

I am in for the long haul, and by going through the last 3 months since the fall equinox newsletter, I know this woman, Victoria, so much better. I have had loads of thoughts about retiring and I just can't see myself not being out there with the dolphin, Grandmother Ocean, and all of you. Should someone come along that loves the sea and all of Mother Nature and PEOPLE like I do, then there may be a meeting of the minds and I could sell the business to that person, if it felt right for both of us. By sharing intimately with you, it continues to spread my wish outward, so be sure to send that magic person with a "gift for gab" and love of nature along to me.

Teaching Adrienne and Claudia to snorkel

So, I embrace 2016 with a renewed excitement to bring more of my creative self to the boat just as I am letting my creative self out into my book. As I am having such great recall of the stories of the years, I am also remembering much of what I used to bring to the boat that I have let fall away. My adventurous soul is in anticipation of much magic for this new year so come on down and let's celebrate together!
~ Captain turned Author ~
I have been gifted a writing angel!
Our writer's retreat
I have told you before that I am writing my book, and this angel's name is Laura Jane Willoughby. She has been coaching from both near and far. I am so excited to be learning from such an incredible lady and writer, who happens to be younger than my son. This characteristic has actually helped propel me forward, or maybe backward, to the remembering of just who I was when I set out on the boat 40 years ago with my first charter. She has renewed and awakened the magic in me! The stimulation of being with her for the last two weeks has manifested what Laura calls "the format" for my book. I am developing my style I guess. Below, I share one of the incredible memories that have come flooding back since opening the gates of my heart and soul and I am having a blast going through my memories and lessons so I can share them.  Laura was here doing more research for her book about the flagship of the Conch Republic, the Wolf. It is about Captain Finbar and many of the women that shipped aboard her as well, like Laura did.

Six Captain's Celebrating

This picture is of an historical moment in time! Six Key West lady captains, all good friends, gathered to celebrate Capt. Edie's daughter, Patti, getting married aboard the Wolf. Such a great venue for catching up and being with Captain Finbar, such a great supporter of women on the sea.
"Captain" Willoughby

Laura was at the wheel as the crew that night and this did not surprise me one bit, she has the sea in her veins too.
The Dolphin spoke to me that day. My future was in the making!
They headed me off at the pass! As I rise to the surface to bring the freshly caught lobster to the boat my husband shouts, "there are bottle nose dolphin here!" The water is very clear with at least 30 ft. visibility and I am only in 20 ft of water, this is back in 1978. I have a scuba tank on with one of the old style back packs made of curved plastic, this will matter later. I toss the lobster in the boat with my tickle stick and net and shoot to the bottom. The dolphins surround me, there are seven sleek grey bodies looking at me up close and personal for the first time in my life! I immediately go into play mode and start doing some of my water ballet moves from my 4 years of taking synchronized swimming in high school years ago.

They have to go to the surface to breath but I don't, I wait patiently for my new playmates. I go upside down and backward and they go upside down and backward. I am laughing in my regulator and using up air really fast and don't have a care in the world because I have been waiting a lifetime for these moments. They do a stunt and I mimic them. I can't talk to them but I find myself saying words in my mind. It is an absolute hoot that they seem to read my thoughts. I ask them what they would like me to do. I try something and they do it and then do something else they then replicate. I am having the best time of my whole life and I am aware of that fact as I am living it. There are times when we just stop and become still in the water looking at each other, downloading thoughts. I felt intense love coming at me and I was just overloaded with loving emotion for them, it is a reciprocal feeling of love I had not experienced before. There are tears of joy in my mask. I am aware that I am tingling all over from a buzzing I can hear.

One dolphin, that I sense is the elder, comes the closest and actually blinks and doesn't  leave, I feel we are kindred spirits and she knows all about me. I don't reach out  to touch her, as I wouldn't do that to any human that I just met, we have to grow  in relationship to that stage or it would be an insult.

Each time they swim to the surface to breathe I find myself holding my breath and praying they will come back to spend more time with me. Knowing that they are sentient beings making a conscious decision about all they do, means this is an immense gift they are bestowing upon me. While holding my breath I can hear them and not my regulator. There seems to be a lot of chatter and that makes me glow all over, I actually feel their sounds on my body as well as in my ears. Total trust and vulnerability is what I am in and that, I think, is the bond as well as going into playing mode right off the bat. They do love to play. They have found a human that can entertain them and they seem so fascinated by my water ballet stunts that they can mimic.
Later I will know that we were all females, but for now I just sense it as I feel like I am playing with my sisters. Markings on their bodies forever imprinted in my memory tell me who they are so the next time we meet I still "know" them even through all the years. Even when I see them pregnant or with their babies, their markings bring this memory forward and I remember who is who and that we had met on that cherished day so long ago. Having sensitive bodies like we humans, they enjoy physical contact and end up marking each other up pretty well with rakes, scrapes, nibbles, nicks, chips and breaks. I use the distinctly different markings for my recognition and give anatomical names for the most part. 

I never have felt it was so important to give them a name, as we recognize each other by feelings of familiarity and love. I can always tell when there are new dolphin in the area. It seems as if the old friends introduce the newcomers and it isn't long before they are enjoying the tunes under the bow with the rest of them.

Since these dolphin were mature gals of at least 7 years old and can make a baby every 3 years, after 40 years I am now playing with possibly 13 generations. Fifty years is possible for them in the wild, so I see myself out living some but not all of my old friends.

Remember the backpack I mentioned? The back pack that my dive tank was attached to had no padding, it was a curve of plastic right against my back. Undulating like a mermaid or dolphin and doing water ballet for the best 20 minutes of my life, wore a huge patch of skin very raw on my back and I never even realized it.

I was so ecstatically happy to have had those life changing moments that I was quite proud of my scarred back. Those sweet gals had as much fun as I did. They would chatter to each other and then twirl so I would twirl right along with them instead of back and forth. I did a backward 360 degree slow ark and they followed me like a big chain, it blew my mind that I was choreographing with dolphin and they seemed to know what I was going to do next or caught on really fast. They came close and stopped and I held my breath again, like I could read their thoughts better. I felt a warm glow expanding through my body and heard the ratcheting sound they were making. This happened in later years and I felt the same feeling, that they knew all of my thoughts and ideas now or ever had in my memory. They started to say "see you later" it seems as they then began to swim away with many backward glances....they had an agenda to keep I suppose.

What the Dolphin Taught M e
  ~by Laura Jane Willoughby
The dolphin surfaces at the stern of the Imp II. She jumps, and for a second I can catch the glistening of the water as it beads off her dorsal fin, runs in rivulets down her fin and back into the ocean. She barrel rolls over another dolphin below her, showing us her belly before completing her circle in the Gulf waters. They are frolicking and playing, and asking us to play, too.
One of today's passengers is watching it all from his position standing atop the stern. He is silent, soaking it in. Most of the time when I am aboard the Imp with Victoria, I am her acting media mate, capturing the images of the passenger's times with the dolphin. I lend a hand when needed. Always I am looking for that next perfect shot.
In this I am once removed from the magic of the passengers' experience: I have a job to do, and that job is to capture the moments on the camera (Perhaps in a way that is too focused, Victoria might say when she sees the 400 images I snap from one charter). I have always been serious and thorough about the work I do, whatever it is.
 But something in this passenger's stillness makes me lower the camera. I pause and look.
It takes only a millisecond, and then I feel it, too. Joy. Unadulterated, unedited, simple. A small warmth starts in my solar plexus and spreads upwards. Before I know it, it is on my face, this smile that comes from a gift.
This is my fifth time aboard the Imp II, and for the first time I am understanding what it means when dolphin dance.
I found Victoria, the Imp II and the dolphin in the midst of a full-fledged mid-life crisis. A journalist by trade, I'd parlayed that into a career managing non-profits on the East Coast. I worked hard, long hours. I met my numbers and goals. By all markers I was successful. But as age 40 loomed, I felt a stirring, a knowledge that this wasn't quite what I'd intended for my life.
I quit that high-powered executive life and set off for my next chapter - writing a creative non-fiction book about a ship in Key West.
I met Victoria on my second trip down, when she had a story to share about my subject. Since then I've stepped in to be her media mate whenever she needed the extra person aboard. I lived in the keys once before in my youth, and worked on boats then too, and so jumping aboard the Imp II seemed as natural as writing Key West into words.
Sunset aboard the Wolf-Key West
I make these research trips down to Key West and surrounding keys for three to four weeks at a time, stretches of days where I hyper-focus on the interviews I need to accomplish, the research I need to do at the library, the facts there are to gather before my trip comes to a close. Even down here in paradise, my old habit of hard work and long hours has ceased to fade.
Just like the locals who live here, who wind into their lives the two or three various jobs it takes to carve out a life on these fossilized coral islands, I am always working, working, working. On my last trip down I started leading Victoria in memoir writing lessons and practicums. I mark my days in the keys by the people I interview, the words I write, the history I photocopy and the words I encourage Victoria to produce. Occasionally, once or twice a week, I mark the days with a long walk along the island. And when I am lucky, like today, I mark them with a trip to the Dolphin Playground.
Here, it is Victoria, and the dolphins, who remind me to come up for air, that part of working is playing, too.
Dancing, the human kind, the kind we tend to pay to see, is a perfectly choreographed series of movements, put together and rehearsed over time. We put meaning to the music and from this comes the motions that drive our feet and hands to unfold a story. It is beautiful, but practiced.
When dolphins dance it is free form, choreographed in its own right, in time to the feeling of the music. When they dance this day at the Dolphin Playground, they are moving with the music playing from the boat and making eye contact with those aboard. The dozen or so dolphin surrounding us are not leaving the Imp II and the boat is not chasing them. The Imp, Victoria and her passengers are their partners. And today, finally, I realize that so am I.
In working so hard on all my trips down here, in marking the time and the work accomplished, I'd done little except to perpetuate that which had sent me streaming away from the corporate world to begin with: a checklist of To-Dos done, a list of things yet to be tackled. In such structure there is little room to play.
But that day, as I lowered my camera and caught the joy, I heard a siren call that follows me still, two weeks later:  Don't forget to dance.

Upcoming retreats
Debra Kupchuk
Crystals and Dolphin Retreat
After the winter winds finish howling, Debra Kupchuk will host a Crystals and Dolphins retreat. Stay tuned for more information, but if you want to reserve a spot early, feel free!

Captain at the helm
40th Anniversary
Sometime close to St. Patrick's Day, Elaine Silver and Kate Beloved will hold a special retreat that is in the creation phase right now. We will accept reservations as soon as the date is firmed up. Stay tuned for more....

2016 Spring Equinox

We had such an incredible outpouring of love and excitement that we have already scheduled a sequel to our very successful HEALING SOUND RETREAT for WOMEN during the 2016 Spring Equinox in March with Kate Beloved. Come play mermaid complete with a dolphin tail fin! Be sure to sign up for this one early, as I believe most of the spots are filling quickly with those who want to make this an annual retreat. 
Retreat Registration
All of these wonderful retreats are yours for the taking! There is nothing that lasts longer than experiences and memories, except for love! Treat yourself or a loved one to a fantastic journey by registering here for any of these retreats or to book a personal retreat with the Seapriestess today!
My lifelong playground
Key West for Children of All Ages:
 I thought you all might like to know about some of my favorite things to do in and around Key West so I am sharing them, hope you like them. Please share your favorite excursions with me if you would and maybe some pictures too, I might learn something new from you!
Here is what's happening...
Click the icon for their December newsletter and their latest blog post is so full of information,  I just had to share the good news and progress made on the FL Clean Water Declaration and what Reef Relief has accomplished!  

Here's what is happening around town:
Key West concerts presents JJ Grey and Mofre on January 2nd at East Martello Tower. This is a fun way to help support Reef Relief and enjoy some great music.

Looking for last minute gifts? Check out the Reef Relief store and give a gift that keeps giving.

Already making New Year intentions? How about becoming a volunteer? Email   Heather Kenyon to start 2016 out right! Y ou can be a part of the great  Reef Relief  team!
From the Keys with Love