“If you dive in New England, you can dive anywhere,” says David Labrecque, owner of the East Bay Dive Center in Warren. David should know: He first tried scuba diving in 1977, and he became a certified instructor six years later. David has explored many ocean floors, but his favorite is his native Rhode Island. “It’s what you make of it. If you really look closely, you can see a lot of small stuff going on. You look at a rocky area, you’ll see crabs, juvenile fish, lobsters....”
Scuba snobs often badmouth North Atlantic waters, especially if they’ve swam in the crystal-clear Caribbean. But as cloudy as it can be, Rhody shores are littered with wonders. “I always liked history – looking for artifacts, wreck-diving, that kind of stuff,” says David, who grew up fishing and snorkeling. “There are hundreds and hundreds of shipwrecks in Rhode Island. A lot of people don’t realize that.”
East Bay is one of several diving companies in the state (see sidebar), and almost anyone can learn scuba (or SCUBA, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) and get an Open Water certification through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Lessons typically start in swimming pools, as divers learn basic maneuvering and emergency procedures. From there, they brave the salty sea. Places like Fort Adams boast gentle tides and surprising visibility.
David used to work for the Gob Shop, the custom apparel store located next door. In the mid-1980s, owner Robert Estrella offered David the unused storefront for his diving business. Today, David’s team trains 70-80 divers a year. The shop has glass cases full of mementos – bottles, pipes, sea glass – which have been retrieved from the depths. New England divers may need insulated wetsuits and well-wiped masks, but it’s worth the effort to explore such seabeds.
“We also do night dives,” he adds. “It’s a whole different world at night.”