17 April 2008

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Note: I'm finally getting around to writing on the blog about my dive experiences two weeks ago. This is an article I wrote for my sorority alumnae newsletter. I know it's a bit long, but I hope you all enjoy!

Live-aboard diving is not for the faint-of-heart. You are living, with 19 other divers (24 if you count the crew) for one solid week, on a converted yacht, with a schedule that looks like this:

7:00 – 8:00 AM – Breakfast
8:30 AM – Dive
9:30 AM - Snack
11:00 AM – Dive
12:30 PM – Lunch
2:00 PM – Dive
3:00 PM – Snack
4:30 PM – Dive
6:00 PM – Dinner
7:30 PM – Night Dive

Most conversations on a live-aboard involve talk of safety stops, PO2 levels, nitrogen loading, nitrox mixes, underwater camera F-stops, and all the different types of marine life encountered on the previous dives. There is also the telling of old dive stories, stories to make us all laugh about the time a diving friend of a diving friend was accosted by a reef shark. No, he wasn’t bitten, but the shark thought he was a nice-looking mate, if you get my drift. It is generally accepted that eagle rays, though beautiful, are out to kill every diver they see by leading them down the reef wall and into the depths below. Sharks couldn’t care less about the average diver but those pesky eagle rays, they’ll be the death of us yet.

The typical thought-process of a diver – before, during, and after a dive – goes something like this: (Pardon the stream-of-consciousness, but this is literally a diver’s inner-dialog - well MY inner-dialog when on a dive.)

OK, I need to analyze my air. 32% oxygen – gotta log it. Now, set the computer…. done. I need my skin and my full 3 mil suit. Halfway on, time for booties. Whoops! Sean’s giving the dive briefing. “Elephant Ear Canyon” is the site name. We may see batfish? Cool! OK, get my skins and suit on the rest of the way… booties… mask… get my BCD and tank on my back. Excellent. Where are Sam, John, and Stacey? Oh, they’re heading down to the platform. Time to move. ‘Scuse me, Robert! Gingerly make my way down the stairs. Falling would not be a good thing. I’ll park myself on this bench and put on my fins. Is the ladder clear? Time to jump in ‘cause the pool’s open, baby! Woo hoo! In the water, cold water down the neck! Let the air out of my BCD and slowly sink. Looking around. There’s Stacey, OK, Sam’s over there, and John is on his way down. Look at the compass, there’s west, OK, heading over to the top of the reef. We’re at 50 feet, holy crap! There’s a hawksbill turtle! That’s the fourth this week! He’s just cruising over the top of the reef, divers surrounding him like the paparazzi, snapping pictures. He disappears around a corner at 80 feet, John trailing behind. OK, we’ll hang and wait for John’s return. Oh, look! That’s the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen! Wow. I don’t know how he fits under that coral head! OK, John’s back – let’s cruise. Around the corner, the coral is so abundant! Wait, what’s that? Move closer. Dang! That’s a Spanish lobster! Those things look like underwater cockroaches. Sweet! Move in for a picture – click – move out for John to get a snap. Glance at computer – WOW – I’ve already been down at 70 feet for 30 minutes. Sam is signaling. Oh, OK, he wants to go back to the boat along a shallower depth. Cool. Slowly swimming back, there’s a hermit crab! Just a little guy! Hauling ass toward the reef wall. Cutie! Picture-time! OK, let him finish his travels. Turn back south and wow! A stingray just laying in the sand. Signaling Stacey and John, cool, John’s on his way. We’ll hover while he gets the shot. Turn around and there’s a sandy-field of garden eels, poking out of the sand and weaving in the current, bobbing up and down as we swim by. I guess we’re pretty imposing. Oh, look! Conch all over the place with little trails behind them, marking where they’ve come from. More stingrays, smaller, and tangs everywhere. Time to ascend! Slowly making my way up the water column, no faster than my smallest bubble. Don’t want to get bent! Stop at 15 feet, look up, there’s the boat! Cool. Waiting for three minutes, check out the bottom of the boat – Tim has written “Disco is God!” in the algae scum attached to the hull. Laughing hysterically through my regulator! Whoops! Current is pulling the boat away from us. I’ll just wait it out. Seven minutes later, the boat makes its way back. That was a long safety stop! Finning as quick as I can to the ladders. Give Sean my camera, hand up my fins, wait for the swells to pass by. Riding the ladder like a wild mustang! OK, it’s calmer. Climb up the ladder and make my way to the bench. Take off my mask and take a deep breath. WOW! What a great dive!

So, any of you care to join me on the next trip?


Lori said...

I got my PADI (geez, I hope I got that right - it's been too long) certification in 1992.
In Lake Mead, NV.
Which is murky and basically crappy for diving. There are some wrecks underwater but I think most, if not all, are off-limits.
The damn water level's so low they're bound to be visible from the beach any day, anyway.
I've snorkeled in Hanauma Bay, HI (1989) and fell in serious love with a gorgeous fish. Several, in fact. But I didn't get to scuba-dive there because I wasn't certified.
Sign me up!

The Ferryman said...

Just what I figured. Nothing to see down there.

Donna said...

Yes, I totally want to go. I'm a water lover, through and through. I miss swimming, hard to do when toting kids along - standing in the water really doesn't suit me.
I don't know how to dive, but I've always wanted to learn.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

I'd love to go, but I think I might be the pina colada girl up on deck. I might like diving if I tried it, but I think for now I'd prefer to be in the sun.

RiverPoet said...

Sounds like a lot of work :-)

I'll sit on the deck and enjoy the shark-free view, how's that?

Peace - D

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Lori - Yep, PADI. Next time I go on a trip, I'm callin' ya, hon!

Fab - Pessimist! :-)

Donna - You're on the trip list with Lori, babe!

NATUI - Hey, you and Ty-man are surface support - meaning have the drinks ready when Lori, Donna, and I get out of the water! :-)

Momma - You OK with hanging with NATUI and Ty-man? :-)