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It's all in how you look at it.

Discussion in 'Humor, Games, Clips, Yarns & Tales' started by SeaHorse81, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. SeaHorse81

    SeaHorse81 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: PA
    A Tale of Two Dive Trips: Part One

    This live-aboard trip to the Bahamas got off to a promising start, beginning with three flights that all went smooth as silk, and successful baggage transfers all along. Amazingly, the final flight (an island hopper from Nassau to Georgetown) left one hour early since we all happened to be available. Somehow, the transit driver waiting for me at the other end got word of this and was waiting for me at the Georgetown Airport, holding a sign with my name prominently displayed so that I could easily find him. This was highly comforting when arriving in a strange place at night, with no clue how to get to the boat on my own.

    It was great to get to the boat an hour early; this allowed me more time to get to know everyone, since I was the last to arrive by a considerable margin. It even got me there in time for dinner, which was a nice bonus. It meant I had more time than expected to unpack, so the schedule ended up feeling far less pressured than I’d anticipated. :)

    It was nice to renew acquaintances with some people I’ve dived with before, and to get back to the boat that I love so much. The captain I’ve dealt with on previous trips was still there, so everything was lining up nicely.

    I’d been concerned about being the last one on board and being left with no choices about how I’d be living my life for the coming week. I’d get whatever bunk my roommate hadn’t picked, whatever drawers she hadn’t filled, and whatever gearing up station happened to be left on the dive deck. I would basically get what was left after every single other person on the boat picked what they wanted before I ever got there.

    Imagine my surprise then, when I found I’d gotten a surprise upgrade to a main level stateroom. I’d be in a larger room with twin beds rather than in a shoebox with bunk beds. My roommate had left a reasonable amount of room and seemed congenial enough. Awesome. :biggrin:

    On the dive deck, I learned that the boat was not totally full, and that there were three consecutive gear stations unoccupied. I grabbed the middle one and since I had an empty on either side, I found myself in possession of the roomiest real estate in the gearing area. Even more awesome than the room surprise.

    My rental equipment was top notch, including a regulator that breathed easier than any other rental reg I’ve ever used in over ten years. How could this keep getting better?

    I’d entered the trip with no small trepidation about how I would manage all the fussiness of my dry suit when I was the only diver using one, I was just barely acquainted with it, and I know from past experience that the boat runs on a tight, intense schedule. I was frankly worried about being overwhelmed and left a bit behind, getting in others’ way and just feeling stressed instead of enjoying myself.

    To my pleasant surprise, I had several opportunities with no pressure and no deadlines, to just jump in and do all the experiments I needed to do in order to sort out my seawater weighting and start figuring out how to work my unique gearing up/down requirements into the group’s routine. One of the experiments I needed to perform was assuring that my buoyancy was still controllable near the surface on a near-empty tank. I’d been struggling with that in freshwater with the dry suit at home, so was concerned about trying it in seawater with best-guess weight adjustments. I was given the crew’s blessings to get underwater and purposely purge a tank full of nitrox so that I could do the low-tank simulation. It was pretty cool to get down there, just press the purge button on my octo and watch/listen to this extreme geyser of gas escape while I watched my pressure gauge go down. What a cool opportunity – kind of like having your mother tell you it’s okay to write all over the living room walls. With a Sharpie. :D

    The whole first two days got to be conducted on a highly personalized, low-pressure schedule so that everyone could get themselves sorted out on their own timing, at their own pace. It made for a much less nervy start to the trip.

    Great news – the guy who had an early medical situation was cleared to return to the boat, so he and the trip leader (who had left with him) made it back in time to share most of the week with us.

    By our third day, we were at Conception Island. The reefs there were not especially remarkable, nor was the visibility very good. Nonetheless, we had a really interesting time because we were lionfish hunting with Hawaiian slings. The fish would get speared, the poisonous spines snipped off, the fish run on a stringer, and the hunt would continue. The whole process was quite engrossing and made an otherwise boring reef quite an interesting place for dives.

    The dry suit was keeping me nice and warm. I was clearly the only truly comfortable person on the boat, which was gratifying since I’d received some good-natured ribbing about bringing the suit (which I only had 20 previous dives in) while others were diving in 3-5 mil wet suits, or even just in shorts! Somebody offered me $2000 for the suit about mid-week. :D The more the week went on, with everyone losing a bit more core temp with each dive, the more enviously people were looking at me and my suit.

    Our fourth day brought us to San Salvador, which had really pretty dive sites. Not as good as I’ve seen elsewhere, but way better than the day before at Conception Island. We were on a particularly good site that is normally not available due to prevailing winds; we were favored on this day however, and really enjoyed the beauty of the place.

    My dive computer starting acting buggy, but the dive operator gave me a free loaner as backup and I had depth/time records of all dives up to that point, so that problem was quickly resolved. Very comforting.

    Our fifth day brought us back to Conception Island on the way back in. Same unremarkable site made far more entertaining by lionfish hunting. It’s nice diving with people who know how to make their own fun, including recording everything via GoPro cameras along the way.

    Our sixth day was the last one on the way back in, where we got only two morning dives so that everyone could safely fly out the next day. I had two glorious dives of just hovering motionless at 70 feet or so, watching everyone else puttering around below. I love hovering, so this was bliss. Truly.

    The rest of the day was spent as that day of the trip always is, in getting gear cleaned and dried. This was actually somewhat easier for me than everyone else, since they all had neoprene suits to deal with and my dry suit gets dry in no time. :)

    Travel home went without a hitch – all flights on time, no lost luggage, no TSA harassment, and a warm homecoming where my house and kitties were lovingly watched and cared for the whole time I was gone.

    The trip was noteworthy for good company, good vibes, and was a great mental break from my normal routine. Always good to get a good reset, and nice to have interesting memories as a bonus. This was only my second dive trip EVER where I never had to worry about getting cold, and that was amazing.

    * * * * *
    lowviz, shoredivr and dmoore19 like this.
  2. SeaHorse81

    SeaHorse81 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: PA
    A Tale of Two Dive Trips: Part Two

    Admittedly, I was not beginning this trip in the greatest frame of mind. I was worried about all kinds of unanswered questions about getting the dry suit into seawater for the first time. I was worried about having three connecting flights, especially when the airline kept changing the itinerary. Lost luggage for a live-aboard trip means lost vacation, so that part’s always nerve-wracking right up until the second I can see that I and all of my stuff have arrived together at the destination. I was uncomfortable with being the last one on the boat, unable to make any choices about how my life would look for the next week, being rushed to get gear set up, and having little opportunity to meet & greet with the other divers. I was going in with a fair amount of trepidation, and arriving to bad weather didn’t help. It was cool and very windy – not at all what I’d been seeing as I’d followed it on The Weather Channel for the previous three weeks.

    None of my rental equipment was available that first evening, which was a concern because I had stuff that I had to install on it and the morning dive would be too chaotic to get it done then. I was assured it would get taken care of, but later learned that message never got passed along. :shakehead:

    Had a terrible first night in the marina. Very little sleep because the high winds were pushing the boat really hard against its dock lines, which were making horrendously loud creaking/groaning noises all night. They were especially loud because the lines were anchored on the boat about two feet from the head of my bed. The noise was truly surprising. :shocked2:

    I got up the first morning to learn that we’d had a medical evacuation overnight. Shortly after I’d gone to bed, one of the other guests had passed out in a dead faint and hit his head hard on a heavy glass-covered coffee table in the lounge. They were able to bring him around and he seemed not to have fractured his skull (against all odds), but then he passed dead out again about five minutes later. So, he and our trip organizer were Life-Flighted out at around 4:00 in the morning, the whole crew and several guests (all doctors) having been up all night seeing to this poor guy. So, we greeted our first morning to the news of finding out we hadn’t even gone anywhere yet and were already down two people (the trip organizer went along for moral support). :shocked2:

    The wind that morning was fierce, preventing us leaving the marina. There went Dive Day #1. We putzed around diving in the nine foot marina for something to do, and went for walks. That was our first day in “paradise.” At least, I finally got my rental gear set up and sorted out.

    The second night was just as terrible as the first night, PLUS it included torrential downpours. In the middle of the night, I realized I was hearing heavy rain but no obnoxious line noises, which seemed odd. So I wandered out around 3:00 a.m. to assure that we were still tied in, rather than adrift and ready to crash into something. Somehow, we were still tied in, thank goodness, but the night still sucked. :(

    Dive Day #2 was also spent in the marina because it was just too dangerous to try to get out. More marina dives and more walks, trying to fight off feeling really disappointed. Those first two days would have been a total of eight to ten reef dives, and they were now not retrievable. On the bright side, the conditions were excellent for surfing, though none of us were surfers. :shakehead:

    The third night sucked for exactly the same reasons the previous two nights had. By morning, the captain had determined that he could safely get us out of the marina and that we’d have a nasty three-hour transit in high seas, but that conditions would likely be workable once we got to Conception Island (we’d be getting there on Day Three instead of Day One, as we should have). The transit was brutal, indeed. I actually got a bit seasick, ate five bites of breakfast, took a Dramamine, and slept for three hours until nearly noon. I was so sleep deprived by then that I needed it anyway.

    Dive Day #3 then, was at Conception Island, a wholly unremarkable place. Few critters, lousy visibility – hardly worth getting geared up for, but at least we were actually diving in the ocean instead of an oversized kiddy pool. The lionfish hunting made things more interesting, but the sharks got quite aggressive and began menacing us outright.

    I’ve had many reef sharks glide right toward me and glide off to one side before they arrive, which has always been a pleasant and special experience. This time, I had a reef shark – agitated because of the blood in the water – coming at me. And he didn’t turn off where they usually do – he kept coming, and he looked like he was coming with intent. I have never felt threatened by a shark before, but this one scared me. He came so close, I actually involuntarily ducked my head down so that he’d be biting the top of my head instead of my face, if it came to that :shocked2:. He didn’t make contact, but he was NOT calm. Lionfish hunting – though widely encouraged in the Bahamas for eradication purposes – is having the unintended consequence of teaching the sharks to expect handouts from divers, and to get pushy about it. Oops.

    Yet another night of very little sleep because we were in transit most of the night to San Salvador, on high, heaving seas. Not restful at all. But in case the heaving seas weren’t entertaining enough, the savage rains really rounded out the night nicely. :shakehead:

    San Salvador was beautiful. We learned we’d normally have had three days there but because of the two lost days at the marina, it was only one day at San Salavador and then back the way we’d come. It was gorgeous diving, but gone too soon. We were just getting started, and now our trip was already winding down.

    The dry suit was keeping me warm, but not dry. I had leakage every single dive, at the lower half of the zipper and also in the right foot. I actually had to wring water out of the right sock after every dive. Figuring out how to keep the underclothes serviceably dry in dicey weather was a challenge throughout the week. You can hardly hang fleecy stuff out to dry when it rains, and there’s just no space in the room for all of it – it doesn’t get dry in there anyway. Thank goodness, bone-dryness is not a requirement. I was never uncomfortable other than feeling a bit squishy in a couple of places.

    An unwelcome surprise somewhere around this point was my computer flaking out. It asked for a new battery and I had come prepared, so I gave it one. The next day, it asked for another one, but I hadn’t brought two because it really shouldn’t even have needed one. Hmmm. It just plain went out to lunch in the middle of a dive… and then came back, having just failed to log 15 minutes of the dive, and being 15 minutes behind in clock time once back in surface mode. :confused:

    The next night was still very little sleep for anyone because the boat broke its mooring at midnight. The crew was busily coping with that until 3:30 a.m. or so when they had to start the next scheduled transit. Nobody was getting any sleep, but none less than the crew, bless their hearts. :kiss2:

    So now we were on Dive Day #5, back at unremarkable Conception Island. Because there was really nothing else to do, we decided to try a new variation on the lionfish hunting. Impale the things and then just leave them there, clearing the area so as not to draw the interest of the sharks. This worked reasonably well except for human nature. Everyone loves to watch sharks, of course, so everyone wanted to hang around near enough by to see the show. No sharks were aggressive with us that day, but the practice maintains the association between divers and pre-killed lionfish. In addition, one of our party sustained a nasty lionfish sting on one thumb, which apparently produced quite excruciating pain for well over a day (going up to his elbow), after which it subsided to merely terrible pain. Nice guy, too – I hated to see it happen to him. :(

    Our last day of diving was the day for just two dives, on a site alleged to feature a “wreck.” It wasn’t a wreck – it was an exceptionally large piece of garbage (100 ft long, maybe 40 feet high at the top of the stack. It was a hollowed out freighter surrounded by nothing, and which just looked like junk. It looked like just a way to officially say they got us in the water those last two times, but it wasn’t a site anyone would go out of their way to see.

    After an afternoon of gear drying while transiting back, we arrived at the marina.

    The cursed marina. :banghead:

    “Oh, this place again,” I thought. Our final night at the marina featured yet another nasty storm so yes, the final night was punctuated by constant line noises again. I don’t know any week of my life when I’ve gotten less sleep. It felt like the Bahamas’ final, nasty little “%$&@ You” to all of us. Message received – I’m never going back.

    On the bright side, it felt really good to go home. My computer wasn’t done with me yet, though. I wear it in watch mode while I travel, and with three flights to catch, having the correct time was critical. Since I no longer trusted it, I was watching it carefully and frequently comparing it to airport clocks, just to be sure. Sure enough, one time I looked at it and it was fine, but ten minutes later, it had mysteriously lost an hour and 45 minutes. Obviously the computer company gets a call in the near future. Plus the dry suit (affectionately referred to as The Borg Queen Suit) goes back to the mother ship to be checked for leak issues.

    Home is good.

    * * * * *
    Of course, there was only one week, and one dive trip. Everything you see written above is recreated as accurately as I can, based on my notes. It all really happened that way – nothing is embellished, good or bad. There were good things and bad things. I’d say the bad things came out a bit ahead, overall. The range of experience was so wide that I can only look at it as two parallel trips – it’s kind of hard to get it all in my head as one. It was pretty intense and unusual. “Fun” isn’t a word that shows up high on the list of adjectives when I think of it, yet I feel oddly better for having done it, anyway. :confused:

    The lesson I took from all of this is that there’s always something positive to appreciate if you look for it hard enough, and your life and your dives will be better if you do. The other lesson was that being with good people makes ALL the difference, both fellow divers and crew. My deep thanks to everyone whose good humor, talent, and support helped make the best of sub-optimal conditions.

    Happy diving, everybody! :)
    shoredivr, dmoore19 and lowviz like this.
  3. lowviz

    lowviz Solo Diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Northern Delaware or the New Jersey Turnpike
    Thanks for sharing your trip in such a novel way, I enjoyed both views. Looks like you and your drysuit are getting along quite nicely. :D
  4. shoredivr

    shoredivr Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Ontario
    That was above and beyond the usual SB dive report and I thank you for the details.

    It really IS all in how we view things.
  5. SeaHorse81

    SeaHorse81 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: PA
    Glad you liked the posts, and thanks for taking the time to read them. :) I know they're long, but honestly, I had to write them for my own benefit anyway. I've had great trips and a few truly bad ones, but this is the first one that ever had so many elements on both sides of the fence. It was a bit mind-boggling. :amazed:

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