A few months ago the wife and I were discussing where we would like to go for vacation. It was pretty much agreed upon that we were going to go to Disney World. Well, when the wife found a killer deal to head down to the Bahamas for a week, and costs basically less then it would to Disney. So why not? The beach? Sun? Long days hanging around water? And Scuba Diving?? Hell yes. Problem then became, for me anyway, when and where would I get to dive. Well, thanks to the wife, she also found a deal for a two tank dive and it would cost nearly nothing compared to their normal rates. Unfortunately, this meant I needed to get certified. Not a problem as far as I’m concerned, because since my first cruise with the folks, diving has been on my list of things to do. Right along playing the guitar.
It just so happened that I learned a few month prior that one of my buddies at work, recently got his PADI certification, to become an instructor. So I talked to him and wanted to see what would be involved in getting certified myself, so I could do these dives while in the Bahamas. It wasn’t long before I started the processes.
For the most part I already knew what I was in store for. Having done two “Adventure” dives already. So I worked hard at the hands on part of it, and even passed the written tests pretty easily. All that was left was the Test Dive. This, final test, was completed here in Arizona, not a whole lot of places to dive. The location chosen was Lake Pleasant, as haven for boaters and campers alike. It’s May, and the water is cold, low 70’s so we had to have wet suits. Which is pretty interesting on how they work. Anyway, this actually comes in handy because all the things I learn on this final test, will come in to play in the Bahamas.
With the final test complete, I get my divers card a few weeks later and I’m all set to Dive in the Bahamas. Fast forward to the end of May and we’re sitting in the Hotel. The breeze from outside is blowing through the open door, the sounds of waves crashing against the sandy beach outside calls to us. So we head down and jump in. It’s cold. First thing that pops into my head is, I get dive in this. Keep in mind I was sure the water would be nice and warm, like bath water. This is the Caribbean after all. I was worried now because not only was these first set of dives my first certified dives, but now I’m wondering just what the conditions of the water is going to be.
A few days later I get the dive place and find out the water temp is low 70’s, just like Lake Pleasant. And believe me, the water was cold. So I got my gear, including a wetsuit and headed to the boat. I began putting all my stuff together as I had learned over the course of my certification. It wasn’t hard and I could do it. Granted I’m sure if I asked for help, I would have gotten. These guys are nice after all. But this is me, there’s pride involved. And stubbornness.
The boat heads out. It’s a nice sunny day which is funny I have to actually mention this fact, because it had been raining the week before, and after this dive. I’m all geared up, and ready to take that long stride off the back of the boat. I check my weights, give my assigned dive buddy the Ok sign and head down. Diving with a stranger is ok, but I much would have rather had someone I knew with me. I wouldn’t have felt so bad when what only seemed like 30 mins or less later, I was returning to the boat because I had burned through my tanks air supply. My instructor had warned me this could happen, new divers tend to use their air faster. Despite trying to force myself to be aware of this, and try and keep that from occurring, it still did. So I’m sitting on the boat, first one back by about 15 mins or more. Luckily like I said these guys are nice, so I talk to the boats Capt for a bit.
Now it’s not bad at all, I have to back up here a bit because really, it was a wonderful dive and well worth all the work to get to this point. There is nothing like swimming 80 feet in crystal clear, blue water. It was amazing. If you don’t mind the water, even if you don’t want to go through the process of getting certified, you have to at least once in your live dive. Get adventurous. See things you can only experience by diving. Ship wrecks are way better in person then on TV. Fish are way cooler, when you swim with them, rather than behind glass. Seeing colors that you can only see 80 feet underwater. Its worth it. Formations of coral, seeing plants that look like they belong on other planets, everything seems new.
Having my first dive out of the way, I must have relaxed some because when the second dive came around, I was in the water longer. Not by much, but enough that I didn’t wait on the boat as long as the first one.
A few days later I was set to go back, this time for an evening dive. The clouds had rolled in and you could see a storm brewing a few miles away. I could feel myself getting worried again because if that storm hit, it would likely cancel the dive, or at least give the option to bail on it. Which funny enough, was one of the topics the Captain and I had discussed on my first dive. When I got to the dive place I was actually asked if I wanted to do the Shark dive. At first I thought maybe the wife had called, and made some arrangements or told them to be funny, and see if I’d go. She had said I should go and it would be fun. Sure, it might be I had thought then, but I wasn’t exactly eager to jump into the water with a bunch of sharks feeding around me, 80 feet down, having only two dives or less under my belt. Eventually I do want to do that, because I’d like to eventually dive the Hole, in Belize. That’s for another time though, and prolly several dives away. Experience says a lot in diving. Kind of like with flying airplanes, the more time you have flying, the better pilot you are. Same with diving. Already I had mentioned to my dive instructor I’d take airplane issues over possible dive issues. With an airplane you can at least glide to safty. With diving, what do you have? Drowned. Not exactly the same odds.
So anyway, a shark dive. When I asked if my wife had put them up to this, which I thought for sure she had, that would have been hilarious if she had. They assured me she had not called them, but instead it was because I was the only one on the boat for that afternoons dive. Bummer. If diving with a dive buddy I don’t know wasn’t that much fun, diving alone, or with only the dive master who came with me, probably wouldn’t be any more fun. On the other hand, an upgrade to the shark feeding would be with a bunch of people. So I jumped in on that one. Its not every day you get the chance to dive with sharks. It’s even less chance of getting free upgrades and not paying for gear. And on this trip, free upgrades meant good times.
So I collect my stuff and head to the boat. It’s starting to rain on the way out, the water gets choppy and the clouds make it even colder. I put on my wetsuit before we even got to the site, and those things get warm, that should tell you how cold it was. I’m not nervous about the sharks, I’m thinking how much those currents are going to suck, and air supply, and how the cold is going to effect that use of air. I just don’t want to be the first one to bail on the sharks, after all that’s why we’re here.
We get to the spot, we have our safety briefing and how things are going to unfold and head into the water. The water below the surface is beautiful. It’s clear, but it’s a darker clear. As far as I can on the first tank, its calm beneath the waves, which is good considering the boat above is bouncing around enough to make walking interesting. I feel better being below the water line. Lightning flashes over head, which is awesome 40 feet down. Wild life is pretty scattered and it isn’t until I reach the wreck we are tethered to, do they make an appearance. When I round the bow of the wreck, a Sea Turtle comes down and skims along the bottom with us. I freeze, waiting for him to make the next move. He comes right up to me, so much so I could probably touch him. After a few seconds, he swims off uninterested in me any further. We head off around the wreck and see a huge stingray laying in the dir a few yards away. After that it was a quick stop to see a live Conch strolling around, then it was up to the boat to chill, literally before out shark dive.
A quick safety reminder, no flailing your limbs, no splashing, no fun, basically. I mean, not like I wanted to lose a limb, so I’m going not do all that for the sake of returning to shore fully intact. We gear up and slowly get into the water. No splashing remember? Then descend to the 75 feet, to the wreck we’re tethered too. At the back, is a deck where we can all grab onto the rail, and face the interior of the ship, our fins hanging off the back. From our point of view, we can see the entire deck, soon to be crawling… Errr… Swimming? Teaming? Where a bunch of sharks will be swimming.
After my first, or third dive if your keeping track, I feel way more comfortable breathing wise, and the air seems to be lasting me on average with everyone else. Yes, I was the nooby there. Another reason going without someone you know kind of sucks. Anyway, so we’re hanging on this rail and sure enough, sharks start to swarm around the guy glad in chainmail. Guess its ok if the sharks nibble on us.
Sure the sharks are used to this sort of routine, sure they get fed by the crew twice or more a day. But when it comes down to being face to face with a creature that if it so chose could take a bite out of you without hesitation, all rules go out the window. Just ask that bear guy, how’d his trip to bear country end? Oh yeh, he was eaten by said bears.
I didn’t really think about these things then, I was more concerned with not flopping around, keeping warm, and running out of air. But mostly concerned with keeping warm. Wetsuit or not, it was cold down there that day. Prolly having over cast skies above didn’t help. Or maybe it was staying still that did it. In any case the feeding commenced. It was a wonderful site to be that close and see all those creatures doing what I love to do. Eat. Unlike me however, their mouth full of razor sharp teeth could be seen even from the distance I was from them.
I wasn’t first to bail, but I was the second. And this is where I began to feel the current, or at least notice it. When we went down, it seemed like we swam for awhile to get to the wreck, even though we were tethered to the thing. When I came up, I over shot the boat by about a hundred yards. And I didn’t think I went that far. Whoops.
When I got back to the ship I was in good spirits and really didn’t want it to end. This was to be my last set of dives while on the islands. And over all, all this work and concerns was very much worth it. I can only see it getting better from here on out, and can’t wait till we go on vacation again, so I go dive new locations. I would like to go back to the Caymans and dive there again, this time with certification, as well as Isle of Roatan and eventually to the Blue Hole, in Belize. As long as it’s the Caribbean, I’ll dive anywhere. I’d move down there if I could, and as soon as I win those millions, I will.
Wow, this write up sure did grow… How’d I manage that?