Caribbean Day 16: Scuba

My alarm went off at 7:30 to get my butt out of bed, set and ready for my morning pool dive and training. The Shearwater hotel is close by and has the pool we’ll be using for training. It’s a really cool hotel perched on a very sheer cliff with a great view. It doesn’t take long for my dive instructor to arrive (I’m always early!) and we start going through the basics on paper. After a simple quiz Florian shows me how to assemble by gear and we toss it in the pool. Then it’s time for wetsuits and the practical stuff, going over what was taught on paper, in the water. Never hold your breath, sweep your arm along your side to find your regulator, etc. Easy peasy! Florian is very complimentary that I didn’t take much time for any one skill saying it must run in my blood since my dad was an instructor. I think I just listened well. Not long and I’m off back to El Momo for some breakfast and waiting until 12:30 for the ocean dive. I’m excited, this should be fun!

At breakfast Remmy and Peter were there, they weren’t able to sign up for the same thing as me, they didn’t give enough warning I guess, but they did sign up for snorkeling and would be joining me. As it turns out Joost and DJ would also be joining. It was Joost’s birthday and he would be doing Scuba, and DJ would do snorkeling.

With about an hour left of empty time, and not much sleep I took a quick nap. A very nice nap. I was so tired.

My alarm went off for the second time I didn’t want to get up, but I had to. Things needed to be packed and what not. I threw together my day back with my mask and snorkel, some cliff bars in case, sun screen and my wallet. Now to wait for the taxi to pick me up and take me to the dock.

Around the corner came Peddy, the same taxi driver I had from the airport. This time I got to talk to him on the scenic drive down to the town called The Bottom. Peddy was born in Saba, and has a unique accent I’ve heard from one other living here, I guess it must be Saban. Apparently when he was a kid living in Hell’s Gate there were 15 houses, now there are over 200! The island is growing quick, mostly with ex-pats. He doesn’t seem bothered by the change, I think it’s part of where he finds his living. I tell him I was hoping to see Iguanas, but haven’t and was told I had been to the Shearwater too early, they’re often there after 10 sunning themselves. I’m hoping to find some on the Sandy Cruz trail I plan to hike tomorrow or the next day.

At the docks I met up with the others from El Momo, and the dive instructors. Apparently the 6 of us are the only ones going, it’s all El Momo people. We didn’t have far to go on the boat, just around the corner. Apparently all of the waters around Saba are a marine preserve, which is great! The snorkelers dove in, and me and Joost sat down for the dive briefing. Max depth for Joost was 70 ft, 40ft for me, but I got the impression they likely weren’t going down that far. We were told what things to expect, where we might find different things like Frog Fish and Sea Turtles, that there might be some harmless reef sharks, and our general path. We suited up and it was time to go!

We were going to descend the mooring line which meant swimming against a tough surface current. It took a longer than I expected to get there, Florian reassured me that it’s much much less as we go down so not to worry. We started descending but the first thing was to get the buoyancy right. I was started at 8lbs of weight, but that wasn’t enough so Florian attached another 10, and then another 10. The first time I ran out my BCD(Buoyancy Compensating Device) while Florian was still descending gave me a bit of panic, I was worried about ascending too fast, but got a hold of the rope and he pulled me down and attached more weights and let out more of his BCD to compensate. This whole process of getting to neutral Buoyancy ran through a bit more than 1/3rd of my air! I had gone to a pulmonologist right before I left for a caught I get sometimes after riding, and they had measured my lung capacity as “massive” thanks to all of the cycling. I’m sure if I’m good about my breathing I probably use less than most, but when I’m sucking down air I probably go through quite a lot!

Florian wasn’t supposed to let me use my camera on the dive which disappointed me but he offered to take photos for me, which was great. My camera is rated for 33ft, and we went down to 40. But as an Engineer I swear we’re taught to over engineer or under advertise. If I had to guess my camera would hold up to 66ft. Either way if it broke I’d just return it saying I had just gone snorkeling and hoped it didn’t have a depth meter built in. But it worked perfectly fine. One of the dive masters on the boat said he’d seen my camera down at 55ft which seemed legit to me. Florian snagged a few photos for me, and then a good one of me. Eventually he handed me the camera, he seemed to trust me a lot to not do something stupid.

I got more comfortable quickly and started to find my breathing rhythm at about half capacity so I had room to go up or down by inhaling more or exhaling more respectively. It surprised me how much effect that had. Florian never seemed to bob up or down at all, and I saw very few bubbles coming out while I felt like my mask was always awash with them. I started to understand too when he was going to ask me if everything was ok, which was frequent.

I had figured this out before, but now I was wishing even more that I had a prescription mask. Apparently they make these cool little glue in lenses that sound perfect. Before I go diving again or even snorkeling I’m absolutely going to get a pair for my mask. I’m a bit disappointed that I mostly just see the broad strokes, my camera actually sees the world much better than me.

We dropped down to the bottom and followed a trench from a lava flow, big coral formations on each side, eventually swimming through a hole which was spectacular and moody. On the other side Florian noticed my octopus which is the emergency regulator for a buddy diver, had come loose and he had me breath out and settled on the sandy floor so he could clip it back in. Later he said he was impressed I was able to understand what he wanted and exhale and stay exhaled while he did it without panicking. He checked my air levels and I still had plenty left. So we kept going.

We made a pass by a rock with a Frog Fish, this fish that looks like a rock. I tried to take a photo but I guess I moved and it turned out a blurry mess. We passed by a reef wall and went higher to about 20ft of depth now. This is where the sea turtles tend to be. My dive was running towards the end by now, way too quick, but I burned through a ton of air at the start. Sure enough cruising along the top of the reef we spot a sea turtle! He didn’t seem to mind we were there are all. I swam alongside and snapped the picture of the dive for me. Then I handed the camera to Florian who snapped a photo of me trying my best to stay in frame next to the turtle. The turtle came towards Florian who even had to backup to keep the guy in the frame getting another great photo. What a dive. We kinda just wrapped things up from there and headed back to the mooring line.

Back on the boat I looked through the photos, most seemed solid, all blue, but I’ve been reading articles on how to do color correction in photoshop. I’m still a novice, but hey. Everyone got on board, Joost who though not experience, has an open water cert finished right when I did, so I was happy I wasn’t too bad on my air consumption, I even had 15 bar left, we could have stayed down for another 10 minutes or something. Florian told me after we got out that he talked to the manager and if I wanted to do the open water cert pretty much my entire cost for the Discovery Scuba Dive or DSD as they keep calling it, would apply. I don’t have a full 2 days to dedicate to scuba, nor do I want to spend another $300 or whatever it would be. I was told though that because I did this dive, and it’s the low season they could take me on another dive with a guide at the normal rate as though I had a cert. I think I might take advantage of that.

High on the trip I went back to the dive shop and asked them to make arrangements at the Swinging Door for Steak Night which I guess is “the thing” to do on a Sunday night. It’s a western style saloon owned by an American that serves steak for $20 if you make a reservation. After cleaning up and processing photos it was time for steak! Apparently the Swinging Door is also the place to drink on a Sunday night. I ran into part of the crew of Sea Saba I had dove with earlier in the day and they invited me down for drinks. They smoked heavily though and I didn’t really feel like I fit in. After a bit I decided I was too hungry to wait and got a table for diner. The steak was actually pretty good. Nothing to write home about, but $20 is a decent price for steak even at a Cocos, so it was well worth it. I’m starting to understand the pricing on food better. In St. Lucia its gouge gouge gouge. Here though the cost of food is higher, and so that drives up the cost of a meal, but nothing else so it’s not that much more. Certain foods are worse than others, salads are noticeably the most expensive thing on the menu, worse than beef, worse than sea food.

After dinner it was time to crash.


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