Eat, Sleep, Dive

Posted on January 25, 2018

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Anyone who has been on a live-aboard will understand the importance of good company. You’re living in unbelievably close quarters, sharing meal times and down time together. If it goes pear-shaped the temptation to drown your fellow shipmates is high. Out at sea, in confined spaces everything is heightened.

Komodo in Indonesia was my first experience last July which was amazing. I loved the people I met – all Europeans – and I am still in contact with them regularly swapping dive stories. We had incredible weather, incredible diving, and a fantastic crew. The chef fed us so well three times a day we all struggled to pull on the neoprene as the week progressed. I dived four times a day in beautiful clear, warm water in awe at the magic of sea life and flew through fast currents like an underwater bird. It was this experience that cemented my love for diving like no other and made me want to train to be a full time instructor.

That vessel looked more like a Pirate ship with its traditional build minus the black sails and it was built from light brown timber. I would awake every morning to sit on the top deck, legs out stretched off the boat, watching the sky turn from midnight blue to purple, pink and orange to eventually radiant blue all while sipping a mug of steaming hot coffee, smiling. It was one of the happiest weeks of my life.

So it was with some reservation that I boarded my next ship. The Aggressor is a plush yatch all gleaming chrome and white finishing. Sleek and modern. Three levels and a hot tub. It sleeps 18 and has a separate dining and living room area with a huge flat screen TV and downstairs the oh-so-narrow corridor has small cabins leading off it. Given where Belize is situated geographically i was bracing myself to meet mainly Americans. I was praying that they wouldn’t be the loud, obnoxious types; but fun, energetic divers with stories to share.

First hurdle was to meet the roomie. I was bunking with another female. She turned out to be a beautiful, smart woman in her second year at Havard doing a PhD in Marine Biology. Her speciality – slugs (nudis)!

Dr Slug, I think it’s fair to say she’ll earn that title very soon, was a delight. Happy disposition, great diver (we had similar air consumption), quiet sleeper and tidy. I could not have asked for a better bedfellow.

The crew were marvellous, friendly and very hard working. They were patient, kind and most of all a good laugh. Their Caribbean laughter always filling every conversation and dive briefing. The rest of the boat – well it’s fair to say there wasn’t a bad apple among them. Mainly yanks, some Canadians and two Koreans. Ok there was one really dull, boring guy married to a lovely woman (how does that happen?) but he was no bother, that was just his disposition. I was the only Brit. Everyone did their best to do the maximum five dives a day which is a big ask. And some did earning the “Iron Diver” certification.

I had hoped that would be me but cancer and my blood circulation are no longer friends. That relationship is well and truly over and it’s been a bad break up. I feel cold all the time now on land in 24 degrees and more so after than forty minutes in the water barely moving. I would emerge shaking like a leaf on a few occasions with blue lips from multiple dives. Dr Slug and I would do on average one hour dives. I was cramping and the 3mm wet suit was doing noting for insulation. By day three everyone had started to lend me their spare gear. I had an extra thick rash from a Canadian doctor, another hood/vest from the captain which looked like a sweatshirt on me and eventually the crew found a 5mm wet suit for me. Hood and gloves, you name it I was wearing it, I looked like a jumble sale diver covered in hand-me-downs.

The diving itself didn’t blow me away. But it was still good. It is however getting harder to be impressed after the last year. There are wonderful reefs, which is a great sign with huge fan coral and some mega fauna but not large shoals of fish. I saw a lot of Net Crabs, baby squid, octopus and other small stuff.

The Blue Hole was ticked off on January 10th. A natural limestone sinkhole enlarged with explosives by Jacques Yves Cousteau when he chartered his boat Calypso through it. It measures 1000ft across and more than 400ft deep and the first 35 feet is just water until you reach the wall. It’s filled with stalactites and the unknown. I did my deepest dive to date at 43.4m.

I also had one dive experience that is worthy of being labelled as a Blue Planet moment. Similar to my Manta Ray experience in Fiji it will be one of those diving moments to treasure.

Typically it was towards the end of the dive. Me and Dr Slug were beckoned over by the captain, who had decided to dive. He spotted a turtle so we followed it. Nothing remarkable. A nice enough encounter. The turtle was moving slowly and allowing us to watch him eat. Then it stopped and we hovered looking at him. The captain was in front in between the swim throughs cut into the reef, facing me. Dr Slug was adjacent to me, and I was hovering over the reef drop-off in the big blue.

It was then that I felt something was watching me. In my peripheral vision was a large shadow. I turned my head to the side cautiously and behind me, extremely close was the largest eagle ray I’ve ever seen with three large remoras straddling it. The wing span was like a table and i was a little freaked out with its proximity. The captain looked up from his camera next and was going bananas jabbing the air while screaming into his regulator at Dr Slug. Dr Slug, well she only focuses on the small stuff so it took her a while to see our reactions. The ray circled around us for a full minute and then with lightening speed raced to the the surface without warning and breached. In a matter of seconds it re-entered the water at a different point and sliced through the ocean disappearing. It was trying to shake the remoras off its back, unsuccessfully I might add. I’ve never seen anything like it. The captain managed to get a bit of this experience on film, but it happened so fast none of us anticipated it. It’s an incredible memory to take away from that week. And I was thrilled to be so close to such a beautiful creature.

The week for me was cemented by the amazing people I can now call friends who I met. We had laughter and stories at dinner watched movies in the evening. The star of the boat was an 82 year old Texan who keeps orchids as a hobby and has lived a fair bit. He ended up on our boat by mistake because he booked the wrong Aggressor. His party was on another boat and that was now full. But it turned out to be a happy accident as he confessed to us one night. He got a wee bit emotional saying that it had been the best week – and I have to say, I agree with him!

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