Jan 26


by in Drawing & Writing

The alarm went off at the unholy hour of 6AM. We managed to lift our legs and drag them to the dive-shop.

A lot of divers were standing around outside, everything feeling… disorganized. Steve, the shaggy English manager of the divemasters, filtered through. “Has anyone seen Luke? Hey, has anyone seen a man named Luke? He sort of looks like… a bear.”

The gear was loaded onto a shuttle-boat, and the divers afterwards. Steve explained who’d been diving with whom. “That’s Ant right there, and if you’re diving with him, I sure hope you’ve got insurance.”

Ant was our dive-master. He was sweating in the morning heat, and had the recessed under-eye circles I’ve seen in a whole lot of dive-masters. Part of it, I think, is related to the compression/decompression of diving, and the other that you can party really hard and still be a dive-master the next day.
On the main dive-boat, Steve introduced Milo, as well. “That’s Milo, he’s also one of our dive-masters.” We all looked at Milo, who was waiving. “Milo’s the one smiling at you right now, and looking kinda waivy.” Milo kept smiling and waiving. “Yep, that’s Milo alright,” Steve nodded. “Good work.”

Just before breakfast, Steve talked about the bathrooms. “If you have to poo, please poo while the boat is moving. If the boat’s stopped, it just bobs around in the water around the boat.” He paused while some “Ewwws” were let out. “So please poo while the boat is moving. Unless there’s an Open Diver course nearby, of course. Then poo all you want.” The subject shifted to breakfast. “Please do NOT throw away the plastic utensils. We wash those, we re-use them, it’s part of our whole ‘sustainability’ thing. And I HATE going through the rubbish to find plastic utensils. So please, please, do think of my hatreds.”

The boat stopped at pinnacle of rock jutting out of the water. We’d reached Sail Rock. Nearby, as in a few hundred yards (meters) away, was a fishing vessel. We were assured and then reassured that no errant hooks would, er, hook us. Still, it was odd, like going on an African safari and having a carload of hunters pass by.

The dive, itself, was mediocre. The visibility hovered around 10m, and the thermoclines dizzied up the rest. 18m down (60 feet), my chief concerns were my cramped feet (stupid fins!) and my cramped bladder (why the second cup of tea?). There was also a current, which Antje and I were somewhat allergic to. Our previous dive had currents that felt like a hurricane, so we were ready for something non-currenty. The only non-currenty part had been a hollow, rock chimney. That was fun.

Onboard for an hour, we got to know our dive-buddies. Burt is a shaved-headed Australian who’d quit his job in England after 10 years and was traveling back home; Mary, who we’d thought was his girlfriend but wasn’t, hailed from Austin, Texas. She’d fallen for a Swede on her travels, and when she asked how Antje and I had managed that transition, her questions began, very charmingly, with “Ya’ll.”

Later, we happened to be sitting next to the dive-masters as they discussed their next move. The current was supposed to increase. Another option was on the table, a rarity, the White Whale of Ko Tao diving.

“Are we seriously doing Samram?” someone asked hopefully.

Steve stood up and looked at the horizon. He was the decider, and a decider, when he’s deciding, squints. What he was looking at was the calmest ocean water I’ve ever seen.

“Yes,” he finally said. “If we can find it.”

The dive-masters whoop-whooped.

Samram was great. The underwater pinnacle was covered in torn nets, buoys, and ropes which, though not beautiful, are different. Also, the current was zero, the visibility a touch better, and our group of four had learned how the other swam. It was the sort of dive where you can slow down, find neutral buoyancy, and focus on how weird fish are.

Back onboard, divers sunned themselves warm. Lunch took place. Some, including me, napped.

Suddenly Antje was shaking my shoulder. Dive three was happening.

Something like a rock-rake came up at us as we descended, and we swam over it, around it, and over it again. The visibility was poor, and for some reason the groups of divers kept criss-crossing. That was too bad. The confusion drove the attention away from the fish and coral, and more toward following the dive-master and finding your own buddy. Not the best dive, and luckily the shortest.

Onboard, we were spent. Antje’s eyes were hazed over, my teeth, squeaky; somehow I’d polished off three Coca-Cola’s, a superabundance.

Steve showed up, looking drained and even shaggier. “Everyone up here will get on the [shuttle] boat first,” he shouted. “But WAIT – UNTIL – I TELL YOU. OK? Again, YOU will be the FIRST group down. But please wait until you hear us say, ‘COME DOWN.’ Wait for us to TELL you.”

I happened to be next to him, and when he finished I shot up, as if to leave. “So I go down now? Like RIGHT now?”

He laughed, completely exasperated. “You say that, but I tell you, three or four people always come down. ALWAYS. Then they just get hit by the gear, and nobody wants that, not even divers.”

Back on land, while we paid, the cashier/dive-master shook her head. “I can’t BELIEVE you went to Samram. I’ve been waiting two years to go to that site! And you do it today, without me!” The comment received a “What can a ya do?” shrug from a girl dive-master nearby. “I’m not gonna say that it was cool,” she said. “But it was really, really cool. Like, really cool.”


It was a good dive-site, but nothing to posture about. And, as Antje later said, it’s funny how status symbols evolve in very enclosed communities like this one.

Altogether we’d spent more than two hours underwater, and that was enough.

After dinner and a (free) movie with Andrew and Inga, we went to bed for eleven more.


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2 Responses to “Diving”

  1. From Mom:

    Awesome illustration, Antje, and, Conor, I could just hear you asking the divemaster, “Like RIGHT now?” It made me laugh!

    Happy last days to you!

    Posted on January 26, 2012 at 16:00 #
  2. From Lynette Carmelli:

    I hope you save all your wonderful stories! Looks like a book to me!
    Or a cable series – LIVE! Keep up the great blogs!

    Posted on January 28, 2012 at 01:03 #