Diving the Great Barrier Reef
July 15, 2013
Yep, Jim and Steve were diving with a bonehead. On our first dive I pushed my alternate regulator instead of the deflation button and lost a third of my air in 10 minutes. On our night dive I forgot to attach my waist belt.
Dummy move 1: My computer said I was down to 2000 psi really early on a shallow dive. WTF? Sure, I lost some each time I tested my regulator and it blasted air out, and I know I'm not breathing efficiently. But still...
When Jim, Steve and our guide began to descend, I realized I'd forgotten where to push my new BCD to deflate. Jim motioned to the top. Oh yeah, I remembered doing that with rental gear. I pushed the top and a lot of air came out. I didn't sink. So I pushed harder, longer.
Turns out that is my back-up regulator which is connected to the same inflation/deflation hose. It's a pretty cool set-up if you remember how it works. I blew out a lot of air directly from my tank and my BCD stayed filled with the few bursts I gave it before jumping in.
It's obvious in the pictures Tom, the talented boat photographer, took of us with the big Humphead Wrasse.
"Whoa, look at that!" I said when my image came up on his laptop. "Looks like a firehouse."
"Yeah, we were laughing at that," he said. No doubt.
Dummy move 2: No reason, no excuse. It was just stupid to jump off a boat in 30 knot winds, 3 meter seas, on my first night dive, knowing there were sharks out there, without buckling my waistbelt.
Steve was concerned about the boat bouncing so much and Jim's not thrilled with big fish. I kept saying how much fun it would be, trying to convince myself as well.
Steve, Cara and their guide were ahead of us and quickly disappeared under the water. Shuffling towards the jump-off point, I remember thinking that in an hour it would be all over and I'd be in the warm shower mulling over a new experience. Then I jumped in.
It was like falling into a washing machine. With the reg in my mouth and a torch in my right hand, I finned to the mooring line which was leaping about keeping Taka, our liveaboard boat, from careening into the reef.
I grabbed and held on as it snapped me up and down a meter in each direction. Once Jim and I were both in place our guide motioned for us to descend. This is when I realized my BCD was trying to escape over my head.
I gave Leo the wavy hand signal that something was not right. In the wailing wind and sloshing sea I hollered, "My waistbelt is not attached". He checked my sterum strap and looked puzzled. I tried to point but couldn't aim the light and only succeeded in blinding him. Jim looked concerned but didn't understand either. At that point I yelled, "This isn't working, I'm going back," and headed back to the boat. Jim was cheated out of his first night dive. I feel bad about that.
Back on the boat Leo said he couldn't understand what I was saying. In his defense, it probably never occurred to him that someone with new, high-end equipment would be so lame.
"Big fish followed us the whole time," said Steve as he pulled off his wetsuit half an hour later. "Sharks!"
"I thought the guide said they would be trevally," I said.
"Nope. Sharks. Lots. It was kind of scary, kind of cool. Check out off the back of the boat."
I weaved back and leaned against the stern. A light on the water illuminated dozens of chunky fish. And reef sharks.
Diving on the Great Barrier Reef could not have been more convenient. Sea Quest, the big boat that Deep Sea Diver's Den takes out is moored at the end of B Dock. Tenaya is in B4.
We met there at 0800 on Sunday, July 7 and filled out paperwork to do two dives on Sea Quest and five more on Taka, the liveaboard boat we would transfer to later in the afternoon.
I didn't do a head count but guess there were about a hundred people aboard to dive or snorkel, and plenty of friendly, helpful, hardworking crew.
Our first dive was pretty touristy. We went down and waited to have our picture taken with the big humphead wrasse that swam around like a faithful old dog, with anenomefish, and with a sign that says G'Day.
It was during one of these shots that Janny (Dutch, pronounced Yonny) came over and pushed my deflation button. Guess I'm here with the tourists for a reason...
The dives after that were wonderful, especially those with Raul. The reef is beautiful, covered in colorful corals and sponges and lots of fish. We saw reef sharks, green turtles and rays. We also saw tiny nudibranchs, different types of worms and lots of other creatures.
Back inside the boat, warm and dry, Steve came up to us and said, "You've got to have a look at the photos - they're GREAT!"
Tom brought up the shots of us on his laptop. Wow! For $99 we bought a stick with those and several other beautiful shots he'd taken. Let's see if you can tell his pictures from ours on this page.
There were about 30 divers on Taka, about half of which were kids from the US on a three week adventure holiday in Australia.
We made friends with Cara from Nashville, Stephanie from Germany, Astrid from Austria and Eric from Norway. They are all travelers and had some fun stories. Cara's body did not like the ocean motion but she was a trooper and did every dive but one. Dramamine did not help her a bit.
This was our first liveaboard dive trip. We really liked it. Because we hadn't been diving in a year, it was a great way to get back into it. In fact, the last time Jim and I dove, Steve was with us. It was in Santo, Vanuatu. I'm not sure how many dives Steve's got, but Jim and I only have 40 so each time we go we learn something and get more comfortable.
It was blowing 25 knots and raining when we transferred back to Sea Quest. The large downstairs area was packed so we went upstairs into the wheelhouse.
John, the captain, asked Jim about Stewart Island. How did he know we'd been there?
"I'm from Dunedin," said John. "But I spent a lot of time with friends at Stewart Island." The two talked the entire 90 minute trip back to Cairns. Later I noticed Jim's t-shirt. It says Rakiura, the Maori name for Stewart Island.
Steve flew home on Wednesday. Tenaya is a little lonely without him. He's a great help and a fun person to have aboard. Steve, you are welcome back anytime.