Diving With Marc
Finally, after a 5 day self-imposed exile from diving to get myself healthy, I signed up to dive again. It appeared as if arriving on a humid tropical island, followed by immediately starting my Divemaster training, still suffering jet lag and diving for 5-6 days in a row after a year of not diving, had taken it’s toll on me. Not to mention that after living in Eugene, Oregon, I had not seen the sun in years, we get it occasionally for a few months over what is supposed to be summer. Don’t get me wrong it’s beautiful there, but I always miss the tropical sun and beach like where I grew up in South Africa. But now I was prepared, I planned to make sure I drank enough water on the boat, that I stayed out of the sun as much as possible, and that I ate properly. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the basics and then you suffer greatly.
I was paired with Marc, Divemaster of over 3yrs, he had a pair of open water divers doing a fun dive and a friend of the owner who was joining us. Bic, a Thai Graphic Designer, had been diving many times, but he was not certified, so I went along as his buddy.
The weather was glorious as usual, although the visibility was not the best. I was thrilled to be back in the water, 5 days is way too long!
We saw a number of bull sharks and on the second dive we had one, around 3m, come really close to inspect us, from the angle I was at it almost looked as if Marc was going to tickle it’s nose when he reached out to dissuade it from coming closer. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t reach any appendage out when a shark is nearby.
I had told Bic to stay close to me and well, he did just that, staying VERY close. It was all rather amusing, but he was a perfectly capable diver and it was a great day to dive.
The sad thing was seeing another fishing net that had been caught on the rocks and left there by local fisherman. Since Sail Rock is not a preserve, fishing is allowed and we fear that at night there are some rather intoxicated fishermen who misjudge locations and end up snagging rocks and pinnacles. Without the ability or drive to try remove them they simply cut the rope and drop the entire thing below the surface, trapping fish and causing untold damage.
In fact, it is believed that such an event a few months back, that had covered most of the rock below the surface, trapped thousands of fish and had taken the efforts of divers from both Koh Phangan and Koh Tao to remove, had attracted the now ever-present bull sharks back to Sail Rock. They arrived 3 days after the net had been removed and had not been seen in the area in over 7yrs… The only bonus being that it was almost a certainty to see them, hanging out in the murk layer of around 18m. So far there had been no incidents, and we all planned to keep it that way. Considering Bull Sharks (known as Zambezi’s in South Africa) are listed as the 2nd to 3rd most dangerous shark (depending on sources and just how big that Tiger Shark is that is gunning for the higher spot) in the world, let’s hope these are friendly??!??.
By the time we left the net was still there. But plans were in the works to organise a “Rock Rescue” Party to remove it. For the time being divers were cutting holes in the net to release fish trapped beneath it. It might seem easy to just cut and remove it, but trust me, it’s a lot more complicated and is just safer to organise a net recovery.
You Know You’re a Local When…
For dinner I decided to pop down the road to my local place. I really love their food there and the couple who run it are awesome. Also it is open air so you can enjoy the breeze. Tonight’s dinner was my usual favorite of Cashew Nut Chicken (sometimes with more cashews than chicken), the total was 70baht. Unfortunately I realised I only had 40baht on me, having forgotten to fill my wallet. But the owner was not stressed and said “just pay rest next time”. He had no fear that I would return… Yup I am a local..ish!
Diving With Gem
The next day I was paired with Gem, the Thai instructor. She had a couple of DSD’s (Discover Scuba – first time divers) and needed me to come along to set the float line and be there if needed.
It has also become my task to do the boat briefing, something I rather enjoy and am rather good at. It all came about when Marc said, “you like to talk! Up you get and do the boat briefing”. I have even had some other shop instructors on the boat comment how well I did. And it is true, I do like to talk…
The first dive went off fairly well, my float line was a little loose but as we descended I went down to tighten it. The 2 DSD’s completed their skills without too much trouble and were actually very comfortable in the water. Other than a bit of current the dive was very pleasant. Unfortunately, the net was still draped over the rock.
One of the weirdest sensations when surfacing is when you are suddenly faced with about 5 times as many boats at the rock compared to when you descended. It’s a little disconcerting as you try wrap your head around which boat is yours. On this particular day we descended the 1st dive with 2 boats, when we surfaced after 45min there were over 10!! Most of them were boats from Koh Tao island, they usually get there a little after us as it takes almost 2hrs to get to the rock, vs our 45min from Koh Phangan. The reason for so many is that divers had rallied to remove the net, and all the shops that didn’t have clients and even some that did had organised to remove it.
They did a great job too, ’cause when we descended for the 2nd dive they had all but removed the entire thing, and it was a very large section of net. However, there was one little piece being carried off by a crab, Gem spent a good 10min having a tug of war with it and finally won. You could almost hear it grumble off and see the frown (if crabs frown). A great day of diving and returning knowing the net had been removed made everyone breathe a sigh of relief.
At my local place for dinner, indulging in my 2nd favorite dish of garlic pepper pork and rice, I met a girl from the US who had just arrived on the island and was planning on studying yoga here and in India. We chatted a lot about travel and she asked me a lot of questions about traveling by myself and where I had been. She seemed amazed that I had been, seen, and explored so many places alone… the strange thing is, it just feels normal to me, or maybe I just don’t know any other way to travel through life! One thing I know, is that one of my favorite parts of travel is getting to meet new and interesting people, especially those just starting out on the road and willing to learn.
Back at home I passed out utterly exhausted, setting my alarm for 8pm as there was a farewell for Kla, Thai divemaster, who was moving to Phuket for the next dive season. I also had 2 couchsurfers arriving at some point, but ferry delays and mishaps had pushed their time later and later. At one point they felt so bad they offered to find a place near the ferry terminal. I told them not to worry as I would be up any way at the Omega bar for the farewell.
Being the Schmidt I am, I arrived on time which meant no one else was really there yet. But Kla was and was practicing his guitar. So I grabbed a drink and hung out with the few there. At 9pm a text came through that my cs’ers had reached the ferry and were taxi bound. Saying farewell to Kla, I jumped on my bike and putted back towards home, stopping at the dive shop, the designated meeting point. When the taxi pulled up I had them follow me to my road and then had the boys jump out and walk the last few yards.
Willy was from Italy and Daniel from Austria, but they bothed lived in the same town in Austria and worked in the similar field of music and movies. I could tell they were going to be great fun to have around, super chill and always up for a laugh. The local was closed so I whipped up some of my favorite green curry ramen for them and what ever fruit I had left. Then Willy passed out in the hammock, Daniel on a few cushions on the floor and me in bed.