RSS

Tag Archives: gulf of thailand

Avoiding Decompression…

Waking up at 6am every morning due to the glorious sun shining through my window is one of the best things ever. The boys were still asleep and I tiptoed out of the bungalow so as not to wake them…especially Willy all wrapped up in the hammock like silkworm in it’s cocoon.
Thailand (149)

Assisting the French

Today the shop had 3 French students doing their Open Water Course and their first ocean dives. In cases where we have students with a language that is not covered by the instructors at the shop we hire in a freelancer. I think being a freelance dive instructor would be a great way to have a dive career, especially if you have another skill that can be used to fill in the financial gaps between dive jobs. Shops call you in and you can either decline or accept without the pressure to take it as it is your place of employment. But again, you must either be in high demand, have another skill or be financially independent otherwise you could go through long stretches of ramen dinners.

Richie, our freelance French instructor, had me help him with his dives today. As soon as we reached Sail Rock he sent me in first to go set the float line. I had done this once before and was still mastering the strangely difficult task of getting it tight enough. If it is too loose then it could get caught up on the coral or tangle with another line, if it is too tight and waves develop it could be yanked off taking the chunk of rock with it and causing damage. Swimming out to the rock and dropping down at the appropriate spot I just hoped that I would drop down where some of the tie lines were. CORE SEA, a local non profit studying the coral and working to protect it, had set these nifty loops at certain intervals around Sail Rock. Of course there are always the days where the current forces you onto the less frequented side resulting in a difficult search for a spot to tie the line. Luckily, this was not one of those days and I managed to find a tie line and tie it up. Of course, even though I had battled to pull it as tight as I could with the surge constantly pulling it from my hands, I discovered it was still too loose. Luckily it was ok for the students to complete their skills and when we dropped down I was able to quickly retie it tighter.

I was buddied with the 3rd member of the trio and he was a dream student. Completely natural in the water and no issues what so ever. If I didn’t know better I would have thought he dove before, but he swore he this was his first time… I bet you that’s what they all say 😉 . The other 2 however, were not as dreamy. In fact just after we dropped down, less than 5 minutes after Richie had explicitly said not to touch anything, one them got my attention and pointed to his hand. I saw around 5 small puncture wounds trailing blood in what appeared to be a sea urchin inflicted wound, as if he had tried to pick one up.. on the surface we discovered that is precisely what he had tried to do. I guess he didn’t realise they are just as prickly below the surface as they are above!

Prickly, definitely prickly!

Prickly, definitely prickly!

On the up side the dive was pretty good. There were tons of large groupers everywhere and we saw 3 scorpion fish, the most I had ever seen in one dive. The students all seemed happy when they came out and enthusiastic for the next dive.

Scorpion Fish (courtesy of Michael Devlin DiveMaster)

Scorpion Fish (courtesy of Michael Devlin DiveMaster)

As I clambered aboard, Marc told me that he needed me to dive with his group on the next one as the male half of his couple had “sucked” his air. This means that he had breathed too heavily and depleted his air much faster than expected, in fact he was down to the limit after barely 20min. With only Marc as a guide he could not send the guy to the surface alone nor could he leave the wife to dive alone. So he had been forced to return after a very short dive. Most dives last at least 40min.

Avoiding Decompression

Marc planned to drop back down within 20min, which would give me around a 40min surface interval instead of the usual hour. In these circumstances you have to keep an eye on your computer to watch your time for DCS (Decompression Sickness). Most computers will tell you how many minutes you can remain at a certain depth before the risk of DCS, and as long as you move to a shallower depth and be sure to surface before these numbers are too low then you should be fine.

I ended up having almost an hour but to be safe I dove a few meters above them and thoroughly enjoyed just hanging out…literally. 30min into the dive Marc signaled to me that the husband was down to 50bar, the minimum preferred amount of air to surface with a 3min safety stop at 5m. Acting as calm and professional as I could, this was the first time I was taking a diver back to the surface alone, I guided him back the way we had come hoping I would surface at the right spot. We hung out at the 5m mark, all the time keeping my eye on a rope I hoped to heck was our boat and not a Burmese fishing vessel on the other side of the rock. When our 5min were up we surfaced and, just as I had expected…., there was the boat (thank the heavens!)

All in all a great day and I liked the feeling of the responsibility of taking the diver to the surface and tying the float line.

Introducing the Local to the Surfers

Back home I studied my dive books and waited for Willy and Daniel my two couchsurfers to return from their escapades around the island. After a few hours I went to fill Lucy Liu bike with gas, the farthest I had gone on my bike. A full 5min away from home. When they weren’t home by 6pm and I was famished I popped down to my local and got some of my favorites.

Reclining in the hammock, reading and killing mosquitoes while periodically watching a great episode of gecko tv on my wall, they arrived, it was barely 7.30pm and they felt bad I had waited. But it was all good and I took them over where they bought me a beer and told me about their day while eating. Both of them are huge foodies and could not believe how good the food was. They planned to come back the next day, Willy with his notebook to take down how to cook all the delicious dishes.

Willy and Daniel

Willy and Daniel

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and planning our adventures for the following day. At the boys encouragement to improve my driving, I had decided to take the day off and attempt to drive all the way to Tong Sala, a full 20min. Mmmm this could prove a make it or break it moment in my bike driving career…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A New Bungalow to Call Home!

So Much To See

The night before I had packed my bags so that I could move immediately after the dive. Waking up at 6.18am, always about 10min before my alarm, I made it to the shop by 7.10am. Amazing how easy it is for me to wake up early here…never seems to work this way as home.

The boat was fairly full but it was a good group and we all sat upstairs and chatted about different adventures and so on. On the way there was a large, rather chewed up, what we assume was a shark carcass, floating in the water… A little unnerving if I may say so.

The dive was phenomenal as usual. Whale shark right at the beginning coming really close, and circling the rock meant we got to see it at least 3 more times. We also saw a rather intimidating bull shark that did a little detour near us. But at least they appear “friendly” here.

I was diving with Gem, Thai instructor, and she was really working with me to cut my weights down. Usually I dive with lots of weight in cold water because of the wetsuit, and it’s just a habit I have got into. I started with 6.4kg and cut it down to 3.2kg. But Gem wanted me to try cut it down more. I attempted 2.4kg but near the end of the dive with an empty, and now more buoyant tank, Gem had to give me another weight to keep me stable during our 3min at 5m safety stop. So I think I will stick to 3.2kg for now. Plus being a little heavy and allowing me the safety net of always having some air in my BCD to release and stay down, makes me feel more comfortable.

Ear Issues and Whales

I had been having issues with my left ear not being able to equalize it completely. It hadn’t started hurting but there was a definite threat that it might. SO I decided to skip the 2nd dive, I had already seen so much and it was such a nice day anyway. As I was relaxing on the top deck I spotted a minke whale surfacing not to far away. I yelled out “Whale!!” and everyone who was at the surface said, “whale shark? Where?”.
My reply, “no, a whale whale, as in a whale.”
Theirs, “a whale shark or a whale?”
Me, “A whale!! I think it’s a Minke whale, surfacing just over there”.

All rather amusing. I felt very happy that at least I had seen something cool and didn’t have to feel bad about missing the 2nd dive. As everyone came out of the water, I excitedly said, “I saw a Minke Whale surface nearby”. Their reply, “We saw a 9m whale shark, it looked like a submarine!”. Well that deflated my enthusiasm, dang it and I thought the 6m one was huge.

My New Home Away From Home

Making it back to the shop and cleaning all the equipment, it was time to make a quick change and move to my new place. I was really excited and couldn’t wait to get settled in. Located just 1min by motorbike from the shop it was in a quieter part of town and also had a lot more room, wifi, a kitchen and hot water.

PeeOng Bungalows #2

PeeOng Bungalows #2

My Porch

My Porch

My Main Room

My Main Room

My Bathroom

My Bathroom

My home away from home, now all I need is a cat… oh wait please meet the bungalow cats that share their time among all of the bungalows in my “neighborhood”.

Please Meet Felix and Zed

Please Meet Felix and Zed

Ahhh that's better!

Ahhh that’s better!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learning to Ride…

Practice Makes Perfect

Since my failed attempt to ride the motobike the day before I was very leery about trying again. But with my smaller, purple bike that comes with a basket and lots of encouragement from others I decided to give it a try.

I started by doing short bursts up and down the Lotus dirt driveway, it has a circular form so I could try go round it and then back. I did that a few times and then it was decided I had to try on a longer road. Marc, the divemaster from Belgium, took me on Lucy Liu (my purple bike), down the road to the temple, got off the bike, pointed into the distance and said “go!”. Ummmm, ok. I went up and down a couple of times and then we rode back.

Carol did the same for me later in the afternoon. The first time I looped back and headed to her the look on her face made me wonder if I would ever learn to ride. She looked downright terrified for my safety and everyone else’s. Oh Lordy…..

Ricardo, my instructor, came to the shop in the late afternoon after doing a visa run to Koh Samoi, a neighboring island, and wanted to see my progress. He made me go back and forth a number of times and by the end of it I could go in a straight line reasonably well and with at least some confidence. I still put my feet out and turn manually and stopping usually involves braking, putting my feet down on either side and waddling the bike to a stop. Practice, practice and more practice.

Cafe Del Mar

One of the local places here in Chaloklum is Cafe Del Mar, run by Hinch and Francis, a Dutch couple. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they have all you can eat, first come first serve, till it runs out meals for good prices. Marc and Linda from Belgium took me to my first visit there for roast pork, roast potatoes and coleslaw… We got there just in time to get the last few servings and it was some of the best food I had tasted for a while. It’s funny how you don’t even realise you crave western style comfort food when traveling in the east.

Cafe Del Mar is also located right on the beach so got to sit around and drink rum and pineapple juice while listening to the ocean. I could get used to this!

Sail Rock

The next day was my first dive to the famous Sail Rock, apparently the best dive site in the gulf of Thailand. 45mins from Chaloklum by boat, you reach an unassuming haystack type rock sticking out of the ocean, in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t seem overly big and rather unimpressive until you go below the water.

I can’t even list all the amazing creatures we saw, photos will help though and later I will add a video or two.

Me!

The Water Was Literally THICK With Fish

Me Looking At Bat Fish

Me Looking At…..

At This… Little Goby

One of the most nerve racking things we saw were Bull Sharks. In South Africa they are known as Zambezi Sharks and have a tendency to swim up rivers for many many miles and also have a tendency of tasting the locals. I grew up never going to swim as the mouth of a river, especially at dusk or dawn (usual feeding times), never swimming across a river near the mouth if there was another option to get across and here I was swimming with them. But apparently these are friendly Bull Sharks.

Bull Shark

Bull sharks had not been seen around these parts for over 7 years. But around 4mths ago a net, most likely dropped by a drunk fisherman, covered a large portion of the rock and trapped many fish. Divers from all around joined the effort to remove the net and save as many fish as they could. 2 days later 10 bull sharks were sighted. It’s believed the vibrations made by the dying fish attracted them…

Thai For Dinner

Back at the shop the rain was pissing on and off and so we couldn’t get any bike training in. For dinner I walked to a local place opposite the 7 11 store that Ricardo had recommended and ordered the chicken lemongrass salad. It was delicious! While I was sitting there I started to chat to a Swiss couple who were seated at the next table. Before I knew it I had booked them for diving the next day… and a nice little commission of 400baht (about $11 US) was coming my way. Might not seem like a lot but since dinner only cost 70baht, that would cover a number of meals in the future.

Home and sleep, utterly exhausted with another day on the boat in the morning!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: