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:: A Night Dive

So, to continue where I left off in the last post, tonight we did a night dive. I think all of us were at least somewhat nervous when we showed up at the dock at dusk. I think Amy had the worst case of the nerves. That's always a bad sign, because she is a very logical person by nature, and is almost always right about these kinds of things (don't tell her I said that, though). Anyways, she decided to go through with it, partly for the sake of trying it out, and partly to humor me (which I feel bad about). We loaded our gear into the deluxe speedboat, which happened to have a real ladder on this side of it, and racks to hold the diving tanks. The stars were just starting to come out as we left the safety of Clifton's harbor, and headed out to the dive spot, which was a good ways away from land. It would have been something cool in itself, if it hadn't churned up my stomach, which was already upset from the worrying.

When we arrived at the dive spot, it was dark except for the thousands of stars that were in the Caribbean sky, and the distant lights of the island homes. As soon as we stopped, we all went through the panic of getting our gear assembled so we can drop in. The darkness made it hard to work in, especially since some of the dive crew people would occasionally flash a dive flashlight in your face accidentally, while you were getting ready. Our bipolar dive master barked out orders, few of which made all that much sense to me. One by one, we plopped into the water, and followed a slimey buoy line down.

What it looks like underwater at night without your light

Wait, that sounds way too organized. For me, there was a lot more fumbling around ("is this thing really on?", "this flashlight's switch does NOT operate like that, and won't turn on"). I plunked into the water, hit my head on the boat a few times, stabilized myself, and checked to see if my equipment was really working. I realized at this point that it's hard to know things like whether your mask is fogged up when it's too dark to see anything. I got my act together, and was able to get far enough away underwater to safely watch Cambria jump in. Someone had told us to watch the other divers jump in, because the motion stirs up the phosphorescence in the water. I saw it when Cambria got in, which partly helped take my mind off the things that were making me nervous. Following the buoy line down was rotten. It was nasty, but if you let go of it, it was hard to tell just how fast you were falling. The last thing I wanted was to come crashing down on the sea floor. This became even more important the deeper I went, because I realized that everyone in my group was congregating around the anchor point at the bottom. It was a bit of a pile-up, and being the third to last diver to get there, it felt crowded.

Now the thing that I haven't told you about this night dive is that was also a wreck dive. The wreck was some old WWII ship that went too shallow and sank without killing anyone. However, it was a big old pile of rusted metal, with sharp edges and occasional mast poles that pointed in random directions. Oh, and our dive master warned us that there was a current. Argh. I'm told that usually, you go to one of these sites during the day before you do a night dive there, due to all the hazards. This would have been a good idea for safety sake, if not to just cut down on the creepy factor.

When everyone was down at the meeting point, we started to move up along one side of the wreck. For me, this was a mess because everyone was staying together in a pack and I was at the back of the group. So in addition to having to watch out for random wreck edges, I had to keep an eye out for other people's flippers. I started to feel a bit closterphobic in the pack so I dropped back some, but as soon as I did that, I started to feel really isolated, as if I was leaving the safety of community light. Amy was feeling the same way and moved away from the wreck with me, which made me feel a whole lot better. We gave up trying to stay at the front of the pack, where they seemed to be discovering all the cool things that were darting away.

The wreck really was a hot spot of activity. The first thing I saw were some lobster eyes (they reflect light like a dog's eyes do). The cool thing about the lobsters was that they were out walking around (in the day they just hang out under rocks). The most active things though were the sting rays. During the dive we saw about 10 of them moving about around the wreck. They were incredibly cool, and didn't seem to mind us too much. Heh heh.. I watched Pete move in to pet one. He mis-estimated the distance, and from my point of view, it looked like he landed a solid punch in on the ray's back. The ray didn't look like he enjoyed this, and for a moment I thought the ray was going to whip his tail around and show Pete why they call them sting rays. Fortunately, the ray just swam off, leaving Pete with this expression on his face of "oh, hey sorry man". Later on, we found a pair of giant puffer fish (maybe about four feet long?). I think Pete tried punching one of these guys as well, to see if he'd puff up. Aye. That's my buddy Pete, the fish puncher.

It was hard to get over the creepy factor for the dive. You could only see in the direction that your flashlight was pointing. This was a problem on the wreck because you'd be watching something, and then all the sudden realize that you were drifting to this rusty pole that was only a few feet away from your face. Probably the worst scene was when our dive master herded us together to look at the phosphorescence. He had us cover up our lights and flail our arms so that we'd stir up the stuff. It was creepy to be in almost complete darkness, but cool to see the creatures light up at the same time. However, when we turned our lights back on, we saw that Cambria was in a panic, because her mask had been knocked off. Amazingly, she was able to catch it before it got away from her. I would have freaked out and surfaced, myself.

When we finally did start to ascend, it was a huge mess. The rope was still slimey, and had sharp fibers in it. The dive people had told us not to bump into it, because the rough spots on the rope have a tendency to scrape you up. The whole way up, I thought about getting an infected cut from the rope, especially since the current kept knocking me into the rope. Ugh. Things got worse when we got to our decompression stop, because everyone piled up around the rope. The wait brought back my claustrophobic feelings. I was relieved when we finally got the ok to surface.

Getting back into the boat was a nightmare in itself. The boat guys wanted us to take off just about all of our gear in the water, which again was hard because it was dark and we were tired. Bi-polar dive guy yelled at me a bit because I brute-forced my way onto the boat (ie, I left some of my gear on). His comments annoyed me, but I was thinking more about my banged-up shins to really say anything back to him. When Amy got out, he started bitching at her for something else as well, which is completely the wrong thing to do to someone who's just finished a nerve-racking dive. She said some things back to him to let him know that she was dealing with other problems at the moment, to get him off her back. Being an ahole, the bi-polar dive master barked out some more crap to make Amy feel worse. All of this turned Amy's dive from a nerve-racking experience to a bad experience. What a jackass.

Anyways, the dive was interesting, although I think I would have preferred diving at night under less risky circumstances, and with a dive master who wasn't a jerk. We caught a ride back to Big Sands, where we all took quick hot showers and had big dinners. Amy and I should have slept like caterpillars, but the remains of the night's tension and the light from a lamp outside kept us up for most of the night.

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