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Friday, August 10, 2012

August 8 & 9, 2012 Getting to Know New Neighbors and Dive Alor Misadventure

During the general course of several conversations with Mark (s/v Northfork), Frank has discovered a wonderful new iPad App that Mark developed for cruisers called "SEAiq". He downloaded it and then wanted to take it to the next level, so he arranged a sit-down tutorial with Mark who invited us for dinner last night aboard Northfork. Dana and I visited while the boys played with Apps, and Walker slept. It's amazing how well that baby can sleep while we are all noisily visiting and laughing. We had such a good time with them and look forward to lots more good times together along the way. Next time is dinner and game night on Destiny.

Thursday morning several of us had arranged a dive and were to be picked up by Thomas the German guy from Dive Alor at 8:00 AM from our respective yachts. He showed up at our boat at 7:20 – geez! We told him he doesn't operate on Indonesian time at all – he replied, "Ya, I work on German time".  Of course no one was ready 40 minutes early, so eventually we got everyone picked up – the others were:  Stuart from Imagine, Mark from Northfork, John from Sara II and Robert from Evelyn Roberts. Thomas is no conversationalist and extremely soft spoken (we suspect his English is limited), and his two helpers spoke not at all – not even "BOO!" So on the way out we chatted amongst ourselves. It was sort of a mystery trip.

Eventually we arrived at a reef named "Coconut Grove".  I struggled a bit getting my equipment on and felt like a goof because it has been 2 years since we have dived, but eventually we all back-tumbled into the water. I had a really difficult time clearing my ears – reason will be on the next posting – but eventually got down to depth. Frank seemed to be taking forever to get down and appeared to be floating away, so I located Thomas and motioned for him to go help Frank because he seemed to be in trouble. Visibility was somewhat limited and I lost sight of Frank. I spent a good bit of time looking around for him and worrying about him. Even Mark was motioning to me that he was concerned as well. All of a sudden Frank appeared below me and I saw Thomas reach down to him, grab the back of Frank's tank and swam with him like that for the duration of the dive. After that we settled into enjoying the dive knowing he was all right. The corals were very pretty. There were several that we'd not seen before, although nearly devoid of fish the dive was really good. Back on board Frank explained that his regulator had begun free-flowing into his BCD causing it to overinflate. No amount of effort would release the air and apparently the release valve was stuck in the closed position. Thomas tried to work on the equipment but couldn't make the repair so on the next dive he swapped BCD's with Frank.  Then before our next dive Thomas announced we didn't have enough tanks. He did have one in reserve but it only contained 2/3 air. Because I tend to use less air than the others, I volunteered to use the partially filled tank. This dive would not be as deep as the first so both Frank and I added more weights to our gear – I grabbed another 5 lbs.

We dropped into the water and somehow I managed to descend faster than everyone else. This never happens because I'm usually fiddling around trying to clear my ears and take longer than the rest. I got down and kept looking up, waiting for the others not realizing I was drifting away from them. Suddenly I was caught in a current causing me to have to swim like mad trying to get to them. Meanwhile, my regulator began to free-flow thrusting so much air into me that I was darn near choking. In an effort to expel some of the air, I opened the corner of my mouth, which only sent a blast of air into my goggles causing them to lift away from my face. Trying to hang onto them they filled with water and so did my mouth. Good grief! Here I am trying to swim to the others, struggling with my mask and regulator and no one knows I'm back there. At some point I made eye contact with Frank and tried to motion to him that I was having difficulty and yet he swam away. By the time I got everything under control I had lost sight of my depth and found myself just below the surface of the water. I popped up, tried to get my bearings – there were none to be gotten, so I dived back down to find no one in sight, and terrible visibility. I searched for them a bit and then realized I'd better just abort this dive. The dive boat was a good 100 meters away and looked as though they were heading out. I swam for my life fighting a terrible current for that dive boat. I could see one of the Indonesian men on deck and he seemed to be looking at me but made no acknowledgement. I continued swimming, stopping periodically to yell and wave at him until I was roughly 100 feet away. He spotted me and stopped pulling away but strangely enough didn't come for me so I continued swimming until my arms and legs began to feel like lead. Although my vest was fully inflated I was carrying 19 lbs in dive weights. It was certainly a good workout for me. When I was within about 10 feet of the boat the guy on board tossed me a line then dropped the stern ladder and walked to the foredeck. What!?!? I was so weakened by all the effort I got up the ladder but with great effort and very shaky legs. I plopped down, pulled off my gear, dried off, got some water to drink and sat. Sometime later – maybe 5 or 10 minutes although I've no real idea – Thomas surfaced. The boat immediately raced over to him (Gee, I feel special!). He called up to me "What happened to you?" I'm thinking; could I please at least get an inquiry as to my wellbeing? I shouted to him that I got caught in the current and lost them. He shrugged and then descended again. Noting the spot he had popped out of the water versus where I had come from when I'd surfaced, I realized I had been hopelessly pulled too far way from the group and would not have found them had I tried to resume the dive. I thank God for the little nudge to abort when and where I did.

Later as the group assembled back on the dive boat, everyone asked me what had happened and if I was OK. Frank said when he had looked at me down there he didn't notice my struggles and thought I was OK, then feeling the strong current pulling at him he made for the reef as quickly as possible. Once there he looked back for me but I was gone.  He immediately found Thomas and tried to tell him I was missing. Apparently it took Thomas a while to wake up to the fact that he needed to look for me. Poor Frank. We both got a taste of helplessness this day. We realized several things: we have got to dive more often; we must reacquaint ourselves and get comfortable again with it, we need a refresher course or should get out our books and study what we thought we knew and have lost over these few years, and finally that we both need to work on strength building. Always going to school on our mishaps and learning from experience. Returning to Destiny, I cleaned up our gear and then myself. We both showered and declared that we were finished for the day. Wiped out is more like it, then Stuart called Frank wanting to have a pow-wow about moving on strategy. So we popped over to Imagine where I visited with Sheila while a meeting of the minds commenced. It has been determined that we will be "anchors aweigh" at 5:30 tomorrow AM.

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