We sailed out on the catamaran Illusions to Blue Pearl Bay for a day of diving & snorkling. It was really rainy on the 2 hour trip there. We didn't mind too much; we sat outside anyway, laughing at the weird Spanish music the skipper was playing & singing "I'm on a boat" and "puke in my mouth" (silly parody snl songs). There was a large hairy old guy in a budgie smuggler (speedo) & we called him puke in my mouth because no one wanted to see what he was smuggling, but no one could look away. It was like a hairy naked car crash.
we found a real-life Nemo!
Since I've been here, I've asked every boat I've dived on if they could get me officially certified - my instructor in CA wasn't able to take me on my final dive so I'm scuba certified but I have to dive with an instructor. I only need one of those instructors to agree to do the final skills test & sign off on the paperwork to give me my PADI open water certification; everyone had said no... until today. The instructor agreed to test me on my dive, which made me very happy - and very nervous.
We suited up (those uber-flattering stinger suits again) and hit the water. It was a big group of divers this time & tho I was paired with Kiwi, who's a dive master, we were right behind the instructor so she could keep an eye on me.
Right away, my mask was flooded. I tried clearing it, tightening it, pushing back my hair; no matter what I did, it immediately filled back up with water. Terrible way to begin! The instructor & Kiwi kept telling me to clear it but it did no good - finally I had to trade masks, underwater, with my instructor. It was embarrasing but I'm proud of myself for keeping my cool. Thanks, Buck, for the solid training in mask removal!
the instructor trading masks with me, surrounded by a school of fish
Even though I was much more comfortable with the new mask, I was really flustered & that combined with the fact that I was over-weighted & had to put some air in my bcd (I'm really paranoid about shooting up to the surface), made me swim erratically. I kept sinking & bumping into coral, and then that would freak me out so, like a complete doofus, I'd ball up to try to avoid killing the reef, and then I'd spin into an awkward position & look like an idiot trying to swim out of it. This happened more than once. Worst diving I've ever done; so embarrassing.
It didn't help that we were swimming in really narrow passageways & my tank knocked me on the back of the head every time I dove headfirst. I felt like the most uncoordinated person alive & was cussing into my regulator.
FINALLY, I calmed myself down & started to swim like a normal, sane person. And it started to get fun.
one of the coral shelves
We swam through underwater arches (I did the second one perfectly - apparently, most of the other more experienced divers didn't even try) and down between thick banks of coral. Saw clownfish (we found nemo!) guarding anenomes and little worms poking out of their holes. We swam through lots of schools of fish; they were just swimming past, surrounding us like we weren't even there. The visibility wasn't great but it was a beautiful dive.
Despite my improvements, I was still embarrassed & really worried that the instructor wouldn't approve me for my certification. Kiwi told me it really wasn't that bad but I just thought she was being nice. Tried to brush it off & hung out on the beach with the other 4 who snorkeled. Later, back on the boat, the instructor did sign off on my paperwork; I am now officially PADI open water scuba certified!!!! Yahoo!!
While hanging out under the grey sky on the beach, we all sat in the surf and on the rocks, relaxing. Sarah found a piece of coral that looked like... um... a male body part. Cracked us up. Ian & Laura borrowed my camera to take silly underwater pictures. We made friends with a little Australian boy, about 5 years old, who threw coral & lost shoes. It drizzled & we took the raft back to the boat.
Me and Aussie Sarah snorkeling
Had lunch as we motored to the next spot. Sitting on the bow, as soon as the boat started moving, our food flew off our plates! We giggled as we slid around the boat collecting lettuce & pasta. Oops.
The boat moored and we swam out to the reef, which was a lot further than it looked; Laura reckons she got a cramp & nearly drowned. We all goofed off, snorkling, taking silly underwater pictures, diving under to scare clams into clamping closed their neon-colored "mouths." The time passed very quickly & before we knew it, the dinghy was speeding by with the instructor yelling at us to start swimming back to the boat. On our way back, still snorkeling & goofing off, we suddenly saw a turtle!!! It was just hanging out in a little bed of coral, relaxing, coolly regarding us with big black heavy-lidded eyes. We were soooo excited; it held us up for a good long while & then we really had to book it on the swim back to the boat. Exhausting.
our turtle mate
The boat ride back was REALLY choppy; the stormy weather had created large swells & the boat was just plowing through them, jarring us with every wave & causing the empty dive tanks to clang against the metal bars around them and giving everyone on board a headache. I was feeling really sick so I sat at the back of the boat staring at the horizon, but with the smell of petrol and the noise of the tanks, things were not improving. I took a chance and moved to the bow, where although I was getting slammed by the massive waves, I immediately felt better and it was actually really fun to sit in the sea spray.
I ended up sitting next to puke in my mouth man, who, I'm embarrassed to say, was actually a very nice Italian & we had a very nice conversation. I think he tried to ask me out though; I had to drop the "boyfriend" bomb a couple times. I did feel a little bad about us making fun of him, but his friendliness did not detract from the fact that there was just waaaay too much on display. Yikes.
We got back to the hostel & discovered that Nick had had a terrible day. He couldn't come with us on the boat because he'd committed to playing golf, even though he'd told them the day before that rain was forecasted. Well, golf got rained out, like he thought it would, but they called it off too late for him to make the boat, so to vent his frustrations, he & Chris played basketball. All was going well until CRACK! he threw his back out & had to go to the emergency room. Dang.
I came back to a very grumpy, bed-ridden, in pain boy. Poor guy.
The girls and I had already made plans to go out for a girls night that night; I felt bad leaving him but he told me he wanted me to go. I think he wanted to sulk alone - I know I would've.
Sarah, Sarah, Nikki, Nikki, Kate, Kate at Airlie Beach Waterfront
Girls night in Airlie Beach! Six of us went out & it was pretty hilarious: two Nikkis, two Kates, two Sarahs. Not kidding. We had dinner in the food court & then went to a couple nice restaurants for drinks. We had total girl bonding time, talking about things we can't talk about with the boys around. It was great. At the end of the night, we were playing shakeyface (!) and walking home singing "I would walk 500 miles..." and clucking like chickens. Don't ask me why. It was hilarious at the time. Great night.
I am so happy and grateful for:
~ being an official scuba diver, finally!
~ new fun girl friends
~ seeing a turtle
~ Nick didn't hurt himself too badly & just needs to rest
~ fun adventures