In this modern day and age it is said that before we retire, most people will have had five distinct careers.* With an expected working life of 45 years that's one every nine years. Ten years since I graduated and now I've hit my second, professional diver. A grand title. After months of training and lots of hard work I've reached the lowest wrung of the PADI professional career ladder, I am a divemaster.
I found a job on Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil - at Dive Tribe. Island fever hit the previous divemaster, hit her hard and left her reeling. Island fever is the result of spending too long on a very small island, a special tropical edition of ground hog day. Same food, same music, same weather, same sand - sounds and looks idyllic, but it's a serious problem in paradise, working a season on the little island is something that only a few manage. Bin left, I
took over her job with and started my career as a diver guiding a couple of guys from Kuala Lumpur who had no intention of waiting for me, dropping in and disappearing under the boat before I could turn on my air. Learning to anticipate problems and behaviour of customers is something that I got a lot better at, no matter how much you learn on a course the real education comes from doing the job.
"Good morning everyone, my name is Ali and I'll be your divemaster today. We're going to Sugar Wreck. Sugar Wreck is a 70m long cargo vessel that sank during the monsoon of 2000, transporting sugar from Thailand down to Singapore. From what we know, all speculation and rumours, the ship took several days to sink, no one was hurt, and all the cargo was removed. Some say it was an insurance job."
"Because the ship only sank 6 years ago you'll see that it is incredibly intact, and because it is only 18m deep we'll get to have a nice long dive on it. We'll see the propeller, look into the control room, swim into the cargo hold, and look around
Crazy Bamboo Sharks
How many?! - all crammed into one little hole. I saw this only once, regularly there would be 3 but 12? only once.
all the masts and rigging. There's a huge amount of sealife around the ship, highlights are the shoals of snapper, baracuda and batfish, we'll also see bamboo sharks, lionfish scorpionfish, starry and map pufferfish, boxfish and porcupine fish. If we're lucky we may see razorfish, squid and cuttlefish."
"Both lionfish and scorpionfish are poisonous, so do not touch them, be careful of the many sea-urchins, and as a general rule avoid touching any of the aquatic life. If you are going to use any area of the wreck for support make a sweep of it before touching it, scorpion fish are very well camouflaged the sweep will scare them away."
"We'll descend on the bouyline as the current will be strong today, and then drop into the shelter of the wreck, we're expecting about 10m visibility. When at the bottom of the wreck the sand is very fine, almost silt, so if you could frog-kick to avoid dragging up the silt and making the visibility worse for those behind you that would be appreciated. We'll swim around the outside of the wreck to start and then get closer. You will be in areas where there are overhead obstacles,
remember that you have an extra 18inches of hoses and tanks above your back so make sure you have plenty of room. If you do become entangled don't panic, back up slowly and if that doesn't help, get help from your buddy or myself."
"Our expected dive time is about 50 mins, or low on air at 60 bar, let me know when you get low on air so we can return to the bouyline and make our safety stop. I will ask occasionally on the dive how much air you have, with this signal (hand tap), let me know how much you have by using (a T) for 100 bar half a tank, and fingers for 10's. 150 bar like this, 120, 110, 100, anything below 100 two hands please and 60 bar is low on air (clenched fist to chest)."
"Other signals we'll use are, OK, something is wrong, directional signals, hazard, buddy up, slow down, swim-through and at the end of the dive stafety-stop. I have a slate if we need to communicate more than this."
"If you get separated from the group or your buddy, search for one minute, use your watch or
count, if you haven't been reunited ascend slowly to the surface, no faster than the smallest bubbles or 18m per minute. We'll all reunite at the surface and depending on conditions and remaining air either continue the dive or return to the boat."
"We'll be using our speedboat to get to the dive site, it's about 20mins from the shop, when you're on the boat, please put your mask, fins weight-belts on the floor next to your feet, and sit in front of your scuba unit. Ok - let's go dive"
Diving is the best job I've ever had.
So many diving stories I could share!
The one where Vanya had a mask full of blood due to a sinus squeeze, never dive with a cold 😊 - (bah it's just a little bit of blood!). Where after a drift dive I spent an hour in the water drifting away from the boat while the boatman watched the bubbles coming up from a wreck - yelling and waving to no avail - "ok - lets kick towards the island and flag down a boat...". Linking up Marcus, a disabled German guy with Stephan a German instructor
on the island to make a dream come true was one of the best things I've ever done. So many stories I can't do justice to here writing much to long after the events, memory hazy and log books full... diving with herds of bumphead parrotfish for 30mins at a time, the fish the water.
I left. How could I leave?
But... but... but... but...
I had to make a choice. I couldn't quite cover my island costs, I didn't have time to work on the websites and island fever was starting to kick in... too much time on "couple bay" as a single man? Too much noise on Long Beach to relax and chill out? Too many distractions?
It came down to a very very sad reason, but I had to leave, I couldn't work the season that I had hoped to do so much.
I couldn't give as much to my divemaster job as I needed to, due to having to run this website. I couldn't run this website from the island, I was a fool to try. Internet access on the island started to deteriorate, everyday a new reason that the internet
This guy was fairly big! Least a meter across and with that tail about two long.
cafe wasn't working, everyday a growing realisation that I had to leave. How could I leave paradise? It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.
I left. I'm writing from Kuala Lumpur airport on the 15th of July, flying to Borneo, doing a few last things on the must do list, before leaving south-east asia and getting stuck into my original career as webmaster for a few months.
Acknowledgements and thanks:
Thanks to Tip (Divetribe) for giving a rookie divermaster his first break and running one of the most chilled out diveshops I've ever experienced, to Ben and Sarah (Dive Safari
) the two instructors I worked with - who now run Dive Safari Asia
, and to Michelle who took over the job I couldn't complete. To all the friends I made on the island (Daniel, Bart, Dee who jammed in paradise with me!) - thank you - this experience is one I'll look back on as one of the best times of my life!
* Not really sure by who but - for the purposes of this blog entry it doesn't really matter 😊
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