11.9.10 91 °F
Today we scheduled our dive in the afternoon so we could sleep in. Unfortunately, I had no such luck and woke with the roosters at 6am. I went down to the pool and swam some laps which geared me up for a nice mid-morning nap.
I woke up again just in time for some breakfast. This time I wanted to try something a little different. I ordered a shakshuka, which had been offered on several menus around the world, but I had never given it a try. A Shakshuka is a middle eastern dish with fried eggs, cooked in a tomato sauce with peppers and onions. It was delivered on a sizzling hot plate and looked like two poached eggs simmering in some spaghetti sauce. It was delicious. I piled it on some wheat toast and was ready for the day!
Our last two dives were our elective dives. We were misled into believing that we were given the option between a long list of dives that included wreck and cave dives and underwater photography and videography dives. What was not mentioned was that there were no wrecks to be explored, no caves in the area, and the underwater photo/video training would require an extra payment. Bummer. Instead we opted for a multi-level dive course and a fish I.D. course.
I snacked on some tea and pineapple slices as we boated out into the water. The first dive was our multi-level dive. Since people can only stay at low depths for so long, a multilevel dive a technique for extending your bottom time beyond the no decompression limit of the deepest depth you dive. To do this you ascend to shallower levels throughout your dive so your body absorbs nitrogen slower than if you spend your whole dive at the deepest depth.
Along with our 5 pound PADI books, we received dive tables when we signed up for the course. Part of the multi-level dive was to learn how to use these tables to calculate how much time is allotted for each depth of dive. Dave also passed around a handheld dive computer so we could do our calculations in a much quicker, mathless manner.
Since we had no problems with our prior navigation dive, Dave decided to throw us a curve ball; we were going to lead this dive. We would be in charge of monitoring our oxygen levels as well as our teams oxygen levels. We would have to guide the group back to the boat, which means putting to use our navigation skills and surveying the area as we swim. We would also have to keep track of our depth time to make sure we were ascending at the correct time to the correct depth. No sweat.
We came up with a navigation plan and dove in.
Everything was going according to plan until something went terribly wrong. Isn’t that always how it happens.
I’ll start with a short story to foreshadow the upcoming tragedy…
As we were taking this PADI course, we were warned about a lot of the dangers of diving. Among them were the threat of the ocean life. We were cautioned about sharks, jellyfish, triggerfish, and other dangerous aquatic species.
I didn’t think much of it until I was swimming off the shore line in front of Ban’s. The tide was low and it was pretty shallow, so I swam out until I could still stand with my head poking out of the water. All of a sudden I felt a few quick nips on my foot. Something was biting me. It didn’t hurt at all, it just really freaked me out. It turned out to be a triggerfish which is one of the most aggressive fish in the area. They are very protective of their nests and are not above a preemptive attack.
Back to present day:
We were swimming around having a jolly good time, pointing out fish to one another, when Max pointed out a extra large trigger fish swimming away from us. I floated underwater and watched it swim away before I turned back to Max. All of a sudden I felt a hard blow to the side of my head. It felt like I had been struck with a fast-pitch baseball. Next thing I know, my mask is off and I am blind, exposed and completely disoriented. It took a second for the pain to rush me as I flailed around grabbing for my mask. When I found it and tried to put it on my head, I realized that it was broken. I had a full blown panic attack. I could not open my eyes to sea anything, my nose was exposed, leaving me feeling like I was about to drown and I had no idea what was going on. I thrashed around trying to get someone’s attention, but my buddy (aka, Max) was not paying attention. My chest was beating out of control and I was sucking the air out of my tank like a Hoover. Finally I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Dave. He grabbed my hand and put his mask in it. I struggled to get it on and clear the water out but it finally made it on my face. I could see but I was still hyperventilating. I gave the signal that I wanted to ascend. Using hand signals he talked me through it and calmed me down. I found out afterwards that I had, once again, been attacked by a titan triggerfish who literally bit the mask off of my head. That was a thick durable rubber mask and the bastard bit it right off my head. Since we were leading the dive, Dave saw it happen from behind. He said that, as soon as I turned away the trigger fish turned and darted at me which tremendous force. I can only imagine what it would have been like had he bit my face instead of the mask.
The trauma of the ordeal made me panic and even after I had my mask back on, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I thought that I would have to go up to the surface but Dave did a great job of calming me down. After my heart stopped pounding and my breathing was controlled I finished the last 40 minutes of my dive with no problem. Dave swam along side me wearing my broken mask and let me use his the whole time. What a great teacher.
I climbed out of the boat with a nice welt on the side of my head and a great story to tell.
The dive was over and it was time to celebrate. We were advanced divers! This allows us to dive anywhere in the world and I am definitely going to keep diving. To commemorate the occasion we decided to meet us with the group for dinner. We wanted to venture away from Ban’s because we’d been eating there everyday. We walked down the boardwalk and spotted a huge trough full of fresh fish. The AC bar and grill had a barbecue deal just like Ban’s except with way more options.
I starred at the trough, juggling my options while the enormous barracuda sprawling across the table held my attention.
I had never tasted barracuda and it sounded mysterious, so I decided to give it a try. It ended up being the best fish I have ever had! It was a finger-lickin’ good way to celebrate my advanced diving certification!
- SIDENOTE: The show I was working on at AMS Pictures in Dallas TX, entitled "Ma's Roadhouse", premieres on September 15th at 9pm! http://www.trutv.com/shows/mas-roadhouse/index.html
From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on truTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home You guys are the best!