My head is still swaying as the pitching motion slowly wears off. It’s a strange, dizzying sensation similar to that of the first pint of Guinness or two down the pub. Certainly more of an unsettling souvenir to bring back with me than, say, a fridge magnet or a key ring. Being the responsible PADI diver that I am, there’s not a lot else that I could have brought back from the Red Sea anyway. I’m more than fine with that.
It was certainly an adventure to remember. A bit of a baptism of fire, in water, if you catch my drift. I’ve been through some pretty sticky moments, some absolutely incredible moments, and moments that truly took my breath away – which may sound quite disconcerting given that I was twenty-to-thirty meters below the surface – but you’ll all be pleased to know that I’m here, safe and sound, and ready to share my experience with you lovely lot.
Now that I’ve put your minds at ease, find out what life was like on the Blue Melody during my 7 days sailing and diving the Red Sea.
Living Life By The Bell
When my instructor told me “If the bell goes and your hair’s dry, then it’s time to go diving. If it’s wet, then it’s time to eat” I wondered what all the spare time would be filled with. I’d never lived this life before and was too used to feeling like I HAD to fill every second with something, regardless of how inane or unnecessary.
I guess that’s pretty much what we’ve been conditioned to do though, isn’t it? As 21st-century human beings, we seem to be losing both the “human” and the “being”. It sometimes takes a trip like this to get the fire going again inside you.
The truth is, there wasn’t really any spare time. It flew by without us even realising.
We’d be woken up for 6am most days with a gentle knock on our cabin doors followed by a softly spoken, “morning” from a member of the crew, to which myself and my roomie would mumble something that loosely resembled the same thing in response. We’d have half an hour to get up and dressed, grab a coffee and check our gear before the first dive briefing of the day. If we were sharp enough, we could make it upstairs in time to catch the sunrise over the horizon. We always made sure that we made it in time. It was far too beautiful to miss.
Time in between dives was spent enthralled in stunned exchanges of what we had all just gone through together but from each individual perspective. The things we’d seen and done; the historic wreck that we’d just penetrated, the Napoleon wrasse that drifted alongside us, the huge sea turtle that jumped out on us, the dolphins that answered the call of the quacker and came back to play.
Days merged into each other and the concept of time seemed to disappear. Nights were spent eating together and enjoying a beer on the deck with music and laughter.
I soon came to love life at sea.
Caught In A Current
It took just six dives for us to be shaken up and remind us all that things could quite easily take a turn for the worse if any one of us were to drop the ball at any given time.
We were excited and tense with anticipation as we jumped on to the zodiac from our main vessel to be carried across the reef to our descent point. It was another new environment to get to grips with, fast, as well as a whole new method of entering the water for our first wreck dive of the week. A negative entry backwards roll off the side of a small speed boat. Yes, it’s as dramatic as it sounds.
We were briefed in advance by the dive guides and we knew roughly what we had to do but, as with most things, actually doing it for the first time was a completely different story indeed.
“Three… Two… One… GO!” our rib driver hollered. Before having even caught our breath properly we tumbled backwards off of the zodiac into the churning blue sea. For those of you wondering what a negative entry is, it’s basically an immediate descent from the moment you crash through the surf. No coming up again to get your shit together; straight in and straight down.
Although, it was never going to be as easy as all that, especially as a number of us had never even scuba dived in anything as vast and unpredictable as the Red Sea.
I think back to that moment and can only compare it to how my smalls must feel when they’re being tossed about in the washing machine on the 30 cycle. A melee of bubbles and bodies, circling each other at speed, throwing all bearings out the window.
Dazed and confused, the second battle on the cards was to make sure that we hit the bottom as a group. Together and in one piece. But, the ocean had other plans. The current hit us like a freight train, tearing our band to pieces, picking us off one by one and spitting us out into the abyss. We all fought hard to get back to where we should have been. Blind panic was the driving force behind each frantic fin kick. No one wanted to be pushed any further away.
What could only have been a couple of minutes felt like hours of fighting the inevitable. Checking my air, I realised that enough was enough. We had to abort the dive and get out of there safely.
I drifted towards a group of three fellow divers who had linked arms in an attempt to stay together. Signalling to my buddy with my torch, I motioned for her to change tactics and join us. Within the blink of an eye, she was flying towards us, riding the current at speed, not too dissimilar to a scene from Gravity. We grabbed hold of each other and tagged on to the group. After a couple of deep breaths, we all agreed on the signal to ascend to five meters, perform our safety stop and deploy our surface marker buoy for the zodiac to locate us and scoop up our current-beaten bodies.
It turns out that the crew had underestimated the current that morning.
We had missed the wreck and lost the fight but we had lived to dive another day. It was an eye-opener to say the least.
Notes From My Log Book
After each dive, we’d take the time to fill out our dive logs. They’re a great way to look back and learn from your experiences while keeping track of the more technical considerations; date, location, gear and weights used, sea and weather conditions, start and end PSI and much more.
Check out the write-ups from my log book for the week.
Dive One – Poseidon
“Struggled with buoyancy getting down, changed mask and assisted by Jason. All good after that! SAW A NAPOLEON WRASSE!”
Dive Two – Alternatives
“Buoyancy spot-on with 12kg weight. Saw families of lionfish, butterfly fish and more. Large moray eel swam overhead.”
Dive Three – Jackfish Alley
“Deep dive. GoPro. Cave… didn’t see much but dropped down to 39m (TOO DEEP!) but still completed Adventure Dive Deep 1.”
Dive Four – Beacon Rock
“Peak Performance Buoyancy completion!”
Dive Five – Beacon Rock (night)
“Night dive completion! Saw Moray eel, sea snake, shoal of Giant trevally, lionfish.”
Dive Six – Dunraven
“Not the best dive! Pretty much missed the wreck due to crew underestimating the current. Too strong to swim against, stayed in a group and performed safety ascent with SMB.”
Dive Seven – Thistlegorm
“Dived the Thistlegorm! Deep wreck dive complete. Full GoPro footage. Loads of sea life. Ran low on air during ascent, switching to 15l cylinder for next dive and dropping 2kg.”
Dive Eight – Thistlegorm
“Deep Wreck dive 2. Noting layout and structural damage. Full GoPro footage again. SAW A HUGE SEA TURTLE!”
Dive Nine – The Barge (night)
“Navigation dive, adventure. Wreck – The Barge. Completed another AOW spec!”
Dive Ten – The Barge
“Wreck dive 3 with navigation skills. Spent some time filming a Parrotfish! Circled the wreck filming a black surgeonfish and got back to the group. Great dive!”
Dive Eleven – Carnatic
“Wreck diver certification complete! Performed line laying and wreck penetration on Carnatic. Now qualified to dive wrecks without a guide!”
Dive Twelve – Chrisoula K
“Awesome wreck! Form of the ship was really clear. Great GoPro footage of two penetrations, lots of sea life, inside the hull and workshop with lots of recognisable equipment. Covered most of the whole length of the wreck. Controlled breathing really well.”
Dive Thirteen – On Gosh
“Night dive 3, darkness dive! Sat at the bottom, roughly 12.9 metres, and performed “lights out” skill. Saw a blue spotted ray and cuttlefish. Safety stop on line for 3 minutes. Also saw a squid!”
Dive Fourteen – Giannis D
“Awesome wreck! Good descent, no problems. Adjusted BCD for buoyancy once we hit the wreck as slightly overweighted but comfortable. Penetrated wreck and explored corridors and engine room. Exited near ship’s funnel and explored coral garden on the funnel without a guide. Ascended slowly to 5 metres for a safety stop. Great dive!”
Dive Fifteen – Siyul Keber
“Explored reef gardens and pinnacles. Saw a huge moray eel in the coral. Performed underwater arithmetic for Narcosis test. Also performed 8-minute deco stop with alternate reg. All skills complete, one more deep dive to do until Deep certified.”
Dive Sixteen – Dolphin House
“Nice and easy bubble around Dolphin House but no sign of them. Explored coral reefs and concentrated on buoyancy and air consumption control. Bruno & Theresa saw Dolphins and called one back to play with them using a quacker. Video looks amazing!”
Dive Seventeen – Dolphin House (night)
“Cool bubble around coral again for a night dive. Practiced buoyancy control and breathing techniques. Night dive certification complete!”
Dive Eighteen – Uum Gamer
“Deep dive certification! Easy bubble around coral practicing buoyancy and breathing techniques, others went in overhang cave. Saw some lionfish box fish. Came back on current and performed safety stop before surface swim back to boat.”
Dive Nineteen – El Minja
“Last dive of the trip! Descended along a line onto the wreck, continued along from the bow to the stern and back. Saw Parrotfish feeding and a Crocodilefish resting by the mast. Good buoyancy control throughout and great footage!”
Advanced Open Water Diver
By nature, I work hard to get the most out of everything that I do.
My thirst for knowledge and adventure resulted in booking extra courses in advance of the trip and it’s thanks to Jason and Gary of London Scuba that I passed each one. They were run in such a way that I barely even noticed the fact that I was being tested at the time. They were fun and exciting tasks that were built in to the daily diving plans. In most cases, we’d work to get them done early on so that we could then just enjoy exploring the wrecks and reefs around us.
I boarded as an Open Water diver with one specialty; Dry Suit diver, and alighted as an Advanced Open Water diver with four more specialties; Nitrox, Deep, Wreck and Night. This training, along with the pretty extreme change of scene and associated situations provided a strong step up for my experience. It was most certainly a steep learning curve with rapid progression and I would recommend it to anyone.
It doesn’t stop there though. I’m well on the way to my initial target of achieving Divemaster status and I am really looking forward to logging more dives and taking part in my Rescue and Emergency First Response courses along the way.
New Dive Buddies
I was amazed by how quickly bonds formed with the people that I shared my week with. Upon reflection though, it’s fairly obvious that this would be the case. After all, your life is pretty much in their hands when you’re 30-below, as theirs is in yours. It’s a fairly big ask but one that seems quite natural to scuba divers.
The buddy system means that connections are made extremely fast. You may or may not place this much trust in people if you were to have met on the surface, in every day life, but there’s something about fellow scuba divers that instantly settles the nervousness behind “will they stick by me or not?”. You just know that they are on the same level.
This can also be said for general day-to-day life on-board, even when you’re living on top of each other for a week. Mealtimes were spent all together in the dining room, chatting about the dives of the day and looking forward to the next adventure.
During my 7 days sailing and diving the Red Sea, not only did I come away with new certifications, but I also came away with new friends.
You know what they say…
“The family that eats together, stays together.”
**I’ve got some awesome GoPro footage to show you all very soon so keep an eye out for my Red Sea series of videos – subscribe on YouTube to be the first to see them as and when they’re posted!