Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Diving Mis-Adventure

Penny and his dad, I.P., picked me up in the morning and we drove to the dive shop to pick up our equipment. Then a leisurely drive to the Bunbury boat ramps and launched the 18' craft into the water.

As we cruised out to sea I thought it was the iced coffee that was making my stomach rumble, but with hindsight perhaps it was trying to tell me something else like "turn around!" And that is what I should have done the moment that I.P. dropped our dive buoy/flag overboard in 22meters of water with only 15 meters of weighted line! Gone! They just don't work very well when they're below water.
So I.P. hit the "Man overboard" on the GPS to mark the spot. No worries. I figured we'd jump over and retrieve the buoy. But no, apparently we weren't even at the right spot and so we moved. Leaving the buoy behind.

If I wasn't half asleep still I might then have realized that I had incorrectly assumed that because Penny was an experienced diver that his father had some experience also. Boy was I wrong.

So we got to the spot, geared up each complete with a speargun and crayfish snares and dove over. Penny took awhile getting down because of equalization problems, but that happens. We eventually had a good look around the shallow reef formations, but didn't see one cray! There was one group of very large fish I found which I took aim at, but Penny signaled not to shoot. I wasn't sure if it was because they weren't good eating or because those big fish might have towed me along for a considerable distance. As we'll later see, depending on the direction they would have dragged me, it might have been a good thing.

So we surfaced empty handed from our first dive, but what can you do. We then cruised to another spot and dove in for our second look. The pickings were scarce but we faired a little better this time bagging a cray and a pink snapper. I surfaced a little before Penny due to air usage and found that the boat wasn't where we left it?!? I.P. in his infinite wisdom broke the number one rule for a boat captain. He took up anchor and moved to do some fishing! And remember how he sunk our dive flag earlier.

Well a minute later Penny surfaced 50m from me. We both started waving and yelling to attract I.P.'s attention. I could have sworn that he waved back and then took up the anchor. The problem was that he then proceeded to drive off in the wrong direction.

Bewildered all we could do was wonder what the hell was going on in I.P.'s head. Probably not much more than hollow echoes of wind pass thru his ears. So Penny is yelling, screaming and calling his dad every name in the book. I'm floating and figuring that he will realize his mistake and turn around any second. But about a half hour later just as Penny stops his ranting we lost site of the boat completely and we knew we were in for a long day.

Two choices: 1)stay put or 2) swim for shore. Well the dunes on the shore didn't look to far so we opted for the swim. Incidently, earlier I.P. commented that we were close enough to shore to swim if anything happened. How prophetic! Unfortunately the dunes on the shore are about 100-150 ft. and very misleading. Throughout it all I just tried to remain equanimous and keep kicking, but of course it's naturally going to pop into your head that you are very definately shark bait at the moment.

Penny and I started a fair distance apart and although you're never supposed to leave your dive buddy, he opted for the everyman for himself theory. I was fully geared up and with fins that didn't do well on the surface and he started pulling away which at first didn't bother me because we honestly didn't think we were that far out. Boy were we wrong!

After about an hour with no boats in site I started wondering what the hell was going on. Surely I.P. must have raised an alarm. Then the wind started to pick up making the seas a little bit rough. After about 2 hours I started to get pissed. I got site of some trucks moving on the dunes, but you could barely make them out, driving home the fact that we were still very far away from shore. After 2.5 hours I was taking bets with myself on whether or not we could reach the shore by sunset. Lessening the odds was the fact that my body was starting to protest. Particularly my ankles, shins, hips and neck. It was at this point that I started debating whether or not to drop the gear to make better time.

Luckily I saw three boats cruising in a line further in shore. I knew or at least hoped they were looking for us. They were I.P., "Top Dog" and the sea rescue boat. The rescue boat actually had passed by Penny twice without spotting him cause all three guys aboard were staring straight out the windshield! Some really great rescue skills there. Penny was spotted first by the "Top Dog" skippered by Pete Cole who turned out to be good friends of the Guppy's. Shortly afterwards I was fished out of the water. A big "Good on ya" to Pete and his friend! We learned that the resuce helicoptor was minutes away from lifting off.

They radioed to the rescue boat that we were aboard and they asked what about our condition. Pete told them we were both safely enjoying a beer and so all three boats cruised back to harbor. But not before stopping along side some of Pete's mates who generously gave us a couple of fresh cray sandwiches to fuel up on.

Back on shore, while I stayed as far away from I.P. as I could to avoid strangling him we were greeted by Gup and Birch who had driven out to the beach to look for us when they heard we were lost. Of course we got on the piss right away. All that for 1 cray and 1 snapper!! They were tasty, but needless to say not worth it. But as with every drama it makes for a good story. And in the end we only suffered exhaustion and a sunburn.

Never did get an real appology! Did get a couple of bullshit versions printed in the paper. Apparently I.P. skewed the facts to try and save face. But the lies were transparent and everyone could see right through them. They lost more than a couple of friends over this episode.

So there you have it. My time in Australia. A lot of beer, a couple of girls, nice sites, fun parties, some surf, much hard work, mostly crappy weather, a car accident and getting lost at sea. I never would have thought that the most likely place to wind up using accident insurance would have be OZ!

Finally I would like to give huge thanks to The Guppys (and friends) for being so good to me. Unbelievably good! I owe you big!

Now it's back to Bangkok and then off to Cambodia.