Diving Rules

From my journal: December15, 1993 written from Barbados

“Slept off and on…reread the instructions in my diving book…hope all goes well today.”

The sun had been up at hour when Robert and I were on Route 1 again. Just past Bridgetown we found The Dive Shop Ltd. at the bottom of Carlisle Bay. This would be our first boat dive since our certification. My thoughts concerned all that could go wrong and I was sure Robert’s were of all the things that would go right.

The Buddy Dive Signal

He tried to make light of how I appeared to be feeling and asked, “What’s the first rule of diving?”  I knew what he was getting at, but I said, “What? Is this a quiz?”  He lined up his two index fingers side by side and continued to prompt me with,  “Always…always do what?” I laughed and said, “Stay with your buddy!” I instantly felt better.

“Hey, mon!” Julian called out as this tall, dark, willowy guy wearing Bob Marley plaits greeted us at the teal concrete shop. All of twenty-five, he was the head dive master. We had met him and his partner the day before so we wasted no time. Julian pointed to a motorized skiff bouncing in the aqua waves near the shore, “Ready to go?”  His assistant, Haroon was already on the boat waving to us.  A short rounded man, he hauled our bags aboard. 

OK Surface Dive Signals

The boat turned south and we anchored at Asta. It took Robert all of five minutes to suit up with all the necessary paraphernalia.  Julian helped me with my weight belt and Haroon checked our air tanks. Soon Julian, Robert and I sat on the boat’s edge and backrolled into cool water. We gave Haroon the OK sign then began releasing air from our buoyancy control devices until we landed softly on the bottom. Julian hovered there in an upright position ready to lead us on. I was so preoccupied with trying to remember how everything worked, I didn’t even notice we were 65 feet underwater!

Out of Air Dive Signal

Teeming with trumpet fish, moray eels and octopi, we toured the lively coral reefs. Varieties of bright yellow and emerald hued fish schooled by us. Mesmerized by this life size aquarium I felt comfortable until we hit a thermocline. The coldness made me shiver. It’s then I looked at my pressure gauge and began to panic. I tapped on Robert’s tank to get his attention. I made the sign for out of air.  Robert shook his head like I was kidding and began to continue on.  I then rapped again and showed him the reading  – only150 PSI left. We signaled to Julian and began our ascent.

Haroon was surprised to see us up so quickly.  I thought I was simply breathing too fast and deep for the air to be used up that fast, but when Haroon inspected the tank his expression made me think otherwise. A faulty valve, perhaps?

After a rest, and with fresh tanks we made our second dive that lasted longer than the first.  Parting ways, Julian assured us that the next day our dives would be unforgettable! We were going to the S.S. Stavronikita ship wreck to look for artifacts.  He said anything we found we could keep. 

SS Stavronikita

The following morning, we submerged into the clear blue water and followed Julian to the sunken rusty 400 foot freighter. Thin rays of sunlight filtered down casting an eerie appearance to the structure below. Butterfly fish hung around its mast. I hovered above Robert and Julian as they ventured farther down. Soon Robert pulled something from the ocean’s floor! When he held it up, I silently laughed. Across its breast were the words Coca-Cola.

We regrouped and moved on, descending even further. Then we stopped as Julian enearthed something with his fin.  Robert skimmed the floor to retrieve the object.  It was a treasure indeed!  A blue tinted pointed bottom bottle just like the 120 year old ones Julian described earlier.  But before Robert could fasten it to his BCD, it slipped out of his hand.  He made another attempt at recovering it while I waited. Checking my gauge, I was not surprised to find I was running low on air, but I was amazed to discover I was 110 feet below the water’s surface! 

The ascent seemed to take forever and when we emerged, Robert yelled, “I got it!” On shore, he wrapped the bottle in his beach towel and tucked it into his dive bag. Saying our thank yous and good-byes, Robert slipped a tip into Julian’s hand.  All the way back, Robert talked about the bottle and this incredible adventure.  I was happy for him and just glad I survived it.

Once in our room, I was wiping down my vest and fins in the bathroom, while Robert went to the balcony to shake the sand from his bag. Suddenly, I heard something shatter followed by an expletive…or two…maybe more.

Outside the glass door, Robert stood. His treasure lay in pieces at his feet. That’s when we remembered another diving rule. The one we learned on our very first day of training. It is… Take only photographs and leave only bubbles.

Broken Treasure

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