OP Owners Log - 12/5/2021
The day had finally come to go to the long-awaited liveaboard dive trip in Nassau, Bahamas. AJ and I immediately became dive buddies as soon as we took our first tropical vacation together in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. While I was still pretty green when we first dove together, I quickly came up to speed. Now we had the opportunity to eat sleep and breathe (literally) diving for a whole week in the beautiful blue Caribbean.
We flew into Nassau airport, dropped our stuff at the hotel, hopped on a couple of electric scooters, and went to the best place to eat in town: A little food hut (too small to call a restaurant but I don't think it had wheels so it wasn't a truck) that might have been called Sonia’s Jerk. Prepared on a huge propane tank cut in half and a mouthwatering smell radiating from the restaurant. The best jerk chicken anyone could ask for, just the right amount of heat that you aren't in pain but your mouth waters with the spice. The kind of chicken you just can't put down!
We then rode around on the scooters around downtown to scope it out. It's a quaint old town with dilapidated concrete roads and a slightly old English feel. We barely dodged a couple of cars that didn't care we were on the road and then made our way back to the hotel for a big next day!
Sunrise and it time to head to the marina. We walked over to the grocery store to stock up on suncreen and libations for the boat. Grabbed what we needed and then, “All Aboard!”
The boat was an older 65’ monohull sailboat designed for liveaboard diving with 22 diver beds and 6 crew beds spread out between 5 cabins. This was no Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: The beds were bunked on each other and calling it a twin bed would be a stretch. Everything you brought needed to remain in your bunk as you didn't really have a “room”. In fact, AJ, myself, and 4
others were lucky enough that our bedroom was also the living room, dining room, and galley! I guess on the bright side we didn't need to go far to get our morning coffee since I could reach the coffee pot from my bed.
Once we finished up all the paperwork with Sarah, the Canadian dive instructor, and got a rundown of the boat from Hoppy, the South African captain, we set off! We did a single dive on day one just to see everyone's experience level. There wasn't much to see and it wasn't more than 35’ but it was nice to get in the water on day one.
Luckily, we had calm seas the whole time because the narrow monohull sailboat could get pretty rocky in even minor seas. The Food was incredible considering Captain Jim could only cook with what he had on the boat (except some fresh Mahi, more to come later). The amenities were few, there were 4 heads (bathrooms), and one was always broken. The watermaker onboard didn't make enough water for everyone to have a fresh water shower, so you had to shower with nice warm engine cooling water, soap up, rinse off, and then turn on the fresh spigot and rinse off the salt. There wasn't much space to lounge except on top of the life raft and the dining room only fit 8. But what the boat didn't have in luxuries it made up for in awesome personalities.
We immediately became friends with the crew and the rest of the passengers. They were all characters from all walks of life. There also happened to be 3 other Oregonians on board! A French Canadian, a few from BC, an Aussie, and some Americans.
OK, can we talk about diving yet? I am unfortunately writing this a year after the trip so I’ll have to supply a highlight reel. We dove into some epic shipwrecks, and 3 plane wrecks including Pablo Escobar’s plane that he crashed off the coast of his private island while he was drunk and showing off. We dove and Talapia breeding cage that was decommissioned because the sharks kept on breaking in and killing the fish. We also did a dive called the washing machine, and for good reason. It’s a drift dive that has a cyclone underwater, that will put you on a spin cycle for about 300’ and spits you out into some reef sharks and green sea turtles on the other side.
At one dive site, the engineer “Almost Captain Morgan” jumped in with a frozen ball of fish entrails and tied it to a rope about 20’ from the bottom. He had to make quick work of that free dive because the sharks knew he was coming and he had to get it tied up and out of there before they mistook his hand for some fish guts. Once tied up, 15-20 reef sharks, 100 jacks, and 1 big-ass grouper devoured the frozen fish ball in about 6 minutes as we all kneeled on the bottom and watched in awe. Sharks have extremely replaceable teeth and when they eat they lose them, so once it was safe, divers collected all the souvenirs. The rest of the dive was spent tootling around a shipwreck among sharks and they breeze past as if we weren't even there.
Shark Note: Very few sharks are ever aggressive to humans. They usually don’t care about you or are scared of you. Most shark attacks are mistakes and get blown out of proportion for how many there are. More people are killed by coconuts or vending machines than sharks. These are beautiful, majestic creatures that are incredible to swim with.
We went from Nassau down to the whole string of Exumas. At one point the crew realized that this group of divers was just too much fun for the amount of wine that they brought on the boat, and we had to intersept the other boat run by black beard liveboards and commandeer their wine (I could tell they weren’t having nearly as much fun as we were anyways).
On our cruise back toward Nassau, the crew dropped a couple of fishing lines out the back of the boat hoping for some dinner through the blue water crossing. “Fish On!” Two Mahi Mahi pulling the rods down to the water. Patrick, the Aussie, pulled in a 15-lb cow and AJ brought up a 20-lb Bull!
Captain Jim didn't grab the gaff to kill the fish, he grabbed a bottle of Caribbean rum and dumped a few shots down the gills. The bright green color of the Mahi vanished instantly and went gray as the fish stopped moving. I’ve never seen such a quick, clean and humane way to put a fish down.
The last dive we did was the Blue Hole. This was an incredible dive with a little bit of everything; Huge green sea turtles with Ramora fish on them, sand rays, reef sharks, and a deep blue pit about 40 meters across and began at about 15 meters from the surface. The visibility was good so you could see all the way across although I want to go back in the morning when the vis might be even better. As we floated down the giant elevator shaft you could see “sand falls” where the sandy bottom above drifted down into the hole. There was no reef or coral here, but there were still many fishes. As we neared 40 meters deep, we could faintly make out something circling at the bottom of the pit. At 45 meters we stopped and watched twenty or more reef sharks in a slow-motion cyclone in the dark blue depths. We only stayed for a few moments since we had our flights the next day and wanted to be wary of nitrogen narcosis.
With a great crew, new friends, great food, and amazing diving, we will definitely be back on that boat for more someday, but for now, there are new seas, new fish, and new friends to meet.
- Dustin Sauer