Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, April 29, 2013

Under Water in Bora Bora

     It was another sunny afternoon on Bora Bora in the South Pacific, just a short jaunt from Tahiti. My good friend from childhood - high school Hall of Fame athlete, and fellow musician - Dwight Klassen and I had a few hours before our ship left port.  We’ve shared a lot of adventures together through the years and I wanted to add one more from that afternoon before we hit the cruise ship buffet.

            The clear turquoise water was irresistible, so I suggested we try scuba diving.  I had always wanted to try it, but never had the chance.  Our wives were on a warm sandy beach somewhere, so Dwight and I found a diving crew for our first lesson in scuba diving.  We were in a group of about a dozen fellow “divers,” who were about half our age, along with a few French “instructors,” who spoke broken English. 

            Since they didn’t have a vest that fit me, I went topless, which didn’t seem to draw any attention from the few young women on board.  Sad.  We were issued tanks and all the hoses, straps, weight belts, and stuff just as the boat began our journey to deeper water.

            Rapidly strapping on gear while trying to keep our balance in the small boat bouncing toward our destination, our “instructor” tried to tell us what is required when descending into a wet and foreign environment.  Hand signals and breathing techniques were quickly demonstrated as we struggled with the equipment and tried to understand what he was saying.  Remember – we weren’t kids and “senior citizens” take a little more time to get “rigged up.” But Dwight and I were ready by the time the boat anchored at our destination. 

            There was a lot to remember or surmise from the few minutes of “instructions,” but I guess the main thing is to breath through the mouthpiece without sucking in the ocean.  In retrospect, I don’t think this is the normal way to learn scuba diving, but it was our only chance to give it a try.  I think I got nervous when we were told that we would be down on the bottom for a half hour and there was no returning once our underwater tour began.  No escape!

            We were told to use a rope as we descended with an “instructor” and to grab a rock on the sea floor to avoid being dragged away by the current. We were to hold on until everyone was down.  I was about half way down the rope when it hit me that I was a “land dweller;” a biped designed to walk on the beach and check out the topless ladies. That seemed more natural than breathing under water. This was a world meant for creatures with scales and gills.

Dwight checking for sharks, while an instructor provides last minute instructions to a student. 

            Moving down the rope, I suddenly got claustrophobic and fortunately remember the hand signal for returning to the surface.  Klassen was already down, hanging on a rock and making eye contact with a fish.  It didn’t seem to bother him.  When I reached the surface, I felt like a wimp. Probably as a result of almost drowning several times in my life.  Once when Klassen and I went over a waterfall in a small raft and were pinned underwater by tons of cascading water.   

            After gathering my senses, I told myself that I’d rather die than be remembered as a wimp, so I went down the rope again.  I forced myself to reach the bottom.  I grabbed a large rock and tried to get used to breathing under water. I think that was what bothered me.  I couldn’t have cared less about the shells on the bottom or the fishy residents of this strange domain.

            We had been told to follow the guy with the yellow suit, yellow flippers, or something.  Following in a line and being distracted by weird life-forms, I soon acclimated.  I got a little too comfortable and, for a brief second, thought that I didn’t need to clamp onto that mouthpiece.  Fortunately, my pragmatism overcame my temporary delusion of being a “merman.”  I swam along with the others and kept my mouth shut tight.  After a half hour of looking at rocks, shells, sand, and the water swishing around inside my goggles, it was time to return to our natural habitat.  You’re supposed to move to the surface slowly, but I’m sure I went up faster than I went down.

            I have friends who are professional divers.  One played the villain in the underwater scenes in the James Bond movie, “Thunderball.” You may remember the bad guy with the eye patch.  That was my good friend, Rick Tegeler.  I may write about Rick and others in another blog.  But all of the pros say that you normally learned to scuba dive in a swimming pool and gradually move up to a real dive.  Not in Bora Bora. They strap a tank on you, say a prayer in French, and toss you overboard.                                                                                    

            I like it better on top of the water.  If I want to see life under water, I’ll go to an aquarium, watch a nature show on TV, or snorkel, where I can escape to the surface at will.

Survival celebration with Gayle, Lynnette, and Dwight


  1. Always remember the old saying: "Practice makes Perfect". Definitely would've applied to your Bora Bora situation.

    1. Judy - I'll probably never get another chance, but I would like to learn the right way if I ever do.

  2. Ralph - I gather that "true landwellers" probably aren't meant to mingle with creatures of the sea. Too bad you didn't first check with your good friend Rick Tegeler beforehand, 'cause he may have advised you to "take some lessons"...

    Judy Orlando

    1. Judy - Your comment somehow got published on a different subject. I transferred it above. Rick probably did advise lessons, but I hadn't planned on "taking the plunge" in Bora Bora. It was a spontaneous act of insanity based on curiosity.

  3. "We had been told to follow the guy with the yellow suit, yellow flippers, or something." While reading your story, I felt like I was there with you, and experiencing something new in my life. Until I reached the sentence you wrote above. I couldn't stop laughing. In fact even now, it is hard to see what I am typing because I am laughing so hard. That sentence says it all. Like who gives a 'rats ---". I don't know how my life survived before your Blog came along. You really make my day. Thanks for that story, and the laugh you provided.

    1. Thanks, Sharon. When I can't think of something "non-controversial" to write about, I have to reach back to events in my past - at least the ones I can print. Fortunately, I have a lot of stories from the past. I guess that's a sign of age, because I can't remember what I had for dinner tonight.

  4. You know Ralph, controversial is ok. It gets people thinking, and if it ruffles a litle feathers, that's ok too. The majority of individuals come to your site because they like the material you're providing. If you enjoy posting your thoughts, and people enjoy reading them, that is a win win situation.