It was another sunny afternoon on Bora Bora in the South Pacific, just a short jaunt from
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,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.
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
|Survival celebration with Gayle, Lynnette, and Dwight|