Well, here it is.
The Coast of Illinois's first actual
hit of winter weather for 2016. The weather-people were predicting
INCHES AND INCHES of snow – which did not happen on my particular harbor – and a chilly dip in temperature – as of this morning it
was NINE degrees. That is single digit NINE!
The perfect time for more Tales of the
Caribbean! Jamaica Edition!
As mentioned previously, our SFJV* set
up home base at the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall Resort. Truthfully,
home base was the far corner of the 'quiet' pool, where, at any given
time you could find 3-5 of our 8 dinner club members floating on
noodles, lounging in lounge chairs or hanging on the edge watching
water aerobics in the 'work-out' pool.
|Heads in a pool. The perfect spot to observe other people doing water aerobics while simultaneously signaling the drink lady.|
All while sipping Dirty
Bananas. (More on these in a later post. I promise.)
This was Arrival Day.
It is surprising how quickly humans
After what felt like endless hours of
relaxation, but was actually only about ninety minutes, Rob (my
potentially deceased husband) noted that there was a guy in the
work-out pool with SCUBA diving equipment. And – cue the choir of
angels – he was giving lessons!
|Here I am. Looking happy, relaxed and no where near a near death experience.|
Long story short, I found myself
signing a credit card receipt for 4300 dollars- Jamaican* *and giving
the front desk a request for a wake up call for the following morning
This would be DAY ONE.
Of the seven days we
were in Jamaica, 5 of those involved a wake up call or alarm clock
wake up. FIVE! Somewhere, someone owes me five sleep ins.
We both woke long before the wake up
call, pre-gamed my room service coffee with in-room coffee, showered
– because it is important to look good before they squeeze you into
a sausage casing and enjoyed a room service breakfast like no other.
I must take a moment
from the original story to describe our breakfast.
The menu gave numerous
options beginning with 'American style omelet' and continueing on
through every known a la cart breakfast item in the world. Rob, being
a huge breakfast fan ordered the 'American'. I figured I would keep
it light and ordered a fruit plate with 'soft' cheese. The room
service man delivered two huge plates of eggs, half a small hog of
bacon, enough fruit slices for a nursing home, a bowl of ricotta and
four delicate pastries.
Coffee, hot chocolate
would be my first mistake...
|Breakfast of Champion Vacationers!|
couple of hours consisted of signing releases and being sized up by a
ridiculously petite lady for our wet suit fittings. I am not sure
which of those two things is more fun.
was class time.
time is NO joke. Diving can be dangerous if not done with proper
training and respect for the environment. Dressel Divers Club is a
PADI - Professional Association of Diving
Instructors- facility. The emphasis here is on Professional and Instruction.
class – three students and one instructor – lasted around an
hour. We discussed the effects of water pressure on human bodies, and
how to acclimate. We learned about our equipment and, my favorite,
|the most obvious 'hand signal' is not included here.|
passing a written test, we squeezed into our wet suits. We then
waddled to the pool where tanks were strapped on and we became the
entertainment for a handful of pre-teens.
time is not as fun as it sounds. Pool time is work. It is real life
use of the dive equipment. We learned to clear our masks, clear our
mouthpieces, inflate and deflate our vests. We practiced finding our
regulators in the event we lose them, we monitored our air gauges,
and practiced buddy breathing.This is not as dramatic as they make it
out in movies. Today's dive gear actually has a spare mouthpiece
attached so you NEVER have to take a breath, pass your regulator to
your buddy, wait for him to clear it then breath before passing it
back. This second mouthpiece is simply passed to the troubled diver,
cleared and put in place allowing both divers to breath on one tank.
multiple hand gestures. And were reminded repeatedly to BREATHE
breathe through a tube. Did I mention that one of my recurring,
ridiculous fears is of IRON LUNGS? Did I mention that I work with
people on ventilators who are breathing through tubes? The nursing
advice 'pretend you are sucking on a straw' kept coming back to haunt
myself concentrating on my breathing so hard that I kept forgetting
how to breathe. And I have been professionally breathing for 54
our instructor was very understanding and offered the reassurance
that in the ocean there is so much more to see that you really won't
find yourself just concentrating on breaths. And in her petite
English accent pointed out that, "there's not much to see in a
pool besides hair and Band-aides".
mention that I really HATE public bodies of water because of the
random hair and Band-aides?
I managed to not drown myself in the six foot pool while wearing a
full tank of air and only felt slightly self-conscious in my wet
suit. Plus I only managed to break a nail and scrape a knuckle while
putting the suit on or taking it off. I am not sure. I didn't notice
either 'injury' until I sat down for lunch. I passed my pool lesson
and after minimal discussion, fueled by exhilaration at accomplishing
the first stage of a new skill and probably a carbon dioxide build
up high, agreed to come back for my first open water dive that
was my next mistake...
|This is just one example of the delicious buffet lunch at the pool restaurant. This photo is courtesy of our Fireman. I am pretty sure I ate a much lighter meal, but from events soon to be revealed, that is up for debate.|
arrived back at the dive shop ready to go. The afternoon session
included our three student class, Dani our instructor, a second group
of seasoned divers with their guide and a sweet couple along for the
|This would be Dani, our instructor and me in much happier times. |
riding out into the ocean, strapped to my tank which was strapped to
the boat, it occurred to me that not only was I STRAPPED TO A BOAT
but those waves looked pretty big. Especially the ones that kept
splashing us. And by splashing I mean drenching the entire boat. It
was a wild, fun ride to our dive location. Everyone laughing and
joking about how good the water felt as it washed over our seal-like
thing missing from this horror story set up was a basement full of
experienced divers jumped first as their dive would be closer to 45
minutes compared to the student dive of apx 30. Once they were safely
off, it was our turn. Dani went over our dive procedure one last time
– big step off the boat while holding your regulator with your
right hand and covering your weight belt with the left; swim to the
rope and hold on until all divers were present. At this point we
would slowly, hand over hand on the rope, descend a few feet,
equalize pressure in our ears and then continue down. This first dive
would be to around 40 feet and involve 6 -7 stops to equalize
pressure and do a general 'everyone good?' check.
stepped off, swam to the rope. Pete, the other student – not his
real name – jumped next and I followed shortly after at the command
of the boat captain.
to the rope.
is when the Ocean decided we had things a little too smooth. It took
our little dive as a personal challenge.
I am not
exactly sure what happened. There was some floundering. Some crashing
into Pete. There was a whole lot of mind cursing and peering
longingly to the depths where there were no waves. Or floundering, Or
bobbing up and down...and up and down... and up and down....
point my mask was knocked crooked and I used my newly acquired sign
language skills to motion that I needed to surface. Dani acknowledged
and we both returned to the surface. (Not a tough task as I am pretty
sure I was barely six inches underwater.) She asked if I was okay and
I explained that I just needed to fix my mask. I should have
attempted to clear it as taught but instead lifted it from my face at
which point the Ocean saw its opportunity and threw a Perfect Storm
15 foot wave over us. I will never forget the image of Dani's head
bobbing in the water as the enormous wave curled up behind her. The
final images of George Clooney and Mark Walhberg in The Perfect Storm
flashed through my mind. And the cook from The Wreck of the Edmond
Fitzgerald...'aye mates, its been good to know ya...' I felt one with
the universe. Not really ready to die but okay if this was the BIG
down...up and down...up and down...
motioned to Dani that I needed to get back on the boat. She reassured
me it was okay and whistled for the boat captain to circle around for
a pick up.
course, as I swam to the boat I had the recurring thought that once
on the boat I would be bobbing up and down ON A BOAT while we waited
to pick up the rest of the divers.
first I had to get ON the boat.
The Captain deserves a medal. Not only did he have to manage a concrete
boat in rolling seas but he had to do so without crushing the middle
age tourist who was trying not to think about the rolling seas as she
passed him her weight belt and swim fins before hoisting her onto the
board I crawled sea lion style to my safe place, wedged on the deck
of the boat between the concrete seats, well out of the Captain's
way. The nice couple who were getting not only a ride but a show
helped unzip my wet suit and offered encouragement before returning
back to their seats well out of range of the American who was turning
several shades of Caribbean green.
I am not
sure what went on from this point on. I heard a lot of commotion,
equipment was being passed back and forth and all at once Pete was
beached on the boat deck and then Rob was sitting beside me, asking
if I was okay and trying to keep hold of me, even though I apparently
kept waving him off.
that the rough water had only become rougher prompting the Captain
and dive crew to cut everyone's trip short. I don't understand the
need to pick up those other divers. I mean, come on, they had air
tanks. They were experienced. Jamaica is a big island. Just swim for
crying out loud But no-o-o-o-. We circled around for the experienced
group, who slowly re-boarded the boat on the port side
as I leaned out of the doorway on the starboard.
what is now becoming a tradition on my Caribbean vacations, I heaved
to with all the commitment of a professional. If there were an
Olympic medal for vomiting off of a boat without getting the boat or
anyone else messy I would win the gold.
I am not
a pleasant vomit-er. Rob, who was worried that I would fall out of
the non-existent door, kept trying to soothe me while holding on to
my wet suit. I heard later that I kept shoving him away with less
than pleasant, incomprehensible words. Dani, our instructor offered
me a drink of water finally giving up and pouring the fresh, cold
water over my head.
|Dive boat. Made of Concrete. The reasons are many.|
end, we all made it back to shore with completely different
Rob was exhilarated and ready to return the next morning for another try.
experienced divers wondered what all the fuss was about.
I am not
sure what Pete was thinking, he had that look Jimmie Stewart has at
the end of It's a Wonderful Life when he realizes he has another
exhausted yet curiously excited and anxious to give this new sport
until there are absolutely no waves and I have had a little more
practice in the confines of a swimming pool.
|This is where I spent my remaining 'open water' dives. That would be me on the far left. Please note retiree Coach second from right signalling the Drink Lady!! (photo courtesy of Fireman!)|
I feel I
should make a couple of notations here.
off – the waves really were ridiculously big, tossing a concrete
tri-maran two thirds out of the water. The Captain and crew held
several meetings during this trip, at the beginning changing our dive
location to a more protected spot and later calling a stop to the
trip altogether. I never truly felt I was in danger. I did feel
confident in my training of the SCUBA equipment.
of ability to maintain digestive equilibrium is a problem I am
learning to conquer.
I must also note that it has become common ground in meeting new
following morning at breakfast a delightful man stopped me in the
buffet line to inquire after my health and exclaim delight that I was
still alive – turns out he and his wife were the couple along for
the ride. We had a laugh over my impressive Mal de Mer and learned
that the Captain was none too happy with the weather, not smiling
until we were all safely back on the dock.
DresselDivers was wonderful. They credited this first disastrous dive –
giving each of us two more open water dives, of which Rob enjoyed
three of, seeing a seven foot nurse shark lounging in a ravine on his
first one! This is also only a beginner experience. To actually become certified requires a much longer program. However, taking this class gives us a discount should we sign up for the full class with any PADI facility.
Fancy Jamaican Vacation – click here for more info.
cost of the lesson which included two open water dives was around
$200 (American) per person.
course, at no point was I paid to write this.
Come back soon for the next installment: All Inclusive -The Adventure!