Then, as often can happen, life went in other directions and life below the surface was put on hold. But, as is also true, when one feels passionate about something, it always reawakens. And, on Maui in February of 1996, Rob and I found ourselves in Bill Glenn's Open Water Diving Class ready to begin another part of our lives together beneath the surface. This training was quite different from the 1964 training I received on St. Croix: safer, more technical, and with new types of diving gear. We both took to diving like the proverbial ducks to water.
For several years, Hawaii was our diving destination of choice. The reefs were plentiful and the sea life was bountiful. Each year, we couldn't wait for vacation time so that we could board a plane and take off four the Islands. We took advanced diving classes and spent as much time as we could shore diving or going out on diving charters. Our favorite sea creatures were the turtles and the eels. The turtles were fun to dive with because they were
curious. Often, we'd find several turtles leisurely cruising around a reef looking for some munchies. We'd just hang out and watch them for a while and then go explore the reef looking for the denizens of the nearby world. It was not infrequent to be slowly cruising along only to find we were being followed closely by a curious turtle. It turned out that Hawaii was a perfect training ground for us. The diving was varied and fairly easy. As our skill sets grew over the years, we became good confident safe divers. We became extremely comfortable with the underwater environment, even diving with the local sharks.
We had just returned home from diving in Hawaii one year, and we felt that something might have been missing from our diving experience, but we couldn't quite put a finger on it. Several weeks later, we spotted an article in a travel magazine about diving in the
Caribbean. Then it hit us. We could dive anywhere in the world we wanted to. We seriously enjoyed traveling, and we could combine diving with traveling. It was an immediate and visceral connection. A few months later, we were boarding a plane for St. Martin to join up with other divers from around the country for a week-long diving expedition on a small live-aboard diving boat. We never looked back.
Over the years, we followed our growing need for adventure around the globe. Our preference became to spend a week to ten days aboard a live-aboard dive boat with diving friends or total strangers.
We found that we could extend our diving trips by spending a week or so on land nearby learning about the people, culture and history of the area. We immersed ourselves in these two-part odysseys and became citizens of the world. The more we traveled, the more we found we wanted to travel. We learned about the sea life and the life of the people who lived near the sea. The more we learned, the greater our need grew to learn andexperience more. What had innocently started as a desire to get just a bit closer to Hawaii's ocean life had transformed itself into a need to become globe trekkers. I have written about some of those treks in other entries in this blog.
Our preference was to dive in locations where the water and weather were relatively warm, so we mainly dived near the equatorial areas of the world. Sea life abounds where food abounds. In Hawaii and the Caribbean, food is plentiful, so sea life is everywhere. But, we found in Southeast and Austral Asia and Indonesia that food was plentiful where ocean currents were strongest. Pacific equatorial currents carried food to the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea and to the Sea of Bismarck off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Powerful currents flowing southward through the Makassar Straits brought plentiful food to the Flores Sea north of Indonesia's eastern islands. These were the places where a huge variety of sea life abounded, and these were the places to where we traveled.
It was in Indonesia's Flores Sea that we encountered some of the strongest currents we had ever experienced. We all carried reef hooks with us, large blunt hooks with a line attached to them that we could tie off to our dive vests. When the currents became too violent, we'd lodge the hook into a reef so we wouldn't be carried off into the unknown. Even the strongest swimmers couldn't fight those currents very long.
When diving off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico one year, we heard about the cenotes. The cenotes were pits in the floor of the jungle where the ground had collapsed into huge
cool fresh water, and followed our guide through an incredible maze of caverns. Periodically, we'd swim beneath other places where the surface rock had fallen into the caverns, and sunlight would be streaming through the hole or crack in the jungle floor above us. It was a one-of-a-kind experience. We wouldn't have missed it for anything.
Live-aboard dive boats come in all shapes and sizes. We liked the boats that carried fewer than twenty divers. Not everyone likes this style of diving. After all, you're on a fairly small boat and there really isn't much to do other than to dive. Normally, we did about five dives a day; two in the morning, two in the afternoon, and one at night. So, it's like an immersion (hee-hee) program for divers. We found that we loved it. Sometimes our diving club,the Sea Squirts, would charter an entire boat, and we'd know everyone on board. Other times, we'd just sign up for a scheduled cruise not knowing who else would be doing the same thing. People who enjoy these sorts of adventures were always kindred spirits. They loved to dive. They were easy to get along with.
They enjoyed sharing their diving adventures with one another, comparing different types of dive gear, and checking out the latest underwater photography technology. Everyone embraced the sense of camaraderie they felt with their fellow divers. Probably the most unique live-aboard we traveled on was a pinisi schooner (pictured under sail) in Indonesia's Flores Sea. Not only was the boat unique, but we found that we were the only two English-speakers aboard. The rest of the boat was booked by a diving club from Naples, Italy. Although there was a huge language barrier, we all managed to communicate with very few problems, and we all had a wonderful adventure together.
Our diving trips around the globe completely changed the way we looked at the world. Our experiences with people from a wide range of countries, both those we dove with and those we met on our associated land-based adventures, expanded our understanding of different cultures, religions and ethnicities. We gained tremendous fondness and respect for people whose life experiences were completely different from our own. We have also gained a better understanding of the myopic and self-centered perspective of the world that seems to grip a huge proportion of the people in our own country.
We have found that we fully agree with Mark Twain, who said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."