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EXUMAS - BAHAMAS
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Janel (buddy), Linda and Johnny
In mid-September, Linda casually asks across the breakfast table whether we might want to go diving next month aboard a liveaboard. Hell yes – sounds great – need a break! The kids are all for it, Janel is out of school for a week in October and Johnny gets 2 days off the same week. Johnny even wants to sign up to train for his Advanced OW certification.
We use two frequent flyer tickets and buy two more to Fort Lauderdale, then pick up a smaller jet to Nassau. There is an airport pickup waiting for us and before we know it we’re aboard the Aquacat, docked off Paradise Island within Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas.
Trivia: It was Columbus who discovered the islands of the Bahamas in 1492. They were originally called “Bajamar” which means “shallow seas”.
The Aquacat, selected by Linda, is immediately seen as a great diving vessel. A 102’ catamaran with 10 cabins, a huge main salon, 3 decks, and a superbly designed diving deck, complete with quick change air and nitrox compressors and comfortable gear prep stations for each diver.
We’re the last ones on the boat, but we quickly learn that a couple from Edinborough, Scotland has had their dive gear luggage misrouted, and so we’re going to stay in the Nassau area for another day to wait for its arrival. I’m impressed that the captain is flexible with his plans in order to accommodate their misfortune, rather than force them to use rental dive gear for the week.
We catch the tail end of dinner in the main salon, preserved for us by Jim, the boat’s chef. We also receive an operations briefing from Mark Bailey, the boat’s captain. Afterwards we unpack and set up our divegear on the dive deck, and it is finally time to sit and relax.
A rag tag marching band is playing on the New Providence side of the channel, and we find it amazing how long they play, on and on for hours without stopping for even a measure. The low brass players must be wiped out! Appears they are celebrating the arrival of someone important.
Our cabins, on the dive deck, are relatively spacious and well laid out, with carpeting, full bath with drinking water and H/C shower, 110V power, even a refrigerator. There are also 2 large window ports for great views. Linda and I share Cabin #7 while Janel and Johnny share Cabin #1. Diving is scheduled to start first thing tomorrow morning, so we settle in relatively early.
October 12, 2003 – “Gooooooooooooooooooooood morning aboard the Aquacat!” Jim’s resonant wakeup sounds throughout the boat over the intercom, as Jim informs us that breakfast is ready in the main salon, which he pronounces “saloon.”
During breakfast, the boat powers up and leaves the marina. At the breakfast table, we start meeting our fellow divers, which include a couple from Connecticut (Percy and Janet), the couple from Edinborough, three folks from Knoxville, TN, and Martin from Montana. Although the boat can handle some 24 divers or so, there are only 12 of us this trip. This relieves some of the traffic onboard and eases the duties of the crew somewhat, to everyone’s enjoyment except maybe the accountant.
On this trip, the Aquacat crew includes:
Mark Bailey (Florida) - Captain
Gerry Fleming (U.S.) - Co-Captain
Gavin Dean (Belfast, Ireland) - Lead Dive Instructor
Michelle McAdam (Belfast, Ireland) - Dive Instructor
Mark Boustridge (Australia) - Dive Instructor
Lars Perrson (Sweden) - Dive Instructor
Bill Hagar - Engineer
Billy Braun (Texas) - Engineer
Jim McCullough (U.S.) - Chef
Kate Schenk (England) - Sous-Chef
Gavin calls the first dive briefing in the main salon following breakfast, and we immediately find it luxurious to receive a well informed dive description complete with map and compass readings for each dive site we visit. Listening to Gavin’s Irish accent is plenty of fun, too.
We’re a little slow getting in the water as we adjust to the new diving arrangements, but the pace is unhurried and we like it right away. Each Aquacat hull contains a stairway dropping from the dive deck to a platform only a few inches above the waterline, making a giant stride entry super easy.
Not many fish at this site, and actually the wrecks are not terribly interesting to us either. There are a few yellowtail snappers around as well as parrotfish. Janel and I are buddies for the dive and we find a big hermit crab on the sand flats near one wreck. Janel then spies a big green moray eel beneath the features of another one of the wrecks and we spend minutes hovering at that spot.
The square profile pushes our deco limits, and Janel and I are both at our computers’ limits in short order. We cut the dive shorter than we’d like and come up after only 36 minutes, adding our 3 minute safety stop.
For odd reasons, Janel writes the following in my raw dive journal, copied exactly here:
“Zoom on camera didn’t work for a lil bit. Major bummer.
Remember: SCUBA + Alcohol do not mix.
Please, don’t drink and dive.”
Mares Avanti Quattro
U S Divers Matrix
80 ft3 Al
SeaQuest Spectrum 4
Body of Water:
U S Divers
Sony DCR-TRV11 digital handycam in Top Dawg housing