“Nope, this isn’t your boat.”
I say this, only half joking, to some surfaced divers. Crouched at the end of the dive platform, I watch them glance at one another, the wife rolling her eyes while the husband says by way of an excuse, “I’m definitely not lost – this is just the first boat we came to. I thought it was ours.”
“Well, unfortunately it’s not. Your boat is that one over there. Two moorings down.” (Maybe three, actually.) “But hop on board! We’ll give you a lift over when our divers come up.”
Getting lost seems to be a notorious tourist pastime in the islands. How they manage it is a mystery to me though because (on my island, at least) there are only so many (paved) roads to choose from: there’s a big loop with one or two crossover roads and a few chickens to block them. It would be like getting lost in a roundabout. Yet my conversations with people 2 minutes down the road from me, asking for directions, generally go something like this:
Soon-to-be-lost-tourist: “Where are you located?”
Me: “Less than 2 minutes down the road from you. We’re the building with the Go Dive signs and SCUBA tanks out front.”
Tourist: “What’s your address though? I’d like to put it into my phone’s map.”
Me: “Our address won’t register in your phone’s map. Trust me, you won’t miss us. We’re the first inhabited and functional building you’ll see.”
Confused Tourist: “But what if I do miss you and drive past?”
Me: “Then turn around. If you don’t, your car will drop into the sea and start sinking. Don’t worry about that though, there’s a rental car company next door.”
So you can see that, as a dive-master, I deal with a fair amount of directional and situational absentmindedness. Other common – though decidedly less than bright – questions include:
“What island is that on the horizon? Is it Cuba!?”
Of course it’s Cuba! Since it can’t possibly be Little Cayman, the island closest to us at only 5 miles away…
“Can we go dive the Kittiwake Wreck?”
Sure, just hop on a plane back to Grand Cayman and dive there, since that’s where the wreck is.
“There’s a huge barracuda right next to the boat ladder!”
Yes, I know, I can see him perfectly because the water is crystal clear. (The girl was amazed to see that the water was indeed just as clear looking into it as up through it to the surface.)
“How will I find the wreck?”
Well, the dive boat is tied to the shipwreck, so if you don’t find the sunken boat, at least you know where the floating dive boat is.
“I couldn’t find the boat and I was running out of air! What do I do in that kind of situation?”
*Insert blank stare here* Well, you could always surface. There’s lots of air at the surface. You know, “air,” as in the same stuff in your tank?
But in all fairness, I grew up near and on the ocean; it’s what I’m at home with. I’m sure I would ask equally stupid questions and make as jaw-droppingly asinine comments if I took a forest survival course. So I try my best to give everyone a break and usually keep my smart-ass replies to myself.
Underwater navigation though is a totally different story. Don’t even mention trying to find the boat again!
But everyone gets lost at some point. Maybe the visibility was poor that day; maybe you took a different route; maybe it’s a new dive site. The difference is, we dive-masters know how to get away with getting lost. The dual arts of sarcasm and self-mockery (with a generous sprinkling of BS) are taught in a special section of Dive-master school. But there are a few basic rules to underwater navigation that should be revised:
1. Remember to turn around.
2. The boat will either be in deeper (away from shore) or shallow (closer to shore). Where are you? I promise we didn’t move the island (or the boat) when you weren’t looking.
3. Did you remember rule 1?
4. If all else fails, you can surface and find the boat from the comfort and clarity of surface air.
Ok, I admit that it can get a little more complicated than that. But, hey! You’re on vacation! You’ve packed your international dive shirts and left your brain at home. You’re on an island and ready for a wild time and a pitcher of Cayman Island rum punch! So when you hopped in the water to dive, maybe you just wanted to explore that great blue yonder. Or maybe you chased that eagle ray to kingdom come and, when it finally out swam you, you didn’t know up from down. Or maybe, as dive-masters say, you’re just navigationally-challenged and no quantity of neon signs could possibly help your directional abilities. That’s fine. I completely understand the joys of vacation.
But I would like to save you, the in-denial and lost diver you currently are, from getting completely lost. So here are a few ground suggestions for relocating your dive boat:
IF you have swum in one direction for 20 minutes and have arrived at a boat without turning around…. that is NOT your boat.
IF you have arrived at a boat that could potentially be yours, but has a different number of ladders, propellors, rudders, or even different colored hull…. that is NOT your boat.
IF you arrive at what you think may be your boat but it seems to have doubled or halved in size…. that is NOT your boat.
IF you are doing your safety stop with a bunch of strangers…. that is NOT your boat.
IF you started off your day with two male divemasters crewing your boat, and the vessel you surface at has two females in tiny bikinis…. THAT, as much as you may wish it, is NOT your boat. (Females please note that the opposite applies just as much to the above statement. Except that the men aren’t in bikinis. At least I hope not.)
Finally, IF, as a diver, you have done all of these at some point or other, please let us know.
That way, in the future, we know to tie a leash to you.
Want to stay connected to the Land of Coconuts?
We'll send you island mail, fresh from the tropics each week.