October 13th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

The dive boat

Today we went on the trip organised by the hostel out to the Reef.  As others have commented, it would be criminal to come all the way up to North Queensland, + not go out to visit the Great Barrier Reef, + this one, including hiring of snorkelling gear, is only $20, so is pretty good value.  For that, one is taken first to Michaelmas Cay, + then out to the outer reef.  It’s an all day trip with an early start – we set our alarm clock to get us moving at the appropriate time, but it took a bang on the door from the warden really to get us shifted.  The warden here is a nice bloke, a travelling pom who somehow has walked himself into a good number.  He deserves it tho’ – friendly + helpful.

A rushed breakfast, a pause to pick out some equipment that fitted, more or less, + then a walk down to the quay to get on the boat.  It was about a two and a half hour journey out to Michaelmas Cay, so I grabbed an hour or 2’s kip on the journey, Val waking me up when we arrived.  The place was basically just a beach stuck in the middle of nowhere, just coral that sand had covered over, now preserved as a bird sanctuary.  We anchored a hundred yards or so off shore, + then people swam in.  I’ll confess I was feeling highly nervous about the whole enterprise, had been for the past day or so.  My only previous snorkelling experience had been on Caye Caulker off Belize, and that had been less than successful.  I had felt very claustrophobic + panicky when anything had gone even the least bit wrong.  And sure enough, on this outing too, no sooner had I got going than things started going wrong.  The guy in charge had to motor over in his dinghy, + I hung onto that while he adjusted my mask + snorkel.  I was in half a mind at that point to give up + swim back to the boat, but I at least tried to persevere, + in fact for the rest of the day things went pretty well.  I wouldn’t say I’ll ever become so enamoured of it that I’ll be rushing back to the ocean at the first opportunity, but at least I survived.  And, really, quite enjoyed the day. 

The coral was nice – multi-coloured, multi-shaped.  But samey, after a while.  I suppose to see more, one has to dive, + I’m not ready for that yet.  I enjoyed the fishes most – they were all colours, and very tame.  Not exactly bumping their noses on your face mask, but not showing any fear either.  We swam around for an hour and a half or so, + then had coffee + lunch while the boat upped anchor + steamed out to another spot.  I didn’t enjoy the afternoon so much.  We anchored out in the middle of nowhere, and then swam from there, but it wasn’t (rather to my own surprise) that I was scared of the deep water so much as, it being so much deeper, the coral was further beneath us, + not so easy to observe.  Still, we weren’t there for a vast time – come 2.30 it was all on board, + by 2.45 we were on our way back to Cairns.

A long, slow, boring journey back – when you’re away from boats for a while, you forget just how boring they are.  The only excitement came when we were close in to land, when first we pulled a yacht off a sandbank, or lump of coral, or something (+ you should have heard the language when the skipper chucked him a rope, + he missed it… that took me back), + then watching a couple of surfboats (a cross between a canoe + a surfboard) came riding in on our bow wave.  Until they lost concentration + got dumped. 

It was a tiring day, but enjoyable, + well worth the money.  We were both pretty burned too, especially on the lower backs + backs of our legs – one of the perils of the sport.  For tea, we had fish + chips from the local takeaway.  You’d have thought seeing all those pretty fish would put me off eating them, wouldn’t you?  Not a bit of it!  After tea, watched the video movie, “An American Werewolf in London”.  I thought it was excellent – very funny, very clever, very inventive.  And quite frightening too in places.  I’m not over-struck by the horror genre, but I thought this was magic.  And it had Jenny Agutter too!

A reasonably enjoyable outing, but ultimately I am not at ll comfortable in the water, even when, (as in one of the pics I have used) I am literally in inches of the stuff.

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