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"Diving along Swimmingly"

Written on: Sunday March 30th, 2008

A journal entry from: Thailand to Turkey


We are almost to Egypt as I write this from the ship?s laptop.  The past week has been some excellent diving off the coast of Sudan, though we have not ventured inland due to the heavy fees levied upon incoming yachts or other foreigners.  Sudan has a reputation of not being a place worth visiting as an undeveloped military state; we will wait to re-provision until Port Gallip in S. Egpyt.  It is high time for restocking the ship?s stores as well; out of white flour, beer, cereals, fresh vegetables other than red onion and potatoes.   Up until the flour petered out recently, I?d been doing a lot of baking and cooking from scratch, breads, cookies and even some nice flour tortilla nachos! 

The new thing is Astronomy for me!  Well, lots of new things and new info as of late;  I?ve been hitting the ship?s library pretty hard:  "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" as well as some poetry by Lewis Carroll, a Rudyard Kipling compilation of Jungle Books and some other stories,  "Five people you meet in heaven", some Shakespeare, world cruising guides and atlases (sp?), "The Power of One", and I?m sure I?m forgetting a book or two like "101 things to do before you die" and "The 12-Volt Bible for Boats" (quite a good read, I thought!).  Tons and tons of new information; it has my mind going a mile a minute with thoughts of what to incorporate on my own vessel.  Jim and Ged are also great sources of info:  Jim sat down with me after I read "The 12V BFB" for over an hour chatting about the finer points of voltages, amperages, resistance, charging batteries, creating battery banks, converting DC to AC/DC to DC/AC to DC, &c.  Ged inspired the idea that I should fly to New Zealand and purchase a boat there to sail back to California; the kiwi boats are cheap and have to pass an extensive amount of safety standards. 

As well as all the new things, I?m still keeping pace with the old.  I?ve been practicing the violin regularly, though not as regularly as my old "20 minutes a day", I would say I?ve been averaging about 15 or so? miss a few days but then play for an hour once we reach an anchorage.  I tried to practice today but gave up after about 10 minutes as the seas were too rough and it was all I could do 20% of the time just to keep my own balance.  I was wedged into the doorway of my cabin for additional leverage and got out a few songs and a scale or two.  Still staring at the sun, crazy Zoastran that I am? up to about 10 minutes now, but I?m calling that the bar until I do a little more research into the process.   David from Illusion said that people used to go down to a certain beach in Spain every dusk and watch the sun go down; some hippy thing?  Exercise is sometimes difficult on the boat but I?m managing to get in some sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and dips in here and there.  Maybe it?s better to do push-ups on a rocking boat; it makes them more difficult or easier in random parts; my theory is that it trains the body to adapt to the variety, training your reflexes as well as your muscles.  The only problem is a lack of fresh water for showers, so I don?t really put in a full-blown workout.  The personal paper journal is filling out nicely and you can judge for yourself how I?ve been maintaining my electronic journal. 

 Currently the going is slow with over 100 nautical miles to go to Port G. and we are presently making progress at just below 3 knots (3 nautical miles per hour).  A little fun trivia for you: latitude is measured in degrees, minutes and seconds; one nautical mile is the distance of one minute of latitude.  Sixty minutes to a degree and 360 degrees around the world, so how many nautical miles around is the planet?  And if it?s to do with degrees of latitude, does a nautical mile get shorter as you get closer to the poles?  I?m almost certain it is a set unit, my definition should have included the qualifier: "@ the equator"? but I?m not entirely sure. 

More about diving!  The wreck of the "Umbria" was fantastic, with tons of great fishes, puffers, trevally, angelfish, wrasse, soft corals and more.  Inside the ship were ginormous rooms on at least three levels.  Some you could swim through, others were pitch black and really creepy.  I went into one about 20 feet and got a little freaked out, started thinking about how it would be difficult to turn around in the dark if I continued on, and all the possible things lurking in the darkness that could inspire me to turn around.  I almost forgot how fun it was to be scared! 

The ship is a treasure trove of beautiful scenes, light streaming in through coral and barnacle encrusted rusting steel.  The whole ship teeming with life from all the various cracks and crannys is inspiring; seeing the Gaia Reclamation Project in effect, up close and personal.  Old bombs, hand grenades and other weapons of destruction lie defunct here in Davy Jones? locker, unnecessary to the locals other than as small part of the larger structure which now provides shelter to various species.

About 10nm from "Umbria" lies a reef which curves around in a rough figure 8 with spaces allowing ships access to the "inner sanctum";  the reef acts as a barrier even though it is submerged, the waves which build with the current and wind break against the reef, making the inside of the 8 a relatively calm place to anchor.  In the morning, 20-odd dolphins cruise the inner reef and I snorkel up and join them.  Julian is from the French boat, Moana (travelling with his dad?) and we meet up amidst the dolphins and head over to another small wreck easily accessible by snorkel.  Afterwards we head another 100metres out to the outer reef where we spot a White Tip Reef Shark and a Napolean Wrasse, among other fishes such as groupers, triggerfish and parrotfish.  On the way back, a Moray eel and I surprise each other.  She wriggles back into the coral and does not come back out though I wait for her some distance away.  A little song taught to me by my first dive instructor:

"When you swim in the sea and an eel bites your knee,

that?s a Moray.

Stick your hand in a crack and you don?t get it back

That?s a Moray." J

Also dived on a reef that was the site for a Jacques Costeau observation center.  The outpost underwater looks exactly like something from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or what people in the 1930?s must have imagined an underwater installation should look like.  Maybe I?ll be able to post some pictures if Egypt has the bandwidth.  Did a couple of really great wall/drift dives, just letting the current take us past gorgeous coral and magnificent cliffs dropping off into unexplored fathoms.  It is like being in space or on the Grand Canyon or a mix of both and neither, something else? just the edge of something grand and vast beyond yourself? to float on the border of that and contemplate it? words fail.


Pix added to myspace.com/bearpalomo