Unfortunately it's been a while since I've been able to update my journal so the memory of trip details has faded somewhat. Faded or melted in the stormy weather I've been in is yet to be determined.
The overall time spent on Nimrod was, in retrospect, definitely a highlight in Australia so far.
I decided that as I was going to be out at sea for a few days, with not much to do other than dive and read, it would be worth doing my Advanced Open Water diving course. Ben took me under instruction and was my slave driver and coach for the next 3 days. I had to 5 dives and complete all the theory in order to qualify - but in between my diving was free diving with my nimrod compatriots.
As I'd only done 4 dives before joining the boat I was a little nervous just before going into the less than calm sea for the first time! Luckily though, my dive buddy(ies) Alex was a hugely calming influence. He's been diving for 12yrs or so and was a very conscientous and responsible companion. I thoroughly enjoyed the dives and getting to be part of the amazing underwater world of the great barrier reef was just incredible. Getting to grips with the fact that all the coral is actually a living breathing "animal" that reproduces was quite a challenge though. The highlight dive though was at Cod Hole where we sat on the Ocean Floor and watched (and felt) Scott feed the giant potatoe Cod (fish) - they are pretty big fat fish and I was swiped by it's tail at least a couple of times. Scott threw the food right in front of my face so that I got a first hand view down the gullet of a gorging fish! It was a spectaculor site.
My dives to qualify as Advanced diver included a night dive. This one was definitely my least favourite and was just a tad stressful. They are apparently amazing when you get your head around them as the night life under water is completely different to that during the day...... But trying to keep my buoyancy floating above coral, doing a navigation exercise into the pitch darkness (sent of with a compass and had to find my way back to the starting point) and just being surrounded by blackness was quite a challenge for me. I didn't really see much of the sea life but did become quite familiar with what Ben's flippers and rear end looked like......I was not going to lose him and stuck to him like glue!
Over the 3 days on the boat the weather turned rather miserable. The great thing about diving though is that you can almost escape the weather completely. On one particular day the weather was exceptionally harsh; the dive itself was fine but we came up to the surface into a raging storm. We weren't quite under the boat so had to work our way across the huge swells and waves sea along the bouy line to the boat. My usual luck raged it's head though and my hands managed to find the only bluebottles on the rope - i thought i had some bad rope burn so had to try get across the raging sea with my hands "on fire" .....can i just say OUCH and PHEW..... All part of the adventure though ;-)
The saving grace after all the dives though had to be "cook"! We could not have eaten more food if we tried. The day started at 6.30am wtih our first continental breakfast and then went about as follows (as we slowly moved up a wetsuit size):
7am - first dive (hour)
9am - full spread cooked breakfast - eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, tomato, mushrooms etc
10.30am - next dive (also moving in between dive sites all the while)
12pm - lunch of quiches, salads, burgers and more
1.30pm - dive
3pm - up from the raging cold seas to find hot freshly bakes scones with jam and cream - YUUUUMMMMMMMYYYYYYY
4.30pm - dive
5pm - snack
7pm - dinner which usually had a choice of about 6 things and more food than we could possibly all eat......
then another night dive.....
It's really to hard to try write about the details as I could probably just go on forever and bore you and myself to death. I just so enjoyed the trip - as there were only 7 of us it was easy just to hangout, mess around and eventually indulge in some rather personal banter. The crew were also fantastic and we had a pretty good laugh together.....
On the final day of our trip we were due to go back to Cooktown and catch a flight back down to Cairns again. The weather however had other ideas! At about 2pm, after our last dive in rather stormy conditions we were told that we were not going to make it back to shore as cooktown was flooded, the winds were too strong and the river (through which we were due to get back into harbour) was flowing at a rate stronger than the boat could get through......
The decision was made to head back to Port Douglas through the storms.....it was going to be another 18hrs before we made it back to land. Those 18hrs turned out to be rather an event in itself......the sea and winds turned pretty violent through the night, so much so that it was impossible to sleep below deck in the bunks. The bow of the boat was being thrown in the air and hitting the sea with such force that we were thrown out our bunks. And not to mention the sea sickness that some poor souls suffered from. We all eventually found ourselves cosied up in the "livingroom" finding a place to sleep...or at least catch a few winks where we could. And there, in that moment, crew and clients, bonded to become one happy family :-)
We made it to Port Douglas at 6am the next morning, poor skipper had a pretty rough night of it and all credit to him for getting us back in one piece!
Despite all of this, we all sadly left the boat and boarded a bus back to Cairns - me with my Advanced Diver qualification in had of course!
I knew that there was no way I wanted to spend another day or night in Cairns so decided to take the midnight bus out of there and head south....hopefully to better weather. Little did I know that Larry was on his way and my decision could not have been a wiser one. I passed the day at the movies with Alex and boarded the bus at the strike of 12 to take me to phase 2 of my cyclone adventure...............
(you can see the route of our dives on the Great Barrier Reef Map) : Cod Hole, Pixies pinnacle, Steves Bommie etc ....all the way down to Port Douglas).