The captain yells “Hold on”, revs up the engine and we are off. The salty wind burns my face as we quickly race from shore. With each swell, the small boat violently bounces, like an old jalopy on a dirt road. I am nervous and excited all at the same time. It has been a long time since my last dive. Not since Lake Tenkiller, not since Barry.
I watch the shore grow smaller in the distance, becoming nothing more than a speck on the horizon. After a quick ten minute ride, the boat slows as it approaches the designated dive spot, then comes to a stop. The boat continues to bounce, making it hard to keep my balance as I assemble my gear. Another diver helps with me with my equipment and I return the favor. Before the dive begins, the master gives us some last minute instructions, preparing us for what we will encounter. I listen, but my mind drifts back to the day I received my advanced certification. It was my first deep dive, 80 feet. The dive master warned me that sometimes the change in depth has an intoxicating effect, called narcosis. We had gone down 50 or 60 feet when I started coughing. My breathing regulator was no longer in my mouth and I felt like I was drinking the entire lake. Noticing something was wrong, my instructor quickly placed the regulator back in my mouth and started our ascent to the surface. I kept thinking that I must be drowning, but at the same time I was aware that I was OK. Other than coughing up water the rest of the day, I was fine. But the fear of drowning grips me hard and I push through it.
The tepid water of the Caribbean warms me as I descend into the sea. My buoyancy control device, called a BCD, keeps me afloat as I clear my mask with spit and fit it to my face. Thumbs up and we are ready. I release the air from my BCD and the dive weights cause me to sink. The light dims but I look up to see the glare of bright sunlight at the surface. As I descend, the change in pressure clogs my ears. I hold my nose and blow, causing my ears to pop. The only sound I hear, however, is the rough sound of my breathing, amplified by the regulator. We do not touch bottom for fear of damaging the corals. It’s hard to believe the reef is a living thing. I notice the life around me. Thin finger-like blades of sea grass grows through the fine white sand and dance in the gentle breeze of our passing . Vibrant colors of coral catch my eye. Rustic reds, bright yellows and pale browns cover the bottom. A lacy purple fan stands out from the rest and becomes my favorite. Brightly colored parrot fish dart past me. I try to take a picture but they are much too quick. Reluctantly, I point and shoot, hoping that I get lucky.
I have never dived the Caribbean. The closest I have come to experiencing the perfect view of the ocean is snorkeling in Honduras. But that is only an appetizer, enough to wet my appetite for a grander feast.
I don’t know why I am so fascinated with the sea. Maybe being born under the sign of Aquarius had something to do with. But the sea, the ocean, it is like an enchanted kingdom. There is a calmness under the water. Worries disappear and all that matters is right in front of your eyes. I hope one day to be lucky enough to experience it firsthand.