Dive Dive Dive

Dive Dive Dive

We entered the Komodo National Park and at the advice of my old Pacific crossing friend Jim from Sea Level, headed for Gili Lawa Laut. This small island at the north end of the park is also known as number 40 in the often used 101 Anchorages of Indonesia. We made the short 18 mile crossing in a calm seas and no wind, basking in the sunshine all the way.

As we approached we found the anchorage busy with six large livaboard dive boats. The classic designed Indonesian sailing vessels ranged for 70 feet to well over 100. This must be a great place to dive we concluded and we were not wrong. We anchored well away from the fleet in fairly deep water along a sloping reef providing excellent diving in the 50 visibility. Even before we dropped the hook we saw a huge Manta Ray frolicking on the service by the boat, causing gleeful squeals to come from Furthur. We would see a turtle come by at the same time for the next three day, so the anchorage will be known as Terrapin Station for ever more (yes that is a Grateful Dead song).

The rugged arid landscape if the hilly island indicated the extreme lack of rain in this area—I like that!! The girls went hiking and although this island is not known for dragons they did find a munched on deer carcass, the dragons can swim easily from island to island we learned which brought shivers to the hikers.

Being late in the afternoon we arrived and did a quick dive around the boat. I took Beth on a check out dive as this was her first dive off Furthur, she did great of course. Beth is another of the girls with vast training and a dive master certificate but somewhat limited experience. She quickly added to her list of firsts by seeing a large Manta Ray swim above us. This list would grow exponentially in the next few days.

With five divers and four rigs and the limited size of the dinghy we split the dives into groups. First I took Troy and Sally out to where the fleet of commercial dive tenders all headed. We found they were all on the top of a large panicle. As we approached several of the Indonesian tender drivers motioned us to where we should start. I dropped the two in at the appointed place and headed back to where the other tenders awaited. The motioned me to join them and I pulled up to one of the boats. They could not be more helpful and showed me where the best dive spots are and when to dive them. This was a refreshing change from the dive resorts that really did not want us around.

The diving duo surfaced with huge smiles and expounding on about sharks, turtles and the wonders they had seen. We sped back to the boat, fired up the compressor and started what would be an all day tank filling event. I next took the two remaining girls with me and back to the mound we went only to find the current had picked up and we had missed the window. We headed to the smaller mound which actually penetrated the surface. We planned to dive in the lee of the current and dropped into the amazingly clear water. The plan worked, we dropped to 90 feet almost current free and started around the rock clock wise. As we rounded the rock the current picked up but so did the wild life. Hordes of fish sat head first into the current as it must bring them a cornucopia of treats. About the time I determined the current was too much I spotted a black tip Reef shark, pointed it out to the girls and I could see their masks fill with eyeballs.

We spun around and rode the current back around the rock now going counter clockwise; this gave us a 45 degree arch of shelter from the current. Again as the current picked up so did the wildlife. We saw a spectacular Indian Lion Fish prancing about in full regalia, what a sight.

The next dive was a drift dive through a narrow passage on the west side of the island. We timed the dive for one hour before slack and as we entered the pass the current was boiling at the narrowest part. The two girls, Beth and Simone, and I were on this dive with Troy driving the tender. Again this was a first for both girls, an E ticket drift dive. We found the canyon carved out of the deepest part of the pass, about 30 feet and were sent flying along the bottom. We all did our “superman” and Peter Pan imitations as we sped along—great fun! Then we dropped off a wall to about 60 feet and explored the underside of the wall finding small crevasses packed with fish. We glided in the reduced current for a while and surfaced all full of laughter, “do it again, do it again!

That night we joined old friends on the beach for a bonfire. Bonfires lose some of their appeal on an 86 degree night but still a wonderful thing. The hot topic amongst the reunited cruises was how we were going to deal with not being able to transition the Red Sea. Some were shipping, they had rigid time tables, some heading around Africa and some, like me just sitting it out in Asia for a year to see what happens.

The next day the teams switched, I took the girls on the pinnacle first. Again a spectacular dive, sharks, turtles, Indian Lion Fish, and a magnificent Eagle Ray awaited us. We actually saw the lion fish sitting just above the turtle, and no camera!

Troy and team got the drift dive and we were joined by two other dinghies of divers. There was some discussion about the timing and one of the guys wanted to wait a bit for the tide change. It turned out to be a mistake and the divers did not get the E ride. The tide changed and sent them the other way. None the less they had a great dive. We enjoyed playing with the surfacing Manta Rays while waiting for the divers to surface.

I just finished rereading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” a classic book I had read in the 70’s. The lessons learned came in handy today. The coolant water discharge on the Honda outboard had reduced to a trickle. I diagnosed the problem and set the hypothesis to be the impellor had given out. The owner’s manual is all but worthless on most items and it remained consistent here, call a recognized Honda service outlet, like there is one anywhere near here.

I looked for the water pump where I thought it should be and found none, a bit of advice from a friend and we began dropping the lower unit to access the pump. This is a bit above my pay grade in the mechanics world, especially without a useful manual but I went forth full of Zen gumption.

The Lower unit dropped, the pump was found, then taken apart only to find the impellor in fine shape. Damn, one hypothesis shot to hell. I changed the unit anyway and after a faultless reassembly plopped the dink back in the water hoping I might have somehow fixed it. No such luck, it was still not producing the desired flow. MMM, I returned to the Zen book and started at the beginning, the hose the discharges the water out of the cowling. I tried to pull it off the fitting and for reasons I will never know the water shot forth like Old Faithful, problem solved. I took Zen moment and gave my thanks.

Someone was listening, as the next dive will go down as one of the all time greats. Beth, Simone and I dove the last remaining site off the island. It was a beautiful wall with crystal clear visibility down to 100 feet. The usual array of fish and coral abounds on this wall. It was the end of the dive that marked this one. As we ascended to reach safety stop depths I looked up and saw a huge Manta Ray circling above. I frantically pointed it out to the girls and we crept up the wall. When we got to 12 feet we sat still as four mammoth Rays did a ballet over our heads for 15 minutes. The swooped and dove and circled and careened about like a well choreographed dance. I looked at the girls, again masks full of eyeballs and air leaking from their mouth pieces and the smiles could not be contained. When we surfaced they did a happy dance and shrieks of joy came through the bubbles. This was a true gift. Tonight’s gratitude time will be jammed packed.