I slept surprisingly well for my first night aboard a sailboat. We had anchored down in a protected area off one of the islands so the water was quite calm. Despite a little rain in the early morning, the overcast skies were a big improvement from the previous day's torrential rains (seriously, Airlie Beach made the national news due to 2-3 nights of major rains/flooding).
Due to the improved weather and clarity of water, I was faced with the prospect of my first SCUBA Dive. The Skipper had given us a vote on the day's activities post-breakfast. Our choices were to hit up another snorkel/dive site, go to popular Whitehaven Beach, stop at a resort for hot showers/pool, or sail around a scenic fjord. The majority voted on snorkeling/diving because the majority of us wanted our free introductory dive!
As we motored to our new dive site, Avi (the divemaster) banged his head while trying to do something below deck. He was bleeding quite a bit, and there was a 1-inch laceration on the top of his head.
Despite concern for infection, he decided to do all the free intro dives. I was in the third (and last) group of 4, so I spent an hour snorkeling off the island. The water clarity was much improved so I saw plenty of fish and even more impressive, tons of colorful coral.
When it was my turn to SCUBA, he suited me up with a weight belt and vest/tank. I found that breathing through the regulator was hard (especially on the exhales). It certainly took some getting use to. I was nervous, and knew that staying relaxed and breathing regularly was required. After testing our ability to clear our mask and regulators of water, we went under.
Avi monitored our air and the depth of the dive so we didn't have to think about it. It took all my energy to keep focused on breathing consistently and not freaking out. We used hand signals underwater to verify we were doing OK (I didn't see that any of us had problems).
It was a weird experience overall. I know it could be a lot more fun if I get comfortable with it. I just don't see myself pursuing SCUBA diving further. I'm content to snorkel, and let the divers have their fun deeper down.
After the dives were completed, we ate lunch and set sail for Whitehaven Beach (famous for its white silica beaches – super soft sand I first experienced on Fraser Island). Hoisting the primary and secondary sails isn't an easy task. It takes teamwork and some muscle. I helped hoist the secondary sail, and then grabbed a spot on the high side of the boat as we sped to Whitehaven for the night. The Skipper knows the area well though we can't sail at night because there isn't much in the way of modern equipment on board. In fact, all there is in front of the steering wheel is a big compass!
By night time, the clouds were breaking up and we could see some very bright stars twinkling above. Unlike the prior night, we didn't have a tarp up on deck so we also had 360-degree views. It was quite wonderful. I believe we had barbecued steaks on the second night. Given all the dudes on board, you had to be fast on the food to get your share. A few people found it frustrating. Overall, the food prepared was quite good, and I had a serious appetite for whatever prepared for us.
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