Sunday, March 28, 2008

Selected Pics (24)

When we arrived in St. Maarten around 7am, many travlers no doubt headed straight to the shops (for some duty-free jewelry) or the beach, maybe even a nude beach. Not Martha and I. We were dive bound, even though our plans had been thwarted the day before. We were planning to join Scuba Fun on their morning dive to complete our third and fourth certification dives, but at least we were able to join their afternoon trip to complete our first and second certification dives. Since we weren't sure exactly where Scuba Fun was located, we took a cab into town. It was quickly apparent that the cab driver didn't know either. We ended up walking halfway back to the ship. I highly recommend walking there if you go. It's on the left and you can really miss it unless you're flying by in a cab. Anyway, we got there plenty early and even had quite a wait. Little did we know what adventure lie ahead.

Our dive instructor was incredibly friendly and the first dive was very easy. Our dive time was 33 minutes (1:40-2:13pm) to a maximum depth of 25ft. The minimum water temperature was 81F. Our course was a shallow water dive trail that included a sunken plane, a Poseidon statue, and a little coral. Despite the cloudy water, we had an easy and enjoyable time. Back on the boat for a rest, there was apparently some confusion between our dive instructor and the boat captain. I had asked about our second dive after a few minutes thinking we were getting close on time. Apparently the captain was thinking we were only doing one dive. Looking back on the original plan, I can see that was the case (3rd cert dive in morning, 4th in afternoon). So people were still getting their gear on board from the first dive when the dive instructor asked if we were comfortable doing a backward roll off the side of the boat. We gave him the okay and were in the water shortly and without incident.

We were only down for about 3 or 4 minutes working on basic skills when things went terribly wrong. When Martha discarded her regulator for the regulator recovery skill, it went on free flow. This in and of itself is no big deal. It IS a big deal if you forget how to correct it. Martha was trying to purge the regulator while sucking only a tiny bit of air from the passing bubbles. The instructor couldn't figure out what was going on and when Martha started signalling Emergency with the sweeping motion of her hand across her throat. So he grabbed her BCD and shot to the surface. I followed. At the surface, Martha was clearly badly shaken. I felt bad fo rnot jumping in since I knew exactly what was going on the whole time. I expected the instructor to correct it. I'm still not sure why he panicked. My only thought is that he thought it surely couldn't be something that simple. Anyway, just like getting a rider right back in the saddle or a driver right back behind the wheel, we were able to talk Martha into going right back down to finish the skills. She was a bit panicky on the "share air" and I had to get her to calm down before I took her air, but it went okay after that and we finished without further incident. To this day, she still gets teary-eyed when she tells the story. It really was a life-flashes-before-your-eyes type of moment for her, but I'm proud of her for fighting through it.

We were back on the boat and back to the marina with plenty of time to spare. We thanked the crew and headed back to the ship for our 5pm departure. While the Celebrity Millenium headed out to sea, Martha and I prepared for our first formal night. After donning our finest, we had Heather and Emil over for cocktail hour and then joined them for formal portraits on the way to dinner. We also took some fantastic pictures at dinner with our fabulous tablemates Tony and Diane. One of my favorite photos of the entire vacation is the last of the favorites from this evening where Martha and Heather have exploded with laughter. You'll have to ask them about the hand-holding story, though I'm sure you had to be there.


St. Maarten Web Sites ( Official Tourism Site, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Cruise Critic, Destination360, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia )

Scuba Fun
The Scuba Fun Dive Center on the Dutch side of Sint-Maarten is located at Great Bay Marina - Dock Maarten (Pointe Blanche, Philipsburg), less than a 10 minute boat ride to 15 of the most famous diving spots of St Maarten, including Proselyte Reef, The Maze, Carib Ghost, and Cable Reef.
    Dutch Phone ++599.542.3966
    Dutch Cell ++ 599.557.0505