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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Snakes on a Boat

Snakes.  Why’d it have to be snakes?
            -        Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc

The panga picked us up on the boats at 7am this morning.  We went ashore, got our dive gear and were underway to the dive site out on Cana Island by 7:30.  Along the way Mike and Holly started to prep their gear.  They have their own regulators and BCDs (Buoyancy Control Devices – the inflatable life vest type things divers wear to control their depth).  Suddenly Holly jumped back from her BCD and said, “I think there’s a snake in it!”  It took us all a moment to register that she was serious.  Mike carefully peeled back the flaps and sure enough there he was. 

The local dive master assured us that it was not poisonous – just a very small boa constrictor.  You would have thought if this was going to happen it would have been on our Friday the 13th dive a few weeks ago!  Mike carefully grabbed hold of the snake and pulled him out. 

We had a long debate over where he came from.  Was he on Wanuskewin and came aboard with their dive gear?  Or was he aboard the dive boat?  We named him Howie because we just couldn’t figure out how he got aboard.  Later when we got back to the dock, one of the hotel staff told us Howie was born only a couple of weeks ago as part of a whole nest of them.  Howie must have slithered aboard the dive boat and gotten rattled when the dive master started moving the tanks around at which point he decided Holly’s BCD looked like a safe home.

Once we reached the island, the dive master had to go ashore to the ranger station and purchase our passes to dive on the reef because it is a protected area.

When we got to the first dive site, the swell was running 10 foot high and some waves were breaking over the reef.  It was something of a challenge to get below the strong surge.  The dive master put down a buoy to mark for the boat where we dropped.  Then the boat swung in before a wave broke and we jumped in.  Melissa swam as hard as she could, but still managed to end up pinned (albeit only for a few seconds) like an upside down turtle, against the reef as we were descending.  Once we were down, the surge was a bit less, but at one point we swam and swam and swam and didn’t make any forward progress, so the dive master turned around and went with the surge instead of against it.  Then later Melissa got shoved right into Dave and her hoses became hooked on the back of his tank.  Fortunately Dave didn't flinch and Melissa un-entangled herself before Dave pulled the regulator out of her mouth.  With the 10 foot swell over our heads you could feel the swell in your ears making you think you were descending too fast when in fact you weren't changing position - but the depth was suddenly 10 foot more.  Holly and Mike's dive computers were even beeping warning them they were ascending too fast!  Both Dave and Holly were having trouble with their ears hours after the dive.

Despite the challenging conditions, we did get to see some pretty cool stuff.  Melissa’s never been so close to white tipped reef sharks before.  One came right up almost to arm’s length.  There were two that were at least 7 foot long on the bottom that the dive master told us were pregnant.  And we got up close to a giant turtle, one sting ray, and tons of colorful fish.  The second dive the visibility was going down because all the swell had churned up the sand and it was almost like swimming through a snowstorm.

On our way back, Dave about had a heart attack when he saw a white sailboat with a yellow kayak that had dragged anchor and was near to the beach.  But as we got closer we realized it wasn’t Apsaras.  Another boat in the anchorage – a trimaran that we had noticed yesterday as we came in was missing one of its three pontoons having clearly been on the rocks once already – had drug across the bay.  After the panga dropped us off at the hotel for lunch, they went back to tow the unattended boat back to its original position.  However, the guys on the panga apparently didn’t know how to anchor a sailboat and didn’t set the anchor properly.  Hence as we sat at the hotel having lunch, we noticed that it was again dragging, this time out to sea.  By the time we finished lunch the trimaran was no longer dragging its anchor because it had blown so far out to sea the anchor wasn’t even touching bottom anymore.  We debated whether to try and go save it with the dinghies or just let the poor beat up thing sink.  In the end we alerted the hotel, who told us they had already called the owner, and were sending yet another panga out to rescue it.  In the photo you can see that the hull on the right side in this picture is almost completely gone - having no doubt met the rocks previously.

The swell was running so big that as we sat and watched the trimaran float away, Mike started to fret about Wanuskewin being too close to where the big waves were breaking.  So when we got back aboard the boats, Mike moved to anchor in deeper water.

For dinner we had made reservations at the hotel restaurant.  But no one was too keen on bringing the dingy in again with the swell being so big.  The entrance to the cove looked like this:

So the hotel sent a panga for us.  These boys are having drinks and are happy looking at the view.

And here's why we wanted to have dinner here:


After dinner it was time to have the panga take us back to the boats.  The manager came over when dessert was finished and said that they were ready to take us back - the clear implication being that conditions on the bar were deteriorating and we needed to hustle and go now.  When we got in the panga they handed us life jackets.  Ok, in Central America if they have you put the life jackets on, that can't be a good sign.  We've never even seen a life jacket on a panga before.  We headed out into the inky blackness.  The captain hit full throttle, and then changed his mind and pulled a U-Turn back into the estuary.  Apparently a wave he didn't like.  Not good.  He came around again and watched the surf and waited.  Finally he hit the throttle again.  After leaping over a few big waves we were out.  And not a drop of water on us.  Whew.

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