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Date: 20 Feb 2011 02:30:00
Title: Diving and sleeping

Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua, Saturday night

It was another early start today to get down to the dive shop to complete my practical sessions. "We're going to Sunken Rock" says John. Well, the other kind wouldn't be much use. There were a few of us on the boat and we went further than before to a buoy just below some low cliffs. On top of the cliffs is a large house - or series of small houses, I suppose - belonging to Eric Clapton. Very near where we were moored, the swell was breaking over the top of a large rock.

Some of the other people on the boat were experienced divers so they were buddied up with each other while Arno and I were a team. He told me that they were going deeper than us but didn't tell me when or how I'd know. Anyway, we got kitted out and got in and I went down the mooring line equalising all the way with no problems. Got to the bottom and put a little bit of air in my BCD to get neutral and then we all set off with me following on behind everyone else and Arno behind me. It was a fascinating site as we were following a deep gulley down between the rocks. After a while, I could look up the rocky sides towering over us with an overhang at the top. All the way up, the rock was covered in sponges and anemonies with loads of fish swimming around them.

Suddenly, I got a tap on the shoulder and Arno pointed to his depth gauge. We were at about 80 feet and I was only supposed to go to 60 on this dive. We ascended together and I could look down and see the others poking about below us. From then on, I kept a good look at my depth gauge so it was a good lesson. Not dangerous, they just like to keep you shallow while you're learning. When the others came back up to our level, John located a big eel in a cave amongst the rocks. I got a good look at him and he looked very other-worldly - bright green with his mouth wide open. From there, we ascended gradually with a 3 minute stop at 6 meters to make sure our bodies were getting used to the reduced pressure.

I was supposed to do a controlled swimming ascent while breathing out from that point. Arno had told me what I needed to do before we went down but had neglected to tell me that he'd be hanging onto my jacket all the way up. He signed for me to go but I interpreted his holding onto me as a signal to stay. The comedy show continued for a few minutes, then he let me go and I did it. I think he was a bit miffed about it but it's hard to interpret what you're supposed to do in a simulated situation when the other person does something unexpected.

It was hard getting back onboard the boat in the swell, particularly taking off my tank and BCD. Once we were all back on deck, we motored around to a sheltered cove for a rest and warm up. It's surprisingly cold in the water after half an hour or so and the sun was welcome. Our next dive was very nearby so we got kitted up again and in we all went. I must admit that I was starting to get pretty tired by this point. I was still getting the buoyancy OK and was getting used to swimming with my arms tucked in rather than flailing around by I felt a bit ragged and was glad to get back out at the end. That was it for our morning of diving so we headed back into Falmouth Harbour past all the mega yachts.

I've got to go back on Monday afternoon to do some book work and complete some examinations so I'll have to watch the rest of the DVDs tomorrow. The diving is amazing and the underwater world is fascinating but I don't think it's ever going to be my favourite thing. There's a lot of kit and messing around for only a short while in the water. It's a good thing to do when we arrive in a new place and I can go down and have a look at all the new creatures but I don't think it will sustain my interest for long in the same area. Also, I really feel that I've seen almost as much just snorkelling from the back of the boat and that's a lot less hassle. Still, the PADI qualification will be something else to put on my CV in case I need to get a job as a skipper.

I walked back to Saxon Blue and went out for lunch with Andrea. I was famished after all that exercise so we had a good meal and then I was just flaked out so I went to bed for a couple of hours in the afternoon while Andrea kept doing her artwork. When I woke up, it was about 5pm so cooler and we decided to go for a walk to the old fort which guards the entrance to English Harbour. Like all the harbour facilities, it's still the original Georgian one and didn't get upgraded by the Victorians so it's all pretty modest and charming. From there, we walked into Falmouth to find somewhere for our dinner. Our favourite Italian restaurant were having a Mexican theme night with mechanical bucking bull so we gave that a miss and walked on.

I the end, we chose a Greek restaurant in the Antigua Yacht Club Marina complex. It turned out to be fantastic food and I had a whole grilled lobster which was about twice as much meat as anybody needs. Absolutely delicious, though. We sat looking out at the masts and yards of all the parked boats. Maltese Falcon was lit up blue and, in front of her, a more traditional square rigger all lit up yellow. In the Yacht Club garden, they were hosting a party for the crews who are here for the Caribbean 600 race which starts on Monday. There are some very serious yachts here to compete in it. I've seen ICAP Leopard and Rambler, both amazing sailing machines. Leopard was out sailing near where we were diving today and she was just cleaving through the water. A lovely sight.

We managed to stagger home after dinner and then the hard bit, bending double to get onto the stern of Saxon Blue underneath our tender. That's hard when you've overeaten as we had. I'm off to bed now as I think we're getting up early again to do some Janeway filming for Andrea while it's still cool tomorrow morning.

Harvey

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