Onboard \”Sky Dancer\” Dive Boat…..

Dear F&F,
May 17-19, 2009

Because the Galapagos rules limit where private yachts can go, Scott arranged for us to go on this boat for 1 week of scuba diving. We have been on 4 live aboard dive trips of this kind in the past. The last was about 13 years ago. It is a splurge & hopefully a \”vacation\”. I know this sounds funny since we are retired. But the first night I woke up & the boat was underway & Scott was also right there asleep, it was so strange. Neither of us on watch. Free from any responsibility of maintaining or caring for the boat. No navigation to figure out. No watching the weather. No cooking por moi – a real leisure cruise, with diving – my favorite!

The Boat: I was upset at first by the horrible smell of mildew in our below deck cabin. Scott had requested an upstairs one with a view & windows that open, but we were lucky to get a cabin at all. Even though he booked this trip in February, it was the last room available. Once we got underway the ventilation system kicked on & the smell improved greatly. Or else I got used to it. Anyway, our cabin is fine. The motion of the boat is less on the lower decks than above, so from the point of seasick prevention it is better that we are down low. We have two twin beds, mine is a bit higher, but they are not bunk beds. Scott\’s is a bit longer & separated on each side of the small room. Plenty of drawers under the beds, surface area & a closet to stow all our stuff. It seems like we brought everything but the kitchen sink! We moved on before the other guests arrived, who all came by airplane from various places, & had strict luggage limits. We are so used to having everything with us all the time that it was hard to leave anything behind. We moved in with 3 dinghy loads of stuff!

Dive Gear: We had been told by email from the boat company that we would not be allowed to bring our own scuba tanks. The reason we prefer to dive with our own tanks is that they are steel, not aluminum, so heavier & less weight is needed on our weight belts. The first dive was a \”check out\” dive so the dive master could see how we handle ourselves underwater. I used my dry suit for the first time in several years & was pleased that it was not only toasty warm, but I felt very comfortable managing it. Diving with a dry suit requires one additional hose from my regulator to be able to put a little bit of air inside my suit to relieve the \”shrink wrap\” effect as I descend. The water is about 5 degrees cooler than at Coco Island so I expect to be in my dry suit most of the time, although I brought my new 6 mm wetsuit since it may be warmer in the northern islands. With their aluminum tank I needed to wear 18 lbs! We spoke to the dive master after the checkout dive & he had no problem with us bringing over our own steel tanks. Their panga driver gave us a short ride to where our boat was anchored & we brought back our tanks. Scott\’s steel tank holds 95 cubic feet of air, which gives the big guy an equivalent amount of air to my 80 cubic feet. I was able to take 10 lbs off my weight belt, so am much more comfortable.

Other Guests: It is an international group. Two Canadians from Calgary: one a retired woman dentist originally from Tanzania. The other Calgarian owns property in Costa Rica where she hopes to build a house & retire. Three guys from Monterrey, Mexico including one who has done the \”Tour de France\” four times and was a team mate of Lance Armstrong. One New Zealand Guy. Honeymooners from England. Two guys from Buenos Aires. A beautiful couple from Curacao: he is originally from the Netherlands. She does not dive, but is enjoying herself anyway. A couple from San Fransisco that we hit it off with right away. Scott & I are by far the most experienced divers. Some are really newbies, or have just not been diving recently. We help them get their act together whenever we can.
There are only a couple guys besides Scott doing underwater photography or video. So it is not a competitive crowd which is great, very mellow. Everyone is friendly & easy going. The Latins speak enough English so that we can communicate with them. Scott & one Calgary women seem the oldest of the group, although besides the young newlyweds everyone seems in the 35-45 range.

Crew: I think there are as many crew as guests (15). Our cabin is cleaned & tidied up several times per day by Darwin (gotta love the name). When we get out of a dive there are warm towels. They feed us snacks & hot drinks (cocoa or tea) besides breakfast, lunch & dinner. I am really enjoying being served & not cooking at all. We are always hungry after a dive so it is hard not to eat too much. After the last dive, alcohol is included if you wish & I\’ve been enjoying the Vino Tinto from Chile (red table wine).

Dive Highlights:
Yesterday I DID get to snorkel with penguins. They are so cute. Not much larger than a seagull. Standing or hopping on the lava shore rocks or swimming fast below. I have always loved penguins. They make me laugh. *SEE VIDEO GALLERY*

Dive #2 today at Wolf Island was the best so far. Non-stop sharks – both hammerheads & Galapagos sharks. A couple of eagle rays. A few turtles. Lots of moray eels. Plenty of fish of every size & shape. Unfortunately Scott had some technical difficulty with the video so did not get as much great footage as he could have. C\’est la vie. We have regaled the group with our stories of San Benedicto manta rays & shown them the \”Manta Magic\” video which is always a crowd pleaser.

On Dive #4 I got soaked on the inside. I felt the water flooding in as soon as I did my back roll from their panga into the water. Not a pleasant feeling. It wasn\’t like I was going to freeze to death, so I continued with the dive & did not alert Scott to my problem for about 30 minutes. He noticed me hugging myself, trying to keep my armpits warm. I was able to finger spell (sign language) to him: \”total wet\”. He understood & we notified the dive master that we were going to ascend. The light was already dim at 5:30 pm so I didn\’t feel guilty for taking him out of the water, we didn\’t miss much. It was a rather dull dive. We searched for a tear in a seam or the seals at the neck & wrists but could not find a breech. We suspect I had just not completely closed the waterproof zipper & through that small opening water flowed in. The deck hands were most kind in helping me rinse my fleece long johns in fresh water & took them to the boats dryer. We hung my suit inside out. I will try it again tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was prawns which were delicious. It is a treat for me to have seafood at every meal that it\’s offered. Scott is not much of a fish eater, so I don\’t usually prepare it for us. We also had chocolate ice cream for dessert, so my day was complete. We are in bed by 9:00 p.m. & up at 6:00 a.m. They keep the boat on Ecuador time (Central) even though the Galapagos is actually 1 hour earlier (Mountain). I guess it helps the guests feel less jet lagged & the \”wake up\” call at 7:00 a.m. does not sound as early as 6:00 a.m. Scott told me they do this to keep boat and the main office in Ecuador on the same time zone.

Yesterday besides 2 dives and snorkeling with the penguins, we went ashore for a hike up to a viewpoint where we saw the signature photo (Tower of San Bartolome) from on high. It felt good to exercise on land & the view was worthwhile. For the photographer he would have preferred a sunrise view than the sunset. But in the moment it was great.

Scott & Cindy