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August 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Aqua Cat, The Bahamas

reefs and the vessel showing their age

from the August, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

The 28-foot Sea Dog pulled alongside one of the mostly uninhabited 365 rocky islands that make up the Exumas archipelago. Wearing my mask, snorkel, and fins, I jumped into the warm, clear water from the jet boat that the Aqua Cat tows for eco-adventures such as this. I snorkeled a few yards to a crack at the end of the small island.

Thunderball Grotto didn't look like much from the outside, but as I swam through the darkness, I entered a beautiful cavern with a huge domed ceiling containing several skylights. Rays of sunlight reflected off the water's surface and danced over the dark stone walls, making the cave unusually bright and inviting. Sunbeams danced across the backs of small tropical fish, mainly sergeant majors. Here, in the James Bond movie of the same name, nuclear warheads were stored. Yes, Sean Connery had once hung out here. The memory of that giant chamber in the middle of a hollow island will forever be in my mind.

My June American Airlines flight had been delayed, so by the time we cleared formalities in Nassau and waited for another couple who had issues becauseAquaCatAqua Cat they were bringing a drone to the island, we arrived an hour late at the 102-foot Aqua Cat, moored offshore. Lead Divemaster Diego, a youthful 42-year-old Brazilian with a great sense of humor, showed us five latecomers around and assigned our dive stations. A few of the aluminum tanks -- 63, 80, and 100 -- had screw-in inserts, so I was able to use my DIN regulator without an adapter. I rushed to get my gear assembled and then headed to the salon for a cold hamburger and salad while Captain Ron explained what to do in case of an emergency.

Three of us shared cabin number 10, the largest on the boat, with a queen bed and a single bed. While the craft had recently been in dry dock, other than new carpet, I could see no significant improvements. When I was aboard eight years ago, she was a beautiful boat, but time has not been kind. Paint peeled in the bathroom, and the vinyl was yellowed. There were rust and corrosion around the shower and sink. I was put off by a moldy shower curtain liner and threadbare bath towels. Often, at nights the cabin walls pulsated from an off-balance washing machine running in the nearby laundry room. Everything in the cabin seemed loose and rattled. I could not close the curtains because the rails that held them down were no longer attached to the wall. The air conditioner kept the room cold, but it made awful noises....


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