I do a lot of dive trips abroad, about a dozen each year. I recently enjoyed a two-week liveaboard trip in the Red Sea near southern Sudan, followed by a similar amount of time shore-based in Bali, Indonesia. In each case, my fellow divers were British, French, Belgian, German and Dutch but could have been easily interchangeable starting from day one.
However, as time passed, a distinct difference became apparent. On a liveaboard, we are all in the same boat both physically and mentally. An esprit de corps soon develops because after all, nobody wants anyone else to have a bad time nor, God forbid, an accident. Everyone becomes very co-operative and sympathetic to ever other’s needs. This loyalty towards members of the group does not appear evident during day boat dives.
In Bali, we were subject to some heavy surf that made it hazardous getting out to the boat each time. The dive center rigged a heavy guide line for people to grab hold of as they made their journey out to the boat so that there was no risk of being swept away, and we were guided through the shallows by attentive staff so that nobody fell over or got swept under breaking waves. Leaving the shore, we would then progress the 100 yards out along the line to the boat.
For my own part, I am quite at home in the water. But several times, I experienced fellow divers who had left the beach after I did fighting their way past me in order to get on the boat first. There was an air of panic among some of the participants. I resigned myself to bobbing in the swell until the danger of anyone standing on my head to get up the boat ladder before me had passed. If I might use a French vernacular, I found this behaviour by some other divers “bloody rude” at least and downright dangerous at worst.
On board the crowded boat, there was a general lack of care of other’s equipment and it was down to each diver to protect his own. Once we arrived
at the dive site, there was a similar fight to be first in the water. I’m pretty slick at getting into my rig, so I cleared the decks in order to exchange the bun-fight for the open space of the ocean.
Too often while underwater, I’d find myself lining up a subject in my camera’s viewfinder only to be pushed aside by someone with a digital camera in a plastic lunchbox who obviously decided that my choice of angle was good.
After a day boat dive, each diver quickly disappears to rejoin his family or friends somewhere on land and you don’t really ever get to know them. On a liveaboard, you spend time cheek-by-jowl with those you dive with. As Stan Waterman, that doyen of divers and gracious old-fashioned gentleman, “When you get to my age, John, liveaboard!” I’m inclined to agree.