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Diver Down

Spending a day with a dive operation, I find, is never dull or as simple as it sounds. We are diving over the wreck of the Rhone, a common practice in the BVI, except today we are joined by two archaeologists studying wrecks, a moray eel and some dive enthusiasts from all over the world. Put eight people on board a 35-foot Stryker, load it with dive gear and head out to a popular dive spot and you already have a story… or eight.

We are with Aquaventure. In the driving seat is 23-year-old dive instructor Wayne Palmer, aka “Salad,” who has been diving for many years. He tells his tale of the wreck of the Rhone in a relaxed fashion and confidently herds the group down to his favourite section, the bow. As it’s an intact swim through, the boat stays on top, a hovering safety beacon as two 40-minute dives exploring the 19th century wreck makes for a lot of happy bubbles.

 

Today there are three other dive companies, two charter yachts and a powerboat present. Everyone is diving or snorkelling. It is overcast and the winds are 15 feet, churning up the sea. As I look under the boat I see the wreck is clear; even at 40 feet, visibility is extremely good. The divers surface from the first dive with eyes wild about rays and turtles and the moray eel. Immediately media images fly through everyone’s collective popular culture references—the ray from the film The Deep, shipwrecks and pirates. Except we are here, and it’s very real. I am remembering the dead whale that was here two years back and the rare treat of tiger sharks tearing at its rotting carcass. The black rock that sunk the Rhone is 20 feet from us. It’s not time for pen to paper as yet, the people on board are as interesting as well.

 

The crew is mixed levels supervised by instructors Salad, Eric and Rebecca—all full of smiles and pointers for dive techniques. Rebecca simulates an incident on surfacing for Nick who is training for his rescue diver certificate in between researching the wreck of the HMS Nymph. Tomorrow 14 field students from Bristol University will begin a three-week adventure of wreck research here in the BVI. I remember touring a radio station on a college field trip, with a bag of crisps and an umbrella for the torrential British rain… aah, youth. Today’s rain is cooling and sporadic. The guests recall rays, shark and fish encounters on their travels; they all concur—BVI is the spot. Two of our guests are picked up and dropped off at their charter yacht, a service second to none here in the BVI. All smiles are exchanged as we head to Village Cay, Road Town to base and lunch.

 

Anticipation is everything there and back. There is always something about the ocean and sharing experiences that never ceases to fascinate me. Did you see that ray? Nodding heads with beaming smiles confirm. The instructors are on a turn around to go again in the afternoon and on daily trips all over the island the Aquaventure team is as experienced as they are friendly and jovial. Too many times I have heard seasonal workers become arrogant about the volume of tourism teaching. It’s in the fine print guys and finding a team that is as enthusiastic about the diving aspect as their guest—bingo. Well done Aquaventure! For me, not a regular diver, an awesome experience; for the experienced divers aboard—incredible. 

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