Fun at depth on Crete (mediterranean).
The mediterranean freediving meeting has kicked off. Will Winram, his charming (and very patient...) wife Michelle, Rob King and I were the first to arrive last Saturday. A minivan journey along a road that would be a challenge to anyone with motion sickness, squashed in between buoys, ropes, monofins and tanks got us over the top of the Cretan mountains to the tiny village of Sougia, where we were greeted with open arms. The first day was spent setting up mooring lines and testing equipment, so we just acclimatized on the beach and compared the Greek lemon juices to the ones in Dahab: the first sip was a shock, as there is NO sugar in there, and hardly any water!! After a couple of days of drinking this the waitress in the restaurant asked me why we were ordering it all the time - clearly not the most popular item on the menu amongst the regular tourists...
We were joined by Herbert and the French crew in the evening, and were feeling ready to go and test the clear blue waters the next day. Christian and Berangere were planning to do some spearfishing, too, which led to much joking on Berangere's expense, as the guys could not imagine that someone so tiny could catch a fish, never mind about holding a gun. When asked what kind of thickness rubber band she uses on her speargun (20mm? 14mm?), she said she was using "the yellow ones", which had the guys falling off their chairs with laughter. Well, I think that is perfectly reasonably answer. Ask a woman what car she drives, she will tell you it's a blue one. Nothing wrong with that!
No limit for amateurs
Rob and I had a very thorough theory presentation by Stavros, who was giving us a two day sled course. Feeling a little (well, maybe a lot) nervous, I climbed into the rib the next morning (which comes and picks us up from the beach, so we don't have to walk too far) with Rob and Herbert. As I was putting on my nice 3mm suit, Herbert wasted no time in pointing out to me that a 5mm might have been a good idea, since the extra buoancy is much appreciated during variable dives. Oh well. At least I was comfortable, whereas he moaned all day because his hood was too small, squeezing his neck and dislocating his jaw. Stavros looked after his two sled newbies extremely well, coming down with us on our first dives to make sure we wouldn't forget where the brake was and blow our ears. The ride down to 40m was great fun, except for the fact that I did not have my belt on tight enough and blew up like a giant balloon with lots of nice greek seawater rushing into my suit. Here the real difference between novice and master became imediately obvious: as Herbert was climbing onto the sled, I spotted a pair of 1mm shorts worn over the top of the wetsuit, stopping any water from going into the wrong places. Maybe I'll try wearing a pair of bikini bottoms outside...
Stay away from No limit dive
Tireless organizer Stavros and his safety divers had found time to go out spearfishing and caught a couple of huge groupers, so that evening we had a great barbecue at our hotel. Natalia arrived, looking well and happy, in time to have some of the fish. I had a long converstion with Herbert about the merits and problems of lanyards in sled diving, where he related a few stories that involved getting stuck. He seems to have a special knack for this, as he proceeded to show us the next day. First Rob and I did our no limits dives - I admit that this is the most fun I have had in a long time, and hope that my parents will not read this as I vaguely recall announcing something along the lines of: "well, people only die in no limits, which I am never going to do"...doh! Anyway, Herbert followed as soon as he had finished breathing the entire air available in the area, and proceeded to get stuck at over 100m at the bottom. It appears that he hooked the lanyard over the tiny cameramount and then also managed to make his worst fear come true and tangle the snap shackle (it is a mystery...) in such a way that he could not release it. Aparently he was down there wondering how long the guys would wait to engage the counterballast! In the end he was able to free himself and stay with us for a bit longer. This is good for me, as I intend to ask him to describe in detail how he manages to tangle himself, so I won't do it, too! So far I have not had a satisfactory answer, though, instead he has threatened to send me down first to test things.
Back in the boat, Rob King and I were greeted by the surprising view of a full moon over Sougia in the middle of the day. When our temporary blindness receded, we realized that it was not the moon, but Herbert's naked bottom - he had taken off his suit in the water and was clambering back into the boat, where his speedos were hanging up. Someone needs to explain to him the purpose of a pair of speedos before competitiors are struck by a permanent loss of eyesight...oh well, I am not really complaining, after all no one can deny that it is a perfectly nice bottom. Not sure if Rob agrees with me, I'll report back on his opinion...
Will Weak Wills Willy Withstand
Will Winram was up to his usual tricks and spent the first couple of training days in bed with a fever and aching bones. As freedivers who attended the worlds last year know, this is nothing but a clever tactik, for sure he will pull a monster dive out of the hat when it counts! He managed to get a few sled dives in in the last two days and is happy with his equalization, but reported that his important bits had shrunk to the size of a walnut when he hit the thermacline that resides between 60 and 70m. I will report back on the true temperature down there as soon as I have hit the depth myself.
Constant weight training is going well for Christian, Julie, Berangere and Natalia, who has been diving past 80m quite happily. She was joined by her personal doctor a couple of days ago, which is handy as the doctor speaks only russian and in the event of an accident can only communicate with the victim.
We all enjoyed a presentation in our favorite hangout (the Lotos Cafe) by Will Winram on his dives with huge tiger sharks, where he was trying to convince the audience that these animals are gentle giants, with varying rates of success. A shot of him petting the nose of a 4m shark sure looks impressive! Speculation why he wasn't eaten ran to questions of taste - he has lost weight during all his training, maybe he's too skinny for a tiger? Jokes aside, we applaud him for this work, any awareness raised in the true nature of sharks will help preserve these wonderful creatures.
Part two or why not be the first to read about Hanlis dives with the Tigersharks in South Africa.