When the phone rings, it could be just about anything…
I’ve answered calls that have resulted in gearing up and on a flight to Central America within 2 days, headed offshore on a rickety fishing boat within 2 hours, and asked to review a major construction project that is 2 years out. You never know what might come up next. The important thing is being ready to jump – always remaining in a state of readiness to say ‘yes’. The first time you say ‘no’, your name goes to the bottom of the pile and it could be quite some time before the phone rings again.
So, that makes things interesting. While those of us living the life aquatic are always sculpting, crafting, and maneuvering for the next big project, it’s often the little stuff that keeps the doors open, keeps us proficient, and keeps us ready.
When the phone rang on Friday, I had my guard down. This was mostly since it had been a long and slow winter, and the springtime push for local dive work hadn’t kicked in quite yet. I had my weight harness stripped down to install some new hardware, my cylinders were empty next to the fill station, and my camera battery wasn’t juiced up. Sure enough – someone needed a quick inspection and photo of the condition of a transducer on their hull. So, despite not being as ready as I like to be, I made it all happen and was on site, suited up, and waist deep putting on my fins in under 2 hours…not too shabby.
Working on vessel bottoms is often times poo-poo’d by ‘real divers’, as though the task is beneath them. While it is grunt work for certain, personally, I think the inshore quick hits like this are the best training a working diver can get, and are the best way to stay proficient…you can dive with very lean equipment spreads, it’s often hard work, and as mundane as some tasks can be, others require really thinking things through and using physics to your advantage.
As I slid down the embankment adjacent to the pier, I had a vivid recollection of some of the ‘early days’ where dives like this were very foreign to me, but never dissuaded my continued interest in diving deeper – no pun intended. Garbage floating in the water, dead seagulls wedged up into the embankment, broken glass threatening to cut your suit, a slick of diesel at the surface, the cold piercing the skin around your lips, the loud rumble of a generator running on the vessel, the scrapes against an inch or more thick of barnacles…sounds lovely, yes? In this case, to make things even more delightful, it was low tide. So, the fine smell of low tide at a busy commercial fishing pier coupled with having to grind my way under the hull to get to the transducer in question made for quite the pleasurable dive. I’ve done far worse, believe me. But the recollection of previously being very cautious and nervous about squeezing and grinding beneath and around structure just resonated through my brain for this one. Every time you do it, you tell yourself that it’s the last time and you wont do it again.
My work area against the hull was only about 10″ off of the muddy bottom. That meant a tight fit for me, but then a bit of strategic maneuvering to not silt out the photo subject – that damn transducer. Once I found it (by feel of course), my task was to assess its condition and determine if there was any obvious damage that would leave it not working – perhaps the vessel hit something, or the transducer was excessively fouled with debris. Neither was the case, fortunately, so I scraped it clear of some crusty barnacles, and then sat still, wedged into the mud, waiting for a window of opportunity where the water might clear up enough for a few quick photos to share with the captain. Fortunately, patience paid off and I got the shot.
Squeeze back in between the hull and bottom and up the embankment I go. Get undressed, dry off, find captain, share photos, up-sell future services, go home. Two hours to get ready and mobilize, a whopping 5 minutes in the water, half hour to break it all down, and a day’s pay later…there I was.
So, on the drive home, I kept recounting the hundreds, if not literally thousands, of similar dives I’ve made over the last two decades. Mundane, perhaps. But most importantly, it’s all been training for something better, and has provided for a degree of proficiency needed to be in that state of readiness for the big one. And, when out on those bigger missions, I almost always reflect on the journey that brought me there…it’s all been about time in the water – time to reflect, and time to find my way. As much as we keep building and waiting for the big one, the real value is in the journey to get there, one dive and one day at a time.