The Thrill

Photo property of the author. Janice C. Kemp
Copyright 1999 by Janice C. Kemp
Photo property of the author.

No land in sight. What a feeling! Just the sea and the sky. The More Bottom Time, appropriately named for being a diving boat, rocked back and forth with the waves. The lightening looked like it was right on top of us. What a storm! Me and my big ideas, sleeping on top deck. It was a nice night to begin with just the sea and all the thousands of stars twinkling over my head. I awoke with rain falling on me and lightening just inches above my head. I jumped up and ventured out to the spare inflatable as I knew a guy who had gone to sleep out there. He looked like a lightening rod sitting out high over the edge of the top deck. I knew someone better wake him and get him in out of the storm. I don't know how he could sleep through such a storm but he had. He got up and went below in search for a dryer bed. I laid back down under a sheltered area on top deck and tried to go back to sleep but it was hard since the boat continued to rock me back and forth and the lightening continued for an hour or more. When I awoke, the storm had gone.

I guess there was about twenty of us on this dive trip aboard the More Bottom Time. The diving the day before was like a bloodthirsty battle between man and beast but underwater. I've never seen so much blood in the water. Busby and Lynn were last seen riding on top of a big grouper stabbing him all the time with their dive knives while the gun harpoon was stuck in his eye. It was if all the divers had gone mad killing every fish on sight. It was not a pleasing sight to my eye. I would rather take a shot at nearby fish with my underwater camera!

Today, I would be diving with a seasoned diver but with a guy who taught himself and who didn't exactly follow the rules. He only got certified so he could buy air. The dive shops had really started hammering down and requiring certification cards before selling air to anyone. Mel came to get certified and since I was a divemaster for his class, I was the lucky one he got to dive with. He was none too thrilled since I was a woman and a small woman at that. After I picked up my tank and threw it over my head and then offered him help with his gear, he looked a little more relieved to be diving with me. I went over our dive plan with him but it was like going in one ear and out through another. I remember telling Mel that we would not go past 100 feet and we would not venture into the enclosed portion of the wreck we planned to dive. As a divemaster, he was my responsibility and I needed to keep a close reign on him as we were making deep dives out in the Gulf of Mexico. We needed to watch our bottom time carefully to avoid getting the bends or decompression sickness.

Mel immediately went to 115 feet and into an enclosed portion of the wreck! I should have known! I was his buddy so that meant I had to follow him. He shot an amberjack that looked to weigh about 120 lbs. I was right beside him so he handed me the spear gun as he grabbed the fish by both his eye sockets. The amberjack went crazy. He began spinning us around and around. There was a pool of blood as big as a very large room. I was thinking, sharks, oh my god, sharks. At least, with my holding on to the spear gun, I could keep up with Mel and the fish. We were totally disoriented by now so I gave Mel the up signal so we could surface and get our bearings on where the boat was. As we reached the surface, we could see the boat about a football field length away so we began swimming on the surface toward the boat. Some of our diving friends had completed their dives and were watching us from the side of the boat. They could see how large our fish was. Mel was thinking about the money pot that we all pitched in for the biggest fish speared. I was still thinking about sharks! It is not good to be swimming on the surface with a big bloody fish.

As we got closer to the boat, Mel released one hand from the eye socket of the fish and cupping his mouth yelled, 'Get the gaff'. When he did, the fish took off. Mel lost his hold on him and away he plunged in the deep with me hanging on by the spear gun. I don't know how deep he took me before he got loose from the gun. I didn't dive with computers back then. I came back up to one disgusted Mel but at least I still had his spear gun!

This another story about the 'one that got away' but to our credit, our friends saw how big our fish was! The dive with Mel was one I will never forget and when people ask me what is the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to me, there is no doubt in my mind. It is my dive with Mel.

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