A day of diver’s life

All characters and events appearing in this story are fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

It was a hot, but windy April morning. Shadows thrown to terracotta mountains by tattered clouds looked like shaggy running dogs. White haze hanging low hid the bottom of mountain on Tiran Island and gave the impression of island flying above black-and-white sea.

Diving instructor Alexander Pivovarov was walking to work along a dusty path, smoking a cigarette and fanning flies away. The day promised to be simple – not too much guests on a boat: snorkels[1] and divers mostly – three intros[2] did not count. It was not a work for an experienced instructor at all. Sasha’s thoughts were also far from work – he was going to give a call to Marina about a room, which now was free, in her apartments in Hadaba. Sasha was pretty happy with his own place, but Italian neighbor was an over-talkative guy and, more to the point, he liked Marina. To live together is a reason for a new relationship and maybe for something more… Especially since the proposal to live together originated from her. His main concern was not to frighten her with courtship at tonight meeting, to behave himself official, polite and make theatrical calculation of money and his benefit resulting of living together. And lets see what comes next

The port met Sasha with usual rush and crowd. Tiny Sharks Bay needed to be extended and adjusted to its everyday tourist flow. “Shame there are still no proper seats for guests”, Sasha thought for the hundredth time leaning against a pole and reverting from the group. He began to smoke and to make a plan for a day. Wave was not such a strong, but rather considerable one. To go to Woodhouse first meant to get seasick snorkels, and three divers did not worth the risk of having guests’ complaints. So Sasha made up his mind to go to Gordon – maybe not the most interesting reef, but at least safe and with no wave. After that – going to lagoon, diving intros, having lunch and then making up his mind: if there was wave – jumping in Woodhouse, no wave – let it be Jackson, picturesque, but strong currents occurred, and he didn’t want to scare OWDs[3].

Sasha’s main target for today was to make two dives with a group of three divers. All of them were Italian. Father and son completed OWD course with Sasha two days before and that day they had their first boat dive. Aged and obese Dominic imagined himself an experienced diver, while still having OWD certificate and a very vague idea of buoyancy. He was very good to swim with – Dominic was ashamed of taking 15-liter tank, but 12-liter one was consumed by him for somewhat 30 minutes. It made dives with him short – not to freeze and to have a time for a cigarette and tea.

The boat was jumping over waves, as if an awkward captain over and over again was crossing speed bumps without slowing down, then falling down and lifting thousands of splashes with wind showering them over guests wrapped in towels. Close ahead Louilla wreck was visible – landmark of Gordon Reef. By the reef the wave ceased and guests began to wake up a little and to get closer to tea on the lower deck. Sailors got to catching the rope, once being brand new and white and now worn out, of the very right shamandura[4] with drag anchor.

Wind did not die down and Sasha saw a red bucket hat flying from the upper deck into the sea. “It can be caught”, Sasha thought, but he didn’t want to jump to the water at all, and somebody’s little misfortune turned into a memory of the trip.

Sasha called three divers to the cabin and began briefing. Dominic was peering into the open picture; father and son were talking something over in low voices and smiling. Sasha’s thoughts were far from this dive – tonight meeting exited him much more than it, his thoughts were in Hadaba. Like a music box he was pronouncing learnt by heart phrases and pointing out in the site map.

After briefing Sasha poured some tea, smoked a cigarette and hid himself from wind on the ice box, glancing at divers messing around and smiling at his own thoughts. After a smoke he put the butt to unfinished tea and put on the top of the suit. Father and son, fully equipped by now and straight-faced, were checking their equipment. Dominic approached to Sasha, but he hurried up to put on his scuba and showed Dominic ok without having a look at his pressure gauge, and then proceeded to dive deck. Having made a plentiful spit to the mask he carried it like an umbrella over his head, then splashed into the water, swam at a distance from deck and got to washing his mask. Divers followed him carefully showing ok on the surface and also got on with the masks.

“Ready for a dive?” Sasha asked with a smile and having got three ok, thumbed down, a sign to descend, that was of entirely different meaning in gladiatorial combats.

There was almost no current and the group was descending slow. Sasha was not going too deep having made up his mind to turn 18 meters he announced on the briefing into 20 maximum, but no more, - even with a school of sharks or mantas – no more than 20!

He took the instructor’s posture facing the group, as if sitting on the invisible chair, gathered the group, asked Dominic to inflate BCD and went to the slope side: first he was going to entertain the beginners – intros mostly – with a couple of clownfish dwelling in the sea anemone by a steel rope, fragment of old shamandura, sticking out from the sand. Sasha teased the fishies, got a bite to finger, tossed his hand and made “oh” into regulator dramatically. Son smiled, cleaned his mask and raised quite a fountain of sand with his fins paddling the bottom. Sasha lifted him a bit by his elbow and guided the group further on.

Humming an Italian love song tune he was throwing rare glances to the divers. Father and son were swimming close to each other and strictly at his level like apt pupils, but Dominic, who was supposed to be his buddy, was moving three meters below and behind the couple of divers. Blue split fins were flying up and down as Dominic tried to keep himself carefully at the same level. “Very good”, Sasha thought, “in about thirty minutes it’s time to get everybody up – with such paddling his air lasts for half an hour, inshaallah”.

They passed by eels’ garden and current began to speed up slightly. Sasha got to ascending up to about 15 meters  not to miss mantas’ meadow and hidden reef corner, round which current magically subsided. That very moment he saw a huge Humphead – up to two meters long  ascending slowly to the group of divers. Sasha descended a little and got a piece of crumpled worn out honeycomb towel out of his pocket. Like a good puppy the Humphead turned to Sasha’s toy one of its protruding eyes first, and then turned his whole body and moved slow to him, extending its endless lips on its way. The fish sucked white ball with a tense swallow and in a couple of seconds spat it slightly above Sasha’s head. The divers surrounded the fish and watched the play with admiration.

Sasha hid the ball licked by Humphead, made his bow to the fish first, then – to the public, and signalled to ascend a bit. Dominic was sure to get tired and Sasha decided to take him in tow. He caught him by elbow, but the diver drew his arm back deliberately and showed ok. “Ok is ok, we have to make our way to the reef – the blow is growing”, Sasha thought. Current indeed was increasing. Sasha knocked a noise maker on the tank and put right thumb to left palm – “keep closer to the reef”. Dominic was ridiculously trotting with his fins and then got to help himself with hands; father and son took each other by hand.

The reef was flying on Sasha’s left like buildings fronts by window of Moscow tram. Sasha smiled at Dominic’s awkward attempts to cope with the current. Once more he signalled to father and son to keep closer to the reef and swam to help Dominic, who was carefully working with his fins to keep at the guide’s level, but in vain – he was falling deeper and deeper. Sasha swam closer and supported Dominic by elbow inflating his BCD. Then he turned back to look at to the couple and swore to the regulator – father and son still hand in hand were moving to him.

Current got really strong. Exhaled air was not ascending, but whirling around the divers with myriads bubbles. The reef was fading away from view, but bluish outlines of Gordon were still quite distinct even through whirling bubbles. First time for the dive Sasha got nervous – dumb inexperienced divers were doing idiotic things, were not listening to him and were not responding to his commands. He had to make the group go up. At the twentieth minute of a dive this threatened with complaints and hard talk with chief tonight, but otherwise they would obviously not reach the reef. To start with he had to get them together. Making every effort he started to drum the tank with the noise maker. One can't help but hear such a sound. But still it was Dominic only, who looked at him. In a funny way like a dummy in the hands of inexperienced puppet master, he kept on paddling with hands and legs towards Sasha. His movements were jumpy, broken and of little help. Father and son were still holding each other's hand, but that time moving vertical face to face, punctually working with fins, nevertheless descending deeper and deeper. Sasha supposed that it was he, who is ascending instead, and looked at the computer. In a detached way it read 36 meters. Sasha realized that everything was happening not with him, that this was just a dream and he was only to see, what would happen next. However he composed himself to do something – he still had to do something… Dominic was pressing forward to him with his right hand squeezing a fold on his suit at chest level, while his left arm was making broken useless movements. They rather reminded of convulsions and agony. It was about ten meter between Sasha and Dominic, whose silhouette was hardly visible in a wild dance of bubbles. Sasha saw Dominic looking at him and trying to reach him, trying to stay at his level. Sasha hit the noise maker by the tank and thumbed up to Dominic – “ascend”. He didn’t wait for Dominic’s respond, had no time to. The couple of father and son was spinning around five meters below him. Sasha moved to them descending and, like in slow-motion picture, saw the regulator swimming out of the son’s mouth  neither father nor son trying to return it – and them keeping on working with fins and waltzing in clouds of tiny bubbles like wind-up dolls. Suddenly Sasha lost his interest in father, son, Dominic, Marina, the rest of the world... A town was right in front of him. White walls of this fairy town drowned in green of trees with fairy pinky-white flowers. Very close there was a house with a semi-sphere shaped dome. At the lawn in front of the house two dogs were playing. With not a soul seen around Sasha was sure of people in this fairy place. They were there and they were waiting for him. His heart was filling with joy. The only thing Sasha wished – was to be there, to stay in this fairy town, to meet these people, who had been waiting for him so long. He spread his arms like a bird and flew toward his new bright dream.


P.M.



[1] Slang name for snorkeling tourists.

[2] Those, who are on introduction dive, that is an invention of Egyptian diving centers. Introduction dive allows people with no special training to try submerging with scuba for insignificant depth with instructor.

[3] Open Water Diver is the first level of PADI certification.

[4] To protect coral reefs it’s forbidden to throw anchor in Egypt. There are special ropes by reefs, to which no more than three passenger boats may moor.